Category Archives: Blog

Blog Leveling: 1-…Something

Today we’re going to step away from our normal topic of WoW just a bit and talk once again about blogging itself. I might not be an expert in the realm of blogging, but I’ve done enough “blog leveling” of my own to know a few things that I can pass on to other people. If you’ve done some research on blogging before, then you may recognize a lot of what I’m going to talk about here. For that matter, this may all be a repeat of things you’ve read elsewhere. There are only so many types of “blogs” that exist, after all.

What I want to talk about here is some tips for helping you blog in a way that will help you and help your readers. I haven’t decided whether I want to turn this into a series or what, so I guess we’ll just see how it goes. Here are some of the things that we’re going to talk about today:

  1. Lists
  2. Paragraphs
  3. Pictures
  4. Topics
  5. Writing Frequency

You know, like the one right above here that listed the things we’re going to talk about? Lists are a great way to keep things organized, or more specifically to appear organized. It can serve several different purposes depending on how and where you use it: a guide or outline to the article you’ve written, steps you need to take in order to accomplish something, a collection of URL links, or nothing more than a simple list.

Lists are important because they show that sense of organization, and they can help you as the author just as much as they can your readers. You can take this article itself as an example. I started this post with that list, though not exactly with those items on the list. I added some and took others away as I was writing.

It’s a simple fact that many readers do not bother to read everything that you’ve written. The more you write, the more they skip. Having a list gives your readers an idea of what to look for and where to look for it. You can see from my list that maybe you already know about lists and pictures, and you’ve already decided on a topic and your writing frequency, so you know you can skip down to the subscriptions section and just ignore the rest of this post.

I would almost be willing to bet that most of the people that read this will skip over the lists section here in particular because it’s such a simple thing. Yet for being such a simple thing, you’ll notice a lot of bloggers never bother with lists at all.

Paragraph Size
Here’s another topic that shouldn’t be much of a shocker to you. How big you make your paragraphs also has a profound impact on how much readers actually read and how much they simply skim or just skip over all together. Paragraphs that are too small tend to get skipped because they’re small and thus insignificant, while paragraphs that are too large get skipped because of the “wall of text” feel of it.

Generally speaking you want to keep your paragraphs short. Somewhere around three to five sentences works well in most cases. The reason is that it makes things easier to read and because it offers more breaks in the overall text it’s easier for readers to stop reading and come back to it later, or finish up a paragraph real quick before stepping away, and so on. Short paragraphs doesn’t necessarily mean short sentences, though. Say what you need to say, keep the sentences in the paragraphs related to one another, and put the breaks in where they’re needed.

This tip goes back to making things easier for your readers and giving them more control over their reading experience.


Every blog post needs a picture.

This was one of the hardest concepts for me to really grasp the importance of. I just didn’t see why they were important. Sure, they were typically entertaining or helpful in expressing thoughts or demonstrating, but their importance escaped me. I had read in other blogs that offered advice much the same as this article here, and seen that other authors talked about pictures and how they needed to be there even if the picture had nothing at all to do with what you were talking about. It just didn’t really click with me until I started paying attention.

I want to give you some examples here, so I’m going to give you some links to blogs that use pictures and how they use them. Some of them will be WoW/gaming blogs and some will be programming/database related. Those are the only blogs I care to read, so they’re the only ones I’ll be linking for you here. Take a look at the articles I have linked here and notice how the pictures are used.

You’ll see that pictures are used to give you a relative sense of what the article is about, as with Made2Mentor. Though the article in question isn’t related to the picture itself, it’s the concept behind the picture that relates to the concept of the article.

In Big Hit Box you’ll see that pictures are used for several reasons, especially if you look at multiple posts. They’re used to show who the author is or which class the posts are about, they’re used to help explain portions of the article or to emphasize certain points, and they’re used to separate one section of the article from another giving you a bit of a road map to what’s going on.

In Cynwise’s Battlefield Manual you’ll find pictures that help you visualize what Cynwise is talking about. Some things just don’t translate well into words, especially when the thoughts expressed can have different meanings based on perspective.

Mend Pet gives an excellent example, and the reason why it’s there as well. (Go read it, I’ll wait.)

Brent Ozar and The SQL UPDATE Statement are good examples of blogs using pictures to help in explanations to give you a visual idea of what’s being talked about and why.

