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Pre-4.1.0 death knight talent analysis

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This page is meant to provide some advice to Death Knight players seeking to make their own talent builds and examine the value of specific Death knight talents. For more information, read about Death Knight talent builds themselves here.

Each talent is listed with its maximum talent point investment. Notes may be included in the analysis where lesser investments are common or useful. Talents in this list are organized by tier. With each talent, notes are given for three styles of play: soloing, raiding and player versus player (PvP). Soloing advice applies more or less equally well to all styles of solo play, such as leveling, doing daily quests at the maximum level, farming trade materials, and sometimes soloing your way through old instances. It does not, however, apply well to tanking or healing; specs intended for tanking or healing (in the DK's case, the blood tree) will generally be slow and annoying in most solo play, so it is not generally recommended. Raiding advice also applies to 5-man dungeons and any other group-oriented, player versus environment (PvE) combat in general.

Note that "nothing special" doesn't mean a talent is useless, just that it doesn't have any benefits specifically for that playstyle. Bladed Armor, for example, is a talent that provides a passive increase to attack power. Every spec and playstyle likes a passive increase to damage and it scales well with gear and itemization, but it's pretty much equally good for every play style, so there's not much point in going into detail.

Talent Trees In General

Blood is the designated tanking tree. For more information on this role, see Tanking and related articles, but in brief, death knights are one of the four viable tanking classes, capable of taking a great deal more punishment than healers or dps and keeping the attention of hostile NPCs on themselves rather than the rest of the group. Compared to other tanks, DKs, rely on self-healing more than other tanks and probably have slightly better mitigation of magical damage, and have excellent area of effect threat abilities. In PvP, Blood DKs have incredible self-healing and general survivability, but they lack the utility and mobility of other specs, so on the whole is it not one of the "main" PvP specs.

Frost is a DPS tree focused on doing damage with cold-based abilities. Some frost-specced DKs may forgo [Blood Plague] and rely entirely on [Frost Fever] for their disease needs, since it also provides other benefits. Frost is the only DK talent tree with talents that specifically support dual-wielding one-handed weapons, so every frost DK has to choose whether they want to dual wield and therefore spend points in the related talents or not. Frost also has substantial AoE and slowing effects, granting more and better snares and roots than other DKs can get.

Unholy is a DPS tree focused on doing shadow damage and using pets well. Every DK can summon a ghoul to fight for them for one minute on a three-minute cooldown, but for DKs specced into the unholy tree, that ghoul does not expire. It also can be controlled with a pet bar like a Hunter's pet or Warlock's demon and can gain additional abilities. Unholy DKs also gain substantial increases to shadow damage, buffs to diseases in general, and have access to another pet, the gargoyle, which acts like the ghoul does for other DKs.

Blood (as of Patch 4.0.6)

[Butchery]

2 points: Whenever you kill an enemy that grants experience or honor, you generate up to 20 runic power. In addition you generate 2 runic power per 5 sec while in combat.

  • More runic power to fuel your Rune Strikes, Death Coils, and so on. Primarily a soloing talent, but DKs of all specs and roles could find a little extra runic power useful depending on preference.
    • Solo Utility: The main intent of this talent. You'll be killing things like clockwork every 15 seconds or so while questing. This talent will be all you need to keep your runic power bar full to kill things even faster.
    • Raid Utility: Not that great. You won't usually get the killing blow in raids or 5-man instances, and when you do the fight is over and your RP meter will probably empty before you get back into combat so it doesn't matter, so the main part of this talent is less useful. It's still nice to have 2 RP every five seconds, though.
    • PVP Utility: You're more likely to get the killing blow in BGs or arenas than in raids, but it still won't be as reliable as when soloing.
  • Bottom Line: Primarily a soloing talent, but many tanks and some dps and PvPers may take it as filler.

[Blade Barrier]

3 points: Whenever your blood runes are on cooldown, you gain the Blade Barrier (death knight talent) effect, which decreases damage taken by 2/4/6% for the next 10 sec.

  • A great tanking talent. DKs of all specs generally use runes as soon as they become available, so this talent will almost always be triggered, giving you a nearly passive 6 percent damage reduction.
    • Solo Utility: Blood isn't the best tree for leveling or questing, but it's acceptable, and this will make you take a little less damage. Note, however, that most of its effect will probably be wasted between fights.
    • Raid Utility: Essential. It's 6 percent damage reduction for using abilities that you're going to use anyways. Some dps even take it to have a little more leeway when learning tough fights.
    • PVP Utility: Damage reduction is good in PvP, of course.
  • Bottom Line: An essential tanking talent, and dps and PvPers should strongly consider it as well.

[Bladed Armor]

3 points: Increases your attack power by 6 for every 180 armor value you have.

  • Primarily a talent for tanks who want a passive boost to their dps and therefore threat, but unholy and frost DKs often take this as well. Note that [Blood Presence] also increases your attack power with this, so tanks get more out of it.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice. For tanks, it's a passive, spec-it-and-forget-it way to get a little more dps without wasting cooldowns or runes in the middle of a fight. For dps, it's a way to eke out a little more damage when every little bit counts.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special. More damage means your enemies die quicker.
  • Bottom Line: Anyone can use this.

[Improved Blood Tap]

Requires 5 points in Blood talents
2 points: Reduces the cooldown of your Blood Tap ability by 30 sec.

  • A utility talent. [Blood Tap] activates a Blood Rune even if it's spent and turns it into a Death Rune, which can be used as a Blood, Frost or Unholy Rune.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. You'll rarely need a panic button while soloing and there are better options than this if you do.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice. For tanks, it's a panic button to enable panic buttons - that is, if you need a [Rune Tap] or [Bone Shield] now without waiting for the rune to refresh normally. DPS may like it too either for the same reason or to squeeze an extra strike into their rotations.
    • PvP Utility: PvPers need panic buttons as much as raiders, if not even more.
  • Bottom Line: Not needed for soloing, but PvPers and raiders will put it to good use now and then.

[Scent of Blood]

Requires 5 points in Blood talents
3 points: You have a 15% chance after dodging, parrying or taking direct damage to gain the Scent of Blood effect, causing your next 3 melee hits to generate 10 runic power.

  • More runic power. When it says "melee hits", it only means autoattacks. Oddly, more points in this talent do not increase the chance of gaining the Scent of Blood effect or the amount of runic power gained, just the number of stacks of the effect.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. Runic power isn't as important while soloing, and fights will often be over before this triggers and you have a chance to use it.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice. More runic power is great for both spamming high-dps abilities and for some panic buttons like [Dancing Rune Weapon] and, for frost dps, [Hungering Cold].
    • PvP Utility: See above. You'll always be getting hit a lot while PvPing, so you have a very good chance to get this.
  • Bottom Line: A good solid talent, mostly for dps but tanks will appreciate more runic power to burn as well. Since putting more points in this talent just increases the number of stacks, it may make sense to only put one or two points in here.

[Scarlet Fever]

Requires 5 points in Blood talents
2 points: Causes your Blood Plague to afflict enemies with Scarlet Fever, reducing their physical damage dealt by 10% for 30 sec.

