Maximizing my DK's usefulness

Death Knight
I'm a newer player that came to WoW to primarily play the Death Knight class. However, after 11 levels of playing, I'm starting to wonder if I'm not doing something right with it...

I run Frost/Blood dual spec, and queue dungeons for DPS only (as I'm not experienced enough to try my hand at any heavy tanking.) That's so I can quickly switch between DPS and Tank, in the event that our queue'd tank has trouble.

When in DPS mode, I've noticed that my DPS is... Well... Extremely low. In order to do any keeping up, I'm burning through runes like nobody's business. Blood Boil does a decent enough amount of damage to groups, and my Frost AoE does a fair amount, but far less than Blood Boil. I've been using 2H weaps since I started the class (right now, I'm on a polearm I picked up from a dungeon boss) with an Item Level average of 82 (I think. I know it's in the low 80's. Which will bring me to another question later on.) Which, means my attack speed is crap, forcing me to rely on runes to do any quick damage.

Not like my average hit is anything to brag about. It's actually quite low. A normal strike, for me, averages out at about 450 per hit. Since it takes my toon 2-3 seconds to swing his weapon, that drops my normal hit DPS down to between 150 and 225.

So, onto my questions:

1. When in DPS mode, what weapon setup should I have, so I don't have to continually rely on runes to not be so nubsauce? Should I continue to rock out with the 2H weapons, or should I look into something else? Such as dual-wielding (if that's even possible with this class) or 1H+shield (again, if possible with this class?)
2. I know I should focus on Strength as a melee DPS, but a lot of my gear also focuses on Stamina (which is, I suppose, common for Plate gear.) How can I maximize my Strength stat?
3. Against single targets, I do pretty well. But, I want to be even better against a large group of mobs, as well. I also use "Death and Decay" for some minor DoT, but it's not entirely enough. How do I maximize my AoE damage?
4. What is Item Level, exactly? The only thing I've noticed about it, is that there's a larger amount of stats if the item level is higher. But, how does that affect your overall usefulness in endgame?

Sorry for the nubbishness. I'm really enjoying this game, so far, and would like to see my main flourish when I finally hit endgame. Thank you, in advance, for any advice you can spare! :D
I just started a second DK on horde side with some friends, and I noticed exactly the same few things. To be honest, with the MoP changes to talents, you are just going to struggle to have a smooth game play till 75 when we get a choice for our rune regen talents. That's going to be a game changer likely more than any other ability.

To be real honest, I struggle to understand why they put these talents so far down as it really sucks the life out of the playing experience. But hold tight and you will be there before you know it!

1. Leveling is going to be easier just to use a 2 handed weapon. At 90 you can choose between dual wield or 2h (no shields!)

2. All gear (for the most part) has Stamina and something else. You want Stam/Str plate and rings, etc

3. When your tank pulls a large group, drop death and decay under them. Put both your dots on a target and use blood boil. Blood Boil will spread those 2 dots to all targets and Blood boil is very strong at lower levels (that will change as other attacks pass it up down the road) After that, hit them with howling blast and your other typical single target attacks.

4. Item level is just a value given to a piece of gear to help people measure upgrades. Typically, the higher the better. Bind on Account gear is tricky as it's item level isnt really given, but assuming the item continues to scale for you, keep wearing it. Keep in mind greens<blues<purples so a blue lower item level may still be better than a green with a higher item level.

Keep at it and I hope this answers your questions! And don't be afraid to try out the tank side of it. It can be a lot of fun and rewarding as you get better. Most the leveling dungeons are easy at this point so its a great time to make mistakes even if you do cause a wipe or two!
Sorry for the nubbishness.

No worries! We were all nubs once, despite the way some people act. ;)

Excellent choice of class, btw! (Not that I'm biased...)

You know there are the three specs: Blood, Frost, and Unholy; but within Frost there are two sort-of subspecs: two-handed (2H) and dual wield (DW). I say these are sub-specs, because the way you play the two are fairly different, with 2H relying heavily on Obliterate and DW emphasizing Howling Blast and Frost Strike. However, the emphasis of these two sub-specs doesn't really happen until level 74 when you get the two passive abilities Might of the Frozen Wastes and Threat of Thassarian.

