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Lichborne: The whys and hows of PuGs and death knights


Welcome to Lichborne, your weekly look at the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the Death Knights. Your host, Daniel Whitcomb, is pretty decent at alliteration but could use some work on cliches. Luckily, his Scourge Strike still hits hard, so it's all good.

So with Patch 3.3 out and running, the biggest thing taking the WoW world by storm is definitely the Dungeon Finder tool. If you're like me, you've made pretty good use of it already, and are probably within a few more runs of your very own cute as a button pug pet in the bargain. If not, you should probably consider getting on that, seriously.

Since running random dungeons is pretty much the in-thing to do right now, I figured I should devote a column to helping you brush up on your grouping skills. It never hurts to cover the basics, and if you're grouping with 1-4 complete strangers, it helps to be on your A game so that you can work with them and be easy to work with. Before we get into the basics though, let's set some goals for all that random dungeon running.

Why use the new Dungeon Finder?

These reasons can help you find the inspiration to queue and give you a reason to keep queuing. You know, besides the fun of actually running the dungeons with new and exciting people.
  • You need Emblem of Triumph gear: If you're a more casual player, or at least someone who generally plays more on the 5-man level of the game, or if you just have a Death Knight alt who want to raid with, you may have some catching up to do gear wise. This is where the random Dungeon Finder comes in. Not only does every Wrath heroic 5-man give Emblems of Triumph now, but once you've gotten the initial 2 Emblems of Frost, every subsequent random dungeon will offer an extra 2 emblems of triumph.
  • You need off-spec gear: Death Knights are a hybrid class, and we can play multiple roles. If you've dual specced into two roles, now's a good chance to gather emblems for your off-spec gear, or even just grab off-spec heroic drops. You never know when dropping into full tank mode (or stepping aside to let the prot warrior tank while you strap on the DPS gear) might come in handy. You can also use this as an opportunity to farm up emblems for PvP gear. Essentially, the dungeon finder system as it stands is a free ticket to gear parity. It shouldn't take you more than a few weeks to be all geared up to have a decent shot at a 10-man ICC group, if nothing else.
  • You have quests to finish: So you've had that dungeon quest sitting in your log for a couple days. It may provide a nice gear upgrade, or you may just want the experience and gold. But no-one runs normal Nexus anymore, right? That's where the dungeon finder comes in. Focus it on the dungeon you want, and there's a good chance there's 4 other people on your battle group with the same problem as you. Remember, you can complete the quests in the heroic version of the dungeon too.
  • You want Emblems of Frost: Considering ICC only has 4 active bosses as of this writing, even hardcore raiders may find themselves wanting a few more Emblems of Frost. Luckily, your first successful random dungeon of the day provides 2. That's up to 14 per week. If you can combine that with the weekly raid, that's 19 per week. Keep up that pace, and you'll have all the Emblem of Frost gear before Cataclysm.
  • It's not as bad as you think. Seriously. You'll find most people you group with want those badges as much as you do, and they are willing to bring at least their B game to get them. Try it, you might be surprised how cool that guy from a random server really is.
Okay. So you've got a goal, and you know the dungeon finder is how to find it. Now that you've used it and you're in a group, what basics should you remember to make the ride as smooth as possible?

Watch Threat and Aggro

Now, admittedly threat's pretty easy to manage in Wrath, at least compared to Vanilla and BC, but all the same, you're going to be stuck in a group with a tank you don't know, or else are going to be the tank stuck with DPS you don't know. In either case, you're going to want to pay extra attention to your aggro.

As a DPS, the big issue is going to be Death and Decay. Despite the fact that Death and Decay is specifically tagged as a high threat move, it also turns out to be high damage enough to fit into just about any AE rotation. Now, when I'm in a group with a tank I trust, it's pretty simply. I open with my diseases, spread them with Pestilence, and by the time I throw down Death and Decay, I'm pretty sure my tank has aggro solid enough that I won't be in trouble. Unfortunately, it's not always that simple in a PuG group. It may be a good idea to hold off on the AE and use a single target rotation for a while while you gauge the threat abilities of the tank. Are they laying down their AE early? How good are they at wrangling in strays? Be sure your tank can handle the big guns before you pull them out. If you do get aggro, don't panic. Stay in range of the tank so they can pick it up quickly and activate Icebound Fortitude or Anti-Magic Shell to survive in the meantime if you need to.

One more thing: curb your Ghoul. You don't want it pulling an extra group when you're not ready. If you're about to jump off a ledge, make sure it won't take the long way down and gather everything in sight on the way over.

As a tank, just be sure to stay on top of your game. Of course, if your DPS outgears you or is just careless, they may still peel aggro on top of you, in which case, you should remember that you have Death Grip (also good for pulling silly caster mobs into your Death and Decay) and Dark Command to pull snap aggro. It's easy to forget you do have actual taunt abilities when you've been working with a good, solid, regular group, but a PuG might just remind you that they exist.

Use your Skills

Using your personal utility skills is another thing that can mean the difference between a smooth run and a wipe. For Death Knights, some of our best PvE utility lies in our ability to interrupt spells. Mind Freezing that healer mob may not prevent a wipe per se, but you'd be surprised how much time it'll save you when you're not essentially killing the same mob 2 or 3 times due to heals. Strangulate can shut that healer down even longer if you're trying to focus on another mob. In a pinch, you can also use Death Grip to interrupt a spell in progress due to movement, but be careful on using this one if you're DPS, as it will turn the mob on you. Use it too often, all you'll have to show for it is an angry tank.

Watch Your Buffs

Yes, we do have buffs. Not many, but we have them. Horn of Winter is the big one. If you have a few physical DPS in your group, this buff is even more useful. More strength and more agility equals more DPS equals more badges faster. If there's a Shaman in your group, see if you can work with them on which Earth totem they'll drop, as Horn of Winter does not stack with their Strength of Earth totem. Other than that, you're probably pretty much clear for basic buff watching, since most of the rest of our stuff is triggered off our basic rotations.

And More

Of course, there's a lot more general tips and tricks you can use to make the run go smoothly as possible, One of the big ones I'd recommend is working out any special loot rules with the group on the beginning: for example, I like to see if everyone agrees to roll need on off-spec items so they don't get disenchanted, and to roll need on Frozen Orbs so everyone gets a shot at it. Beyond that, I'd recommend checking out some of the other dungeon finder articles on our site, especially the most recent Arcane Brilliance, since Christian covered the topic of pugging it up as a mage and had a lot of good general advice. With all this in mind, good luck jumping into the random dungeons, and may the emblems flow.

Welcome to Lichborne, the weekly class column on the newest WoW class, the death knight, where we discuss basic defense gear and Heroic defense gear for the Death Knight tank, 5-man Crusader's Coliseum gear 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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