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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WoW Patch 3.1 PTR Death Knight Changes

As expected, we got a pretty long list of changes for Death Knights. The frost tree has received some extensive and actually somewhat shocking reshuffling, and there's a few other unexpected but interesting changes. It's good to be mindful that these changes are still in flux. We'll probably see more changes and perhaps some reversion of these changes depending on what happens. It's worth noting that MMO Champion currently has undocumented changes and a completely different 3.1 DK Talent tree up that doesn't even match the one suggested in the patch notes, so we can't say for sure if the patch notes are already outdated. But for now, we're going to focus on the patch changes for the most part. So, let's dive right in.
General Death Knight Changes

  • Blood Boil's damage increased to make up for Pestilence no longer doing damage.

  • Blood Boil now does some damage to undiseased targets and extra damage to diseased targets. Its radius has been decreased.

  • Blood Plague: Now lasts 15 seconds untalented.

  • Death Pact: This heal cannot be a critical.

  • Frost Fever: Now lasts 15 seconds untalented.

  • Pestilence does no damage and has only one rank.

  • Plague Strike and Blood Plague no longer remove hots. Plague Strike's damage increased quite a bit to compensate.

  • Raise Ally has a >15 min cooldown to keep it out of Arena.

  • Raise Dead: Duration lowered to 60 sec. and cooldown lowered to 3 min. The cooldown on this ability now begins when the pet dies rather than when it is summoned.Rune of Cinderglacier now procs per minute instead of a 5% chance.

  • Rune of Razorfrost now affects Frost damage done by the DK only, but stacks up to 10%.

  • Strangulate no longer does damage and has been reduced to 1 rank.

To start with, we have some basic but expected PvP nerfs, such as removing the damage from Strangulate and the HoT removal from Plague Strike. These are probably to be expected, and if nothing else, were probably needed because of the swapping of talents in the Frost Tree. The bumping up of Duration on Blood Plague and Frost Fever should make tight rotations a little less punishing and allow for more freedom to fit in a runic dump before reapplying disease or apply one last Frost/Unholy rune attack before diseases drop. The enforced cooldown on Ghouls is definitely a bit annoying. It may be a PvP nerf, to allow teams a bit of breathing room against a Death Knight by killing his Ghoul.



  • Blood Aura: Replaced with Improved Blood Presence. This allows the Death Knight to keep the healing from damage done bonus of Blood Presence in any presence, and increases healing received while in Blood Presence.

  • Blood-Gorged now grants armor penetration instead of expertise.

  • Bloody Strikes now increases Blood Boil damage instead of Pestilence.

  • Bloodworms now heal more.

  • Dancing Rune Weapon: Fixed a bug making it trigger an unusual number of effects from the weapon equipped by the Death Knight. In addition, it will now only echo Death Knight spells whose primary purpose is dealing damage. Also corrected a bug making the effect last 8 seconds longer than intended.

  • Scent of Blood will now proc on a dodge, parry or taking damage, and internal cooldown lowered to 10 from 20 sec.

  • Sudden Doom now procs a free Death Coil instead of requiring you to push the button. Ranks reduced from 5 to 3.

For all the talk of buffing Blood, there wasn't much to get really excited over in this current push of the patch notes. Bloodworms heal more, which is at least good news to grinding Blood Death Knights. MMO-Champion is claiming Blood Gorged actually gives 10% Armor Penetration. As long as that isn't 10% after other armor reducing effects, that may end up being an overall buff, or at least a somewhat fair tradeoff for the lost 5 expertise. Dancing Rune Weapon will have likely lost the ability to summon an extra Ghoul or the like as well.

Blood Aura's change is a bit disappointing in that it's lost a lot of its utility. It appears to work only for the Death Knight now by granting them Blood Presence healing in all Presences, plus some extra healing in Blood Presence. This, again, might work out well for grinders, but a smart DPS Death Knight in a raid situation probably isn't going to be taking enough damage for this to be worth it, especially if he's in Unholy Presence for the rune cooldowns.

Since the Aura talents (Much like the also switched to self only Razorice debuff) don't really have a cousin from any other class, Blizzard probably felt they needed to switch them to single target avoid making Death Knights with Auras seem mandatory for any fights. This is understandable, but I'm not quite sure they're all the way there yet as far as these new presence buffs. The Blood Aura replacement specifically just doesn't seem to give the right amount of utility to the Death Knight to make them worth using.

It's also worth noting that MMO-Champion is reporting that Blood and Heart Strike now do slightly less base weapon damage, but do a percentage more damage per disease on the target. So yeah, there's a strong chance we'll be saying goodbye to diseaseless Blood. If these changes are also an overall damage buff, which they may well be depending on how the extra percentage of damage is applied, it could mean Blood is looking stronger than it might by glancing at the patch notes.

Still, overall, I'd expect more Blood buffs to be coming on the PTR.


  • The following talents have moved in the Frost tree: Runic Power Mastery, Glacier Rot, Killing Machine, Chilblains, and Endless Winter.

  • Black Ice now grants 2/4/6/8/10% Shadow damage in addition to the Frost damage.

  • Black Ice: Frost Damage bonus lowered to 4/8/12/16/20%

  • Blood of the North is 3 ranks instead of 5 for the same effect.

  • Chillblains: Now a 15/30/50% movement speed debuff (up from 30%). Moved to position currently occupied by Glacier Rot.

  • Endless Winter: Moved to position currently occupied by Chillblains.

  • Frost Aura: Replaced with Improved Frost Presence. Allows the Death Knight to keep the health bonus of Frost Presence in any presence, and decreases magic damage taken while in Frost Presence.

