Category Archives: Death Knight

DK Leveling: Unholy DPS (58-80)

Although I really enjoyed leveling my Death Knight as a Frost Tank, I haven’t found much joy overall in playing him as a tank once he got to level 80. Instead I generally run around in an Unholy DPS spec either solo questing or running random heroics.

Introduction to Unholy
When I wrote the Play Styles: DK’s for Spellcasters article a lot of people wanted to know why in the world I didn’t write about Unholy instead of Frost. Several people simply dismissed it the second they saw that I was writing about Frost. The reason for their questions/disagreement with that is because of all three trees Unholy deals the most magic-based damage. The reason why I didn’t write that article from an Unholy perspective is that while Unholy deals the most magic damage the majority of their attacks are actually physical attacks that simply add magical damage.

Unholy is a melee spec which deals excellent AoE damage by establishing multiple diseases, spreading them around, and then having each damaging tick of their diseases potentially act like a miniature version of the Shaman’s Fire Nova thanks to the Wandering Plague talent which we’ll discuss in a bit more detail down below. After our diseases are spread we go into full melee mode using spells and abilities that generally deal more damage or have stronger effects based on the number of diseases on the target, and Unholy is the only spec that gets a third disease.

Unholy also gets the benefit of a permanent Ghoul pet which we can control the actions of and our talents significantly increase the ghoul’s effectiveness in combat. And while Army of the Dead is often frowned upon by tanks and DPS who aren’t used to dealing with a group of constantly-taunting mobs, Unholy brings a reduced cooldown to it which allows more frequent use of it. I don’t often suggest using it in PUGs or randoms, but my guild personally uses it on every boss fight in ICC-10 with no threat issues after the Army’s duration is up.

Playing an Unholy Death Knight
Playing a DPS Death Knight is much the same as playing any other melee DPS class in the game, with a few exceptions. When in combat you’ll always want to be behind the mobs, you want to make sure your Ghoul’s not on aggressive and pulling mobs instead of the tank, and you want to remember the tool set that you have and what you’re capable of bringing to the group.

You have tools to silence/interrupt, you have taunts, you have ranged spells that can either slow or kill fleeing mobs, you have Death Grip to peel mobs off of your healer if the tank’s not capable of doing it himself, you have spells such as Path of Frost and Horn of Winter to buff and assist your party members, and so on.

You also need to remember that while you wear plate armor and every talent tree in the current patch is “capable” of tanking, that you’re not a tank. You can fill that role for a short time, but that’s not what you are or what you’re there to do, and most likely not what you’re geared for either. Focus on the tank’s target so that you’re not stealing agro, unless you’re peeling a mob off of the healer. Unless you’re asked to be an off tank for some reason your goal is to assist the tank in killing his targets.

In many ways you’re like a DPS Warior with all the melee that you’ll be doing. In some ways you’re still similar to an Affliction Warlock, focusing on keeping your DoTs up at all times and using your Ghoul to assist in combat. You’re a hybrid in that your class isn’t tied to a specific type of combat and in how much you can bring to the group if you’re willing to embrace the diversity that’s offered to you.

Another thing worthy of being mentioned is that Death Knights have their own form of weapon enchanting. It’s sort of similar to the Shaman’s weapon enhancements in that you have several options to choose from and that they help with different aspects of the class, but they’re completely different in that they are actual enchants you put on your weapons rather than 30 minute buffs. Runeforging takes the place of normal Enchantments, so you’ll be enchanting your own blade (no material requirements) rather than relying on the Enchanting profession. More on Runeforging below.

Talent Spec and Glyphs

Levels 55-58 Levels 59-68 Levels 69-80

[Update: It’s been mentioned several times now, in comments, on twitter, in other posts and forums, etc – that On A Pale Horse (20% faster Mounted Speed, doesn’t stack) is the “greatest leveling talent ever” and there is much shock in me not suggesting that you take it. There has also been mention of Improved Unholy Presence () and why I didn’t take it either. So I’m going to put the reasons up here in the main post, right below the talents, so that you see why I didn’t bother suggesting either of them:

On A Pale Horse:
It’s an excellent talent, don’t get me wrong. It helps you quest faster and it helps you gather faster, the only drawback is that it has no impact at all on your DPS, and it doesn’t stack with any other movement increasing effects. You’ll also see that while I don’t tell you to spend points in the talent, I never tell you not to either, and in fact I do suggest it at the end of this section as an alternative talent.

When I leveled my DK I did so specifically to find the best way to not suck at playing the class in groups so that I could tell people how to get away from the “Death Knoob” label since so many people that play this class suck at it. The best way to do that was to do the majority of my leveling via LFG, and when you’re in dungeons your mounted speed means nothing. OaPH has no impact on your performance, but it can save you a some time.

OaPH is an unnecessary talent. It’s nice to have when you’re able to make use of it, but it’s not required and during the times that you can’t use it it’s worthless. Technically it’s still got some potential when you can’t mount because it also reduces stun/fear effects by 20%, but they’re rarely used so I don’t much care.

If you want to take it, by all means go right ahead. I generally take it myself. However, it’s not crucial, it’s simply helpful. Do I support you taking it? Absolutely. Do I suggest it? Not really, no. Since you can switch to Unholy Presence at any time once you’ve got it, you’re missing out on a whole 5% speed. If it stacked, I’d take it every single time, but since it doesn’t I’m not too worried to be quite honest.

Improved Unholy Presence: You get to keep your +15% movement speed regardless of which presence you’re in. It’s really cool to be able to move faster on your feet all the time. The problem is that once again it’s not necessary. If you need the speed boost then you can just switch to Unholy Presence and you’re golden. Movement in combat isn’t very important while you’re leveling, it really only matters in raids.

Of the two, I definitely consider this one to be the least important. Not to say that it isn’t helpful, because it certainly can be, but again it’s not required.

There you have the individual breakdowns of the spec for each of the level brackets that I broke it down into. As for when/where to put the points, here’s a textual break down for you.

Starting Area (55-58)
In the starting area you’re going to get a boat load of talent points as your quests reward them to you to make up for the 54 levels you get to skip for rolling a DK in the first place. Rather than having a horrendously long list of descriptions and everything I’m just going to list off how I suggest you spend your points, and in what order, and then I’ll highlight the ones of particular note. The setup here will be Talent_Name (Pts). If there’s a (+Pts) then it means that we’ve already put points into that talent and we’re now adding more points to it.

Vicious Strikes (2), Virulence (3), Ravenous Dead (3), Morbidity (2), Outbreak (3), Necrosis (2), Blood-Caked Blade (3), Night of the Dead (2), Unholy Blight (1), Impurity (4), Master of Ghouls (1), Dirge (2), Impurity (+1), Necrosis (+1), Desolation (5), Crypt Fever (3), Bone Shield (1), Necrosis (+1), Ebon Plaguebringer (3), Scourge Strike (1), Wandering Plague (3), Rage of Rivendare (2).

Ok, so that’s a lot to take in at one time, but making up for 45 levels worth of skipped talent points in 3 levels is the way Death Knights work. In your starting area only 3 of those talent points come from actually leveling, the rest all come as part of your quest rewards.

As for which ones are really key to what we’re doing, we’ll actually take a close look at those right now.

The “signature” attack of the Unholy tree is Scourge Strike, dealing a decent combination of both Physical and Magical (Shadow) damage. We improve that strike with Vicious Strikes for an extra 6% chance to crit and 30% extra crit damage (applies to our Plague Strike as well), and Outbreak which increases the raw damage by 20% (and 30% for Plague Strike).

Another signature talent point from the Unholy tree is Bone Shield, providing 20% damage reduction as well increasing the damage we deal by 2%. It makes me feel like a Diablo II Necromancer all over again, I tell you.

If you’ve ever seen an Unholy DK in a raid, you’ll notice that they often do some serious damage in AoE situations. A large part of that is thanks to Ebon Plaguebringer and Crypt Fever which gives us a third disease and also increases the damage dealt to the mobs, but we also have Wandering Plague which has a chance to proc any time our diseases deal damage to deal double damage and also deal that same amount of damage to all other mobs within 8 yards.

And finally my personal favorite, Master of Ghouls, which turns your Ghoul into a permanent pet and reduces the cooldown of your Raise Dead spell from 3 minutes down to 2, so if it dies you don’t have to wait as long to summon a new one. Along with that we have Ravenous Dead which increases our own Strength by 3% and also increases the amount of Strength and Stamina 60% (the default contribution is 50%, and 60% of 50% is 30%, so 50% + 30% = 80% of our total), and also Night of the Dead which reduces our summon cooldown by from the 2 minutes down to only 30 seconds, and also reduces the damage our Ghoul takes from AoE by 90%.

Outlands (58-68)
Now that we’re dealing with only 10 talent points we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled leveling guide and go back to descriptions:

Rage of Revendare +3 (5/5): Your spells and abilities deal 10% more damage to targets infected with Blood Plague. Also increases your expertise by 5.
Summon Gargoyle 1/1: A Gargoyle flies into the area and bombards the target with nature damage modified by the Death Knight’s attack power. Persists for 30 seconds.
Morbidity +1 (3/3): Increases the damage and healing of Death Coil by 15% and reduces the cooldown on Death and Decay by 15 seconds.
Necrosis +1 (5/5): Your auto attacks deal an additional 20% Shadow damage.
Butchery 2/2: Whenever you kill an enemy that grants experience or honor, you generate up to 20 runic power. In addition, you generate 2 runic power per 5 seconds while in combat.
Subversion 2/3: Increases the critical strike chance of Blood Strike, Scourge Strike, Heart Strike and Obliterate by 6%, and reduces threat generated while in Blood or Unholy Presence by 16%.

Finishing off RoR gives us more damage and more expertise while also helping to open up Summon Gargoyle. The Gargoyle used to be really close friends back in the day when he was a lot further up the tree, now he’s not quite as shiny being on the tip of the tree. But, he’s a good boost to your DPS especially during boss fights, just make sure you use your trickets and such to boost your Attack Power before you summon it so that he’s more powerful.

