- This article is about the hero class in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. For other uses, see Death Knight (disambiguation).
- "DK" redirects here. For the old PvP mechanic, see Dishonorable Kill.
Blizzard's original death knight concept was that of an undead spellcaster unit which made its initial appearance in Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. This death knight could be more accurately described as a horseback-mounted lich rather than the traditional undead warrior. Years later, Blizzard introduced a new death knight hero unit in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and this second rendition was revised to reflect the general characteristics of the more traditional death knight design. To understand the key differences between these two different generations of death knight, see the "Lore" section located further down this page. The death knight was later adapted as a prestige class within the Warcraft RPG and they were former paladin warriors. It is the Warcraft III version of the death knight that became the first hero class in World of Warcraft and was introduced in the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
- Main article: Death knight talents
Death knight talents are split into 3 trees; originally each of them were fully capable of supporting either a tanking or DPS melee role, however that is no longer the case over time with the release of class changes in patches and the release of . Though Blood is the dedicated tanking tree, any of the three talent trees can effectively tank anything under heroics as long as one stays in Blood Presence.
- Blood: Tanking Tree. This tree primarily amplifies the death knight's melee spells, weapons, healing, and abilities. It also has a prominent health-regeneration theme, with abilities and talents such as Improved Death Strike, Blood Parasite, Vampiric Blood, Rune Tap, and the Mastery: Blood Shield. Blood players will wield 2H weapons, and tanking is done using Blood Presence for its damage reduction, stamina boost, quick melee health regen and threat generation boost. Blood is also widely considered to be the new leveling spec for Death Knights.
- Frost: DPS Tree. This tree has many control elements, a strong critical-strike/bonus-damage theme, and also several talents that improve physical-damage output, including Brittle Bones and Improved Icy Talons. Frost players can choose between dual-wielding or using a 2H; dual-wielding will provide 10% more DPS than 2H, however. Damage is done in either Frost Presence (dual-wielders) or Unholy Presence (2H users). Most of the Frost tree's damage comes from Obliterate (with Killing Machine procs), Melee strikes, Frost Strike, and Howling Blast (for AoE fights).
- Unholy: DPS/PvP Tree. This tree has a heavy focus on diseases and related abilities, as well as improving summoned minions with the passive talent Master of Ghouls. The Unholy tree also provides AoE damage, spell damage shielding, and mobility-improvement sub-themes. Unholy users may also choose between dual wielding (which requires some Frost talents) and using a 2H. Damage is done using Unholy presence, and most of the Unholy tree's damage comes from the summoned Ghoul, Death Coil, Melee strikes, and Scourge Strike.
Death knight is a name shared by several organizations of powerful necromancers. These orders share a few things in common, including riding horses with horned skulls and many of the same abilities. Playable death knights, however, are specifically death knights of the Scourge.
Immortal Soldiers of the Horde
- Main article: Death knight (Warcraft II)
The original death knights were created for Orgrim Doomhammer by Gul'dan as powerful soldiers of the Horde. These death knights were created by placing the souls of the slain warlocks of the Shadow Council into the corpses of fallen Stormwind knights, the first of whom was Teron Gorefiend. Unlike modern death knights of the Scourge, these ghoulish fiends were not battle hardened warriors; they were insidious necromancers who possessed superior intellect and tremendous magical power. They often favored the use of terror tactics and reanimated the corpses of enemy soldiers who fell in battle to serve them as mindless undead minions.
Champions of the Lich King
Years after the destruction of Draenor, the immensely powerful Lich King created a new breed of death knights: malevolent, rune-wielding warriors of the Scourge. The first and greatest of these was the Lich King's chosen champion, Prince Arthas Menethil, once a mighty paladin of the Silver Hand, who sacrificed his soul to claim the runeblade Frostmourne in a desperate bid to save his people. The rest are primarily made up of other fallen paladins whose souls were twisted and bound to the will of the Frozen Throne .
