Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Lichborne: Cataclysm pre-raid gear for death knight DPS


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 you've had a couple weeks to run heroic dungeons and grind reputations, chances are you're raring to start tackling raids. Whether you already have a raid group or whether you're trying to find one, one of the easiest things you can do to give yourself an edge is to make sure your gear is up to snuff. This week, we'll be looking at the best DPS gear options for death knights looking to break into Cataclysm raiding.

Since gearing requirements for most raids are a bit more stringent, this list is going to be a bit shorter and more focused than the pre-heroic gear list. I've tried to make it clear what gear is best for what spec in the list, but we should probably go over it in general here, just to be clear.
  • Unholy death knights' main focus should always be strength. They'll want to go for 8% hit, of course, but even that's not quite as potent to as stacking more strength. After strength and hit rating, haste and critical strike rating are their main secondary stats.
  • 2H frost death knights are going to want to hit the 8% hit requirement and the 26 expertise dodge soft cap. Their main focus should then be strength, with haste and mastery as their main secondary stats
  • Dual wield frost death knights also want to hit the hit and expertise soft caps, and strength is supreme for them as well. However, their main secondary stats are mastery and critical strike rating.
As you can tell, each spec's gearing requirements are just different enough to make things complicated. I've tried to simplify it as much as possible with this list, but in some cases, you may want to take the "secondary" choice for your spec in order to hit the hit and expertise soft caps. Remember that you can also regem and reforge to hit those caps if needed, or to shed extra hit or expertise rating above those caps. Also, be aware if your race provides extra expertise for wielding a certain type of weapon, as it can often inform your exact gearing choices.

Finally, keep in mind that this gear list may not be completely comprehensive. I have focused primarily on gear of item level 346 and above. Some gear that feels sub-optimal (such as gear with low strength) or seems like too much of a hassle or expense to get for what it offers (mostly blue crafted gear) has been left out deliberately. This is the raid game, so you should be making an extra effort to get properly geared. With that said, let's dive in!


  • The Helm of Easeful Death is your justice points option. The combination of haste and mastery means this is only really optimal for you if you're stubborn enough to raid for two-handed frost.
  • For dual wield frost, pick up the heroic Anomuran Helm from Mindbender Ghur'sha in heroic Throne of the Tides. A combination of mastery and critical strike makes this optimal for your non-haste-needing ways.
  • Unholy death knights will want to take Vanessa Van Cleef in heroic Deadmines and get the Stonemason's Helm, whose combination of haste and critical strike rating is optimal for you.
We might as well discuss the subject of metagems as long as we're on the subject of helms. Now, once the patch that corrects metagem requirements goes in, our best bet is going to be the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond, as the meta requirement should be manageable. However, for now, the requirement is pretty much completely untenable for a class that almost always just stuffs red strength gems into every slot when gemming for DPS. If you don't want to wait for the patch and would rather gem a useful metagem right now, frost may want to consider the Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond. This metagem is especially good for dual wield frost death knights, as they don't get the innate run speed increase from Unholy Presence. Unholy death knights will probably go for either the Enigmatic or Destructive Shadowspirit Diamond, whichever fits better with your gemming strategy and preferences.