We also finish off Morbidity to pump up our DC damage since it’s our main runic power dump and to reduce the cooldown of D&D for when we’re running with a group, and we finish Necrosis to boost our auto attack damage as well.

We then slide over to the Blood tree for Butchery so that we keep a hefty supply of RP for casting Death Coil and Corpse Explosion (if you get it), as well as Subversion to further increase our damage as well as reducing our threat.

Northrend (68-80)
Subversion +1 (3/3): Increases the critical strike chance of Blood Strike, Scourge Strike, Heart Strike and Obliterate by 9%, and reduces threat generated while in Blood or Unholy Presence by 25%.
Two-Handed Weapon Specialization: Increases the damage you deal with two-handed melee weapons by 4%.
Bladed Armor 3/5: Increases your attack power by 3 for every 180 armor value you have.
Dark Conviction 5/5: Increases your chance to critically hit with weapons, spells and abilities by 5%.
Corpse Explosion 1/1: Causes a corpse to explode dealing Shadow damage to all enemies within 10 yards. Will use a nearby corpse if the target is not a corpse. Does not affect mechanical or elemental corpses.

We’re going to finish off Subversion for increased crit on BS and SS, and most importantly to reduce our threat while in Blood Presence (which you should be) or Unholy Presence. As an Unholy DPS spec you’re going to use a two-handed weapon rather than duel wielding so we’re picking up 2H Weapon Spec for additional damage as well as Bladed Armor so that our armor contributes to our attack power as well. And you can never have enough crits when you’re playing DPS, so Dark Conviction adds a little more frosting to our DoKnut (don’t ask me where that came from, I just thought it up).

The final point at level 80 I have placed in Corpse Explosion because we all know how much I love AoE. If you don’t like it, don’t take it. That last point can go anywhere you want it to. You may want another point in Bladed Armor, you may want to pick up Rune Tap or Vendetta for more survivability, you may want to ride faster with On a Pale Horse, or any number of other things.

Unholy DPS Glyphs

Major Glyphs
Glyph of the Ghoul: Your Ghoul receives an additional 40% of your Strength and Stamina.
Glyph of Disease: Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations and secondary effects of diseases on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Death and Decay: Damage of your Death and Decay spell increased by 20%.
Glyph of Dark Death: Increases the damage or healing done by Death Coil by 15%.
Glyph of Icy Touch: Your Frost Fever disease deals 20% additional damage.
Glyph of Plague Strike: Your Plague Strike does 20% additional damage.

My first choice for a major glyph is Ghoul as it gives another 40% (of the base 50%, which is 20%) of your Strength and Stamina to your Ghoul, which when combined with our talent points means our Ghoul gets 100% of our Strength and Stamina, so now he’s Super Ghoul! *cape blowing in the wind* and he’s pretty freaking mean.

Since Unholy will actually use Death and Decay in AoE rotations, a flat 20% increase in damage done is good. I didn’t bother with D&D much while questing, but I did use it in dungeons. If you’re going to do runs then you probably want to consider this one, but if you’re flying solo while you level then there are better options for you (such as Dark Death or Plague Strike). I happen to like dungeon runs, so I use this one myself.

Another solid choice is Disease which is going to help us make sure that all of our diseases stay up all the time as long as we use Pestilence before they wear off. It’s not a critical glyph to have, but it’s definitely useful.

If you’re more into solo play then you’ll want to take a look at the damage increasing glyphs such as Dark Death, Icy Touch or Plague Strike.

Dark Death buffs the damage of our primary Runic Power dump, Death Coil, which can also be used to heal your Ghoul (or yourself if you pick up Licheborne from the Frost tree). I personally use Death Coil a lot so I support the use of this glyph.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of Raise Dead: Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Pestilence: Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Blood Tap: Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you.
Corpse Explosion: Increases the radius of effect on Corpse Explosion by 5 yards.

My top choice for minor glyphs is Raise Dead because our pet has a lot of DPS to offer and we want to be sure it’s around whenever we need it and not just when there’s a useful corpse nearby. Sometimes it’s going to die, sometimes it will be unsummoned for whatever stupid reason, and sometimes you might have to sacrifice him for an emergency 40% heal. For times like that you don’t want to have to worry about whether or not you’re packing enough Corpse Dust, so remove the reagent and never worry about it again.

Next up is Pestilence to increase the radius range of Pestilence so that our diseases can spread farther. It’s not quite as important in solo play unless you’re using it to help you pull more mobs, but in dungeons it’s great.

Blood Tap normally costs 6% of your base health when you use it, but using this glyph makes it free. Don’t make your healers angry by taking avoidable damage. It might not be a whole lot of damage, but it’s damage you don’t have to take.

The Corpse Explosion glyph is for those of you who have taken the spell and like to make use of it. It widens the AoE area of CE which is a big deal when using the spell because it’s centered wherever the corpse it targets happens to be, which is not always optimal for you. If you use CE then this is a solid choice for you, otherwise forget it exists.

The Rune you want to start with when you first get your character set up is the Rune of Cinderglacier, giving your weapon a chance to increase your damage by 20% for your next two attacks that deal Frost or Shadow damage, which is a very nice burst DPS rune when it procs. Some people prefer Rune of Razorice for a small but consistent DPS increase as it deals 2% extra weapon damage as Frost and increases vulnerability to Frost attacks. I like Razorice for Frost Tanking, but I’m not such a fan otherwise, so I suggest you go with Cinderglacier.

Somewhere in your late 60s or early 70s (I can’t find the reference online for some stupid reason) you’ll be able to train Rune of the Fallen Crusader which will proc on weapon swings to heal you for 3% of your total health and increase your total Strength by 15% for 15 seconds. This will be your DPS Runeforge from that point on. Actual enchants such as Berzerking can beat it’s overall DPS boost until you get about 650 Strength, but since Runeforging requires no mats and you may be upgrading your weapon frequently, I suggest you stick with runes.

Enough with the details, let’s talk about leveling.

Leveling in the DK Starting Area (55-58)
Rotation 1: Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Blood Strike, Blood Strike, Death Coil (Corpse Explosion), Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Death Coil (Corpse Explosion)
Rotation 2: Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Blood Strike, Icy Touch, Plague Strike

Our starting area is simple, and for the most part fairly easy as well (which is why our rotation is to faceroll). Some of the quests are a bit harder than others, such as the vehicle combat quests (if you’re not familiar with vehicle combat) and the dreaded Bloody Breakout quest which is easily the hardest quest in the starting area as you face an elite spellcaster after growing used to fighting mobs that either don’t fight back or are so weak that even if they do fight back you wouldn’t care.

There’s also an often annoying quest called How To Win Friends And Influence Enemies which has you equip a pair of one handed swords and go beat on Scarlet losers until they tell you their secrets. How quickly you get this quest done is completely and totally random. I’ve had it done on the very first mob I attacked, and I’ve gone through 2 hours of constant grinding before it happened. My suggestion for this quest is that as soon as you get those two swords head back to Ebon Hold and use your Runeforging on them. If you’re going to have to grind for potentially two hours, you might as well make it go as quickly as you can. Also remember that it’s the melee attacks that apply the debuff that makes this quest happen, so don’t use Icy Touch or Death Coil during this quest, stick to melee attacks. I suggest you use Blood Strike x2 > Death Strike x2 > Auto-Attack, and if you already have your Ghoul then put him on passive so he’s not killing the mobs you’re trying to get to talk.

Leveling In Outlands (58-68)
First Runeset: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Blood Strike/Pest (B), Blood Strike (B), Scourge Strike (FU), Death Coil/Corpse Explosion (40)
Second Runeset: Scourge Strike (FU), Blood Strike (B), Blood Strike (B), Scourge Strike (FU), Death Coil/Corpse Explosion (40)

Unholy is all about establishing your diseases and then exploiting them by using attacks that have additional benefits from your diseases. Icy Touch and Plague Strike establish their own diseases as well as the third disease from our talent tree. With three diseases we gain an additional 37.5% Physical damage to Blood Strike and an additional 36% Shadow damage to Scourge Strike, which is why they are so prevalent in our rotations.

You also have the option of switching out any of your Scourge Strikes with Death Strike instead which will heal you for 5% of your maximum health per disease on the target, which should optimally be 15% if you have all three diseases up at all times. If you’re not at full health and the mob is about to die, finish it off with a Death Strike instead of Scourge Strike even if you’ve only taken 1% damage. You’ve got nothing to lose and only more uptime to gain by doing it.

Most mobs will not survive the first rune set, so the second probably won’t be used very much. In order to minimize your downtime you may want to use your Death Coil ability to pull another mob when your current target gets low on their health so that you can use Pestilence to spread your diseases from the current target to the new one without having to recast IT/PS. You can chain pulls like this for quite a while in the right areas, though sometimes you may not be able to do it more than once or twice.

There are also a few buffs that you want to be sure you keep up as much as possible. First off you want to be in Blood Presence when you’re filling a DPS role, even while solo questing. Second, you want to be sure that your Bone Shield is always up because in addition to being a great defensive tool it also increases your damage by 2%. The damage buff might not be huge, but it will add up. You also want to keep Horn of Winter active at all times and you may want to include it into your rotation just for that. When solo questing I don’t always keep HoW as part of my rotation so much, but I make sure it never falls when I’m in a dungeon.

You might notice that I’ve added Corpse Explosion to the rotation even though I don’t tell you in the spec to pick the spell up until level 80. The reason for that is that I don’t wait until level 80 personally. I love to AoE things to death, so I grab it as soon as I can. It’s not the best spell in the world, so most players prefer not to take it. If you took it early, add it in. If you didn’t, ignore it.

