Putting the "Death" in Death Knights

Are Death Knights actually dead? It's a question that comes up far too often in places like LiveJournal's warcraftsues community, which has seen a parade of beautiful, warm, unrotted, pregnant not-a-Death-Knights in the past year. But putting aside people who want to have blue eyes and pretend to be a High Elf, people who want to be Drow, or people who are just in it for the ERP but for some inconceivable reason decided they needed to roll their super-sexy chick with blue-black skin, just how dead are our characters? And how did they get that way?

If you walk around Acherus during the opening quests, you'll see necromancers standing around meat wagons. The Scourge need to bolster the ranks of their new Death Knights, and quickly, so they've trucked in bodies to raise to do their bidding. Where do these bodies come from? It's not stated explicitly, but it's a safe assumption that they're soldiers who recently fell in battle against the Scourge. It's also a safe assumption that the bulk of them are from the Argent Dawn, since they have the largest presence in the Plaguelands. This is your "vanilla" backstory for the majority of the Knights of the Ebon Blade: A soldier or adventurer who fell in battle against the Scourge shortly before the events at Light's Hope Chapel and was raised in Acherus, then twisted by the Scourge there into a Death Knight. So the average Knight of the Ebon Blade was killed and raised into undeath. Who and what they were before is open to interpretation, but that much is pretty straightforward.

If you're an NPC, or if you just want to do things differently, it's also very possible that you were killed and raised at another point in the war. Darion Mograine, Highlord of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, died when he impaled himself on his father's sword Ashbringer. He freed his father's soul from the corrupted weapon but cursed himself to undeath, though it's unclear whether the sword raised him or Kel'Thuzad did. Thassarian died at the beginning of the Third War at the hands of Arthas' lieutenant Falric and was raised to join the Scourge as a Death Knight. Koltira Deathweaver was killed and raised by Thassarian during the Scourge invasion of Quel'thalas, then trained as a Death Knight. I admit my own Dariahn follows a little of both formulas, though it was more because I had his backstory hammered out a good few weeks before I played through the starting area than because I was striving to be different. He died in Stratholme and was raised to be a necromancer's personal servant, served the Scourge and the necromancer for years, but was not a Death Knight until he was sent to Ebon Hold by his master to train.

But can you become a Death Knight without dying? There are certainly examples of it in the lore, not least being Arthas himself. (Another would be a certain Drakkari you encounter in Northrend, but I'll not spoil that amazing quest-chain.) But the resulting Death Knight is no less undead. Just because they did not suffer a specific trauma that rendered their body dead does not mean they haven't undergone physiological changes that make them undead beings. Their tooltips even say they're Undead! A major factor in this conversion is the runeblade itself. When Arthas first encountered the dreadlord Tichondrius, he told the now-undead prince, "The runeblade that you carry was forged by the Lich King and empowered to steal souls. Yours was the first one it claimed." The RPG books have some useful hints here as well, as they list rules for Frostmourne as a player-wielded weapon: "An individual who wields Frostmourne will not part with it willingly. Over time the person will go from good to neutral and finally to evil. A non-undead evil wielder will then become undead. Finally the sword is able to suck the being's soul into the sword." This form of conversion likely has to be undertaken with some degree of consent, with the person willingly taking up the soul-stealing weapon. That doesn't mean brainwashing and other forms of manipulation can't be involved. Even Arthas didn't know what he was getting into when he took Frostmourne. But a Death Knight's runeweapon can cause those physiological changes in the living, turning them undead without the body ever technically dying. It's also worth noting that Scourge necromancers tend to show symptoms of undeath due to their constant exposure to necromantic energy, but they never seem to be classified as undead. Practicing necromancy alone doesn't seem to be enough for a spontaneous death-free conversion.