  • The Gift of Nadun from exalted Ramkahen faction is still your best bet for any spec. The extra strength far makes up for the lack of mastery for frost specs.
  • The Buc-Zakai Choker, a world drop, has haste and mastery, making it a pretty solid choice for 2H frost death knights if you have money to blow.
  • If you have no money to blow and no time to grind Ramkahen faction, Baroness Silverlaine's Locket from Baron Silverlaine in heroic Shadowfang Keep offers a decent replacement for the Buc-Zakai choker for 2H frost death knights.
  • The heroic Seedling Pod from Ammunae in heroic Halls of Origination is a great choice for 2H frost and unholy death knights who need a bit of hit rating.
  • Critical strike and expertise rating adorn the justice points option, Pendant of Quiet Breath, which makes it a decent option for a dual-wielding frost death knight who doesn't have exalted Ramkahen faction.
  • The shoulder slot suffers from a real lack of contenders, which means that pretty much every DPS death knight should probably feel safe just picking up the JP option, Pauldrons of the High Requiem. They're a good place to get your hit and expertise fix anyway.
  • For dual-wielding frost death knights who don't need hit or expertise from the shoulders, try the Missing Diplomat's Pauldrons from Glubtok in heroic Deadmines. Mastery and critical strike rating are pretty much the perfect dual wield frost secondary stat combination.
  • If you're a frost death knight who's already hit your expertise target, another shoulder option for you are Raz's Pauldrons, from Ascendant Lord Obsidius in heroic Blackrock Caverns, which have hit and mastery rating.
  • The Cataclysm world epic drop Drape of Inimitable Fate has haste and critical strike rating, which makes it especially good for unholy and 2H frost death knights, but dual wield 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, your best bet is probably just to sell it, use it to buy consumables for raiding, and go for one the options below instead.
  • The Eagle Ray Cloak comes from Commander Ulthok in heroic Throne of Tides has haste and mastery, making it the best choice for 2H frost death knights.
  • The Shadow of the Past drops from Glubtok in heroic Deadmines, and with haste and critical strike rating, is a perfect choice for unholy death knights.
  • The Skin of Stone drops off of trash mobs in heroic Stonecore, and with critical strike and mastery rating, is the perfect choice for a dual wielding frost death knight.
  • Frost death knights in need of some extra hit rating may want to pick up the Burned Gatherings from Karsh Steelbender in heroic Blackrock Caverns, as it also has mastery rating.
  • Unholy death knights who need more hit rating can pick up Geordan's Cloak from Siamat in heroic Lost City of the Tol'vir, as the critical strike secondary is more useful for them.
  • The chest is another area where we just don't have that many pre-raid contenders. The Elementium Deathplate is a BoE blacksmithing epic. It'll cost a pretty penny (the raw materials alone would probably cost close to 10k on my server's AH, and that's not even counting the Chaos Orbs), but it's also easily the best dual wield frost chest, and defaults to the best unholy chest for lack of anything better.
  • Haste and mastery mean that 2H frost death knights can save some money and just get Lord Walden's Breastplate from heroic Shadowfang Keep. There are two gem slots to help make up for the loss of strength from the deathplate as well.
  • If you can't afford the Elementium Deathplate, dual wield frost death knights can pick up Breastplate of the Risen Land from heroic Earthrager Ptah, which is pretty optimally itemized for them.
  • The Breastplate of Raging Fury is your JP option, and with hit rating and critical strike, is probably the best option for an unholy death knight who can't afford the deathplate.
  • The Alpha Bracers from Anraphet in heroic Halls of Origination are probably your best pre-raid bracer bet regardless of your spec. They're especially well-itemized for dual wield and 2H frost, but even unholy will be hard pressed to find a better option, thanks in part to the gem slot.
  • The Bracers of Cooled Anger from Karsh Steelbender in heroic Blackrock Caverns have no gem slot and critical strike and expertise rating for their secondary stats, which makes them more or less lukewarm for any spec, but if the Alpha Bracers absolutely refuse to drop for you or if you're a frost death knight who is struggling to hit the expertise soft cap, it's an option.
  • Reaping Gauntlets are purchasable with justice points and are your best bet as a dual wield frost death knight, thanks to the combination of mastery and critical strike rating.
  • Gear-Marked Gauntlets from Helix Gearbreaker in heroic Deadmines come with haste and mastery, making them a perfect choice for 2H frost death knights
  • Hematite Plate Gloves from Slabhide in Heroic Stonecore have critical strike and haste rating, the perfectly secondary stat combination for unholy death knights.
  • At revered reputation with the Wildhammer Clan or the Dragonmaw Clan, you can buy the Gryphon Talon Gauntlets or the Gauntlets of Rattling Bones. They're edged out by the choices above for pre-raid readiness, but if you aren't having drop luck, they're still remarkably good, especially for unholy death knights.
  • 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 mastery on this belt means its easily the best pre-raid belt for frost death knights.
  • Unholy or 2H frost death knights with a lot of money may wish to consider the Elementium Girdle of Pain. It's a BoE blacksmithing epic with perfect itemization for unholy DPS. Unfortunately, it's also incredibly expensive, although admittedly not as expensive as the breastplate above.
  • Unholy death knights who can't afford the girdle may wish to run heroic Grim Batol, where Forgemaster Throngus may drop the Belt of the Forgemaster, which is very well itemized with haste and critical strike rating and a gem slot.
  • Frost death knights who can't be bothered to grind to exalted with the Guardians of Hyjal can pick up the Beech Green Belt, which is more or less a lower-powered copy of the Belt of the Ferocious Wolf. You can purchase it for justice points.
  • If you're lucky, you may get the Corefire Legplates as a world drop. With two gem slots as well as hit and haste rating, they're easily your best bet for any unholy or 2H frost death knight. Again, though, they'll go for a lot of money, so no one will look down on you if you go for one of the options below.
