I suppose I should start with the obvious: Death Knights.
Death Knights… well, they didn’t actually do so great this expansion. They completely dominated in season 5, due to being broken, and then various fixes and nerfs brought them to being the lowest represented class in every bracket and utterly worthless in two brackets outright.
To make a quick point, there’s a difference between something being broken and something being overpowered. In season 5, DKs were so fantastic because the majority of their damage came from Icy Touch, a ranged instant ability that they can come really close to spamming if they wanted to. Which they did, because it hit really hard.
This, to me, isn’t an example of something that’s overpowered. Overpowered would be a 50% damage reduction Icebound Fortitude every minute. Spamming Icy Touch for massive damage was not overpowered, that was outright broken. It was never meant to work that way, wasn’t designed to work that way, and thus was (eventually, Blizzard was way too slow in nerfing Icy Touch spam) fixed so it didn’t work that way.
To give another example, Bladestorm dealing too much damage would be considered overpowered. However, popping Sweeping Strikes then Bladestorm because it deals more damage to a single target isn’t overpowered, that is broken.
Yes, a class that has broken abilities can definitely be overpowered. A bladestorming warrior using sweeping strikes to beat the stuffing out of a single target is definitely overpowered. But that bladestorming warrior isn’t overpowered because of bladestorm, it is because the interaction between bladestorm and sweeping strikes is broken. A fine distinction to be sure, but it is nevertheless an important distinction.
So, with that out of the way, back to death knights.
To be blunt, DKs have been nerfed too hard and for too long. They have powerful defensive cooldowns (though death knight survivability is frequently overrated, especially against casters), extremely effective and efficient peels, snares and spell interrupts, and… well, that’s about it, really. Chains of Ice is the best peel ability in the game, there is no doubt of that.
The current DK is little more than an extra set of snare and interrupt buttons for their partner to push when they need it. A DK is only viable in the 3s bracket, partnered with a healer of some sort and then one of the following: affliction warlock, hunter, warrior. In every case, their only real job is to put interrupts on the enemy healer and cast chains of ice at anything that tries to attack their partners.
There are several problems that cause this. First, the nature of a DKs resource system. Essentially, their big snare ability shares a resource pool with (what is supposed to be) their big damage ability. Imagine if a warrior couldn’t use Mortal Strike or Overpower for eight-ish seconds after having used Hamstring. This means they have to make a choice, and unfortunately using the snare is usually the better option. This is because of reason number two.
A DKs damage is pitiful. Quite literally the worst of any PvP DPS spec. Every single caster and melee spec produces more effective damage than a DK. I use the term “effective” damage, as I’m referring to damage that actually leads to scoring kills. DKs usually position quite high on the damage charts due to disease damage, but that damage is negligible.
A DK can easily use pestilence to spread his diseases to, say, all three opponents and produce huge amounts of damage. However, that damage isn’t effective at doing anything but giving the enemy healer higher healing numbers. A priest, for example, can cast her frisbee, and that spell would take care of all of the disease damage by itself.
This is a nuanced problem, but suffice to say it boils down to two things: disease protection (lack thereof), and crappy direct damage attacks.
The lack of disease protection was a huge detriment to a death knight. DKs absolutely depend on having all of their diseases active in order to deal any sort of mildly threatening damage, and those diseases can be easily shut down by fire and forget abilities from several classes. To put it another way, any 5s team with a DK on their team can automatically become a better team by replacing that DK with literally any class/spec combination.
DKs are being given disease protection in the next patch, which will solve this particular little issue.
And yes, if you are seriously complaining that DKs are going to have 100% dispel resistance to their diseases next patch, you are an idiot. Giving DKs 100% disease dispel resistance won’t even broaden their viable comps, they’ll still be junk for 2s, possibly junk for 5s, and will become slightly better at their current comps in 3s with no new ones.
There’s also the slight issue that a DKs strikes, things like Scourge Strike, are crap. DKs don’t spec and play for things like Unholy Blight and deal primarily ranged damage in arenas because they like to, they do that because it is the only way they can actually deal damage that can’t be shrugged off easily. DKs didn’t toy with using Obliterate in an unholy spec for a few patches because they hated Scourge Strike, they used Obliterate because Scourge Strike was awful.
And it still is. Scourge Strike is an example of an ability I would call broken. It used to deal pure shadow damage, arguably too much shadow damage (but this has since been nerfed), and now deals physical damage with an extra shadow damage component based on how much physical damage it deals.
Oh joy, the problems with this design. I could be wrong, but it feels like this change was made so that unholy DKs could actually use all the armor penetration that insisted on showing up on their gear. DKs deal primarily spell damage in both raiding and PvP, so armor penetration was largely useless in both places. Making Scourge Strike part physical made armor penetration, not necessarily attractive, but at least not useless to raiding DKs.
And royally screwed over PvP DKs.
PvP DKs cannot get armor penetration, at least not in the same amount, say, a warrior can get. So they land scourge strikes with whatever armor their target has, and that is that. This results in a scourge strike that can barely tickle anyone wearing plate or a shield, and yet hits exceptionally hard against anyone wearing cloth. This gulf in damage is very large, as in critting for 2k on plate and 6k on cloth large.
I see this as a design problem. It cripples DK damage against anyone with high armor, and leaves “train the clothie to death” as the best, by a huge margin, strategy for a DK to employ whenever a clothie is available to hurt.
You’ll notice that this has been almost entirely about unholy DKs. This is because both the frost tree and blood tree are extremely bad at PvP. You’d be better off with a fury warrior. I wish I was kidding.
Also worth noting is that by allowing Unholy Blight to give disease protection, Blizzard has given only unholy DKs the ability to protect their disease. Isn’t it nice to have the developers recognize that you only have one viable PvP spec and to go along with it?
The DK resource system is fine. Making a choice between big damage and uber snares is a solid design idea. Only thing is, that isn’t the choice DKs have right now. They get to choose between uber snares and pointless damage.
All specs need disease protection; just unholy is fine for now, but I thought we had moved past the “only one viable spec” thing. DKs need to get to a place where they can actually cause threatening single target damage again.
Scourge Strike needs to be reverted back to pure shadow damage. Scourge Strike does not need to be buffed back to its original overpowered damage it had many patches ago, but it does need to go back to pure shadow damage. It needs to be stronger against plate and weaker against cloth. Pure shadow damage would accomplish that.
Or, remove armor penetration from the game and balance from that. (hint: cataclysm will fix it)
Ghoul stun moved back to 30 second cooldown.
Things like Mind Freeze costing no RP and Lichborne need to be made baseline, or all DKs will always spec into the frost tree for PvP, no matter what. If that is the intent, then fine.
Stop saying ignorant crap like
Class abilities are different. Envenom is not Scourge Strike. Rogues still do a lot of physical damage. Frost Strike still hits for 100% magic damage, but it’s a more controlled ability. The DK in PvP hitting for huge Scourge Strikes over and over again is not something we’re going to go back to.
I’m not even entirely sure what to make of this statement.
The whole argument around Envenom is Blizzard saying “you can’t have attacks that ignore armor”, the players saying “but… uhh, that’s exactly what everyone else does”, and the best they can come back with is “rogues are different”. Mentioning Frost Strike is pointless, as frost DPS isn’t good for anything, in raiding or PvP. Mentioning a return to “huge Scourge Strikes” is dumb because nobody wants that and nobody asked for that. Scourge Strike is currently referred to as “wiffle strike”, without even a hint of irony. Is it really so bad to want to change that?