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The Gladiator: The Specs

November 8, 2009

Elnoriah2The Arena, a place of gore, death, but most of all, glory. One must take everything, ‘lest he wishes to lose everything he has worked hard for in this life.  Do you have what it takes, Death Knight?

PvP or Player verses Player is a hit or miss for most people, but as a Death Knight I have found it to be one of the most fun things I have done in WoW. The Gladiators will be a regularly updated mini-guide (much like The Death Knight Tank and You) to inform all of my PvP loving pupils on how to reach the top and kill many.

As with anything you will do in WoW a spec has to be chosen, but in PvP especially you must be very comfortable with this specific spec. You should know your build inside out, better than you would you own child. Why? The answer is very simple, PvP is INTENSE you are getting nuked by some Mage, then out pops his buddy, what buttons do you hit?

I don’t know, I just took the spec for teh Ghoul! *dies*

In PvE you have some sort of warning when to pop OH SHI- buttons, whether it be knowing the boss fight or some mod like DBM, you generally have a good idea on when to pop your buttons to help you live. Sadly, you generally will have little to no warning of when to smash those buttons in a PvP environment, you are playing against real people, they do not have a set amount of damage or an ability that only goes off every 30 seconds on the second.

As a Death Knight any of the specs are viable, although some are much more popular than others, they all work perfectly so long as you know how to play them correctly.  One important detail that you will be noticing when speccing for PvP is that you can be quite a bit more creative, there is no “best spec” per-say, merely some talents that you like and those that you do not. Of course there are essentials that would be down-right idiotic to not snag, but for the most part you can be pretty lenient with what you choose, so long as you know what you are doing.

Unholy 0/17/54

One of the leading PvP builds is currently the Unholy 0/17/54 build, this is designed to give you the best of two worlds, the burst of Unholy coupled with the very basics of mitigation in the early Frost Tree. This is the spec that I am fond of for a few reasons: you are VERY difficult to defeat, there’s the ghoul permanent pet (3 sec stun), gargoyle, diseases that are a pain in the ass, and of course ridiculous amounts of burst.

Let us take a quick look at the two pets you receive as Unholy, first is your perma ghoul. Think of him as a gimped Rogue, he can ninja jump onto your opponents from afar creating some bad ass distractions as well as a 3second stun every minute. Plus, he does some delicious amounts of damage so he is a great thing to keep alive, besides Pets are some of the most annoying things to have to ignore while PvPing, they can be deadly as sin because they just do not stop kickin’ your ass. The stun that I mentioned earlier should really be used only when needed, I like to hit my opponents up with it after they have used their trinket either on my Resto friend’s Roots/Cyclone or Aifel’s Sap/Frost Trap (3.5, seriously)/Kidney Shot/Gnaw (oh wait). Using your abilities at the correct time in the Arena or just BGs in general can make or break the fight, so just bind that pretty stun to a key and use it when it is necessary.

The Gargoyle is probably one of the worst things you can throw at your opponent, it ROCKS them like they were a baybeh. Basically all it does is fly around and throw “Wrath” spells at your opponent for 30 seconds. The only downside is the 60 RP lost in order to summon it and the 3min cool down, the Gargoyle should only be used when you need an extra 300-500 DPS thrown at your opponent when bursting them down.

The reason Unholy DK’s tend to stay alive for so long is the amount of burst that we can throw out, I mean honestly I am pretty damn squishy for a guy wearing Plate, but if I can get you to focus on your own self-preservation and not taking me down, you’re dead. We have 3 diseases, and the 3rd (Ebon Plague) from the talents increases Spell Damage used on the target by 17% and 30% more disease damage taken. Yes, it is ridiculous, and I like it that way.

To sum up the Unholy Build, “The best offense is your best defense”, it is so true in this case! All you have to do is out burst your opponent and keep yourself alive with your OH SHI- buttons, if you can do both of those at the same time, you win at playing 0/17/54.

1min until AB!? Gah I could've won this in 1min!

So, Munch, the lettuce stalks are down! *cymbal crash*

I have seen a few variations of Blood, and the most successful one seems to be the 51/0/20 build. Blood is known for its heavy amounts of survivability in PvP, as well as some support it can offer to the player’s partners via some abilities. Do not fret, it does plenty of damage to hold its own in PvP, but the more memorable thoughts of your fight against the Blood DK will be how LONG the battle was.

A great chunk of their survivability comes from their self-preservation (healing) via Death Strike, Rune Tap, and of course Vampiric Blood (the blood-exclusive OH SHI- button focused on increasing HP and receiving more Healing for 10 seconds). Couple your Rune Tap with Glyph of Rune Tap and your friends get 10% of the amount healed as well, which takes a great chunk of stress off of your healer, or just allows you to function better without a Healer.

