Friday, April 17, 2009

Frost DPS Death Knight Spec and Rotation for 3.1

-Or- How I salvaged my Frost DPS spec.

In the second part of the two part series of 3.1 speccing and information, we'll talk about Death Knightery (not as catchy as warlockery I know... I'll work on it).

The Spec
I'm rolling out 3.1 with a 20/51/0 spec. My goal with this spec was to keep as much of my previous rotation as I could, since I really enjoyed the spec prior to the patch. Thus, I wanted to make Icy Touch viable, keep Howling Blast and Frost Strike available to me, and throw some points into the Blood tree for utility and DPS help. I also wanted to focus on a 2H build for now, since I don't really have any good 1 handers to pair up. Here is the work-friendly screenie:

Okay, so keep in mind that this is first and foremost a "fun" spec. I certainly have not focus as much on all damage dealing talents here as I would have on my warlock. I wanted to pick up some useful talents that could help in casual raids and casual PvP. For instance, that is the primary drive behind picking up both Hungering Cold and Chillblains. Neither of those really help DPS, but I like having them just to mess around with.

I steered clear of unholy because I don't want to be disease or pet dependant at all. I know there is more to that tree, but for this toon I'm trying to focus more on burst AoE and burst damage in general.

Similarly, I chose to take Rune Tap for the "free" healing. You'll see in the next section that I'm also grabbing the glyph, because I've really enjoyed being able to help out party members in a pinch. Usually it's like a free pot in a raid situation if things get hairy, or can save my butt in a PvP encounter.

If you're looking for more of a straight raid DPS spec, I'd probably take the points out of Rune Tap and Chillblains for sure and try to put them to use in the unholy tree prolonging your diseases or something of the like.

Other than the points I wasted in utility stuff, the rest are straight damage upgrades to the spells I plan to use. More on that in the rotation section

The Glyphs
Here are the glyphs I'm looking for to make this spec work for me:
Minors That Make a 'Lock Jealous

I pointed out earlier that one of my goals was to focus on a bursty, AoE type build. This is also reflected in my glyphs as I want DnD (I need to buy), I already have Pestilence (range extension is always good), and the new HB (might not be available for a while). All those glyphs should help my AoE damage.

Rune Tap is obviously picked for utility. If you don't like having that ability, there are definitely some other good glyphs out there. With how much I use Frost Strike, that glyph was a high contender for the spot.

Horn of Winter is a no brainer. Extremely useful, same with the Raise Dead glyph. Not having to carry around corpse dust? Yes please.

The Rotation
My rotation prior to the patch was pretty much IT > HB > BS > FS. Since this is primarily a "fun" toon, I didn't spend the time trying to match up cooldowns and come up with some perfectly fitting rune rotation. I've seen a lot of other blogs do that kind of thing and I don't really like it. It just seems to take so little to throw a lot of those rotations off. As such, I just wanted to find something that felt natural, lined up decently well, and wasn't a headache. Also, if things get hairy, I didn't want to be completely lost in a 8 button long rotation. Keep It Simple Stupid.

So my pre-patch rotation really exemplified this. It was a pretty simple priority based rotation, revolving around a few goals. First, I wanted to get my disease of choice up early since a lot of the other abilities had bonuses based off of it (this has since changed), therefore putting IT up early was a must. The bursty AoE of HB was then a next logical just to shoot every time it's off cooldown and frost fever is up.

I threw the Blood Strike in there to keep myself fresh with a death rune. I've found just doing one spreads them out nicely so I don't seem to run out of runes a whole lot. At the end of it all, I'll Frost Strike once or twice depending on where my runic power stands. Rinse, repeat. Simple.

Since IT has been nerfed and HB no longer receives a bonus based on the disease, I had to switch up my thinking a bit from before the patch. I still want to have my DoTs ticking becuase that's just a good idea. I decided though that the rotation could use a little something extra (and you'll see why), so now I'm going with this rotation: IT > Plague Strike > HB (or Obliterate) > BS > FSx2.