Leveling In Northrend (68-80)
Single Target
First Runeset: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Blood Strike (B), Blood Strike (B), Scourge Strike (FU), Death Coil (40)
Second Runeset: Scourge Strike (FU), Blood Strike (B), Blood Strike (B), Scourge Strike (FU), Death Coil (40), Horn of Winter (n/a)

First Runeset: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Scourge Strike (FU), Blood Strike (B), Death Coil/Corpse Explosion (40)
Second Runeset: Scourge Strike (FU), Blood Boil (B), Scourge Strike (FU), Blood Strike (B), Death Coil/Corpse Explosion (40), Horn of Winter (n/a)

So here we have the Runesets that you’ll use in Northrend. Look familiar? They should considering we didn’t change anything at all other than adding Horn of Winter to the end of it.

Gearing Up Your Death Knight
Your stats are basically the same as any other melee DPS character:

Hit (until capped) > Strength > ArPen > Haste >= Crit > Expertise > Agility (via @VariantAvatar)

Once you have the hit cap under control your priority is building up your Strength (1 Str = 2 AP) to get your attack power up. I see a lot of Death Knights these days stacking ArPen like crazy, but I think that’s more for Blood and Frost DPS since Unholy’s damage is largely magic based instead of physical. I’m not one to stack ArPen regardless, so whether or not you go and hunt some of that down is your call. and thanks to Variant Avatar’s comments I now know that there’s a very important reason for that.

Variant Avatar:
3. For gearing with the blood subspec you do not want to focus on Attack Power, let that come from your strength stat, as 1 str = 2 AP. You want to follow the below order:
Hit(until capped) > Strength > ArP > Haste >= Crit > Expertise > Agility

4. Unholy is partially magic based, but your magic is all based on how well and how big your attacks hit for since the last patch, which is why you see folks going to armor penetration and stacking str, to make your hits hit harder and penetrate the enemies defenses to land for bigger damage which effects your shadow damage component.

When looking for gear check with your local Blacksmiths first, then take a look at instances that are your level. You may also want to give the PvP vendors a look if you’ve bothered doing much PvP while leveling.


Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Class, Death Knight, Guide, Leveling



Death Knight Tanking: Frost (71-80)

First thing’s first – Holy crap! It’s been two months since my last Death Knight Tanking post. Wow. Uh, whoops? Sorry about that, guys. We also know now that Blood is going to become the tanking tree when Cataclysm hits, so I should have gotten this done a couple of months ago for sure.

Here are the links to the previous guides if you’d like to go have a look at them.
Death Knight Tanking: Frost (55-60)
Death Knight Tanking: Frost (61-70)
AoE Grinding: Frost Death Knight Edition (70)
Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters

Psynister has been sitting at level 80 now for a while. I haven’t done a whole lot with him since then, save for running a few heroics here and there. Surprisingly enough I get chosen for DPS most of the time in randoms, which doesn’t bother me much to be honest since I actually enjoy my DPS spec and playing as Unholy DPS is a blast.

Last time we talked about getting you up to level 70, some of the differences between Two-Handed tanking versus Dual Wielding, how the Rune and Runic Power system works, and the different rotations between trash packs and bosses. This time we’re going to focus more on finishing off our spec to level 80, getting geared up to tank heroics, and some updates we need to make in reaction to the changes that came in our most recent patch, 3.3.3.

Frost Tanking Spec

Frost Death Knight Tanking Spec, Level 80

Endless Winter 2/2: Your strength is increased by 4% and your Mind Freeze no longer costs runic power.
Threat of Thassarian 3/3: When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Rune Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a 100% chance to also deal damage with your offhand weapon.
Bladed Armor 5/5: Increases your attack power by 5 for every 180 armor value you have.

With the recent patch, Endless Winter became a very strong addition to our tanking toolbox with a solid boost to our Strength. Threat of Thassarian provides us with a welcome increase to damage which in turn of course is an increase in threat generation. Bladed Armor finishes off our tanking tools by adding even more attack power as a good deal of our threat against bosses is going to come from our attacks more so than our diseases.

NOTICE: The spec I’m suggesting here is what you should use for leveling. It’s not a raiding spec. If you are going to continue on into heroics and raids as a Frost Tank then you’ll want to use one of the following: Dual Wield Tanking or Two-Handed Tanking. For Heroics you’re better off using the DW build for extra threat, but for raiding you’ll want the 2H build instead. Welcome to patches changing how things work.

Also, Blizz has revealed to us that Blood is the tanking tree going into Cataclysm, so the work that’s been put into these guides is going to become completely nullified in a matter of months when the expansion hits. Nothing like wasting several hours of research and writing only to have it nullified. Thanks Blizz, screw you too…

Glyph of Howling Blast: [Major] Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.
Glyph of Disease: [Major] Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Icy Touch: [Major] Your Frost Fever disease deals 20% additional damage.
Glyph of Obliterate: [Major] Increased the damage of your Obliterate ability by 20%.
Glyph of Frost Strike: [Major] Reduces the cost of your Frost Strike by 8 Runic Power.
Glyph of Unbreakable Armor: [Major] Increases the total armor granted by Unbreakable Armor to 30%.

Those are my major glyph suggestions in the order that I would suggest them.

Glyph of Pestilence: [Minor] Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: [Minor] Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Blood Tap: [Minor] Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you.

As for minor glyphs, those are the ones you tank with as Frost, plain and simple. Raise Dead is the one you can change if you feel so inclined.

New Spells: 71-80

Raise Ally: Raises the corpse of a raid or party member to fight by your side. The player will have control over the Ghoul for 5 minutes.
Empower Rune Weapon: Empower your rune weapon, immediately activating all your runes and generating 25 runic power.
Army of the Dead: Summons and entire legion of Ghouls to fight for youl. The Ghouls will swarm the area, taunting and fighting anything they can. While channelling AotD, the DK takes less damage equal to their Dodge plus Parry chance.

Ok, so Raise Ally is one of my favorite spells of all time. When I first found out this ability existed after Wrath launched and that someone in my guild had it, I intentionally got myself killed just so I could run around as a ghoul. As far as using it yourself, you’ll probably only use it on rare occasions. Pull it out in a raid when all the druids have already used their combat rez or in dungeons when your healer’s not a druid, your dps are being stupid, or whatever. It’s a fun spell but it’s not especially useful.

The Empowered Rune Weapon spell is great for tanking and DPS alike, immediately resetting all of your runes. If you know you need to front load some serious threat on thing right from the beginning it’s not a bad idea to switch your rotation to something like HB > BB > PS > D&D > ERW > BB > BB > Pest > Obl/HB > PS > FS. It’s great for throwing down everything you’ve got and then resetting your runes and jumping into your rotation as normal. It’s basically a free ticket to the Open a Can show.

And last but not least, Army of the Dead; the sole reason I ever wanted to have a Death Knight in the first place. I’ve said it before, but I’ll bring it up again here, I’m a Necromancer at heart and this spell is the only thing that fits that makes my shriveled black heart have a happy beat. For tanking you want to pull this out before you pull to begin with and then lay into whatever it is you’re fighting with as much hate as you can. The Army is going to taunt things off of you left and right which sucks, so you need to keep an eye on their timer and be ready to establish threat once they’re gone. It’s a lot easier to do on a boss than on a pack of mobs, but if you use it at all then that’s how/when to do it. Be prepared to use your taunt, Death Grip, or 2-3 Icy Touches to reestablish agro once they’re done.

Tanking Trash

I’m going to list two different Rune Sets here, one for when you’re running with your guild and they understand that giving you a few seconds to build threat is beneficial to them, and one for when you’re in a PUG and need to front load the AoE threat as much as possible because you know the people in your group are going to AoE the second you start moving.

Just to reiterate, I tank as Frost while Dual Wielding slow, one handed weapons.

No Rush Rune Sets
First Rune Set: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Blood Strike (B), Howling Blast (FU), Frost Strike

Second Rune Set: Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (Death Runes), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Howling Blast (FU), Frost Strike

The First Rune Set establishes our diseases on all of the mobs within the area, burns our Blood Runes to proc our blood tree’s defensive talent, and then hits with our AoE to get a solid start on our threat. The Second Rune Set is there to establish as much AoE threat as we can using our big damaging spells.

When you’re cycling through the Obliterates looking for a Rime proc you might want to cycle through your targets as you do so that if Rime does not proc then at the very least you get to spread your threat throughout the mobs by not hitting just a single target. When Rime does proc, use your Howling Blast right away. If you find that Howling Blast is off cooldown when an Obliterate shows up in the rotation, go ahead and cast HB instead if you’re fighting more than two mobs. Similarly, if the rotation says to use HB but it’s on cooldown, use Obliterate instead.

AoE Rushed Rune Sets
First Rune Set: Howling Blast (FU), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Plague Strike (U), Blood Tap (none), Pestilence (Death), Icy Touch (F), Frost Strike (60+ RP only)

Second Rune Set: Howling Blast (FU), Obliterate (Death Runes), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs]

Nothing really changed here as far as rotations and general play style went. The one big change that should be brought to your attention is that Icy Touch now generates a truckload of threat when you’re in Frost Presence. If your taunt/DG either miss or are on cooldown, just target the mob and Icy Touch them instead. It now generates 14 times its damage as threat which is huge.

Tanking Bosses
Now that we have our hard hitting abilities, it’s time to change up the boss rotation as well.

Boss Set One: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Blood Strike (B), Blood Strike (B), Obliterate (FU), Frost Strike (60+ RP only)

Boss Set Two: Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Frost Strike, Frost Strike

This is your rotation for fighting bosses. Establish your diseases, and then take advantage of the hardest hitting spells you have every time they come up. If the boss has adds then you might need to use regular Howling Blasts in place of some of those Obliterates, and you’ll want to drop the first Blood Strike for a Pestilence instead so that you get your diseases spread around nicely. Other than that it’s all about bashing the boss in the face as hard as you can each GCD.