There was a nice high-level overview of the specs just a few days ago on Lichborne; a good read for you, I think:

My first bit of advice would be to choose one spec and really get to know it. I have several max-level DKs and play all specs, but my favorite is Frost DW. Generally speaking, it makes questing easy but you can still push yourself in dungeons to get higher numbers. Not to brag, but, with the rare exception of someone in raid gear slumming it in heroics, I'm consistently in the top 2 on the damage meter because I know and love my class and spec.

You mentioned that your DPS was low... If you're switching back and forth between specs a lot, make sure you're always in the presence that matches your current spec! When you switch between your primary and secondary specs, your current presence gets cancelled, so you have to consciously set the correct presence. If you're not in a presence, or not in the right presence, your DPS will definitely suffer.

So, to give attention to your specific questions:

1) DKs don't use shields, and the only possible DW spec is Frost. In all other cases you'll be using a 2H. If you're going to keep switching between Frost and Blood you'll either want to use the Frost 2H spec to use the same weapon or keep one 2H and a couple of 1H around for switching back and forth.

2) When leveling, pretty much any plate armor or weapon you can equip that does more DPS and/or has more Strength is an upgrade. However, if you're running DPS you should lean away from gear that has Dodge and/or Parry, as these are tank stats. (Or, obviously, if you're running as a tank, lean towards those stats.)

As far as secondary stats go, when you get to max level and get into heroics you can really start to worry about the perfect balance; for now, just try to keep your Hit as high as you can (but no more than around 7.5%) and you should do fine.

3) Spec Frost DW and keep leveling. As you go along, you'll gain more abilities that will emphasize your AoE (you just got Brittle Bones at 66, you'll get Rime at 70, and then Mastery: Frozen Heart at 80). Also, when you ding 80 make Mastery your secondary stat of choice and Howling Blast will start mowing down packs.

4) Item level is there as a general guide to how "good" an item is; however, just because that cloth robe is iLvl 400 doesn't mean it's better for you as a DK than a plate chest of iLvl 200. iLvl is really not something to worry about until you get to endgame (and even then it's usefulness can be questionable). As I said above, while leveling as DPS look for plate armor and weapons you can use that have more Strength, and try to get some Hit in there (Stamina will fall in line on its own).

A few more thoughts after looking at your gear:

  • You need to glyph up! The glyphs you need at end game will partially depend on the spec you choose, but some good glyphs for leveling are: Glyph of Dark Succor, Glyph of Unholy Command, Glyph of Resilient Grip, and then either Glyph of Tranquil Grip for dungeoning as DPS or possibly Glyph of Path of Frost if you fall a lot. :)
  • At this point in the leveling process, even if you're tanking I would recommend putting one of the offensive runes on your weapon (Rune of Razorice if you're running Frost, then switch to Rune of the Fallen Crusader at level 70) rather than the defensive rune you're using now. DK tanking in Outland is very easy, so the extra avoidance is not all that necessary - an offensive rune will just make everything move a bit faster.
  • For those open yellow gem slots there's always Regal Deep Peridot and Inscribed Flame Spessarite. But don't forget that you can put Wrath gems in Burning Crusade gear! If you know a Jewelcrafter, if you aren't afraid to use the Trade channel to find help, or if the economy on your server isn't too bad, consider putting some Fierce Huge Citrine/Fierce Monarch Topaz or (if you need Hit) some Lightning Dark Jade/Lightning Forest Emerald in those slots. Whatever you decide to do, don't pay too much for gems in leveling gear - you'll just be replacing it in a few levels when you hit Northrend!

Hope that helps!
Thank you all for the responses! =D

I'm definitely looking into the suggestions you guys provided. It's a lot of info to assimilate, but I'll get it eventually :P

I think I'm going to stick with Frost spec, primarily, from here on out. Maybe roll a pally, or something, down the road for tanking practice.

Again, thank you all for the information, and I'll definitely be putting a lot of it into use! =D

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