  • Indirect damage reduction. Instead of you taking less damage, everything you've managed to put [Blood Plague] on will deal less. Trigger-happy dps who pull aggro from you when you're tanking should appreciate the difference, as should tanks if you are primarily a frost or unholy DK but have dipped into the blood tree for this. This does not stack with a great many similar effects, including [Demoralizing Shout], [Curse of Weakness] and [Vindication], but it's still pretty nice to have.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. If damage reduction were important when soloing, this would be a great source of it, but it's not.
    • Raid Utility: Coordinate with your guild. If you're in 25-man raids, it's practically certain that there will be multiple people applying this buff and overwriting each other's. However, this version of it is better than the warlock's or paladin's version because this gets spread around more easily, so if you regularly group up with a lock or paladin it makes more sense for you to put points into this than for them to put points into their version.
    • PvP Utility: Reducing the damage you take is nice, of course. In addition, the Scarlet Fever debuff can't be dispelled, which can be a big advantage in PvP.
  • Bottom Line: A good damage-reduction effect. Technically more than one per raid is redundant, but realistically tanks will probably want to bring their own just to be safe.

[Strangulate]

Requires 5 points in Blood talents
2 points: Reduces the cooldown of your Strangulate ability by 60 sec.

  • Normally, the [Strangulate] ability has a cooldown of two minutes. With this, it has a cooldown of one minute.
    • Solo Utility: Strangulate can be used to make caster mobs stop casting and come closer to you... just like [Death Grip], but slower and on a longer cooldown even with these talents! Seriously, it would be useful once in a while when leveling and questing to take a little less damage from casters, but it's not that great for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Pretty nice. Even with this talent there are better interrupts than Strangulate, but in a 5-man group or a badly made 10-man, this could be very useful to shut down casters on trash mobs or interruptible bosses.
    • PvP Utility: This is primarily a PvP talent. [Mind Freeze] is nice but is limited to melee range and requires runic power, so you can't use it when you first see a caster. Death Grip has a cooldown of about 30 seconds, and it doesn't actually silence them or lock them out of spell schools, it just stops a spell being cast at the time. With Strangulate, you can shut down any caster in range, and with this talent you can do it twice as often.
  • Bottom Line: A decent utility talent. PvPers who go this deep into the Blood tree will probably always take this, but for PvE its usefulness depends on your group and the encounter.

[Blood-Caked Blade]

Requires 10 points in Blood talents
3 points: Your auto attacks have a 30% chance to cause a Blood-Caked Strike, which hits for 25% weapon damage plus 12.5% for each of your diseases on the target.

  • This can add up to quite a bit more auto-attack damage, but auto-attack damage probably isn't a big part of your overall dps. This talent was originally in the unholy tree and seems a little out of place deep in the tanking tree. That being said, it's passive so requires no cooldowns or attention, and Blood-Caked Strikes can proc effects like Scent of Blood and [Rune of the Fallen Crusader] (although you probably won't have that exact effect while tanking), so it does offer some benefit.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. It's a passive but minor and somewhat random increase to your dps.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special. It offers no damage reduction, and a minor increase to dps.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special. More dps is always nice, especially when it's randomized.
  • Bottom Line: For the tank who needs every little bit of help with single-target threat.

[Bone Shield]

Requires 10 points in Blood talents
1 point: Surrounds you with a barrier of whirling bones. The shield begins with 4 charges, and each damaging attack consumes a charge. While at least 1 charge remains, you take 20% less damage from all sources and deal 2% more damage with all attacks, spells and abilities. 1 Unholy Rune, 1 min cooldown, lasts 5 min.

  • Like the last ability, this was originally in the Unholy tree, but it's an iconic tanking ability that fortunately is available to all DK tanks now. Careful tanks will use it about a minute before a pull so that the cooldown is up by the time all the charges of the buff are used up. It only loses charges from direct hits that you take and there is a hidden cooldown of about two seconds on losing the charges. What all that means is, if you get hit twice at the same time you will only lose one charge. However, the shield reduces all damage taken while even one charge remains by a flat 20 percent, including damage over time effects. And most importantly, it looks cool. It can also be glyphed to increase your run speed.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special.
    • Raid Utility: One of the basic tanking damage reduction cooldowns for DKs. Whether you use it as an "oh shit" panic button or use it on every cooldown to reduce overall damage and save healer mana, it's a useful ability.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special. More damage reduction is always nice. In addition, PvP combat often has a flurry of blows on you, and the fact that this reduces the damage but charges are only lost on a cooldown is very handy.
  • Bottom Line: An essential tanking tool. Back when it was available to dps some of them even used it.

[Toughness]

Requires 10 points in Blood talents
3 points: Increases your armor value from items by 10%.

  • A flat, passive increase to armor.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. Everything that requires 10 or more points in blood talents is inaccessible to frost or unholy specs at level 85, meaning that everything from here down is not meant for solo play.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice for tanks. Every tanking class has a version of this talent, and they all take it.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special. More damage reduction is always nice.
  • Bottom Line: A no-brainer for tanking.

[Abomination's Might]

Requires 10 points in Blood talents
2 points: Increases the attack power by 10% of party and raid members within 100 yards. Also increases your total Strength by 2%.

  • This buff increases the attack power of your own group and your own strength, which helps with both threat and parry slightly. The attack power boost does not stack with other buffs like [Blessing of Might].
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. The attack power increase doesn't apply to your party if you don't have one, obviously, so you're left with investing 2 talent points for a 2 percent increase in strength. There are better ways to get dps.
    • Raid Utility: Like Scarlet Fever, this is not needed for the attack power boost if someone else in your group can provide a similar effect. However, the abilities are rarely completely identical, and other abilities do not overwrite the strength bonus to the DK himself, so many DK tanks will probably want this for that if nothing else.
    • PvP Utility: Kinda nice for group PvP.
  • Bottom Line: If you have a regular group or raid you play with, coordinate with them; at least one person who provides a buff like this should get it but the rest may be able to skip it. If you don't but regularly group with others, get it just to be safe. If you solo, it's skippable.

[Sanguine Fortitude]

Requires 15 points in Blood talents
2 points: While active, your Icebound Fortitude reduces damage taken by an additional 30% and costs no runic power to activate.

  • Normally, [Icebound Fortitude] provides 20 percent damage reduction for 12 seconds on a three-minute cooldown, so it's mostly used for PvP and by dps during AoE damage on boss fights. With this talent it becomes a tanking cooldown very similar to [Survival Instincts] and the talented version of [Shield Wall].
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing elites or dungeons or when you get attacked by extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, why would you use a Blood spec for soloing?
    • Raid Utility: An essential tanking defense cooldown.
    • PvP Utility: Probably very nice for PvP as blood.
  • Bottom Line: Essential damage reduction for anyone deep enough into Blood to get it.

[Blood Parasite]

Requires 15 points in Blood talents
2 points: Your melee attacks have a 10% chance to spawn a Bloodworm. The Bloodworm attacks your enemies, gorging itself with blood until it bursts to heal nearby allies. Lasts up to 20 sec.

  • These little guys attack your target, gain a buff called Blood Gorged, and explode when they've had enough, which provides group healing in a short-range aoe. It's hard to be sure exactly how good they are, but in a raid with a lot of melee they probably provide a fair amount of extra healing.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. They don't explode out of combat, so if any of them survive a fight they'll be wasted.
    • Raid Utility: A little extra healing is always nice, especially since it benefits anyone in range rather than just you.
    • PvP Utility: Ditto.
  • Bottom Line: A nice bonus for tanks and any melee near them, and maybe for PvP.

[Improved Blood Presence]

Requires 15 points in Blood talents
2 points: Increases your rune regeneration by 20% and reduces the chance that you will be critically hit by melee attacks while in Blood Presence by 6%. In addition, while in Frost Presence or Unholy Presence, you retain 4% damage reduction from Blood Presence.

