Wednesday, May 2, 2012

For new Death Knights

So you want to be a Death Knight, eh?

Well, before we get to the fun stuff I'm going to issue a little PSA here. Despite how easy it is to level a Death Knight, playing one well at max level can be very challenging. We have the most complex resource system, more cooldowns than most, and missing a beat or two is incredibly unforgiving.

If you find a challenge fun, you've come to the right place.

A quick breakdown of your class-
Death knights in general (no matter the spec) are massive damage dealers and takers that bring important utility to any raid. Your three specs are Blood, Frost, and Unholy.

Blood Death Knights

Now, all tanks avoid damage by parrying or dodging the attack if at all possible.
Failing this, most tanks will attempt blocking a significant portion of that incoming damage so that a huge hit becomes a tickle.

Incidentally, most tanks are pansies.

Blood is an entirely different animal. We do dodge and parry attacks, but what sets us apart from the rest is that instead of blocking an unavoided attack, we take the whole hit, then smash the boss right back to heal ourselves for a percentage of that damage, and erect a shield of blood to prevent further damage.

Pretty freaking awesome, right?

The downside (or upside!) of this is that blood Death Knights are not passive tanks. By that I mean that instead of standing there and pressing buttons every few seconds like Paladins and Warriors, we keep ourselves alive by careful management of resources, using cooldowns and Death Strike (our healing/shielding attack) correctly, and constantly adapting to changing circumstances. If we die chances are it was our fault. Don't get discouraged though! This is FUN!

Frost Death Knights

Now, for something completely different. Frost Death Knights come in two flavors- Dual Wield (DW) and 2 Handed (2H). They are exactly as they sound- 2H uses a massive 2 handed sword, mace or axe, and DW uses two one handed swords, maces, or axes.

According to the math, DW frost is currently the highest DPS of any Death Knight, but they all fall within a few percentage points, so unless you're extremely worried about getting that extra 2K DPS in an ideal situation, don't sweat it and play what you enjoy.

The major difference is the 'feel' of the gameplay. 2H is fast paced and has very few resource problems. In turn you get slightly lower DPS, and frankly it's not very exciting to spam a few buttons for several minutes at a time.

In contrast, DW is slower, but very precise. A minor screw up here can put your resources to empty for agonizing lengths of time, but running your resources and cooldowns properly here is very rewarding.

Personally, I played both through most of Cataclysm, and found 2H to be more fun, but eventually out of boredom, and due to a few changes made in patch 4.3 I disagreed with, I switched to the last of Death Knight specs-

Unholy Death Knights

Unholy is my personal favorite of all the specs. In Wrath of the Lich King it was the primary DPS spec, but with the dawn of Cataclysm it became the redheaded stepchild. Thankfully, due to some love received in the 4.2 and 4.3 updates, Unholy not only offers competitive DPS again, it really can exceed frost in the proper circumstances. Additionally, it combines many of my favorite features of 2H Frost and DW Frost into a single class. It also has a pet (Very much a love/hate relationship), and some of the most unique class mechanics and cooldowns I've ever  had the pleasure of using.

Unholy is 2H ONLY. If you see a fellow DK running around in Unholy spec with 2 weapons drawn, remind him that he still has his Frost DW gear equipped. If he responds with confusion or defensively, give this person a wide berth. 

So which spec is best?

All of them! None of them. Really, I can't recommend enough that you do as I did. Give each and every spec a fair try and pick your two favorites. If you want to learn more about how to play/gear/build any of these specs, Each will have a helpful post on this blog in the near future. If your needs are more immediate, head over to