The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for death knights in 4.0.1

Zach Yonzon
Z. Yonzon|10.15.10

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The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for death knights in 4.0.1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

So the bomb finally dropped. As expected, Patch 4.0.1 finally made it to live realms and players are scrambling to get used to everything new. For most players, that first free respec is used for PvE to enable them to join the latest PUG looking to down the week's raid boss. This is when reality bites -- that spec you've been fiddling around with over at Wowhead or isn't delivering the way you thought it would. That's OK. If you're doing some PvP, understand that there are a number of bugs out there, so things aren't behaving exactly as they should. Add to that the fact that the game is balanced around being level 85, that stamina is low, and resilience has taken a hit ... things are going to be somewhat wonky. So don't write off that spec you've theorycrafting on for weeks just yet.

Since specs are pretty complex and fluid at this point, we'll take a look at vital PvP talents instead. The fun thing is that at this point in the game, all specs are good to go for PvP -- although your mileage may vary. There isn't much room for variation, unlike before, when players could reach deep into two trees, especially for PvP. But inevitably, there are talents that are extremely useful in a PvP environment. Today we'll take a look at core PvP talents for each spec for death knights, just in case you were wondering what to do with those last few talent points. For this exercise, we won't bother discussing any 31-point talents because, well, you're supposed to pick those up, anyway.

The PvP death knight

The most critical change for death knights in PvP, aside from the talent reshuffle, is the change in how runes regenerate. Players will have to familiarize themselves with the new system as well as to watch for procs from the passive Runic Empowerment ability. Death knights will be more unpredictable as runes refresh themselves on a proc. Expect a lot of death knights to be feeling their way around this new system, as none of the old rotations apply.

One of the most important things for a DK in PvP, then, is to ensure that you'll always have the appropriate rune on standby for a key ability. This is easier to do in PvP, because you're not always maximizing your DPS but rather allowing yourself to have particular runes in reserve.

Blood Officially the DK tanking tree, blood has never been a truly popular spec for PvP. However, the new paradigm of survivability -- although not as much in the current environment -- lends itself well to tank specs foraying into the battlefield. In particular, tank specs play an important part in battleground play, in which tanks often have a role to play and also receive healer support. Blood's self-healing and mitigation will also improve vastly once mastery becomes more prominent. Here are some suggested talents when considering a PvP spec for blood:
  • Hand of Doom This is non-negotiable for serious PvP specs, allowing a blanket silence every minute. Coupled with the Glyph of Strangulate (major), you get a 7-second silence when Strangulate is used as an interrupt. With a 30-yard range, it's an amazing way to close the distance between yourself and a caster without getting softened up by an errant Pyroblast or Shadow Bolt.
  • Bone Shield A necessary tanking ability, this migrant from the unholy tree is a cheap mitigation spell that can and should be cast before engagement. It should be paired with Glyph of Bone Shield (major) to grant you a 15 percent movement speed increase, allowing you to use Blood Presence in PvP, granting mitigation, higher stamina and better armor.
  • Rune Tap and Will of the Necropolis The name of the game in post-4.0.1 PvP is survivability, and blood is just remarkable in this area. Between Death Strikes and Rune Tap, blood death knights are going to be pretty hard to take down. Other talents in the tree can be picked up to improve on self-healing, as well.
  • Improved Blood Tap With cautious play, you should always have a blood rune ready to be consumed for Strangulate and Rune Tap, but Improved Blood Tap should give you the option to go all out but still have a backup just in case. Blood Tap is off the global cooldown, so an instant silence or health boost should be available pretty much on demand.
  • Vampiric Blood A cooldown that allows 25 percent increased healing in a tree that provides numerous options for self-healing is a terrific investment. In PvP, you won't need the bonus to max health, so apply Glyph of Vampiric Blood (major) as your third glyph to ensure maximum healing in a clutch. This allows blood death knights to recover lost health extremely quickly for a minimal investment.
  • Sanguine Fortitude The additional mitigation is great, but primarily this talent ensures that you can pop Icebound Fortitude whenever it's off cooldown. That kind of flexibility is PvP gold.
Frost Frost is the death knight equivalent of the warrior's fury tree -- if you like dual-wielding, then this tree is for you. You can still use a two-handed weapon, but unlike either of the other two specs, there are frost talents that reward dual-wielding. Frost is also the class' beatdown spec, and many opponents will find it difficult to shake off a frost death knight in melee. Maximize your ability to corner opponents with the following talents:
  • Lichborne Although not exclusively a frost talent, only frost-specced death knights can pick this up prior to Cataclysm. It's a clutch PvP spell that counters several classes of crowd control. It's practically an extra PvP trinket, making it a no-brainer for frost PvP specs and later on, other specs that can manage to spare the points to pick it up.
  • Endless Winter This talent should ensure that you'll always have Mind Freeze available whenever it's off cooldown. Frost can be pretty runic-power-intensive, so this talent makes sure you can spend it on other things without having to set aside reserves for an interrupt.
  • On a Pale Horse While this only grants a bonus to mounted speed, it reduces the duration of movement-impairing effects, allowing you to stay in hot pursuit of your prey. A boost to mounted speed is also an excellent talent to have in the battlegrounds.
  • Pillar of Frost This beautiful new talent is what makes frost death knights absolutely fearsome for beatdown. Used right before getting into melee against classes with knockback abilities such as elemental shaman and balance druids, frost death knights will be impossible to peel. You can also pick up Glyph of Pillar of Frost (major) for more crowd control immunity at the price of mobility. Because frost doesn't lack for the ability to ensnare or slow down opponents, it's a spectacular trade-off. Simply macro a key to cancel Pillar of Frost if you absolutely need to move before the 20 seconds is up.
  • Chilblains Needless to say, your victims must always have Frost Fever applied to them. With Chilblains, you ensure that your prey will be perpetually snared. Between the chill effect and abilities to prevent peels, frost death knights are the undisputed kings of beatdown. Glyph of Howling Blast (prime) is a good choice to keep chill effects permanently applied to your opponents.
  • Hungering Cold As for personal peels, Hungering Cold is just about the best in the game. It also works to freeze opponents trying to escape and applies Frost Fever and subsequently -- with Chilblains -- a snare. It's usable both defensively as a means to escape and offensively as a way to keep targets close enough to hit. Glyph of Hungering Cold (major) should save your runic power for those Frost Strikes. Either Glyph of Strangulate or Glyph of Death Grip (major) can round out your major glyphs for PvP.
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