With the changes in 3.3.3 Icy Touch deals 14x its damage as threat (in Frost Presence) which is pretty huge. If you lose threat on something then you either need to taunt it with Dark Command, Death Grip it to force focus on you, or use Icy Touch for burst threat. If you’re having particular trouble holding a mob then taunt it with Dark Command to bring your threat up to the level of whoever has it right now, and follow it up with Icy Touch to get a strong lead on them.

If you’re having problems with agro on the boss then drop some of those Obliterates and replace them with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead. You’ll lose a bit of damage, but you’ll gain threat from Icy Touch instead.

Preparing for Heroics
I’m not going to make a gear guide here because that’s not what I do here. This blog is dedicated to getting you leveled up, not getting you maxed out once you’re there. It’s not hard to do a search online for gearing guides for heroics though so you shouldn’t have much trouble.

I will give you some basic guidelines though. First off you need to get your Defense raised to 535-540 so that you can avoid being critically hit. The cap for Heroic instances is 535, and 540 for Raids. Get your Defense up first off and then switch to your Stamina. You’re looking for 20,000 HP while self buffed starting off, and as long as you’re close to that you should be alright. You’ll have the dicks out there that insist you have 28k+, but as long as you’re somewhere close to the 20k, say +/- 2,000, then you’re good. If you can get up to 28k or more then all the better, but it’s not a requirement.

An easy way to buff up your health a bit is to have the Mining profession, though there’s not much you can do besides gear, gems, and enchants for the Defense issue. If you’re looking for maximum benefit from professions then you want Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting, or Blacksmithing and Engineering. Other professions can provide tanking benefits as well (Enchanting and Inscription come next on my personal list), but those will be your best bet.

If you’re going to PUG a lot, then be prepared to do a lot of your pulls with the AoE heavy rotation I mentioned up above, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing a lot of single disease with just Frost Fever because you’re burning too many runes to bother with Plague Strike and Pestilence. If you’re holding threat then you’re doing just fine.

And remember, it’s better to piss off a bunch of random people you’ll never see again by fail tanking in a PUG than it is to let your own guild down in a raid. I’m not telling you to go intentionally piss people off, I’m telling you to suck it up and go run some PUGs where things are going to go wrong, threat issues will happen, and frustration will occur, so that you can learn from it and grow stronger. Nobody gets better from being on easy mode all the time. Go introduce a little chaos into your life and force personal growth, that’s how you’re really going to learn to handle situations that get out of hand rather than getting a blank stare as you watch your raid wipe.

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Posted by on April 23, 2010 in Death Knight, Guide, Leveling


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Play Styles: Death Knights for Healers

[Update: For the sake of clarification and maintaining my reputation as both being sane and having some common sense, I want to point out that this post was my on-the-fly shot at an April Fools post. There are some elements of truth in it, at least as far as being able to DPS via TargetOfTarget Macros in conjunction with Grid/Clique, but I made no honest effort in really trying to tell you how to do it. I’m hoping that was all pretty obvious, but just in case this is looked at in the future and its date isn’t noticed, there you have it.]

Last week we covered Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters, so this week we’re going to cover DK’s for Healers. Granted, a healer is a spellcaster too, but they don’t cast spells the way the rest of us do, instead they use fancy little addons. We’re going to talk about two of those fancy little addons today: Grid and Clique.

Necessary Disclaimer
If you’re playing the class to maximize your DPS then you have to embrace the melee aspect of the class, that’s all there is to it. But if you’re not comfortable with melee and need to stay more caster-like in the method of playing the class, then this is the setup you want to go with. It’s not about maximizing your DPS potential, it’s about maximizing your own potential with your given skill set (and addon familiarity, of course).

Outlining Your Spec
Similar to the Spellcaster Playstyle, we need to rely heavily on spells. We’re also going to try to keep you at range so that you can remain safely tucked away in your comfort zone rather that up in the thick of melee combat. Now, I know you’re all wondering why in the world I’m throwing you into a Frost spec, right? I mean, come on now, we all know that Blood is meant to be the real healer, right? You’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you that playing the DK with any play style other than melee you’re going to want to be Frost. Used to caster dps? Screw Unholy’s magical damage, Frost has the playstyle. Used to being a healer? Screw Blood’s healing potention, Frost has the playstyle. Got it? Good.


We’re going to skip the detailed talent descriptions again this time because what I’m about to show you will save you the trouble of having to remember what all of this stuff does, because we’re going to tie it all into those addons so that you’ll just have to remember what happens when you use the various mouse click combinations.

Last time I broke the spec down into level 60, 70, and 80. But everyone knows a you don’t level as heals, you just respec at 80. So that’s what we’re doing here too. Just level as Unholy DPS, faceroll everything you see, and then jump to this spec at 80. Now, you may be asking yourself how in the world that’s supposed to work since the whole purpose of this article is to teach you how to level as a DK when you’re used to playing a healer. The answer to that question is simple. Step 1: Roll a DK. Step 2: Get out of the starting zone. Step 4: Respec at level 80. It seems like I might be forgetting something in there, but I can’t think of what it is. If I remember it I’ll let you know.

Moving right along then.

Level 80 Spec
We’re actually going to be emulating a Frost DPS spec this time more so than a Frost tank, because we need some of those other abilities to keep up with the style we’re used to. We don’t bother with any of the survivability crap because we know the tank always has our back when it comes to threat, right? Some of our spec will be the same as the Spellcaster Style with things such as Runic Power Mastery to increase our maximum Runic Power supply, and Merciless Combat which increases our damage to targets with low health. As a healer you’re used to focusing your heals on the people with low health, so to apply that to being DPS we’re going to help you focus on the ones that are close to dying so that you can kill them faster. See the similarities there? You’ll have this down in no time.

Every good healer has some means of raid healing, and we’re bringing that concept into our DPS spec by using “raid killing” instead via Howling Blast which is our big AoE spell, Deathchill which makes our hardest hitting spells instant-crits, and Killing Machine which can proc for the same effect as Deathchill. So we’ve got some serious heal kill power ready to be unleashed at a moment’s notice.

Every healer needs a nice little agro dump too, so we’re picking up Hungering Cold which will freeze everything in place and give you time to either bandage yourself if needed, allow your Runes to cool down in case you were otherwise defenseless, or to just go hide behind the tank and his AoE threat so that he can pull those mean little mobs off of you. It won’t dump our agro, but it’s the best we’ve got so deal with it. If you’re really used to using agro dumps though, you probably want to roll a Night Elf so that you can Shadowmeld whenever things get hairy.

Since you’re here from the healer’s perspective instead of the DPS caster, I’m going to keep you in your comfort zone and instead of dipping into Unholy for extra magic business, we’re going into Blood for extra healing tools. Most notably we’re taking Rune Tap so that we can heal ourselves for 10% of our max health instantly and Improved Rune Tap which not only doubles the heal from Rune Tap to 20% of our max health, but also cuts its cooldown in half so that we can pop that baby every 30 seconds. If that’s not juicy heals, I don’t know what is.

But that’s not all! We’re also going to pick up Vendetta so that we also heal 2% of our max HP anytime we kill something worth killing. We’re going to be slaying so many things that even with only 2% of our health getting healed it will be like we have three Resto Druids hanging out in our bag space throwing HoTs on us all day long. I mean, the amount of healing we’re packing here is just plain sick, I tell you.

Caster Knight Glyphs

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Rune Tap: Your Rune Tap heals yourself for an additional 10% of the effect, and also heals your party for 10% of their maximum health.
Glyph of Disease: Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Howling Blast: Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.

First thing’s first, we have to stick to our roots and be able to throw at least some amount of healing around on the raid instead of just ourselves. For that you want to grab the Rune Tap glyph first so that you’re able to throw out 10% health to the whole party with a single click of a button. It also gives us another 10%, but that’s 10% of our current 20%, giving us a total of 22% of our max health, not 30%.

Glyph of Disease refreshes all of our disease DoTs on all targets, which is sort of like refreshing all of our HoTs. DPS isn’t all that different from healing when you look at it that way. You’re used to refreshing HoTs, so now you just have to practice refreshing your DoTs. And this glyph even allows you refresh them on all of your targets at the same time. Don’t you wish your Resto Druid could do that?

And Howling Blast applies our main DoT to all the enemies it hits, so it’s sort of the equivalent of Tranquility, but without having to channel it.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of Pestilence: Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Blood Tap: Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you.

The Glyph of Pestilence is going to give you the most initial benefit by allowing you to spread your diseases around in a larger area. Next up is the Glyph of Raise Dead which allows us to summon our Ghoul without a reagent and without the required type of corpse lying around. You can use your Ghoul to increase your DPS, draw some aggro off of you, or to sacrifice to your Death Pact ability you get at level 66 to instantly heal 40% of your maximum health. That’s almost like having a Lay On Hands for yourself (beautiful). Last on the list is the Glyph of Blood Tap to remove the damage that the spell does to us. Ever had to heal a Warlock that was click-happy with his Life Tap? If so then you know how much you’re going to piss off your healer if you keep damaging yourself. We’re just taking this glyph as a matter of principle so that we can keep our healers happy.

How To: Healer-Style Death Knight

So in case you haven’t caught on yet, your role model is the Resto Druid. Druids roll the HoTs, and we roll the DoTs.

Healer-like Damaging Spells
Here we’ll talk about all of the DPS spells you’re going to cast, and we’ll explain it in terms that a good tree will understand.

Single Target Tree Nukes

Icy Touch always gets the first slot for us because that’s what you’ll start most of your fights off with. Icy Touch is a ranged Frost attack, and to relate that to being a tree we’re going to pretend that it’s the dead of winter up in Ice Crown (when is it not winter, right?), and your limbs are all frosted over. When the weight gets to be too much one of your limbs snaps off and falls to the ground with a big crash. That’s what we’re doing here, we’re going to freeze one of our own limbs, and fling at a mob’s face. The resounding crash is what it’s all about here.

