Lichborne: Tweaking your frost DPS talent build

Daniel Whitcomb
D. Whitcomb|04.20.10

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Lichborne: Tweaking your frost DPS talent build
Welcome to Lichborne, your weekly look at news, tips and strategy for the death knight class, with your host, Daniel Whitcomb.

Last week, we took a look at frost DPS. At that time, I posted a basic DPS build for beginning frost DPSers to provide a good balance of DPS and utility. As I mentioned back then, though, the basic frost DPS build is pretty nice in that it does allow a bit of flexibility in your build; that is, there are a few places where you can swap around points a bit depending on your gear level and personal needs. We'll also take a quick look at optimizing sigil usage, which should come in handy for blood and unholy DPS as well. But first, let's take a look at those frost talents.
  • Subversion Subversion is a cornerstone of many a DPS build, thanks to the threat reduction. While threat reduction seems a bit laughable in the era of quick-and-frantic AoE DPS runs where it seems like most tanks can keep aggro by spamming a few buttons, it can come in handy, especially at later gear levels where DPS attack power starts to drastically outpace a tank's ability to keep aggro. That said, Subversion is not great for frost DPS. We generally get enough crit power from Killing Machine and gear. If you don't need the threat reduction, you should take the points out of it.
  • Blood-Caked Blade While this is the easiest place to remove points if you want to bolster Black Ice or Subversion, it's also the best place to put points back into if you want more DPS. Frost DPS does a whole lot of damage via weapon strikes, and a chance to do more damage on each strike is nothing to sneeze at. If you have no threat issues, just take those points out of Subversion and put them here. It's going to be the best place to spend them if you want more DPS.
  • Killing Machine Killing Machine itself is awesome. A free crit every so often is extra DPS in the bank. That said, there is too much of a good thing. If you don't use the Killing Machine buff, that's wasted talent points. If you have so much critical strike rating that many of your hits are critical strikes anyway, you may be wasting talent points. As a general rule of thumb, it's probably safe to take one point out of Killing Machine some time after you reach 30-40% critical strike chance, but your mileage may vary. When you remove that point, it can easily go into either Black Ice or Subversion.
  • Chill of the Grave This talent provides extra runic power, which is key for maximizing your DPS. Frost Strike is a very significant part of frost DPS, and you need the runic power to churn out as many of them as possible once your runes are on cooldown and when you have a KM proc to spend. Again, though, you can have too much of a good thing. If your runic power is consistently sitting at high levels instead of being spent on Frost Strikes, you're essentially wasting your Chill of the Grave talent points. This can happen if you're consistently getting healed by a restoration druid or discipline priest, or if you're consistently getting lots of runic power from using Anti-Magic Shell. Keep an eye on your rotation, and if you find you're flush with runic power, you can consider taking a point or two from this talent and apply it to one of the others on this list.
  • Black Ice Black Ice is a pretty easy skill to leave half-full if you'd rather max Subversion or Blood-Caked Blade, but it's still relatively valuable. You will be doing a pretty decent amount of frost and shadow damage, especially if you're AoEing. If you don't need the extra points from Killing Machine or Chill of the Grave anywhere else, put them in Black Ice.
In other words, let's say you're looking at your spec. You do a few dungeon runs. It feels like you have a decent amount of critical strike, so you take that one point out of Killing Machine and stick it into Black Ice. You also notice that you pretty never pull aggro off of just about any tank you run with, so you pull those three points out of Subversion and throw them over to Blood-Caked Blade. That gives you a talent build that looks something like this. You'll have to watch your threat a bit more, but you'll definitely do better DPS.

Sigil choice

We didn't go into sigil choice too in depth last time, but there were a few questions people had, so it's probably a good idea to explain it somewhat more in depth. While in the past Sigil of Awareness and Sigil of the Vengeful Heart provided enough of a base damage boost to certain weapon strikes to make them worthwhile in the past, testing for Patch 3.3.3 thus far has indicated you're best off now sticking with the straight strength boosts, that is, either Sigil of the Hanged Man or Sigil of Virulence.

Sigil of the Hanged Man is the clear winner in the straight-up buff race, all things being equal, providing 219 strength when fully stacked. If you have a solid rotation that allows you to keep hitting Obliterate consistently and don't have to move around much, this sigil is the one you want to have.

That said, it's not common that a boss is just going to let you sit around and spank it, especially at raid level content. That's where it may become worth it to stick with the Sigil of Virulence. Since the sigil only requires one hit to reach full power and keeps the buff up for 20 seconds, it's much more forgiving than the Sigil of the Hanged Man. You can move around a bit more or flub your rotation a bit without having the buff fall, and if it does fall, you'll get back to full strength almost instantly. Another advantage is that the Sigil of Virulence will only set you back a few Emblems of Triumph, whereas the Sigil of the Hanged Man will cost you Emblems of Frost. Therefore, you may find it worthwhile to keep using the Sigil of Virulence while you spend your frost emblems on tier 10 armor instead.

In short, feel free to stick with the Sigil of Virulence for cheapness and ease of use. Once you've got a few extra Emblems of Frost to spend, however, you can squeeze out a bit more DPS by buying a Sigil of the Hanged Man for use in more stationary battles.
Welcome to Lichborne, the weekly class column on the newest WoW class, the death knight, where we discuss PUG etiquette and Emblem of Triumph gear for the death knight, 5-man Icecrown dungeon gear 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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