This brings us to the subject of metaphysics in Warcraft, how it applies to both Death Knights and Forsaken, and game mechanics vs creator intent (which is a subject I've spoken on before). Warcraft has the benefit of being one of those universes completely unlike our own where metaphysics are pretty much a known quantity. It's hard to say "There is no Light" when you keep getting hit upside the head with great hammers of it whenever you go into a contested area. Likewise, regardless of any of your personally-held beliefs about the real world, our characters have souls. While the Forsaken may be classified as humanoids so paladins don't destroy them in PvP, it's also a reasonable assumption that Sylvanas "freed" them by freeing their souls from the Lich King's grasp. That's why standard undead rules don't apply to them: They're a sort of hybrid creature with a soul in an undead body. It may have started as a bow to game mechanics, but it works.

How does this apply to Death Knights? The bulk of the Scourge may be mindless, and your average Forsaken was one of these, but there are numerous soldiers among them who are able to act and think on their own like the Death Knights trained in Ebon Hold. But they still serve the Lich King unquestioningly and are unable to act against his will, and this can be extrapolated to be because he controls their souls every bit as much as the mindless ones. Death Knights' souls are absorbed into their runeblades, which are Scourge creations. (Liches, as a side note, keep theirs in phylacteries.) But when you're sent back to your faction's capitol for what I like to call the Walk of Shame, you're given a letter from Tirion Fordring declaring that you have "the soul of a champion. A soul that has only recently been reunited with the body. " Whether it was because the power of the righteous souls at Light's Hope returned your soul or the Lich King freed the Death Knights as a way of casting them out after Mograine's betrayal is up for debate, but your soul is now your own.

So Death Knights are, like Forsaken, a sort of hybrid undead that once again has a soul. Some are raised from the dead, and others are enslaved and converted from Living to Scourge, but they are all free-willed undead. The Forsaken are usually just a little worse for wear.

Sigils and Where to Upgrade Them

Sigils are for Death Knights what Librams are for Paladins or Totems are for Shaman: This is our Relic-slot item. It gives us a class-specific, Trinket-like Equip bonus, such as an attack power buff toward or after using a certain ability. When you complete the quest "Into the Realm of Shadows" below Acherus, you'll get your first one, the [Sigil of the Dark Rider], alongside your Deathcharger spell. This will do you great through Outland and through the first part of Northrend, until the first upgrade becomes available at level 74. Let's take a look at the Sigil upgrades we have to choose from:
  • At level 74, get your undead rear over to Grizzly Hills and the Venture Bay PvP area. For a mere 30 Venture Coins, obtainable in a half-hour of questing at worst unless your server has some crazy hard-on for Venture Bay, you have a choice of three shiny new Sigils: The [Sigil of the Frozen Conscience] (unsurprisingly my favorite!), the [Sigil of Arthritic Binding], and the [Sigil of the Wild Buck]. Frozen Conscience, as you can guess from the name, is great for Frost with a buff to Icy Touch. Arthritic Binding is good for Unholy, as it buffs Scourge Strike. Wild Buck seems intended for Blood just by process of elimination, but as it buffs Death Coil (Blood's only real good Runic Power dump) it would be fine for Unholy as well.

  • At level 80 you'll primarily hit up the Emblem vendors for your Sigil upgrades. 15 Emblems of Heroism will get you the [Sigil of the Unfaltering Knight] for tanking or the [Sigil of Haunted Dreams] for DPS, 25 Emblems of Valor will get you the [Sigil of Awareness] for DPS, and 19 Emblems of Conquest will get you the [Sigil of Deflection] for tanking or the [Sigil of the Vengeful Heart] for DPS.

  • I'm not going to go into detail on those at this point, though, because Emblems of Triumph have become the common currency. For 25 of them you can get the [Sigil of Insolence], an upgraded version of Deflection which lets your Rune Strikes proc more delicious Rune Strikes. DPSers can get the [Sigil of Virulence], which gives a Strength proc to bread-and-butter DPS abilities from every spec. Both are excellent for their intended uses, and with the new cross-realm LFG system raining Emblems on our heads any serious Death Knight who's been level 80 for more than a week should absolutely have the one for their preferred role.

