Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. Join World of Warcraft's first hero class as we head into a new expansion and shed the new kid on the block label.
With 4.1 on the PTR, I've been hearing the usual grumbling. Why should we raid anymore? We'll just wait for the next tier of raiding and get all new good stuff. This argument always sort of strikes me as a little bit off, but it definitely doesn't apply to this patch. Not only is patch 4.1 heroic gear only going to be item level 353, but we won't get a new raiding tier until patch 4.2. That means you probably have multiple months left in which the best gear still comes from raiding tier 11 content.
With that in mind, this week we'll look at all the item level 359 gear available in game and figure out what's best for the up-and-coming DPS death knight. This guide will primarily cover raid gear and valor point purchases, with BoE world drops and crafting and reputation purchases where they seem to fit well into the hierarchy of what to wear.
When looking over this list, always remember your stat priorities. Strength reigns supreme for everyone. Always gem and enchant for it whenever possible. Frost death knights want to hit 26 expertise and 8% hit and should reforge to do so if needed. Unholy death knights can eschew expertise (it slightly edges out crit, but only by a hair) but should get 8% hit. Other than that, haste and mastery are the top secondary stats for 2H frost and unholy death knights, with mastery and critical strike rating winning out for frost dual-wielding death knights.
- The Magma Plated Helmet is the tier 11 helm, which comes via a token drop off of Nefarian. Haste and expertise make it most ideally suited for 2H frost death knights, as unholy doesn't care as much about expertise and dual-wielding frost doesn't care as much about haste. That said, you can always reforge away the stat you don't care for, and it'll be worth it to equip this if you need it for the set bonus, for sure. The set bonus and socket bonus may even make it edge out an engineer's goggles.
- The Helm of Maddening Whispers is your best non-set bet here. Haste and critical strike rating aren't the 100% optimal secondary stat combination for any spec though, and it definitely has an inferior socket bonus, so consider it mostly a stopgap until you can grab your tier helm. It drops off of Cho'gall.
- Avoid the Dragon Bone Warhelm if you're DPS. Lower comparative strength and a stamina socket bonus mark this as clearly a tank helm, even if we technically can use mastery and expertise. Only take it if you're desperate for a helm upgrade and no tanks need it.
- If you need hit rating, check out the Rage of Ages. Mastery is currently a solid stat for all DPS specs, so add a bit of hit rating, and you have a pretty perfect pendant. It's also worth noting that this is the only pendant on this list with a heroic version, so if you're in heroic modes, grab the heroic version of this pendant and reforge away the hit here or elsewhere if you don't need it. It drops off of Nefarian.
- You may not even need to step into an instance to get your best pre-heroic necklace. The Buc-Zakai Choker is a world drop, but the combination of haste and mastery secondary stats make it an excellent choice for unholy and 2H frost death knights.
- If you can't afford the Buc-Zakai Choker and the Rage of Ages hasn't come your way yet, you can grind to exalted with Ramkahen and grab a Gift of Nadun. Haste and critical strike rating is a fair-to-middling combination these days, but it'll hold you over until a better option comes along.
- Magma Plated Pauldrons are your tier option. They're purchased with tokens dropped off of Cho'gall. Haste and hit rating makes them a pretty solid choice for 2H DPS death knights of both stripes. A red socket offers a chance to get a little more haste when you throw in a strength gem as well.
- If you're a dual wield frost death knight, you may want to consider passing up the tier shoulders for Pauldrons of the Great Ettin, as the mastery and critical strike rating combination is perfect for you (as opposed to the not very worthwhile haste on the tier shoulders). Of course, this means you'll want to wear the other four pieces of tier 11 to get the set bonus, but if you have to swap one piece of the set, this is probably your best bet. They drop off of Halfus Wyrmbreaker.
- The Magma Plated Battleplate has haste and critical strike rating, which makes it fair to middling for all specs. That said, the set bonus is worth it in most cases. You can buy this with valor points.
- The Battleplate of Ancient Kings is your non-set raid option. Haste and expertise make it best suited for 2H frost death knights who need some expertise. Just remember, if you're going to wear this, you need to make sure you grab the other four tier 11 pieces for the set bonus. Always remember the set bonus. It drops from Atramedes in Blackwing Descent.
