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Lichborne: Pre-heroic Cataclysm gear for DPS death knights


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. Join World of Warcraft's first hero class as we head into a new expansion and shed the new kid on the block label.

Now that Cataclysm's been out for around a week, a lot of us have managed to hit level 85, with more dinging every day. Now that you're 85, though, what do you do? If this were Wrath, you'd grab a few reputation or BoE blues, hit the minimum ilevel for heroics, and start queueing.

In theory, you could do that for Cataclysm -- but to be honest, you'd probably fail hard. Dungeons are tough, and you won't have dudes in tier gear to drag you through. Almost everyone's going to be just about the same for the next few months: complete newbies who are still trying to get raid groups together and still trying to learn new rotations and stat weights for level 85.

With that in mind, there is one thing you can do to give yourself an edge in heroics: Gear up. This week, we're going to look at various dungeon, quest, and reputation drops to find the stuff that'll do the best job at getting you ready for heroic dungeon runs. I've put the better stuff near the top of the list, though sometimes the second or third choice may be better for you based on your stat needs or spec. I have mentioned justice point items in these lists with the understanding that a lot of us stockpiled 4,000 justice points at the end of Wrath, and you can earn justice points for normal dungeons in the random dungeon finder. That said, don't feel like you need to stay in normal dungeons until you grab all the justice point gear. Just pick up some of the second or third choices and get to heroics, where you'll earn those points a bit faster.


  • The Helm of Easeful Death costs justice points, so not everyone will be able to grab it, but if you have some points left over from Wrath or you run normal dungeons long enough to get there, you may want to consider picking up this helm. It's going to be better than just about anything else you can get, no matter what your spec.
  • The Helm of Vicious Direction is probably the best bet for pre-heroic helms that do not cost justice points, but I have a confession to make: I am not sure where it drops, and none of the usual database sites list where it drops. Once I know for sure, I'll let you know.
  • In Throne of the Tides, Mindbender Ghur'sa may drop the Anomuran Helm. Critical strike and mastery rating make this a pretty passable frost DPS helmet.
  • Various dungeon mobs may drop the Helm of Fatal Vision, which has the same stats as the above Anomuran Helm but is bind on equip.
  • The Helm of Verdant Explosion is green, but with haste and hit rating and a large amount of strength, it's still a pretty good choice for a pre-heroic helm for DPS death knights, arguably better than some other blue options for unholy and 2H frost. You can pick this up from the quest Breach in the Defenses in the Twilight Highlands.
  • If all else fails, have a blacksmith make you a Redsteel Helm. It's green, but it's still pretty decent, especially if you need expertise.
As far as head enchants go, you'll get the Arcanum of the Dragonmaw or the Wildhammer from those respective factions. You can purchase the arcanum at revered reputation, which you can get by questing in Twilight Highlands or wearing their tabard in dungeons.

  • If you can, get exalted with the Ramkahen faction out of Uldum. The Gift of Nadun is going to be the best neck you can get before heroics, if not before raids, thanks to a huge chunk of strength that blows away other options.
  • The Seedling Pod is a boss drop out of the Halls of Origination dungeon. Haste rating makes this a very good option for unholy and 2H frost death knights.
  • The mastery and haste on Necklace of the Dead City means only 2H frost death knights really get optimal use out of it -- but hey, it's a blue. You can pick this up from the Uldum quest The Fall of Neferset City.
  • The Amulet of Reconstruction comes from the Deepholm quest The World Pillar Fragment. It's getting a little low on the item level, but it's still relatively well itemized and should hold you over until you get one of the above options.
  • Again, if you have a stockpile of leftover justice points, you may wish to consider buying the Pauldrons of the High Requiem. They're easily the best thing you can grab for your shoulder slot. Expertise is less useful for unholy, but the hit rating and strength win out for any DPS death knight.
  • If you don't have the justice points, try getting a blacksmith to make you some Redsteel Shoulders. They have more strength than any other preheroic option besides the justice point shoulders, plus some haste and expertise.
  • Pauldrons of Unholy Rituals come from the Stonecore quest Followers and Leaders. Mastery and critical strike means they're best suited for frost dual wielders, but they'll do just fine for the other specs until you can get better.
If you quested through all of Deepholm, you should have more than enough Therazane reputation to buy a Lesser Inscription of Jagged Stone, available at honored. If you've done a few dailies and/or a few dungeon runs wearing the Therazane tabard, you may even have exalted reputation, which means you can go for the Greater version.