  • There are also two Sigils available for 30 Emblems of Frost each, the [Sigil of the Bone Gryphon] for tanking and the [Sigil of the Hanged Man] for DPS. However, as they have a stacking buff rather than a flat buff and even at full stacks they do not have a significantly better buff that the Triumph Sigils (+30 Dodge over Deflection, +19 Strength over Virulence) you may want to just keep those Emblems of Frost tucked away for T10 instead unless they get a buff at a later date. They aren't bad, but they're still not a significant upgrade. Note that the uptime for Hanged Man will generally be better than Bone Gryphon, and it will be better for Frost or Unholy than it will for Blood due to the frequency of the trigger ability in your respective rotation. It is worth noting that they are the first Sigils to use a different tooltip graphic.

  • I'm not an expert on Death Knight PvP, so I'll just touch on the PvP Sigils, all available with Honor and/or Arena Points: The [Deadly Gladiator's Sigil of Strife] is currently 15,300 Honor, the [Furious Gladiator's Sigil of Strife] is 6,400 Honor and 350 Arena Points, and the [Relentless Gladiator's Sigil of Strife] is 1,150 Arena Points. All are held in rather poor regard, so Death Knights interested in PvP should probably just get one of the PvE DPS Sigils listed above.

So don't forget to upgrade your Sigil while upgrading the rest of your gear. There are excellent buffs to be had from them!

The Merch

I was out of town for Christmas and therefore away from any in-game inspiration for a few days, but now I'm back with a post I should have done before Christmas: A run-down of J!NX's Death Knight merchandise! It may be too late for your wishlist, but there's always gift money!

I'll be back soon with more actually relevant posts!

How Not to PuG

Let's be honest: Death Knights get a bad rap. We're a popular class because we're new and easy to level. Everyone has one, whether they've put any effort into learning to play it or not. Anyone who managed to faceroll another class to level 55 can roll one and just push the "I Win" button through Outland and much of Northrend. Heck, when I was leveling Dariahn I made a point to keep pushing to areas at least 1 if not 2 levels above me for maximum XP because I could get away with it. We're exhilaratingly overpowered when leveling. The playing field levels out at 80, but at that point we've only had 25 levels to get the hang of some fairly complicated class mechanics. It's no wonder the ones who have learned how to play have so much to prove!

Since the implementation of the random PuG system, I've heard a lot of complaints. Some come from my boyfriend, who is valiantly trying to level a resto druid through the last part of the 60s through random PuGs. Some come from friends in general. Some come from the wow_ladies community over on LiveJournal, who were kind enough to share their anecdotes with me. So here's some advice from one Ebon Blade to another on How Not to PuG:

1. Don't queue as a tank just because you can.
This is the biggest complaint I hear: Death Knights queuing to tank just because that little checkmark next to the shield icon is clickible, with no idea how to actually do it or gear for the role. This is especially bad because, due to the relative number of tanks vs DPS, if you checkmark that shield and then queue up, you will be tanking. Do not queue up as a tank and then show up on the dungeon doorstep asking who's tanking. Surprise! It's you!

This is not to discourage people who genuinely want to tank! If you're familiar with the basic concepts of tanking and you want to give it a try, go for it! Pop into Frost Presence, put down your D&D, and have fun! But, especially in anything harder than Hellfire Ramparts, you want to make sure you're geared for it. Don't show up in a level 80 Heroic with two pieces of tanking armor thinking you'll be fine. Tanking is srs bsns! Make sure you're capable of doing it before queuing as a tank, I do not care how much shorter the wait is. See also #4 below.

