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Lichborne: Death knight rookie tips and tricks

Alex Ziebart

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. Join World of Warcraft's first hero class as we head into a new expansion and shed the new kid on the block label.

Daniel Whitcomb, our death knight extraordinaire, is out on vacation and unable to fulfill his undeathly duties this week. In his absence, we're going to try something a little different. We're going to learn together, you and I. Veteran death knight players be warned, today's edition of Lichborne is aimed at the rookie death knight, though you may still learn something ... or teach us something, perhaps?

My main is not a death knight, but I do have a level 85 death knight alt. If I'm allowed to say so myself, I think that one of my strengths as a player is my ability to pick up little tricks of a class just by observing those around me. Just by watching my guildmates in heroics or my raidmates in ... well, raids, I can pick up an alt of a class I've never played and do a pretty good job with it. Not great right away, but pretty good.

Death knights were a fascinating class to try this with, because while they're easy to pick up and go, they're not a particularly straightforward class. You can push A button to achieve X result, but you're much better off pushing A and combining it with B (and possibly C) to achieve Y. The combinations aren't always obvious, especially to brand new players. I've picked up some of these tricks and polled our Twitter audience for more. Let's dig into them, shall we?

Death knight tips and tricks

Lichborne isn't just for breaking Charm, Fear and Sleep effects.
As the tooltip suggest, this ability does turn you into undead. That means you can be affected by a priest's Shackle Undead and a paladin's Turn Evil. More importantly in PvE, it means you can heal yourself with Death Coil while Lichborne is active. A full bar of runic power is a lot of self-healing.

This was the first trick I picked up while running heroics with Daniel Whitcomb. I was still leveling my death knight at the time and had passed up Lichborne because I was often told it was exclusively a PvP talent, since it broke crowd control. After seeing the ability's synergy with Death Coil, I immediately respecced my death knight to pick up Lichborne.

In Cataclysm, healing is rough. Watching your health is not exclusively the job of the healer anymore. Sometimes, your healer can't keep up with the damage being put out in heroics, and having another tool to heal yourself significantly via runic power is a great thing. Here's a macro that will help:

#showtooltip Lichborne
/cast !Lichborne;
/cast [target=player] Death Coil
This macro will cast Lichborne on the first push of the button, and then on each subsequent press of the button, it will cast Death Coil on you if you're a valid target -- under the effects of Lichborne, you will be. This macro will not change your target, so you can continue attacking your target while you spam Death Coil on yourself.

Blood and frost death knights do have a reason to summon their ghoul in combat beyond squeezing out a little extra DPS. You can sacrifice it with Death Pact to regenerate 25% of your health instantly. This tip was always something that seemed obvious to me, but I noticed very few death knights actually using Death Pact in heroic PUGs. In Cataclysm, at level 85, 25% of your health is at least 25,000 health. Probably more than that. 100,000 health seems to be the absolute bare minimum at the level cap for DPS players, so a 25% heal isn't too shabby at all. If you're a blood tank, that heal is even more significant, especially if you follow the next tip submitted via Twitter ...

If you're a tank, always pop Vampiric Blood before sacrificing your ghoul for more healing. (from @bidogau) Let's say you're a blood death knight tanking heroics. In heroic gear with a buff or two, you have 150,000 health. You hit Vampiric Blood, and it raises your maximum health to 172,500 HP. You then use Death Pact to sacrifice a ghoul you've summoned, and thanks to Vampiric Blood, you've just healed yourself for just under 54,000 health. That's one hell of a heal on top of a blood death knight's already awesome healing via abilities like Death Strike and the bloodworms from Blood Parasite.

You can use Death Grip as an interrupt instead of an opener. (from @ssmith0911) Every death knight feels the urge to hit Death Grip as often as possible. Even the very best death knights really like gripping the first mob they see, because it looks amazing. Many blood tanks still use Death Grip as their go-to pulling tool, but it doesn't need to be that way. And it probably shouldn't be that way.

An alternative way to use it is as a third interrupt, after Mind Freeze and Strangulate. Spellcasting will stop as soon as the mob is in transit, though it won't cause any lockout. They can start casting again as soon as they hit the ground, but you may have delayed their spell long enough for Mind Freeze to come off of cooldown.

The trick to using Death Grip in this way is that you may need to take a few steps away from a mob and create distance between you so your Grip will actually cause them to move. If you're standing directly on top of them and Death Grip doesn't move them at all, spellcasting may not be interrupted.

Use an addon like Blood Shield Tracker to help you time your Death Strikes. (from @g31337) Personally, I try to be as addon-light as possible, so I probably wouldn't use something like this until it became very clear to me that it was a mechanic I couldn't fully handle on my own. However, I do know mod users range from mod-light to users that that mod WoW so much that their UI is completely unrecognizable as World of Warcraft, so I'm not opposed to this tip at all. Head over to Curse if you want to download and install this addon.

Bone Shield's duration is much longer than the cooldown, so you can (and should) apply it before a pull. (from @g31337) Using Bone Shield prior to a pull will ensure that you get at least one extra use out of the ability per boss or pack of trash. The beginning of a trash pull is generally when a tank is taking the most damage, so having Bone Shield up right away is a plus either way.

Don't cast Unholy Frenzy with Heroism or its equivalents up; you'll get GCD-locked. (from @ControlledBurn) Haste is an extremely complicated stat in Cataclysm, but at least this issue is straightforward. You cannot drop your GCD below 1 second, no matter what class you play. Too much haste will mean that some of it is wasted, and wasted haste will make even death knights cry. You're better off timing these two abilities so one of them is used after the other expires.

In PvP, have a macro handy to cancel Lichborne if necessary. A priest or a paladin can crowd control you when you're undead. (from @ControlledBurn) Our first tip in this article was hailing Lichborne's ability to turn you into true undead, but here's the downside. While all of that healing you can do to yourself via Death Coil is awesome, the possibility of being hit with Shackle Undead or Turn Evil is very much not awesome.

A macro like this will work well for you:
#showtooltip Lichborne
/cast Lichborne
/cancelaura Lichborne
The first time you press the button, you will cast Lichborne. The second time you press the button, you will cancel Lichborne. Just be careful about mashing the button -- you don't want to cancel Lichborne as soon as you've activated it.

What other death knight tips and tricks do you use? It's your turn to share, people.

Follow our road map to leveling your DK from 80 to 85, and then learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Gear up with pre-heroic gear for DPS DKs and keep track of what's happening on your hotbars with our guide to DK spell alerts.

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