Ending the Power Fantasy: Death Knights

Before starting, I’ll preface this with the obligatory “lmfao caring about warcraft lore in 2020 look at this nerd”

Do also be warned it’s going to be a rather long post.

TL;DR: Death Knights are just as strong and mortal as any other class. They rely on runeblades to cast their magic and are powerless without them. Saronite only offers protection against holy magic, nature magic, and physical damage, not all magic. The Ebon Blade are not heroes.

Now that it is out of the way, I figured that since Shadowlands is close on the horizon many people would reasonably find themselves endeared by one class in particular: the Death Knight.

Indeed, the Death Knight is a very cool concept, both to read about and to RP.

As always however, when it comes to the RP there’s more than a few hitches. I’d argue that there is no other class that is subject to the amount of headcanons that Death Knights are.

From being archgods of doom, to unkillable edgelords and unstoppable killing machines, you’re bound to meet a good few of them with the last glance of their TRPs reading “Warning, OP: approach for instant death” (Screw you, Timmy, stop godemoting me.)

But! I’m here to reassure your oh, so tormented souls, and shed some clarity on this beloved class.


The Power Level

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First things first. How powerful is a Death Knight really? (Pic unrelated)

The answer is: as strong as any other class!

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(Above quote should be considered in regards to the “hero class = superior class” argument)

Yes, really! Shocking, I know, but like any other class they have their limits, they have their highs and their lows, folk at the top and folk at the bottom. Not every one of them is the mighty Deathlord of Acherus as in fact, a good number of them get easily beaten on quite a few occasions which will be listed in this thread.

Sure, it’s important to take note of the possible use of saronite and rune magic, their anti-magic shells and wraith walks…just as you would take note of a mage’s meteor shower or blizzard or mirror image, or a warlock’s infernal or doomguard bursting out of you with a Doom spell.

This is to clarify: they are not weak. They are not mere footsoldiers, a Death Knight would most likely dominate a lot of RP scenes where most are in fact only guardsmen, or mage apprentices in a town or village. They are powerful, they are terrifying. Just as a shaman with an earthquake, or a druid with a hurricane could be.

However they do not reach godhood, they do not require a team of twenty-five players to be dealt with, sometimes as the lore goes, even a lucky shot could be enough to bring them down.

In a battle setting, for example, where they would be paired and faced with similarly battle-hardened individuals of their respective classes, they would not be dominating. A single Death Knight would not be a game changer and would meet its match more than once.

In many ways, a good example of the Death Knight class would be Thassarian.

The Jousting Horse & Mortality

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Nowhere is the above-mentioned ‘mortality’ of Death Knights made more manifest than the quest “Battle Before the Citadel” where you quite fragrantly demolish the defences at the feet of Icecrown Citadel led by Boneguard Commanders (High ranked Death Knights) with nothing but yourself, a big lance and a jousting horse.

These supposed “raid boss levels of powerful” characters are utterly powerless to stop you, or your worthy steed. On a daily basis you will be asked to repeat this onslaught and on a daily basis these Death Knights will end up plainly dismantled.

No divine intervention needed, no great artefact or anti-Death Knight ritual, just one big hecking lance through their face.

Similar events are also certainly not limited to the “Battle Before the Citadel”. Other instances of Death Knights being dispatched with comparative ease through questing and lore without any extraordinary intervetion include:

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– Grunn’Holde oneshots Lady Blaumeaux, one of the Four Horsemen, with a single axe throw to her head.

The entirety of the in-lore fight in Naxxramas takes place in an even-numbered 4 vs 4, where four Death Knights face against a paladin, a mage and two warriors (Darion, Castillian, Grunn’Holde and Brannigan). This should also be considered, as despite popular claims of Death Knights being anti-mage, anti-melee, anti-everything and superior to everyone else, these Four Horsemen lose the even-numbered fight, with only one (Sir Zeliek) surviving by the end, whereas both Darion and Castillian make it out alive.

The Runeblade Argument

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"The single most important piece of equipment to a death knight is the runeblade. It is through the runeblade that a death knight commands the powers of frost, blood and the unholy."

"The runeblade is an extension of your being. A death knight cannot battle without a runeblade." (Source: The Emblazoned Runeblade)

"Allow me to begin your instruction on what is perhaps the most guarded treasure in a death knight’s possession; the runeblade. Without your hand to guide it, your runeblade is but a hollow shell. Separate, you are both broken entities; weak and powerless." (Source: This is my Runeblade…)

Both a great boon and a massive potential weakness, the Death Knight’s runeblade is the fulcrum of every power wielded by the Death Knight, contrary to the popular misconception that Death Knights are powerful shadowcasters, similar to Paladins with casting holy magic.

That is wrong, I reiterate, Death Knights rely on enchanted weapons to cast spells.

It is their ‘loose scale in the dragon mail’, the vulnerable core that, if destroyed (and it can be destroyed by something as simple as a shield bash from an enchanted dwarf shield), could render a Death Knight practically harmless in most fights. Granted, a Death Knight would still be an experienced soldier and a sturdy undead unit, with or without a sword, but without his magic he is a significatly diminished menace.