2. If you're not tanking, don't tank.
Okay, so let's say you followed #1 there, determined that you are in no shape to tank an instance, and signed up as DPS. So don't tank. That means do not pull, do not initiate boss fights, do not use Frost Presence, do not put down Death and Decay unless you know the tank has established a firm grasp on all the mobs. Do not drop Death and Decay on top of CCed mobs. Do not use Death Grip unless absolutely necessary, such as to pull a caster back to the tank or to save a healer from a stray. Using Death Grip to pull something off the tank because you are level 60 and still think Death Grip is hilarious does not fall under "absolutely necessary". Along those same lines...

3. Army of the Dead is a Sometimes Ability.
This could go under one of the other headers, but it's come up so many times it clearly needs a section to itself, possibly with blinking sparkle-text. Blizzard had the grace to make nearly all raid bosses immune to their taunts, but I can count on one hand the number of situations you will encounter in 5-man instances where it's okay to use Army of the Dead. Think before you use it! They will taunt bosses off the tank, which can quickly wipe the group if the boss needs to be tanked in a certain position, and they will pull extra adds in trash pulls. Never, ever use Army of the Dead without checking with the group to see if it is okay. It very rarely is.

4. Learn to play your class before you queue up.
The middle of an instance is not the right time to go, "Hmm, what does THIS button do?" Before you subject other people to your totally awesome new Death Knight, go read up on the basics - or heck, just read your tooltips! Learn basics such as what presence you want to be in for your role and whether you need Spell Power (Spoiler Alert: You don't.) before an unfortunate group of random strangers who have been playing their classes for 60 levels as opposed to your 5 have to teach you. Learn what kind of stats you need to tank so you can follow #1. Know the defense cap before you queue as a tank for a Heroic.

5. Don't be a dick.
This goes for any class. Don't post Recount to show everyone how awesome you are three pulls in. (As of this posting it's broken in cross-server instances anyway.) If the casters need mana, let them drink. If the tank assigns a kill order, follow it. When running lower-level instances, remember that not all classes are as OP as we are and be mindful of your threat if DPSing. That warrior who's tanking Ramparts for you was not handed a full set of blues on an ebon platter at level 58. So long as the job is getting done, don't give unsolicited advice to your PuGmates, especially the DPS. Someone's DPS is way too low? Are the mobs still getting killed? Then hush. You were a new 80 once too. The defense-capped but blue-wearing tank is taking damage just fine but can't keep up with your full-T9 DPS? Throttle back and remember that everyone has to start somewhere. The important thing is that you finish the instance, not that you show random people you may never see again how big your epeen is. Be excellent to each other.

So with all that in mind, go forth, PuG, rack up the sweet XP or badges, and give people a good Death Knight story for once!

On "Rotations", Part 2: DPS

On Friday I posted about a fairly standard tanking rotation for Frost Death Knights, and I'd recommend at least glancing over that article first since I'll be referring to it a bit here. Death Knights produce threat by DPS, so the abilities that generate the most threat, with a couple exceptions, also generate the most DPS. There was a little controversy in the comments about another rotation that's gained some popularity, and if that rotation becomes a little more accepted I'll write up an article on it as well, but for now I'm focusing on the best-known Frost rotation that also, IMO, gives the best idea of how the class is intended to function.

I will note again that this rotation is helped immensely by having Glyph of Disease, which causes Pestilence to refresh your diseases on all targets. If you prefer not to use that, you'll have to add another Icy Touch > Plague Strike to refresh the diseases. It's very important to keep your diseases up! You may even want to look into an addon to help you track them if you don't have one already.

