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Lichborne: The iconic death knight look


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. In the post-Cataclysm era, death knights are no longer the new kids on the block. Let's show the other classes how a hero class gets things done.

So with BlizzCon just barely over, I figure we're still letting all the new information sink into our collective noodles, and therefore, we're going to discuss a really hard-hitting topic this week: creating the iconic death knight look.

I'm going to come out and say it: I think we've yet to really discover an iconic death knight armor set, certainly nothing like, say paladin Judgement armor or the new paladin PVP armor. On the other hand, I don't think we've had a terrible-looking set of tier armor until the latest tier 12, so that's a good run. But we're still looking for that great set. We didn't get any new information on death knight tier 13 other than one developer claiming it was totally awesome during a Q&A Panel -- but what the hell, let's speculate.

Skulls, spikes, and other cliches that are still totally badass

With death knight armor taking a long time to show up and being designed and redesigned again, one of the big jokes that's been circulating among death knight bloggers and tweeters is that Blizzard keeps adding more skulls and spikes. I'm sure this is mostly speaking lovingly, but I just want to state the obvious: If it's skulls and spikes, it's probably going to be badass. Don't believe me? Just check out warlock tier 5.

This is what my warlock alt's going to be wearing, and I am feeling no shame over it. The subtle interplay of red and black combines with glowing eyes and, yes, skulls on spikes to give a little edge of gothic terror. This is pretty classic for an evil type class like the warlock or death knight. While a PC warlock or death knight may not be intrinsically evil, the classes themselves deal with dark themes -- not just death but disease, pestilence, and the manipulation and devouring of souls. Things just sort of get dark. And when things get dark, what better decorations are there than skulls and spikes?

So to me, if we get skulls and spikes, there's a pretty good chance it could go iconic. The main question here is pretty simple: Will it be enough on its own? Has warlock tier 5 taken the skulls and spikes crown already? It's a big set of shoes to fill, but if any class can make skulls look good, it's death knights.

Bloody vampires

Now admittedly, warlocks and shadow priests have just as much of a lock on the vampire phenotype as we do, and even rogues are, in theory, getting into that arena with the whole tier 13 Batman look. But not only are we the only class that is technically immortal dead by default, we have a full tree devoted to the stealing of life and self-healing. Therefore, it could be that a vampire-themed upgrade is exactly what the doctor ordered.

While the more classic forums of Dracula are dressed in a fine cloth suit or armor and the more modern form of the vampire is dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, there are other vampire-like creatures to draw from. Personally, I'm thinking that Raziel from The Legacy of Kain would be a good start -- a ghoulish creature, his face half shrouded in a dark, tattered cloak. It's still sort of cloth-based, but in a good way. It gives that type of necromantic, graveyard feel death knight armor has been somewhat lacking. It's also worth noting that the original Warcraft II-era death knight shares a look much like this.

The other idea is to sort of go another route along the Dracula line and look for the type of baroque and gothic art that often features in classic tales of vampires. So perhaps the art team could take a look at the type of statues and frescos you'd expect to see in a dark, shady medieval city, a Paris or a Transylvania or anywhere else vampires would lurk. Look at the faces of gargoyles, not the feral bestial things of WoW lore, but the stylized, mystical demons of popular art. Look at the scenes of hellmouths and pietas on church facades. Look at the elaborate lines and curlicues on the molding of flying butresses. Do all this, and you might come about with a set that looks ... remarkably like the new paladin PVP armor. Well. It was worth a try. Still, if we get a set that looks like that, only darker, I'd be strangely satisfied.

The cold heart of the north

Another possibility comes with the origin of the Scourge. The Scourge are (or were) from the northern continent of Northrend. With the native race of the area, Vrykul, as well as some indicators from the Human hunters of Grizzly Hills, we get a sort of a Viking vibe. When you think of Vikings, or of Vrykul, you think of horned helmets, of fur-lined armor and massive greatcoats to keep out the winter chill.

Arguably, warriors got a bit of this with their tier 10 Ymirjar Lord armor, but again, it's a matter of finding what motifs work and figuring out where to apply them. With the Wrath expansion over and done with and the Scourge mostly a memory, it's easy to forget where death knights came from and what they represent. Adding a bit of fur lining and taking a few other examples from Vrykul armor may seem simple enough, but in an era where the origin and original purpose of the death knight has become a little lost and muddied, it might be just the reminder we need

Waiting on the real deal

With BlizzCon over, we can hopefully expect that Blizzard is pack to focusing on patch 4.3 and we'll see the actual tier 13 design within days. Will it be iconic, or will we all transmogrify over it? Only time will tell, but I'm glad to have the option. Still, I am really hoping for that iconic set to come along sooner or later, and maybe 13 will be our lucky number.

Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.

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