Sounds like a really awesome movie title, doesn’t it?
Don’t look at me like that. I have to admit, though, if someone had come up to me before the 3.2 patch notes hit the PTR and said dual-wielding was viable for death knights I would’ve laughed in their faces. Dual-wielding has always been an iffy functionality of the class, but Blizzard has made an effort this time to have it as something more than just an extra icon in your spellbook. But before we get into that, a little history:
When the Lich King expansion launched, functional dual-wielding builds were put together by dumping most points into Unholy for the ghoul and then going down into Frost for Howling Blast. You’d try to get the most out of your white hits by picking up talents like Necrosis and Blood-caked Blade in Unholy and then snag Killing Machine to maximize spell damage. The entire build was about getting as many crit Howling Blasts as possible in a short amount of time, relying on the ghoul for sustained damage when your spells were on cooldown. Now, this was back when Howling Blast was in the middle of the Frost tree and Summon Gargoyle was up where Unholy Blight is now, and the perma-ghoul talents were easily accessible.
When Blizzard reshuffled the Frost and Unholy trees, they destroyed most hope for a functional dual-wielding build. Players had to jump through hoops as it was to make it work, and pushing Howling Blast down to the 51-point talent position in Frost hammered the final nail in the coffin…until now.
With the current 3.2 PTR notes, there is one new talent that makes all the difference between being able to dual-wield successfully and getting laughed at all the way back to the trainers in Acherus:
- Threat of Thassarian – When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a 30/60/100% chance to also deal damage with your off-hand weapon.
Residing 35 points deep in Frost next to Blood of the North and Unbreakable Armor, this talent allows the death knight to dual-wield and still do good damage with strikes. Because of the way this talent functions, slow (and thus higher top-end) weapons are optimal, much like Enhancement shamans, and for all the same reasons. This talent essentially turns every strike into a Storm Strike- or a Mutilate-type attack. Neat.
Threat of Thassarian is one half of the pair of talents that ultimately makes dual-wielding work. The other is a long-lost gem, having been there this entire time but rarely been utilized:
- Nerves of Cold Steel – Increases your chance to hit with one-handed melee weapons by 1/2/3% and increases the damage done by your off-hand weapon by 5/10/15%.
Taking these two talents is the only difference now between a Frost 2H build on live and a Frost DW build on the PTR. The playstyle is almost identical, though recent tweaking to a couple of core Frost talents has made 2H Frost less potent. Frost Strike is now avoidable, making it susceptible to every kind of mitigation and avoidance in the game (much like Unholy’s Scourge Strike), destroying much hope in making it usefull for threat generation while tanking. This, combined with a 5% damage cut both on the talent and on Blood of the North’s bonus mean no more giant Frost Strike crits in PvP, but that’s another issue entirely.
Blizzard seems to be phasing out 2H Frost with the changes to dual-wielding. As it stands on the PTR, the breakdown is something like this:
- Strikes: 2H = DW
- Spells: 2H = DW
- White hits: 2H < DW
As it has mostly been in cases such as this. Dual-wielding auto attacks far out-scale those of a two-hander, especially in this kind of build.
What is interesting to note, however, is the distinct lack of Rune Strike on the Threat of Thassarian talent. This could mean one of three things:
- It is an oversight by Blizzard and will be fixed in a future PTR build
- It is intentional and Frost is no longer meant to be used for tanking (unlikely)
- There will be some other way to make 2H Frost generate enough threat after the Frost Strike nerf (most likely)
The only reason I bring it up at all is because without Rune Strike hitting with both weapons, any kind of dual-wield tanking build is going to fail miserably at threat generation. The parry haste from using two weapons is so low as to be irrelevant to any decision between using one weapon or two, so the only thing stopping it is threat.
For DPS, the playstyle between dual-wielding and using a two-handed weapon isn’t changing much at all. From my personal tests on the PTR, the damage breakdown is the same (Frost Strike, Obliterate, Melee, in that order) and the spec itself is similar. I’ve been toying around with something like 10/54/7 with some variations. The Howling Blast glyph is there in place of the glyph of Icy Touch because of two things: Icy Touch is only used once every 20 seconds with the rotation, and dual-wielding procs Freezing Fog twice as often from Rime because it technically hits twice every Obliterate, allowing Howling Blast to apply Frost Fever in a way more damaging than using Icy Touch + Plague Strike. With proper timing, you can get away with using Howling Blast + Plague Strike to apply diseases and keep going, filling cooldowns with Frost Strikes and Freezing Fog procs. It works out pretty smoothly.
As more changes go through on the PTR, I’ll be sure to report any additional findings. Until then, I’m off on my quest to collect half-decent one-handers from Ulduar. Sayōnara!