Unlike Gul'dan's death knights, these dark champions possess unholy strength; however, they do not possess free will and their minds are inexorably entwined with and dominated by the Lich King's vast consciousness. Despite the potential loss of free will, some powerful mortals are intrigued by the promise of immortality and pledge their souls freely into the Lich King's service to achieve it. (Baron Rivendare is an example of this).
In the years since Arthas shattered the Frozen Throne and merged with the Lich King, the power and fury of the death knights has only grown. Now these unrelenting crusaders of the damned eagerly await the Lich King's command to unleash their fury on Azeroth once again. Unlike death knights of the Old Horde, the Scourge's death knights are not limited to their use of ranged spell casting abilities. In addition, these tireless death knights are considerably stronger, faster, and more agile than they were in life. However, both generations are equally destructive and terrifying to engage in the field of battle.
The Ebon Blade
A new group of death knights, the Death knights of Acherus, was later created by the Lich King to garrison the necropolis of Acherus: The Ebon Hold for the ultimate purpose of assaulting Light's Hope Chapel and destroying the Argent Dawn. In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, these death knights are freed from the will of the Lich King and ally themselves with their former factions. Working closely under the guiding blade of Highlord Darion Mograine and the bolstered Argent Crusade, the newly-freed death knights have begun their march to Northrend.
The Knights of the Ebon Blade is a faction consisting of the renegade death knights that broke free of the Lich King's control after the battle of Light's Hope Chapel (in other words, player-created death knights). Led by Highlord Darion Mograine, the Knights of the Ebon Blade have allied themselves with the Alliance and the Horde with the help of Highlord Tirion Fordring of the Knights of the Silver Hand, and have pledged to do their part in defeating their former master, the Lich King. Their main base is Acherus: The Ebon Hold, taken from the Scourge after breaking free. It should be noted that the Knights of the Ebon Blade are not a separate player faction such as the Alliance and Horde. For the purposes of gameplay, player-created death knights still belong to either the Alliance or Horde depending on their race/faction.
Notable death knights
- Arthas Menethil (Former Lich King; slain by the forces of the Ashen Verdict)
- Alexandros Mograine (Former leader of the Four Horsemen; freed from undeath by his son)
- Baron Rivendare (Former leader of Stratholme; leader of the Four Horsemen)
- Lord Alexei Barov (Former owner of Caer Darrow, Brill, Southshore, and Tarren Mill)
- Trag Highmountain (Raised into undeath by the Orb of Ner'zhul)
- Darion Mograine (Highlord of the Ebon Blade)
- Koltira Deathweaver (Horde representative)
- Thassarian (Alliance representative)
- Commander Springvale (Chief wardens)
Hero Class Overview
Death knights in Wrath of the Lich King are a new class mirroring their previous incarnations. While boasting powerful melee abilities, as well as plate armor, these warriors supplement their strength with dark magic. Calling upon a rune system of magic, the death knight may summon unholy, blood, and frost spells. The criterion for creating a death knight is the existence of a level 55+ character on the player's account on any realm.
Unlocking your death knight
- Main article: Starting a death knight
The death knight is the first hero class in World of Warcraft. The death knight will start at level 55 in Acherus: The Ebon Hold over the Eastern Plaguelands, with multiple spells and abilities ready to use, and a set of uncommon gear. When you leave Ebon Hold, you will have a full set of rare gear ready for Outland. Through the death knight-specific quests in this necropolis and the surrounding areas, the character learns to master the power of the death knight and learns to use this new power for the will of the Lich King. Quests will take them outside the necropolis and into an area within the Scarlet Enclave.
Players can create one death knight per realm, so long as they have a level 55 character already and the Wrath of the Lich King on their account. Currently the Pandaren cannot become death knights.