  • Every tank spec has some kind of talent that reduces the chance to be crit to zero, and this is the death knight's version of that talent. In addition, increased rune regeneration means that your panic buttons will be available more quickly than in [Unholy Presence]. The damage reduction in other presences doesn't matter too much while tanking, but would mainly matter if you were soloing with a Blood spec.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing elites or dungeons or when you get attacked by extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, the Blood spec is not generally meant for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Essential for damage reduction while tanking. Also, the increased rune regeneration means you have to wait less time for your panic buttons.
    • PvP Utility: PvPers generally won't want to be in Blood Presence, and the 4 percent damage reduction this talent grants in other presences is relatively minor.
  • Bottom Line: Essential for tanks.

[Will of the Necropolis]

Requires 20 points in Blood talents
Requires 1 point in Rune Tap
3 points: When a damaging attack brings you below 30% of your maximum health, the cooldown on your Rune Tap ability is refreshed and your next Rune Tap has no cost, and all damage taken is reduced by 25% for 8 sec. This effect cannot occur more than once every 45 seconds.

  • This gives you a free, immediate [Rune Tap] (see below) whenever your health drops below 30 percent, which is to say, whenever you really need it. The cooldown on this effect is a problem, of course, but if you really need a Rune Tap more than every 45 seconds, you've got big problems.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing elites or dungeons or when you get attacked by extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, the Blood spec is not generally meant for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Pretty nice for damage reduction while tanking. Unfortunately, though, this talent is not automatic; you have to be smart about your panic buttons to get your money's worth out of this. If your playstyle or the encounter is such that you rely on other cooldowns like Icebound Fortitude more than Rune Tap, these points will be wasted.
    • PvP Utility: Probably kinda nice for PvP as blood.
  • Bottom Line: Nice for tanks, but might not be worth it for some playstyles.

[Rune Tap]

Requires 20 points in Blood talents
1 point: Instant, Blood Rune, 30 second cooldown. Converts 1 Blood Rune into 10% of your maximum health.

  • This gives you substantial self-healing. As emergency tanking panic buttons go, this is probably less effective than most; one [Icebound Fortitude], for example, will probably save more than 10 percent of your health even without the bonuses from talents. However, the advantage of Rune Tap is that its cooldown is only 30 seconds. If you use it on cooldown while tanking you will regain a great deal of HP, saving your healer's mana pool and keeping yourself in the comfort zone. There are several enhancements to it ( [Will of the Necropolis],  [Glyph of Rune Tap] and [Vampiric Blood]) that make it even more effective.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing elites or dungeons or when you get attacked by extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, the Blood spec is not generally meant for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice for tanking. The best DK tanks probably put it in a regular rotation and use it even 30 seconds exactly, but even mediocre tanks can use this as an extra panic button. This plus the enhancements to it and/or other damage reduction cooldowns would greatly improve your chances of surviving.
    • PvP Utility: Probably very nice for PvP as blood.
  • Bottom Line: Not optional for tanks.

[Vampiric Blood]

Requires 20 points in Blood talents
1 point: Instant, 1 minute cooldown. Temporarily grants the Death Knight 15% of maximum health and increases the amount of health generated through spells and effects by 25% for 10 sec. After the effect expires, the health is lost.

  • This applies to healing from every source, or very nearly every source, including the DK's own abilities, spells cast by healers, and even bandages and [Gift of the Naaru].  [Glyph of Vampiric Blood] makes it increase healing taken even more at the cost of not increasing HP, which helps in some situations but hurts in others.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing elites or dungeons or when you get attacked by extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, the Blood spec is not generally meant for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice for tanking. It doesn't help much if your healer is dead or has been sheeped, but if your healer is alive and well and just unable to keep up with the damage you're taking for whatever reason, this will give you a great deal more heals.
    • PvP Utility: Probably useful now and then for PvP as blood.
  • Bottom Line: Another one of those tanking cooldowns that good tanks will use frequently.

[Improved Death Strike]

Requires 25 points in Blood talents
3 points: Increases the damage of your Death Strike by 90%, increases its critical strike chance by 9%, and increases the healing granted by 45%.

  • [Death Strike] is a blood DK's main ability. It provides a good chunk of damage, threat and self-healing, and with the Blood Shield mastery it also grants a damage shield. This ability increases everything about it.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice for tanking. Note that this will not always look like you're getting the bonus healing because Death Strike scales with the amount of damage taken recently, but even if this didn't buff healing it would still be a big increase to single-target damage and threat. So what's not to like?
    • PvP Utility: Probably very useful for PvP as blood.
  • Bottom Line: Nearly essential for tanking.

[Crimson Scourge]

Requires 25 points in Blood talents
2 points: Increases the damage dealt by your Blood Boil by 40%, and when you land a melee attack on a target that is infected with your Blood Plague, there is a 10% chance that your next Blood Boil will consume no runes.

  • Once upon a time, Death and Decay was all the area of effect threat generation that a DK tank needed. But developers reevaluated area-of-effect tanking in 4.0.3, and it became impossible to keep Death and Decay up more than half the time. During the other half of the time, [Blood Boil], combined with [Pestilence], is the main area-of-effect threat tool DKs can rely on. This talent improves Blood Boil's overall damage and lets you cast some for free now and then.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing dungeons or when you get attacked by a great many extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, the Blood spec is not generally meant for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Situationally useful while raiding. AoE is less important than it was, but it's still important sometimes, such as on the Halfus fight. This will help hold on to all those dragon whelps.
    • PvP Utility: Minimally useful. A PvPer won't have the glyphs or other talents needed to get their money's worth out of this, and even if they did, it's still just some AoE damage rather than a burst of damage on a single target.
  • Bottom Line: Situationally useful for tanking.

[Dancing Rune Weapon]

Requires 30 points in Blood talents
1 point: Summons a second rune weapon that fights on its own for 12 sec, doing the same attacks as the Death Knight but for 50% reduced damage. The rune weapon also assists in defense of its master, granting an additional 20% parry chance while active. 60 Runic Power, 30 yd range, 1.5 min cooldown, Requires Melee Weapon.

  • This ability has always been a major improvement to Blood DK dps, and as of 4.0.1, is also a damage reduction cooldown.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice for soloing dungeons or when you get attacked by a great many extra mobs unexpectedly, but again, in general, the Blood spec is not generally meant for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Very useful. Pop this if you're up against an enrage timer and need more dps. Pop this if you're about to lose aggro and need more threat. Pop this if you're getting hit too much and need more parry.
    • PvP Utility: Probably very useful, granting both damage and survivability, but few dedicated PvPers will be in blood anyways.
  • Bottom Line: Signature DK ability. An all-purpose cooldown that helps with both threat and survivability.

Frost (as of Patch 4.0.6)

[Runic Power Mastery]

3 points: Increases your maximum Runic Power by 30.

  • Normally, your maximum runic power is 100. With three points in this, it's 130. The difference is one extra [Rune Strike], [Frost Strike] or Death Coil if you're starting from a full runic power bar and using it all up at once. That looks pretty good, but the catch is, skilled DKs will rarely let their bar fill all the way up. Runic power abilities are generally good enough to use as soon as they're available, and also, a full runic power bar means that the runic power the DK could have gained while the bar was full is wasted. However, most DKs have a talent that grants extra runic power from procs, so for them, their runic power bar may fill up a little more quickly than expected, so this talent may prevent extra from going to waste.
    • Solo Utility: Pretty nice. The damage benefit is minimal; when soloing there's plenty of downtime for your bar to empty, even from 130. The real appeal of this is healing, oddly enough. A common self-healing strategy is to pop [Lichborne] (see below) and cast Death Coil on yourself. This talent will let you cast one additional Death Coil per Lichborne.
    • Raid Utility: It provides a little margin for error, but you should generally not need it.
    • PvP Utility: Spamming Rune Strike/Frost Strike/Death Coil would be an enormous burst of damage to finish off an opponent, but again, you should rarely let it fill up even to 100.
  • Bottom Line: Slightly useful for some specs, but this is mainly filler to get to talents further down the Frost tree.