Death Coil is our next single target nuke. It doesn’t provide us with a disease on the target, but it stings real good. And speaking of stinging, that’s how we’ll describe it. When you cast this you’re going to shake that little bee hive that’s hanging on your lower branches to stir up your little friends and then send them after the mobs with stingers exposed.

AoE Tree Nukes

Howling Blast is our first AoE damaging spell. HB is sort of like shaking yourself after a good rain, sort of like a dog does when it’s wet. You find a target and then shake your wet little leaves and the freezing water flies out at the target and all the enemies around them, splashing them with your water.

Blood Boil is our next largest AoE spell, costing only a single Blood Rune. When you cast BB, it’s like you’re calling on your earthy little friends, the Fire Ants. You give them a shout and they crawl out of the ground and bite the holy ever loving crap out of everything around you. If the targets are diseased then it burns even more. Fire Ants are to mobs what termites are to you. Got it? Good.

Death and Decay is the signature AoE spell of the Death Knights, but it’s getting the last slot for actually AoE nuke spells because of how it works and how much it costs. Death and Decay has to be cast on a certain area on the scree, so you can’t use our fancy Grid and Clique setup to cast it. Instead you have to actually click somewhere else on the screen, which is annoying. As such, it’s sort of like sinking your root-feet into the ground and causing them to spring up all around you as tenticly-root appendages of freaky, ouchy doom. Those roots will jump out and rub all the mobs the wrong way while they stay within the area.

Here are the macros you’re going to need to make all of this work.

/s Watch out everybody, I’m a’shaking mah leaves!
/cast [target=targettarget] Howling Blast

/s Hey, my Aunt’s ants are here! I bet they’ll help us out!
/cast Blood Boil

/s Tree limb, flying past your face!
/cast [target=targettarget] Icy Touch

/s These bees! They be a’buzzing!
/cast [target=targettarget] Death Coil

Setting Up Grid and Clique
In order to make all of this work you’re going to have to setup your addons to activate those macros. If you’re not using G&C right now, then WHAT THE CRAP KIND OF HEALER ARE YOU!?!?!

Sorry. If you don’t already use Grid and Clique then here are some links to help you learn how it’s done:
Defenders of the Crown, PDF version
The Holy Priest Blog
Comparing Raid Frame Heavyweights
One Handed Healing

Not all of your spells are going to be able to be tied into the same kind of macros, so you’ll need to either make some others or just use the spells normally. Rune Tap, for instance, needs to be easily accessed so that you can actually heal yourself and your party, so be sure to put that on your action bars or add it to the addons as well so that you can activate it by clicking in your own unit frame.

It wouldn’t hurt to include your melee attacks, such as Plague Strike and Death Strike to your bars as well, just in case you do find yourself mixed up in melee, but you can always just run away like a little girl or bet your tank to pull them off of you.

Wrap Up
Now, just take all of those macros that I gave you up there and tie them into Clique. You can then use Grid, in conjunction with Clique, to activate all of the macros and attack whoever’s target you want to attack. You don’t need to bother picking your targets or worrying about hitting the wrong one, just spam clicks on your Tank’s unit frame and you’ll always be casting on whoever his target is. If he can’t hold agro on a single target against your spells, then he’s got his own problems to worry about.

Hopefully you find these jewels of wisdom to be useful to you and with any luck you can keep your same old healer interface and still have everything run perfectly smooth for you.


Posted by on April 1, 2010 in Caster, Class, Death Knight, Guide, Macro, Melee, Play Styles



Play Styles: DK Caster Used in ICC-10

To expand on last week’s article, Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters, I’d like to mention a specific example of where the concepts within that post were put to use. Some people disagree with what I had to say there, called it crap, said it was inaccurate and not worth reading.

Don’t make me Death Coil you…

Since my intentions in the original post were apparently not made clear, let me say it again right here. The intention of last week’s article was to show someone who’s uncomfortable playing a melee class a method by wish to play the Death Knight (a melee class) in a caster-like playstyle so that it wasn’t so completely foreign that they could not stand playing the class. In no way was that post meant to suggest that it was a viable raiding spec, that it could be top DPS, or anything of the sort. The whole reason for it being there was to show you a different way to play the class.

Caster-Death Knights Used in ICC 10?
Yeah, you heard me right. Not just one, but two Death Knights asked to “go caster” in an ICC-10 raid this passed weekend. My guild isn’t large enough to run 25-man raid right now, but we do have enough high leveled and decently/acceptably geared alts to do Alt Runs for a second 10-man each week. I’ve been taking a break from raiding lately in favor of leveling other characters (I Play to Level, Not to Raid, remember?), so I wasn’t in the run I’ll be talking about or else I would have had screenshots to share with you as well. I also wasn’t in Vent while it happened because I was hanging out with one of my buddies in his own Vent server. My wife wasn’t in the raid that night because she’s currently chasing after the Loremaster title on her Shaman, but she was logged into vent and let me know about it during our lunch break today.

While we do have enough characters for a second raid, we don’t have exactly have the optimal setup for it. Of particular importance, we’re lacking caster DPS. We had one caster and one hunter in the group that ran on Saturday and there they were facing off against Lady Deathwhisper. For those that don’t know much about the Lady D fight, there are two types of adds that she spawns throughout the fight, casters and melee. She also randomly Empowers one of each group of adds where that mob becomes almost immune (99% damage reduction) to the type of damage that they deal – so casters are “immune” to spells, and melee are “immune” to melee. And the empowered melee mobs can just about one-shot anybody stupid enough to get in front of them, so the tanks taunt and kite them around the room while the ranged casters burn them down.

Well, when you’ve only got one caster and one hunter, that mob isn’t going to go down very fast. Knowing this, our raid leader asked the two Death Knights in the raid to “go caster” when the Empowered Melee showed up to help bring them down faster. And sure enough, they took her down just fine and did so on their first fight with her.

No Undue Credit for Me
Now, let me jump right out here for a second and mention that to my knowledge only one person from my guild reads my blog, and he’s a bit more of a PvP Fiend than a Raider. The decision to have the DKs go caster was not based on my post, and the two players I’m talking about do not have specs matching the one I listed in the previous post. These guys both pull over 8,000 DPS consistently with their melee skills, so they’re entirely comfortable with melee and don’t need to focus on playing like casters. At least, not in general.

So What’s Your Point
The point I’m making with this post is that sometimes you’re required to do things that you’re not familiar with or that you’re not used to doing; like acting like a spell caster when you’re playing a Death Knight. Even if you don’t have any trouble playing a melee DK, even if you already know the ins and outs of your class and every one of its specs, sometimes you have to step up and do something that’s “different”.

If you need to focus on casting your spells instead of using your melee attacks, then it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with which ones you should use and how to use them with the most benefit. In situations like the Lady D fight, AoE spells aren’t going to do as much for you as direct damage spells. Knowing that you’ll be able to prioritize your Rune and Runic Power usage.

Spells to Use Against Lady Deathwhisper’s Adds
If you find yourself fighting against Lady D and need to put your caster skills to use against her adds, here is some information to help you fulfill that role and help your raid:

Single Target Spells
Spells that hit only one thing will deal more damage to a single target than AoE spells will, but we don’t always have that option because of our Runic system. So here’s a list to guide you through your spell choices in a situation like this:

Blood Runes: Blood Boil, Pestilence (see below)
Frost Runes: Icy Touch
Unholy Runes: None
Runic Power: Death Coil, Gargoyle (Unholy only)
Frost + Unholy Combo: Howling Blast (Frost only)
Blood + Frost + Unholy: Death and Decay

Plague Strike isn’t going to help you much against the Empowered melee mobs, but you can still get your disease from it applied to them if you use Pestilence on another mob in the area that is diseased since Pestilence itself is a spell. Otherwise your source of damage from Blood Runes is going to be the Blood Boil AoE spell.

Whether or not you’re using a Frost spec, your best bet in a situation like this is probably going to be to use Icy Touch for one or both of your Frost Runes instead of something like Howling Blast which works better for AoE. If the mob just got empowered and is still near other mobs, then you can use HB instead to deal damage to them all, but otherwise stick to double-IT for your Frost Runes.

Since Plague Strike is the only Unholy-only attack we have, you won’t be putting these runes to use much unless you’re using them as combo points for something like Howling Blast or Death and Decay. If you decide to lay down a Death and Decay be sure to place it so that the mob will be kited through its area of effect for as long as possible. Your tank probably isn’t going to want to kite the mob back and forth through your D&D, so don’t count on too much damage coming from it.

With Gargoyle being a cooldown, you’re probably better off saving it for the boss herself, but if you need the extra dps on the add then go ahead and burn it now. Otherwise you want to stick to Death Coil for use on the empowered melee as often as you can.

Done and Done
So again, the purpose of last week’s article wasn’t to get you to pick up some freaky spec that I showed you and claim that it was great for DPS, it was merely to show you a new way of playing a class that’s not readily apparent. But as you can see from what I’ve told you here, just because it’s not the optimal spec or play style of DPS, it does have its uses and it can be the difference between a successful raid and failure. Never get so stuck in your ways or in the theoretical mathematics of others that you fail to look for the value in something different.

..because I may give you chills with my Icy Touch.


Posted by on March 31, 2010 in Blog, Caster, Class, Death Knight, Melee, Play Styles


Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters

Psynister here with another potential, could-become-a series. Today we’re going to talk about the play style of the DK class. My guest post over at For the Lore prompted some discussion on Twitter about people brushing off their old Death Knights, or perhaps giving them another shot for those that had given up on DK’s as I had not too long ago.

One person in particular, Anexxia of Bible of Dreams, mentioned that they could barely manage to get a DK out of the starting area because she just doesn’t work well with melee classes. Me and Miss Nexxi go way back in blogging/twitter terms as she was one of the first to show interest in my blog, so I made a special effort to let her know I’d gladly help her not fail as a DK and that you don’t have to be entirely melee focused to succeed as a Death Knight.