  • Greaves of Gallantry are your JP option. Haste rating means they're your best bet if you're unholy or 2H frost.
  • Asaad in heroic Vortex Pinnacle drops the Legguards of the Winnowing Wind, which are very well itemized for frost dual wielding, with both mastery and critical strike rating.
  • For any death knight who's hurting for hit rating, pick up the Alpheus Legguards, a heroic Throne of Tides zone drop.
  • The Waywatcher's Boots from revered Guardians of Hyjal come with haste rating, making them, again, your best choice for unholy or 2H frost DPS.
  • If you need some extra hit rating (or if you're a dual wield frost death knight), pick up the Greaves of Wu the Elder from General Husam in heroic Lost City of the Tol'Vir.
  • Blauvelt's Family Crest is yet another world drop. Haste and mastery means it's only really optimal for 2H frost, though. Other specs may want to pass. Again, though, even for 2H frost, 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.
  • The Signet of Transformation from Corla in heroic Blackrock Caverns has both haste and mastery rating on it as well, so it's a great substitute for the above expensive ring for 2H frost.
  • The Circle of Bone from Erudax in heroic Grim Batol has hit and haste rating, making it a great choice for unholy and 2H frost death knights who need some hit rating.
  • The Nova Band from Isiset in heroic Halls of Origination is a another great place to pick up some hit rating if you need it, and no spec absolutely hates critical strike rating, either.
  • Gorsik's Band of Shattering from revered Therazane reputation has haste and critical strike rating, making it perfect for unholy death knights and even somewhat passable for 2H frost.
  • The Skyshard Ring from Altairus in heroic Vortex Pinnacle is a good option for any frost death knight who still needs to hit the expertise soft cap.
  • The Ring of the Darkest Day from High Prophet Barim in heroic Lost City of Tol'vir is a great dual wield frost ring option if you don't need the hit or expertise from some of the other options.
  • Darkmoon Card: Hurricane, which is gained from a quest whose components are gained via Inscription, is probably going to cost you some major money, but the strength and the proc easily make it the best trinket you can get to improve your DPS as you start raiding, no matter what your spec. If you can't afford it, don't despair too much. Chances are you will probably replace it by the end of tier 11 content anyway.
  • Frost death knights are going to want to put some time into getting exalted with their faction's Tol Barad reputation. The Impatience of Youth has a ton of mastery, making it their second-best trinket behind the Darkmoon card.
  • The Heart of Solace drops off of Augh in heroic Lost City of Tol'vir. The haste makes it the second best pre-raid unholy trinket. It's also more than passable for 2H frost death knights who can't manage to get one of the above trinkets.
  • Frost death knights can also consider the Magnetite Mirror off of High Priestess Azil in heroic Stonecore. It's a great way to pick up some expertise if you still haven't hit the soft cap.
  • If you're hurting for hit rating, grab the Right Eye of Rajh from Rajh in heroic Halls of Origination. The strength procs means this is pretty useful for all specs on just about every level.
  • The strength of the Mark of Khardros is useful for any spec, though the mastery on use makes this trinket more suited to frost death knights.
  • The Record of the Brotherhood's End drops off Vanessa Van Cleef in heroic Deadmines and is more or less perfect for 2H frost, with both haste and mastery
  • Unholy and dual wielding frost death knights will be better off with the Conch of Thundering Waves from Mindbender Ghur'sha in heroic Throne of the Tides, since unholy can't use the mastery and dual wielding frost can't use the haste from the record, but both can use the hit and critical strike rating on the conch.
  • The Notched Jawbone is another option. It's BoE jewelcrafting and will probably cost a bit. Hit rating and mastery makes it most suited for frost death knights.
Two-handed weapons
  • The Blade of the Fearless, which you can buy at revered with your faction's Tol Barad reputation, may be, in general, your best bet for a pre-raid two-handed weapon. While it has the same DPS as heroic dungeon options, it's a slower weapon with a higher top end damage, which may give a slight edge on weapon strikes. Of course, you will look like a magical anime girl while wielding it, but that is a low price to pay for uberness, right?
  • The Foe Reaper, from the Foe Reaper 5000 in heroic Deadmines, has hit and expertise, making it a good candidate for any 2H frost death knight who hasn't hit those soft caps.
  • The Whitefin Axe from Neptulon's Cache in heroic Throne of Tides has critical strike and haste rating, making it the best itemized unholy weapon you can get as an unholy death knight -- though again, the higher top end damage on the Blade of the Fearless may just make it win out.
  • The Sword of the Bottomless Pit from Ozruk in heroic Stonecore offers haste and mastery, making the sword very well suited for a 2H frost death knight who doesn't need the hit and expertise on the Foe Reaper. The Wild Hammer from Erudax in heroic Grim Batol is the same weapon in mace form.
One-handed weapons
  • The Buzz Saw drops off of the Foe Reaper 5000 in heroic deadmines, and with mastery and critical strike rating, is more or less perfectly itemized for a dual wielding frost death knight.
  • If you need some hit rating, you can grab the Axe of the Eclipse from Altairus in heroic Vortex Pinnacle, which also comes with some mastery.
  • Cookie's Tenderizer, from "Captain" Cookie in heroic Deadmines, provides a bit more hit rating at a cost of a bit less mastery as compared to the Axe of the Eclipse.
  • Sun Strike, from Rajh in heroic Halls of Origination, provides the same stats as the tenderizer, only in sword form. Gnomes may, of course, prefer this.
  • Smite's Reaver, which drops from Admiral Ripsnarl in heroic Deadmines, provides both hit and expertise for those dual-wielding death knights having trouble meeting those soft caps.
  • If you still need more expertise, you can purchase the Dawnblaze Blade for justice points. It's offhand only, though, so be aware of that.

Follow our road map to leveling your DK from 80 to 85, and then learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Gear up with pre-heroic gear for DPS DKs and keep track of what's happening on your hotbars with our guide to DK spell alerts.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr