Death Knight Talent Trees and Skills – Patch 3.1.0 – Frost

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

With 3.1 upon us, I have dove in and looked around at all the changes with the current build. Here I will be giving you my take on each of the changes for Death Knights tree by tree.

Put on your mittens and earmuffs — mine are made from baby polar bears.  It’s time to go…


Wait… I thought I was a tank class

When I first posted the build 9347 notes I knew that Blizzard would screw up my class almost beyond recognition and the most recent (most likely LIVE) notes confirm this. Lichborne has been reduced entirely to a PvP talent and Unbreakable Armor blows royal cock for tanking. DKs have, at best, been relegated to dedicated OT duty in case shit hits the fan.


  • Frost Fever: Now lasts 15 seconds untalented.
    • Woot. In essence, removes Epidemic as a required talent to be of any use to a raid.
  • Frost Presence: Now grants 5% damage reduction instead of 15% magic damage reduction.
    • Damn. Wait until you see the changes to Anti-Magic Shell… they make this look not that bad.
  • Obliterate: Bonus damage for diseases now increases damage done by a percentage rather than a flat amount.
    • Only another part in nerfing the disease-less spec. Could be good for tanking though as the disease DoTs we have are essential to maximizing threat generation.


  • Runic Power Mastery, Glacier Rot, Killing Machine, Chilblains, and Endless Winter: Positions have all been shuffled around
    • Chilblains and Endless Winter are moved around in the tree to make them more PvP friendly (read: accessible). Killing Machine, Glacier Rot, and RP mastery moved around to push players who get the first 2 mentioned talents all the way to the bottom of the tree for Howling Blast and Frost Strike.
  • Black Ice: This talent now provides a 2/4/6/8/10% bonus to Frost and Shadow damage instead of 4/8/12/16/20% to Frost.
    • Buffing an over-used spec is a bad idea Blizzard. I’m going to add this into the list of the “I told you so’s” that I have running up. Expect to see Scourge Strike do retarded amounts of damage when live hits.
  • Blood of the North: Now also increases damage dealt by Frost Strike by 3/6/9/12/15%.
    • Major Boon! Making Frost Strike do more damage will help out Frost Agro so much (especially with the frost reduction from Black Ice) that it’s silly. Also could help out with killing Prot warriors in PvP.
  • Chillblains: Now a 15/30/50% movement speed debuff up from 30%. Can no longer be dispelled.
    • This is the single-most important PVP change for DKs in 3.1. You no longer need Chains of Ice. Just Deathstar IT and you’re good to go.
  • Frost Aura: Replaced with Improved Frost Presence: Allows the DK to keep the health bonus of Frost Presence in any presence and decreases magic damage taken while in Frost Presence.
    • This is why Blizzard reduced the base magic reduction in Frost Presence… no wait… it’s only 2% extra magic mitigation. We got fucked.
  • Glacier Rot: 3rd rank added, and damage bonus increased to 7/13/20%.
    • More damage is always good.
  • Howling Blast: Base damage and scaling doubled. This ability no longer deals bonus damage to targets with Frost Fever. 8-second CD. Swapped positions with Hungering Cold in the talent tree.
    • YAY! Blizzard listened to what I had to say and fixed their idiotic mistake with HB!
    • Well, this means that I can open with HB in my rotation now. Deathchill HB just got a lot more dangerous in Arena as it is an instant max-damage AoE nuke.
  • Icy Talons and Improved Icy Talons: These talents now have new icons.
    • Fuck my life. Do something useful with your time. Please.
  • Improved Icy Touch: Now increases Icy Touch damage by 5/10/15% instead of by 10/20/30%.
    • I guess Blizzard realized that IT was a Deathstar beam in PvP. Saw this one coming.
  • Lichborne: No longer improves your chance to be missed. Now correctly grants immunity, and will break all effects to which Lichborne makes you immune.
    • Well, I’m upset about the miss % chance for PvE… but fixing the PvP Immunity problem makes it almost worth it.
  • Rime: When this talent triggers, it also resets the CD on Howling Blast.
    • Interesting… now your obliterates have a chance to make HB free and RESET ITS COOLDOWN. Refer to Glacier Rot: More damage is always good.
  • Runic Power Mastery: Moved up to tier-1 and reduced to 2 ranks (15/30%).
    • Trash talent… still. Could be useful if you wanted to give a larger buffer to Gargoyle or DRW but IMO it’s not worth the points.
  • Tundra Stalker: Now increases the damage on abilities by 3/6/9/12/15% instead of 2/4/6/8/10%.
    • More damage is always good.
  • Unbreakable Armor: Now grants damage reduction instead of physical damage reduction. Cooldown increased to 2 minutes from 1 minute.
    • This change is important. Notice how it also reduces magic damage now. Essentially makes up for the Frost Presence nerf… or at least it would if the CD was still 1 minute long. They did NOT increase the duration. Shame on them.

