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Lichborne: Demystifying Death Grip


Welcome to Lichborne, your weekly source for tips, news, guides and opinions on the death knight class.

So recently, as I've been working on trying to get the Loremaster title before Cataclysm hits, I've rediscovered the joy of queuing for the random dungeon as DPS. The 10- to 20-minute queue times offer a perfect little window of opportunity to finish up a good chunk of questing while I wait to get back on the emblem treadmill and allows me to take a break from tanking to get in a little bit of good old hacking and slashing. Of course, all this dungeon queuing has given me a good opportunity to see both some of my fellow death knights in action and to see how other people react to having a death knight DPSer in their group.

Between that and observations from browsing the web and even simply from reading comments on past issues of Lichborne, I've noticed that one skill seems to be the most misunderstood and reviled by non-death knights: Death Grip. Thus, I figured that this week, we'd take a quick look at this much-maligned skill, so that you can understand the best practices to get the most out of this undeservedly hated and unique death knight ability. These tips will mostly apply for 5-man dungeons, but you'll probably find a lot of the basic principles will also apply to PvP and raiding.

Death Grip 101

Death Grip
is one of the most feared and misunderstood abilities in a death knight's arsenal. In the hands of a good death knight, it can turn the tide of battles and serve as an incredibly versatile tool for a variety of situations. Unfortunately, in the hands of an inexperienced or lackadaisical death knight, it can turn into an annoyance at best, a wiper at worst, and certainly one of the reasons many players still hold a pretty strong (and undeserved) dislike of the death knight class and its players.

So, for starters, let's do a quick rundown of the uses and functions of Death Grip. First, you want to understand the function. Death Grip pulls just about any non-boss mob or player through the air to the feet of the death knight over a long range. It also taunts NPCs, causing them to attack the death knight for a short time. It's a deceptively simple explanation, but since Death Grip is such a unique spell in that it allows forceful and near-instant repositioning of a mob, it can lead to severe issues if misused.

The dos and don'ts of Death Grip

Here are a few things you should not do with Death Grip:

  • You shouldn't use it just because it's off cooldown. Death Grip is a precision tool and should be saved for when it's needed. You're better off spending that global cooldown on a damaging ability most of the time.
  • You shouldn't use it as a DPSer on pull. Chances are your tank already has a very specific plan for where and how he wants to position the enemies. Pulling one toward you will probably mess that up. Not only will the tank have to double back to pick up the mob, which is now glued on you, but if you get hit too hard, the healer might have to heal you early, possibly drawing too much healing aggro before the tank has a chance to establish an aggro lead.
  • You shouldn't use it to pull a mob away from the general fight area. Generally, you want to leave both NPCs and PCs in the general melee area. If you pull a mob away, it stops getting hit by AoE spells, cleaves and other incidental damage, and if it's PvE and you've just pulled it away from the tank, you may have just signed your own death warrant by creating a loose mob where there wasn't one before.
If Death Grip is used correctly, however, it can be an amazing tool that rather than make you reviled will make you desirable to groups. Here are a few common uses:
  • Wrangling casters NPC caster mobs are annoying in that they're pretty hard to pull. They'll sit right outside of the range of your Death and Decay and cast Shadow Bolts (or worse) all day, if you don't line of sight or silence them. It can get even worse when they suddenly decide to go after the healer instead because all of the tank's AoE threat moves aren't reaching them. A quick Death Grip will fix that, bringing them into your whirring blender of death alongside their melee comrades. Even DPS death knights may want to keep this method in mind. Just pull the mob into the tank's face. You'll probably want to warn the tank when you do and back off for a few seconds so the tank can gain aggro on the newly pulled mob, but it can be a great way to help your tank keep things under control.
  • Interrupting casters If you can't use Strangulate or Mind Freeze due to range, resource or cooldown concerns, Death Grip can be just what the doctor ordered to stop that last-minute heal from a Ghostly Priest or that horrible Shadow Blast from an Ahn'kahar Spell Flinger.
  • Protecting ranged DPS and healers It does still happen sometimes. A bad critical strike from a DPSer with better gear than you or a bit of frantic healing from a healer can pull a mob off the tank and onto them. It can be a pain to run over and grab that mob back, especially if you're dealing with a situation where the mob that peeled off has ranged attacks, or running to wrangle it in could leave the ranged people vulnerable to a cone attack from the mobs you're tanking. That's when Death Grip comes in. Just grab the mob off the caster and pull it right back into the pack. Again, this is something DPSers may want to do too. As a death knight, you have tank armor, so there's a good chance you'll be able to survive a few hits better than the healer could have, and you'll have hopefully pulled the offending mob to a place where the tank can more easily pick aggro back up.

The final word on Death Grip

Essentially, what you always need to consider with Death Grip is one question: Will moving this enemy to where I stand make him easier to kill without putting the healers and DPS at additional risk? In PvE DPS, you should probably add a second question to that: Can I survive the pounding he's going to give me until the tank can pick him back up? If you can answer yes, it's likely a good idea, or at least safe, to use Death Grip.

While we have made strides, it's an unfortunate fact of life that a lot of players still have a negative impression of death knights, deserved or not. One of the best ways you can overcome those prejudices, or at least show them up, is learning how to dazzle with Death Grip. Good luck, death knight.
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, 5-man Icecrown dungeon gear 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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