The Situation
At that point another one of our twitter/blogging friends, Furiey of Troll Bouquet, stepped in and said that DK’s are melee, and don’t fit the bill for spellcasters. A discussion followed between the two of us, with a fair amount of misunderstanding in what I was trying to express (that you can be a DK and not be overwhelmed by melee combat) and what Furiey thought I was saying (that DK’s could be likened unto Warlocks, Mages, EleShamans, Priests, etc.).

What it came down to was a level 76 Frost Tank (me) and a level 80 Frost Tank (Furiey) both expressing different view points on how you can play the exact same class, and both of us getting the impression that the other thought we had no idea what we were talking about. That’s probably the one major drawback to using Twitter (140 character limit on messages); misunderstandings or misinterpretations due to not being able to express your full thought.

So let me state right off the bat here that in no way did I mean to offend Furiey, and this post is nothing more than expanding on the playstyle that I spoke of and how to use it effectively without feeling entirely like you’re playing a melee class all the time.

If you’re playing the class to maximize your DPS then you have to embrace the melee aspect of the class, that’s all there is to it. But if you’re not comfortable with melee and need to stay more caster-like in the method of playing the class, then this is the setup you want to go with. It’s not about maximizing your DPS potential, it’s about maximizing your own potential with your given skill set.

Death Knights ARE Melee
It’s a simple statement, and largely true. It’s hard to consider a class that wields a two handed weapon, wears plate armor, is known for its powerful melee properties, and only has only two spells that aren’t instant cast in their entire arsenal as a caster. I don’t argue those points in the least. That’s right, Death Knights are a melee class, and a dang good one at that.

But what else defines a class as being melee rather than something else? To me, being a melee class means being able to deal your damage while you’re on the move chasing mobs, it’s about moving into position so that you’re behind the mobs as much as possible, it’s having the best weapons you can find to continue dealing the most damage possible, and it’s having the majority (not necessarily all) of your attacks resulting in melee swings rather than other forms of attack.

Death Knights can certainly match all of those definitions, but there’s one of them that it doesn’t have to match, and that’s the last point of the majority of your attacks being melee swings. And within that exception there is only one spec that can actually fill that role and still be successful: Frost.

Death Knights ARE NOT Spellcasters
Yet another simple statement of (mostly) truth. Spellcasters are known for being “squishy” (except for Holy Paladins), they’re known for stacking stats such as Spell Power, Intellect, Spirit, or MP5. They’re known for their crowd control, for their high DPS numbers, for their single target DPS and often their AoE DPS as well, and for spamming spells over and over to burn down their targets.

Death Knights definitely do not fit most of those definitions. We aren’t squishy little cloth wearers, we couldn’t care less about Spell Power (if you do, I will break your freaking legs), or other “caster stats” as we prefer stacking things like Strength, Agility, and Crit. We have very little crowd control, and our spec strongly determines our AoE capabilities. On top of all of that, our unique resource system of Runes and Runic Power prevent us from spamming much of anything.

Spec Details: Psynister, Make Some Sense Already!
Alright, so let’s break this down and get to the point – using a caster-like play style to be a successful Death Knight. To do this, the first thing we need to talk about is our spec. Hands down, no questions asked, there is only one primary tree that you can do this in, and that is Frost. It can be further enhanced by the Unholy tree if you like, but that will be closer to level 80 and we’ll talk about that further down the post anyway. Unholy actually does the most Magic Damage of the three trees, but most of that damage is dealt via melee.

As I said, the spec is the key to being able to use this playstyle, so here are the specifics on the spec for levels 60, 70, and 80. The minimum is level 60 because until then you do not have the talents you need to make this happen, particularly Howling Blast, the level 60 talent at the bottom of the Frost tree.

Level 60 Level 70 Level 80
Especially Notable Talents
Level 60 Level 70 Level 80
Killing Machine
Hungering Cold
Howling Blast
Corpse Explosion

Normally I go into detail about all of the talents you take, what they do, and so on, but this time I’m going to skip most of that since you can just follow the links if you really need to know. I am going to cover the ones that are key to this style of play though.

I will break it down into each of the spec levels that I laid out up there so that you have some guidance in each level bracket rather than a simple, general overview of the whole thing. Information in the lower brackets also applies in the higher brackets unless otherwise specified.

Level 60 Spec
This spec looks pretty similar to your generic Frost Tank spec at level 60, except that we’re missing some of the more notable tanking talents and instead we’re going for things such as Runic Power Mastery to increase our maximum Runic Power supply, and Merciless Combat which increases our damage to targets with low health.

If you would rather have some of those tanking talents to increase your survivability, then by all means do so. The talents I listed in the table above are the ones that are the most important ones in the bunch, as they’ll be the ones allowing you to fulfill your Caster-like role.

The talents that we just cannot do without for this spec and style of play are Howling Blast which is our big AoE spell, Deathchill which makes our hardest hitting spells instant-crits, Killing Machine which can proc for the same effect as Deathchill, and Rime which gives us the chance during the few melee attacks that we are forced to take to remove the cooldown on Howling Blast.

Two other talents are listed up in the table, but they are for survivability and utility more so than they are crucial to the build. Those two talents I strongly recommend, but you are not required to take them: Lichborne which will allow you to dump your extra Runic Power into healing yourself since we are missing some of those tanking talents, and Hungering Cold which serves as a backup to instantly apply Frost Fever to all targets within range, while also giving you the time to either bandage yourself if needed, allow your Runes to cooldown to rush back into a big AoE assault, or to refresh your diseases on all targets.

Minimum Level 70 Spec
On the path to level 70 I suggest you branch off into the Unholy tree to get some utility talents and build towards our Runic Power AoE, Corpse Explosion. Since we’re doing DPS here Virulence gives us some extra Hit, Epidemic increases the duration of our diseases so that it’s easier to keep them up at all times, and Morbidity increases our RP Nuke, Death Coil, which can also be used to heal ourselves when used in conjunction with Lichborne, and it also reduces the cooldown of Death and Decay which we will not use often but the option is open to us.

Required Level 80 Spec
Ramping up to 80 the biggest addition actually comes at level 71 with Corpse Explosion, providing us with an AoE spell that requires Runic Power rather than Runes. From there we say goodbye to Unholy and jump over to the Blood tree for just a second to grab Butchery to keep our RP supply full for use of either Corpse Explosion for AoE purposes, or Death Coil which can be used either for DPS or for healing if you have Lichborne activated.

Butchery is not necessarily required, it’s just a great way to keep yourself topped off on RP so that you can use your abilities more often. In addition to that, it also helps you to have a large supply of RP moving into a new fight so that you can get straight to blasting away rather than having to wait to build your RP. If you want to replace it with something else, feel free. My suggestion for a replacement would be Blade Barrier, also in the Blood tree, and using the three points in Nerves of Cold Steel there as well.

Caster Knight Glyphs

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Icy Touch: Your Frost Fever disease deals 20% additional damage.
Glyph of Disease: Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Howling Blast: Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.

Alternate Majors
Glyph of Death and Decay: Damage of your Death and Decay spell increased by 20%.
Glyph of Hungering Cold: Reduces the cost of Hungering Cold by 40 Runic Power.

Your most important disease, the one that should never fall off of your targets, is Frost Fever. The Glyph of Icy Touch increases the damage of that disease by 20%, which is a solid increase in your DPS.

While you have, or will have, four different methods of applying Frost Fever to targets around you, your Blood Plague disease will only be applied via your Plague Strike melee attack. The Glyph of Disease causes your Pestilence spell to refresh the duration of all of your diseases as well as spreading them around, so by using it you are able to keep both diseases active for longer periods of time, without having to resort to melee attacks. Finally the Glyph of Howling Blast is recommended as an easy way to apply Frost Fever, and keep it applied to all targets without putting special effort into keeping it up. As long as you’re using your strong AoE spell, you’re keeping at least that one disease up at all times.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of Pestilence: Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Corpse Explosion: Increases the radius of effect on Corpse Explosion by 5 yards.

The Glyph of Pestilence is going to give you the most initial benefit by allowing you to spread your diseases around in a larger area. Next up is the Glyph of Raise Dead which allows us to summon our Ghoul without a reagent and without the required type of corpse lying around. You can use your Ghoul to increase your DPS, draw some aggro off of you, or to sacrifice to your Death Pact ability you get at level 66 to instantly heal 40% of your maximum health. Last on the list is the Glyph of Corpse Explosion for a larger radius of burst damage. You don’t need to bother with this glyph until your last slot opens up at level 70 since you won’t even get this spell until level 71.

For this build I wouldn’t suggest any of the other minor glyphs that exist right now.

How To: Caster-Style Death Knight
So we have our spec and we have a general idea of what we’re doing; now we just need to bring all of that together and make it happen. The first thing to point out is something I already touched on just a bit up above: Death Knights do not have cast times. So our caster style is made up entirely of instant-casts. We do have some occasional melee attacks thrown into the mix as well, but we’ll talk about those as they come up.

So which caster can you think of that doesn’t bother with cast times (for the most part) and still manages to slaughter everything around them?

That’s right, your caster role model is the Affliction Warlock with their instant-cast DoT spells. Rather than spamming the same spells with their cast times over and over like a Mage, Priest, Druid, or Shaman, you’re going to throw your DoTs onto your targets, spreading your diseases as you go, and then bring them all down with your AoE spells. Also like a Warlock, you have spells that can heal you or restore your resources. Where the Warlock regains mana by damaging themselves, Death Knights regain their “mana” (Runic Power) by dealing damage to others with your class abilities. If you’re familiar with Affliction Warlocks then you’ll see the similarities. If you’re not then…well, just trust me on this one, alright?

