Death Knights in Legion: two months down

With Patch 7.1 hitting servers tonight it’s probably as good a time as any to reflect on the first two months of Legion from a Death Knight perspective.

The Good

Levelling in Legion was probably the most fun I’ve had levelling in a new expansion. The zones, the quests, the story lines, were all spot on. I loved being able to choose which zone I could start on and being able to switch if I wanted a change of scenery. Having mobs levels scale relative to your characters level was a great idea.

Artifact weapons are an awesome concept. The idea of carrying one weapon through the expansion and having it grow in power as you do is a cool idea.

Mythic and Mythic + dungeons have been a great way to keep five man content relevant to people. Flipside being Heroic dungeons are quickly irrelevant for people which might irk some people, but personally I like the idea of offering 5 man progression.

PvP honor system, prestige and standardising class/specs via templates is a refreshing change. Having people PvPing for the actual purposing of PvP and not justing grinding out gear to either get in to arena or raiding is a welcome change, as is being able to jump in to a battleground without getting absolutely trashed because you don’t have any PvP gear.

While ability pruning hurt Death Knights a lot, particularly in terms of mobility and utility, we still have Death Grip, and thankfully, that ability along is probably going to be enough to warrant at least one Death Knight in a raid group.

From a DPS perspective Unholy Death Knights have some healthy burst on the pull. The first 40-45 seconds Unholy can keep pace with most other classes. If only raid encounters lasted 45 seconds things might not be so… meh

The Meh

I find the Emerald Nightmare raid to be a bit meh. I can’t put my finger on why exactly – some of the boss fights are quite fun – so maybe it’s purely aesthetics. Compared to how strong the levelling experience was I guess I’d built up fairly high expectations for the first raid that Emerald Nightmare didn’t quite meet. Maybe it’s all the red. I don’t know.

I’m getting dejavu. With the first major content patch coming out just over a month after the first raid opened, I’m worried Blizzard are going to be front loading their content again leaving us with a 12+ month final raid tier again. As of writing this 279 guilds in the world have killed Mythic Xavius, compared to 5,653 that have killed Mythic Nythendra. 25,473 guilds have killed Heroic Nythendra. Clearly, players that have fully cleared the current raid are in the minority. It’d appear that Blizzard could have afforded to push back the first major content patch by a month (maybe more?) if it meant that we wouldn’t see a final tier content drought like we did in past expansions.

It’s currently looking as though neither Unholy or Frost are going to scale particularly well with gear, meaning as the expansion progresses, if nothing else changes, Death Knights will fall further behind the pack, which leads me to…

The Fugly

Death Knight viability is probably at the lowest point it’s been in a while, whatever specialisation you look at. From a DPS point of view Death Knights are bottom to lower middle tier depending on the fight. Taking a view of Mythic logs at the 80th percentile:

  • Mythic Nythendra: Death Knights are the lowest performing class.
  • Mythic Il’gynoth: Death Knights are the lowest performing class (3rd lowest if you want to consider the 24 Frost Death Knight parses).
  • Mythic Ursoc: Death Knights are the lowest performing class.
  • Mythic Elerethe Renferal: Death Knights are the lowest performing class.
  • Mythic Dragons of Nightmare: Death Knights are the 3rd lowest performing class.
  • Mythic Cenarius: Death Knights are the 2nd lowest performing class (if you exclude the 2 Frost Death Knight parses)
  • Mythic Xavius: Death Knights are the lowest performing class (if you exclude the 5 Frost Death Knight parses).

‘Class Fantasy’ while fine in theory, sucks in practice. Death Knights currently have the worst mobility of any class in the game, combined with the baseline run speed of a snail. Running (I’m using that term loosely) a Mythic + Dungeon racing against a timer does not make for a good time, especially when the rest of your group is standing at the boss waiting for you to get there to pull. In door dungeons like Vault of the Wardens are quite unforgiving in this regard.

By any measure, Death Knights are not ‘fine’ where they currently stand. When you combine absolute bottom tier DPS, with the worst mobility of any class in the game, and also account for ability pruning that cost DPS Death Knights the utility previously provided by Gorefiends Grasp, Death Knights are not in good shape. The 7.1 buffs to Unholy and Frost will have no real impact on where Death Knights sit in the DPS pecking order, The Death Coil buff will account for a 2-3% increase on single target fights only, while the Frost buffs will likely serve to bring it up to being on par with Unholy in most circumstances (not accounting for the fact that the majority of Death Knights will have dumped the bulk of their artifact power and best relics in to their Unholy weapon).

Warforged and Titanforged gear is straight up annoying. Obtaining gear is already RNG based, adding RNG upon RNG upon even more RNG is just irritating. On the one hand it’s probably a good way to keep the Mythic and Mythic + dungeon player pool active, but from a raiding point of view it makes grinding Mythic + dungeons almost mandatory for any one looking to obtain the ‘Cutting Edge’ raid acheivements. Personally I believe that having players step in to the opening raid of the expansion with an iLvl higher than what the raid itself was tuned for was a mistake on Blizzards part. If you look over a lot of the higher end guilds and then the number of Mythic + dungeons their raiders have completed, you’ll see what I’m getting at.

While on the topic of RNG based loot, legendary drops are perhaps the most annoying things implemented in a while. It becomes even worse when you consider the current state of DPS Death Knights, and in particular Unholy’s reliance on a specific legendary drop (The Instructor’s Fourth Lesson) to keep pace with other classes.

Looking at the top 5 guilds to kill Mythic Xavius, each of them ran with one Unholy Death Knight (at a guess I’d say this is largely due to Death Grip). Looking at this admittedly very small sample of top end Death Knights the averages were (according to WoWProgress):

Amount of Mythic 2+ Dungeons completed in time: 179
Amount of Mythic 5+ Dungeons completed in time: 72
Amount of Mythic 10+ Dungeons completed in time: 3

So averaged out, Death Knights that were in the first five Mythic Xavius kills have completed 179 Mythic 2+ dungeons, 72 Mythic 5+ dungeons and 3 Mythic 10+ dungeons, or an average of 254 Mythic + dungeons in total each. If you allow 20 minutes per dungeon, that’s almost 85 hours of Mythic + farming non-stop on one character alone (and given a lot of these players probably run 1-2 similarly geared alts there’s a good chance they’ve spent a similar amount of time on at least one alt).

Given that Mythic + opened the same day as Emerald Nightmare, that is a fairly large outlay of time, on top of multiple heroic Emerald Nightmare runs. Looking at Method as an example, it appears as though they run 5-6 split runs, killing Heroic Xavius 6 times on the same day. I guess it all pays off when they walk in to the first mythic raid with an average iLvl of around 870 (depending on how accurate WoWProgress records this kind of thing). What’s the point? Well the farming is real. To minimise the impact of RNG on loot you really need to farm and farm hard. A lot of these players are running 2 legendary items, with bracers often being one of them. With many of the drops from Emerald Nightmare being less than ideal, farming Mythic + is the best way to gear up, and the fact that, with luck, you can score better loot than Heroic (and even Mythic) Emerald Nightmare with no real instance lock out, the only restriction is the amount of time you’re willing to spend.

It’s the double edged sword that Mythic + represents, on the one hand, it keeps content relevant (loot wise) but on the other hand forces your hand in a way that, if you want to maintain pace, you need to be prepared to sink in some significant time.

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