Friday, 1 February 2013

What is A Death Knight?

This is a basic guide to the Death Knight class in Blizzard's MMORPG, World of Warcraft, it's purpose is to introduce the class to those who have limited experience in MMOs.

Death knights are the first, and currently only, hero class available in the World of Warcraft. They begin at level 55 in a phased, class specific starting zone. To have a death knight in their roster, the player must first raise any other class to level 55 which will then unlock the death knight class at the 'create character' screen.

What is a Death Knight?

The death knight class was introduced to the game with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and death knights are the dead heroes of Azeroth who have be called back from the grave to do the Lich King's bidding. Through the opening quests a death knight experiences, they break free of the Lich King's will and move to work with their specific faction, either the Horde or the Alliance.

The faction they go to depends on the race of the death knight. Death knights are available in all races except Pandaren. This includes worgen and goblin races from the Cataclysm expansion. The races break down into the factions as follows

Horde                                                       Alliance

Blood Elf                                                   Human
Orc                                                            Dwarf
Tauren                                                       Gnome
Forsaken/Undead                                      Night Elf
Troll                                                          Draenei
Goblin                                                       Worgen

Following the opening quests, the death knight is sent to the faction's capital, Orgrimmar or Stormwind, to face the leaders and plea for acceptance into the faction before continuing on the levelling experience as any other class would.

How to play a Death Knight

This is a short, quick guide, not an in depth look at the class but only meant to give you the basics for what to do as a death knight. 

Specialisations - Specs.

The death knight is a hybrid class, meaning that it has the option to play more than one role within a group of players. The two options open to a death knight are the tank role, or a dps role. To play a tanking death Knight, you will chose the Blood set of specialities. For the dps roles, you can chose either the Unholy speciality or the Frost speciality. Unholy uses a 2h weapon whereas Frost is the dual-wielding option for the class. *Edit* Thanks to @achloryn for the heads up that 2h Frost is still alive and kicking. As you can tell, I don't play frost dps. The talents you chose for each spec are quite close now but you can change/enhance them through the use of glyphs. For more information about the specialisations, visit and look up the Death Knight guides in the class information. 


We can't mention the specs without mentioning presences. It's very simple, which ever spec you prefer, your presence should match it, i.e. Blood spec needs Blood presence. 


Death knights are a plate wearing class. Whilst you can wear other armour types, you will not gain the best improvements to your character unless you are wearing plate armour. Plate armour comes in a few varieties which we'll lay down below

  • Primary stat - Stamina - if the plate armour shows stamina as the biggest stat, it is a tanking piece of armour, for blood specced death knights. 
  • Primary stat - Strength - if it's showing strength as the biggest stat, then that will suit a dps role, either frost or unholy.
  • Intellect Armour - you do not need this stat as a death knight, this is for paladins only. Leave it alone.
Do not get confused, if you see a piece of mail or leather armour with more strength than your piece of plate, it will not be as good for you as the plate armour and is not designed for you character. 

Choosing a Role

Being a Tank - Blood Spec 

If you choose to tank with your death knight, you will need to specialise in the blood talents. You are also going to need to understand a game mechanic called 'threat'. Threat is generated by hitting an enemy/mob. Tanks have specialised talents to help them generate more threat than the healers or dps so that the enemy/mob keeps hitting them and not the other group members. As a tank, it is your role to make sure you keep the enemy hitting you. You will find that some enemies have special talents that only a tank can with stand so it is important that the enemy faces you and not your friends.  To generate threat you will have a series of attacks which force the enemy to hit you, these are called taunts. You also need to keep hitting the enemy with the spells and attacks that you have which deal damage too. 

Secondly as a tanking death knight you will need to be aware of the spells that will save your life, some of these can be used through out the fight and some, referred to as Cool Downs, are usually only used once per fight. If you aren't alive, you can't tank the enemy so don't forget to stay alive! 

If you can manage your threat and learn when to use your cool downs to stay alive and help your healers, you will be half way there to being a good tank. 

Tanks are the people who get hit in the head by the enemy. They do this so the rest of the group can hit the enemy in the back side and kill it and so the healer doesn't get killed for healing the group. Tanks have a significant level of responsibility for a group and in dungeons they generally set the pace. If you like leading a group and taking care of your friends, this might be the role for you. 

There will be a more detailed guide to tanking at the end game level for death knights here shortly, prior to that please check the links at the end of this post for more information. 

Pew-Pew DPS - Unholy and Frost Specs

If you don't want to tank with your death knight, then you are doing to be playing a DPS role. This means that you stand behind all the enemies and batter them until they die. This is the same for both frost specced and unholy specced death knights. In this role your primary job is to hit stuff. The harder you can hit it, the quicker it will die. Death knights are a melee class which means that you will be standing close to the enemy with it's butt in your face to hit it. If you regularly find that your hitting the boss in the face, you might be better suited to tanking. 

There will be certain times during fights that enemies will cast spells and attacks that you will need to move away from. Do move. Do not stand in the fire. You can not hit the enemy if you are dead. A dead DPS is the worst DPS.  It's advisable not to run ahead of the tank.  

Like a tanking death knight, you also have cool downs, these are spells that will 'super charge' your dps and you should get familiar with them and when to use them.

If you chose to role with an unholy dps death knight, be careful when you decide to use Army of the Dead. This spell has some very good benefits but it can also cause problems as the Army taunts the enemy and thus prevents the tank from doing so. Always check with the tank before you decide to use it. 

And there you have it, a very rough and dirty guide to the death knight class. For more in depth information, you can visit -

Elitist Jerks Forums
Lichborne on WoW Insider

I will be posting full guides to each spec in the future so will link those when they're ready.

If you happen to like the first image, you can make your own at Deviant Art.

Suffer well! 

1 comment:

  1. good article.
    like it.
    By the way, I have been played runescape. When I have had a runescape account, I have played it for thousands times. How about you?


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