Monday, December 22, 2008

Death Knights for Dummies

With things tapering off on my main (who is now pretty much only raiding and doing reputation dailies), I decided to give this Death Knight thing a serious try.

I played the DK starter areas twice (in the beta and in the live game) and I came out unimpressed both times.  The class felt a bit awkward to me and if seemed to me that Blizzard was trying to create something different and ended up creating something complex.

As it turns out, while rich in lore and fun quests, the DK starting area is actually a very poor testing ground to unleash all the entertainment that the Death Knight class can deliver, and it took me a few hours in Hellfire Peninsula to realize that.  I am now 62 and I am having a lot of fun with my Knight.

The first thing that impresses me about Death Knights is that they are pretty much AOE machines wearing plate.  

Anything within ten yards of a competent DK is taking tons of damages under different forms.  I predict that they will become as good at trash AOE tanking as Paladins.  Remember these times when your character is barely handling two mobs above your level, a third one joins in and you think "Crap.  Corpse run incoming"?  Well, with a Death Knight, not only do I actually look forward to that, but I sometimes Death Grip one from afar because otherwise, some of my DPS is going to waste.

Oh and I usually finish the fight with at least half, if not all, of my health.  I'm talking about a 62 DK handling 3-4 mobs that are two levels above, here.  And by handling, I really mean "meleeing".

The mechanics of the class is complex and prone to a lot of exploration, so I most likely don't have everything down here, but here is what I have found out so far.  The overall idea is to put as many diseases as you can on one mob, spread it with Pestilence and then pick various finishers depending on the situation.  While leveling, you don't really need to worry about renewing diseases since the mobs will be dead by the time the first diseases expire.

It usually goes a bit like this (if a line starts with (aoe), it means I'm fighting several mobs, which is what I try to do most of the time).
  • (aoe) Death and Decay
  • Icy Touch, Plague Strike (to put two diseases on a target)
  • Pestilence (spreads the diseases to all mobs with a cool graphic effect)
  • (aoe) Blood Boil (not quite sure this is really useful since only the current target affected by disease will be hit hard, the others will only feel a little sting)
  • If I'm taking damage, Death Strike (which heals me, but doesn't hurt much), otherwise Blood Strike (which hurts more)
  • When the mob is about to die, Obliterate (which does a lot of damage but also consumes a disease)
  • Interspersed in all this, Death Coil, as Runic Power becomes available
All these abilities deal little damage when taken separately, but when you see them compounded with each other, groups of mobs fall like flies.  Of course, the ghoul is also dealing a reasonable amount of damage and I reassign it to various mobs based on the health bars I see on the screen.

As a data point, my 62 DK was able to solo all the giants that roam in the Northwestern area of the Hellfire Peninsula.  While this is unlikely to impress hunters and warlocks, you need to keep in mind that the DK is actually meleeing the elite the entire time.  There is no fearing or using a pet to take the punishment for you (your pet ghoul doesn't have any aggro retaining abilities, so you usually send it in first, but as soon as you engage, the mob will turn its full attention to you).

Elite soloing in a nutshell:
  • Use Frost Presence (Death Knights' tanking aura).
  • Cast Bone Armor and wait for a minute before engaging, so you can cast a second one during the fight.
  • Be ready to cast Icebound Fortitude (Death Knights' "oh crap" button) if things go bad, but I actually never had to
  • Use your regular AOE spells when adds appear (Death and Decay, Pestilence, etc...).
At 62, my DK has about half of her original blue starter gear and half Outland green gear, so all of the above is based on abilities alone and not overgear. 

As for add-ons, I installed Magic Runes, but I barely use it, for a couple of reasons:
  • As I mentioned above, mobs usually die by the time the initial diseases wear off, so the importance of keeping track of them is lessened while leveling.  Still, I already have Quartz configured to show me this in an effective way for my Rogue (Slice and Dice, Rupture and Deadly Poison all neatly stacked up in the middle of the screen) and the exact same configuration is working great to keep track of diseases.

  • Dominos is doing a good job at showing me the proper cooldowns.  For example, if an ability needs one Frost and one Unholy and that they have respectively two and six seconds more to go, Domino will show that ability with a cooldown of six seconds.
I'm still having fun so far, time will tell if the novelty of the class will wear off.

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