A Warlock is going to have to cast their DoTs on one target, then another, then another, and on down the line for each mob that they’re fighting. That’s not the case for the Death Knight. Instead you’re going to group the mobs up, DoT one of them, and then use Pestilence to spread the DoTs to every other mob within 10 yards (15 yards if you use the Glyph).

From there it’s just a matter of hitting your AoE attacks to burn them all down, using melee attacks only when you have to to reset your diseases or because other abilities are on cooldown and you don’t like sitting there doing nothing for four seconds.

Caster-like Nuke Spells
If you want to be a caster, then you need to be able to nuke things. And so, here is a list of our nukes:

Single Target Nukes

1. Icy Touch: Cost: 1 Frost Rune. Deals Frost damage to a target within 30 yards, infects them with the Frost Fever disease, and slows their melee and ranged attack speeds by 15% for 15 seconds.
2. Death Coil: Cost: 40 Runic Power. Deals Shadow damage to an enemy or healing damage from a friendly Undead target within 30 yards. Refunds 20 Runic Power when used to heal.

Now, that’s not a very big list for something we’re going to be playing like a caster, but realize that we’ll be casting a lot of AoE spells with this build rather than burning down single targets. Single targets will die faster by taking the melee route, though that doesn’t mean that you can’t still bring them down with AoE spells as well.

Icy Touch is the spell you will usually end up pulling with, both dealing damage and establishing one of your diseases. When you get into your rotation you will not cast it quite as often as most of your Frost Runes will be used to power either Howling Blast, Obliterate, or Death Strike. While it is acceptable to use your Killing Machine and Deathchill procs on Icy Touch, you’re better off saving them for a Howling Blast if you can.

Death Coil is how you’ll burn through your Runic Power most often. When Corpse Explosion is either on cooldown or you do not have any corpses to power it with, Death Coil is your replacement. You can also use this to heal your Ghoul if you feel so inclined, or to heal yourself if you first use Lichborne to become Undead for 20 seconds.

Area of Effect (AoE) Nukes

1. Howling Blast: Cost: 1 Frost and Unholy Rune. Deals Frost damage to the target and all enemies within 10 yards.
2. Blood Boil: Cost: 1 Blood Rune. Boils the blood of all enemies within 10 yards. Deals additional damage to targets infected with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.
3. Corpse Explosion: Cost: 40 Runic Power. Explodes a nearby corpse dealing Shadow damage to all enemies within 10 yards.
4. Death and Decay: Cost: 1 Blood, Frost, and Unholy Rune. Corrupts the ground, dealing Shadow damage every second to targets that remain in the area.

Howling Blast is the big dawg of our AoE, and the reason why we’re focused on the Frost tree. It’s a ranged AoE which makes it great for pulling groups, but it works just as well when cast on a mob standing right next to you. It’s also able to be buffed by our Deathchill talent which will cause our next Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike, or Obliterate to be a critical hit. We will also try to time all of our Killing Machine procs to be consumed with Howling Blast as well, which works the same as Deathchill except that it is not consumed by Obliterate. Most of our Frost and Unholy Runes will be spent on Howling Blasts, except for when it is on cooldown and we use Obliterate instead.

Blood Boil is our next largest AoE spell, costing only a single Blood Rune. The damage is increased when targets are diseased, so we want to be sure that we have applied at least one of our two diseases on a target and then used Pestilence to spread it around so that we get the most damage out of it that we can.

Corpse Explosion provides our Runic Power AoE to fill in the slow points where our Runes are on cooldown and corpses are available to be exploded. This build is designed to allow for a lot of Runic Power to be built and stored, so you should be able to make frequent use of the spell so long as there are corpses to target.

Death and Decay is the signature AoE spell of the Death Knights, but it’s getting the last slot for actually AoE nuke spells because of how it works. The damage on D&D is fairly low, but the threat rate on it is high. If you are using this build in a group setting then you are already going to generate excessive amounts of threat from using so many AoE spells all the time, so using D&D is often a bad idea in group settings. Also, this is the highest Rune-cost spell that we have, costing one of every type of rune to cast it. By using D&D we remove the ability to use other spells that may be more beneficial to use in the long run.

Melee Attacks You Do Need
There are three melee attacks that we’ll mention in particular here, because they’re the only ones that really matter for this build and playstyle.

1. Plague Strike: This is your second disease, and the only one applied from a melee attack outside of an Unholy build. You will generally use this at the start of a fight to establish a disease, and then rely on your Glyphs to keep it refreshed. If it ever falls off of your targets, go ahead and use it again.

2. Obliterate: This is your key to faster AoE kills, but not necessarily required. It’s also the reason why we’re going to Dual Wield with this build instead of using a two-handed weapon. Each time you attack and hit with it, you have a chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and also make it a Rune-free cast. When dual wielding each time you hit with Obliterate you have two 15% chances to proc Rime which is what makes HB free and resets its cooldown.

3. Death Strike: This is your easiest, most reliable method of healing yourself during combat. When you hit with it you heal yourself for 5% of your maximum health for each of your diseases on the target. With this build and its intended play style you should have two diseases up at all times, so each attack with DS will heal you for 10% of your maximum health.

Other than those the melee attacks you have available are not necessary. If you’re fighting single targets then you may prefer to use Blood Strike instead of Blood Boil since it will do more damage for a single target, but it is a melee attack rather than a spell.

Similarly, it’s better when fighting single targets to use Obliterate instead of Howling Blast from a pure DPS perspective, but again it’s a melee attack rather than a spell, so the choice is yours for which to use and which not.

If you want to maximize your DPS as a Death Knight then you do need to embrace your melee side, but this post isn’t about maximizing your DPS, it’s about playing a melee class from a caster’s perspective and trying to use the play style you’re used to for a class that you’re not.

Putting It Into Action
Time for some Rotations and a sampling of how this actually works.

First Example: Ranged Pull

First Rune Set: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Howling Blast (FU), Blood Boil (B), Runic Powers
Second Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast* (FU), Pestilence (B), Runic Powers

With this rotation we’re going to start off with a ranged Icy Touch to pull our target and establish our first disease. We follow that up with a Plague Strike to establish the second disease, and then Pestilence to spread them around. We finish the first Rune Set with a pair of AoE spells; Howling Blast and Blood Boil. Your first Runic Power dump is probably going to be a Death Coil as you’ll likely not have a corpse to use for an Explosion, if you do have a corpse handy go ahead and Explode it instead.

In the second set we try to use as much AoE as we can muster while also keeping our runes up. Depending on your timing and how often you hit/miss with your attacks, you might need to swap the Pestilence and Blood Boil in the second set, or you may need to replace the second Howling Blast with Icy Touch/Plague Strike instead to reestablish your diseases.

* = If at any point you see “Howling Blast” but your HB is on cooldown, simply replace it with either an Obliterate (FU) or an Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U) combo. If your diseases are about to wear off and Pestilence is not available to get them refreshed, go ahead and replace HB with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead so that your diseases are up and running at all times.

Second Example: Melee Pull

First Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Blood Tap (N/A), Blood Boil (B), Runic Powers
Second Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Runic Power (rp), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast* (FU), Runic Powers

This rotation is meant to burn the mobs down quickly with burst damage from your AoE spells. I suggest you use this one only after you have the Glyph of Howling Blast so that it applies Frost Fever for you or else you rob yourself of some damage during the Blood Boils.

Since we use Blood Tap in the first set to reset a Blood Rune cooldown and proc it as a Death Rune instead, we’re not going to have a Blood Rune available right away in the second set. To make up for that we’ll make use of a Runic Power ability there (Corpse Explosion if we can, Death Coil if not), and then make use of our Blood Runes as they come back up.

* = If at any point you see “Howling Blast” but your HB is on cooldown, simply replace it with either an Obliterate (FU) or an Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U) combo. If your diseases are about to wear off and Pestilence is not available to get them refreshed, go ahead and replace HB with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead so that your diseases are up and running at all times.


Psynister: Level 80 Death Knight

First thing’s first:


Now that my Death Knight has reached level 80 I will begin work on the final installment of the Frost Tanking guides. I will also include a bit about Unholy DPS since that is my dual spec, but that will likely be a separate guide unto itself. I did run a few randoms during level 78 and 79 as DPS so that I could get a feel for it before heroics, and since I was doing more DPS than pure DPS classes while still in my tanking gear, I’d say I have it down pretty good.

I’ve got my own army now, Arthas. Let us dance, you and I.


Conversations With the Masters: Satorri

In my guest post on upcoming changes to Death Knight Tanks in Cataclysm over at ForTheLore, I turned to who I personally consider to be the best source of DK Tanking information on the web, Satorri from

Since my guest post was directed at upcoming changes and a lot of what I talked about Satorri had to deal with our current stat situation, I wanted to make all of the information available but not have it all clustered up on Roger’s blog.

The “conversation” I had with Satorri came in the form of private messages on the TankSpot website, so it was a rather informal Q&A session of sorts with me sending questions and Satorri replying with answers.

You will find our conversation below, with my messages in green and Satorri’s responses in blue text and in blockquotes:


First I really must thank you for your amazing Book on Death Knight Tanking. I had completely written off the class as a possible tank after seeing so many fail at it. I have a blog about leveling and helping people understand and use their class in a given role so I decided to take on DK Tanking for myself to blog about it and your Book is by far the most detailed and informational source I found anywhere.

One of my fellow bloggers asked me to guest post on his blog about DK Tanking in relation to the upcoming stat changes in Cataclysm, and I wanted to talk to someone that’s more experienced than I am since I haven’t even reached the level cap on my DK yet. I thought for sure someone would have covered it here by now even if it were only in passing, but after going through 5 pages of search results I didn’t find anything.

For that matter it’s hard enough finding two people who actually agree on the priority of stats for DK Tanks. I know Strength is our threat stat, which also gives us some Parry, and that Armor and Stam are of obvious importance, but things get a bit fuzzy from there. For instance, some people seem to rank Parry high, where it’s pretty low on your list. With Parry switching from Avoidance on one hit to Mitigation on two hits, does it move up in priority or down? Does Dodge go up because of that, making Agility more appealing? Those are the kinds of questions I find hard to answer.