Overall Impressions

Most of the Frost changes were made in response to the Shadowfrost spec dominating Arena along with Howling Blast damage simply being too good in 3.0 (stacking HB with Impurity is top DPS spec in the game right now).

One of the things I find interesting is that Frost has been given a bonus to Shadow damage in the amount of 10%. This not only helps with agro generation from Death and Decay but also affects the Blood Plague DoT for an average of 40 extra damage per tick (while tanking) which equates to about 13.3 DPS. If you watch the video you will understand an important concept that I will put forth in regards to DPS with Black Ice and how we may be able to break the game again.

The rework on Unbreakable Armor (UbA) is not something that I like, but at the same time, it isn’t something I hate either. I’d rather have extra damage reduction than extra armor any day of the week, but the CD increase and the removal of the +parry is, in my opinion, not worth it.

The changes to Blood’s Blade Barrier along with the removal of Lichborne’s miss and the increase on the cooldown timers have crippled the DK ability to Main Tank in easy mode and will push all the FotM tanks out of the class and into Paladins… where they belong.


4 Responses to Death Knight Talent Trees and Skills – Patch 3.1.0 – Frost

  1. Surazc says:

    Well, I’m sorry to say that the video concept has been put on hiatus until further notice due to the lack of any video recording software working on my PC. I am working on a solution but it is currently not a high priority for me. Getting new articles written and managing my guild is.

    I also apologize for not getting my edit to this article done soon enough. The additional things I would like to say are here in this post:

    Unless you are DW tanking you will not have an easy time of things with frost in terms of agro management. Bladed Armor is now more important than ever and if you don’t go (10 / 51 / 8) + 2 then you’ll find yourself unable to hold agro against anything except two or so targets. In this spec you start the fight off with a preemptive Blood Tap to generate a death rune in your blood set and charge at the boss / trash. Drop D&D followed by a Howling Blast and a Plague Strike from your blood rune that you BT’d.

    Every 8 seconds you will hit howling blast like clockwork. Do not miss it in your rotation. It is now priority one that you, at all times, have HB on cooldown.

    The importance of the Blood Plague DoT in your main rotation is also of paramount importance. Because you are using all six of your runes for three abilities you will not have any space for Pestilence in your rotation until you get to Rune-set two. As Plague Strike is the last skill you cast you will have a decent amount of time left on Blood Plague when you get the Blood Rune off cooldown for Pestilence.

    A big problem with Frost tanking now is that you MUST use D&D to open up your threat lead or you’re going to lose your target to a wild-trigger hunter or crit-happy mage. This screws up a LOT of rotations. Just take a look at the skill rotation that frost has been “forced” into.

    HoW > BT > D&D (Combat) > HB > PS
    Pest > HB > Oblit > IT

    It’s sloppy and horribly bad at keeping Main Agro because it forces your DPS to throttle and that is never a good thing. Take notice to the fact that Icy Touch is no longer in the rotation until the very end of cycle 2. That is how inefficient frost is at tanking right now.

    There is an alternative to the above rotation and the problems it has. It is listed here:

    IT > PS > HB > Pest > BB (AoE) / BS (ST)
    Oblit > Oblit > HB

    The strength of this rotation is that it keeps Icy Touch in the rotation and no longer relies on Death and Decay to hold initial agro. Just make 100% sure that you don’t Howling Blast until ALL your tanking targets are in the AoE or your healer will not be happy with you.

    ***A Word On Unbreakable Armor***

    UbA is now, for the most part, an AoE centric tanking tool. With the Glyph of UbA and 5/5 Valorous gear I was absorbing just under 2000 damage per hit. That’s a pretty big deal. 2K damage 20 times is my life bar. If you get hit once per second then UbA will have saved your life 100% of its value.

    IBF will, of course, always be superior as it doesn’t cost a rune and grants you about 50% reduction. This far outshines the non % based reduction that UbA grants and is more suited to padding a faux crushing blow.

  2. Frocktor (SwC) says:

    I do have to say, in 3.1 my frost DK does manage to hold aggro fairly well in 10 and 25 man Naxx. My issue for some weird reason is fury warriors, they keep stealing aggro from me. I am curious to see how these changes actually affect my ability to hold aggro in raids (not talking mathematically, talking real time).

    In regards to rotations, DnD is a definite must if there are multiple people, and if there are a lot of adds I usually pop deathchill and then howling blast followed by a blood boil (mind you, my DPS sticks around 1400 constistently but my main concern is holding onto mobs) and that usually starts me off without a problem. Then I pretty much spam Icy Touch and Howling Blast and Blood strike until my target is dead.

    Your mention of DW tanking compared to using a 2h…you are the only person I have seen argue that DW is better than 2h tanking. I have a few DKs in my guild that use 2hs and they don’t have a problem (frost spec, similar to Frocktor) with threat generation and aside from not being able to steal single target threat from a Prot Warrior or Prot Pally (without taunting) I would say the 2 are fairly even. Can you elaborate on why you think DW is better than 2h at tanking?


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