  • The Cataclysm world epic drop Drape of Inimitable Fate has haste and critical strike rating, which makes it especially good for unholy death knights, but frost will like it too for its huge chunk of strength. If you're rich or lucky, this a great cloak to have, although since it's BoE, it may also be worth it to sell it and wear one of the BoP options below while you roll around in your giant pile of gold.
  • The Cloak of the Red Flight from the Twilight Highlands quest Battle of Life and Death has hit and critical strike rating, making it a fair choice for any spec, and it has more strength than a lot of other options.
  • If you never got around to questing in Twilight Highlands, Geordan's Cloak, which has similar stats to the above Cloak of the Red Flight, drops off Siamat in the Lost City of the Tol'vir.
  • The Shroud of the Dead can be purchased at honored faction with Ramkahen. Mastery rating means it works best for frost death knights.
Cataclysm DPS Cloak enchants are, so far, a little lacking. Your choices are essentially critical strike rating or more critical strike rating, depending on your budget. Chest
  • The Breastplate of Raging Fury is your justice point option. Hit and critical strike rating make it passable for any spec, and it has a significant strength advantage over other options, of course.
  • The Breastplate of the Risen Land drops off Earthrager Ptah in the Halls of Origination. Mastery rating means it's more suited for frost than unholy. The Harbinger's Breastplate is a BoE world drop with similar stats.
  • The Redsteel Breastplate is a blacksmithing crafted option for this slot, but with haste and mastery rating, it's only really optimized for 2H frost.
If you want to go the extra mile and enchant your chest, you'll probably want to pick up the relatively cheap Mighty Stats.

  • Terborous's Rotating Bands are your best bet for a wrist slot. Yes, they have mastery, but nonmastery wrist options that aren't low item level are in short supply, so even unholy might as well grab these if they can. They drop off Terborous, a rare spawn gyreworm in Deepholm.
  • Alpha Bracers have hit and mastery, making them a solid choice for frost death knights especially. They drop off of Anraphet in the Halls of Origination.
  • If you're desperate for a bracer upgrade, consider grabbing the Scavenger Bracers or the Awestruck Bracers from the Alliance and Horde Twilight Highlands opening quest lines, respectively. They should do you well until you get one of the above options -- or something heroic.
Depending on your spec and stat needs, you can get your bracer enchanted for either haste, critical strike, or hit rating. Unholy and 2H frost will lean toward haste, of course, but you can always enchant hit rating and reforge it away elsewhere if you get above that 8 percent goal.

  • At revered reputation with the Wildhammer Clan or the Dragonmaw Clan, you can buy the Gryphon Talon Gauntlets or the Gauntlets of Rattling Bones. The combination of haste and critical strike rating means they're actually pretty amazing for unholy and 2H frost death knights.
  • Reaping Gauntlets are your justice points option, and the mastery means they'll see the most use by frost death knights, mostly dual wielding frost death knights who don't need the stats on the reputation gauntlets as much.
  • Endwyn's Flickering Gauntlets are another BoE world drop option -- but honestly, just sell them and keep grinding reputation, as they're basically a weaker version of the above reputation gauntlets.
  • If you want a quick boss drop option, go for the Hematite Plate Gloves off of Slabhide in the Stonecore. Again, they're essentially a weaker version of the reputation gauntlets above.
As far as enchantments go, if you can afford it, you really should just drop Exceptional Strength on the reputation gauntlets. Otherwise, you can go for haste or mastery.

