Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death Knight 101, or, "Snack and the Contractual Obligation"

Full disclosure! I do not main a Discipline Priest in World of Warcraft. I main what I feel is the stylistic opposite of that, an Unholy Death Knight.

I don't play better than any one else. I play successfully, but that's only because I'm 1/10th of a raid team that is currently 8/12 hard modes in Icecrown Citadel - my efforts are a viable contribution to the whole. I take talent choices that seem "useless" to the outside viewer. Looking and comparing my talent build to the "accepted best" I've made some silly choices too!

However, a lot of guides I see that talk about playing a Death Knight haven't quite been brought up to date for low level Death Knights just yet, so I'm going to give a once over here, talk about some of the basic ideas behind playing an Unholy Death Knight.

Why should I play a Death Knight?

Because we tell physics to get bent.


Or, to answer seriously, the Death Knight is a World of Warcraft Hero class that you can only create when you have a character level 55 or higher on your account. When you meet that criteria, you can then create a lone Death Knight on any server, Horde or Alliance. You start at level 55, and after completing a series of quests, you finish at level 58, setting out into the world... of warcraft... to explore and find your way.

Why should I play an Unholy Death Knight?


No Bee Gees though. That's insensitive.


I mean uh

It's easy to say what a "Hero Class" is, but in this case, you can imagine an Unholy Death Knight as an amalgamation of an Affliction Warlock and an Arms Warrior - while we're clearly going to hit like a truck with massive two handed weapons, an Unholy DK's bread and butter are our diseases - they have the obvious benefit of a damage over time effect, but they also offer a couple of unique debuffs, and the ability to spread them about a pack of enemies very quickly. Unholy Death Knights also bring in the zombie party - with a permanent Zombie minion, as well as the "Army of the Dead" skill.

All of this is based off of two unique resources, Runes, and Runic Power. As you spend Runes, you gain Runic Power. You use Runic Power to pay the cost for other abilities (Death Coil, mainly, but also Mind Freeze and Summon Gargoyle - did I mention you get a gargoyle? You get a gargoyle, by the way).

Please tell me I don't need to tell you what the green bar is.

You'll equip plate armor, with an emphasis on stats like Crit, Haste, and soon in Cataclysm, Mastery.

You also have a handful of talents and tricks available to you to help the dungeon/raid team - if used appropriately. The specifics of these numbers and stat weights are best found through Elitist Jerks - I won't cover specifics at the moment, because we'll consider this Unholy Death Knight 101.

Why Should Groups Take Me, as an Unholy Death Knight?

Before you have enough talent points to grab Ebon Plaguebringer, the permanent zombie pet is an additional source of damage that can help take down groups of enemies - or, distracting an enemy while the group focuses on a more dangerous target.

Ebon Plaguebringer, however, is your meat and potatoes - with two points in this ability, any enemy infected with it takes an additional 30% damage from your diseases, as well as an additional 8% magic damage from any one in your group.

To put that shortly, while you're doing more damage, mages and warlocks will love you because they get to do more damage too. Until patch 4.0, no other class had an equivalent debuff to offer - and with 4.0, Affliction Warlocks have to specifically talent make Curse of Elements do a similar effect.

In addition, you'll have Chains of Ice to slow enemies down - or the additional enemies they spawn during a fight. You have Death Grip, which can be used to interrupt spellcasters (good!) and as a taunt (bad!) to drag enemies about so that your tanks don't have to try and run all over the place to pick them up (good!).

CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION FOOTNOTE: Do NOT under any circumstance just "Death grip" stuff to help your tank. They find this offensive. It upsets them. If you're running with a group of people you know, best to speak with the tank to determine who to grab, when, or, if you should at all. If running with a pick up group, don't even use it. At all. Same for Army of the Dead. The benefits are outweighed by the negatives. The hilarious, hilarious negatives.

So, What Am I Actually Doing Here?

An Unholy Death Knight has a "priority" system for doing damage, which would be a neat flowchart.

Essentialy, you want to keep your diseases on the enemy - Plague Strike adds Blood Fever, Icy Touch adds Frost Fever. When you've talented into Ebon Plaguebringer, that is added with either of your other diseases. If you're facing a number of enemies and want to spread the disease-ridden fun, you'll use Pestilence - if it's just one enemy, you'll go straight into Scourge Strike - this is your big "Nuke" of a strike, your kill button.

And you know what? All of your diseases only make Scourge Strike better.

When you learn Festering Strike, for the same cost of an Icy Touch and a Plague Strike (One Frost/Blood rune) you can use that to refresh all of your diseases, setting their timer back to fully refreshed.

Your Runic Power meter fills as you attack, as you use your abilities - and you can spend it to use Death Coil, which is another way for you to do damage. As you use Death Coil, you can activate Dark Transformation - which turns your zombie minion into a LARGER zombie minion that does more damage.

A Brief Summary

Unholy Death Knights may not see the top of a DPS Chart in single target fights - in AOE battles, where you have plenty of targets to use pestilence to spread your diseases to, you can put out ridiculous amounts of damage, but remember that utility is the greatest thing you can bring a raid group!

And then, you can win all the mounts.



  1. Ah, ah, ah...Stayin' Alive (that is the healers favorite Bee Gee's toon. =)

  2. See, now that's just insensitive. =(