Updated Tue, Feb 07, 2012 by Xerin
Welcome to the basics portion of our Death Knight class guide. In this section of the guide we cover all the really basic ideas about the Death Knight class, such as:
you will be provided more information on the Death Knight including why you should play one, what profession and race you should choose, as well as being introduced to some of the unique mechanics that make this unholy warrior take on a play style unheard of in the other classes available in World of Warcraft. Enjoy!
What is a Death Knight?
Death Knights are the first and so far only hero class in World of Warcraft. What exactly does it mean to be a hero class? Not all that much really, all it means is that you first need to have one character on your account reach level 55 and then you unlock the ability to create a Death Knight character, which will start at level 55.
A Death Knight is an unholy warrior that was at one time committed to the Lich King. They were made for evil purposes but many (the player controlled ones and several NPC's) have pulled away and gained free will and joined either the Horde or the Alliance. How a Death Knight plays depends a lot on which of their three specs you chose, but in essence they are plate wearing hard hitting death dealers. Think of an unholy paladin or necromantic warrior and you would not be far off.
Why should you play a Death Knight?
With all the other classes to chose from you might wondering if a Death Knight is the right class choice for you. I would argue that almost everyone should have a Death Knight to play for a few simple reasons.
If the details listed above appeal to you then the Death Knight class may be the perfect choice to you!
What spec should I pick for the Death Knight?
There are three major specializations that a Death Knight can choose from: Frost, Blood, and Unholy. Since a Death Knight starts at level 55 the normal process of getting to choose a spec at level 10 and then earning a talent point every few levels doesn't apply. Instead you will get abilities and items as you work your way through the heavily scripted starting zone and finally get to pick a spec and spend a whole lot of talent points.
Choosing your specialization is best done with some consideration on how you want to play the game, or what this character is meant for, after all this is by definition your second character in the game. Maybe you want a tank to play, or maybe this character is just for melee DPS in PVE, or maybe you are looking to kick some butt in the battlegrounds. For more information take a glance at the description of each spec below:
What is the best race for the Death Knight?
A Death Knight can be any race in the game for either Horde or Alliance, which means you have a lot to chose from.
Each race has its own advantages and disadvantages, some of which can be pretty substantial. Remember though that unless you are looking to absolutely maximize your character the ultimate decision of which race you choose should be based on your own personal feelings rather than racial abilities. If you are a hard core raider or PVP player than the racial's probably should take preference, but if not, pick the race you like the most.
If you chose to play as Horde then your best choices are:
If you chose to play as Alliance then your best choices are:
What is the best Profession for a Death Knight?
Choosing a profession can seem like a difficult task, but really it isn't any more. All professions offer major boosts to starts that are fairly standardized across the board in value. However if you want to maximize your benefits, your best options are as follows, based on your spec.
How do Runes and Runic Power work for the Death Knight?
Mana, energy, rage, or even focus may be what you eyes paid very close attention to while leveling up. You needed to pay so much attention to these things because these were the forces that powered your spells and allowed you to defeat your enemies. Death Knights are the same in that they have consumable resources that they use, yet totally different because they have two of them that are interlinked to each other.
As a Death Knight you will find yourself equipped with six Runes that can be found directly below your health bar. Each Death Knight has two Blood, two Frost, and two Unholy Runes. Death Knight abilities will require a set number and type of runes to work, for example a spell may require one Unholy Rune and one Frost Rune to be useable. Once the ability has been activated the Runes used to power it will become inactive for a short period of time until they have recharged at which time they may be used again. If the Runes needed for an ability are recharging you will not be able to use that ability until they are active again.
Certain abilities can affect the recharge rate on your Runes or even convert them into a special type known as Death Runes. Death Runes are special because they can be used for any of the three Rune types; Blood, Frost, or Unholy.
Not to mention that each time you use a Rune the Death Knight will gain Runic Power. Runic Power is similar to a Warrior’s rage. Every time a rune is used your Runic Power will increase. The Death Knight has several abilities, such as Death Coil, that work solely off of Runic Power and can be used when you have accumulated enough. Also like Rage, Runic Power depletes over time, so be sure to use it when it is available!
What are Death Knight Presences?
Much like Warrior’s various stances, Death Knights have access to several personal auras in this case known as Presences. The three Presences available to the Death Knight are:
As you can see these Presences provide powerful buffs to the Death Knight that compliment your chosen talent tree and help you fulfill your chosen role. Once a Presence has been activated the effects are continuous, and will last until the Death Knight changes them. The Death Knight may only have one active Presence at a time and if you choose to assume a new Presence all Runic Power you have gained will be instantly consumed.
How should I choose equipment and stats for the Death Knight?
Choosing equipment for your Death Knight is as simple as knowing which basics stats are the best for the class. Know this and you can easily discern which pieces of gear you should pick up and which you can safely pass by. While each spec will require similar stats, you will find that some will be more important for certain specs than others. Find a listing of the most useful stats (listed in order of usefulness) for each Death Knight spec below: