Death Knight Dual Wield DPS - Gear, Talents and Rotations

I was asked a while ago what were my thoughts on Death Knights DW. My answer was that I couldn't fathom how someone would even want to Dual-Wield two poke sticks instead of one big shiny 2-Hander. Just from an aesthetics point of view.

Moreover, since most DK abilities are instant and based on weapon damage, it was quite natural to think that 2-Handers were the logical choice for maximum DPS.

Well, things have changed, and my asumptions were crushed by a few parses posted on the Elitist Jerks boards:

Ariastrasza is a Death Knight specced 0/33/38

His DPS is actually not 5751, but 6558. Because WWS doesn't take into account Ghoul and Army of the Dead damage.

This fight is not a fluke, he actually gets numbers just as impressive on pretty much any fight and even on trash clearing. And yes, he dual wields.

Gear needed
  1. Reach 8% hit rating (or close to that).
  2. Go for STR. As much as you can. All your gems should be STR, besides the two blue gems you need for the meta gem activation. Your meta gem should be Chaotic Skyflare Diamond.
  3. Weapons: go for two fast weapons. Below 2.00 speed if possible. The faster the better. Something like 2x Fang of Truth is a great way to start and easy to acquire.
  4. Sigil: Use Sigil of the Dark Rider
  5. Glyphs: Use Glyph of Icy Touch, Glyph of the Ghoul, Glyph of Bone Shield.

How to play this spec
  1. Use Blood Presence. Don't let anyone tell you that Unholy Presence is better for DPS. It's not.
  2. Summon Gargoyle AFTER your +STR/AP boosts proc. (Unholy Strength, Mirror of Truth if you have it). You get the point, your gargoyle's power is determined the moment it is summoned, according to your stats at THAT moment, that's why you have to try to summon it when all your procs are active.
  3. DPS Rotations:
  • IT > PS> Howling Blast> Bloodstrike> Bloodstrike> Death Coil
  • IT > PS> Howling Blast> Icy Touch> Icy Touch> Death Coil
  • Try to use Howling Blast whenever you get a Killing Machine proc.
  • Try to squish in additional Death Coils whenever possible.
That's about it. It's a very easy to play spec and it's a lot of fun, especially when you get to do those 8K AoE crits with Howling Blast, and that Howling Blast cost you nothing because you had a Rime proc ;)

There are other Dual-Wield Builds which are just about as effective, but I thought I'd share this one with you, because it's my personal favorite.

Don't expect to reach those kind of numbers easily though. This WWS parse was taken from a player with top notch gear, in a 25-man raid with optimized class buff synergies. But still, try it and you'll love it.

Currently, Dual-Wield builds actually OUTPERFORM 2-Handed builds, believe it or not. However, that probably won't last for long, because blizzard already has plans to nerf it in the next patch. We can't say for sure how hard they will nerf it.

So, enjoy it while you can ;)

Once the patch hits, I'll make a new blog entry with an updated version of this. I believe that Dual Wielding will still be a viable spec, it will just need a few adjustments.

I'll also be covering 2-Hand builds in the future on this blog, for all talent trees.
And finally I'll also share my experiences about Death Knight tanking.

Stay tuned!

21 Response to "Death Knight Dual Wield DPS - Gear, Talents and Rotations"

  1. Krar says:

    Wow deathknights just seem to be getting buffed all over the show at the minute.

    Great informative post Jame, im tempted to spec out of unholy now :)

    Tarciryan says:

    Couple of notes:

    1. Wouldn't a slow MH be better since Blood Caked Blade procs from offhand weapon does MH weapon dmg? Or is that normalized?
    2. Shouldnt PS be used first because of Glacier Rot?

    If it is a fact that this spec does the best dmg atm, then major phail from blizzard. They have talented DK's to suggest more complicated rotations with blood runes running fast should be used, yet you are left with this very simple solution as the best alternative.

    Besides, dual wielding DK's don't look right, they should have a big two-hander!

    Anonymous says:

    And they say hunters are doing too much damage.


