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Lichborne: The care and feeding of pets


Welcome to Lichborne, your weekly peek into the world of the death knight from's resident undead slave, Daniel Whitcomb.

While we're not strictly a pet class, per se, no-one can deny that we probably have the largest menagerie outside of Hunters and Warlocks, depending on how we're specced. It could stand to be a bit more diverse (where's my glyph of the geist, Blizzard?), and it could stand to smell a bit nicer, but it does the job quite admirably. As a long time lover of the use of death knight pets, I've decided that this week is as good as any other to take a peek at those pets, both the common and the talented.


The Ghoul is the mainstay of our menagerie, and while only unholy death knights can have it out all the time, other specs should probably not scoff at it. It's a very decent chunk of DPS if you can keep it alive and out of harm's way. Here's a few simple tips for maximizing ghoul use in PvE:

  • Ghouls do gain proportionate stats from you, no matter what the spec, including things such as haste, so they're a lot deadlier than you might think.
  • They can also be buffed the same as a player, and do benefit from group buffs. With that in mind, they appear, last I knew, to benefit from Unholy Presence but not Blood Presence. Of course, the gain probably still isn't enough to justify switching to Unholy Presence for DPS on that alone.
  • Ghouls are pretty picky about hit rating. While you can probably get away with 7.99% hit rating on your own, that rounds down to 7% for them. They also get no benefit from the Draenei aura.
  • You can throw a pet snack at a Ghoul to give them a buff, as undeath appears to have dulled their tastebuds. Every little bit of DPS helps, and that can be a quick and easy way to squeeze out some more, especially if you have cooking. Of course, this tip is probably only really applicable to permaghouls, since keeping yourself in snacks if you have to resummon your Ghoul all the time could obviously get expensive.
Essentially, the thing to remember with Ghouls is that you want to keep your hit rating up to the 8% special attack cap naturally to unlock their full stat potential, and you shouldn't be afraid to pull them out of an AE or throw a Death Coil their way to keep them up. The more your Ghoul is up, the better your DPS is going to be. It's that simple.

Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead is changing a bit next patch, as it will have a cooldown slashed in half. With that in mind, it's probably even more important to get an idea on how it works. Currently, many DPS death knights argue that it is worth the 6 lost seconds of attacks to summon it for a DPS boost. That said, there is one major rule you must always, always keep in mind when looking to summon Army of the Dead: They taunt.

If you're in a battle where positioning is important, especially if the mob has a cone or frontal AE attack. Even if it doesn't, your tank may still be a bit annoyed if the monster runs away from his grasp constantly. In other words, you need to know your mobs. Know when it's okay to have all these crazy little things running around taunting willy-nilly, because if it's not okay, it can lead to a wipe at worst, and likely a pretty grumpy group either way.

That said, it can still be worth it. One thing to note is that they don't taunt boss level mobs, so on straight tank and spank battles or battles with no adds, you're probably free and clear to use them. Just be aware that any adds will probably be tauntable unless they are immune to all taunts, so you may not want to risk it on add battles where the position of the adds is important.

There is one workaround to the problem of attacking adds, but it is somewhat unreliable. If you have a permaghoul, the Army of the Dead should actually listen to its commands. So you direct them to attack a single target, such as a raid boss, and hope they leave the single adds alone. That said, they seem to be slightly unreliable in how often they listen, so exercise caution either way.

In short, there's three things you should know about using Army of the Dead. First, you need be aware of the taunt. Second, you need to be aware of the fight mechanics so you can judge if it's safe to use. Third, you need communicate with your group leader and/or tank to make sure they're OK with a bunch of taunting fools running around the battlefield messing up positioning.


The thing to remember about the Gargoyle is that he's summoned with stats based on a snapshot of your stats at the time of your summoning. Since he can't be buffed otherwise, it's wise to make sure you're fully buffed when you summon him. If you have a quick buff potion, drink it down. If you have a shaman in your party, wait until he casts Heroism (or Bloodlust as the case may be). If you have a usable trinket, activate it. If you want, you can even wait for any buff procs you have to go off. Gargoyles are pretty easy to manage now that they have a flat runic power cost and a flat summoned time, but you can still buff them up quite a bit. Still, sometimes it gets a little bit hard waiting for the stars to align, and if you end up waiting 2 minutes for that perfect proc and buff alignment, you'll probably be losing on overall DPS, so be confident.

Dancing Rune Weapon

The Dancing Rune Weapon for Blood death knights is much the same. You'll want to be as buffed as possible before you summon it for maximum DPS. In addition, it's a good idea to have a few Death Runes ready to go. If you can immediately refresh diseases and tear out 4 Heart Strikes in quick succession, you'll get the best bang for your buck on the DRW, since it mirrors your basic attacks. Finally, it's worth it to note that the DRW does appear in front of the person you target when you summon it, which can be a pain when it appears in front of a cleaving boss or monster. The best way to get around this is to in fact target yourself when you summon the blade. You can see our basic macro guide from a few weeks ago for an example of how to macro this.

Know When to Hold 'Em

Of course, with all this timing to worry about, sometimes you may despair in getting out your stuff on time. Sure, it'd be great if suddenly the stars aligned, your greatness card procced, the shaman cast Heroism, you chugged a speed potion, and sent out your Gargoyle and Army of the Dead to wreak havoc on the boss just after he hits phase 2. But sometimes it doesn't work that way. You're not made of gold, so you can't constantly chug speed pots. Your shaman burned Heroism on a dumb trash pull. Your card just does not seem to want to proc. Hey, it's fine. Sometimes it's better to get your pets out under less than ideal conditions than to let their cooldowns sit idle. Just use your judgment and have fun, and the zen of using death knight pets will open unto you.

Welcome to Lichborne, the new class column on the new WoW class, the Death Knight, where we discuss Patch 3.1 cookie cutter builds, basic defense gear andHeroic defense gear for the Death Knight tank, 5-man Crusader's Coliseum gear previews for tanks and DPS, and basic Death Knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our Death Knight category.

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