Basic tier gear is, once again, purchasable via badges. Not only that, but if you want higher level heroic tier gear, you want to buy these since you'll need to turn in the lower ilevel stuff with a drop from the proper instance to get the higher ilevel version.
If you're DPS, it's probably a good idea to start buying and get to the 2-piece DPS bonus as soon as possible. The damage boost to your main strike is considerable. For Unholy, it's even better, since it pretty much makes Reaping worth taking as a talent again and Haste a decent stat to grab again after the hot fix weakened Scourge Strike pretty considerably at lower gear levels.
For tanks, it probably isn't a horrible idea to grab some tier 10 to start either. For 5-man tanks, that 2 piece bonus should prove pretty helpful in establishing aggro over PuG DPS with no concept of threat, especially if you're throwing down Death and Decay first like you pretty much always should be on pulls of more than 2. For raiding tanks, and even for 5-man tanks beyond the first 2 pieces, there is a pretty decent alternative to gathering more tier 10, but read on for that.
In regards to tanking plate, you may want to take a pretty good look at the Gauntlets of the Kraken and the Cataclysmic Chestplate. Eerily prescient naming aside, these are actually a pretty reasonable alternative to gamely gathering tier 10. Specifically, they pretty much have about the highest effective health you're going to find in game right now. Effective health, of course, is essentially how much physical damage you can soak up. These two pieces have a lot of it thanks to their high armor score. This is especially nice for us as Death Knights, since our lack of block makes us more susceptible to physical damage in the first place.
For DPS plate, yes, it is true that Castle Breaker's Battleplate and Gatecrasher's Gauntlets are higher ilevel than the base tier 10, but there's two things to remember here: firstly, they don't provide the tier 10 set bonuses, and secondly, you'll need to buy the base tier 10 to upgrade later anyway. The tier 10 4 piece set bonus is actually pretty nice for DPS. When you've got a good rotation, that damage buff will never drop. So I'd highly recommend that you leave behind the extra stuff and go for the 4 piece bonus anyway.
The Sigils are interesting beasts this time around. While at full power they are clearly an upgrade over their old Emblem of Triumph counterparts, they do need to be charged up with multiple applications of a skill: Rune Strike in the case of Sigil of the Bone Gryphon, a Frost/Unholy strike for the Sigil of the Hanged Man.
The issue here then is simple: Will you have the time and ability to charge up the sigils and keep them charged? On any fights that require a lot of movements, that's not a given, and the upgrade is marginal anyway. Honestly, I'd make upgrading to the new sigils pretty low on my priority list, especially for DPS. Just stick to the Sigil of Virulence or Insolence. They're a lot more dependable in the long run and not that much weaker. You just plain have better upgrades to buy with your badges.
The badge cloaks actually prove to be some pretty nice upgrades for a death knight. Again, with the extra armor, the tanking cloak is all about effective health. The Sentinel's Winter Cloak is going to easily beat anything else you can get before ICC Heroic in terms of all around tanking effectiveness. For DPS, the Might of the Ocean Serpent is likewise amazing for DPS. Once you have your basic tier 10, the cloak is a strong candidate for your next buy.
The Corroded Skeleton Key is another amazing buy for tanks. It's one of the best boss tanking trinkets you'll find before Heroic ICC hard modes. You'll probably not go wrong buying it. The Herkumi War Token is a little less amazing for DPS just because Haste isn't much of a DK DPS stat anymore, but it's certainly head and shoulders above just about anything you'll pull out of 5-man dungeons or buy with Emblems of Triumph (assuming you don't need the hit). Still, if you have a DPS trinket from ICC and/or a Death's Verdict/Choice, keep those over this one.
This crafting item deserves a mention if only because, yes, you'll probably end up buying a lot if you plan to chase after Shadowmourne. Still, it may be worth buying a few of these even so, if only for the crafted items. The crafted plate stuff is certainly competitive with anything you'll pull out of 10-man ICC, and even arguably keeps pace with a lot of 25-man stuff. Compare and contrast it and see if it works for your gearing needs.
In particular, I'd like to point out the Legplates of Painful Death, which, at least for Blood and Unholy death knights, are going to give anything short of heroic ICC armor a serious challenge. If you have the spare emblems or money, consider grabbing a set of these legs. You can use the remaining 4 tier 10 slots to get your 4 piece bonus. Mind you, if you're going to be upgrading to heroic tier 10, you'll need to buy tier 10 legs anyway, so that could be a bother if you're starved for badges. Likewise, the Pillars of Might are a pretty smart buy for tanking Death Knights right up to 25 man heroic ICC. .
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 tank, 5-man Crusader's Coliseum gear for tanks and DPS, andbasic Death Knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our Death Knight category.