Updated Fri, Dec 11, 2009 by Xerin
Announced during Blizzcon, the newest class to join the battle is the Death Knight. It’s just not an ordinary class though, it’s a hero class. That’s right! One of the features players have been waiting on since launch has finally come to World of Warcraft. It’s the first of many (although the only one to be included in the expansion) hero classes designed to add some unique and interesting abilities to the game’s mechanics.
Drawn directly from the lore of Warcraft III Death Knights will be hardened warriors who use a combination of strong defensive and offensive melee ability and dark magic to both tank and DPS (damage per second, I.E. hit things really hard). As a hero class, they won’t be available right off the bat.
To create a Death Knight you won’t need to give up your current character, you’ll simply need to obtain level 80 and embark on a quest very similar to the Warlock Epic Mount quest where everyone is able to do it; it just takes a little bit more time. You won't need to raid or gather a group of skilled players to complete it, so everyone will be able to complete it.
Once you have finished the quest you will be able to create a Death Knight who will start at a relatively high level (55,60,70 were mentioned as possible levels). Death Knights can be any race on any faction. They can apparently use both 1-handed and 2-handed bladed weapons (swords and axes were shown). They do not use shields, instead they either go in with a 2-handed weapon or use their dual wield ability to hold two weapons. They also can wear plate, making them highly effective in the DPS department.
The actual role of the Death Knight is the same role as a Warrior, although the specifics are not out yet. The Death Knight is designed to tank and/or (depending on how it works out) do DPS (damage). They do not use shields to tank, but instead will tank by using their spells (which will act similar to styles for Warriors) and what their two-handed weapon.
The Death Knight will be an all new experience for many WoW players. It doesn’t follow the normal fantasy combat scheme, but instead does something different and unique (at least to me, I’m sure some game out there may have something similar). They first use runeblades, like Arthas’s runeblade Frostmourne. These weapons appear to be bladed and it’s not known if they are special Death Knight only weaponry or just regular weapons turned into runeblades via dark magic.
These runeblades are embedded with six interchangable runes. There are three types of runes: blood, unholy, and frost. Out of combat you can embed these runes in any way that you would like. For instance, you can do 2 blood runes, 2 frost runes, 2 unholy runes or maybe you want to do 3 blood runes and 3 frost runes. The choice is up to you.
Now, what do these runes do? They even appear below the health bar (with each of the three runes having its own symbol and color). They act as mana for the Death Knight. Every spell the Death Knight has that uses a resource has a rune cost. When you use the ability the runes are depleted based on how many runes the spell requires. They will regenerate over time, even in combat. There are plans for some abilities to convert various resources to instantly regenerate your rune power, however details were not given in-depth.
So you can choose, before a battle, how you want to set up your runes and then in-combat you are limited to whatever spells can be casted with the number of runes you have.
Death Knights don’t have a rage, mana, or energy bar so they use these runes instead giving it something different than the other classes. Managing the runes will be an interesting task for any Death Knight, especially considering the three trees will require their respective runes. If you don’t have a rune from that tree, you won’t be able to use that spell.
None of the actual spells were shown except for “Army of the Dead” which summoned various brainless minions to attack anything within range. They are not controlled (like the Shaman’s summon elemental totems) and will attack anything hostile around them. Truly, they are brainless undead.
Balance issues were addressed. They are attempting to create the class in such the way that it’s another class, but is slightly different than the current offerings. The Death Knight will be something that breaks the generic combat mold but not breaking combat itself.
Overall, I found the preview of the Death Knight to be very interesting and very exciting. There are a lot of really cool things bring brought in with the Death Knight and I can’t wait until this expansion is live to try it. Oh, and of course, the NPCs across Azeroth will be edited to show their dislike of Death Knights with their text. If you were wondering, of course.
On some last few various (yet somewhat important details), the Death Knight is playable by all races (you can be a Gnome Death Knight) and wears plate armor. I’m unsure why they’re letting all races be Death Knights considering the whole idea of a Death Knight is an undead Paladin, but I’m sure it’ll allow for some interesting lore coming out of Northrend.
Overall, the Death Knight is very interesting and as a somewhat personal opinion I cannot wait to play it. The little bit we’ve seen on the big screens was simply awe inspiring and the entire idea of a Death Knight is very attractive.
Pictures from BlizzCon
Death Knight Concept Art
The three runes and their unique symbols.
What the Death Knight's rune bar will look like in the character frame.