Death Knight Patch 3.1.0 Changes – Frost

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

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Okay so I’m saying it again: with the 3.1.0 PTR patch notes currently live at MMO Champion, it is my duty to share with you my thoughts on the Death Knight changes, not only from the perspective of tanking, but from the class as a whole (with of course, an emphasis on tanking).

The spec for today, boys and girls, is:


The only change to frost “skills” is that Icy Touch now has a 15 second duration base for Frost Fever. This is also true with Plague Strike for the unholy tree.

I would like to point out how awesome this is.

The talent Epidemic in the unholy tree increases the disease duration of your diseases by 3 seconds per talent point. A lot of Death Knights felt forced to take that skill because without it they could not go through death rune rotation without having their diseases fall off and their damage nerfed.

Well, not any more.

I see this as working out in a very positive light for the DKs out there in the world simply because if your DoTs last longer (as a tank) then you have to worry less about threat generation in an area. Sitting currently on Frost for its tanking cooldowns I have planned out my future spec: Surazc’s Frost Tanking Spec.

This talent layout still gets you the very best of the Frost tree while picking up an interesting change from Blood. Before the 3.1 changes, this build was focused on maxing out damage in an area by holding HB until a Killing Machine proc’d, but now it focuses more on generating large amounts of area threat through DoTs and holding targets in place with Hungering Cold so that your threat can build and single target DPS can have fun with huge numbers.

  • Hungering Cold and Howling Blast have switched places in the talent tree.
    • This wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for…
  • Howling Blast (Tier 11) now deals 50% additional damage to targets infected with Frost Fever.
    • I’m sure all the Frost DKs out there know that this is a huge downgrade for us. See, not only did the talent get moved down to the 51st point, but it also was nerfed.
  • Unbreakable Armor (Tier 8) now reinforces your armor with a thick coat of ice, reducing physical damage from all attacks by 0.05 and increasing your strength by 25% for 20 sec. The amount of damage reduced increases as your armor increases.
    • This is an interesting change, the extra 15% strength adds to your parry chance almost what the removal of the +5% parry gave you. Judgment on this change is withheld until I see how the reduction scales.
  • Blood of the North (Tier 8) now affects Frost Strike as well as Blood Strike.
    • Increasing the amount of damage Frost Strike does is a big upgrade for Frost Tanks, especially with the changes to Scent of Blood.
  • Chillblains (Tier 7) now reduces movement speed by 15/30/45%. (Previously 10/20/30%)
    • A buff because the talent was moved deeper into the tree (cough, Howling Blast, cough). PvP oriented change… though it would be good for Gluth Zombie kiting.
  • Endless Winter moved from Tier 6 to Tier 4.
    • Again, a PvP change
  • Chill of the Grave moved from Tier 5 to Tier 4.
    • Mostly a PvP change, but has some serious implications for Blood DPS
  • Runic Power Mastery moved to Tier 1 and is now a 2 point talent. Increases your maximum Runic Power by 15/30. (Previously 3 point talent that increased runic power by 10/20/30)
    • While the free point is good (always is) a DK MT should NEVER max out his Runic Power because he should be using Rune Strike macros.
  • Black Ice (Tier 2) increases your frost damage by 4/8/12/16/20%. (Previously 6/12/18/24/30%)
    • This change I understand for PvP reasons… but from a PvE perspective I don’t get it. They nerfed Howling Blast and now they’re nerfing this too? There is no justice in the world.
  • Glacier Rot moved from Tier 1 to Tier 5 and is now a 3 point talent. Now diseased enemies take 7/13/20% more damage from your Icy Touch, Howling Blast and Frost Strike. (Previously 5/10%)
    • Ahhh, the changes to Black Ice make more sense now. While the bonus damage on Howling Blast has been reduced down to 1.5X we have received an extra 10% damage here with Black Ice giving 20% extra. (Read: Howling Blast deals 1.8X damage w/ Frost Fever)
  • Improved Frost Presence – Replaces Frost Aura and grants you an additional 4% magic reduction. Big deal.

The real question is how do these changes affect tanking? Well, first of all, Blood of the North in conjunction with the changes to Glacier Rot makes Frost Strike now the hit of choice for both DPS and tanking DKs. Frost Strike will be a BEAST when it’s used (and this should only be when you have 52 runic power, or when you are significantly ahead on damage).

With the new mechanics of Unbreakable Armor it is yet unknown if it helps tanking magic damage. Also helps with initial agro generation. I can see UA becoming the new opening cooldown for DK tanks. It allows healers to get set up, while boosting the damage you put out (and hence, the agro you generate) substantially.

All in all, the changes to the frost tree were more for PvP balance and Duel Wielding downscaling rather than PvE tanking improvements or nerfs. I understand completely why the Howling Blast change was done: Impurity + Howling Blast was simply too good. The changes to the disease mechanic are one of the larger boons to tanks (free damage? Yes please!) as is the addition of Frost Strike to BotN.


10 Responses to Death Knight Patch 3.1.0 Changes – Frost

  1. omenscourge says:


    The latest build that came out last week has Howling blast damage back up, but it’s cooldown has been extended to 10 seconds.

    The other big Frost change is Lichborne no longer grants chance to be missed.

    These are in addition to changes on the UA cooldown and a few other frost talents.

  2. Gorgola says:

    I wonder if all these changes will reduce the number of DKs cluttering the landscape? They will still dps quite well but many people rolled a DK because their current class was often overlooked for raids (I’m looking at you Rogues and Warlocks).

    Now, tanking won’t be as easy. You will need to work at it and actually develop some skills. I for one am an unguilded DK tank in 5/5 T7 gear and can’t get into a decent guild because they already raid with too many DKs.

