A lot of the talk about the new World of Warcraft upcoming expansion Legion has been about the introduction of the second Hero Class, Demon Hunters. But let's not forget the original Hero Class that introduced us to starting at level 55 and talking through a Vox… the Death Knight. So let's take a look at how the game designers at Blizzard are going to tweak these very unique characters to improve both game play and connection to the lore.
The Death Knights are very interesting in that their history is closely tied to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and the Lich King himself, Arthas. As the Demon Hunters will ultimately be tied to Illidan Stormrage. Though once allied with Arthas, Highlord Darion Mograine turned on him and formed the Knight's of the Ebony Blade, freeing Death Knight from their servitude to the Lich King.
That is a very specific origin and gives the designers lots to play with. And the first change they are making is across the board for all DKs and that is the rune system. To streamline it and make it more straightforward they are eliminating the multiple runes for Blood, Frost and Unholy and just giving us six generic runes with up to three recharging at a time. But with that change they needed to make some changes to how the spells work so that gameplay doesn't become just spamming one spell for an entire fight.
With the Blood spec, the basic rotation will be the same but there are some minor changes to better leverage control of Blood and Bones for survivability. For example Death Strike no longer costs runes but rather Runic Power meaning you won't lock yourself out of being able to self-heal because of poorly timed rune usage. And Bone Shield will not be the primary complement to Death Strike for active defense and to be tie into the fantasy aspect of the character. And Blood Strike will now generate a bonus 10 points of runic power.
For Frost spec the main change has to do with the critical strike bonus of Killing Machine and how currently it is best ignored in favor of delivering blows as quickly as possible rather than waiting for the right combination to proc. Now it only effects Obliterate leaving you to Frost Strike to your heart's content. Otherwise there isn't a lot of changes to Frost… thought Glacial Advance looks cool. I like the idea of summoning glacial spikes from the ground that advance forward, each dealing moderate Frost damage to enemies near their eruption point. That is visually striking.
The spec that is getting the most changes is my personal favorite, Unholy. The designers want to play upon the unique use of disease with this spec and re-establish Festering Strike as critical to the rotation. The combination of diseases, melee strikes and using ghouls makes this a really different style of gameplay than the majority of other specs. And one of the new things you can spec into is All Will Serve, making your Raise Dead spell also summon a skeletal minion that will come and fight for you. Making friends and bio-weapons.
If you haven't played a Death Knight, you really should. They are very unique in both game play and story wise having their own starting area. I am hoping that the Demon Hunters are handled as well as Blizzard handled the Death Knights.
For more on the proposed changes for Death Knights, check out this write up by Blizzard.