Comparatively to Retadins, Blood is also very strong in supporting their partners on the field of battle. While Retadins can bubble, hand of freedom, and heal their comrades to cheat death and live to fight another day, Death Knights merely cause more death and destruction. Abomination’s Might is a perfect example, the talent works off of Heart Strike/Blood Strike/Obliterate/Death Strike, and when it is procced via one (or more) of those abilities, every comrade within 45 yds of you is granted 10% more AP for 10 seconds. Not a bad burst, eh?

Hysteria is arguably the Blood Death Knight’s BEST use of support in terms of blowing stuff up. Basically you pop Hysteria on a comrade or yourself and get to do 20% more damage for 30 seconds, exceptional for a time when burst is needed, and needed FAST. However, with most things in life, there is always a price for doing so, that price is 1% HP every second for the duration.

But hey, when your team is taking a beating your Healer (or lack of one) can not fix, pop your Rune Tap for quick heals and maybe a Mark of Blood on an enemy. For 20 seconds, or 20 of his damaging strikes, the target of the abuse is healed for 4% of their total HP. Not a bad trade-off!

How does one summarize Blood? “The best defense is your best offense” Sure, the Unholy bastards have you beat in terms of burst, but your team will be a TON stronger than theirs thanks you. So if you’re a guy who enjoys getting in peoples faces while helping your team mates, pick blood!

Frost 0/53 /18 and 10/54/7

There are two ways to play Frost in PvP, you will either DW if you have really good 1H weapons, or you will rock the 2H. Either way, you are going to be a complete menace, and certainly a pain in the ass. In a basic perspective, Frost is sort of the “middle man” of the three Talent Trees (PvP wise of course), it has excellent burst, good survivability, and a heavy helping of CC. Comparatively speaking, the burst is amazing, but Unholy may actually have it beat by a little bit (depending on your weapons of course), the survivability out of Blood is probably a decent-amount better, but Frost is certainly nothing to scoff at.

CC however is very, VERY delicious, it really is the only Tree with any sort of “CC” on its own. The permanent ghoul gives a 3second stun, but as Frost you pop your Hungering Cold and freeze everyone around the Death Knight for 10 seconds. Now do remember, like a Hunter’s Frost Trap, any damage done to a frozen target will break the CC, so make sure your partners are not complete idiots.

As far as survivability goes, you have Lichborne to pop out and become immune to fear/charm/sleep effects. Remember that Warlock problem you used to have? Oh wait, you never had one because you were immune to all of their bullshit for 15 seconds with AMS up, oh yes, that red puddle WAS the Warlock “problem”! It does not even stop there, Fridgid Dreadplate gives the Frostie a 3% chance for attacks used on you to miss. Think of it as extra avoidance really. As an added bonus count Toughness as a Frost Talent and you are a frickin’ Tank, delicious Armor, plus the 30% reduced duration on movement slowing effects.

The burst, do I even need to explain it? Killing Machine + Rime = WIN, Frost Strike crits = WIN, Obliterate crit? = Where’d his health go?

Feel like being the middle-man? Think you have what it takes to control rediculous amounts of crit-age in your hands? Frost will be your friend!


And we are letting this fine piece of steak out of her bindings, why?


As I stated earlier, each of these specs can be catered to your needs, there is no set-in-stone way to spec for PvP, but it is generally best if you follow the spec’s outline. IE for the Unholy build go for 0 talents in Blood, 17 in Frost, and 54 in Unholy, but these can be in whatever place your little heart desires! So go out there and make me proud, team, or come back laying on your shield.

Note: It will take much time until you find your perfect build, so try a few out, and do not be afraid to tool around with a new Tree, sometimes the best way to learn PvP is starting from scratch.

“Death Knights… can’t use… shields, idiot…”

They best not fail then,

“Damn straight…”

Death to the living!
P.S. The avatar on the top of the page is going to be posted on each of the posts that I write, Aifel will also have his coming in the near future. Now you can distiguish who is writing what instead of going on a wild goose hunt!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2009 5:00 AM

    An excellent writeup of the different strengths of the specs!

  2. Alex permalink
    November 9, 2009 10:09 PM

    Note: Hysteria only boosts PHYSICAL damage by 20%. Meaning that Arms Warriors/Feral DPS Druids should get it, if they’re near top DPS already.

    • November 9, 2009 10:11 PM

      To be honest, in a PvP setting I would just throw it on myself. Either you are teamed up as 2 DPS or 1 DPS and a Healer combo (2v2 as an example). Throwing on the Healer is a waste, and throwing it on the other DPS is either a waste, or they will not be able to regenerate the amount of Health they lose per tick of the buff.

      And since a major factor to a win in an area setting is survivability, health that can not be replenished could lose the game, rather than win due to the buff and incoming burst.

      Blood DK’s however can easily regenerate this.

      • November 11, 2009 11:44 AM

        TO add, BM pets are fun to place it on as well, as they can easily take on an unprepared clothie, and can force priests to take care of themselves rather than their teammate, leaving the other member of the team open to a kill. Works really well if the pet being used is a corehound.

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