Welcome to Mend's 5.4 Death Knight megapost!
To start off, we have single target spec balance!Note: T16H profiles are full 580 gear, T16N profiles are full 553 gear with a legendary cape/meta, and T15H is full 549 gear with ilevel 600 cloak, but no legendary.
As you can see, DW frost is on top, with 2H lagging slightly behind, and unholy bringing up the rear at all gear levels. As you can see from the stat weights, even for T15, all specs are gemming secondary stats. Unholy has stat values all over the place, because they are close enough that the stat order changes on a person by person basis. We'll talk about that more in the gemming section.
Next, we see three target spec balance.Note: This keeps the single target rotation, but still has passive cleave.
Stats stay pretty much the same, and somehow unholy overtakes 2H frost for T15H, probably because of how weak the T15 4-set is for frost. At every level, DW has a clear advantage for cleaving.
Next we have eight target spec balance.Note: Full AoE rotation
Unholy a pretty strong contender right out of the gates, but as gear goes up, and we get the new trinkets/set bonuses, unholy falls by the wayside again. One of the DW profiles has a NEGATIVE value for haste, which is within the margin of error so it's more likely actually just very small. Still doesn't make sense to me why it would be so small in 553 gear, but not in 580 or 549, so i'll look into that further. Could be that the action list needs to be improved, as maybe getting more haste makes you use PS or something more which lets D/F cap. Otherwise everything is as expected, with mastery being the best stat for every gear level and spec.
T5 Rankings:DW Frost:
Legen waitforit Dary.
The legendary meta gem scales with haste and AP and crit. It's value goes down a bit now that we avoid haste more than we used to, but still gives a bonus 2-5% damage for all specs, at all gear levels. Use it, if you don't have one get one as soon as possible.
The new and interesting cloak is damn amazing. If you have been keeping up with the legendary questline, you should be able to get one as soon as 5.4 hits, within a few hours of the servers coming up, and should damn well do so.
It should be doing a ballpark 3%-4% increase single target, for all specs, (DW slightly lower), and significantly higher(6-10%) for AE, which is nearly every fight. In addition, it is based on rppm, so sometimes you can get really lucky. During PTR testing I've seen the cloak do as high as 20% of a dk's total damage. It's AMAZING, get it as soon as you can.
First, the numbers:
Spec, ilevel, 2-set, 4-set, Both
DW, 580, 2.4%, 2.7%, 5.3%
UH, 580, 1.4%, 1.2%, 2.5%
2H, 580, 1.3%, 3.2%, 4.9%
DW, 553, 2.7%, 2.5%, 5.0%
UH, 553, 1.3%, 1.1%, 2.4%
2H, 553, 1.3%, 2.8%, 4.7%
DW, 549, 1.8%, 1.2%, 3.0%
UH, 549, 2.9%, 2.1%, 5.1%
2H, 549,2.3%, 1.5%, 3.4%
Then, the analysis:
Frost 4-set is very very strong, and you want to try to grab it as soon as possible. Frankly, frost dks should have priority for tier gear. Frost is also replacing very weak t15 bonuses, which only makes this even more important. Frost 2-set is nothing amazing, but still pretty good as well.
Unholy on the other hand is actually dropping stronger bonuses, so you'll want to pass to other classes for a while. Eventually the ilevel will make it worth swapping over, but not if you're taking it away from someone else who needs it more. Even in BiS gear, unholy will want to skip the 4-set if you have access to better, warforged gear. You'd skip the 2-set as well, but there are not enough good options for off-set items to make that happen.
Festerblight:Festerblight is dead and gone. I'm a little sad to see it go, because I'll probably never get the chance to make another playstyle, but it's pretty clear. Feather has been nerfed down 20%, and gear has scaled up 30 ilevels. That's a net stat gain of roughly 30%. Feather uses to give 19k str at max, and to compete with that, a new trinket would need to give 25k strength. The best options, while they do proc at the same time being ICD, only give 15k strength, and simply don't compare to the wonder that is feather. I've done sims to confirm this conclusion.
Festerblight dies on day 1 of 5.4
Spec balance deeper analysisOverall, this tier will be dominated by frost. I'm pretty confident that frost has enough of an edge single target that it will be able to outperform unholy in that area. However, those of you who have had a chance to do some raid testing will notice unholy holding it's own in many of the encounters. I believe this is because unholy has an important advantage that frost doesn't have, which are it's super strong diseases. Unholy diseases continue ticking when the target is out of range, and can be spread from 15 yards, unlike frost's 10 yard range on HB. Due to significant portion of the cleave in encounters being spread out, unholy should remain competitive on most fights, despite how the sims rank it. I still believe frost, specifically DW, will come out on top, but by a smaller amount than the sims might have you believe.
With DW in the lead for single target damage, as well as sustained cleaving, Unholy remains the strongest in spread out cleaving, and quite competitive heavy AE as well. 2H isn't weak in any regard, and still has the best burst of any dk spec, with it's monstrous obliterates. All 3 specs are "viable", though in this death knight's opinion, DW will be optimal.
Going into 5.4My suggestion for going into 5.4 would be DW frost, if you have the appropriate weapons, or unholy if you have access to a significantly better 2Hder. Unholy will do quite fine, and most likely beat 2H frost, until we start getting tier items. I'll be charging in as DW, so you can expect to see the most content on this blog for DW, though I will still try to put out stuff for all specs, as before.
Pick up the legendary on day one, try to get your hands on the amp/cd trinket, and if you plan on going/staying frost, pick up tier as soon as possible.
Rotation changes2H frost and unholy have yet to receive any rotation changes I'm aware of. DW frost has received a fair few. For starters, we no longer use outbreak, because while PS costs a rune and outbreak does not, PS also does damage, and consumes only a weak unholy rune. Always use an unholy rune on PS to apply BP, even if it means you have to HB a second time before you are in range of the boss to hit PS. Outbreak is potentially useful for targets that will always be out of range and survive the full 30 seconds, but that happens rarely enough that I'll personally just be taking it off my bars.
DW has a slightly varied way of using unholy runes than before, which you can find at
Basically, if you are GCD capped you use unholy runes on obliterate, if you are not, or will not be soon, you instead use unholy runes on DnD, or PS, but always PS when PoF is up. Simple? No?
Simple version: just use unholy runes on obliterate.
In addition, there is a new rotation for DW frost! I'm going to call it "Mastersimple" until I can come up with a better name. It will be getting it's own post, but in the mean-time, here is the low-down.
> FS if KM/high runic
That's it. No soul reaper, no obliterate, no outbreak. 3 button spam. It is a loss over the normal rotation, but a small enough one that it's worth looking at.
And that's all! Time to have some fun in 5.4, and the rate at which I make posts will be slowing down now that the PTR cycle is over. I'll still try to get in at least 1 good one a week, and here are some ideas as to what to expect for the next few posts:
Stat analysis for DW/2H/Unholy (let's hope haste is less of a bitch than before)
Trinket pairs for DW/2H/Unholy
Gearing for single target vs. gearing for AE.
My first game, Rocky Landing's alpha
and anything else good I can come up with.
A few weeks into the patch I will also do another more in-depth spec balance post, but that requires some actual raiding to happen.
Until then, this is Mendenbarr signing off.
P.S. 28% of the way to blizzcon, moving up very slowly now.