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Lichborne: A guide to death knight spell alerts

Daniel Whitcomb
Daniel Whitcomb|November 23, 2010 7:00 PM

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights.

One pretty cool change coming to Cataclysm is the advent of spell alerts, on-screen notifications that direct you to a button you really should be pushing when you get some sort of class-specific proc or buff. Of course, many high-level players have had this for a long time in the form of player-made UI mods, but now newbies, UI minimalists, and people who just get confused by UI mods get a chance to have them, too. This week in Lichborne, we'll discover what spell alerts death knights get and discuss how best to apply them in battle.

Generally, when a spell alert goes off, you'll hear a sound and see a certain graphic envelop your character on screen. If you have scrolling combat text turned on, you'll also see green or yellow text describing the buff. Finally, the button for the affected ability or abilities will light up on your action bar, telling you exactly what you need to push. Once you understand all this, it's pretty easy to anticipate the effects, but let's take a quick look at what you'll see so you know exactly what to expect and what to do.

Unholy spell alerts

Sudden Doom This spell alert will occur when you are auto attacking and have the Sudden Doom talent. It appears in the form of two clouds of green energy to the sides of your character. When you see it, it means you now have the ability to cast a Death Coil for no runic power cost, although you will still have to spend the global cooldown.

As you may remember from our discussion on death knight DPS rotations, it's almost always better to spend a Sudden Doom proc than to let it go to waste. The only real reason you shouldn't spend this as soon as it comes up is if don't have at least one of each rune on cooldown (or at least two to three runes on cooldown). You'll want those runes on cooldown so you don't waste Runic Corruption procs as well.

Dark Transformation This spell alert takes the form of a small purple- and green-toothed cloud right above your character's head. It will occur when you have Shadow Infusion and have put five stacks of it on your ghoul -- that is, when you have cast Death Coil five times within 30 seconds of each other. Dark Transformation turns your ghoul into a bit of a powerhouse, so in almost all cases, you'll want to hit that button as soon as it comes up.

You essentially have a 30-second window to use it (the time which it takes for Shadow Infusion to drop off), so in theory, you could save it for the next pull if you're at the end of one pull; if it's going to take more than 30 seconds to pull the next mob, you might as well use it for those last few hits, anyway. Remember, Dark Transformation isn't that hard to get up again. It will take 30 seconds for the transformation drops off your Ghoul. At that point, all you need to do is cast five Death Coils within 30 seconds again, which is actually pretty easy to do, thanks to Sudden Doom procs.

Frost spell alerts

Killing Machine
This spell alert will proc off of your melee attacks as a frost death knight. It's marked by two lines of icy energy that appear to the sides of your character. Killing Machine will make your next Frost Strike, Obliterate, or Icy Touch a critical strike, although you'll still have to spend runic power to use it.

Like Dark Transformation over in the unholy tree, this proc is useful enough that making use of it should override almost all other considerations but keeping diseases up. Note that, as we've discussed before, you should always use this proc to get off an Obliterate. Obliterate will always do the most damage. The one exception here might be using Icy Touch to reapply Frost Fever, but even then, you should be using glyphed Howling Blast to do that if it won't break crowd control.

Rime Despite the talent name, Rime's proc buff name is actually Freezing Fog, so if you're watching for a proc named Rime, you'll be out of luck. This proc shows up as an icy cloud above your head. When you get it, you can cast a Howling Blast (or an Icy Touch) for no rune cost, although again, you will still have to use the global cooldown. For maximum DPS, use this proc to cast a Howling Blast.

Freezing Fog is a little bit trickier to use properly. You still want to use it. Always make sure you have at least one of each rune type on cooldown to take care of Runic Empowerment, and make sure your runic power bar isn't full so you don't waste any runic power. Above all, remember that Howling Blast is AoE, so always be sure to check your surroundings to make sure you won't break any crowd control. Once you have all this taken care of, then you can use your proc.

Are four alerts enough?

We only have four spell alerts, but for the stuff we get, that's probably for the best. There's possibly some argument that we should get a Vampiric Blood buff aura or even a Crimson Scourge spell alert, but then again, if you've triggered Crimson Scourge, you should probably know you did by default. Overall, the spell alert system is shaping up to be a nice, simple system that should help a lot of death knights shape up their game or take it to the next level. Of course, once you're at that level, you may finally be inspired to take up the mantle of a more complicated and customizable option such as Power Auras, but as a basic start, this new default mod works just fine.

Before I go, I do have one thing I do want to ask. Am I alone in thinking that the Oversized Oblique Ogre Obliterator my character is wielding looks like it came straight from a magical girl anime? I'm not sure how I feel about that yet, but my inclination is to think that's sort of awesome. Beware, evil-doers, my magical sword will teach you to respect the laws of society!
We have advice for everything from the latest strategies for regemming and reforging, pre-expansion specs and rotations, and major changes for pre-expansion DKs . Check out WoW Insider's DK leveling guides, and visit Lichborne every week for more death knight strategies and tips.