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Lichborne: Buttons more death knights should push


Welcome to Lichborne,'s weekly death knight column. Daniel Whitcomb sort of wanted to call this week's column "Neener neener, I can stand in the fire and you can't," but the editors weren't too enthused with it.

One of the most important things you can do to become a good death knight is to solidify your damage (or threat) rotation or priority system so that you can consistently keep your runes on cool down and your damage high. That said, it's far from the only thing that marks a good DPS or tank. Another thing is flexibility.

Death Knights have a wide variety of tools and tricks that can turn the tide of a battle. These tricks can be hard to weave into your existing system without giving up your rotation, but there are tricks to making it easier, and sometimes the benefit outweighs having to mess up your rotation for a few seconds. Let's take a look at 5 specific buttons that more death knight should be pushing.

Rune Strike

I've heard complaints from some death knights that their threat just doesn't measure up to other tanks. Most of those death knights, I think, probably aren't make full use of Rune Strike. Rune Strike is, if nothing else, the best way you can spend your runic power if you're looking to gain threat. To truly maximize your threat, you should pretty much be hitting it every time it's available (That is, right after a dodge or parry when you have the runic power). Of course, one major problem here is that it's definitely a pain to remember to press it every time. Luckily, that's when macros come to the rescue. For all of your major weapon strikes, simply create macros such as this:

/cast (Ability)
/cast Rune Strike

This will essentially guarantee that Rune Strike will be queued up every single tine it's available for use. The downside here is that you may find yourself a bit low on runic power when you need a quick Icebound Fortitude, but it may be worth it anyway if you have trouble remembering to use Rune Strike otherwise.

Anti-Magic Shell

Anti-Magic Shell is probably one of the best kept secrets of the death knight class. Of course, as a tank you should know it well enough, a cool-down that lets you weather the Wrath equivalent of the crushing blow, the high powered spell, and come out nearly unscathed. But here's the real secret: Pro death knight DPSers generally get a lot of use out of it as well.

One of the first lessons anyone needs to learn to be an effective raid DPSer is "don't stand in the fire." One of the lovely things is that AMS, in a limited capacity, completely overrides that rule. Yes, you can stand in the first, at least for around 5 seconds at a time. You can use it to avoid the flame AoEs on Onyxia's lair guards. If you're lucky, you can pop it just before Icehowl uses his Arctic Breath on you. Using it when Sindragosa casts Blistering Cold might even mean you can just sort of stay right there in melee range. If you're still running 5 mans, you'll find it incredibly useful in the Forge of Souls or against Loken.

That said, as fun as standing in the fire and taunting the other DPS can be, the real reason a DPS death knight wants to learn to use Anti-Magic Shell is the extra runic power. Against a very powerful magical attack or damaging aura, you can easily grab a full bar of runic power, which translates to more Death Coils and Frost Strikes. When you have all your runes on cool down, you generally want to be able to throw out a Death Coil or Frost Strike to keep your damage going, and Anti-Magic Shell makes that happen. Therefore, judicious use of this "tank cool down" can actually raise your overall DPS by keeping you alive and giving you extra runic power.

Strangulate/Mind Freeze

Whether you're DPS or tank, PvE or PvP, chances are you'll eventually face a caster, and eventually they'll try casting a spell that'll really break your day. When this happens, remember, you're a death knight. You have multiple tools to ruin their day. Keep these buttons near, because you will use them at just about every level of the game. You'll want to neutralize the Ahn'Kahar Spell Flingers in Ahn'Kahet for sure, and it can be an integral part of the raid game too, such as interrupting Lord Jaraxxus.

The one downside here is that it's very hard not to mess up your rotation when using an interrupt since you usually don't have time to set up a death rune for Strangulate or whatever else, but if it interrupts a significantly powerful spell, it's still going to be worth it for the overall health of the group or raid. Remember, it's not always about the damage meters.

Blood Tap

Blood Tap is another one of those skills that a lot of death knights completely glaze over. Since most of us have a rotation or priority system that dictates we must use all of our rune cool downs in a certain way at a certain time, we don't always think of how Blood Tap can interact with our rotation. The biggest use of Blood Tap is, though, is when you have to hit a rune-powered emergency or burst cool down such as Unbreakable Armor, Bone Shield or Vampiric Touch. Tanks will end up just hitting the emergency button more often, but even DPS should definitely make an attempt to work out the best time to use Blood Tap to activate a cool down that uses a rune.

Let's use Unbreakable Armor as an example. Unbreakable Armor adds a decent chunk of strength, so you may want to use it to offer a quick burst of power, but you don't want it to mess up your rotation too badly. The best way to fit Unbreakable Armor into your rotation is to get your blood runes into death runes, then get them back into cool down as blood runes. The process will look something like this:

  • You have 2 death runes.
  • You use them to cast Obliterate, and they are now on cool down as blood runes.
  • Immediately, you cast Blood Tap, which immediately refreshes one as a death rune.
  • You use Unbreakable Armor, and you once again have 2 blood runes on cool down. These blood runes should then refresh close enough together that you can put out two quick blood strikes without breaking your rotation or wasting a death rune.
As you can see, this basic idea can be used to refresh Bone Shield for an unholy death knight too. Blood Tap can be hard to master, but once you figure out how to fit it into your rotation, it can be very handy for boosting your DPS, survivability, and versatility.

Welcome to Lichborne, the weekly class column on the newest WoW class, the death knight, where we discuss PuG etiquette and Emblem of Triumph gear for the Death Knight tank, 5-man Crusader's Coliseum gear for tanks and DPS,andbasic Death Knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our Death Knight category.

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