While we've certainly discussed the patch 5.4 changes for death knights in the past, this week is the big week when patch 5.4 finally comes out and we put it all in action. With that in mind, today will be devoted at look at the patch notes from a death knight point of view and making some quick pronouncements about what we can expect when the servers the come back up.
The short version of the changes is this. All 3 specs are buffed overall, DPS more so than tanking. In PvE, blood is about the same, while unholy and frost specs are close enough together that you can either stick with your usual choice, or go with whatever you have the best weapons for. Unholy is slightly behind frost, but not so much that you'll suffer greatly.
For a more in-depth look at what's changed, read on.
The general changes this time around most compliment or inform the spec changes, though the quality of life change to Death Gate, making it more like a monk's Zen Pilgrimage is a welcome change that should make life more convenient for leveling death knights. Necrotic Strike's change certainly looks like a nerf, but it should be noted that since all 3 specs are getting a DPS gain, it may be made up for elsewhere. In addition, with Unholy getting a major buff to Unholy Might, even Necrotic Strike should still hit pretty hard for them. The Soul Reaper buff was due to the fact that it was becoming undesirable to use, even in execute range, over other options. The buff seems to have fixed that for now.
The Rune of Razorice change will be a buff for duel-wielding frost death knights, since they remain the only spec that uses the rune. Note that while there was some talk of 2-handed frost death knights using it, or even swapping between weapons just to get the rune buff, math suggests this will not be feasible and we should stick to Rune of the Fallen Crusader for 2-handed action.
Finally, the haste fix and bug fix to Runic Corruption go hand in hand. As we've covered in the past, there was a bug where RPPM items would gain extra procs when rune regeneration rate was increased. This caused Runic Corruption to blow away the competition for all specs when you had RPPM trinkets. This bug was fixed, but since unholy gained a lot of its power from the bug, they received the Unholy Presence haste buff to make up for. Blood doesn't depend on RPPM trinket procs and Frost usually used Runic Empowerment before before discovered the bug, so neither of those specs really needed a buff to make up for the bug fix.
Blood's changes are the mostly quality of life related, though the new Riposte ability promises to add some needed DPS to the class. In addition, since both Icebound Fortitude and Dancing Rune Weapon will no longer cost runic power, tank death knights will see a DPS boost from the ability to use more Rune Strikes alone.
Riposte does have a major drawback, though. For one, the granted critical strike rating goes only by equipped parry and dodge rating. Base Parry and Dodge, as well as Parry and Dodge granted by strength, buffs, or runeforges does not seem to count.
Frost has simply received straight up buffs across the board, but it's more complicated than you might think. For one, Howling Blast was at 30% buffed at one point, but that made it so powerful that it threatened to overwhelm Obliterate for frost. Luckily, it's been nerfed down to more manageable levels, and 2h frost's rotation/priority remains untouched.
In addition, all of these changes, combined with Siege of Orgrimmar itemization, have combined to make haste look very weak for best-in-slot frost death knights. It's dropped below crit and mastery if you're at your best. That said, of course, if you're not in heroic thunderforged Siege of Orgrimmar gear (or even if you are), you'll still want to run sims to figure out your personal best stat weights.
Unholy's ghoul changes will likely be of most use to PvPers, but PvErs should get some use too. Essentially, you can now use your ghoul's full utility without worrying about having enough energy, and while having more energy to use on Claw. In addition, if your opponents try to focus fire your ghoul, you can get it back in the fight quicker. Unholy Might is a predictable but useful dial to turn here to keep them competitive.
While there is some panic at unholy running low in sims, note that sims are often inaccurate, and in fact, actual PTR parsing places unholy barely below frost in DPS at the moment. Thus, you can play unholy with confidence.
While none of the buffed glyphs are especially amazing, some of the new glyphs have potential. Glyph of Regenerative Magic will be the most useful of the new batch, giving you a chance to redeem yourself if you misfire Anti-Magic Shell, which you should be using often for the runic power gain. Glyph of Festering Blood may prove useful for snap AoE for unholy and blood death knights on huge but short-lived trash pulls where diseases wouldn't tick fast enough to do significant damage before death, and will also prove a useful leveling glyph for the same reasons. Gylph of The Loud Horn may also prove useful depending on how often you cast Horn of Winter for the runic power. If it's only about once every 40 seconds or less, this may prove to be a DPS boost. In a similar vein, Glyph of the Long Winter looks tempting at first, but note that you should be recasting Horn of Winter for the runic power often anyway.
Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.