  • If you quested through all of Hyjal, it probably shouldn't take too many dungeon runs to hit exalted with the Guardians of Hyjal and grab the Belt of The Ferocious Wolf. The strength alone on this baby easily raises it above most other preraid comers, with the mastery making it especially tempting to frost death knights.
  • If you can afford it, consider having a blacksmith forge an Elementium Girdle of Pain. It's actually slightly better itemized for unholy than the Belt of The Ferocious Wolf, although the previous belt's gem slot may still push it back ahead if used properly. Of course, it's not going to be cheap, so you may just want to stick to grinding Hyjal reputation.
  • The Beech Green Belt is your justice point option. The mastery means its more of a frost belt, but either way, I think I'd save the points and grind Hyjal reputation.
  • If you want a quick dungeon drop option, you can hit up Grim Batol, where Forgemaster Throngus will drop the Belt of the Forgemaster, an excellent belt for unholy death knights.
  • If all else fails, it's blacksmithing to the rescue again, as the Redsteel Belt makes a passable frost knight belt until you can get a better one to drop.
  • If you're lucky, you may get the Corefire Legplates as a world drop. With 301 strength as well as hit and haste rating, they should make any death knight drool pretty copiously. Again, the question here is whether you should equip them or sell them for cold, hard cash. Just remember, they may even last you until your get your tier 11 legs.
  • The Greaves of Gallantry are your justice points option. Haste means they're especially good for unholy and 2H frost death knights.
  • The Offline Greaves come from the Halls of Origination quest Penetrating Their Defenses, and with expertise, could help frost death knights plug some gear gaps.
  • Redsteel Legguards are a blacksmithing crafted option if you need a quick fix for your legs. Again, mastery on these makes them more of a frost thing.
  • Fungus-Stained Legguards, from the Wrath of the Fungalmancer quest in Deepholm, have both haste and mastery, meaning they're only really optimal for 2H frost. They're also a bit low on the item level scale. Again, though, they make a good stopgap until you can afford better.
You can grab Scorched Leg Armor to shore up your legs if you have the extra scratch. Dragonscale Leg Armor is the epic version, but it's liable to be prohibitively expensive for a while.

  • Just in case you needed another reason to get Guardians of Hyjal reputation, the Waywatcher's Boots, at revered, are probably your best preheroic boot bet for DPS death knights. They already beat other comers in raw strength and have a gem slot to widen the gap even more. If you quested through all of Hyjal, chances are you're close to revered already, so buying a pair of these is great way to usher in level 85.
  • If you an option to hold you over until you get that reputation, grab the Greaves of Wu the Elder, which are a zone drop from the Lost City of Tol'vir. You can also get a similarly statted set of boots, Treads of Terror, from the Twilight Highlands quest Skullcrusher the Mountain.
  • If you didn't make it to Twilight Highlands, you can get the Statue Climbers from the Uldum quest Do The Honors.
Depending on your budget and stat needs, you can go for haste, hit rating, or mastery on your boots. Frost dual wielding death knights may also want to consider going for Earthen Vitality or Lavawalker so they can get the run speed boost (since the other two specs get it from Unholy Presence).