Again, your rotation will vary slightly depending on whether you're fighting a single target or AoEing. Frost is excellent for AoEs thanks to the high AoE damage of its signature 51-point ability, Howling Blast. I usually start off with Icy Touch > Plague Strike to get my diseases up, a Pestilence to spread the love around, Howling Blast, and then a Blood Strike to turn over that last Blood Rune. You want to make sure Frost Fever is up on everything before even bothering with Howling Blast. After that it's just a matter of hitting Howling Blast whenever it's available, Frost Strike to dump HP, Pestilence when you need to refresh diseases (or Icy Touch > Plague Strike > Pestilence if you're not glyphed for it), Obliterate whenever your runes are refreshed and Howling Blast is still on cooldown, and Blood Strike to flip Blood Runes. And be sure to take advantage of those Killing Machine and Freezing Fog/Rime procs! I generally skip Death and Decay when DPSing because I'd rather spend those runes on Howling Blast. You can try it if you really trust your tank, but I wouldn't recommend it with anything but a paladin or another DK, and not until they have a good tight hold on the group. It's a decent enough AoE DoT, but it does generate extra threat, relies on keeping the mobs standing in it, and at a whopping 1 of each Rune it's the most expensive ability in your arsenal.

On a single target, just as when tanking, you want to focus on Obliterate over Howling Blast unless you have a Freezing Fog/Rime proc. Killing Machine procs can be put to use with Frost Strikes unless Freezing Fog/Rime is up. Even on a single target, it's better to use Pestilence to refresh your diseases if you're glyphed for it.

The main differences between the Frost tanking and DPS rotations, beside the hopefully obvious difference that you're doing it in Blood Presence instead of Frost Presence, are the lack of Death and Decay, the lack of Rune Strike, and the lack of bothering with your mitigation cooldowns unless you really feel like popping Anti-Magic Shell (or as I call it, the Banshee Bubble) so you can keep standing in that Blizzard. Unbreakable Armor is also back to giving a Strength bonus, so it's still worth speccing into and using even for DPS. And pop a ghoul every so often! If Rune Strike does proc there's not much reason not to use it, but if you just dodged something that means you've gotten something's attention and you might want to throttle back for the tank to pick it up. For me it's extremely easy to switch between the two since they're so similar. Your biggest difference is going to be gearing, which is a subject for a whole 'nother post.

But before that, we'll be discussing something that's become a hot topic lately: How Not To PuG.

On "Rotations", Part 1: Tanking

I often get asked what my rotation is, and the idea of "rotations" as something to strictly follow is a pretty strong one in the WoW theorycrafting community, but personally I don't feel they're as valid for Death Knights as a spell priority. There is a particular sequence I always use for starting combat, but once that has been established it's largely a matter of using the best abilities for the resources I have available. Death Knights have a complicated resource system, and it lends itself to a much more reactive playstyle than, say, a mage. As always, my advice is heavily biased toward Frost, but can be adjusted for your spec of choice.

I should start by saying that I can't lavish enough praise on Glyph of Disease. It's vastly preferable to spend one Blood Rune that'll flip into a Death Rune to refresh your diseases on all targets than it is to spend a Frost/Unholy pair that could be spent on an Obliterate or a Howling Blast. I'm also fond of Epidemic from the Unholy tree for letting you refresh them less often. Disease management is important, but anything you can do to keep it from taking too many resources from other things is worth doing.

A good Death Knight will remember that their starting rotation is highly situational. If you're tanking multiple mobs, you want to start with Death and Decay, then Icy Touch > Plague Strike > Pestilence. From there it's just a matter of hitting Howling Blast whenever possible, especially if Killing Machine or Freezing Fog proc, Rune Strike when it becomes available, Frost Strike when you have the spare Runic Power, Obliterate if you have the runes for it but Howling Blast is still on cooldown, Pestilence whenever your diseases need to be refreshed if you glyphed for it, Icy Touch > Plague Strike >Pestilence if you didn't, and Blood Strike whenever you need to flip an extra Blood Rune.

When tanking a single target I personally skip over D&D and go straight to Icy Touch > Plague Strike > Obliterate, then Blood Strike/Blood Tap to churn out some Death Runes, Rune Strike/Frost Strike because I have some RP now, and then I move to a minor variation on the priority above. A good single-target priority is pretty much the same as the AoE priority with Obliterate replacing Howling Blast. If Freezing Fog procs, use it. Try to fit it in when your runes are on cooldown and you don't have enough Runic Power for a Frost Strike, since it's not as important to get maximum AoE out on a single target, but don't let it go to waste because even on a single target it's a nice chunk of damage and damage, of course = threat. If you have Glyph of Disease it's best to just hit Pestilence to refresh your diseases when needed, since even on a single target it's cheaper than Icy Touch > Plague Strike again and you get a Death Rune.

