Death Knight Patch 3.1.0 Changes – Frost

March 10, 2009

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.