  3. Justin says:


    I’m well aware of the new PTR build changes. Rather than writing a blog post every single time one comes out I will be writing a new post once the changes actually go live. I could do it; however, I don’t think that George would be happy flooding his blog with my 4-5 thousand word posts.

    You definitely are right. The main reason that people are playing DKs right now are because you can basically roll your face along your keybindings and put out a decent chunk of damage. The real DKs are the people who fuss over damage and rotations to squeeze the optimum amount of DPS from their class

    Tanking will still be easy as a DK, it just won’t be as easy as it is now. The changes to Lichborne make the skill entirely PvP in nature (now it only makes you immune to fear, charm, and sleep) so it makes no sense for DK tanks to go get it.

    The cooldown on bone shield being changed to 2 minutes doesn’t really help us much either, and the fact that Vampiric Blood is also at 2 minutes is pretty stupid.

    I guess Blizzard finally decided that DKs having 1 minute cooldowns was pretty OP.

    Expect a full post from me when the patch notes for 3.1 go live.

  4. Omenscourge says:

    Fair enough, was just suprised not to see them.

  5. Colddayinhell says:

    I guess to each their own. Personally I don’t care for the spec of your DK tank because it leaves you little next to no mitigation on your ability to take spell damage. So you are forcing your healers to heal through it or finding another tank for any boss that produces spell damage. As if you don’t have enough stats to worry about as it is I can’t help but notice you didn’t spec into any of the hit rating talents. I hope you have a high hit rating or you will have aggro holding issues with the people I normally run with. Since you did not spec into a hit rating you are forced to compensate for it in enchants and gems. Your options are very slim if you are trying to pick up a hit rating with enchants. There are only two enchants that give you a hit rating of level 80 quality in the game as of writing. One of them is the expensive weapon enchant which gimps your already over powered standard enchant and then there is Ice walker for the boots which gimps you on a nice tanking enchant. Due to your gimp spec you will now be forced into gemming for hit instead of defense, strength, expertise, dodge, parry and other much needed stats. The sad thing is you could have avoided it all if you knew what you were doing to begin with. Some of the things like hungering cold still seem more like a PVP talent than a PVE one. Why spec into “Scent of Blood?” To sum it up as a whole I would be very leary having you tank Hogger for me let alone a raid. I was hoping to find something intelligent when I came upon this page but as of now all I see is the blind leading the blind.

  6. Justin says:

    *Cracks his fingers* Let’s get started on you then…

    First, I break 4K TPS. I have no problem with Hit as my current weapon has a whopping 80 on it, and elsewhere in my gear I end up to 207 (without gems or enchants for hit), because I ALWAYS have a melee Draneri in my raid this places me AT THE HIT CAP.

    Your first point is thus destroyed.

    Second, DK’s are CASTER TANKS. Our spell cap for hit rating is 8%. Remove 1% for Draneri and that puts us at 7%, factor in that THOSE WERE THE CHANGES ON THE PTR BUILD 2 WEEKS AGO and that since then, THINGS HAVE CHANGED. I’ve been tanking in Ulduar on PTR in prep for its release to live and so far I have NOT had a hit problem.

    Next: You never Gem for parry, the curve on it is too aggressive and you would be much better off getting gems for Dodge unless you are near the 28% mark.

    Also: As a tank, especially a frost tank, you want to crank out as much RP as you possibly can because your agro generation is tied into two things: 1) The Runes you use and 2) The RP you have left over from Rune Strikes. Any talent which allows you to create RP off a dodge, parry, or getting hit, effectively reduces the cost of Rune Strike by 5 RP. Over time, this will allow an extra Frost Strike in the rotation which boosts overall damage and threat.

    Hungering Cold serves mostly as a PVP talent and is included solely for personal preference and not for tanking per se.

    I’ll tank anything you want, and I guarantee you that you will not pull agro. Blow your CDs, blow your potions, do whatever. You will not get it.

  7. Justin says:

    Damn the lack of dyslexia and an edit button. Titansteel Destroyer has 57 hit, not 80.

  8. Jimbobobill says:

    Thoughts on Improved Icy Talons for tanks?

  9. Surazc says:


    Improved Icy Talons is, at current, a mediocre skill at best. The frost “raid buff” of Imp. Icy Talons is overwritten by Shaman’s Windfury so it’s (in my opinion) pointless to get for a 25 man environment.

    If, however, you do not have a reliable shaman in your raid and you have a good smathering of Melee DPS then you should consider getting it because it helps out your raid.

    This assumption though is based entirely on the original way that Frost tanks worked. As of this moment in time, frost just doesn’t hold agro because of the nerfs to DW DPS. As such I would say that going into Imp. Icy Talons is a bad move because it commits a lot of talent points into a tree which is, at the moment, pretty sub-standard.


    Melee haste increases the frequency at which you throw out auto-attacks which, in turn, increases the frequency of your Rune Strike. If you have Improved Icy Talons, all you are doing is throwing out a buff to your raid’s Melee DPS which, if you have a shaman like I mentioned earlier, is not a buff at all.

    Opinion: Don’t get it, it’s a ghetto raid talent.

  10. LearningAsiGo says:

    If melee haste increases the frequency with which your Rune Strike is available, and Rune Strike is a primary Staple of a DK’s rotation, why not go all of the way into Improved Icy Talons? It gives an additional 5% haste at all times to yourself. Also notice in your build that you have NO points in that line, and both Icy Talons AND Imp Icy Talons boost haste. Not arguing, just curious about your choice there.

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