Festerblight and the dangers of writing about an MMORPG
One of the unavoidable realities of writing a weekly mechanics column for a MMO is that you're always in danger of your column becoming obsolete. Sometimes it takes weeks or months, but sometimes it takes only hours. Last week's column is one such issue. Blizzard completely reverted the unholy changes mentioned almost as soon as I'd written the column, and instead applied a different change. Namely, our diseases will no longer benefit from the damage buff given by Tricks of the Trade.
In the end, this is a much more elegant solution than the last set of nerfs. First, it goes at the root of the festerblight problem. Lining up strength buffs to make your diseases stronger is not just a play style, it's a basic, no-brainer part of playing a death knight DPS, something we've been doing since the beginning. So, this type of thing that allows us to keep doing it and doesn't punish us for it is good.
Another good thing this change does is keeps us from being made dependent on another class for our damage. Blizzard more or less prescribed to the "bring the player, not the class" method of group PvE content design for a few years now, so making rogues and death knights joined at the hip due to Tricks of the Trade certainly isn't in line with that. It makes rogues feel like buff bots, and it makes death knights feel like they have to track down a rogue buddy or force a buddy to roll rogue so they can work at full potential.
Luckily blizzard has killed two birds with one stone with this change. We don't have to feel beholden to rogues, and it doesn't feel like our class has been punitively nerfed. Of course, that does leave one questions remaining. Is festerblight still viable? in theory, yes. However, to really make it work, you will definitely need high level strength gear and probably 2 strength proc or strength on use trinkets. It's going to take some math, in other words, to see if it still works for you, but now it's an option instead of feeling mandatory for an unholy death knight. All in all, it feels like a good thing.
Valor and justice point upgrades are back as of patch 5.3, At 250 valor points a pop to upgrade an epic raid item, it feels very nice to know you can upgrade a piece of gear for around half a week's worth of valor gathering. As a death knight, what should you upgrade first?
For most DPS, the answer should be clear: weapons. Weapons remain a huge source of our damage, not just in terms of the base damage they do, but how much damage they add to strikes. The one exception here might be if you're sticking to festerblight. Festerblight focuses on raw strength instead of weapon damage, so it may be worth it to be upgrade some piece of high strength gear first. Otherwise, get a quick boost to your weapon power.
The other DPS option is probably going to be the best choice for festerblight DPS and a solid choice for tanks: Upgrade your trinkets, especially if you have a proc-per-minute trinket. Blizzard has confirmed that trinkets like these will have their proc rates increase by upgrades.
Otherwise, upgrade solid pieces of gear that you know you aren't going to be replacing for a while, such as tier pieces or best-in-slot stuff.
Other things to do
We've already discussed a bit what you can do as a death knight in patch 5.3, and that still holds up. If you're a tank, or you've been working on your tank gear set, you'll probably be invaluable for the new heroic scenarios, which are promising to be a quick way to get valor outside of raids and bolster off-sets or weak slots in gear besides. You can also shore up off-sets with the new gear from dailies in Battlefield: Barrens.
A legendary problem
One more non-patch related piece of advice to give revolves around the Spirit of the Storm Lord quest. During the patch 5.2 legendary quest line, Wrathion will at some point request that you drive a spear into Nalak to empower a weapon. Understandably, this ticks Nalak off a bit. It also summons an add that you must kite for about 20 seconds, as it will kill you if it gets close enough.
Now, normally this isn't a big deal. Nalak can be defeated with a pick up group. You don't even have to be in the group killing Nalak, you can just throw the spear at him and run from the add while the raid group (even an opposite faction raid group) is taking him down. That said, sometimes a Nalak group isn't available. Maybe your usual group already took him down for the week, or maybe there's not even any pickup groups for Nalak to be found. If so, you do have the ability to solo him as a death knight.
To do this, you'll probably want to be in blood spec and Blood Presence with as many defensive cooldowns as you can muster. Have Bone Shield up, have Rune Tap ready to go, and so on. Once you're ready, run up to Nalak. However, rather than start attacking, summon your ghoul and your Army of the Dead, then throw your spear at him. He'll go after you at first, so this is where you may want to pop a few defensive cooldowns, but he should almost immediately be set upon by your ghouls and focus on them instead. In the meantime, you should now have an orange line coming at you and a set of orange eyes above your head. This means a storm spirit is chasing you. Run from it, using Death's Advance or other speed boosts if you have to. Be sure not go so far that you despawn Nalak, or the add may despawn too. However, just by running around the large courtyard, you should be able to last long enough to get the quest credit. The storm spirit will despawn when you do.
Once you have the quest credit, if you're lucky you can also run up toward the raid entrance, where the panda guards will grab Nalak while you duck through the side sewer and teleport to the main Shado-Pan Assault base, dropping aggro and keeping yourself alive. Be warned that you may just want to not be a jerk and take the death if there's people around, as they may be very well be caught in the crossfire and killed otherwise. Either way, you'll have your lance without having to wait around all afternoon for a raid group to form.
Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.