So this is a little more complicated. I added PS to put both of my diseases up. My OB seems to hit for a similar amount to my HB, so I mostly use HB unless AoE is a bad idea. When I do use OB though, it's good to have both diseases up. In that case, I'll throw in my BS before the OB so as not to waste the disease bonus. Otherwise, the same principles apply here and I'm usually racking up the RP for Frost Strikes quite nicely. We ran through OS-10 last night and it all seemed to flow very nicely without being too complex.

For AoE, I pretty much put up the diseases the same, then pop a pestilence to spread them, then HB. I'll throw down a DnD sometimes if I'm not worried about aggro (you have to be careful with it, since it is a high threat ability). The rotation doesn't really change a whole lot other than to make sure to get the diseases spread out. I haven't tried throwing in a blood boil either, though I might want to. Before it wasn't worth it, but it's been buffed a bit to offset the loss of pestilence damage.

It isn't the perfect gem of math that folks like The Stoppable Force might come up with, but it works and is a fun spec to play while doing respectable damage. How much? Well, lets move along to the last section I have for today.

Preliminary Damage Reports From The Field
Last night started off on my Warlock in VoA working hard on the second boss. I was very anxious to get some good, practical data as well as learn the new content. As with all learning situations, my numbers weren't going to be ideal representations of what I could do in this shiny new 3.1 world. We had a few good tries and the rotation definitely was simpler, easier to manage when you're learning new stuff. That's a perk. So was the 10k Drain Soul tick on trash. Overall though? I felt my numbers were a bit lower than expected.

I made some gear upgrades just before the patch hit that should have put me over the 3k mark for your average raid (doing a whole bunch more on gems such as Patchwerk). I expected to be above that mark, and I'm just not. I'm probably around 2.8k average. However, I have not been able to run a full Naxx yet, so its kind of hard to compare. I feel I need more data in a non-learning environment to really judge. The positive, though, was that with the simpler rotation, I felt that my damage numbers are evening out a bit. That is to say, I wasn't as abysmal on DPS even if I wasn't as high on the bosses. This gives me hope that in a better situation, I may find that I'm doing better on trash, worse on bosses, but the same overall.

When we went to OS-10, I switched to my DK to give it a try since my 'lock doesn't need anything in there. I'm still not very well geared, having about half my crap as raid items and the other half as quest blues and greens. A couple of the raid pieces are really tank pieces too. I certainly haven't gotten any tier gear yet. Even so, before the patch I was seeing numbers as high as 2.5k on my DK. It was completely OP. A similarly geared melee would be far far worse. I knew a nerf was coming and it did.

However, I'm happy to say that it really seems to be an appropriate nerf. I ran with a slightly better geared unholy/blood DK last night, and was fighting with him on the meters, hovering around a 2k average. This tells me that my spec is at least as viable as the cookie-cutter that he was using, so that's a good thing. Plus, the 2k number isn't unreasonable for my gear level. In fact, its pretty respectable. I was very pleased that I was able to keep the playstyle that I enjoy and not have found it nerfed to the ground.

In short, now that that servers seem to be evening out, I need more data. I need more runs. However, the preliminary indications are mostly positive. Even if both of my classes seem to have taken a slight hit, there are good things there and I'm confident it'll work.

(Update June 8, 2009: I seem to be getting a lot of traffic through here still, so I wanted to link to a post I made more recently in which I give an update on how I'm doing my rotation.)


  1. If you take 3 points out of Rune Tap > Improved Rune Tap, you can take Virulence in the Unholy tree. That 3% spell hit helps a lot. You'll be able to stack more Strength gems/AP+Haste items/etc.
    Granted you won't have the utility of Rune Tap, but you'll see a difference in your personal DPS. Especially since it will make Howling Blast, Pestilence and DnD land more often.

  2. That's a very good point. I don't think I'm ready to give up the utility of my Rune Tap, especially since this isn't my main raiding toon and used for more fun and PvP, but I would think spell hit would be even more important for Frost DPS DK's since HB, Pest, DnD all count as spells (does IT count as a spell as well?). Decreasing misses is always one of the best ways (if not the best) to improve your DPS.

