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WoWApr 9, 2020 5:15 pm CT

Death Knight class changes in WoW Shadowlands


So I’ve been looking over these changes to Death Knights that are coming in Shadowlands, and I have a few things to say about them.

Let’s start by looking at the abilities all Death Knights will have access to in the new expansion:

  • Returning abilities:
    • Death and Decay
    • Anti-Magic Zone
    • Lichborne
    • Raise Dead
    • Chains of Ice
  • New ability:
    • Sacrificial Pact

Death and Decay is the classic AoE damage ability of all Death Knights and I’m glad to see it return to being class wide, and AMZ is a solid bit of survivability for all DK’s. Lichborne makes me think: if we’re using our powers to temporarily become undead, does that mean my Death Knight is currently alive? But it’s still great to see it come back, and I’m especially excited for Raise Dead so that all DK’s can have a little dead buddy following them around again. Chains of Ice is a snare, which is really helpful for DK’s who prefer to keep their enemies nice and close.

The new ability in this line up is Sacrificial Pact, which combines the ability to trade your pet’s health for your benefit with the old fun of Corpse Explosion, so that’s nice.

All and all, these are solid decisions for the class as a whole. But there are also changes for each spec, so let’s take a look at those.

Blood Death Knights

Blood DK’s won’t really feel particularly different, but they are getting some quality of life changes changes that will make the spec feel a bit more vital.

  • New abilities:
    • Blood Tap
    • Relish in Blood
  • Moved from talent to baseline:
    • Rune Tap

First up, Rune Tap is now no longer a talent, which is nice.

The new Blood Tap ability allows the Blood DK to draw essence from slain enemies to regenerate a rune, and it can be used whenever a Bone Shield charge is consumed. And Relish in Blood is not just the title for my debut album: this new skill heals the DK for each active Bone Shield charge and grants 5 Runic Power when Death and Decay is cast while Crimson Scourge is active. A bit complicated, but nice nonetheless.

Frost Death Knights

Two-Handed Frost is back.

I mean, I could stop this post right here. 2h Frost was my favorite spec going all the way back to Wrath, where it was my primary tanking spec — back when Death Knights could tank or DPS in any spec they chose. Even after that changed, I very much enjoyed 2h Frost, and I’m giddy to see it make a return. You can still choose to dual wield as a Frost DK, don’t worry, but if you’d rather go 2h it’s once again an option.

But what else is coming for Frost DK’s?

  • New talents:
    • Hypothermic Presence
  • Moved from talent to baseline:
    • Frostwyrm’s Fury

With Frostwyrm’s Fury going baseline, a new talent, Hypothermic Presence, will instead allow Frost DK’s to halve their Runic Power costs for abilities for “a moderate amount of time.” We’ll find out exactly how long later, of course, which will have a direct effect on how good the talent is. I’m in favor of the Frostwyrm’s Fury change, and will have to wait and see on Hypthermic Presence.

But man, just the change to bring back 2h Frost is enough to make me happy.

Unholy Death Knights

This might look like a lot of changes, but it’s mostly about synergy between abilities.

  • Changed:
    • Army of the Dead
    • Death Coil
    • Epidemic
    • Apocalypse
    • Mastery: Dreadblade
  • Moved from talent to baseline:
    • Summon Gargoyle

The real change is to Army of the Dead and Apocalypse, both of which now also summon a Magus of the Dead in addition to their usual cohort of corpses. The Magus will cast Frostbolt and Shadow Bolt while the other members of the Army swarm their targets, giving your summoned minions some ranged bite. Death Coil and Epidemic casts will reduce the cooldown on Army of the Death and Apocalypse, but are otherwise unchanged.

Meanwhile, the Unholy DK Mastery: Dreadblade is going to not just buff the Death Knight, but also their minions, making these undead servants more powerful even while you summon them more often.

Covenant abilities

So what dreaded secrets do the Covenants of the Shadowlands teach to Death Knights? Maybe it’s not so surprising that DK’s would learn new abilities in the land of the dead.

  • Kyrian: Shackle the Unworthy, which deals Arcane damage over time and weakens the target, reducing the damage they do when they attack you. It also lowers the cooldown when you hit the target of your Shackle the Unworthy with a Rune-spending attack — this makes me think it’ll be an excellent choice for DK tanks.
  • Venthyr: Swarming Mist, which not only increases your Dodge chance, but also does Shadow damage in the area around you and increases your Runic Power for every target it hits (up to a maximum). This feels like it’s got some serious tanking and DPS viability.
  • Necrolords: Abomination Limb, which extends from your body, does damage to nearby targets, and pulls a distant target to you. It grows out of your body. It’s as gross and yet potentially useful as you’d expect.
  • Night Fae: Death’s Due, which corrupts the targeted ground, causing Shadow damage over a duration of time to targets within the area.Affected enemies deal reduced damage to you (up to a maximum amount) and their power is transferred to you as an equal amount of Strength. While you remain within the area, your Necrotic Strike and Heart Strike will hit additional targets. Scourge Strike and Clawing Shadows will hit all enemies near the target. That feels pretty viable for either tanking or DPS.

I’m curious about which of these abilities will be the most sought after — I suspect Abomination Limb will be the least chosen, but I’ve been wrong before.

Overall I feel really good about these changes, and I eagerly await the return of my 2h Frost playstyle.

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