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Death Knights in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

by: M.S. Smith ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/18/2012 • Leave a comment

Death Knights, like all classes, have undergone a serious revision as part of the latest World of Warcraft expansion. Some changes have been made to the Rune mechanic and the talent trees are completely different. Let's take a look at what Cataclysm has to offer Death Knights.

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    Death Knight Class Changes in Cataclysm

    Big changes have hit World of Warcraft. Patch 4.0.1, 4.0.3a and the Cataclysm expansion have made numerous changes to the fundamentals of the classes. All talent trees have been changed, and players now are able to only specialize in a single talent tree until they have placed 31 points into it, at which point they can choose talents from another tree.

    The changes are broad, and in-depth information about the changes hitting each class would require pages of text for each class. In this article, however, I’ll sum up the Cataclysm Death Knight class changes.

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    Cataclysm Death Knight All classes have had a major talent revamp in the latest patches, but the Death Knights have had a particularly comprehensive overhaul. Previously the Death Knight was mostly a “tanking-with-a-two-hander” class with some DPS utility.

    Now, however, Blood is the only talent tree built for tanking. The abilities that used to be spread across a few different talent trees are now given to Death Knights in the Blood talent tree. This makes a lot of sense, of course, since Blizzard is no longer letting you spend any points in alternative talent trees until you spend 31 points in your primary talent tree. This change is not really a suggestion – Blood is the only talent tree with talents of any real interest to tanks. Frost and Unholy speced Death Knights will get ripped to shreds.

    Frost is now a DPS damage talent tree. Death Knights with Frost almost feel like a rogue buffed up on a super-soldier serum out of a sci-fi movie. They do insane damage, particularly AOE damage, and are capable of topping DPS charts. It is not unlikely that Frost will be nerfed as a result, but for now it is a strong DPS talent tree.

    Unholy also is now a DPS tree, but it is tiled more towards single-target damage instead of AOE. While Frost can deal lots of damage to many targets, Unholy makes it possible to deal significant damage to a boss monster quickly. Unholy also makes more use of the Ghoul and of diseases than any other Death Knight talent spec, which makes this specialization rather unique when compared not only to the other Death Knight talent trees but all melee classes in general.

    So – Blood for tanking. Frost for AOE DPS. And Unholy for single-target DPS. Easy as pie!

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    Changes to Runes

    Cataclysm Death Knight Class Changes Runes are changed as well. Here is how Blizzard explains the change:

    “The new rune system will change how runes regenerate, from filling simultaneously to filling sequentially. For example, if you use two Blood runes, then the first rune will fill up before the second one starts to fill up. Essentially, you have three sets of runes filling every 10 seconds instead of six individual runes filling every 10 seconds. (Haste will cause runes to fill faster.) Another way to think of this is having three runes that go up to 200% each (allowing extra "storage"), rather than six runes that go up to 100% each.”

    The basic idea behind this is that Death Knights were a little too unforgiving to play. Messing up and missing an attack is a big deal because Death Knights are very limited when their runes are all used up.

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    The changes to the Death Knight were fairly serious, and they further refine the class by giving it three talent specializations that are more refined than what was previously available. I would not be surprised if Frost damage took a bit of a nerf in upcoming patches because of how high that talent’s specialization DPS can when doing AOE damage, but otherwise the current state of Death Knights seems good – robust, but not overpowered.