    Great advice though.

  3. Yes, Icy Touch is a spell.
    Don't discount Spells missing in PvP either, there's a lot of racials and talents that boost it beyond the normal 3%. For PvP I usually have about 12% Melee hit and about the same for Spell hit.
    PS - came back to say "Ignore my bad glyph and sigil, I logged off after speccing to full Frost and was playing around with the Sigil."

  4. Hit is hit nowadays, so I would expect that if you have 12% melee hit, you'd also have 12% spell hit. As far as I know, you can't get specific hit ratings anymore, it all does it all.

    The Melee hit cap is 8% or 263 hit. That means you will never miss on a level 83 boss with melee attacks. For PvP, you only need to make up 4% hit if they are of equal level. Anything more is wasted.

    The Spell hit cap is 17% or 446 hit. That means you will never miss on a level 83 boss with spell attacks at that point. For PvP, again you only need to make up 4% hit. Anything more is wasted.

    See this post for more information about hit mechanics (specifically spell hit):

    Skeleton Jack also does a great job (where he also lists each DK ability type) of explaining this here:

    If you're rolling in PvP with 12% hit, you're probably wasting some valuable gear points there. Double check my sources if you'd like, but that is how I understand it to be. That being said, you're definitely right about "don't discount misses in PvP"... sometimes that can be the difference between life and death.

  5. hit cap is 9%, and a dk dont need haste, it gives you not more dps.
    hit you need, strength, attack power, crit, in that order

  6. 9%? Where did you see that? Is that 263 hit? I'm pretty confident in my sources, but I suppose they could be wrong. Or did something change that I'm not aware of?

  7. im currently using that same spec, but my points are a lil different. i took the death rune mastery for obliterates.When im in raids ive been critting for about 8k in 10 man naxx.As far as the hit rating cap, ive always thought it was 263.

    lichbane-scarlet crusade

  8. Yeah, your talent choice certainly seems more suited for a pure DPS build. Obviously I have some questionable points in there that I'm just taking because I *like* having it.

    I'm pretty confident in that 263 number as well... whatever percentage that is. It gets different when you DW too...

  9. Why using IT when you have the glyph of howling blast? You can easily pack a HB and OB right after that following some BS's and then dumping with FS.

  10. I don't actually have the glyph yet because I haven't been able to get my hands on it. But you're right, once I get that glyph I'll have to shake things up.

    I was doing my speccing based on "what I wanted to do" and my rotation based on "what I knew how to do" so there is a bit of a disconnect there. Sorry.

    Once I'm able to get the glyph and run with it a bit, I'll revisit this post and update what I'm doing.

  11. I've actually been running Frost the past few days - 17/51/3, one of the few DPS specs that runs in Unholy Presence. Holy crap does it feel fast! And it tears stuff up, too. I find I don't really miss the passive heals as much as I thought I would, and apparently hitting like a truck doesn't compensate for the extra GCDs I get this way.

    If you decide you'd like to try it, you can get the relevant glyphs and build off my armory (linked from my blog). Rotation's IT > PS > BSx2 > OB > (FS, Rime procs); IT > PS > OB > OB > (FS, Rime procs).

  12. Yeah, that's similar to what I'm doing now. I usually run Unholy Pres when I'm doing quests or PvP'ing just for the sheer speed of it. I DW then too. It's not gonna top any charts any time soon, but its quick, fun, and bursty.

  13. I've been running a 17/51/3 build also but in blood pres and with the pest glyph to refresh diseases instead of having to IT and PS. so far it's working pretty damn well since the only guy that can beat my damage in my guild is our survival hunter that is fully 25 man naxx geared while i am mostly in naxx 10 gear with a few nice pieces from 25 that ive managed to snag.

    i kinda have a wierd rotation i think but it works for me

    IT > PS > Pest > BS > OB > FS (as many as i can pump out before blood runes come back); Pest > BS > OB > OB > FS (again till blood runes are back) from there i jsut repeat the pattern never having to use it or ps again during the fight unless my diseases fall off.

    i do that while using HB whenever it procs and on aoe i just switch the BS with BB and as many OB's as i can with HB. I may try it out in unholy pres though since i haven't done that and see if the extra gcd's boost me up some more.

