So you've decided to try out a Death Knight and horror of horror, you find it a lot more fun than your old class. You start wondering how much fun it would be to do arena, battlegrounds and raids as a Death Knight. But there's a little problem - 25 levels are in the way.
If only there was a way to speed things up. Well, there is. Kill more mobs and kill them faster, slaughter them with area effects.
Now while it is possible (and extremely effective) to find an isolated corner of the map and grind the night away, this isn't necessarily what this guide is proposing. I personally love questing - for the lore, the rewards and because it breaks the monotony. But a quest that requires you to kill 20 mobs goes by a lot fast if you AE grind those mobs. There's also the fact that AE grinding is very similar to AE tanking, something every DK should know how to do. So yes, this guide is for you even if you don't like AE grinding :P.
Unholy is definitely the best talent tree to pull this off. Frost lags a little behind, but it really isn't so bad. Blood is pretty bad at it however. Which is ironic - Blood is obviously built to be the 'self-reliant grinder' build, but because of its lack of Area Effect ability, it's actually the slowest grinding build of the 3. The main section of this guide will be about the Unholy Spec.
So what do you do?
It's pretty simple actually, possibly the hardest part is gathering enough mobs. Mob density just isn't that high in most zones. The best way is to use your Ghoul to grab a mob (or two), while you yourself bring a 3rd mob with Death Grip, another with Icy Touch and still one more with a body pull.
You then bring them all together and refocus on the target you icy touched.
The rotation goes as follow:
Following that, you're pretty much free to do what you wish. The first mob you're beating on should be pretty close to dead. You do need to keep your 2 diseases spread around, so you have to be mindful to keep using Icy Touch, Plague Strike and Pestilence before the diseases go away.
There's absolutely nothing wrong about simply repeating the same rotation above over and over again - it will keep your health up, keep the damage up and keep unholy blight up.
Why Death Strike? Well, you will be taking damage here. Quite a bit of it really. Death Strike helps counter this. In this rotation you also have a good 40+ runic power gathered up so it'll make it quite worthwhile it if you're using the Glyph of Death Strike. It goes without saying that you should use Scourge Strike instead if your health is doing okay.
You should keep Horn of Winter up as often as possible, but it really shouldn't be a problem - you'll eventually have more runic power than you know what to do with.
As for Presence... there are two 2 lines of thinking really. Frost Presence increases your armor and means you'll take less damage. Blood Presence increases your damage so you'll kill stuff faster and take less damage. The self heal doesn't hurt, but it's also fairly small. Either work, so it's really up to personal preference. I'm a bigger fan of killing mobs faster.
You have a lot of leeway in what you do with your talent for this. The only real must have is Unholy Blight and, while some talents are better than others, none are really necessary. Still, here's a look at some of the 'best' Unholy Talent for the purpose of AE grinding - I'm not going to comment on the unholy talents that are so good you want them in every build anyway.
Epidemic - Longer diseases mean you have more leeway and possibly more time to get more moves in before the disease drops.
Outbreak - While all the abilities increased by this Talent do little damage and 30% more might look like little, you will be spamming Pestilence and Bloodboil all the time, and the 30% increase damage over a group of mobs will start to add up.
Bone Armor - This is really nice to soften the impact of having 6 mobs beating on you, and lets you survive much longer. Make sure it's up whenever you can. It also gives you a bit of Runic Power, so it's really a win-win.
Wandering Plague - This just build up everything else you have. With a 20% or so crit rate, if you have 4 or more mobs diseased up with frost fever and blood plague, the damage starts to pile up really quickly.
Butchery - Yes, it's a blood talent. But it deserves special mention anyway. Getting 20 runic power everytime something dies when you're AE grinding is such an incredible boon, and allows you to easily keep Horn of Winter, or use Icebound Fortitude or even spam Death Coil all while still keeping UB up at all time. Get it.
Here's a snapshot of what a level 70 leveling build could look like.
Some abilities seem like they were made for AE grinding, but really aren't that good for it.
Death and Decay is the chief culprit here. D&D has the issue that it cost 3 runes but only gives 20 Runic Power, this creates a sizable gap if you use it in your first rotation, and you'll have to wait for your Runes to come back in order to use Unholy Blight. Not only that, but it will prevent you from using Bloodboil and Death Strike, meaning that you will be taking a much worse beating than you normally would. If you're ever in a situation where all your mobs are doted, UB is going on and you have the rune for it... sure, drop it. But D&D isn't part of the typical AE Grinding rotation - it's an AE Tanking tool.
Corpse Explosion is also not a good AE tanking ability, much to my surprise. Your Unholy Runes will be tied up with Death Strike and Plague Strike and by the time your first mob starts to die, the rest of them will also be pretty banged up as well. Managing to fit Corpse Explosion in there simply isn't easy and on top of that all it really does is save you a second or two. It's not worth the effort.. now, if it worked off Runic Power, we'd have a winner, but as it is, it's not worth the talent point.
Frost can also AE grind, although it won't be as effective as Unholy. You won't have Unholy Blight of course, but you will have Howling Blast. The rotation is somewhat similar, starting off by applying disease, then spreading them around and then using Howling Blast. The damage is much more burst oriented than with unholy, however since you need to be using your Frost and Unholy Rune for Howling Blast, you lose out on the ability to heal with Death Strike.
With all its self healing ability, Blood really has no problem taking the punishment of AE grinding... the problem for blood comes in its lack of AE damage ability. The only thing you have going for it are pestilence, bloodboil and disease tick. While you certainly can grind down mob this way, it won't be anywhere as fast as Unholy or even Frost.
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