We don’t have the specifics of the stat changes yet, so I’m not looking for a real in depth analysis so much as your general thoughts on them. Any help you’re willing to give is appreciated.

Thank you for your time, and thank you again for your excellent contributions here at TankSpot.



Well, you did hit the nail on the head on one point: We don’t know how stats will work *exactly* or finally in Cataclysm so it is hard to discuss that now. I got the impression from the first half of your message that that was what you were interested in?

If you want to talk about stats now, maybe I can clear some things up. The first thing to be sure on is that it is much harder than some would lead you to believe to evaluate and compare stats, especially for tanking. Few stats are actually directly comparable since they will work through different methods or will dip their toes in multiple pools (for example, Agility gives you armor, dodge, and crit chance, and armor in turn can become AP). The value you get from different stats will often vary with many factors including what your current stats are, talents, and what you are facing.

If you are a tank, you have 2 responsibilities (things you *must* offer as opposed to what you could): threat and survival. You need to stick mobs to you, and you need to take the beating they give you. If you are interested in survival, there are 3 main features that you can group the stats into: avoidance, mitigation, and health.

Health is easy and obvious. When your health hits zero, you’re dead and no longer tanking. Stamina is the one way we change our health through stats.

Mitigation is tools that reduce the damage you take. This is armor, resistance (armor vs spells), and block/absorb mechanics. We don’t generally see the third, and resistances are usually a rare tool only used for specific fights since at any given time at least 70-80% of the damage we take is raw physical damage. Before t10 and the non-set gear, there was very little opportunity to get extra armor outside of the occasional piece of jewelry, cloak, or the odd trinket. Mitigation is generally a popular value with tanks because it just plain reduces damage taken. It’s always on and always active. We get this mainly from armor and bonus armor on gear, but also through agility-granted armor in smaller measure.

Avoidance is the tools that give you a chance to just plain not take damage. This is represented by things that increase your chance to be missed, dodge, and parry (defense rating, dodge rating, parry rating, and agility). Avoidance is much maligned, especially more as this expansion has gone on.The main reason for this is that the state of the healer balance and the damage taken by tanks is such that:
A.) Healers do not have easily reached mana concerns. It it possible to be run out of mana, but there are many tools to prevent that.
B.) Tank damage has been balanced to the point that healers are rarely encouraged to be tactical and generally can be more effective if they just pour healing on the group. Because of A this is reasonable to do, and as such it *appears* less important that tanks take less damage and more important that they can’t be bursted into the ground faster than heals can land.
The two combined mean that most tanks believe it is smarter to have 80k health than to take 30% damage (exaggerated for emphasis =D). The value of Avoidance, however, is that it interrupts the damage stream. It may be nice to some healers if the tank is just constantly being hit so they *know* what is coming and can spam heals in response, but for the sake of survival and all the times where healers are distracted or unavailable, avoidance allows you to just plain not take damage.

Because you asked specifically, there is one specific point to touch on: the reason parry is never smart to gem for as a DK is because of the passive spell effect “Forceful Deflection,” the one that turns Strength into Parry. Dodge and Parry rating both contribute essentially to the same thing, 1% Parry is the same as 1% Dodge for all intents and purposes (technically Parry will give us more threat but it is pretty small in scale). Because the two matching ratings also have the same exchange rate, the only thing that determines the difference in value of the ratings is that they have different caps they diminish to. Because of these caps there is an ideal line that will tell you when which stat is better (basically when your diminishing dodge is greater than 1.8x the size of your diminishing parry, parry rating is giving you more raw % avoidance). The catch with Forceful Deflection is that it keeps us so flooded with Parry rating that we have a hard time actually reaching a level of Dodge rating where Parry rating will actually be better again, and you certainly won’t unless you are actually stacking avoidance ratings (which next to no one does). For that reason, it’s pretty much never smart to gem for parry rating. It’s still a fine stat to have, and itemization is such that you will rarely lose total avoidance because you took the piece with parry instead of the one with dodge.

(Had to break here because of character limit, so Satorri sent a second reply)

Going into Clysm they’re talking about changing what it means to parry, which *could* make it a special sort of semi-mitigation ability, but I expect we’ll see a LOT of changes as the development cycle revs up as they figure out how to balance that best. It’s pretty premature to discuss anything now, unless it’s theoretical explorations of what you think would be a good idea for Blizz to do.

When it comes to threat and threat stats, as a DK tank I am generally of a mind for one simple method: Design your spec for threat concerns, don’t rely on stacking “threat stats” to support a spec that doesn’t support threat well. To understand the value of threat stats though you want to understand what you want from threat.

First off, we’ll assume you are not gemming, enchanting, or taking gear for threat with haste, crit, or armor pen. We will get them on weapons but that is rarely a consideration for what weapon we will choose, especially since the DPS on a weapon will always outweigh the stats. By the same measure I don’t expect it is worth adding Strength to your gear. It won’t hurt you, but if you are having trouble with threat that is probably not the way to solve it. There are 3 stats however that have significance to threat that will warrant consideration: agility, hit, and expertise.

Agility is an easy one to label but hard to place a value on because it is a very compound stat value. In short it is a delicious survival tool that gives you mitigation, avoidance, and adds a little bit of threat in the form of crit chance and a small amount of AP.

It may seem odd to put Hit and Expertise as values worth having when I say don’t bother with crit or haste, but let me explain. What do we need from threat? We need magnitude but with a smart spec and any set of tank gear appropriate to the level of content you’re running you will have fine Str/AP to support your threat. To that end we can expect a good player (read: smart spec and good play skills) can hold threat without an issue on the long run. However, the one thing that the best spec and skill cannot grant is reliability. To generate threat you have to hit the target, plain and simple. If you don’t hit you don’t generate threat and your group will have to compensate. If you are trying to make tight time tables the way most encounters are balanced, it will be hard for your damage dealers to respond well if your threat isn’t there when you expect it to be. Hit and Expertise are the answers to that.

So, to be clear, I don’t think either stat is required for your best overall threat, but I think they are very valuable for being able to apply threat the moment you need it, where you need it. The value from there is simply a variable based on how many spells you use vs melee swings, and what you want/need to rely on most. I prefer to stay as close to the hit and expertise soft cap as I can, though if I go over on expertise I’m not terribly worried as it is still a fine value, especially for me as Blood.

So, what exactly is it you were looking for, now that I’ve blathered on for a couple pages? =)


Thank you for the excellent reply, that helped me with some of what I’m dealing with right now (no idea how I missed Forceful Deflection’s existence) as well as where I’m going with this particular post.

The post is about how the proposed (as of right now) stat changes Cataclysm are going to impact DK Tanks. So I’m taking what we stack now vs. what we will want to stack in Cat according to the information we have right now.

In looking at what all we’re supposed to be stacking now I found you had a list:
– Armor
– Strength
– Stamina
– Defense Rating
– Dodge Rating
– Parry Rating
– Hit Rating
– Expertise Rating

You have them listed in that order, but I don’t know if that’s the order they actually belong in from a priority perspective. So for example, priority-wise do we stop stacking Strength because Parry becomes Mitigation and instead stack Agility because Dodge becomes the only Avoidance stat?

You mentioned the importance of Hit and Expertise. The notes we have on Cat right now mention that reaching those caps are going to be “much harder”, though they go on to say similar to the difference in hitting a level 83 mobs versus a level 80 mob which implies that it will be the exact same setup we have now only higher totals because of higher boss/mob levels (88 and 85).

Cataclysm notes also mention that Frost DK’s are going to get Haste and increased Runic Power Generation for their Mastery bonus, and they said we’re trying to loosen up the Rune system a bit so we’re not so strongly tied into a GCD system of burning runes, spending excess RP, burning runes, spending RP, etc. It’s hard to speculate with so little detail given, but we might see Haste becoming more important if they want us using RP more for tanking.

I guess in essence what I’m really after is which stats do we stack now versus which stats we should stack in Cataclysm based on the information we have right now. Do you feel we will ignore stats that we currently focus on (other than Defense Rating which is going away)? Will there be stats we “ignore” now that we may begin to stack come Cataclysm?

The list I posted isn’t a priority list, only a list of stats that we will see and care about on tanking gear.

Priority is a bit tricky since the values will vary as you get more of anything, as your gear changes, and depending on what you’re facing.

I have avoided touching anything on stats or proposed changes yet because I can promise you that everything you’re reading now is general enough and will change pretty seriously before the game goes live. I think it is a safe assumption that they are going to rebalance stats and their values. The specifics will take months to develop, and really I wouldn’t bother posting about it until the beta is actually underway.

From Blizzards posted stances though, I think it is safe to assume that:
A.) Health and Armor will always be desirable, that won’t change, they will always be central values.

B.) They want avoidance (and block) to be more attractive tools for tanks, particularly to the end of taking less damage. In BC it was a bad thing to be a mana sponge, if you needed constant healing it was predictable but you would also run your healers straight out of mana. They want that to be the case again, so it will be worthwhile to take less damage and take less consistent damage.

C.) They are adding the elements of Mastery that will go a long way to affect how different trees play, and probably what kind of benefits each spec of tank will be most keen on.

If they have been general about anything, they have been completely excluding DK info. They’ve made a point of saying they’re restructuring the way the class mechanics work particularly with the interests of smoothing out the kinks. They have not told us anything, but hinted that the changes will be significant, so there is another reason that it is very premature to talk about Cataclysm changes for DKs.


And there you have it.

Satorri is a very active member of the TankSpot community with over 3,000 Posts, and hosts a blog on TankSpot as well, Satorri’s Blog.

And here is a link to the Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking if you would like to find out more about Death Knight tanking in all three trees.

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Posted by on March 17, 2010 in Death Knight



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