  • Blauvelt's Family Crest is yet another world drop. Haste and mastery means it's only really optimal for 2H frost, but it's hard to turn up your nose at 190 strength, regardless of your spec. Again, though, you'll have to decide whether or not the gold you lose by buying it (or not selling it, if you found it) would be worth it.
  • Gorsik's Band of Shattering can be purchased at revered Therazane reputation and provides hit and haste rating. It should be a perfect fit for unholy and 2H frost death knights, especially.
  • The Circle of Bone drops off Erudax in Grim Batol, and the haste makes it a very solid choice for unholy and 2H frost death knights.
  • Frost dual wielding death knights don't need haste, so they may want to stick with Galrond's Band instead. It provides mastery instead of haste and can be purchased at honored reputation with the Guardians of Hyjal.
  • The Nova Band from Isiset in the Halls of Origination makes a decent ring until you can get one of the above rings. It has hit rating and critical strike rating, which makes it a relatively fair choice for all DPS specs.
  • The Ring of Darkest Day from High Prophet Barim in the Lost City of Tol'vir is a decent stopgap frost DPS ring until you can get better.
  • Frost death knights who need to hit their expertise cap may want to consider the Red Rock Band, available at revered reputation with Ramkahen. If you don't need the expertise, though, the low strength makes it a relatively weak ring.
  • If you don't mind PvPing a little, the Impatience of Youth is a trinket available at exalted with your side's Tol Barad faction. The mastery makes it a bit weak for unholy death knights, but frost death knights should find it very nice.
  • Darkmoon Card: Hurricane is going to be a bit expensive to get, but it is hard to argue with that much strength. If you can afford it, it should last you for a bit -- at least until raiding time.
  • The haste on Heart of Solace alone makes it a near perfect choice for an unholy death knight. Add the strength proc and you're really cooking. It comes from Lockmaw in the Lost City of the Tol'vir.
  • As long as you're grinding for the Impatience of Youth, you can use the Baradin Grunt's Talisman or the Baradin Footman's Tags, which are available at honored with your Tol Barad faction. Again, the mastery rating means these are mostly useful for frost death knights, but there's always the novelty of yet another undead companion to summon going for them too.
  • Harrison's Insignia of Panache is another trinket that's more suited for frost because of a mastery proc, but the base strength makes it a pretty nice choice for unholy as well.
  • The Shrine-Cleansing Purifier or the Tank-Commander Insignia from Horde and Alliance Twilight Highlands quests, respectively, is a pretty good unholy trinket, thanks to base strength and a nice haste proc.
  • If you need some expertise, the Magnetite Mirror from High Priestess Azil in normal Stonecore is a very solid choice.
  • If you need some hit rating, you can pick up the Might of the Ocean from Neptulon's Cache in normal Throne of the Tides.
  • Because there's a dearth of good preheroic relics in game right now, you may want to consider PvPing a bit for a Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Relic of Conquest. Yes, the resilience is useless, but the strength is higher than any other option. That said, the Bloodthirsty vendors haven't appeared yet as of this writing, so if you're powering your way to the endgame, this probably isn't the best option for you.
  • The Notched Jawbone from inscription actually beats out most heroic options. Unfortunately, it's also going to be prohibitively expensive right now, but if you have money to burn or just don't care about money, it's a consideration.
  • You can get the Shore-Cleansing Standard or the Blackblood Freedom Standard from Alliance or Horde quests in Twilight Highlands. If you can't get anything else, it'll do you until you get a heroic sigil or the Bloodthirsty accessories vendor goes in.
Two-handed weapons
  • PvP provides your best option here. At revered with your side's Tol Barad faction, you'll be able to pick up the Blade of the Fearless, a 2H sword that blows away the competition in DPS and top-end damage.
  • The Wild Hammer drops from Erudax in Grim Batol, and Sorrow's End is a BoE world drop with similar stats. Either should serve you well while you gain the needed Tol Barad reputation.
  • Twilight Highlands has the newest Ring of Blood-style quest line. From the end quest, you'll be able to pick up the Oversized Oblique Ogre Obliterator, which should serve nicely as a beginning to dungeon delve weapon.
Dual wielding weapons
  • In the Twilight Highlands, you can pick up the Dragonscorn Mace or the Mace of the Gullet from quests, depending on your faction. With both mastery and expertise, it's about the best preheroic weapon you could ask for for a dual wielding frost death knight.
  • The offhand weapon Dawnblaze Blade is a justice points purchase, just in case you have a stockpile of them.
  • The Sun Strike drops from Rajh in the Halls of Origination and is well itemized for a frost dual wielder with both hit and mastery rating.
  • The Resonant Kris drops off of High Prophet Barim in the Lost City of the Tol'vir. The haste on it means it's not completely optimal for a frost dual wielding death knight, but it's pretty sweet in all other ways, and humans and gnomes may want it just for the racial expertise.
  • I'm not specifically mentioning any weapons with agility on them, as they aren't optimal for death knights at all. That said, if you're desperate, a weapon with agility on works as long as it's a slow weapon with lots of high-end damage, as that's ultimately what's the most important for a death knight weapon.

We have advice for everything from new strategies for regemming and reforging, pre-expansion specs and rotations, and major changes for pre-expansion DKs . Check out WoW Insider's DK leveling guides, and visit Lichborne every week for more death knight strategies and tips.

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