4.0.1 Death Knight PvP Spec(s)

While I may only present simplified cumulative information in PvE spec posts, I love delving into the new possibilities brought about by patches when it radically changes the face of PvP. Patch 4.0.1 is no different, and after analyzing various setups I have cut my options down to 2 specs to experiment with.

If you have followed of the Horde you already know I’ve basically ran Unholy for everything up until this point. Spreading disease, infections, swinging a 2-hand weapon and commanding the dead really ties well with what I like to do in-game, and given these tendencies the first thing I did with the new talents was to come up with a Level 80 2H Unholy PvP Spec:

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The biggest thing with 2H Unholy PvP right now that seems to differ across varying specs is the use of the point I have in Anti-Magic Zone, where some are using that point to place into the Frost sub-spec for a point in Runic Power Mastery. I am a Death Knight who uses all his abilities and thus gets good mileage out of AMZ, so in my opinion (at this point) I think that’s a talent you keep around. With abilities like Runic Corruption and Sudden Doom, my thinking is that the burst damage of Death Coil is still going to be available whether you add the extra Runic Power talent point or not.

Death Coil, Raise Dead and Scourge Strike are no-brainers for Prime glyphs, where Strangulate, Pestilence and Anti-Magic Shell are the same with Major glyphs. Resilient Grip is potentially helpful talent for those times when Death Grip fails for one reason for the other, while Death’s Embrace seems to become more attractive with a seemingly more flexible Death Coil ย spell. Horn of Winter is essentially me admitting to be a lazyass who often forgets to recast HoW.

All that said, I’m schoolgirl-happy to try out this Level 80 2H Frost PvP Spec:

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I haven’t done a frost spec since right as I turned level 80, but a lot of the utility that I enjoyed as a long-time Unholy DK seems to be included in the frost tree now. Lichborne is huge to the way I PvP (and really should be for everyone), as well as On a Pale Horse for my battleground versatility. Hungering Cold will be a great ability to gain again, and on that same token Chillblains seems like a great crowd control ability by reducing infected targets movement speed by 50% for 10 seconds.

I think I am going to try the frost spec first, and if I have difficulties adjusting then I will turn around and try the Unholy spec in order to give both specs due diligence. I will post my opinions here after a week or so of both specs.


17 Responses to “4.0.1 Death Knight PvP Spec(s)”

  1. Hey, I’ve been reading through your PVP specs and I took the unholy build. It works fine, but i just can’t get to grips with a rotation. I usually rock out IT, PS and then spam scourge strike / death strike / death coil, but I’m finding it hard to have runes to keep up any solid dps. Any recommendations for single targetting in PVP? I’ve got AMS and AMZ down quite nicely, along with my death grip and trinket, but any info you can give would be awesome. Cheers.

    • Don’t forget to use blood tap! Also, Reaping is a passive ability that makes any runes used for BS, FS, or Pest become death runes. I’m not entirely sure how long they stay death runes, but that should help a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. You could address the rune problem by using the 2 points in frost versus the extended range for CoI and IT – but in my opinion it sounds like you’re suffering from the bane of Unholy this past season in arena. The unfortunate reality is that we can damage EVERYTHING and do a lot of it, but our burst – well – sucks unless it is coordinated with another GCD of dps class to take down a target with a good amount of resilience.

    Death Knights were few and far between this past season because of this fact – we lost our ability to pressure opponents as a whole and instead served more as a support class. Many good DK’s had spots on 5v5 teams because of their ability to peel and crowd control, as well as keep up diseases that when coupled with the right classes infused a sense of urgency in opponents. It wasn’t impossible for DK’s to succeed, however our setup certainly wasn’t conducive to average players achieving much success in a quest for end-season recognition.

    That said, as with any Unholy build in PvE or PvP you want to keep your diseases up. In the past I would typically use death coils fairly freely and blood strike before updating them again, but when in arena situations (what little I did) I would start saving runic power if the fight went more than 2 cycles (meaning GCD’s blown and no one dead). The Unholy burst is significant, but you’re going to need the gargoyle and a good amount of runic power to make it happen.

    I wish I had a better answer and I think at level 85 this will be different, but in the mean time I don’t know that you’re going to suddenly gain that burst and be able to set up an opponent in PvP in the same manner you could in a PvE boss fight – where you stack your buffs, greatness proc and cast a gargoyle for maximum damage. Dark Transformation along with a Gargoyle would be a hellacious burst, but good luck setting that up perfectly in a PvP situation – possible but not going to be very consistent.