[Icy Reach]

2 points: Increases the range of your Icy Touch, Chains of Ice and Howling Blast by 10 yards.

  • Not much to say about it. [Chains of Ice] is purely a kiting ability. [Icy Touch] provides a little damage but mainly serves to get [Frost Fever] on targets, and [Howling Blast] replaces it for frost DKs.
    • Solo Utility: Helps pull mobs from a little further away if you don't want to get adds near them yet. Nice, but not a huge difference.
    • Raid Utility: Tanks might appreciate using [Icy Touch] to pull from a little further away, and now and then dps can get rooted and locked out of melee range and this lets them dps more, but on the whole it's not that great.
    • PvP Utility: Great for PvP. All three of these abilities provide a slowing effect (although Howling Blast depends on other talents and glyphs to do that), so this talent makes it much easier to finish off a fleeing enemy, get away from someone trying to nuke you from a distance, catch up to a caster or hunter trying to kite you, and so on.
  • Bottom Line: Primarily a PvP talent and essential for them. For other roles, mostly just filler.

[Nerves of Cold Steel]

3 points: Increases your chance to hit with one-handed melee weapons by 3% and increases the damage done by your off-hand weapon by 25%.

  • This is one of a few talents that are essential for dual-wielding (DW) and useless otherwise. Only frost-specced DKs are capable of getting the other talents, so only frost-specced DKs should take this talent, and only some of them.
    • Solo Utility: Less important while soloing because increased chance to hit doesn't matter too much when mobs are your level or lower. That's still nice just in case you run into higher-level mobs or if you ever want to do the occasional instance, though, and the increased off-hand weapon damage should be noticeable.
    • Raid Utility: Even more essential for DW raiders than for DW in other roles, because of the hit penalty from dual-wielding.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special.
  • Bottom Line: Essential if you choose DW, useless otherwise.

[Annihilation]

Requires 5 points in Frost talents
3 points: Increases the damage dealt by your Obliterate ability by 45%.

  • [Obliterate] is a substantial dps ability. There's little reason for Blood or Unholy DKs to use Obliterate because they have their own two-rune strikes and Obliterate also depends on a number of abilities deeper in the Frost tree, but for frost it's one of the top two dps abilities, slightly ahead of or slightly behind [Frost Strike] depending on the person and situation.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. More damage is always nice.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special.
  • Bottom Line: Essential for frost dps regardless of DW or 2H. Useless for any other specs.

[Lichborne]

Requires 5 points in Frost talents
1 point: Draw upon unholy energy to become undead for 10 sec. While undead, you are immune to Charm, Fear and Sleep effects. 2 min cooldown.

  • When this ability was new it granted a 25 percent chance to be missed, making it a great tanking cooldown. That ability was removed way back in 3.1, but this ability still has some use. First of all, becoming immune to several kinds of crowd control is obviously nice. Second, being undead means that you can be targeted by spells that target undead, including your own Death Coil. So this is a popular form of self-healing.
    • Solo Utility: Mainly used for the self-healing.
    • Raid Utility: Some tanks go into the frost tree just to get this to have a tanking cooldown; this plus four Death Coils on yourself will result in well over 40K of self-healing. For dps, this is less important because runic power is usually better spent dpsing than healing yourself, and very few crowd control abilities of raid bosses are broken by this.
    • PvP Utility: The self-healing isn't all that great; a full bar of runic power is rare and there are better uses for it than this. Immunity to charm, fear and sleep effects is very nice. Being able to be targeted by [Shackle Undead] and [Turn Evil] is not nice at all. Do not use this with hostile paladins around, and be careful when using it around hostile priests.
  • Bottom Line: Nice utility.

[On a Pale Horse]

Requires 5 points in Frost talents
2 points: You become as hard to stop as death itself. The duration of movement-slowing effects used against you is reduced by 30%, and your mounted speed is increased by 20%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.

  • A decent utility talent.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice. You don't see too many movement-slowing effects while soloing, but there are a few here and there. The main point of this talent for soloing is the mounted speed increase, which is huge. You get everywhere more quickly.
    • Raid Utility: The mounted speed increase obviously doesn't help in the vast majority of raids, but movement-slowing effect reduction makes a big difference on a few fights.
    • PvP Utility: Great. Both parts of this make a big difference in BGs. You catch up to people more quickly, you avoid people chasing you down, you get out of slowing effects even more quickly.
  • Bottom Line: Essential for PvP, and nice utility worth considering even for other specs.

[Endless Winter]

Requires 5 points in Frost talents
2 points: Your Mind Freeze no longer costs runic power.

  • [Mind Freeze] is a DK's best way to screw up casters even without this talent and this makes it free, although there's still the 10 second cooldown, so there's no need to choose between a little more dps or an interrupt.
    • Solo Utility: Decent. If you reliably interrupt spells you'll take quite a bit less damage.
    • Raid Utility: Situational. It's great for tanks, who bear the brunt of interruptible spells, but dps often is paying attention to other things. However, a real team player may get this to help out.
    • PvP Utility: Great. In PvP with a caster you'll be using Mind Freeze on cooldown until one of you is dead. This lets you cast more Frost Strikes or Death Coils while doing all that.
  • Bottom Line: Essential for PvP, and nice utility worth considering for other specs as well.

[Merciless Combat]

Requires 10 points in Frost talents
2 points: Your Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Obliterate and Frost Strike do an additional 12% damage when striking targets with less than 35% health.

  • Most dps specs have a similar effect. This helps finish off a target that's nearly dead.
    • Solo Utility: Doesn't matter too much. Most mobs you encounter while soloing are nonelite, and when a nonelite target is below 35 percent health they'll be dead soonwith or without this bonus.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice. The final 35 percent is sometimes the hardest in a boss fight, because by then cooldowns have been spent and careless people have died and stuff. This helps.
    • PvP Utility: Probably even more important for PvPers than for raiders; by the time a target is down to 35 percent, you're usually hurt pretty badly as well and they might be about to bubble, vanish or otherwise escape. This helps you kill them in one more hit instead of two.
  • Bottom Line: Raiders and PvPers can both make good use of this.

[Chill of the Grave]

Requires 10 points in Frost talents
2 points: Your Chains of Ice, Howling Blast, Icy Touch and Obliterate generate 10 additional runic power.

  • Extra runic power is always nice. This gives you it.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. While soloing you will lose a good chunk of runic power as you run between targets or loot quest items or whatever. Sometimes that will mean that these points go to waste, but then again sometimes that will mean that these points leave you with a little runic power left over when you start the next fight.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special. More runic power means more Frost Strikes.
    • PvP Utility: In PvP this has the same problem as when soloing - more downtime between fights. On the other hand, though, frost-specced soloing and raiding DKs very rarely use runic power for anything but Frost Strike, but in PvP they need the whole toolbox. Death Coil on anyone out of range if [Death Grip] is on cooldown, [Dark Simulacrum] and [Mind Freeze] for casters, [Hungering Cold] to shut down a whole group of enemies...
  • Bottom Line: Useful for everyone.

[Killing Machine]

Requires 10 points in Frost talents
3 points: Your melee attacks have a chance to make your next Obliterate or Frost Strike a guaranteed critical strike. Effect occurs more often than Killing Machine (Rank 2).

