Death Knight Dungeoneering

Something strange and unexpected happened about a week ago: my death knight hit level eighty. I never thought I'd actually get there, considering my what I thought was a very deep-seated dislike for the class, but I really managed to warm up to my little undead lady over the past couple of months. Giving her a tanking dual spec halfway through Outland helped a lot, and from then on I slowly but surely progressed through the levels, mostly by tanking one instance at a time, but also doing the occasional quest or battleground. I also didn't feel that the patch changed blood tanking all that much, which made my death knight at least one character where I didn't feel like the patch put a huge dent in things for me.

When I hit eighty I found myself at a bit of a crossroads, as I wanted to keep gearing her up as a tank but had no particular desire to be that tank in blues that helplessly bumbles after the ICC-geared damage dealers that burn everything down within seconds, whether they have aggro or not. In the end I opted for the "gearing up through dps" path, even though all my attempts at playing melee dps had been rather unsuccessful and unfun so far.

That's when another strange and unexpected thing happened, because I actually ended up enjoying myself as two-handed frost dps. I'm still not entirely sure why, but I think there's a combination of factors that are simply coming together just right for me with this class and spec. For example the increased movement speed from unholy presence and the fact that some of my attacks have range have been incredibly helpful when it came to avoiding the problems with positioning that I've had in the past, finding myself perpetually out of range of my targets. If I pull aggro I can also survive a few hits, what with being clad in plate and all, but generally I've seen enough really bad death knights over the past two years to have a good idea of what not to do.

Also, the playstyle is just strangely fun. I've never played anything that fought with a two-hander at such a high attack speed, and it's simply a joy to watch my little death knight lady spin and whirl around like a spiky wrecking ball. The actual dps "rotation" seems to be pretty forgiving to me - or at least I seem to be doing quite well without having much of a clue of what I'm doing - and while this may sound silly, it has a certain whack-a-mole quality about it that kind of reminds me of healing: just that instead of hitting whichever bar is lowest, I hit whichever ability lights up first as available due to rune cooldowns. It's not complicated but still engaging.

So I've been running heroic after heroic after heroic, the justice points keep streaming in and I just want to run more... it's almost addictive. I was surprised by how many other people who were still gearing up ended up in my groups, though I don't know whether that was due to the dungeon finder's gear matching capabilities or if this is simply a reflection of the type of people who queue up these days - mostly alts. Either way I was quite pleased to note that even though some tanks still seemed very keen on getting through the instance as quickly as possible, there was a lot less overall negativity and considerably fewer "I hate this, I just want to get my emblems from the end boss" vibes than I've seen in the past year. Since it's all justice points now, people are a lot more willing to do full clears again, and I got all the optional bosses in heroic Old Kingdom, Gundrak and Halls of Stone done without even having to ask.

Also, while I did observe the occasional case of douchebaggery, I met a lot more really nice people and found myself regretting more than once that I could not add them to my friends list. To give some examples...

I had just tanked a normal Forge of Souls run and wanted to continue to Pit of Saron, but the druid healer was the only one who followed me through the portal; all the dps dropped group. We queued for new ones but couldn't even see one little sword pop up on the progress screen. After a few minutes we started tackling the trash with just the two of us. Just before we got to Garfrost I noted that we had two damage dealers queued up and wished that we could pull them in already just to speed things up. Then the last trash mob fell over and both sword icons were greyed out again. Woe.

"I don't think we can take the boss with just the two of us," I said cautiously, but when the druid suggested that we should at least give it a try, I was up for it. Surprisingly, we downed him without too much trouble. We then continued that way until the ramp after Ick and Krick, where the druid accidentally pulled a second group of trash mobs by popping Starfall (he had switched to balance spec since I didn't need that much healing according to him) and we wiped. At this point I coaxed a guildie into helping us finish since I wasn't sure whether we'd be able to two-man the bottom two caster pulls that we had tried to skip before, though the druid insisted afterwards that he was convinced that we could have done it on our own as well. I really would have loved to add that guy to my friends list, such a fun experience!

In heroic Culling of Stratholme I had a fun run with another death knight who was tanking in frost presence initially, which then led to a friendly and amusing exchange about how the purposes of blood and frost presence have been changed and how the developers love changing things around just to confuse us. People laughed when I joked at the town hall that Arthas had rerolled mage since he has a habit of suddenly "blinking" inside the room without actually walking since the patch. In short, we were having a blast, but about three pulls later I suddenly got disconnected. I quickly logged back in just to find myself back at the instance entrance, along with everyone else. Our group had been disbanded, we were unable to reinvite each other and were getting threatened with a popup saying that we were in the wrong instance and would be booted out soon. We wailed a little at each other in /say and said brief goodbyes, disappointed that our fun had so cruelly been cut short by an instance server crash.

I was slightly anxious when I found myself thrust into heroic Halls of Reflection, considering how many blues I was still wearing, and that feeling intensified when I saw that one other dps, an enhancement shaman, was similarly geared. Still, much to my own surprise, we ended up burning through the place without any problems, popping cooldowns at the appropriate times, and even got the quick escape achievement. Our healer got very bouncy and excited at the end, praising us for a job well done and saying that Arthas "had nothing on us". It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

On the bad side I only had an extremely lazy healer in heroic Pit of Saron who let people die all the time and then had the nerve to bitch at the tank for all kinds of stupid things (like daring to actually kill trash instead of trying to skip it), which eventually led to the group falling apart; an annoying druid who really wanted to get Intense Cold in the Nexus but seemed to be unable to understand how it works no matter how many times we patiently explained it to him; and a 55k-hitpoint tank in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle who rolled need on everything he could, snatching potential upgrades away from me with the argument that he needed them for his off-spec. Dude, I'm not stupid, your tanking gear has more dps stats than those blues. You're just being a greedy jerk.

It's strange to find myself with a renewed urge to run the same old heroics again so shortly before the expansion, but the overall feeling I got from those runs was just so positive! Really gives me hope for Cataclysm pugs, even if the dungeons will be harder then.


  1. I would say a lot of your enthusiasm has to do with the fact that female Undead anythings are the coolest ever. Now put that with the coolest looking melee dps(a sleek two hander) throw in a few spins/flips and you have yourself the epitemy of cool in cute zombie form.

  2. Frost dk is quite simple, just put diseases up and wait for a Killing Machine proc, hit Obliterate and mob drops dead. Reminds of the old blood dps that used Death Strike instead (I think formerly used Obliterate too). Unholy requires more dedication (watching the Shadow Infusion stacks to pop Dark Transformation) and the numbers aren't so high, but I like seeing my ghoul suddenly transforming into a hulking beast. If at least only 3 stacks were needed instead of 5...

  3. @Blandest: That definitely has something to do with it! :D It's funny because I never cared much about undead - they are pretty popular and I see a lot of female undead casters around, but their animations never appealed to me. All the spinning and whirling they do in melee combat is amazing though.

    @Kurnak: True, it's just diseases and then obliterate/frost strike. Gives me more time to focus on things like movement and targeting though.

  4. I have always seem an extreme amount of potential with death knights and it always makes me a little sad to see them get dumbed down so much by people who either don't know how to delve into the class and use them to their fullest potential or who simply refuse to and enjoy keeping them very simple.

    Or as I've illustrated in the past (usually over Vent, because my impressions rock), there are 2 kinds of death knights and they go a little something like this:

    DK #1: "I am a death knight. I have spent a good duration of the previous calendar year researching the nuances and intricacies that make this fine class so appealing and such a revelation, to us the player base."



    Way too many of DK #2 running around - lol