A note on deciding stats for DPS
Essentially, Weapon DPS and Strength are the most important stats for all three trees. Armor Penetration is next for Blood and Unholy, since they now do much of their damage physically. It's a bit less important for Frost because of frost damage, but even then, you shouldn't ignore it, since you'll be using Obliterate on bosses. Crit rating isn't amazing as it is for some classes, since we have fewer abilities that rely directly on critical strike, but it still has a place. Haste is back to the bottom of the barrel for just about everyone now that Unholy has Reaping back.
In general, consider stats to be stacked something like this:
Weapon DPS>Hit rating>Strength>Armor Penetration>Crit>Haste/Expertise for Unholy
Weapon DPS>Hit rating>Strength>Armor Penetration>Expertise>Crit>Haste for Blood
Weapon DPS>Hit rating>Strength>Expertise>Crit>Armor Penetration>Haste for Frost
It should be noted that Hit Rating and Expertise there only count up to the 8% special attack cap for hit and the 26 expertise dodge cap. In addition, while we will be mentioning plenty of good DPS armor, I'd remind Death Knight DPSers that the tier 10 4 piece bonus is going to be nice enough that you'll probably want to make sure you get that above all, especially if you can get the 25 man version of the armor. Also, while there are heroic versions of nearly every loot drop in this table, we can't technically get them yet, and most of them are just like their normal counterparts with a few more points of each stat. Whatever I say about the normal versions, just imagine I said them about the heroic versions too, only harder.
Marrowgar's Scratching Choker is going to be pretty nice for just about any Death Knight tank. It even has a blue gem slot just begging for a stamina gem. If you're tanking a PUG Marrowgar run for the weekly raid quest, this would probably be a perfect reward for your trouble.
Citadel Enforcer's Claymore is a nice starter DPS weapon as you begin tier 10 content. It has a gem slot perfect for a good bold gem. Plus it's a sword. Swords are awesome.
While 10-man Marrowgar drops 2 one-handed weapons, I'd recommend against them for Death Knights. Both are quick weapons, and dual wield Death Knights need slow weapons to properly interact with Threat of Thassarian for high damage strikes, which in turn provide more DPS (and threat, if you're tanking).
Bryntroll, The Bone Arbiter, despite being from the first boss in the instance, is going to give anything else out of Icecrown Citadel a run for it's money in the DPS department, thanks in part to the lovely proc. In fact, the heroic version of this blade should beat out anything short of Shadowmourne. Some tanks are drooling over this too, as the two gem slots allow for some extra stamina gemming and the proc provides plenty of self-heal and threat. Still, If I was looking for a tank weapon, I'd pass this off to the DPS and hold out for a Cryptmaker or a Ramaldni's Blade of Culling from deeper in the dungeon.
The Gendarme's Cuirass includes a hefty amount of critical strike and hit rating, but the big news is 3 sockets, perfect for bold cardinal rubies, or, if you're really hurting for hit rating, some Rigid King's Amber. It's still probably going to be replaced by the proper tier of 10 man, but it'll hold you over.
The Bracers of Dark Reckoning are arguably about the best all around tanking bracers you're going to find in game at the moment. Not a stat goes to waste here, and there's a gem slot for even more stamina.
The Legguards of Lost Hope are perfect tank legs if you're having trouble hitting your target. Can't get threat if you can't hit the target, right? If you don't need hit rating though, there's going to better tank legs you can pick up later on, or even just from badges.
The Whispering Fanged Skull isn't quite a clear upgrade to Death's Choice/Verdict or any of the later trinkets that drop in ICC, but it's still a nice 2nd DPS Trinket until you can get those later trinkets, and it is a great way to fill in some critical strike needs, especially if you're already hit and expertise capped and don't need trinkets with lots of said stats.
The Deathspeaker Zealot's Helm is cursed with haste rating, which means it's probably not gonna get on anyone's Best in Slot list (unless they patch in yet another complete overhaul of Scourge Strike, I suppose), but it might be an alright stopgap until you can pick up your tier 10 helm.
The Ghoul Commander's Cuirass is a very nice tanking breastplate with perfect Death Knight stats and 3 gem sockets. It should serve you well, although you'll probably end up wanting to buy the Cataclysmic Chestguard or your tier 10 once you get the badges.
