I want to write some targeted feedback on Azerite traits this morning, on how they’ve boosted the DPS specs depth in BFA, and what’s missing and how the class feels without them.
Frost Azerite traits mainly boost up four Talents that would lack without them.
Depending on the situation using Cold Heart’s damaging Chains of Ice could be strongest at the last GCD of a Pillar of Frost window, or if you had enough Icy Citadel traits, Cold Heart could be strongest during the Icy Citadel window.
Having Icy Citadel gives some tiny bit of variability to the Cold Heart talent, which doesn’t exist without it.
This talent is dependent on having Frozen Tempest traits for its damage potential. I also want to add how useful the Frozen Tempest 3 target Rime proc is for dungeon content, it lets you avoid having to use the 300% weaker non-Rime Howling Blast for initially applying Frost Fever.
Icecap is very dependent on Icy Citadel and Frostwhelp’s Indignation for its performance as a talent.
The cooldown reduction Icecap gives to Pillar of Frost means its long tail of Icy Citadel Strength bonus can be active when the next Pillar of Frost is used, allowing for constantly higher average Strength and bigger windows for snapshotting Cold Hearts.
With Icecap often reducing Pillar of Frost’s cooldown into the 30 second range, having Frostwhelp’s Indignation damage and mastery buff up so often added major damage into the talent that is now lost.
I also want to add here my problem with the GCD attached to Pillar of Frost. It feels really bad to have a GCD on a baseline 45 second cooldown which is nothing but a /roar animation. Icecap increases this problem with reducing Pillar of Frost’s cooldown further increasing the number of GCDs we spend /roaring without the ability to use meaningful abilities.
I don’t want to give the impression that adding Frostwhelp damage baseline might fix Pillar of Frost either, as Frostwhelps 40 yard rectangle can occasionally be a ninja pulling hazard.
I feel like the power lost in Icecap from no longer having Icy Citadel or Frostwhelp makes it hard for this talent to rival Breath of Sindragosa.
(Edit misread tooltip, Icecap more CDR on Alpha to live, this brings even more GCDs being eaten by Pillar in a rotation, not good.)
I also want to remind the history of Icecap it was formerly a level 60 row talent in Legion, a row of talents that affected Pillar of Frost differently. I strongly believe Icecap is not a worthy build-defining talent of the same power levels as other level 100 talents such as Breath of Sindragosa or Demonic for some examples.
Breath of Sindragosa:
This talent also benefits greatly from the long tail of Strength from Icy Citadel as Breaths can last up to 30 seconds on live, which is nicely covered by Pillar of Frost and Icy Citadel. On Alpha with Rune of Hysteria and Hypothermic Presence I’ve had Breaths last 40 seconds, far beyond the 15 second duration of Pillar of Frost.
Unholy is a far bigger topic than Azerite just affecting the gameplay of specific talents.
The Festermight Azerite trait is a massive gameplay changer for the whole specialisation.
Festering Wounds as a mechanic has always had its critics as Combo Points as a debuff, but has been carried through BFA by the Festermight Azerite trait, adding much needed depth to the choice of when and how Wounds should be burst.
This is somewhat split into two sections, Wounds in Single Target and Wounds in AoE.
In Single Target Festermight adds depth to when you start the 20 second duration that Festermight gives, and in choosing when to cast Apocalypse, so you start that ramp up with 4 stacks instead of 1. Without Festermight that gameplay is gone, and there’s no benefit to timing spells correctly.
In AoE Festermight adds so much extra gameplay due to how Wounds function when mobs die with the debuff active.
I mainly want to reference the Advanced Concepts section of the WoWHead guide for Unholy DKs entitled “Festersniping”.
However, we didn’t cover what happens after our Death and Decay is finished and we still are left with a number of low-health mobs. We can here apply a technique which we call “Festersniping”. Essentially, The most effective way of converting wounds from Festering Strike to AoE is not to burst them in our Death and Decay window. We have to spend both time and Runes in order to cash in on the juicy AoE and strength. Instead, we can use the death of the mobs to do the work for us!
When a mob dies, all wounds currently stacked on it will explode, dealing AoE damage (with Bursting Sores) and giving us strength through Festermight. We can, therefore, choose to use Festering Strike on mobs that are nearly about to die, sniping them in the trash pack. We instantly get the benefits from bursting the wounds without the tedious setup! This is especially effective on packs with a large range of health pools. You’ll be able to snipe the weak mobs as you continue your burst on the large ones.
This section of the guide demonstrates the gameplay that is extremely enjoyable for using Festering Strike to stack Wounds beyond your ability to burst during Death and Decay, and getting rewarded in Strength gains that last the whole duration of each AoE pack.
Without Festermight, and if you choose Ebon Fever or the newly buffed Unholy Blight, when a mob dies all Wounds do is give you a tiny Runic Power gain which feels massively insignificant. This makes it feel extremely pointless to apply Wounds in AoE situations at all, and reduces the value of talents such as Infected Claws and Pestilence which are our only sources of AoE Wound application.
This also ties into how well Bursting Sores feels for AoE, giving you some positive feedback for mobs dying with unburst Wounds on them. Wounds really feel incomplete without the AoE Bursting Sores damage on mob deaths and without the Strength gain from Festermight.
Hopefully I have put forward how critical to gameplay the Festermight trait is and how hollow Festering Wounds feel without it.
As for the Unholy Azerite traits that have been incorporated into talents:
Magus of the Dead:
I feel like Magus of the Dead fits nicely in Army of the Damned. All good here.
I have much more scepticism for Helchains being made into Unholy Pact talent.
(Bug note here that the 8% Strength gain from Unholy Pact is currently being overwritten by the 15% gain from Rune of Fallen Crusader)
Helchains is just extra damage during Dark Transformation, you don’t do anything different if you have this Azerite/Talent or if you don’t have it. It’s nice extra reliable AoE damage, but I feel there’s no gameplay or choices involved in it. You will still use Dark Transformation on cooldown, and you won’t change your rotation or press any new buttons during Dark Transformation to accommodate Unholy Pact.
This is compared to Unholy Frenzy which gives a window where you don’t need to press Festering Strike, and compared to Army of the Damned which speeds up the time between ramping Wounds for Apocalypse uses and reduces our 8 minute Army of the Dead cooldown to a more usable number.
Thanks for reading this Azerite trait essay. <3