Tuesday, July 6, 2010

[Death Knight] Frost DW DPS Guide (3.3.3)

Death Knights are a hybrid plate wearing class that are capable of tanking or dealing melee dps. In order to obtain access to a DK you must have at least one character at level 55. You are limited to one DK per server. When WotLK first dropped the DK floodgates opened and there was DK’s all over the freakin’ place. Since then, ironically, the numbers have thinned in both DK tanks and dps. The beauty of DK flexibility is that you can dps or tank in any of the 3 trees. Of course there are some that are better than others for specific situations, but generally speaking you can play any tree with success. This guide will be covering melee dps from the dual wielding frost perspective. There are other raid specs that are more than viable, and I may cover that one day, but for now its DWDPS time. 

1] Stats
2] Talents & Glyphs
3] Rotations & Priorities
4] DK Pro-ology & Miscellany
5] Enchants, Gems, Runes, & Consumables
6] Additional Resources

Hit – Until you are hit capped, hit is the most valuable stat to obtain. As a DW class obtaining enough hit to be capped for white (melee) swings is very difficult and is not our main goal. There are two “goals” for hit capping. The first is 8% for special attacks, the second is 17% for spell (disease) hit. Due to talents, all of our specials are based on main hand hit. Capping for the 8% can be easy, due to Nerves of Cold Steel you only need to obtain 5% hit. The second goal of spell hit would take 440 hit rating without talents and is not really recommended. If you end up between 12-15% with talents, that is a good place to be. Here is a handy reference chart.

5% - Melee special hit cap with Nerves of Cold Steel
8% - Melee's special hit cap
14% - Spell hit cap with Virulence
17% - Unbuffed and untalented Spell hit cap
24% - DW Melee hit cap with Nerves of Cold Steel
27% - Melee DW white hit cap

Strength – Not much to be said here, you gain 2 AP for each point is strength. Strength is buffed by kings so after hit this becomes the very best stat for increasing damage output. Know it, love it, stack it.

Expertise – Similar to hit, expertise decreases your attacks from being parried or dodged. For melee dps attacking behind the boss, 26 expertise is the soft cap. After that it is not worth worrying about. Something to note on expertise, there are talents near the bottom of each tree that grant expertise. Also some racials get an expertise increase as well. Orcs gain 5 expertise for using axes. That said, a DWDPS Orc with axes would only need to soft cap with 16 expertise, much easier to obtain on gear.

Armor Pen – This stat has long been attached to blood, however for DWDPS it is similarly important. A good portion of our damage output is from melee swings and Obliterates, both of which are directly modified by ArP. This should never been gemmed for, however passive ArP on gear and trinkets that proc ArP are considered a substantial DPS increase for DWDPS.

Haste – While not super important, haste does increase our DPS in a usable fashion. Haste will increase our white swings which in turn increases weapon rune procs/damage, Blood-caked Blade procs, and Necrosis damage. While it will decrease our global cooldown, the effect on dps overall is not applicable because it does not effect the cooldown on runes. Haste can also scale well with a heavier ArP build. Once you hit a crit softcap, haste will be worth more than crit on gear applications.

Crit – Due to Killing Machine, crit is not hugely important to us. Research indicates 27% unbuffed crit is more than enough.

Talents and Glyphs
Below are several talent specs and glyph selections.

DW Frost w/ Icy Talons (Unholy Subspec) – If you are providing the 20% melee haste buff to your raid, then this is the premier spec if you have solid gear and tanks that can generate proper threat. Once you are in T9 gear, this spec is considered the ideal spec. If you are wondering why Killing Machine is 4/5, I suggest just trying it out. If you spec 5/5 KM you’ll end up with too much uptime on KM and not enough strikes to use it on. Until they possibly nerf this talent, 4/5 is more than enough. Another area to note is the omission of Deathchill and Unbreakable Armor. Deathchill is more appropriately used for frost tanks needing additional snap threat. UA, while grants 25% strength when used, forces you into runelock sooner and ends up being a dps loss. Sadly this makes this talent less than attractive.

DW Frost w/o Icy Talons (Unholy Subspec) – This simple modification omits Improved Icy Talons and puts the point into Merciless Combat. The dps lost from the 5% melee haste is cushioned by the extra 6% when targets are below 35% health. That said it is still a dps loss compared to the above spec.

DW Frost w/ Icy Talons (Subversion Subspec) – This spec swaps out Blood-caked Blade for Subversion. The reason for this is two fold, regarding both your gear and your tanks abilities. At lower gear levels Subversion can be used to increase your Obliterate crits and lower your overall threat while in blood presence. Once you obtain a certain amount of crit you can abandon this build for one that contains BcB which, in that case, would be a dps increase.