  • This is a big part of what makes frost dps bursty and unpredictable. This ability procs several times a minute, but the buff it gives only lasts a few seconds, so you have to use it or lose it.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. This makes fights go quicker.
    • Raid Utility: A big increase in dps if used properly, but it requires thought and quick attention.
    • PvP Utility: More crits are always nice in PvP, of course. Burstier damage is better.
  • Bottom Line: Useful for every frost dps.

[Rime]

Requires 15 points in Frost talents
3 points: Your Obliterate has a 45% chance to cause your next Howling Blast or Icy Touch to consume no runes.

  • This is also makes frost dps bursty and unpredictable. A free Howling Blast after almost half of your Obliterates adds up to a lot of free Howling Blasts over the course of a long fight, but, again, you have to use it or lose it. Note that it doesn't refresh a rune, so you can't always use it right away.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special.
    • Raid Utility: A big increase in dps if used properly, but it requires thought and quick attention.
    • PvP Utility: More crits are always nice in PvP, of course. Burstier damage is better. The difference between this and Killing Machine is mostly situational: Howling Blast does less single-target damage than Obliterate or Frost Strike, but spreads it around a lot more. Of course, anyone this deep into this tree will probably take both talents.
  • Bottom Line: Useful for every frost dps.

[Pillar of Frost]

Requires 15 points in Frost talents
1 point: Calls upon the power of Frost to increase the Death Knight's Strength by 20%. Icy Crystals hang heavy upon the Death Knight's body, providing immunity against external movement such as knockbacks. Lasts 20 sec. 1 Frost. 1 min cooldown.

  • This ability can be activated for a percentage-based boost to strength, which means a boost to all your dps. The interesting part is the external movement immunity. Reports vary on exactly what it prevents and there are probably some situations where you would actually want to be knocked back, but on the whole avoiding knockbacks, tornadoes and all kinds of other effects that move you around is great.
    • Solo Utility: You won't get knocked back much while soloing, but 20 percent more strength in emergencies is always nice.
    • Raid Utility: As dps, it's roughly a 7 percent increase in your dps from this one point if you use it on every cooldown. On any fight with knockbacks, the immunity is a nice bonus, and there are a few fights here and there where it would be alifesaver.
    • PvP Utility: Very nice. Several different specs have knockback effects. This makes you immune to them.
  • Bottom Line: Even without the knockback immunity it would still be a 20-percent damage increase every minute. The knockback immunity is a unique, valuable utility.

[Improved Icy Talons]

Requires 15 points in Frost talents
1 point: Increases the melee and ranged attack speed of all party and raid members within 100 yards by 10%, and your own attack speed by an additional 5%.

  • This ability makes all melee attackers and hunters faster. Like other raid buffing effects, it overwrites and doesn't stack with similar effects provided by several different classes.
    • Solo Utility: 15 percent increased attack speed is nothing to complain about.
    • Raid Utility: The main point in this talent. Most raids will have the same effect from someone else, such as a hunter's [Trueshot Aura], but you never know when someone providing a similar buff will die or leave the group or whatever. And even if your raid as a whole has the buff from someone else, you can always use the 5 percent increase.
    • PvP Utility: Very nice. Speed is especially important in PvP.
  • Bottom Line: Take it.

[Brittle Bones]

Requires 15 points in Frost talents
2 points: Your Strength is increased by 4% and your Frost Fever chills the bones of its victims, increasing their physical damage taken by 4%.

  • It's a bit odd to give this effect to a spec that gets a lot of its dps from a non-physical source: Frost damage. However, as a debuff on the target, this is yet another ability that the whole group will value and multiple people can provide.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. On the margins, mobs will die slightly quicker.
    • Raid Utility: Raiding is the main point in this talent. Theoretically, this might not be worth it to a caster-heavy group, but it's very unlikely that a group will have no melee besides you at all.
    • PvP Utility: Very nice.
  • Bottom Line: A good talent. If you regularly group up with a specific group, coordinate with them. If you regularly solo or group up with random or less organized people, you'll probably want it anyways just to be safe.

[Chilblains]

Requires 20 points in Frost talents
2 points: Victims of your Frost Fever disease are Chilled, reducing movement speed by 50% for 10 sec, and your Chains of Ice immobilizes targets for 3 sec.

  • This does not have any direct dps benefit, but makes it harder for your targets to catch you or get away from you.
    • Solo Utility: Useful to run from a fight if you find yourself overwhelmed.
    • Raid Utility: May be situationally useful on fights like Gluth or Magmaw with large numbers of nonelite adds that need to be slowed down and kited, but generally, other classes have better ways to do the same thing.
    • PvP Utility: The primary use of this talent. Keep people from chasing you, keep people from getting away from you as you chase them, freeze them in place entirely...
  • Bottom Line: Mainly PvP, but may be situationally useful in raids.

[Hungering Cold]

Requires 20 points in Frost talents
1 point: Purges the earth around the Death Knight of all heat. Enemies within 10 yards are trapped in ice, preventing them from performing any action for 10 sec and infecting them with Frost Fever. Enemies are considered Frozen, but any damage other than diseases will break the ice. 40 Runic Power, 1 minute cooldown.

  • Freezes everything around you in a block of ice. They can't do anything. Obviously, this is a useful ability; it will only control its victims briefly compared to abilities like [Polymorph], but it will control a group of any size, where most CC has a single target. Plenty of area of effect abilities exist that slow down everyone affected or even root them in place, but this might be the only one that also prevents casting and attacking.
    • Solo Utility: Useful to run from a fight if you find yourself overwhelmed. Pop this and everything that was beating on you will not move at all unless some other player hits them or you get a ghoul out and it attacks.
    • Raid Utility: Not as great in group content as in other roles; any area of effect damage other than your diseases breaks the ice, and boss-like mobs are immune, of course. However, smart dps will try not to throw around CC when they see ice blocks, and this will help if someone loses control of trash mobs or something. At the very worst, Hungering Cold still spreads [Frost Fever] around on anything that's not immune to the freeze effect, which is nice.
    • PvP Utility: It's great. Stun everything around you. Any of your allies nearby might break it, and anyone with a PvP trinket can get out too of course, but it's still a few seconds for you to run, for your allies to finish casting spells, to beat on a healer without his allies helping or vice versa...
  • Bottom Line: Mainly PvP, but DKs can use this here and there in every role.

[Improved Frost Presence]

Requires 20 points in Frost talents
2 points: Increases your bonus damage while in Frost Presence by an additional 5%. In addition, while in Blood Presence or Unholy Presence, you retain 4% increased runic power generation from Frost Presence.

  • A decent percentage increase in damage. There's basically no reason for a frost DK to go in blood presence, but unholy presence provides some nice utility, and at those times the extra runic power will be nice.
    • Solo Utility: The damage bonus is obviously nice. In addition, some frost DKs may solo in unholy presence to move around more quickly, and the extra runic power will be appreciated.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special. This talent is a good damage increase. Frost DKs with two-handed weapons generally fight in unholy presence, and this talent helps them get the most out of that.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special. More damage is more damage.
  • Bottom Line: Any frost DKs will appreciate this. The extra runic power is essential for those who spend a significant amount of time in unholy presence, and even if you never leave frost presence, this still gives you 5 percent more damage.

[Threat of Thassarian]

Requires 25 points in Frost talents
3 points: When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Rune Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a 100% chance to also deal damage with your offhand weapon.

