Lichborne: Passing time until Pandaria on your death knight

Lichborne Passing time until Pandaria

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.

With a release date finally forthcoming for Mists of Pandaria, we have less than two months until the expansion drops and even less time until we reach patch 5.0.4. With all that in mind, how do you pass the time until then? This week, we'll take a look at a few things death knights can do to look and feel their best when the expansion drops.

Solo to swell your stables

Soloing is a time-honored death knight tradition, and with the expansion winding down, it's the perfect way to pass the time. When choosing your soloing target, you may factor in nostalgia, transmogrification needs, or just plain ease of access. Another popular reason is grabbing mounts and pets. In the Cataclysm era, both Vortex Pinnacle and The Stonecore normal modes drop a mount.

Soloing same-level dungeons can be a bit hairy, but considering these two were in the game at the start of the expansion, you should find that even with Dragon Soul raid finder gear, you'll barely break a sweat in blood spec. As a bonus, both of these mounts will be going account-wide in Mists of Pandaria, so you'll be grabbing some possible stylish mount options for your alts as well.

For Stonecore, your target is the Vitreous Stone Drake off Slabhide. Your biggest issue here is probably going to be the beginning trash. Millhouse Manastorm and his minions pack a punch. You should also be able to slip past the first boss and a few trash packs with a minimum of trouble (and possibly an Invisibility Potion). For fighting Slabhide himself, the only real trick is to keep moving. Stay out of his lava pools and be ready to dodge behind a stalactite when he casts his Crystal Storm, and you'll have him down pretty quickly.

In Vortex Pinnacle, Altairus offers the Reins of the Drake of the North Wind. This is the longer and harder of the two farming runs, if only because there's more trash, and you can't really sneak around most of it. Still, if you've tanked the place in a group, you should have a general idea of how to tackle it solo. Remember to keep upwind of him and use your defensive cooldowns. Anti-Magic Shell is just the ticket to avoiding the brunt of Altairus' breath attack. Once you've killed him and got your drake, you can jump off the side of the instance to take the shorter way out.

Plan your pet minions

While pet battles are an optional part of the expansion, I still fully plan to take part. If you do too, now's a good a time as any to plan your pet battle team. Death knights are generals of armies and controllers of minions, and now we have a whole new set of minions to lord over. Of course, if you want to be the best pet battler, you'll want to level up a wide array of pets, learn their strengths and weaknesses, and always have a pet available to counter anything you encounter.

That said, in the meantime, if only just for show, it's fun to have your default stable in place, your best pet friends. Here are a few pets to consider if you're going for a death knight class theme:

  • Albino Snake is purchased from Breanni in Dalaran. He may not seem DK-themed at first, but white is one the stark colors of death, and snakes have long been associated with corruption and evil.

  • If you purchased the Wrath CE, Frosty the frost wyrm whelp is a great ferocious fighter and a memento of your days as a minion of the Lich King.

  • You can dig up Fossilized Hatchling from fossil archeology. Troll death knights will find him especially fitting, but an undead dinosaur minion is pretty sweet however you slice it.

  • The Frigid Frostling can only be obtained during the Midsummer Fire Festival. As a frost elemental of sorts, he's a strong possible addition to a frost death-knight-themed pet team.

  • You can purchase Ghostly Skull from a vendor in the sewers of Dalaran, and he's been one of my main companions for years now. Every brooding, dark lord needs a sarcastic, impish chatterbox of a floating skull to keep him in line.

  • Toxic Wasteling is a rare drop from the Heart-Shaped Box from the Love Is In The Air daily boss run. That means you can't go out and farm it up right now, but if you have it, it's the perfect complement to an unholy pet battler. Consider it your diseases-taking ambulatory, semi-sentient form. If you have time to farm, you can also try for the Disgusting Oozeling, which is a very rare drop from ooze mobs.

  • Mr. Grubbs can be obtained in Eastern Plaguelands if you have Fiona's Lucky Charm. He's another perfect complement to an unholy death knight's team, oozing with corruption.

Of course, you may find other themes and other pets that fit your own personal taste, and there's more coming in Pandaria. I personally plan to pick up a Lost of Lordaeron as soon as I can.

Patch 5.0 talents: The Illusion of choice

With the release date less than two months away, we can probably expect patch 5.0 even sooner, especially if they want to give everyone time to get that Theramore scenario done. As a result, you'll want to decide on how you'll use the new talent system pretty quickly. While Blizzard wanted to shy away from mandatory talents, they honestly haven't quite succeeded. For the most part, there are still some default choices.

For tier 1, Plague Leech is still far and away the best DPS talent. Even blood death knights may want to consider taking it for the emergency death rune, although Unholy Blight is also a good choice for them for the emergency disease application.

The second tier may be the most flexible. Lichborne can be nice for the self-heal trick, but Anti-Magic Zone may save your raid on some fights. Purgatory seems like a no-brainer for tank death knights, but recall you'll have to be healed amazingly fast, or you'll die at the end of 3 seconds anyway -- or sooner if you heal just enough to remove the shield, but not enough to take the hits the enemy is still dishing out on you. With that in mind, you may still want to consider Anti-Magic Zone, at least for magic-heavy fights.

On the third tier, I find it very, very hard to resist the 10% movement speed from Death's Advance. Of course, if you find yourself needing to wrangle adds or chase down runners a lot, you may still want to consider Chilblains or Asphyxiate.

Death Pact will probably end up being the default choice for the fourth tier, since it offers the most health restoration at the least disruption to your rotation. As blood and unholy, just summon your ghoul, hit Death Pact, and you're healed. Even as unholy, you can probably risk a quick hit to your ghoul's life for the far superior heal.

The fifth tier remains the controversial tier. Right now, it's looking like your best bet is to stick with what's on live. Runic Empowerment, when gamed properly, is best for frost and blood death knights, while Runic Corruption will work best for unholy. Of course, if you're more casual, you may find you prefer to just take Runic Corruption for the set-it-and-forget-it aesthetic.

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.