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Death Knight class change analysis for patch 3.1

The next round of class changes for 3.1 has gone up, and Death Knights, of course, got a blurb of their own. The changes are probably slightly less sweeping than some other classes, but interesting all the same. Ghostcrawler's word on Death Knights lately has been that they're probably a bit high on DPS, and that they want to encourage more people to spec Blood and Frost over the overwhelmingly popular Unholy. I'm not sure these changes in particular did that, but one thing they did do is give a couple of nice potential buffs to Death Knight tanks. Let's look at them one by one.

Gargoyle and Unholy Blight have swapped talent positions. Gargoyle's damage has increased and runic power cost per time has decreased.

So this first change actually looks a lot like the change a lot of people suggested back when Summon Gargoyle was first up on the nerf block. Just switch the talent points and leave Gargoyle untouched. I honestly doubt we'll see the Gargoyle return completely to the highest damage of its heyday, but hopefully it's a sizable rebuff. This change should do a lot toward putting 2-hand Unholy back up to par with dual wield frost/unholy builds. Of course, on the same token, Howling Blast builds will probably enjoy having an AE runic dump as well. It should be interesting see which spec benefits the most from this switch.

Pestilence – this spell no longer causes damage but just spreads diseases. Blood Boil is intended to be the general area attack, and has been changed to be castable on targets with no diseases on them, but does extra damage if diseases are present.

While I'm not sure that anyone predicted this outright, it's not a hard change to see either. Being able to both spread our diseases and cause massive damage was probably a bit much. In the end, it may be a slight nerf to AE damage, but not by much. Blood Boil will pick up most of the slack, and we'll just have use a couple extra cooldowns and wait for our blood runes to refresh before doing massive damage.

Unbreakable Armor now absorbs a flat amount of damage that increases as your armor increases. It no longer boosts armor.

This could be nice if only because it means magic damage absorption as well as physical absorption. This also theoretically could make it a valid button to hit for a DPS DK taking environmental damage or even a PvP DK being focus fired, depending on the amount of absorption it grants. It's difficult to say too much more without solid numbers, but on the whole, I think I'm calling this a very likely buff to Frost DKs in general, and definitely to Frost Tanks.

The Frost tree has been shuffled. Among other things, PvP talents such as Endless Winter are closer to the top of the tree where Blood and Unholy death knights can access them.

Blizzard has said they want to let all trees participate in PvP among all classes, so while putting things like Endless Winter and Chillblains lower on the Frost tree might do that, I wonder why they're focused on PvP gains so much. While I've often wished I could feasibly grab things like chillblains and endless winter in an Unholy PvP build, I'm unsure we really need them. It's hard enough to escape from a Death Knight as it is.

On the PvE side, though, I've long though Frost could use some shuffling. One thing I am hoping is that Glacier Rot moves further down the tree. That skill mostly buffs deep frost talents, and yet it's nearly unavoidable if you're a Blood or Unholy DK trying to get the first tier or two of frost.

Sudden Doom – this talent now procs a Death Coil rather than requiring an additional button click. It works similarly to shamans' Lightning Overload.

This is a nice change that frees up your attention so you can focus on optimizing your rune spending without wasting a global cooldown on a random Death Coil. I think it's a positive change overall that should help Blood Death Knight DPSers keep their rotations tight and efficient.

Magic Suppression and Blood of the North have been reduced to 3 ranks for the same benefit.

Getting Magic Suppression or Blood of the North is always a bit of a struggle for Blood and Unholy Tanks, since it usually means giving up access to Lichborne or Improved Icy Touch in Frost or useful but not absolutely mandatory talents like Bladed Armor or Wandering Plague. Freeing up 2 extra talent points should actually make tank builds look a bit more elegant.

Blood Gorged now grants armor penetration instead of expertise.

This may be the most perplexing change. Armor Penetration, to put it lightly, sucks. While Blood Death Knights do do the most physical damage of the Death Knight trees on average, Armor Penetration is still not exactly desirable anymore. However, with the changes to Sunder Armor and Faerie Fire already announced, it may be that Armor Penetration is due for a larger overhaul that will make this change look better. It's also possible that Tier 8 Death Knight gear will have so much expertise on it, they're afraid of Blood DPS DKs hitting the expertise dodge cap too easily. We'll have to sit tight on this one, I think, before we can make a better judgement.

If all else fails, remember, these changes aren't comprehensive or final. We're likely still in for quite a ride on the way to 3.1 going live. Look forward to continuing coverage here on WoW Insider.


Patch 3.1 brings us Ulduar, dual specs, significant changes to all the classes, and more! We've got you covered from top to bottom with our Guide to Patch 3.1.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, News items, Raiding, Talents, Buffs, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

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