  • Glacier Rot: Third rank added, and damage bonus increased to 7/13/20. Moved to position currently occupied by Endless Winter.

  • Howling Blast: Swapped positions with Hungering Cold in the talent tree (HB is now at 51, and HC is now at 31). In addition, the damage bonus for targets with Frost Fever is now only 20%.

  • Icy Talons - This talent how has a new icon.

  • Runic Power Mastery down to 2 ranks.

With Black Ice buffed to include Shadow Damage and Glacier Rot moved further down the tree, Frost suddenly seems like a much, much more alluring secondary tree for Blood and Frost Knights. Chillblains being both buffed and moved to the first tier seems a bit overdoing it considering how hard it is to escape from a Death Knight already, but perhaps it is Blizzard's way of compensating for the removal of HoT removal from Plague Strike. If it sticks, though, it will be nice for Blood Death Knights when paired with the Glyph of Blood Strike, especially.

Still, MMO Champion lists Runic Power Mastery as moving to tier 1, and I find that much more likely. That should be a tempting choice for Blood and Unholy Death Knights alike, making it easier to squeeze out one more Death Coil or keep Unholy Blight and Gargoyle up at the same time.

If 32/39 wasn't already down for the count, 3.1's going to send it screaming into oblivion with the moving of Howling Blast to the 51 point slot. This seems like a pretty smart move for sure. Hungering Cold was always a lackluster 51 point talent, but seems to be reasonably well powered for 31 points. We'll have to see now if 51 point dual wield frost can still hold out and deliver reasonable damage. At least it will still be able to grab Necrosis and Blood Caked Blade from the Unholy tree - but even that may not be quite as helpful. More on that later.

The new Frost Aura replacement is probably a bit better off than the new Improved Blood Presence, at least for tanks, with the extra magic absorption. It really depends on how much damage it decreases. I don't expect many DPS Frost to take it though. What I do expect to see is a lot of DPS Frost Death Knights testing out the new Razorice to see if the extra Frost Damage outweights the extra strength from Fallen Crusader.


  • Blood-caked Blade: Now has a 3 second cooldown on the effect.

  • Desecration: This talent now has a 100% chance to be triggered. Additional points in the talent increase the damage bonus and snare magnitude instead of increasing the chance.

  • Epidemic: Epidemic now has 3 ranks (adding an additional 3 sec of disease duration). Magic Suppression is 3 ranks (down from 5) for 2/4/6% magic damage reduction.

  • Master of Ghouls: Now also reduces the cooldown on Raise Dead by 60 sec.

  • Necrosis: Can now only be triggered by main hand attacks.

  • New talent: Improved Death Strike. Increases Death Strike damage by 10/20.

  • Night of the Dead: Redesigned to grant a flat reduction on cooldown to Raise Dead and Army of the Dead instead of a reduction from using abilities.

  • Outbreak bonus for Scourge Strike lowered to 10/20/30%.

  • Scourge Strike: Damage increased.

  • Unholy Aura: Replaced with Improved Unholy Presence. Allows the Deathknight to keep the movement speed bonus of Unholy Presence in any presence, and increases rune regeneration rate while in Unholy Presence.

  • Unholy Blight and Gargoyle have swapped places in the Unholy tree. Gargoyle is the new Unholy 51 talent.

The removal of so much chance and hoop jumping on the part of Desecration and Night of the Dead is definitely appreciated, and should make Death Knight DPS a bit more convenient. I was somewhat surprised to see Scourge Strike Damage increased. Scourge Strike is a very solid skill that already does lots of solid damage, and I wonder if this heralds a declassification of Ebon Plaguebringer as a disease or another nerf. This is especially amazing considering that MMO-Champion is reporting that Outbreak now increases Scourge Strike damage.

Now that Epidemic is only 1 second per talent point, I think we'll see more Death Knights skip it altogether and count of Glyph of Scourge Strike and the new baseline 15 second duration to help them out. There's probably better way to spend your points.

The Gargoyle rebuff will have to be tested, but I'm certainly excited, and I'm looking forward to trying an Unholy/Frost

Also tucked into the notes are a couple of definite dual wielding nerfs. Necrosis doing main-hand damage only means the damage will remain unchanged for 2-handers but will drop significantly for dual wielders. You may still see some people trying a 51 Frost/20 Unholy dual wield build, but as things stand now, 3.1 is the era of 2-hander dominance for sure.

The Improved Unholy Presence talent will mean your raid members will be wanting to grab Tuskarr's Vitality, but an Unholy DPSer may find they like this new version plenty well. We'll have to see more numbers, but with many tight rune rotations already prefering Unholy Presence even for PvE, we could see Improved Unholy Presence providing a significant damage boost, allowing the use of more strikes per a disease cycle.

MMO-Champion also claims that Shadow of Death will be removed from the game altogether and replaced with a Ghoul buff called Ghoul Frenzy that provides 25% haste and a 30% of max hp HoT over 15 seconds. With the changes to Raise Dead meaning an enforced 2 minute cooldown if your Ghoul dies unexpectedly, having that extra heal will be very helpful to an Unholy Knight who makes their Ghoul a meaningful part of their DPS, especially when combined with a few Death Coils.

Overall, I think we haven't seen the last of the Death Knight changes. Right now, 32/39 has probably been laid to rest for good, but Unholy 2-hand DPS probably reigns supreme even more so than usual, and Frost 2-handed DPS probably still looks pretty solid too. Blood, it's too early to tell, but I expect additional buffs to that tree, and possibly some rollbacks of the Scourge Strike buffs in Unholy.

Hang on tight, 3.1's liable to be a wild ride. Let's get on there and test and see what happens.