Friday, May 9, 2008

Of Knights and Necromancy

Blizzard's next expansion to World of Warcraft will be "Wrath of the Lich King," set in frozen Northrend and featuring a host of new venues, monsters, bosses, and adventures. Most of this, you all know. One thing that hasn't been made public though is the mechanics of the new "hero" class that the developers will be introducing - the Death Knight. From what Blizzard has told us leading up until now, the Death Knight will be a tank class that will not use a shield, and will have life draining, frost, and unholy spells/attacks at his disposal. Well, some more detailed information was released fairly recently regarding how Death Knights will go about doing their nasty deeds. Head on over to World of Raids for details.

From what I've read, their mechanics will involve a blending of rage and energy, they'll have stances in the form of presences, they'll tank without a shield, and they have AoE abilities and a summoned mount. They're basically a conglomeration of Paladins, Warriors, and Rogues, with elements of Warlocks and bear-form Druids thrown in. I'm glad that they start at a high level, personally - I can hardly stand to level any alt past 30, my current "main" alt is level 12 and has been for 2 weeks. I know they're a hero class, but it seems like the dev team is going to have a hell of a job on their hands keeping this class in balance with the 9 current classes, since its taking so much from several other classes.

I'm especially intrigued by the "Raise Dead" ability. This is basically taking the druid battle-res ability and putting a twist on it, allowing Death Knight players to bring a dead party-member or a NPC back into combat as a Ghoul. A question that just popped into my head: what happens if a DK uses Raise Dead on your Mage friend, and then a Druid attempts to use his battle-res on the Mage? Will the corpse be there? Technically the Mage will be controlling the summoned ghoul at that point assuming he accepted the Raise Dead from the DK.

The other thing that really stood out to me was the knockback/physical pull ability reference when WOR mentioned the "Death Grip" ability. I'm anticipating that Blizz will be adding knockback ability to Warrior Shield Bash, similar to the Smite ability of Paladins in Diablo 2. I can't imagine Blizz implementing a knockback ability without some cast disruption - knocking a Mage a few feet back and allowing the Mage to complete his Pyroblast would be funny, but I'm having a hard time imagining the purpose of such a knockback. There aren't too many environmental hazards that a knockback would throw someone into... This is going to have a huge impact on PvP if there is a spell disruption component. Warlocks are going to cry bloody murder as they get assist-trained even more, but now won't even be able to cast their instants and DoT's as they get stuns AND knockbacks in addition to the looming Pummel, Kick, Counterspell-silence, and Earth Shocks...

As for PvE impact however, bringing a DK is going to be a huge boon to raids, but might supplant Feral Druids to a degree. Right now the three tanking classes have their niches - Paladins handle AoE, Warriors handle tank-smasher bosses, and Druids handle fights that require swapping between tanking and DPS as well as the tank-smasher bosses. Druids are sort of doubled-up with Warriors in their tanking strength, and their mechanics involve high armor, high HP, and high dodge. Well, DK's are going to have a specialty in spell mitigation with a Banshee-like Anti-Magic Shell, and they will also have high armor and high parry, and tank with a 2H or dual-wielding. They can also stand in as DPS - all though they might need to switch runes on their blade for that (which will not be allowed in combat), so they might not be as fluid as a Druid. No one can really duplicate Paladin-tanks AoE threat ability as of yet, but Warriors and Druids can tank pretty much the same mobs with the same result. However, DK's bring that spell-mitigative specialty and a hybrid tank-DPS model to the raid... so if you bring a Prot Warrior, a Prot Paladin, and a DK to a 25-man raid to cover your tanking bases, what do you need the feral for? I suppose a raid could bring the feral and have them stay cat when not needed to tank, but then you're bumping a lot of current Prot Warriors out of raids. I dunno, I guess I feel like the DK being introduced into the tank scene is going to throw raid composition way out of whack.

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