Choosing my 3.1 patch death knight talents

24th April 2009 – 10.30 am

With World of Warcraft's 3.1 patch comes changed talents and talent trees, giving an opportunity for a free respec! I grasp this opportunity with both hands and keep Sapphire a protection warrior and Gnomesblight a frosty death tank. However, that's not to say I made no changes, and not only because the talents have been modified or their positions moved.

Sapphire remains the tank for me and allows me to fulfil that rôle whenever required, so although Gnomesblight has the capability to tank I find I prefer to keep the death knight as a DPS character, partly to offer a change of rôle but particularly because of my regular adventures in Wintergrasp. Focussing on the DPS aspects of the talent trees, preferring to remain frost with a bit of blood, I can neglect some of the talents that boost armour or damage mitigation in favour of boosting damage output.

Gone are improved frost presence and frigid dreadplate, for example, although I have kept lichborne for its use in PvP and unbreakable armour for its strength bonus. I didn't realise for a while that howling blast had been moved to the top of the frost tree but stuck with it, as it proves to be quite useful in any situation dealing with multiple foes, particularly when combined with pestilence and deathchill. Rime also helps to make howling blast more effective by refreshing its cool-down and making it cost no runes when the talent procs.

It was handy before to have annihilation not cause obliterate to consume the diseases on the target, but now that diseases last for another three seconds I have more opportunity to cast obliterate, either to squeeze out some excess runic power first, or because a miss in my rotation causes an extra GCD. Rather than the extended DoT slowing down my DPS it looks like I can use it to my advantage, using more abilities that deal extra damage to diseased targets.

To help me cast more obliterate spells I initially added death rune mastery to my spec, which causes any runes spent casting obliterate to be converted to death runes, where death runes can function as any type of rune. Combined with blood of the north, which converts the runes used when casting blood strike in to death runes, I quickly found myself with a full deck of six death runes to use. With obliterate being my most powerful strike and my previous build using the blood-converted death runes as an extra obliterate at the end of a regular casting rotation it seems to make sense that having more death runes means having more opportunity to cast obliterate, thus increasing my DPS.

In reality, it doesn't look like the extra death runes are helping. I am either refreshing the diseases using frost and unholy runes, turning blood runes in to death runes with blood strikes or pestilence, or casting an obliterate that will either also use frost and unholy runes or the death runes created from blood runes. As the death runes created from death rune mastery and obliterate would ideally be used to power another obliterate I don't think I am gaining anything of value. There is some added flexibility in the rotation, but that flexibility would only be seen when mistakes are made and I cast the wrong spell. Death rune mastery is removed, replaced by virulence to improve my spell hit rating.

My rotation still ensures my two diseases are on the target, blood strike converting blood runes to death runes. This gives a standard rotation as: icy touch, plague strike, blood strike, blood strike, obliterate, icy touch, plague strike, obliterate, obliterate. Frost strike is used to spend runic power in the gaps when runes aren't available or to add an extra tick to a DoT. For the latter consideration, combat away from a target dummy should reduce any gaps of inactivity as the butchery talent should provide plenty of additional runic power to play with. I also need to be more aware of howling blast being refreshed by rime to take advantage of the multiple-target damage spell.

A few preliminary bouts with the target dummy produces an impressive 2,200 DPS from my crafting- and PvP-equipped death knight, which is a 400 DPS increase over what I saw in a previous run through Utgarde Pinnacle, which I was quite happy with. I am eager to try out the new spec in an instance to get some better performance data, but it is looking good at this initial stage.

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