DW Frost w/o Icy Talons (Subversion Subspec) – This is the same as above, only minus Improved Icy Talons.


Glyph of Frost Strike – This is a mandatory glyph. FS is your only runic power dump and also it does a significant amount of damage.

Glyph of Obliterate – Also mandatory, this was recently buffed up 5%. OBLITS scale well with ArP and does huge damage.

Glyph of Disease / Icy Touch – This choice is a gray area. Icy Touch by the numbers is a dps increase over Disease by about 2%. However, Disease can basically free up one to two extra runes each times it is used. This can result in a cleaner rotation, better for add fights / trash and additional Obliterates. Try them out and see which you prefer.

Rotations and Priorities
As with most classes in WotLK, there is no set rotation for us to follow. Our abilities are dictated by what runes we have available and what buffs we currently have. Your spell priority is as follows;

Single Target
1] Frost Fever / Blood Plague
HB with KM / RIME
3] Obliterate
4] Frost Strike w/ KM
5] Blood Strike
6] Frost Strike
7] HB w/ RIME

AOE / Trash Pulls
1] Frost Fever / Blood Plague (spread with Pestilence)
2] HB (RIME and KM if possible)
3] Blood Boil
4] Frost Strike

A couple thing to note – You’ll notice there is no HB unless RIME is up making it free. For the most part that is true. However during AOE trash pulls feel free to replace your first Obliterate with HB and use BB for happy time AOE damage. I’ll even burn a KM proc and pay for a HB crit to help get through trash. For single target and boss fights, stick to your priority scale. Never let your dots fall off, some classes shun 100% uptime but in your case the damage from each is not the benefit, it’s the increase to your special abilities that wins.

DK Pro-ology and Miscellany
What the hell is DK Pro-ology? Well it’s basically tips, tricks, and methods to make you look pro-status to your raiding peers. As a DK you can expect to NEVER get invited to any pug raid. Seriously ……never. That might be an exaggeration. It’s easy for people to say “zomglolwtfbbq DEATHTARD” and write you off. TRUST ME I’ve struggled with being a DK and the stigma attached to it, it’s not fun. If you follow even a few of these simple tips you can maybe impress someone and get invited back to that mythical pug.

On Weapons
Rogues, shamans, and hunters are going to hate your guts. Bottom line there is no escaping it. Up until recently DW DK’s were all but non-existent so there was less competition for those weapons. I’m here to make them hate you just a little bit less. The weapons you want are SLOW/SLOW weapons. Say it with me now….SLOW/SLOW. Slow meaning anything slower than 2.5 is good stuff. What happens if a 1.6 speed axe with ArP drops? Let the hunter take it so they hate you less. What happens if an uberfast sword drops? Make that rogues day. Don’t be afraid of rolling on a slow mace, axe, or sword IF you honestly need it and can use it immediately. My rule of thumb is I’ll roll if I can use it immediately otherwise I have to roll as offspec. Just keep that in mind.

On Presence
Blood presence, end of story. Next? In all honest, Blood is the presence you need to be in for maximum DPS. Frost has a threat multiplier (=you dead) and the GCD reduction of Unholy does us no good if we are waiting on runes to finish cooling down. End of story, BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD.

On Defensive Cooldowns
Did you know that defensive cooldowns actually directly increases our dps? You wear plate and are swinging around two weapons like a mad man so of course you are gonna pull threat and go splat. That is a fact of life. What you can do to be smart is use your very nifty defensive cooldowns to a] stay alive and b] replenish your resource to do more dps.

  • Icebound Fortitude – IBF is a great way to mitigate some incoming damage. Every 2 minutes for 20 runic power you can reduce incoming damage by 20% and stop SOME stun effects. There is no reason not to use this to stay alive because we all know dead dps = no dps. Use this for incoming physical damage if possible, however the 20% is a flat reduction for 12 seconds and can be used for magic. However there is a better alternative…..

  • Anti-Magic Shield – For 20 runic power on a 45 second cooldown we have the mythical AMS! This is hands down the BEST DK talent that we have. Not only does it absorb 75% of incoming magical damage for 5 seconds, when it does so it generates runic power! I use this talent to absorb the blue flame on Marrowgar, stand in D&D on Deathwhisper, run though slime pools on Rotface, take little damage when Sindragosa casts Blistering Cold – if it’s magic you’ll absorb it. Then unload a full 130 runic power bar worth of Frost Strikes right into the boss’s ass. Win – win. Another invaluable feature is it prevents the application of a magical debuffs. Use that during Sindragosa to stop the chilled stacks from increasing. Use it, love it.