First Generation Death Knights would likely be the one exception to this, being warlocks in human bodies, who were well versed in sorcery before becoming Death Knights.

Sure, other individual Death Knights might have known magic in their past lives too, I’d imagine at least a handful of the Elven defenders risen during the Fall of Quel’Thalas may have known a few spells (like Lor’themar does), but generally speaking, a Death Knight will be entirely reliant on their runeblade and the dark magic they cast is sourced within it, not within themselves.

The main counterargument levied time and time again against these sources, has been these guys in game:

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“See? They have no runeblade and they cast frost spells!”

While it is true they have no runeblade during the lecture in Acherus, they will equip a runeblade when they are asked to cast their magic:

Further reinforcing what Blizzard already repeatedly stated:

No runeblade = No powers.

This also translates to power levels, the rune system is a thing. There is a limited number of runes a Death Knight can possess on any given set of weapons, once used a rune is spent and they take time to recharge.

If you only have blood runes, you won’t be able to cast unholy spells and viceversa. The more runes you invest in one school, the less power you will have in the others.

"Death knights must remain mindful of the power they call forth from runes, and pace their attacks appropriately." (Source: Death Knight)

Saronite Misunderstandings

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Another incredibly popular characteristic of the Death Knight is the suit of saronite armour, you know them, I know them, it’s highly unlikely to meet one without saronite.

But here comes one more overestimation. I don’t know from where this originated, but there is this belief that saronite renders one immune and highly resistant to all magic. This is false, it has never been observed in the lore.

Saronite was seen to be impervious to physical damage and completely resistant to nature magic, it was also shown to reflect light magic.

However, saronite is not shown to hold any particular resistance to the other sources of magic; arcane, fel, shadow, and it might be as vulnerable as any other metal to these powers.

Source: Saronite.

The Ebon Blade & Renegade Misconceptions

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^ Local Ebon Blade Death Knight entering your public neutral tavern phase before eating your wife and kidnapping your harvest.

The Ebon Blade is not liked, the Ebon Blade is not beloved, nor particularly trusted. Nobody rolls the red carpet when they stroll in town, and they’re certainly not exalted heroes.

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They have also attacked one of the Horde capitals in an incursion to free Koltira Deathweaver.

And assaulted the Argent Crusade/Silver Hand to try and rob Tirion’s grave.

They even attacked the Wyrmrest Accord.

Following on the trail of questionable acts, there is also widespread grave robbing:

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(Source: We Ride Forth)

In other words, the Ebon Blade is NOT friendly, nor do they attempt to be.

That is the thing, they do not concern themselves with the opinions of others, nor the laws of their lands. The one thing that matters to them is doing their duty, any morals in their way they are resolved to disregard if it means achieving the greater purpose.

At the very best, they should be kept under close watch wherever they go. At worst chased away.

"The world will cry out in anger against us, but the air that fills their lungs will have been bought with the price of our souls." (Quote: Thassarian)

So, that leads to the renegades.

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It is not an official term used in the lore, neither is it really a stance taken by any official Death Knight character against the Ebon Blade, but at the same time nothing in the lore is really stopping you from betraying the Ebon Blade, whichever term you use to define yourself afterwards, traitor, renegade, quitter , conscientious objector, whatever, is fine.

Being a renegade of the Ebon Blade hardly means that you are an outlaw in every single faction on Azeroth. The Ebon Blade itself repeatedly commits illicit activities. The misconception that you should be hanged and quartered on the spot by everyone because you’re not wearing an Ebon Blade tabard is just that, a misconception.

Obviously, you’re not going to look any better without an Ebon Blade tabard on you, in most encounters. You’re still a horrifying, murderous undead. People tend not to enjoy that too much.

Conclusion

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Blizzard is probably going to retcon all of this in the nearby future by simply misremembering their own lore as they usually do, so here dies in vain another one of my brain cells.

Thank you for joining my TED talk.

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fine read, wanna erp with our dks killing the ebon blade? >3<

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delete this post

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“Death Knights are powerless without their Runeblades”
Engraves Runic Sigils onto skin because Undead so its not gonna hurt anyway lmao

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uses deathgrip to get my sword back or uses a weapon chain.

Some of their abilities can be casted without it, but ye they are scuffed as fuck if u do manage to get rid of their sword and in that mean time you have to deal with some magekiller possibly in armour that counters everything else. Their biggest threat is the saronite which it makes most classes null.

There’s also the quest in Legion where you and another dk(nazgrim) take down an entire fort full of forsaken rebels and raised arathor veterans.

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In the Scarlet Monastery, Nazgrim and Thoras basically mow down entire throngs of Scarlets along with the DK player with ease as well.

But it should be remembered that the Death Knight player is the Deathlord of Acherus and by that point he wields the shattered fragments of literal Frostmourne or Apocalypse, or the Maw of the Damned.

Which are all incredible weapons that I don’t think your average Death Knight would have. The Four Horsemen are likewise way above the average Death Knight too.

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Transmission

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Down with the ebon blade, death to the death knights.