  • This, like Nerves of Cold Steel above, is essential if you happen to prefer dual-wielding and useless otherwise. Your Frost Strikes and Obliterates make up the strong majority of your damage, probably 75 percent or more. Without spending three points here, each of the strikes mentioned would deal about 25 percent less damage every time because they would ignore the offhand weapon completely. You need these.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special.
  • Bottom Line: Get it if you want to dual-wield and don't if you don't.

[Might of the Frozen Wastes]

Requires 25 points in Frost talents
3 points: When wielding a two-handed weapon, your melee attacks deal an additional 4% damage and your autoattacks have a 15% chance to generate 10 Runic Power.

  • In terms of its role, this talent is the opposite of the previous one: essential if you happen to prefer two-handed weapons and useless otherwise. However, this talent is a bit more interesting than the previous one, which simply makes your strikes count your offhand weapon as well. This gives you a flat percentage bonus to damage, but it also gives you more runic power, which means you can use more Frost Strikes.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special.
  • Bottom Line: Get it if you want to wield a two-hander and don't if you don't.

[Howling Blast]

Requires 30 points in Frost talents
1 point: Blast the target with a frigid wind, dealing X Frost damage to that foe, and Y Frost damage to all other enemies within 10 yards. 1 Frost, 20 yard range, Instant.

  • This talent, the ultimate in the Frost tree, gives you substantial AoE damage. It does good solid damage on its own, benefits from several other talents in this tree, and  [Glyph of Howling Blast] lets it apply [Frost Fever] as well, making [Icy Touch] obsolete for frost DKs.
    • Solo Utility: Nice big damage. Soloing is the only way it compares unfavorably to Icy Touch: there are a lot of places with hostile mobs that are near each other but not linked, or neutral mobs near hostile mobs. If you use Howling Blast to pull one of them, the aoe from this will hit the other mobs as well, so you'll have to fight the two together instead of one at a time. It's not a huge problem, but it's something to be careful of.
    • Raid Utility: Great damage. The splash damage could theoretically pull adds off a tank trying to tank multiple adds at once, but it's very unlikely. In an aoe situation this is your primary source of dps. In a single-target situation this is still a better way to keep Frost Fever up than Icy Touch is.
    • PvP Utility: As above, it's good dps. In PvP there's no significant downside to the splash damage (OK, you might break a crowd control ability an ally had used, but there are lots of ways to do that), and with the glyph and [Chilblains] this can spread a nasty debuff around all enemies in range with one single frost rune.
  • Bottom Line: Get it if you're frost dps.

Unholy (as of Patch 4.0.6)

[Unholy Command]

2 points: Reduces the cooldown of your Death Grip ability by 10 sec, and gives you a 100% chance to refresh its cooldown when dealing a killing blow to a target that grants experience or honor.

  • This talent gives you Death Grips on demand by significantly reducing the cooldown and refreshing it completely when you get a killing blow.
    • Solo Utility: The main intent of this talent. You kill something, and the cooldown is ended and you can pull in the next mob you see that's on your list of quest objectives or whatever with no downtime at all.
    • Raid Utility: Not great, but sometimes worth using. Except for when things are going badly in a specific way (if a caster is loose, if the tank can't do anything about it), dps should not use Death Grip in a group. And as for tanks, they will very rarely get the killing blow in a group, so they will rarely get the complete cooldown refresh from this. That being said, tanks who are undergeared or badly geared compared to their dps may need all the taunt-like cooldowns they can get, so reducing the cooldown of Death Grip from 35 seconds to 25 may be worth it.
    • PvP Utility: Pretty good. You're more likely to get the killing blow in BGs or arenas than in raids, but it still won't be as reliable as when soloing. Death Grip gets used frequently in PvP to pull in casters and catch people trying to escape you.
  • Bottom Line: Primarily a soloing talent, but many tanks and some dps and PvPers may take it for filler or utility.

[Virulence]

3 points: Increases the damage done by your diseases by 30%.

  • This talent substantially increases your diseases. It used to increase your chance to hit, and as such was essential for dual wielders. This version is lackluster and some people skip diseases entirely in some situations, but the thing is, diseases provide a ton of buffs to yourself and debuffs to your enemies. Depending on spec, in addition to their damage diseases may also apply Crimson Plague, [Brittle Bones], [Chilblains], and they buff the damage of most single-target strike abilities, such as [Heart Strike]. So, given that you'll be keeping them up and spreading them around most of the time, why not increase their damage while you're at it?
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. More damage is nice.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special. The damage boost is slight, but again, you're going to apply diseases anyway for other bonuses, so why not?
    • PvP Utility: Probably slightly better in PvP than in raiding, because you need as much damage as quickly as possible without wasting additional cooldowns or other resources, but again, this talent is not all that special.
  • Bottom Line: Decent filler.

[Epidemic]

3 points: Increases the duration of Blood Plague and Frost Fever by 12 sec.

  • A complement to the previous talent in a way, this increases the duration. At first glance, this is better than the previous talent because it increases the diseases' duration by more than 50 percent, but on the other hand this only matters if the diseases go to their full duration without being renewed, which they rarely do.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. When soloing most mobs will die before your diseases have run their course.
    • Raid Utility: Pretty good. Refreshing your diseases is a necessary evil when raiding; as said above, you need to keep diseases up, but the runes and cooldowns needed to do so (Icy Touches, Plague Strike, Outbreak, Pestilence or Festering Strike) all do less damage than other abilities you could be using. This ability is a substantial increase to their duration, so you need to use fewer of those abilities that are lackluster on their own.
    • PvP Utility: As with soloing, your target often dies before a disease runs its normal duration, let alone this extended duration. In addition, you need to worry about you getting killed yourself, or your diseases getting dispelled (but maybe not; more on that below).
  • Bottom Line: Probably essential for as unholy dps, but for other roles or other specs, probably just filler.

[Desecration]

Requires 5 points in Unholy talents
2 points: Your Plague, Scourge, and Necrotic Strikes defile the ground within 7 yards of your target. Enemies in the area are slowed by 50% while standing on the unholy ground. Lasts 20 sec.

  • The way this ability was applies was changed with 4.0.1, but its effect is similar: an area of effect snare that slows down all enemies close to you.
    • Solo Utility: May help you run from trouble now and then, but it's relatively rare that you would need it.
    • Raid Utility: Situational, but the problem is, it's always on. For unholy DKs, [Scourge Strike] is a fairly big part of your dps and can and should be used often, so if you take this talent there will pretty much always be a snare under your target. There are a few encounters in 5-man instances and raids where slowing down the dps target is good and a few situations where it's really bad, such as any time the tank needs to move out of an area of effect or something.
    • PvP Utility: Very good. You will always want to slow down enemy players, and this will always do it.
  • Bottom Line: Situational for soloing and a gamble raiding with advantages and disadvantages, but always great for PvP.

[Resilient Infection]

Requires 5 points in Unholy talents
2 points: When your diseases are dispelled by an enemy, you have a 100% chance to activate a Frost rune if Frost Fever was removed, or an Unholy rune if Blood Plague was removed.

  • If your diseases get dispelled, you automatically get a rune back that lets you cast it again, or cast something else if it would make more sense. How often do your diseases get dispelled? It depends:
    • Solo Utility: Your runes never get dispelled while soloing. This talent is useless for soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Very few NPCs in raid or 5-man encounters have any dispelling abilities; the Faction Champions in the Crusader's Coliseum might be the only ones in the game right now and they obviously aren't in the current endgame. If a boss is introduced that does dispell debuffs from himself, this might become useful for raiding, but it's not at the moment.
    • PvP Utility: Very good. Paladins, priests and shamans can all cure diseases, as well as dwarves curing themselves, and they will try to fairly often. With this, you can apply diseases as fast they can dispell them. Even better, if you're a frost DK dipping into the unholy tree for this talent, every time they dispell them you get to cast a [Howling Blast] for free.
  • Bottom Line: Useless for soloing and basically useless for raiding, but always great for PvP.

