Rise of the Death Knight – a deepdive into this iconic WoW Class

On September 26th, Blizzard launched World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic, which allows WoW Classic players a chance to relive or explore anew, a beloved expansion in the history of the franchise.

The original expansion introduced Death Knights, the game’s first hero class, and took players on a journey to Northrend, continuing the story established in the popular real-time strategy game, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.

As Wrath of the Lich King allows fans to play the Death Knight, let’s take a closer look at why this character is so iconic for fans of the franchise.

Who are the Death Knights?

The Death Knight was first introduced in franchise lore with Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. In 2008, the Death Knight became the first hero class of World of Warcraft, introduced in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Death Knights are some of the Lich King’s most terrifying servants due in large part to their status as fallen heroes of Azeroth who have been risen into undeath to serve him for all eternity.

In one of the Building Azeroth episodes (available here), Game Director Tom Chilton and Principal Game Designer Kris Zierhut discussed how the Death Knight came to be such an iconic character.


Tom and Kris discuss one of the ways they made the class really unique was by giving them their own custom starting area. Players who had been a fallen member of the Alliance or the Horde, captured in battle, are turned into Death Knights by the Lich King against their will. The starting questing area shows the journey of a fallen hero forced to turn against their former allies as well as their fight to regain their free will. Upon regaining control, and squaring off against the Lich King himself at Light’s Hope Chapel, they rejoin their allies to begin the next chapter of their new life as champions of the Horde or Alliance.

Talking about the Death Knight’s balance, Kris said “Every time I wanted to make something weaker on Death Knights, I would have people who love Death Knights say I couldn’t nerf it”. He continued “In retrospect, it was a good place to be, because it made people play Death Knights, and go find all those crazy ways to play. A well-designed class isn’t obvious how you’re supposed to play it – we want there to be emerging gameplay”.

As World of Warcraft’s first Hero Class, the Death Knight starts at a higher level than other classes, beginning their journey in a class-exclusive introductory experience. They are extremely powerful in both solo and group content. While solo Death Knights have the strongest self healing in the game, in parties and raids they provide unique, powerful buffs to their entire group while being either one of the most durable tanks in the game or one of the strongest damage dealers depending on their specialization.


What else is new in Wrath of the Lich King?

Players will begin their journey in one of two zones in Northrend, Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord, and experience some of the most epic vistas and beloved storylines in all of Warcraft before breaching the seat of the Lich King’s power in Icecrown.

The new expansion also introduces a new profession – Inscription, which allows players to scribe mystical glyphs that alter the appearance and modify the properties of spells and abilities, as well as craft powerful trinkets and off-hand items.

Wrath of the Lich King Classic is now available to play on PC via Battle.net.

If you want to learn more about Wrath of the Lich King Classic, check out the World of Warcraft website, or for real-time updates, follow the official Twitter.

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