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Death Knight - Warlords of Draenor Alpha Patch Notes Analysis

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Icy Veins asks the experts' opinions on their favorite class changes! Today, Reniat and Mendenbarr discuss Death Knight patch notes.

The Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes have been out for only a few days, but millions of players are already voicing strong opinions of the direction Blizzard is headed with the game in this coming expansion. Some class changes have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, while others have left many a player scratching their head. A few changes have even caused a substantial outcry of rage!


To see things more clearly, we've invited a handful of our class MVPs to share their opinions on the changes made to their respective class. For our first patch notes analysis topic, we have requested feedback from our resident experts on the projected changes being made to the Death Knight class. Mendenbarr and Reniat have been kind enough to share their thoughts on the upcoming Death Knight changes!

Reniat is the author of the Blood Death Knight guides on the Official Forums and MMO-Champion.
Mendenbarr is a prominent theorycrafter who maintains Death Knight guides on Elitist Jerks. He also works on Destiny Softworks, a blog for DPS Death Knights.

Blizzard Icon Death Knight WoD Alpha Changes

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Ability Pruning

  • Army of the Dead now deals 75% less damage.
  • Blood Boil has been removed.
  • Blood Parasites has been removed.
  • Dual Wield is now only available to Frost Death Knights.
  • Horn of Winter no longer generates Runic Power, has no cooldown, and lasts 1 hour.
  • Necrotic Strike is now learned only by Frost and Unholy Death Knights.
  • Raise Dead is now only available to Unholy Death Knights, summons a ghoul as a permanent pet, and has a 1-minute cooldown.
  • Master of Ghouls has been removed.
  • Rune of the Nerubian Carapace has been removed.
  • Rune Strike has been removed.
  • Frost Strike now replaces Death Coil for Frost Death Knights.
  • Obliterate now replaces Blood Strike for Frost Death Knights.
  • Unholy Frenzy has been removed.

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns

  • Rune of Swordbreaking has been removed.
  • Rune of Swordshattering has been removed.

Hit and Expertise Removal

  • Veteran of the Third War now also reduces the chance for attacks to be parried by 3%.

Buffs and Debuffs

  • Scarlet Fever (Blood) no longer applies the Weakened Blows effect.
  • Necrotic Strike no longer slows the target’s casting speed by 50%.
  • Unholy Aura (Frost, Unholy) now provides a 5% increase to melee, ranged, and spell Haste to all Party and Raid members (instead of a 10% increase to only melee and ranged attack speed).
  • Blood Death Knights receive a new passive ability at level 80 called Power of the Grave. Power of the Grave grants a bonus to Mastery to all Party and Raid members.

Raid Utility Balance

  • Anti-Magic Zone now reduces magic damage taken by 20% (down from 40%).

Tank Vengeance and Resolve

  • Bladed Armor is a new passive ability for Blood Death Knights, Guardian Druids, Brewmaster Monks, Protection Paladins, and Protection Warriors.
    • Bladed Armor increases Attack Power by 100% of the character's Bonus Armor.
  • Vengeance has been removed and replaced with a new passive ability, Resolve. Resolve increases your healing and absorption done to yourself, based on Stamina and damage taken (before avoidance and mitigation) in the last 10 seconds.
  • Mastery: Blood Shield now also passively increases Attack Power by 12% (percentage increased by Mastery), in addition to its current effects.

