When the Lich King’s control of his death knights was broken, his former champions sought revenge for the horrors committed under his command. After their vengeance was won, the death knights found themselves without a cause and without a home. One by one they trickled into the land of the living in search of a new purpose.
The Death Knight class available to players starts as a Death Knight of Acherus with a starting level of 55, the first and currently only hero class in World of Warcraft. You begin as a servant to the Lich King garrisoned in the necropolis of Archerus: The Ebon Hold in Eastern Plaguelands. Your initial purpose is to assault Light’s Hope and destroy the Argent Dawn. Through a series of events, you are freed from the will of the Lich King and join the Knights of the Ebon Blade, a faction formed of other free Death Knights sworn to defeat the Lich King at all costs. Though part of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, you offer your services to your former faction prior to your death, resurrection and loss of will.
Death Knights engage their foes up-close, supplementing swings of their weapons with dark magic that renders enemies vulnerable or damages them with unholy power. They drag foes into one-on-one conflicts, compelling them to focus their attacks away from weaker companions. To prevent their enemies from fleeing their grasp, death knights must remain mindful of the power they call forth from runes, and pace their attacks appropriately.
Blood Death Knights use two-handed weapons as well as frost and unholy spells to both deal damage and protect themselves. They are the original active mitigation tank which inspired changes to be made to the remaining tank classes as subsequent expansions were released. What this means is that you play a key role in your own survival and have many cooldowns and self-sustainability at your disposal. Death Knights also have a unique Runeforging enchant system as well as a rune based resource system.
The rune system is one of the more complicated resource systems that classes currently have in World of Warcraft. You have two Blood, two Unholy and two Frost runes as your disposal, as well as a bar of Runic Power that caps out at 100 as you spend runes. Different abilities cost different numbers and combinations of runes.
When a rune is spent, it begins recharging and takes 10 seconds to get back by default. Rune recharge time is improved by the Haste stat as well as any of the level 75 talents. If there are two runes of the same type that need to recharge, the second one will wait for the first one to completely recharge before beginning to refill.
Other abilities and passives, depending on spec and talents, will also convert runes in Death Runes. Think of a Death Rune like a wild card – it can take the place of any Blood, Unholy or Frost rune.
The default user interface for the rune system has room for improvement and there are a lot of good add-ons out there that will help you to keep track of them. These add-ons make it easier to see when you will get a rune back by providing timers and progress bars that also allow you to reposition your runes to a more convenient place.
Self-healing and sustainability.
Magic damage mitigation and possibility to ignore certain debuffs through Anti-Magic Shell.
Area of Effect damage burst.
Mob mobility with Death Grip and Gorefiend’s Grasp.
Dark Simulacrum for content such as Challenge Modes.
Lack of mobility, especially without Death’s Advance.
Lower single target damage.
Most damage mitigation is reactive and requires player skill and attention (also considered a strength for seasoned players).
More complicated resource system than other tanks.