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Lichborne: Patch 3.3 Roundup for Death Knights


Welcome to Lichborne,'s weekly Death Knight column, where your host, Daniel Whitcomb, continues to be caught in a bad romance with Unholy DPS.

So we're back on the scene after a lazy and luxurious extended Thanksgiving holiday, and just in time for patch 3.3. Death Knights got their fair share of changes, some minor bug fixes and some rather large adjustments, including, of course, the obligatory complete rebalancing of unholy DPS. That said, with 3.3 the last major patch before Cataclysm, we can hope for some normalcy with the whole issue. Or we can expect Patch 3.3.1, either way.

Regardless, since we're just starting out on patch 3.3, now's a good time to run down what patch 3.3 means for us, including a postmortem on the latest unholy DPS changes, and some advice on what to do with yourself in patch 3.3. Read on.


It may be that we've more or less achieved normalcy in unholy PvE DPS once again, at least until Cataclysm. You can now go back to a full classic unholy spec and rotation, grabbing Epidemic and Reaping along with your Scourge Strike. Thus you'll be going back to a more or less classic Unholy rotation, although Glyph of Scourge Strike remains more or less not very useful so you'll still do a decent amount of disease refreshing.

A Good 17/0/54 build will serve you well. Should you need it, you can take a couple points out of Bladed Armor and move them elsewhere, say, to Improved Unholy Presence if you feel you need to move faster, or to Ghoul Frenzy if you have no luck with keeping your Ghoul alive despite the now even higher AE damage absorption on Night of the Dead. It probably speaks to how milquetoast our glyph selections are right now that Glyph of Icy Touch remains the best even for an Unholy Build, but hey. At least we got our rotation and mostly full use of our tree back, and I'll take that.

Surprisingly, Necrosis is mostly out of the picture for Unholy DPS in the latest build. While it does technically do a slight bit more damage than Bladed Armor on single targets, Bladed Armor provides power for AE attacks and provides a nice bridge to grab Dark Conviction, which is definitely better to get in the latest patch.

Itemization-wise, it's worth noting that haste is pretty much dead. Since the new old Unholy rotation no longer requires squeezing in all those abilities in approximately 10 seconds, among other things, haste just doesn't do it for Unholy anymore. You're now better off pumping critical strike rating to go with your strength, followed closely by expertise. Armor penetration is also a pretty solid stat for Unholy DPS now that Scourge Strike is part physical damage. All this may mean you'll want to re gem or swap some gear if you've been stacking haste like a good little Unholy DPSer, but luckily, you'll probably be upgrading it in the new patch anyway, be it via the new 5-mans, badges, or by raiding the citadel itself.


Frost, for the most part, abides. It's pretty much top of the heap now for dual wielding builds. Seriously, I'm sorry Unholy fanatics, but if you want to dual wield, you'll have to switch to Frost to be as effective as you can be. Otherwise, there's not much to report as far as drastic changes. The basic Frost/Unholy talent build remains about the same. It's not that Unholy dual wielding has been nerfed too bad, but Frost is just too solid to justify focusing on Unholy now.

The one place there is some welcome new news is on the dual wield tanking side. Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle now officially comes in a one-handed version, so you can start in your dual wield tanking career even earlier. Also in good general news for Death Knight tanks of all stripes, Rune Strike is getting a nice general threat buff.


Blood still reigns supreme in the single target DPS department and is still the preferred spec for raiding DKs who don't need the AE or utility of Unholy DPS, so not much has changed here. Just stick to the classic 51/0/20 build and keep on plugging along, stacking strength and armor penetration and taking names, and you'll do fine. If you have given blood a whirl lately, check out Rossi's recent guest stint on Lichborne, where he gave a pretty good breakdown of why Blood's worth trying out for DPS.

And the Rest

There have been, of course, a smattering of other minor changes. You can read about them some more in past issues of Lichborne and in my initial Patch 3.3 death knight PTR roundup. Unholy Blight still sort of sucks, Army of the Dead is still on a lower cool down (and we have tips on how to use it in a recent issue of Lichborne), and Bone Shield is still back to 5 minutes, which is pretty sweet. Overall, preliminary reports suggest death knights should be sitting pretty.

It's Patch 3.3. Now What?

So the final question to ask for a Death Knight is pretty simple. Now that you're on the servers, what do you do? Here's a few suggestions to start you out.

First, check our Emblem of Triumph gear guide to see if you need anything, even if it's just an extra set of tier 9 armor to fill out your off-spec gear. I've been focusing on DPS lately, so I know I'll probably do some marathon heroic running to get my tank gear caught up. With the LFG and random dungeon tools, it should be pretty easy to get the group to go tear through some heroics and get those badges. We did the math on that in a recent edition of the Queue, so we know of what we speak.

Of course, getting yourself attuned to the new 5-mans is a good idea, especially since, if you're not a serious raider, you may find an upgrade or two in there. We have a quick guide to the attunement process if you need that (and don't mind the spoilers).

Of course, if you have an Icecrown Citadel raid group, well, that's pretty much set for you too. If you don't mind spoilers, we have a quick rundown of the bosses and their basic abilities you can peruse to help get you ready for raid night, too.

The Icecrown Playground awaits, so go to it and enjoy this last patch before the fall of the Lich King. In the coming weeks, we should have gear and strategy guides for the new dungeons and raid, and sooner than you know it, it'll be time to start analyzing information from the Cataclysm Beta. Until then, have fun storming the citadel, everyone.

Welcome to Lichborne, the new class column on the new WoW class, the Death Knight, where we discuss Patch 3.1 cookie cutter builds, basic defense gearandHeroic defense gear for the Death Knight tank, 5-man Crusader's Coliseum gear previews for tanks and DPS, and basic Death Knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our Death Knight category.

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