Class Changes


A few things have happened for Death Knights. As described above in Ability Pruning, several cooldowns were made spec-specific. Rotations remain unchanged for the most part. One thing we did polish up is the effect of Diseases on the damage of other abilities. Diseases now do enough damage on their own to warrant using them, so having them act as multipliers on the damage of other abilities was extraneous, and just cluttered up the tooltips of those abilities. We removed those multipliers, and just baked in their benefit to the corresponding base spell. This slightly reduces ramp-up time.
  • Heart Strike damage has been increased by 30%, but no longer deals additional damage for each disease present on the target.
  • Obliterate now deals 25% more damage on both main- and off-hand weapons, but no longer deals additional damage for each disease present on the target.
  • Scourge Strike no longer deals additional damage for each disease present on the target. The ability now deals 50% of the Physical damage dealt as additional Shadow damage; this effect can critically hit and no longer ignores modifiers.
We made several changes to compensate for abilities that have been removed by Ability Pruning. Blood Boil got removed and its effects were merged into Pestilence. This change in effect turned Roiling Blood into a passive ability; which we replaced with a new talent, Plaguebearer. For Blood specialization we removed Rune Strike and are adjusting the cost of Death Coil so it can be used in Rune Strike's place.
  • Crimson Scourge now interacts with Pestilence instead of Blood Boil.
  • Death Coil now costs 30 Runic Power (down from 40 Runic Power).
  • Pestilence now deals damage to all targets hit, including the primary target.
  • Roiling Blood has been removed.
    • Plaguebearer is a new Level-56 talent replacing Roiling Blood, causing Death Coil and Frost Strike to also infect the target with Frost Fever and Blood Plague.
  • Sudden Doom no longer reduces the cost of Death Coil.
  • Glyph of Outbreak has been removed.
In order to better balance the scaling rates and value of secondary stats for Unholy Death Knights, we reduced the power of their passive Unholy Might ability.
  • Unholy Might (Unholy) bonus changed from +35% to +10%.
Active Mitigation was a very successful design that was inspired by Death Knights' tanking style. However, it went beyond that, and Death Knights themselves were somewhat left behind in that regard. We made several changes to bring up the interactivity of Blood combat. This includes making Death Strike cause healing based on attack power, but be affected by the new Resolve passive (see Tank Vengeance and Resolve, above), which gives it the traditional increase from recent damage. Plus, Rune Tap is being significantly improved, to become a strong Active Mitigation button. To tie those together, Blood's Mastery is being changed to affect both the size of the Blood Shield absorb, and the new Rune Shield absorb. Additionally, we removed Dodge and Parry from gear, and expect Blood Death Knights to value Haste and Crit as important secondary stats. In order to achieve that, we made Riposte give defensive value to auto attack and Rune Strike crits. Finally, we tweaked the targeting AI of Dancing Rune Weapon, and fixed it up to use most Talents that you know.
  • Heart Strike now only cleaves 1 additional target (down from 2).
  • Death Strike now causes healing that scales in effectiveness with attack power, instead of based on damage taken in the last 5 sec. This healing is affected by Resolve.
  • Blood Rites now causes Death Strike to also cause an absorb for 50% of the amount healed.
  • Rune Tap now grants an absorption shield that scales in effectiveness with Attack Power, instead of a heal based on a % of maximum health. It also now has 2 charges, with a 30-second recharge time.
  • Will of the Necropolis now grants an immediate charge, and makes your next Rune Tap free. However, its damage reduction buff now only lasts 4 sec (down from 8sec).
  • Mastery: Bloody Shields now increases the effectiveness of Blood Shield and Rune Shield by 16% (percentage increased by mastery), instead of adding the Blood Shield effect.
  • Riposte has been redesigned.
    • Riposte: After getting a Critical Strike with an Auto Attack or Rune Strike, you gain +100% Parry chance until you Parry an attack. This can stack up to 2 times.
  • Dancing Rune Weapon’s summoned Rune Weapon now remains fixated on the Death Knight’s target at the time of summoning, and copies the effects of Talents that are tied to the Death Knight, such as Blood Boil, Frost Fever, or Asphyxiate. Should the original target be dead or otherwise unavailable, the Rune Weapon will switch to assist with the Death Knight’s current target.
Since the Ghoul pet is now Unholy only, that presents a problem for Death Pact. We revised Death Pact to not require an undead minion, but work a little differently. We left it at 50% heal, which is effectively a 33% buff to it from before (see Healing and Player Health above), and added a heal absorb for half the amount healed, instead. It should now be a relatively more effective heal for staying alive immediately, but with the downside of needing to heal through the heal absorb before you can be healed any further.
  • Death Pact no longer requires an undead minion, and instead places a heal absorb on you for 50% of the amount healed.
There were also a few other miscellaneous changes. The Runic Power generation of Anti-Magic Shell was standardized, to make it more understandable, and balanced. Level-60 and Level-75 talent rows have swapped places, so the important rune regeneration talents could be acquired earlier.
  • Anti-Magic Shell now restores 2 Runic Power per 1% of max health absorbed.
  • Desecrated Ground now also makes the Death Knight immune to Roots and Snares.
  • Level-60 and Level-75 talent rows have swapped places.


1. What is your overall impression of Blizzard's changes to the Death Knight class?


Mendenbarr (Frost / Unholy): The Death Knight changes so far seem to be focusing on Blizzard's goal of reducing the complexity of the class. Several of the changes seem to be focused on simplifying the way a DK plays, and both lowering the skill ceiling and raising the skill floor. The net result will be that a skilled death knight is less far above a newer death knight, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm not particularly excited by any of the changes just yet, but the alpha is still young.

Reniat (Blood): Overall, I think there are a lot of good changes. I have a few concerns but it's still early Alpha and we still have many iterations to go even before Beta.

2. Which changes do you think are the best and why?


Mendenbarr (Frost / Unholy): I'm enjoying the fact that Runeforging is getting some attention, after being all but ignored since it's initial creation for Wrath, 6 years ago. That's not to say it needs to be changed, it's perfectly functional the way it is now, but the changes could make it a little more interesting. We might even be inclined to swap runeforges on a fight to fight basis, which will prevent a little bit of the lower skill/knowledge ceiling.

