Death Knight Leveling Talent Build (Part 2)

Please read Death Knight Leveling Talent Build (Part 1) before reading this.

I willl use this article to reply to the suggestions/questions made in Death Knight Leveling Talent Build (Part 1)



Thanks a lot for posting your build, now I have material to discuss :)

That's a very good build, totally viable, I actually hesitated going blood/unholy too, with a build pretty similar to yours.

I would have changed one little thing though:


Remove one point from Epidemic and put it in Ravenous Dead instead. I'd even be inclined to remove both points, because it's possible to squish in 2x Death Strike/Obliterate in one rotation before the diseases fade, even without Epidemic, it's just very close. For that, you have to go:

Icy Touch --> Plague Strike --> Obliterate/Death Strike --> Heart Strike --> Heart Strike --> Obliterate (just before Frost Fever fades).

I still put one point in Epidemic though, because it's true that 3 extra seconds makes it easier to not screw your cycle.

I also removed a point from Will of the Necropolis and put it in Shadow of Death instead.

Your build gives +3 sec duration on diseases and +4 expertise.

My build gives +3% Str +2% Sta and +30 sec ghoul duration. When you die you also fight as a ghoul for 45 sec, which is nice to finish off tough elites if they kill you. It's also fun ^^

Now about my Blood/Frost build compared to the above Blood/Unholy build.

Dps comparison


  • +10% dmg (Necrosis)
  • +15% chance on hit to do an extra attack for 40% of weapon dmg when both diseases are up (Blood-caked Strikes)
  • +1% Str


  • +20% Haste, this alone already outdps the above without taking into account the side effects. +20% haste means more chance to proc all that good stuff: Blood Worms, Bloody Vengeance.
  • Annihilation 3/3 also gives you 3% more crit on all melee abilities and more importantly allows you to use 2x Obliterate per cycle, which for sure boosts your dps by quite a bit too.
  • 5/5 Toughness has excellent synergy with Bladed Armor, the Attack power gained with it compensates easily for the 1% STR the Unholy build provides
  • 6% dmg to Frost and Shadow spells (not a big deal, but still a little extra dps)

Survivability comparison


  • +2% sta
  • +5% dodge

  • +15% Armor
  • Lichborne (+25% chance that your enemies miss you for 15 sec and the ability to heal yourself with death coil, definitely nice to get you out of tight spots)

If we compared just this, I'd say the Blood/Unholy build is slightly more survivable (although more prone to spike damage)

However, the Unholy/Frost build also includes 3/3 Improved Icy Touch, which means an extra 6% Melee Attack Speed reduction on your opponents. So in the end, the Blood/Frost build is probably also more durable.

Overall, I'm still convinced Blood/Frost is better. It has clearly more dps and has about the same survivability. The only edge the Blood/Unholy build has is in terms of AoE damage, with corpse explosion. However, while leveling and questing, you rarely fight more than 1 or 2 mobs at a time, so that shouldn't be a factor for us.

Anyway, thanks again Tarcyrian for posting your build, it gave me a lot of talk about.



Thank you for your comment :)

"In what order are you stacking the trees? Are you going all blood - then ice, or the otherway, or a combination?"

That's a very good question. And the answer is: at the moment I'm not sure. The reason why I'm not sure is that in the current beta build, the Icy Talons talent doesn't work, so I can't do tests to see what's the best route to take at level 61.

Why level 61? Because at level 61 you get Obliterate, and to get the most out of this skill, it's good to have 3/3 Annihlation (Frost) so that you can use Obliterate twice in one dps cycle, before your diseases have to be re-applied.

However, up to level 61, it's much better to spend all your points in the Blood talent tree, you get so much lifedrain from it that you can fight non-stop with zero downtime.

So what I was thinking is:

  • Up to level 60, go Full Blood.
  • At level 61, go respec to this Frost/Blood intermediary build.
  • And then simply finish the blood tree to reach the final Blood/Frost build.
Now I have to find out if this respec is worth it.