The Juggernaut Band is actually very nicely itemized for death knight tanks, and the heroic version especially is going to give close to the best avoidance you can find on a ring these days, plus it has a socket. It's a smart pick for tanks.
While Tier 10 will probably edged it out overall, The Broken Ram Skull Helm is another good place to pick up some hit rating for your tank gear, and it has a very nice chunk of stamina besides.
The Ahn'kahar Onyx Neckguard is gonna be a pretty pro DPS choice if you need the hit rating, and the blue gem socket is perfect for throwing in a Nightmare Tear for your metagem bonus. If you don't need the hit rating though, there's going to be better later in the instance.
With tons of armor penetration and critical strike rating and 2 gem slots in addition to a nice chunk of strength, Blood-Soaked Saronite Stompers are just about perfect for the physical damage focused death knight DPSer. If there's better, the Lich King will have to be the one to drop them.
The Gunship Battle
The Bone Drake's Enameled Boots are another amazing DPS boot choice for death knights, thanks to copious expertise and armor penetration. If you don't run 25-mans, these are probably going to be your DPS boots of choice. 2 gem slots doesn't hurt here either.
The Frost Giant's Cleaver is technically itemized more for rogues and Enhancement shamans, but then again, so are most one-handers, right? This is still a solid choice for dual wielders. It's slow, which is what counts most, and it does have some useful critical strike rating and armor penetration.
The Abomination's Bloody Ring is a nice tank ring, especially with the blue gem slot and a nicely large amount of stamina. The hit rating is what makes or breaks it. If you need more hit, take it.
While the Saronite Gargoyle Cloak is cursed with haste rating, it'll still be a decent stopgap until you have the badges for the Might of the Ocean Serpent. The red gem slot doesn't hurt there either.
The Corpse Tongue Coin is actually going to be one of the best pure avoidance trinkets you'll find in game right now. There's going to be stamina bearing trinkets that are probably better for general usage later in the instance, but this trinket stands as pretty awesome when you need to do some avoiding.
Boneguard Commander's Pauldrons are close to about the best you're going to get for pure effective health tank shoulders in game at the moment. The 2 gem slots nudge them just above Tier 10 tank shoulders if you don't need the set piece bonuses.
Polar Bear Claw Bracers are arguably about the best you're going to for DPS bracers in game currently as long as you need the hit rating. And if you still need more hit rating after you equip them, you have a yellow gem slot. It doesn't hurt that these have a high amount of strength too.
The Skeleton Lord's Circle is a great ring for getting your expertise capped. It has tons of strength and some critical strike rating too, and a yellow gem slot. It'll probably make its way onto a lot of end game gear lists.
With 2 blue gem slots and plenty of expertise and armor pen, Ramaladni's Blade of Culling was arguably made for death knight tanks. It'll work for DPS in a pinch, of course, and the Cryptmaker is probably still the better tanking mace overall if you don't need the expertise, but this is a very good choice for death knight tanking.
Speaking of expertise for tanking, Deathforged Legplates also drop from the Deathbringer's cache. If you need expertise, here's your tanking legs. They're also very solidly itemized otherwise, and have 3 sockets for even more beefing up. That said, if you don't need the expertise, you'll probably want to upgrade to tier 10 or Pillars of Might.
Gargoyle Spit Bracers round off the 10-man tank drops from Saurfang. Thanks to the extra armor, these are going to be highly desirable for a lot of tank sets. They're certainly worth picking up.
The Blade-Scored Carapace is the DPS drop here, and while it's not horrible, it does have a bit too much haste to be truly great. You may be better off holding out for your tier 10 chest here.
Since armor penetration is pretty decent for all three DPS trees these days, there's basically no reason not to love Deathbringer's Will. Get it, use it, love it, especially if you're Blood or Unholy.
The Bloodvenom Blade is a pretty smart choice for death knight dual wielding. If you're going the DW route, get a pair of these.
DPS DKs are especially going to want their 4 piece set bonus, so grab those Vanquisher's Marks of Sanctification as you can. Tanks can probably hold off a bit longer, but that 4 piece tank bonus is still pretty sweet.
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,and basic Death Knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our Death Knight category.