The other change I like the best is the Death Pact one. As Blizzard explains thoroughly in the 6.0 patch notes, instead of reducing the size of the heal relative to the newly doubled max health size, they instead added an anti-heal whenever Death Pact is used. This both preserves the flavor of Death Pact (for which something must be sacrificed), and can potentially kill you on hard content if used at the wrong moment. I'm a fan of things that reward good play, and punish bad play.

However, I've been playing this game for 8 years, and room to grow and improve my play is one of my biggest allures for this game. Without added depth, that room is becoming harder and harder to find. A different tune is playing for the newer DK who still has the basics to master, and I can understand Blizzard catering to both types of players, increasing the skill ceiling in one area to keep it just out of reach for players such as myself, and lowering it in others to make sure it's a visible goal for everyone.

Reniat (Blood): The best change in my opinion is that all of our secondary stats now have both survival and damage components. In Mists, we largely had to make a choice between damage and survival, unlike most of the other tanks (Monks/Druids with crit, Paladins with haste).

3. Which changes do you think are the worst and why?


Mendenbarr (Frost / Unholy): I don't like losing out of my precious "good play being rewarded", but not all of it can stay. One of the changes I'm not looking forward to is the reduction on the amount of runic generated by Anti-Magic Shell (you'll be soaking roughly 14% as much as you were before). I can understand why it's there; AMS was a major contributing factor to separate the newer DKs from the expert DKs, proper soaking could make or break your performance on a fight. Removing the majority of AMS soaking is a way to, as I keep going on about, lower the skill ceiling and raise the skill floor. I'll still miss it.

Another minor gripe is the removal of the rune cost on both Dark Transformation and Pillar of Frost. Banking runes before these cooldowns came up was another subtlety of being a skilled player.

Reniat (Blood): The changes I am most worried about have to do with our active mitigation. They are trying to make blood a bit more proactive, which is good, but there is a risk that they make rune shield from rune strike too powerful. That could make the optimal playstyle in WoD stacking haste and spamming Death Strike and Rune Strike, potentially destroying DS timing. DS timing is what makes a lot of blood tanks love the class, myself included, and I really don't want to see that spam-oriented playstyle become the optimal one.

4. How would you alter any of the existing changes?


Mendenbarr (Frost / Unholy): Given the opportunity, I would revert the AMS change and reduce the base rune regen speed. AMS is my personal favorite DK ability, and it's the one source of depth that I wish not to be parted with. Being able to learn the flow and ebb of a fight, to learn when to use AMS was the most important part of any fight for me. It's such a good feeling to soak a fight well. Reducing the base regen time will accomplish one of the things that the AMS nerf is meant to; addressing how GCD limited we are. Even with our base GCD of 1 second, we still manage to overcap quite easily. This can be fixed by either reducing our free runic, or our base regen time (or in a few other, more complicated ways). This is a very opinion-oriented desire, and that's because none of the changes raise any mechanical red flags. They'll all be functional, and probably better for the game as a whole, even if I don't like them.

Reniat (Blood): I would keep Rune Shield being applied on Rune Tap, but maybe remove rune shield being applied by Rune Strike and adjusting Blood Shield to compensate. I feel like the changes to crit (100% parry on auto attack / Rune Strike crits) and the Rune Shield from rune tap will be enough proactive changes for Blood, but this is all speculation until we step into Beta and we won't know for sure until we can actually play around with the changes.

5. What changes would you like to see in WOD?


Mendenbarr (Frost / Unholy): I'd like to see either Purgatory or Anti-Magic Zone as a baseline spell, and not be forced to choose between them. Personal survivability (and no repair bills) vs. raid survival is an uncomfortable choice to make. I feel selfish taking Purgatory, despite the fact that I enjoy it more. I'd also like to remove the counterintuitive AMS min/maxing measures. Right now, having a cancelaura macro for healer absorbs stops them from preventing AMS from soaking you runic, as the healer absorbs are used up first. If you happen to have a 1 million guard on you, good luck getting any runic. In WoD, if the AMS shown in the patch notes goes live, runic power gained will scale inversely with health. Removing your stamina buff will increase the amount of runic you generate. Both of these quirks seem a little off to me, and if there was anywhere I would not mind the skill ceiling lowering, it would be here.

Reniat (Blood): I would love to see Bloodworms either replaced or completely reworked. Bloodworms in their current form have always been pretty much negligible for most content. They are removing a lot of other tanks raid utility, so this won't be as important balance wise moving forward, but I'd still like to see Bloodworms get some love or get the axe.

Patch Notes Last Updated - 24 Apr 2014
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