Compare (at level 61)

Frost/Blood intermediary
  • 20% haste from Icy Talons
  • + 3% crit and Obliterate can be used twice every rotation
  • +6% melee speed reduction
  • +15% Armor
  • +6% Frost and Shadow damage (rather unsignificant)

Full Blood
  • +10% damage from Blood Gorged
  • Heart Strike (small upgrade over Blood Strike though)
  • Vampiric Blood (the other build gets it at level 63)
  • Dancing Rune Weapon
  • +45% critical strike damage bonus on Plague Strike, Death Strike, Heart Strike, Obliterate
See the dilemna? I'm having a hard time choosing, so I want to run some parses and then make a decision. The problem is that currently Icy Talons are broken, so I can't test it :P

Time will tell, I'll keep you guys updated.

Hope that answers your question Simcle, and thanks again for your comment.



"Why no Rune tap? You're unlikely to use it in combat, but immediately out of combat it might be an option.

Also, other than "because you can", why Lichborne?"
Thanks for your comment Andrew, and those are very good questions.

Rune tap: I decided to skip rune tap for a simple reason, there's already so many lifedrain talents in my build, I always finish every fight 100% HP, even when fighting elites 3 levels above me, rune tap would be overkill :P

Lichborne: Well, I had the choice to either put one extra point in Will of the Necropolis or to take Lichborne. I think Lichborne is just more powerful than 1 more point in WotN, +25% miss chance for 15 seconds and the ability to heal self with Death Coil can really help against tough elites I guess, more than a bit more expertise. The immunity to fear/charm/sleep can also be nice in certain situations. That's just my opinion though, and I'd gladly swap Lichborne for something more useful for leveling if someone points me to such an option. :)

17 Response to "Death Knight Leveling Talent Build (Part 2)"

  1. Kevin says:

    What about the downtime from traveling via mount? Did you consider that as part of your leveling talent build?

    This would put more emphasis on the Unholy talents.

    Jame says:

    Yes, as I've mentioned it in several of my articles, On a Pale Horse is a great talent for leveling and is a big factor in my talent choices.

    James says:

    I just ran across your site and the blood/frost build. This being relatively new to me, which attack order are you using and why?


    Jame says:

    Hey and welcome.

    For DPS Rotations, check this blog post:

    DPS Rotations

    As to why. Well, these rotation simply are optimal, because they use your global cooldowns and rune cooldowns and runic power as efficiently as possible :)

    Anonymous says:

    What about a Frost/Unholy talent build?

    Jame says:

    It has been tested, Frost is the slowest leveling spec, no matter where you put your talent points, because Frost is geared towards tanking :P

    Andres says:

    hey there I've been reading your blog and was curious. If I have a priest leveling with me, should I just go down the frost tree? since it does the most dps and i'll be getting seems like a good choice. and if so, full frost?

    Jame says:

    You must have totally misread me. Frost does the LEAST dps of all 3 talent trees, not the most. The LEAST. :p

    Keros says:

    Hi Jame,
    Firstly let me thank you for sharing what I beleive are some fantastic Death Knight DPS talent builds this is going to help me greatly with my new Death Knight charachter.
    Please could you possibly provide me details of or a link to where I can find a great Shaman DPS talent build as I have been struggling with this a little I have always used your guides for a few years now and trust them completely.

    Thank You Very Much.

    Jame says:

    Can't say I'm up to date with the latest shaman changes, but this enhancement build seems pretty good for leveling:


    Keros says:

    Hi Jame,

    Do you have any updates on the original question asked by:


    "In what order are you stacking the trees? Are you going all blood - then ice, or the otherway, or a combination?"

    As I would be very interested in your findings?

    Thank You

    Jame says:

    It's all in my Death Knight Leveling Guides, I tell you where to put your points step by step and also tell you which rotations to use.

    All my guides are on

    Here is the direct link:

    Jame's Death Knight Leveling Guides

    Bryan says:

    Quick question. Is there a reason you skip Bloody Strikes in your build? I mean you're Blood spec and skipping a talent that increases your main attack by 30% plus the bonus it gets from the diseases seems odd to me.


    Jame says:

    This is an old post and the talent tree has changed since them, I originally had bloody strike but the talent was moved to another tier, so this talent link is now outdated and wrong.

    Check my more recent posts about DKs for more accurate talent builds.

    Keros says:

    Hi Jame,

    Please could you post me a link to the most up to date version of the DK talent builds.
    Im mostly interested in the Blood/Frost

    Many Thanks

    Jame says:


    Youth says:

    What would you do if you were to make a PVP Death Knight?
    I'm planning on using your leveling spec creation and then respec to something more for pvp with my friends.
    If you don't mind. Do you have any ideas or anything for PVP?