    Oh and btw you are wrong on the melee hit rating for 2h. it is in fact 9% or about 293 hit rating if i remember correctly.

  14. Can you point me to the source of your information? I've heard numerous people talk about it being 9% so that may very well be true, but I have yet to see it for myself. It seems that there are two distinctly opinions on the subject and I'd love to just be able to point to some place credible and say... yep... that's it.

    Frost DPS damage is certainly very competitive and there are numerous ways to run it as such. GG Blizz :-).

  15. i actualy can guerentee the hit rating is 8% witch is around 264 hit rating because Be Imba is wrong. we have tested it and tested it it is 8%

  16. Yeah, I'm pretty confident about the 8% mark. I've seen more research to support that then anything else.

  17. I'm Gonna say I am a dk talent whore...but today as I was in 10uld with my guild I used 17/51/3 and my was around 3.5k
    I had 3 t7.5 gear
    Inevitable defeat with razorice as my wep
    And before I was 17/0/54
    I must say that 2h frost dps is the best spec out there right know for a do getting into raids
    My rotatio. Is IT PS pest howlingx amount of times for mobs along with fs in there and obliterate for good measures as for single target I basicaly take out howling

  18. Haha 8% is not the cap
    I have a 2h and I'm at around 315 hit rate for about 9.36% more hit

  19. @Anon1 - Yeah I really like the spec. It's lots of fun on trash which is completely the opposite of what I'm used to as an Affliction Warlock. Also, if you have HB and Chillblains, you can be a pro at kiting on Gluth... just HB them into the group and run circles around them. Fun stuff.

    @Anon2 - You're perhaps the 3rd person that has claimed >8% melee hit. I want to know where people are finding this information because I just haven't heard it. What is your source? To the best of my knowledge it is 8%. I'm open to being proven wrong, but please show me a source or something.

    Until I can find a source that'll tell me otherwise, I'm using 8% as the melee, non-DW hit cap. It's far different from spell hit cap, mind you, which may be what has people confused. Spell hit cap is 17%, but it'd be a waste for most DK's.

  20. Oh, and I'm assuming you know that you CAN stack more hit... the game doesn't like "cut you off"... It just becomes worthless at above the "cap". After reading your comment a second time, I could see where maybe you're pointing out that you were able to get more in-game (which would be your proof), but recall that with the current understanding of game mechanics, all points over the 8% mark are wasted.

  21. Just for the record and because I still get comments/emails about it...

    8% is "the" hit cap when we talk about "hit cap". Inevitably, the concept of a hit cap is not always as simple as one term/number. Talents, buffs, and type of weapons (DW vs 2H) all affect this number. We just say 8% is what the reasonable raider should shoot for taking everything into account.

    For more information on the intricacies, please see here: It is the first thing that comes up when you google "hit cap", ironically enough.

    Let the debate be put to rest :-).

  22. Ok.. i have a 80 frost 20/51 dps dk as well.. however he is 5.6k gs.. With my recent acquirement of Bryntroll my dps is now insanely good with this build.. In ICC i've been averaging 12k dps overall and around 8-9k on single targets! 12k obliterates with oblit glyph and howl glyph coupled with IT glyph makes for awesome aoe dmg and oblit does not consume the diseases.. Forst strikes are 10k hits as well so i rape basically everything that gets in my way... I would definately dicth rune tap.. 90% of the time the health gains are pointless cause ur with a healer/s and in blood pres u get 8% healing anyway based on ur dmg.. Ur better off puttin those points in dark conviction and death rune mastery for extended rotations for better dps

  23. Thanks for the feedback! I'm looking forward to seeing what the new trees have in store too, though I fear my fave specs are going to be dead. :-/