[Morbidity]

Requires 5 points in Unholy talents
3 points: Increases the damage and healing of Death Coil by 15% and Death and Decay by 30%.

  • Both these abilities make up a fairly large amount of an Unholy DK's dps, Death Coil in single-target situations and Death and Decay in aoe.
    • Solo Utility: You rarely use Death and Decay while soloing, but you do use Death Coil a lot. In addition, note how it says "damage and healing"; in addition to using Death Coil on enemies, you can use it on your ghoul or, if you get Lichborne, yourself.
    • Raid Utility: A good solid damage increase to two abilities that get used fairly often. Nothing special.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special. More damage is more damage.
  • Bottom Line: Take it for dps.

[Runic Corruption]

Requires 10 points in Unholy talents
2 points: Reduces the cost of your Death Coil by 6, and causes your Runic Empowerment ability to no longer refresh a depleted rune, but instead to increase your rune regeneration rate by 100% for 3 sec.

  • The first effect of this reduces the resource cost of a major ability, which will sometimes let you cast two instead of one or three instead of two. The second gives you more runes. It's hard to calculate exactly how much it helps you compared to the normal version of [Runic Empowerment], but overall it seems to be a slight increase, about 5 percent or so. However, considering how often you cast Death Coil, this effect would be worth using for that alone.
    • Solo Utility: Runes would almost always regenerate during downtime between combat, but the decrease in Death Coil cost would be a noticeable benefit.
    • Raid Utility: The main point of this talent. Combat will almost always last long enough for the minor Runic Empowerment difference to add up to a lot. More Death Coils means more Shadow Infusions and more Dark Transformations for your ghoul; see below.
    • PvP Utility: Pretty nice. You cast Death Coil more often and you get runes a tiny bit faster.
  • Bottom Line: Worth it for all unholy specs.

[Unholy Frenzy]

Requires 10 points in Unholy talents
1 point: Induces a friendly unit into a killing frenzy for 30 sec. The target is Enraged, which increases their melee and ranged haste by 20%, but causes them to lose health equal to 2% of their maximum health every 3 sec. 30 yard range, 3 min cooldown.

  • This dps-increasing cooldowns differs from most in two respects: it has a drawback, and it can be cast on anyone. Remember that you can right-click the buff to turn it off as soon as you don't need it any more.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. If you need extra dps while soloing, it's probably because you're getting beat on, and if you're getting beat on you don't want to use an ability that does damage to you itself. That being said, you could cast it on your ghoul to increase his damage rather than yours.
    • Raid Utility: A good buff. Careful consideration is required to figure out how best to use it, though. First of all, the Fury warrior mastery Unshackled Fury increases the effect of all Enrage effects, including this one, so any available Fury warriors should be the first target for this. Also, this combined with [Bloodlust] and similar effects will put the target at the global cooldown, so they will be partially wasted if you use them at the same time. Yet another concern is individual encounter mechanics. Chimaeron and Gluth, for example, both have abilities that knock the entire raid's HP down very low. An Unholy Frenzy during those fights could easily kill its target.
    • PvP Utility: Be careful using it here. A burst of dps is great in PvP, but the damage it causes can also kill you. But on the other hand, the damage it causes will break Polymorphs, Ice Traps, and similar effects, so occasionally you will actually want the damage effect.
  • Bottom Line: Nice utility, but be careful how you use it.

[Contagion]

Requires 3 points in Epidemic
Requires 10 points in Unholy talents
2 points: Increases the damage of your diseases spread via Pestilence by 100%.

  • This helps your aoe dps of Unholy DKs a great deal.  [Glyph of Pestilence] makes it hit even more targets, but comes with the risk of pulling adds from further away.
    • Solo Utility: Not that great. You don't aoe much when soloing.
    • Raid Utility: Great in any AoE situation. For groups of about five or more targets that don't need to be crowd controlled, Pestilence and your diseases are your biggest source of dps, and this doubles that. For situations that don't call for aoe, of course, it's useless.
    • PvP Utility: Very nice. PvP has lots of place where hapless groups of enemy players group up tightly - choke points on roads or in buildings in BGs, around flags - and this will do huge amounts of damage to them when they are particularly dense.
  • Bottom Line: Worth getting.

[Shadow Infusion]

Requires 10 points in Unholy talents
3 points: When you cast Death Coil, you have a 100% chance to empower your active Ghoul, increasing its damage dealt by 8% for 30 sec. Stacks up to 5 times.

  • This greatly buffs the dps of your ghoul. For Unholy DKs, their ghoul makes up about half of their damage or so. This talent is a big part of why. In addition, it's a prerequisite for [Dark Transformation] (see below).
    • Solo Utility: Not all that great - stacks of Shadow Infusion will often fall off your ghoul between fights - but the difference between getting this early and late while leveling would still be noticeable.
    • Raid Utility: Great. This talent gives your ghoul a 40 percent damage buff much of the time.
    • PvP Utility: Also great. See above.
  • Bottom Line: On its own it would probably be worth getting. Since it's a prerequisite for [Dark Transformation], it's essential for any unholy DK.

[Death's Advance]

Requires 15 points in Unholy talents
2 points: While your Unholy Runes are both depleted, movement-impairing effects may not reduce you below 100% of normal movement speed.

  • This greatly reduces the effect that movement-impairing abilities like snares have on you. They can still affect you a tiny bit because Unholy Presence plus lots of assorted racial and item-granted buffs can increase your movement speed above 100 percent, and this talent may be changed in future patches, but for now it is very good if you often get hit with snares and if those snares would be particularly harmful to you. So how often does that happen?
    • Solo Utility: There are very few slowing effects when soloing. When you would get hit with one, like from a mage-type NPC, it rarely matters much because you can just Death Grip them to you. This talent is not that great when soloing.
    • Raid Utility: There are relatively few snares in raids and 5-man dungeon content, and those that do exist can generally be avoided if you're careful and react quickly. That being said, sometimes such quick reaction is particularly hard for melee dps like DKs and sometimes you just screw up, and when that happens, it's very, very bad. In those situations this talent could single-handedly safe your life.
    • PvP Utility: Everyone is always trying to slow all enemies down in PvP. And if they catch you, it's very bad. This talent is essential for Unholy PvP.
  • Bottom Line: Essential for PvP. Situational and worth considering for raiding.

[Magic Suppression]

Requires 15 points in Unholy talents
3 points: Increases the spell damage absorption of your Anti-Magic Shell by an additional 25%, and increases the runic power generated when damage is absorbed by Anti-Magic Shell.

  • Normally, [Anti-Magic Shell] is a survivability cooldown that absorbs a lot of magic damage. This makes it even more. Some theorycrafters argue that just one point in this is worth using for the increased runic power regeneration.
    • Solo Utility: Low. There's not all that much magic damage while soloing, and it's not all that hard to avoid.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice, both for the damage reduction and for the increased runic power.
    • PvP Utility: Great. Casters are always trying to do bad things to you. This makes it a lot harder.
  • Bottom Line: Very nice for PvP and raiding. May be worth just one or two points, or may be worth all three; up to you.

[Rage of Rivendare]

Requires 15 points in Unholy talents
3 points: Increases the damage of your Plague Strike, Scourge Strike, and Festering Strike abilities by 36%.