I'll note that I don't bother with Blood Boil much because Death and Decay generally provides all the AoE aggro I need until Howling Blast is available, and since it doesn't refresh into a Death Rune it's not as good a use of a Blood Rune as an ability that does.

There's also the matter of your mitigation cooldowns. Those are too situational to hammer into an iron-clad rotation, and on top of that hitting them takes away resources that would throw your rotation off if you stuck to a set one, so the fact that you need them pushes DKs further into a "priority" playstyle rather than a "rotation" one. I'm personally fond of tanking trinkets with a Use effect, as that gives me a mitigation cooldown to add to the rest that doesn't use any resources. I wouldn't turn down a significant upgrade in favor of one, but I would probably hem and haw over it for a bit first.

Tomorrow I'll be back with a look at optimal Frost DPS priorities. Spoiler alert! They're very similar to the tanking ones. :)

On Runeblades

As I've mulled over possible subjects to kick off the lore part of this blog, I've come back again and again to thinking that many of them require me to lay out some of my most basic interpretations of what Death Knights are. The biggest problem with lore in World of Warcraft is the conflict between creator intent, or what the game designers originally had in mind, and game mechanics, or what the game designers had to do to make those ideas fit into a game that requires things like class balance. As a writer, I am a big fan of creator intent. I recommend anyone who can get ahold of them to browse through some of the tabletop RPG books published a few years ago (and now sadly out of print) by White Wolf to see an alternate World of Warcraft unhindered by such things as Forsaken who can be healed by the Light because having warlocks as raid tank healers is untenable, or Forsaken who can't speak Common so they can't grief Alliance players, or...well, suffice it to say that Forsaken without game mechanics make way more sense and are much more interesting.

To start discussing the creator intent of the Death Knight class, it's also important to lay out the creator influences, and there is none more obvious than the runeblade Stormbringer from British sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné stories. Even the Wikipedia page on Stormbringer mentions the nod in Warcraft:

"In the Warcraft mythos, Arthas (a prince who betrays his country and becomes undead, ending up looking rather like Elric) wields a soul-stealing runeblade named Frostmourne (the name is similar to [Stormbringer's sister sword] Mournblade). Also, the minor character, Highlord Mograine, carries the Ashbringer, an anti-undead blade whose name seems a clear reference to the Stormbringer. (The 'corrupted' version of this blade, which behaves more like the Stormbringer right down to the blade speaking to its wielder, was one of the strongest blades available to player characters of World of Warcraft for a significant length of time.)"

So whether you're familiar with Moorcock's books or not, it's pretty clear that the people at Blizzard are up on their classic fantasy, and I'd strongly recommend the Elric books to anyone looking to get a handle on the whole soul-stealing runeblade concept. Stormbringer and its effect on its wielder give one an excellent basis for WoW's Death Knights and their own runeblades. Death Knights are literally soulbound to their swords, often giving them names like Koltira Deathweaver's Byfrost, and they form the core of their power with the souls they consume. But they are also a dark, corrupting influence, and they ask a terrible price of their wielders. Elric's Stormbringer was as addictive as a drug, and it often took the lives and souls of his friends. Frostmourne took the soul of its own wielder, turning Arthas into into an undead slave of the Lich King.