- The Elementium Deathplate is your blacksmithing option. While it does have 20 more base strength than the other options, it has one less gem slot, meaning it gets beat out when properly gemmed. Only grab this as a stopgap until you can get one of the two options above.
Unfortunately, there's only one real pre-heroic raid option for your bracers. Electron Inductor Coils drop from the Omnotron encounter in Blackwing Descent. Just hope you can beat out all the other plate DPS for this baby or that we get a decent stopgap in the 4.1 heroics.
- Set pieces come to rescue again in the hand slot. Magma Plated Gauntlets, with both haste and mastery, are your best bet for any spec. You can buy them with valor points or get them as a drop in Baradin Hold.
- Your non-set option is the Plated Fists of Provocation off of Chimaeron. They have haste and critical strike rating and no set bonus, which puts them firmly in the stopgap category. If you pick these up to replace a blue, replace them with the set gauntlets at your earliest convenience.
- Glittering Epidermis, which drops from the Twilight Council encounter in the Bastion of Twilight, has haste and critical strike rating, which as before makes it not quite optimal for any given DPS spec. Of course, it's your only real heroic raid option, so you'll probably want to pick up the heroic version regardless of your spec. The normal version you can take or leave, unless you'd rather not spend the valor points on your other option.
- Floating Web is your one real pre-heroic option here. Mastery's good for every DPS spec, and the expertise can be reforged away if you don't need much of it. It can be purchased with valor points.
- The Band of Bees and the Blauvelt's Family Crest both have haste and mastery, making them great choices for 2H DPS death knights. The former is a valor point purchase, and the latter is a world drop. Pick them both up and never worry about rings again until heroic mode.
- The Cloudburst Ring of the Faultline has one less haste and mastery rating each than the rings above, making it a bit less valuable than those. Of course, it's still a great choice if you don't want to drop the money for the Blauvelt ring, and the heroic version will blow away either ring above, of course. It drops from the cache at the end of the Throne of the Four Winds.
- If you're running low on hit or expertise, the Cloudburst Ring of the Landslide provides 126 rating points of both. The Cloudburst Ring of the Earthshaker provides critical hit and hit rating for death knights who don't need expertise but do need hit rating.
- The Ring of Rivalry from Valiona provides haste and expertise rating, making it most suited for 2H frost death knights who need some extra expertise. For lack of a better option, dual wielders may want to consider taking this ring and reforging away some of the haste.
- The Skystrider Belt, which drops from Nezir in the Throne of the Four Winds, comes in multiple plate DPS-friendly flavors. Skystrider Belt of the Faultline has haste and mastery ratings, making it perfect for 2H DPS death knights. Dual wielders will probably want to go after either the Landslide version, which has hit and expertise ratings, or the Earthshaker version, which has hit and critical strike ratings.
- The Belt of Absolute Zero drops off of Maloriak in Blackwing Descent. Hit and critical strike rating make it more or less pretty bland for a hit-capped DPS death knight, but it might make a decent stopgap or help you plug a hole in your gearing.
- The Elementium Girdle of Pain is your blacksmithing option. Hit and haste ratings make it most suited for a 2H DPS death knight who needs to get hit capped.
- The Belt of the Ferocious Wolf has critical strike and mastery rating, which makes it relatively decent for dual-wielding DPSers and slightly less decent for other specs. Regardless, it's purchasable at exalted reputation with the Guardians of Hyjal, so it is your easiest option of the stuff on this list, if nothing else.
- Magma Plated Legplates are worth it for the set bonus alone, but hit and mastery ratings for secondary stats will complement any DPS spec. They can be purchased with valor points or snagged as a drop in Baradin Hold. They're definitely a pro gearing choice either way you get them.
- Sky Strider Greaves, which drop at the end of Throne of the Four Winds, come in the same flavors as the Skystrider Belt above. They will make a decent stopgap if you haven't saved up the valor points for the tier 11 piece yet.
- Terrastra's Legguards have hit and haste ratings, making them a decent stopgap piece for a 2H DPS death knight. Again, though, you should be aiming for your tier 11 legs.