Edit: There’s a proof that not all non ebon blade dks are considered evil. Remember the fishermon dk? https://wow.gamepedia.com/Abu’gar

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unknown

Grand Hamlet shall rise back to its glory, and fiends shall answer for their crimes to the Brightwood’s word!

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Was the loss to a Death Knight in an emote fight inspiration for this blog post?

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Little does he know…I am the Death Knight.

Awfully uncommon for a DK roleplayer to nerf themselves… willingly.

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True, but man, the over-the-top powerplay is meh imo.

idk if i totally agree that DKs are just “as powerful as any other class is”. a mage’s repetoire consists entirely of magic, and should your DK be experienced enough to know how to cast anti-magic shell, that’s that mage’s repetoire completely nullified for a short while. to say nothing of range – DKs have chains of ice, DKs have death grip, DKs have freeze mind. while it’s easy to say that “DKs are just like every other class!”, i personally think it’s a false equivalency. the average DK starts out, i’d say, far more powerful than the average mage just based on the counters they pose to that class – and, for that matter, any caster class. hell, even warriors would have some trouble with DKs, on account of their slowing abilities and inherent necrotic strength.

this’s also kind of a weird take, considering just before that you said

of course these omega DKs are clobbered by the adventurers. they’re the adventurers. these people are some of the most powerful mortal motherfuckers in WoW lore. i guarantee you any regular soldier trying to go at these same guys with a jousting lance would get absolutely shat on. this seems more like a gameplay-overrides-lore type situation.

interesting little read, though. i wouldnt doubt there’s a lot of good counters to a DK, but the claim that they’re on the same power level as every other class, i don’t really buy into. on the other hand, people really should stop playing DKs under the idea that they’re literally incapable of dying – DKs aren’t gods, you can defeat them, and they have their limits just like any other class. being powerful and having a shitton of counters =/= godly, and i think a lot of people forget that with DKs.

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Doesn’t every DPS specialisation have an interrupting spell, including mages themselves?

That doesn’t sound like a very conclusive argument for them being anti-mages.

I certainly don’t remember Death Knights ever taking that anti-mage role in the lore. Arthas versus Kael’thas, for example, there’s absolutely no hint of this idea.

Blink, ice block, polymorph, blazing speed, invisibility, mirror image. What is death grip or chains of ice going to do when you can’t know what you’re targeting?

Besides, should a Death Knight use an anti-magic shell, a mage can still levitate a boulder on top of them, or conjure an anvil on their heads, good luck anti-magic shelling that one out.

It is moreso to shatter the idea they are any form of OP, that you need some extraordinary stratagem or power to be able to deal with a single Death Knight.

Now, the player character who does in fact kill these Death Knights with a lance has been getting trained for several weeks (months even) of in-game time before actually jousting it out with the Death Knights. So we can take into account he has experience with his weapon, but still, it’s a normal lance, there’s no rocket science to beating a Death Knight, just sticking the pointy end in the right spot often enough does the trick.

I get you. I guess it also depends on how powerful you’d consider the other classes. I feel like they all have the potential to be equally strong.

There’s this general view that a regular mage/warlock doesn’t even have access to spells like Doom, calling down an Infernal and Meteor. They’re all standard spells in their repertoire, but tend to get ignored because “they’re too OP”.

Calling down an Infernal especially, have you seen the amount of damage a single one of those do?

I don’t know if I could put my money on the Death Knight here.

i mean, yeah? rogues have kick, warriors have pummel – but the difference is you actually need to close the distance between yourself and the mage to actually thwart their spellcasting, whereas freeze mind takes advantage of the range difference. that’s not to say they’re “anti-mages”, no, but they definitely have an expansive catalogue of abilities to counter spellcasters in general.

freeze mind. what’re these abilities going to do when your mind’s literally frozen over to prevent you from spellcasting (along with, i guess, general decreased motor function for a short time)?

and if we really wanna get into the powerful spells that a mage can do, let’s apply that to death knights: death and decay is a pretty simple AOE, but DKs also have remorseless winter, or gorefiend’s grasp, or even outbreak if your DK’s specialized in unholy magics. good luck casting spells with ur omega fast fire s peed when you’re being frozen more and more by the second, or better yet, dealing with a literal plague.

but, does really shatter the idea? you’re doing this quest as an adventurer, who as the game establishes is pretty much incredibly fucking strong, save for when blizzard doesn’t want them to be. i guess even DKs can get overwhelmed? but i wouldnt say, like, your average argent crusader could pull off this kind of DK-slaughtery. it’s why i think this’s more a case of gameplay taking precedence over lore-- i just cant reasonably see a normal person pulling off shit like this.

eh. idk about standard spells – in the case of meteor, it’s literally a spell that you unlock at the end of the talent tree, when you’re p much near max level. the only people we’ve seen cast meteors down are people like farondis, who i presume is pretty fucking powerful in his own right, being a highborne prince. but ig i could see a mage who specialized in fire using meteor, so long as they didn’t /instacast/ that shit right

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Actually saying they are as strong as all other classes. I wouldn’t imply that it’d make them weak.

But if that equals weak, then I suppose so lol

(Also, show me the official sources, I dare you :gun:)