Unfortunately most of the adoption of this into the game had to stop with NPCs because of game mechanics. There was talk early on of having Death Knight runeblades as upgradable weapons, possibly with a way to transfer stats from looted weapons, so that we would wield the same sword throughout the entire game. That was sadly dropped even before the Alpha testing, partly due to a belief that the player preference for a striking visual representation of new loot was more important. (Apparently I was misremembering, because after getting home to where my work firewall is not I researched and found that was just fan speculation. It's not unreasonable to think they considered it, especially as similar as it would be to the Heirloom system, but there's no confirmation it was proposed. Sorry!) We still have the Runeforging system, which gives us excellent enchants for little more than the price of our character's immortal soul, but it's not really the same as a persistent upgradable weapon to drive home how important the runeblade is to the concept of the class. In one of the first Death Knight starter zone quests, "The Endless Hunger", immediately after runing your blade Instructor Razuvious tells you, "The endless hunger will soon take hold of you, Death Knight. When it does, you will feel pain immeasurable. There is only one remedy for the suffering: the hunger must be sated." You're then instructed to kill one of those declared unworthy to be a Death Knight. "Kill and the pain will cease. Fail and suffer for eternity." It's a beautiful setup, but after that there's not a great deal of follow-through.

Personally, as a fan of Moorcock's books and an avid RPer, I have a pair of [Frostguard]s playing the role of Dariahn's twin runeblades, Reckoner and Revenant, and declare any actual useful weapons to be OOC. This sort of "RP armor" thing is pretty common on RP servers as you're lucky if you can get a PvE set that even matches, much less actually looks good, so I don't have any trouble getting people to go along with it. Naturally, the [Greatsword of the Ebon Blade] also makes an excellent RP runeblade, and you'll already have one by the time you get out of the starting area. I encourage anyone playing as a Death Knight to find a nice weapon to play the part, give it a name, and succumb to the hungry singing of your own black blade!

It's Just The Gear You Want, Part 2

In yesterday's post I went over the drops from the normal version of the new Frozen Halls instances that Death Knights will want to look out for. Today we'll discuss the Heroic drops. Now, in Heroic mode the Frozen Halls are nothing to sneeze at, so you will have to work for that iLevel 232 gear, especially from the Pit of Saron or Halls of Reflection. So put on your srs face and keep your fingers crossed for these:

Heroic Mode:
  • The Heroic Godfather of Souls has the [Weeping Gauntlets] for DPS Knights, with Crit and Haste. In general, you'll see more Haste on the DPS drops on Heroic, not the Best Stat Ever for DKs but good for those Killing Machine procs. He also drops [Nighttime], an excellent one-handed axe with Haste and Armor Pen. I have a friend who's already dual-wielding them.

  • The Devourer of Souls here drops some good solid tanking boots, the [Black Spire Sabatons], as well as the Crit/Haste [Pauldrons of the Devourer]. It also drops the painful-sounding [Needle-Encrusted Scorpion], but with a huge base Crit bonus and an Armor Pen proc, expect to have to fight all the other DPS for it.

  • Forgemaster Garfrost loves the DW Frost types on Heroic, with the [Shoulderplates of Frozen Blood]'s Expertise for tanks and [Malykriss Vambraces]' Crit-and-Hit for DPS. He also drops the [Barbed Ymirheim Choker], but it's another general-DPS item that's better suited to an Agility-based class.

  • There's only one thing worth looking for from Ick, but it's a doozy: [Ick's Rotting Thumb], an excellent tanking trinket with Dodge and an HP on-use effect. Mmm.

  • Scourgelord Tyrannus still isn't giving up his T10, but he does give up two excellent tanking drops: the [Icebound Bronze Cuirass] and a good solid tanking one-hander, [Rimefang's Claw]. For DPS, the [Tyrannical Beheader] has excellent stats for Blood, and the [Frost Wyrm Ribcage] is another Crit/Haste armor item. The [Band of Stained Souls] is another solid but, for a DK, unremarkable general DPS ring.

  • This time through it's Falric who drops nothing of note for DKs of any spec, though if you really, really need an upgrade you can ignore the Shield Block on [Falric's Wrist-Chopper]. His bestest friend Marwyn drops the [Orca-Hunter's Harpoon], and while the enchant effect on it will stop traffic in Dalaran, the Agility makes it more of a Hunter/Druid weapon. Still, if you Need Upgrades Badly, you could do worse for two-handers.