    My guess is another build will likely come out when we get to 85, so stay tuned and see if any of this helps in the meantime. If not, give that frost spec a shot – it’s unbelievable.

  3. With all the mages, elemental shamans and warlocks around in PVP Battlegrounds these past few weeks, I’ve found that using unholy is best, not only for self-survivability, but for working as a group in pre-made battlegrounds and the like. AMS and AMZ are stupidly good when being attacked by more than 2 caster opponents and I’ve been able to take down two at a time before recent patch using AMZ and deathgripping a target in, along with chains of ice and then just pop CD’s. after that you can sometimes run to the opponent (using the 15% speed increase from the improved unholy talent) or if Deathgrip has cooled, pull him or her to you and pop AMS.

    I find i rely far too heavily on my rune power in the new patch though. deathcoil seems to be the most useful and powerful attack that we have, and getting both, the “free” (requires no rune-power) and one thats been built up deathcoil, you can hit for 25 – 30k in a matter of seconds. This is great for a “OSHT” situation, and tends to make the target panic, giving you the upper hand.

    I’ve heard, in frost spec, its mostly just spamming Howling Blast? Was hopeing for you to confirm/deny this, and I would be more inclined to use a 2handed weapon, rather than two 1handed weapons. On a similar note to my original post, is there a form of “rotation” to frost? or is it simply IT, PS hit with everything and anything that you can?

    Thanks again,


  4. Ya I’m with you on that, Unholy is awesome for group PvP – the utility of a well-played Death Knight has serious appeal to any setup of classes.

    In a single target situation, Scourge Strike is still supposed to be our #1 attack granted you have your diseases already on the target. Personally I have never been a huge fan of SS, as it seems that I’ve rarely ever received the big hits I expect from it. That said, you’re still looking at Diseases > Dark Transformation > SS, then > FeS if both pairs of Blood/Frost runes are up. FeS fills in the time between the 33 second disease timer and Outbreak’s 60 seconds, so you in essence after casting those first diseases won’t have to recast them on a single target (using SS/FeS will ensure no wasted runes). Either way, perhaps SS becomes stronger at 85 – remember these talents are balanced for that level and not our current one. I’d hate to think that DK’s will be based upon RP dumps for sustained damage.

    And Frost spec is a lot of Howling Blast, but just spamming it generally gives you 2 attacks without setting anything else up. You certainly won’t kill anyone with a 5-10k blast to start off, however if used correctly it becomes a great pressure spell. If you have both frost runes or both death runes up, sure use it, but otherwise you need to set it up in order to make use of Obliterate with Killing Machine proc’d. The priorities on a single target frost becomes Diseases > Obliterate > Blood Strike (for the blood runes) > Frost Strike > Rime > OB (normal) > BS > HoW. In terms of PvP, you Icy Touch for the 50% slow, PS on the run-up and if you have many you Pestilence –> Howling Blast, but if not you Obliterate –>Frost Strike before burning the blood runes with BS.

    Hope this helps.

  5. […] Either way, you’ve seen my results over the life of this site, and the damage increase is extremely apparent being in 40-man battlegrounds or 10. Frost 2H PvP is unbelievable at the moment, so if you haven’t given it a try I’d suggest you do so. […]

  6. can you help me with a good pvp rotation for you frost spec i am kind of new @ pvp or frost DK

  7. It’s essentially the last paragraph of my last reply to this post, more specifically where it says “in terms of pvp…”.

    A passable rotation for a newbie would be HB -> PS -> OB -> FS spam, and if you don’t have time to get that in it just becomes HB + FS spam.

  8. can you tell me what about Unholy rotation for PvP ? Ty

  9. Would you recommend the same glyphs for the Frost pvp build as you used for the Unholy pvp build? If not, which ones would you recommend for Frost pvp? Thanks !! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • For frost I am using Frost Strike, Howling Blast and Obliterate as Primes; Anti-Magic Shield, Death Grip and Hungering Cold as Major; and Path of Frost, Death’s Embrace and Resilient Grip as Minors. Of note this is a battleground build, and the utility of falling damage reduction, self-heal and non-use of a frost rune for Hungering Cold are fairly significant. If 2H Frost should make it to Arena usage at 85, you’re going to want to use things like Glyph of Strangulate and perhaps a few other alternatives.

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