Patch 3.1 spec for Death Knight

Update: As we’re well beyond patch 3.1, this spec advice needs to be reviewed and updated. I recommend jumping on EJ and browsing through their posts on the build you like. IMHO Currently Unholy 2H seems the solid top damage, slightly above Blood 2H.

The jury is still out on the absolute winners, and almost every spec option (1h vs 2h, blood vs frost vs unholy) is viable.

dk-symbolHere comes patch 3.1, and everyone is checking the web for patch notes and spec updates. For me this means choosing two specs for my Death Knight. I will be considering my DPS role to be my primary role, but now will be looking for Tanking opportunities too.

Death Knight specs are all stolen 100% from Skeleton Jack (note: SkelJ has basically stopped posting).

DPS: 50/0/21 which chooses Unholy Blight (UB) over Dancing Rune Weapon (DRW).

DPS notes:

  • This is for PvE DPS, not PvP.
  • I have not been enjoying the DRW of late, as some fights I don’t think I get the full benefit of it unless you’re standing still just pinging abilities. UB is used more often which I think gives it more versatility. I certainly liked UB when I was Unholy.
  • UB is also better for AoE than DRW, and I get frustrated when I get outpaced by Warriors using Whirlwind and all the other AoE heavy classes (Mages, Warlocks, etc). Some fights as DPS you’re standing in the middle of the hell storm of mobs, so UB takes full advantage.
  • I love Hysteria and the Improved Blood Aura in my current blood spec, so the choice between Unholy DPS and Blood DPS was easy.
  • With the Death Strike glyph, I’ll have to remember to keep 25 Runic Power around as much as possible.

Tank: 12/51/8 which is a pretty standard Frost Tank spec.

Tank notes:

  • It makes the most sense to me that Frost would be strong for Tanking, from a roleplaying perspective, and I made the choice of which tree to use basically because of this.
  • I could drop 2-H-Weapon in the Blood tree, and grab some other stuff. Acclimation in Frost, Butchery in Blood for the extra RP (I’m a RP whore), or Lichborne for the oh-shit factor. Not sure, but happy to see how this plays initially. But I do like hitting mobs with a huge 2H weapon.


  • I read almost everything on EJ,, wowinsider, and the first few pages of Google searches, and could not find any information that was even close to what SJ has put together. Even if he is wrong by a few talent points here and there, its still the best post on DK specs I’ve seen. Kudos.

21 thoughts on “Patch 3.1 spec for Death Knight

  1. I am a nubby DK, with all of three night’s playtime under my belt, so obviously I’m still getting a feel for things.

    I would love to know what rotations you use in what situations and in what spec!

    I’ve been playing with PS – IT – BS – DS – BS – DC – whatever seems like a good idea next…

    also, thanks for link!

  2. Check SJ’s rotation notes. That said I’m guessing I’ll go: IT – DS – PS – HS – HS – DC, then DS – HS x4 – DCx2 which is only a slight switch from SJ’s notes, mainly due to the 500ms+ lag I play with.

    For AoE its all about DnD then your Pestilence and Blood Boil, with DS when you can’t do much else.

    For tanking I’ll have to see if his notes work, and I’m new to tanking seriously as a DK.

  3. I’m hoping you can answer a question, since it’s been ignored elsewhere…

    I’m a lvl 72 Frost DK with my specs like this right now: 12/46/5

    This is one rotation that I’ve seen:


    Since HB is at the end of the list now, is the PvE DPS rotation SJ’s got on his site usable until I reach 80 and have access to HB?

    Seems like all of the help everywhere is for lvl 80 with no thought or help for those of us who aren’t there yet. 😦

  4. hi Skatha, could you email me your Armory profile? [typhoon.andrew AT gmail com] I’m guessing that you’re a tank with that talent distribution, but would like to see where points are spent.

    Generally I look at which strikes I have will use which runes, then what synergies exist between the strikes and diseases and rune power dumps. Loading up diseases is first, then seeing how many strikes and dumps you can use before having to re-apply the diseases. Frost Strike is a great RP dump (probably the default), but you can also be using your Death Coil if the situation dictates (eg. VoA boss who is moving a lot). Ghoul is great too if you glyph for zero cost ghouls.

    If you don’t have access to HB yet, then I’d say just skip it, but by your level you should really have which ever 51 pt talent you are aiming for, and just be padding out the other trees. That is generally what I did.

