In an earlier post I said that my mutilate spec was preferred over combat daggers, and I tested that on practice dummies. However, instance runs do not involve fighting practice dummies.
A lot of theorycrafters have crunched numbers to show that Mutilate is a great spec (and it is), and that both Mutilate and Combat Daggers are very nearly equal in PvE dps. Those same number-wizards can recommend the ideal attack rotation. In my Mutilate build, the various dps calculators and spreadsheets told me that a 4+r/4+n rotation would be best (that is a 4 or 5 combo point rupture, and a 4 or 5 combo point envenom, with SnD always up).
Well, those calculations are done under fairly ideal conditions, when you can just stand there and go through your rotation without interruption, without changing targets, etc… Basically, a tank-and-spank boss fight.
Right now, the game is not being played under those conditions. In the early 70’s, AoE tanking is the norm. Trash mobs die in under 10 seconds. Bosses in instances are dying in two minutes. In those circumstances, everything changes. Rupture is not useful because it won’t have time to get through all of its ticks. Deadly Poison doesn’t have a chance to stack, which makes Envenom a less effective finisher, and reduces the usefulness of the Deadly Poison.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to crunch numbers myself. So I did what a good scientist does – an experiment. I ran Utgarde Keep twice. The first time I went in with my Mutilate raid spec. The second time I went through with a Combat Dagger spec. Here’s what I saw.
Mutilate run through Utgarde
We went in with a fairly well-geared pally tank. Since we outgeared the place, he just gathered up groups of 3-5 mobs and we dpsed them down without any CC. I used Deadly and Wound poisons on a pair of 1.5 speed daggers. Mutilate was my main attack, and I tried to use Envenom as my main finisher.
My damage output was good, but I felt that it should have been better. The reason for that is because I rarely got a chance to use more than one finisher on a trash mob before it died. When I had enough combo points for a finisher, often DP was only at a 2 stack. I found myself using Eviscerate as often as Envenom (not ideal) due to a lack of poison stacks.
I always made sure HfB was at a 3-stack before combat began, but since the mobs were dying so fast I could rarely afford the energy to refresh it during combat. In fact, energy was a very limiting factor. I was generating combo points much faster than I was accumulating energy, and that slowed me down.
My damage on the boss fights was fine. In those I was able to get somewhat of a real attack rotation going.
In the end, the pally tank did more overall damage than I did. That’s a bit embarrassing.
Combat run through Utgarde Keep
This time we had a druid tank, although we used the same gather-and-kill technique with very little CC. I went in with Wound/Wound poisons on my pair of 1.5 speed daggers. My main attack was Backstab and used Eviscerate as my main finisher for lack of a better one.
My damage output was much higher. I would alternate between Blade Flurry and Killing Spree for burst damage on group pulls. First pull, Blade Flurry. Next pull, Killing Spree. Repeat. Wound Poison procs were flying everywhere.
The Combat build is much much slower to generate combo points. I didn’t get up to 5 combo points on any single trash mobs, and only on the last of the three bosses. My finishers were not my source of burst damage. Instead, I relied on BF and KS to get big numbers.
On boss fights the burst damage from BF, KS, and Adrenaline Rush is through the roof – but only for a short time. Over a long boss fight like the ones we had pre-WotLK, the Mutilate build would have been superior. But here, when the bosses are dying in two minutes, its all about the burst.
This is purely anecdotal, and a lot of the differences in dps could have been due to me rather than any inherent differences in the performance of the specs. Perhaps when I have some time next week I’ll do a more in-depth analysis including combat log parses.
In light of this, though, I think that I’ll stick with Combat Daggers until the game gets a little harder and mobs and bosses start lasting a little longer. I am going to tweak my spec to get Imp. Eviscerate in there if I’m going to use that as a finisher over Envenom.