Got to spread Jim's pic around a bit more:
Death Knight Class Information
Death Knights are heroes, totally awesome heroes that do heroic things. The first heroic class in the game, and they are available to play once you have a lvl 55 character. You may only create your Death Knight on that server, for now, until some point in the future when Blizzard forgets that it likes money, and allows you to generate a lvl 55 starting Death Knight on any server that you choose.Class Roles
The Death Knight is both a dps and tank class. As DPS, they should be tuned to roughly the same dps as every other class and spec in the game, though they have a noticeable boon to the group/raid, in the ability to tank fairly well at the drop of a hat. This is because Death Knight tanking abilities or rotations are virtually identical to dps rotations, and the gear overlaps to a significant degree.Combat Mechanics
Both roles require a lot of active management to perform optimally. Death Knights have not one, but two resources to manage:
Runes, which are divided into two each of unholy, blood, and frost, regenerate at a constant rate of 10 seconds per rune, in a similar fashion to energy. If you do not use your regenerated rune as soon as it comes up, it will activate a timer (up to 2 seconds, is the current theory) which will count as the Rune being used. So if you have two runes refresh at the same time, and you use them back to back, they will both refresh 10 seconds after the first rune is used, instead of 2 seconds apart. It should also be noted that when an ability that uses runes misses, the rune is not burned.
Runic power, is generated in static amounts, through the successful use of abilities. 1-rune abilities generate 10 RP, 2-rune abilities generate 15, and 3-rune abilities also generate 15. This can be improved through glyph of icy touch, or talents within each tree.
Aside from the two resources, Death Knights must also manage their diseases, and their mitigation cooldowns when tanking. Diseases are important for any and all specs, to varying degrees. Unholy spec has you using 3 diseases, one of which is automatically applied, Frost and Blood use two, although there are some frost specs that eschew the use of one disease, Blood Plague, and have seen a dps increase by doing so. The number of diseases on a target affects the damage of our primary strikes, and the healing from Death Strike.
Death Knights have an innate 20% threat reduction modifier, untalented, when in blood or unholy presences. They can get an additional 24% reduction in those two presences with the subversion blood talent. This generally provides enough threat reduction to cover you for most tanks that don't suck, or even liberal usage of Death and Decay on aoe packs if the tank knows how to hold aoe aggro well.Crap that you wear
Death Knights wear platemail, and generally wield 2 handers, for both tanking and dpsing. There are specs that can optimize the use of dual-wielding, which at this point appear to deal the highest dps, though Blizzard is making changes to reign that in.
Strength is your most important stat, it funnels into everything. All the spell damage that Death Knights deal, is boosted by AP, which is converted from Strength at a 2 to 1 ratio.
Hit rating can be viewed as a slightly subordinate stat, or roughly equal, or slightly better than strength, depending on the spec. However, it's only important that you obtain 8% hit to reach the melee cap. The spell cap for some of the other Death Knights abilities is 17%, but the return on acquiring hit rating for that will be much worse in comparison to
Expertise rating is valuable but not to the degree that it is for rogues or warriors, because much of Death Knights' damage comes from sources that can not be dodged or parried. Tanks will want expertise not only for the increase in threat generation, but also for survival as it will reduce the chance for the enemy to parry and as a result, increase the speed of their auto-attacks.
Crit rating is something that you'll just have to accept taking, but it is not terribly important for the class. 1 rating point will be roughly half as valuable as 1 point of strength.
Defense is needed to be uncrittable, when tanking. At level 80, the defense cap would be 535 defense rating for +2 level bosses in heroics, and 540 for +3 bosses in raids. If you're short on defense, the rune of the stoneskin gargoyle is an excellent choice, as is the new sigil bought with badges, which provides 53 defense rating upon casting Icy Touch. If your gear is such that you can wear optimal itemlevel gear and not greatly sacrifice socket bonuses, and still reach uncrittability without the stoneskin rune, swordshattering would be preferable is it provides a better total item budget than stoneskin.Talent Trees
- Blood: Focuses on keeping yourself healed, and has a higher focus on physical weapon-based damage, and uses Death Coil for its runic power dump.
- Frost: Focuses on dealing frost-based damage, has a higher amount of damage available at range, and is generally the tree most invested in by dual-wield builds. It uses frost strike as its runic power dump. This tree tends to provide the best tanking mitigation, at lower levels of avoidance.
- Unholy: Focuses on dealing damage through diseases, which provides significant aoe opportunities, controlling a semi-permanent ghoul pet(has a cooldown on summoning), and largely deals shadow-based damage. The primary runic power dump tends to be unholy blight, mixed in with Death Coil. This tree has the highest physical-based tanking mitigation with large levels of avoidance.
Specs(taken from Elitist Jerks)
This tends to be the lowest of the 2 hand dps builds.
: Unlike blood, there is primarily only one DPS spec used for deep Frost builds. There are some points which can be shifted around as desired, but for the most part you will see a build that resembles this. A lot of the damage from this spec comes from Frost Strike, as well as Killing Machine and Rime procs for Icy Touch and Howling Blast.
: This is the widely accepted standard build, with possible movement of the 1 point in virulence and in corpse explosion.
Night of the Dead, Ravenous Dead, and Master of Ghouls here could be very easily replaced, and perhaps should, if you're raid tanking. I like having the ghoul for 5 mans, and ghoul survivability should be improved soon.
While the former is probably better for normal 5 mans, or some of the easier heroics, and will generate more threat/dps, this one has lichborne, so you'll have an extra mitigation cooldown to burn.