    Sorry Jame for posting this here, But I dont know where to ask this or if you even answer these questions

    so I'm closing up on 68 now, and I'm halfway through Zangarmarsh - Now I'm wondering, should I hit northrend asap or should I stay in outlands and finish your entire guide. The reason why I'm considering this is that I'd nice to get tons of gold from the quests in outlands and then have a lot of quests left over for Northrend once I hit 80 and then can do them for the gold.
    Now to my real question, is the xp from mobs and quest in outland too inferior compared to northrend so It can't really be justified? Seeing as I need 1.5 mil from 70-71 I'd take a lot of zones to get there. Would it be smarter to go to northrend at 70, get to 80 and then go back to outland and complete my remaining zones? Sorry if this is a poorly constructed post, but I hope youunderstand my meaning.
    I know it says in your guide to stay until 70 - 71 but I don't know if this applies when you are 68 so early on.

    Thanks a lot in advance and PS, I don't really care about the speed of leveling just gold.

    Thomas says:

    Go to northrend.
    Quests give more XP and better gear
    Better gear=more dmg=faster questing.

    Jame says:

    Beep, wrong.

    Typical common mistake. Going to Northrend at 68 isn't such a great idea actually.

    Check these articles to find out why:

    Northrend at 68 - Part I
    Northrend at 68 - part II

    Aaron A. says:

    As my guild's first 80, despite starting WotLK at level 55 while my guildies were 70, I have to agree with Jame. The quests in Nagrand and Blade's Edge are a cakewalk for a 68-70; you'll be able to solo some of the 2-man quests, and you'll sail through the solo quests quickly enough that the EXP/hr is as good or better in Outland as it is in Northrend.

    You mention that Northrend has better gear, but the gear is tuned to the health and difficulty of mobs in that area. A level 69 non-elite in Outland will have about 6,500 health, while a comparable mob in Borean Tundra has 9,000 health. The increase in weapon power only helps you to keep up with the tougher mobs, and makes the level 70 armor sets obsolete so players have to face the new challenges that Northrend presents.

    Personally, I stayed in Outland until I hit level 73 in Netherstorm. My guildies said I needed to stop goofing around and come get the big EXP in Northrend like they were. When I finally boarded the boat to Northrend, I torched the first three zones, tackling 2- and 3- person quests solo. Meanwhile, I still see guildies jumping straight into Northrend at 68 and struggling for days to reach 70. Sadly, by the time they've done that, they'll have exhausted the starting zones, and they'll have to go to Dragonblight at 71-72 and struggle with higher-level mobs all over again.

    Jame says:

    Very nice write up Aaron, it's spot on and illustrates clearly what I've been trying to convey since about 2 years ;)

    Angeli says:

    Well Jame help me out here.

    I am dual wielding. I have this gear And im pleased with ym weps. I dont know how to spec after this patch! i have low crit and ap which drives me nuts i eman i do 2,7-3,0 in rads but sometimes i do 2,2 dps. this is anying as i know i should dominate as Dualwielder. Pls help me out and give me some advive. i have thought about this spec for the expertice and 10% ice bonus dmg

    Cheers Artherius

    Daniel says:

    What about AoE Rotation with this spec and dual wielding?

    Daniel says:

    What about AoE Rotation with this spec and dual wielding?

    Jonny says:

    Made my dk with this spec, love it. Ran some guildies through BRD, and was getting 18k-28k crits with Howling Blast, best I got was just over 40k, freakin flipped out lol. Great spec, and thank you :D

    Brian says:

    is this still a viable spec since the latest patch?
    it definitely looks like a fun build to play with, wish i caught this earlier!

    John says:


    Since the 3.8 came out and allot of things have change in the DK realm. Can you tell me what DPS rotation we should use now since the patch change some the talents? Currently, I'm unholy right now...any help would be appreciated.


    John says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    John says:

    Also on your guide in regards to your talent tree and dps rotation is it still valid on the new patch?


    Isn't it time for some litle tank-love for us DK's?

    Specialy specs for 3.1.
    Im thinking about something like 5/23/43, but Im not so sure.

    arquiban says:

    This spec baffles me a bit...

    I dont have a 80 DK but how can you have gargoyle and howling blast?

    They are the last skills in 2 different trees... please explain :)

    arquiban, this was pre 3.1 or whatever the patch was that jacked up the DK trees. HB and Gargoyle used to be the 30-35 point talents. I don't remember for sure anymore, but it -used- to be possible to get both.

    Markus says:

    Hi Jame.
    i got a problem when i try to click the talent tree link, then it only shows 56 talents out of 71. I also tried to do this on my gf computer and it showed the same. so i were wondering is this a problem with my and my gf's computer or is it something with the talent tree link.

    If you build a time machine and goes back one year, the link might work.
    This hasn't been updated for a year.