- Massacre Treads are pretty much your best option for any spec. Frost death knights should especially like the combination of mastery and expertise. They drop from Chimaeron in Blackwing Descent.
- You can pick up the Treads of Savage Beatings as a random drop in Blackwing Descent. They feature mastery and critical strike rating, which means they could in theory be a decent fit for a death knight who's already expertise capped and therefore doesn't need that stat on the Massacre Treads.
- Your valor point option is the Woe Breeder's Boots. Haste and critical strike rating is essentially the worse secondary physical DPS stat combination for death knights, though, so only buy these if you're sitting on a lot of extra valor points and can't get one of the above options to drop for you.
- The License to Slay is your valor point option, and it is a great place to pick up some hit rating if you need it. As a bonus, it also provides a pretty constant stream of up to 380 extra strength as long as you stay in melee combat.
- If you're looking for expertise, grab the Heart of Rage. In addition to a huge chunk of the stat, it also provides a massive strength proc. It drops from Chimaeron.
- The Darkmoon Card: Hurricane is a Darkmoon Faire quest reward by way of inscription and will cost you a pretty penny, but it's hard to argue with 321 base strength and a sizable damage proc. If you don't absolutely need the hit or expertise from the above trinkets, this may be your pre-heroic best bet. Dual wielders will get the most use out of the proc.
- Crushing Weight is another 321 strength trinket, this time with a haste proc. Still, the strength proc on the Heart of Rage and the stream of strength on the License to Slay will probably beat this out, so you should probably focus on getting those trinkets over this one in normal modes. The heroic version, though, might very well earn a place in your gear setup. This is another Twilight Ascendant Council drop.
- The Impatience of Youth is a Tol Barad token purchase at exalted with your side's Tol Barad faction. It has mastery, which is no longer a horrible stat for any DPS spec, and a good chunk of strength on use. Consider it a good stopgap until you can get some of the above trinkets.
- The Fury of Angerforge seems pretty awesome at first glance. It lets you turn into a dragon, right? Unfortunately, critical strike rating is not really our best stat anymore, so all you're really getting is a strength on-use ability, which while not horrible isn't as good as some of the above options. This trinket, alas, ends up as more of a novelty option for death knights.
- Akirus the Worm-Breaker drops from Magmaw in Blackwing Descent, and with mastery and expertise, makes a great choice for 2H frost especially. It's also a mace, which means dwarves and humans get even more use out of it.
- The Reclaimed Ashkandi, Greatsword of the Brotherhood is still an abomination in my eyes. The new look remains horribly inferior to the real deal. That said, it's slower than even the Akirus, which makes up a bit for the fact that it features hit and critical strike rating for its secondary stats. It drops from Nefarian.
- Shalug'doom, Axe of the Unmaking has a pretty badass name. Unfortunately, the secondary stat combination of critical strike rating and expertise is less badass. It drops from Cho'gall.
- Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds is an archaeology find. Take my word for it: Do not search for this blade. As long as you are in an active raid group, chances are one of the above options will drop for you first. Still, if you're lucky enough to get it while going for the Professor title, it'll do for as a beginner's raiding weapon. It has hit and critical strike rating and in slightly less amounts that the Reclaimed Ashkandi, which means you will probably eventually want to replace with said Ashkandi or the Akirus when you have a chance.
- The Soul Blade drops off of trash in Bastion of Twilight and may very well be your best bet for dual wielding, with mastery and hit rating.
- The Lava Spine drops off of Magmaw in Blackwing Descent, but with haste as one of its secondary stats, it's strictly second tier for frost dual wielding. Only pick it up if you need a stopgap upgrade while you wait for your Soul Blades to drop.
- The Scimitar of the Sirocco is an archaeology drop, but with haste and critical strike rating, it's also second tier for frost dual wielding. Don't worry, though; you're likely to snag two Soul Blades before you ever see this on your archaeology UI, especially since it's a tol'vir project.
Follow our road map to leveling your DK from 80 to 85, and then learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Gear up with pre-heroic gear for DPS DKs and keep track of what's happening on your hotbars with our guide to DK spell alerts.