On Army of the Dead
Worst, DK, ability, ever. No seriously it sucks. It’s great for Faction Champs in TOC but other than that it is facking terrible. However in the spirit of finding a use for it, I recommend the following. If the situation arises and you can convince your tank to let you, pull an army out right before a boss pull then hit your Empowered Rune Weapon to recharge your 3 lost runes. EJ is shown that the cast time and / or rune cost of army during a boss fight is actually a DPS decrease. If you get snap it off before the pull and regen those runes immediately it’s worth it. I groan every time I see a DK pop an army, even when I do it myself.

On Death Grip
DG is like a love hate relationship. Nothing can cause a raid to call you a deathtard more (except that Army above) than using DG incorrectly. However if there is a warrior or druid tank that you can work with, nothing can make pulls easier and smoother. My suggestion is to let your tank know you’d be more than happy to DG any casters or difficult mobs to them if they would like you to. Then make sure to stack right on their ass in the event the call for it. Nothing says moron like having them ask you for a DG and you pull the mob clear across the raid away from them. I promise they won’t ask you again. If you have a tank you work with regularly, you’ll get into a groove and can read each other so you may not have to ask them each time. Just remember it is a taunt so use with caution.

On Silences and Interrupts
Do them. Sometimes it’s easy to get tunnel vision and forget you have an arsenal but pop a valium and relax. Then hit your mind freeze and save someone where an incoming shadow bolt to the face. With the recently buffed Endless Winter it doesn’t cost you anything so make it happen captain. You can also strangulate from range, which is very helpful for your tank if you use it during pulls. Just remember if creates threat so if you strangulate too soon it could just run to you instead of the tank. Then you’ll be a deathtard.

Enchants \ Runes \ Consumables \ Gems
Below are some of the extra's you'll need to bring your best while raiding as a DK.

Arcanum of Torment

Greater Inscription of the Axe

Major Agility

Powerful Stats
Superior Stats

Greater Assault

Greater Assault

Greater Assault
Tuskarr's Vitality

Weapon Runes
There is much discussion about which runes to use, I’ll try and help explain the reasons for them.

Rune of the Fallen Crusader / Rune of Razorize – This is your best combination. The uptime on FC is around 60% and is the single best DPS rune available. Rizorice gives us a free 2% frost weapon strike and more importantly will increase all frost damage to the target by 10%. That means ANY frost damage we do in increased by 10% (cough cough HB, IT, FF, FS).

FC/FC - There is some discussion about FC/FC however I personally feel that it is not superior to FC/RI. By runeforging FC/FC you simply increase the uptime on the proc from 60% to 80%, the only time that would be beneficial is during trash or when switching targets often.

FC / Cinderglacier – On paper this is a DPS increase. However it’s only a DPS increase if you can manage to watch your procs and use them during a RIME/KM. That requires the stars to align and give you a CG proc right when you get RIME/KM proc. So if you can manage to bribe the RNG, and like watching 3 procs instead of 2 be my guest. This is the communist runeforge.


Flask of Endless Rage – This is pretty much your best and only option for flasking. You can always use the BC equivalent for 120 AP or some stat elixirs however they are subpar. I used some expertise elixirs for a bit to stay capped but you have to chug one every time you die. It’s easy to burn through a whole stack and realistically at that cost you should have just purchased the flask.

Dragonfin Fillet – Because of kings, this is superior to a fish feast. If you can nom on this, do it. Note that there is no non-fisher alternative for this food.
Fish Feast – Not bad if you can’t get some of the above mentioned.
Great Feast – Beggars can’t be choosers so if you didn’t bring anything and someone drops the welfare feast, nom it up without complaint.

Gemming is fairly easy and I will not spend much time on it. The basic idea is to follow your stat weighting and gem accordingly. For the most part that will have you gemming for +20 strength. Be smart about it, for example if a chest piece has a socket bonus of +8 or +6 strength, it’s worth it for you to drop a bicolor gem in there to attain the socket bonus. If the socket bonus is AP, CRIT or +4 Strength, just slap a Bold Cardinal Ruby in there and be on your merry way. Your meta of choice is either Relentless Earthsiege Diamond or Chaotic Skyflare Diamond. EJ claims Relentless is slightly higher dps, however I’ve found that the Chaotic Skyflare creates higher dps on my own personal sims. Also the meta requirements are much cheaper, especially with a nightmare tear.

Additional Resources
Elitest Jerks – Theorycrafting forums.
Wowhead DK Forums – A good place to gather resources.
Ask Mr. Robot – Web based DK sim.
Rawr – Offline sim.
Skeleton Jack – DPS DK blog.

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