  • [Scourge Strike] is one of an Unholy DK's highest damage abilities, and the other two are valuable utility. You'll be using at least one of them a lot, so this adds up to a good dps increase.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. Plague Strike is a once-a-fight-at-most ability, but this talent is good just for the Scourge Strike.
    • Raid Utility: Nothing special. You'll use both Scourge and Festering Strike while raiding, so a buff to both of them is great.
    • PvP Utility: Nothing special.
  • Bottom Line: If you're this deep in the tree, get it.

[Unholy Blight]

Requires 20 points in Unholy talents
1 point: Causes the victims of your Death Coil to be surrounded by a vile swarm of unholy insects, taking 10% of the damage done by the Death Coil over 10 sec, and preventing any diseases on the victim from being dispelled.

  • This effectively increases the damage of your Death Coil by up to 10 percent. For 1 talent point, it's a bargain. However, some have reported that there's a delay in applying and refreshing the damage-over-time effect, so it might punish you for chain-casting DC.
    • Solo Utility: Nothing special. Damage over time is generally less important while soloing, and your Death Coil will be used for self-healing fairly often while soloing so it won't get any benefit from this, but it's still just one point and will help now and then.
    • Raid Utility: Very good. You'll almost always get the benefit.
    • PvP Utility: The part about preventing dispelling is especially important in PvP.
  • Bottom Line: Probably not all that great, but definitely worth one single little point.

[Anti-Magic Zone]

Requires 3 points in Magic Suppression
Requires 20 points in Unholy talents
1 point: Places a large, stationary Anti-Magic Zone that reduces spell damage done to party or raid members inside it by 75%. The Anti-Magic Zone lasts for 10 sec or until it absorbs X spell damage. 1 Unholy rune, 2 min cooldown.

  • This is the super-sized, one-spec-only version of [Anti-Magic Shell]. Unlike AMS, it scales with your attack power and protects your entire group.
    • Solo Utility: Not worth it. If you're just soloing, you already have several panic buttons and damage-reduction methods; you don't need one more.
    • Raid Utility: This doesn't scale well with raiding; everyone has to be grouped up in a relatively small area, and it will barely absorb one tick of a raidwide AoE. Still, every little bit helps, and there are some encounters where people are stacking up close together up anyway, such as on Erudax in heric Grim Batol or Valiona in the Bastion of Twilight. So some raiders may find this situationally helpful.
    • PvP Utility: Where this talent shines. In an arena or BG, dropping this on your group or the flag you're defending will significantly reduce the damage enemy casters can do to you.
  • Bottom Line: Mainly for PvP, but some raiders may take it for utility as well.

[Improved Unholy Presence]

Requires 20 points in Unholy talents
2 points: Grants you an additional 5% haste while in Unholy Presence. In addition, while in Blood Presence or Frost Presence, you retain 15% increased movement speed from Unholy Presence.

  • This makes your usual presence better.
    • Solo Utility: Very nice. The movement speed buff is the main point of it.
    • Raid Utility: Some unholy DKs may prefer Frost Presence for the increased damage and runic power, but most will probably use unholy presence, and they'll get the main dps increase out of this.
    • PvP Utility: Great. Movement speed is very important in PvP, and haste is nothing to complain about.
  • Bottom Line: Get it.

[Dark Transformation]

Requires 3 points in Shadow Infusion
Requires 20 points in Unholy talents
1 point: Consume 5 charges of Shadow Infusion on your Ghoul to transform it into a powerful undead monstrosity for 30 sec. The Ghoul's abilities are empowered and take on new functions while the transformation is active. 1 Unholy rune, 60 yard range.

  • This makes your ghoul huge, buffs his damage, and replaces all his usual abilities with new, better versions. For example, ghouls usually have the Leap ability to simply close the distance to their target immediately, but the Shambling Rush ability adds an interrupt and immobilization effect as well. Getting the full benefit out of this will require some micromanaging, but it's still much easier to get at least some dps from a pet than by yourself.
    • Solo Utility: Not as great as for other specs, because there's a good chance that the Shadow Infusion buff will fall off the ghoul between pulls and/or the Dark Transformation effect will be wasted out of combat.
    • Raid Utility: Great. This ability is made for long fights in which you don't need to spend resources on or worry about anything but dps - simply put, dungeon bosses and raids. This ability, along with Shadow Infusion, will make your ghoul a huge part of your dps. With proper Death Coil use you can probably keep your ghoul transformed almost all the time.
    • PvP Utility: Pretty good, but like when soloing, beware the possibility that your charges will fall off.
  • Bottom Line: Get it if you're this far down the tree.

[Ebon Plaguebringer]

Requires 25 points in Unholy talents
2 points: Your Plague Strike, Icy Touch, Chains of Ice, and Outbreak abilities also infect their target with Ebon Plague, which increases damage taken from your diseases by 30% and all magic damage taken by an additional 8%.

  • This gives you a third disease that doesn't do any damage itself, but buffs your other diseases by a further 30 percent and counts towards the additional effect of abilities like [Scourge Strike]. In addition, this also buffs all magic damage taken by the victim, so it doesn't stack with similar effects provided by other classes, such as [Earth and Moon].
    • Solo Utility: A decent increase in damage. Your own Death Coils should count as magic damage for the purpose of the buff to magic damage, and of course, more damage from diseases and strikes is nice.
    • Raid Utility: As always, if you have a reliable group that you always do raids or 5-man instances with, coordinate with the other people who provide this buff and one of you may be able to skip it. If you frequently do group or raid content but not with the same group all the time, get this just to be safe. Just one point in this provides the same buff to strikes and magic damage, so some people may only put one point in this.
    • PvP Utility: The increased magic damage taken is at least as important in PvP as in raiding.
  • Bottom Line: Put one point in this at the very least if you're this far down the tree.

[Sudden Doom]

Requires 25 points in Unholy talents
3 points: Your main-hand auto attacks have a chance (higher than rank 2) to make your next Death Coil cost no runic power.

  • Free Death Coils are always nice. In addition to damage from the Death Coil itself, there's the all the other talents that buff it and the stacks of Shadow Infusion it gives your ghoul.
    • Solo Utility: As above, stacking Shadow Infusion doesn't matter all that much when soloing, but the increased damage is nice.
    • Raid Utility: This is a valuable talent in raiding. More damage, more Shadow Infusion, and fights that last long enough to take advantage of both.
    • PvP Utility: Procs that give more damage by surprise are especially nice in PvP.
  • Bottom Line: Get this if you're this far down the tree.

[Summon Gargoyle]

Requires 30 points in Unholy talents
1 point: A Gargoyle flies into the area and bombards the target with Nature damage modified by the Death Knight's attack power. Persists for 30 sec. 60 Runic Power, 30 yard range, instant cast, 3 min cooldown.

  • This ability serves the same purpose for Unholy DKs as ghouls serve for other DKs: targeted burst damage with a temporary pet. Its stats scale with your strength and haste, so try to time it with procs and damage-increasing cooldowns.
    • Solo Utility: Might be nice if you get overwhelmed and need to burn down several enemies at once, but if you forget to use this on cooldown while questing or whatever, you won't notice the lack.
    • Raid Utility: Very nice. Pop it on cooldown on fights where you just want to kill the boss as fast as possible, and on any kind of encounter where your raids needs higher damage output at certain times, pop it during those times.
    • PvP Utility: Very nice. It's a damage-increasing ability on a cooldown, but it summons a pet rather than giving you a buff or something, so it continues to do some good even if you get crowd controlled or something.
  • Bottom Line: Get this.



See also