Changes to Death Knights in Cataclysm
What changes did the former servants of the lich king see now that their old master is dead?
Cataclysm Death Knight Changes For All Members of the Class
Death Knights saw a major change to the source of their powers long before Deathwing wrought havoc upon Azeroth. At the end of the Wrath of the Lich King, agents of the Ashen Verdict helped bring down the Lich King. A paladin killed in the initial wave of the final assault took over the wave of the Lich King. Death Knights did not see as many changes as other classes did in Wrath of the Lich King, but they still must know the changes in the game to fulfill the group roles.
The effects of blood and frost presence were changed. Blood presence now increase hit points and stamina. Frost presence increases the damage dealt by the character. Blizzard made no change to the function of unholy presence. Frost specialization increases weapon damage, and unholy still relies on increase a character's haste rating to improve his damage. Haste ratings do more to effect dps done by melee characters than they have in the past.
All tanks feel the loss of the defense stat keenly. Higher armor class and higher stamina ratings allow a tank to do his job of staying alive while he holds a mob's attention. The dual wielding death knight tank still exists in Cataclysm.
Cataclysm Death Knight Changes to the Blood Talent Tree
The primary tanking abilities of the death knight now fall under the blood talent tree. Most players used the frost talent tree and its abilities which increased hit points. A player could tank in any of the death knight specs, provided he knew how to hold the attention of multiple mobs. Death and decay and using pestilence to spread diseases remains the primary methods used by members of the class to maintain the number one spot on the hate table of enemy NPCs.
Icy touch provided the primary way of getting aggro on a single target during Wrath of the Lich King. The spell remains important, but heart strike allows a blood knight an additional way of keeping threat against multiple opponents. Blood death knights can heal themselves through their abilities and take damage. Death and decay improves the classes AoE tanking abilities. In addition to death and decay, heart strike allows a player to strike multiple mobs at once.
The Cataclysm changes included mastery abilities for every class. Blood death knights can increase their healing ability and also receive a damage absorption shield. The damage absorption shield compensates for the inability to use shields. A blood specialized death knight can use rune tap to convert death runes into a high healing spell to keep him alive.
Frost Talent Tree Changes
Blizzard gave the frost tree most of the threat generation abilities in Wrath of the Lich King. The Cataclysm changes forced the class into what it was intended to be. Frost specialized death knights do a lot of damage while wielding slow high damage weapons. The heart strike ability adds frost damage to the weapon damage. The passive icy talons increases a character's melee attack speed, and blood of the north converts blood runes into death runes. A death knight can use a death rune as any type of rune.
The mastery ability increases the amount of frost damage a death knight does. It starts out at 16% percent, and the damage increases by two percentage points for each point of mastery. The talents in the blood tree have shifted from enhancing tanking abilities to improving the death knight's abilities with one and two handed weapons.
Unholy Talent Tree Changes
The unholy talent tree remains all about dealing damage as quickly as possible. PvP enthusiasts will find it became more deadly in player versus player settings, although the average WoW player prefers to keep the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance confined to designated PvP zones only.
In player versus environment combat, the area effect spells and other items allow a player to burn down mobs quickly. The beast strategy for an unholy character is to dual-wield two low-damage high speed weapons. The combination allows the character to get as many hits in as possible.
Blightcaller, the death caller mastery ability, increases the damage done by the death knight diseases. The low level ability scourge strike allows a player to deal damage.
New Death Knight Races
The former Lich King did not discriminate against races. If a member of a race achieved hero status, the lord of the scourge could choose to call him as a death knight. After regaining his free will, he is free to work against the machinations of the Old Lich King or pursue a new life of religious fulfillment in Azeroth. Worgen and Goblins have joined the ranks of the former minions of Arthas and Ner'zhul