The Rune System
The death knight uses a unique rune-based resource system to govern his/her spells and abilities. Three rune types exist: blood, frost, and unholy, each with an attached color and symbol. Using certain abilities exhausts one or more runes, starting a cooldown of 10 seconds. After the cooldown, the runes refresh. The death knight can use spells to turn a rune into a Death Rune, which can be used as a blood, frost, or unholy rune. In addition, whenever the death knight uses a rune ability against a foe, it builds up a certain amount of Runic Power. This Runic Power is only used by few abilities. All abilities that use Runic Power use a set amount, like Death Coil. Death knights cannot reallocate the number and type of runes - they are fixed to two runes of each type.
The original player frame for death knights shown at BlizzCon was changed as feedback showed it was not ideal for displaying rune power for players.
Runeforging is a profession available only to death knights, providing permanent weapon enchants. The enchants work just like the permanent weapon enchants provided by Enchanting, but are self-only and are designed specifically to benefit death knight class. These are independent of the rune resource system.
In general, the death knight can be considered a hybrid melee class that combines damage dealing and tanking, somewhat akin to Warriors. They wear plate armor and are able to dual-wield or use two-handed blade weapons (and maces, as revealed later). Like druids, they tank without shields. Their tanking mechanics involve high armor and a high chance to parry. Death knights tanks depend on a combination of high damage abilities, in addition to high threat abilities, such as Death and Decay and Rune Strike, to generate and hold aggro.
Like every other class, the death knight has three different talent trees that enhance certain aspects of his or her specialties. However, the differences between the trees are not as clear-cut as those of other classes, both for PvP and PvE environments. Notably, death knights can tank or deal damage regardless in which talent tree they specialize, although a careful talent selection is still required to bolster their preferred role. In patch 4.0.1, the trees became more defined, with Blood becoming the Tank specialization tree, and the others being DPS.
Blood enhances the death knight's melee abilities and damage and vastly improves the ability to heal itself. As the name suggests, the special abilities it grants through talents are based on the Blood Runes. Blood also provides healing utility to party and raids and has some very useful buffs and debuffs that the death knight can cast on others, such as Unholy Frenzy and Blood Shield Mastery, as well as providing a raid-wide 10% attack power buff (Abomination's Might). Blood is considered the tree for soloing and should be given a thought when it comes time to level your Death Knight. Many 80-85 dks suggest to start as unholy and then switch to your blood spec depending on what suits you best.
Frost enhances melee abilities and focuses on increasing both AoE and single target damage. It provides some very powerful direct damage abilities like Frost Strike and Howling Blast. Parties and Raids also benefit from this talent tree by gaining a 20% melee attack speed haste (Improved Icy Talons).
Unholy enhances the death knight's diseases and damage over time spells, making them effective at AoE DPS. It also provides the death knight with a ghoul who is a permanent pet, a gargoyle guardian he or she can summon, and stronger diseases. Raid and party utility is granted by a 13% increased magic damage debuff Ebon Plaguebringer.
- Main article: Runeforging
Runeforging allows the death knight to permanently enchant their weapon with enchants that are typically more powerful than enchants available to other classes. Death Knights can wear Relics in their ranged slot, but Relics are not enchant-able.
A weapon can have an enchant from either runeforging or from Enchanting, but not both together (the runeforging enchants are always better for the death knight). A player will have to be near a runeforge in order to forge a rune onto their weapon. Once a weapon has been engraved with a rune it is impossible for the rune to be removed, though it can be changed at a runeforge. Also even if it is not soulbound, once a weapon has been engraved with a rune it is impossible for that weapon to be traded.
- Main article: Death knight races
The death knight class can be played by all races, with the following stats:
Tanking as blood
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- ^ Death Knight. Blizzard. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
- ^ a b Death Knight. Warcraft III. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
- ^ Death Knight Lore. Blizzard. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
- ^ http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/wrath/features/deathknight/gameplay.xml
- ^ Cody Bye 2008-05-09. World of Warcraft: An In-Depth Look at the death knight. Ten Ton Hammer.
- ^ http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=8202574912&pageNo=1&sid=2000#10
- ^ Gerald Villoria 2008-05-09. Enter the Death Knight. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.