  5. ok i read alot on yalls DK stuff, b4 3.1 i was a DW with a little more than 2.8k ap… i was able to pull off around 2.6-2.9k dps with party buffs and around 2.8-3.2k dps in raid.

    my build “was” an almost equal mix between Frost and UnHoly… if im not mistaken i had 0\33\38 and it was all based on the HB that i was capable of useing to obtain that dps…. but now that they took that away and changed things around i have no clue wat i can do…

    personaly i love to dual wield, just cuz i think it looks kewlr… but i just cant find a build that will let me dps with even half decent dps with it so i thot hell ill join the rest of the wow peeps and go 2h but i have no clue wat Rotation or Build i could possibly use, any ideas?

  6. Pingback: Top Posts «

  7. As its a rune power dump, use it as soon as you have 40+ RP, if the target will be around for most of its duration (20s). Its a waste on the last few trash mobs, as a DC will do direct damage.

  8. @RueRyuzaki, I’ve never used a dual wield build, mainly as I was happy with what I had. I know it supposed to be viable, but its also not meant to be the prime build. If you’re having trouble choosing between the 3 trees then consider what abilities you enjoyed in DW, and aim for something that has them.

    Unholy you’ll be using a pet, Blood will be better for HP return, and Frost is darn hard to kill. A mate has told me that the Frost trees as Tank can output good dps even while being a tank build, but I suppose that is less of an issue now with dual-spec.

  9. Does anybody have a good Arena Blood hybrid death knight build that I can look at? I’d like to stay blood but want to increase my damage.

    What are your thoughts on Blood for Arena?

  10. Well ive been tanking for ever since DKs appeared and must tanking a timed CoS and putting out 2.3,2.4 k dps in tank spec his very decent.Sort of sux for dps seing their tank out dpsing them spec (13/51/7)
    My dps spec changed with patch with duel spec im 51/0/20 but im using DRW at same time with hystaria which really gives a boost on your dps and im managing 3.2 to 3.4 k dps in raids and can sometimes see my dps around 3.8 k dps on some boss fights.

  11. @ Quymerita… huh?
    Maybe you should read the blog a bit more widely and consider what a valuable comment might contain. I suppose the “first post” cliche was taken.

  12. Just wanted to say thanks TA for the build spec. I modeled mine after your 50/0/21 tree and I am very pleased. Soon I will dual build a frost tank using your Frost Tank spec. Glad I found this site.

  13. Hey Mordred, glad you liked them. Kudos really to Skeleton Jack. The two real points of difference I still ponder in that Blood build is:

    (a) Is it the build for highest performance?
    Which I’m seeing Unholy builds doing great damage, and maybe I’m limiting my raids success by not picking the optimal spec and learning the style. We’re getting smashed in Ulduar, and its not fun or cheap.

    (b) Should I have chosen DRW rather than UB?
    UB is good for constant dps due to close AoE. But then I need to be careful never to pull aggro from the wrong target, and there seems to be a lot of fights which have a “burn it down” phase. DRW would be better for the Burn it times.

    Pondering as the patch downloads.

  14. I am sure that sooner or later I’ll get another free respec so rather than tossing out another 15g to respec for just one or two things. Then I will use Skeleton Jack’s build.

  15. Pingback: Μπράβο στον Δημήτρη Ιατρίδη, που όλα τα προλαβαίνει! « Τσουκνίδα

  16. You missed epidemic. Good one to have. Lets you get 2 blood boils off before you have to reapply diseases and pestilence again.

  17. @ Bob, in the Tanking Frost build I think the difficulty would be where to take 2 points from to pick up Epidemic +2.

    – I might drop the 2H-weapon damage down, which means less single target threat, but better AoE. I like the single target threat, and don’t find AoW threat too much of a difficulty as long as the dps hit the main target.
    – could drop points in Morbidity, but I really like the increased speed of DnD when tanking. It means faster pulls.
    – also could drop Bladed Armour by 2, which probably has the most merit. I am not sure what affect a reduction in AP would have on a Frost build.

    Very good idea. For when AoE is king, that would place BB as a greater use ability, and also mean slightly more time between rotation re-starts.

  18. for the past weeks ive been running Ulduar with my dk tank and im just letting you know that you will need the reduced CD on DnD and the glyph of DnD since we are very reliable OT to pick up from the bosses that have insane amount of adds.Dont remember the names of the bosses but after my first night OTing we got stuck at the gauntlet So the day after i changed my spec to actully have that reduced CD and glyph.Made a big difference and still have solid single target built 10/51/10
    hope this of any help for those dk tanks out there.

Comments are closed.