A Review of Cataclysm Death Knight Class Changes

A Review of Cataclysm Death Knight Class Changes
Page content

Death Knight Class Changes in Cataclysm

Big changes have hit World of Warcraft. Patch 4.0.1, 4.0.3a and the Cataclysm expansion have made numerous changes to the fundamentals of the classes. All talent trees have been changed, and players now are able to only specialize in a single talent tree until they have placed 31 points into it, at which point they can choose talents from another tree.

The changes are broad, and in-depth information about the changes hitting each class would require pages of text for each class. In this article, however, I’ll sum up the Cataclysm Death Knight class changes.


All classes have had a major talent revamp in the latest patches, but the Death Knights have had a particularly comprehensive overhaul. Previously the Death Knight was mostly a “tanking-with-a-two-hander” class with some DPS utility.

Now, however, Blood is the only talent tree built for tanking. The abilities that used to be spread across a few different talent trees are now given to Death Knights in the Blood talent tree. This makes a lot of sense, of course, since Blizzard is no longer letting you spend any points in alternative talent trees until you spend 31 points in your primary talent tree. This change is not really a suggestion – Blood is the only talent tree with talents of any real interest to tanks. Frost and Unholy speced Death Knights will get ripped to shreds.

Frost is now a DPS damage talent tree. Death Knights with Frost almost feel like a rogue buffed up on a super-soldier serum out of a sci-fi movie. They do insane damage, particularly AOE damage, and are capable of topping DPS charts. It is not unlikely that Frost will be nerfed as a result, but for now it is a strong DPS talent tree.

Unholy also is now a DPS tree, but it is tiled more towards single-target damage instead of AOE. While Frost can deal lots of damage to many targets, Unholy makes it possible to deal significant damage to a boss monster quickly. Unholy also makes more use of the Ghoul and of diseases than any other Death Knight talent spec, which makes this specialization rather unique when compared not only to the other Death Knight talent trees but all melee classes in general.

So – Blood for tanking. Frost for AOE DPS. And Unholy for single-target DPS. Easy as pie!

Changes to Runes

Cataclysm Death Knight Class Changes

Runes are changed as well. Here is how Blizzard explains the change:

“The new rune system will change how runes regenerate, from filling simultaneously to filling sequentially. For example, if you use two Blood runes, then the first rune will fill up before the second one starts to fill up. Essentially, you have three sets of runes filling every 10 seconds instead of six individual runes filling every 10 seconds. (Haste will cause runes to fill faster.) Another way to think of this is having three runes that go up to 200% each (allowing extra “storage”), rather than six runes that go up to 100% each.”

The basic idea behind this is that Death Knights were a little too unforgiving to play. Messing up and missing an attack is a big deal because Death Knights are very limited when their runes are all used up.


The changes to the Death Knight were fairly serious, and they further refine the class by giving it three talent specializations that are more refined than what was previously available. I would not be surprised if Frost damage took a bit of a nerf in upcoming patches because of how high that talent’s specialization DPS can when doing AOE damage, but otherwise the current state of Death Knights seems good – robust, but not overpowered.

This post is part of the series: WoW Cataclysm Class Changes

The Cataclysm guide to World of Warcraft classes, talents and glyphs.

  1. A Guide to the New Race/Class Combinations in WoW Cataclysm
  2. World of Warcraft Cataclysm - Race and Class Announcements
  3. WoW Cataclysm Patch 4.0.1 - All Classes Guide to Talent and Glyph Changes
  4. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Revised Class and Mastery Systems
  5. Cataclysm Mage Changes
  6. What Changes Did Hunters See in Cataclysm?
  7. Cataclysm Shaman Changes
  8. Changes to Death Knights in Cataclysm
  9. Death Knights in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
  10. World of Warcraft Cataclysm Druid Changes
  11. Cataclysm Priest Builds in World of Warcraft