  • Once they're back on safe ground (and I'm still not going to spoil it!) tanks can look forward to the [Fossilized Ammonite Choker], with all the usual tanking stats. There's also the [Second Helm of the Executioner] for tanks, but again, it has Shield Block. DPSers have a better chance of a useful drop from there, with [The Lady's Promise], and excellent plate DPS ring, the [Grinning Skull Boots], with a solid Crit/Armor Pen combo perfect for Unholy, and the [Black Icicle], a one-handed mace with Crit/Hit. I'm personally hoping for a second of that last one.

So there you are. While you're at it, you'll be racking up [Emblems of Triumph] that you can spend on other upgrades you might need including T9 pieces, as well as some [Emblems of Frost] you can start saving for the new Sigils and maybe even some T10.

Later this week I'll be back with a look at the story of the Frozen Halls (with spoilers!) and how it ties in with the themes and origins of the Death Knights.

It's Just The Gear You Want, Part 1

It's been about a week since patch 3.3 dropped, and by now I'm sure all the level 80s out there are well aware that what truly lies inside the Frozen Halls is delicious, delicious lewts. Bosses in Normal mode drop iLevel 219 epics, with a jump to 232 in Heroic mode, making this an excellent place for casuals or players who just plain haven't been lucky with drops to do some make-up work. Here's a breakdown of what my Ebon Blade brethren will want to roll Need on:

Normal Mode:

Tomorrow I'll be back with a run-down of all the loot you can't live without from the Heroic version of these dungeons, and later in the week I'll get into some of the lore of the place. Stay tuned!

Welcome to Chill of the Grave!

I know, there are already so many WoW blogs out there, why start another one? Well, for one thing, because my boyfriend was getting tired of me keeping him up all night debating to myself the relative merits of Glyph of Death and Decay and Glyph of Obliterate. I'm a writer deep down in my bones, and a chatty one too, so this is largely a place for me to talk about things.

It's also a place to provide information for people who want to actually learn to play this class, though I'm more interested in debate than simply saying "This is how you have to do things or you fail". While there are definitely things you have to follow, there's plenty that is open to your own personal playstyle, and I believe all valid ways of playing the game are, well, valid. I prefer debating the advantages and disadvantages of one thing vs another to outright declaring that one is the only way to do things. I personally prefer to play as DW Frost, both in my Tanking and DPS roles, and that's the view I'm going to bring to this blog, but I don't think other specs are wrong. In fact, if this blog catches on, I'll look into getting Blood and Unholy columnists, too. I'm planning to approach things more in the fashion of sites like Mania's Arcania than Elitist Jerks. So expect that to be the attitude of the blog going forward: Informing and discussing decisions, not making them for you.

I'm also planning to do something most class sites don't: Discuss the lore of the class. I'm a creative type and an RPer at heart, and part of what made me so certain I would love playing a Death Knight from the start is the compelling lore around which the class is based. Expect to see discussions of lore and write-ups/reviews of things like the Death Knight manga in between posts about PvE mechanics and tanking.

And just who am I? My main is Dariahn of Thorium Brotherhood, Forsaken Death Knight of the RP guild Hand of the Blightcaller. I don't do much in the way of progression at the moment because of time limitations, but I do weekly 10-mans, roflstomp Heroics, and stay abreast of everything going on with the class. I was raid-tanking in Burning Crusade as a Forsaken Prot warrior, and I knew from the announcement of the Death Knight class that the combination of tanking capability and Forsaken-esque lore was going to make me love them. Since before I could roll one I was determined to learn to play the class well, and I like to think I've done a pretty good job of it.

So check back every so often! I hope to update at least once a week, ideally more, with assorted thoughts and opinions on WoW's most misunderstood class, and always feel free to comment!