Tim gives another example where pictures are used to help give you the feeling that you were there to participate as well. It helps you put yourself into a similar setting or situation so that you can get a clearer picture of your topic.

All of these are merely examples of how you can use pictures in your blog. I use pictures for a number of different things here. I screenshot how I suggest spending talent points so that you don’t have to keep track of a written list. I do my goofy MSPaint pictures to help visualize certain spells or classes, or just to give a little entertainment. As I tend to write huge blocks of text using pictures really helps to break things up as well. In person you almost have to beat conversation out of me because I’m just a quiet kind of guy, but when you give me something to write it’s hard to shut me up.

Some people like to plan out their topics way in advance while others like to come up with them on the fly. Some people like to keep their entire blog focused on a single subject while others like to blog about whatever happens to be on their mind. How you you go about deciding on topics is entirely up to you, it is your blog after all.

What you write about is also your call. How wide a range of topics do you want to discuss and how tightly do you hold to that. My blog is about leveling characters in World of Warcraft, but I have several posts (this one included) that aren’t about leveling or even that aren’t about WoW at all. Sometimes I don’t blog about the leveling so much as I do gearing or farming.

You’ll need to think about these things at some point in your blogging life or you’ll end up struggling with yourself about whether or not you should blog about something because you aren’t sure if it fits in with your blog. Remember that your readers are just as much here for you and who you are as they are what you’re actually writing about. Often you’ll find that your readers care more about you and your valued opinion or perspective than they do the actual topics themselves.

But, the more professional you are in your blogging, the more strict you’ll tend to be towards sticking to specific topics.

Writing Frequency
How often you write is directly linked to how long you continue blogging. When we first start blogging most of us get really excited and start popping the articles one after another. Depending on what goal you set for yourself it may be one post per day, five per week, once per month, two per day, or any other posting rate you can imagine.

There for a while you’ll probably even be able to maintain that speed. Eventually though, you’re going to run into something that sets you back and for whatever that reason is you’re not going to post on the day you wanted to. A lot of people get so discouraged by this that they stop dead in their tracks right there. The blog dies, no new posts come out, no goodbye post, just over and done. Some people will instead see this as soon of a break from blogging, impressed with their success enough that they don’t mind taking a few days off before getting back to it; and then two months later they post again with “Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry about that!”

The most important thing about how frequently you write and post your articles is that your blog belongs to you and your readers are faithful to you, not your frequency. If you need to take a break, go ahead and do it. If you fall behind in posting for a few days, don’t worry about it. The only blogs that “need” to have a fast, consistent posting rate are ones that are used to generate revenue.

If you’ve fallen behind for a couple of weeks and feel like you need a “filler post”, something that you can post that’s not exactly your greatest work but you need to get something out there, then try to make it something that has at least some amount of value to it, and don’t make promises of when the next post is going to be. The value in the post can be anything, upcoming topics or changes to the blog, something to help us (the readers) get to know you better, your suggestions (and why) for other blogs or articles related to your blog’s focus – basically anything at all that you want to write about that isn’t just “Sorry I missed a couple of days there, I’ll get something new on Monday.”

I don’t know that my thoughts are expressed in the best way here so let me summarize. Basically, write for yourself and don’t worry about sticking to a schedule. Have a schedule so that you have goals to aim for, but don’t worry if you miss one now and then. I started off planning to write one post every day of the work week and I did a decent job of that for a while. Eventually that number dwindled down to a few per week, then to one per week, then to one per two weeks, and it’s been all over the place in between since then.

You also need to realize that the topic of your blog will impact how frequently you can write. My blog focuses on leveling characters, but the problem with that is that there are only so many classes to choose from so while I was able to get a good start at first it eventually started to dry up. There are still several things for me to blog about, but I can’t do it every single day and still post something with enough value to it for me to be willing to put my stamp on it.

Now I just post whenever I want to post, and I’ve loosened my focus just a bit so that I’m not specifically leveling any more though that still remains my primary focus.


Posted by on June 18, 2010 in Blog, Guide


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Pronouncing “Druid”….Again…

Search Terms – they’re an interesting part of every blog. You never know just what kinds of searches people come up with that end up leading them to your blog. Sometimes they fit right in and make perfect sense, sometimes they’re a bit odd but might prompt you to blog about something new, and sometimes they’re just plain weird.

I like to look in on my search terms once or twice a week to have an idea of what people are looking for. Other people seem to have done the same here recently and decided to share them with us (Light’s Fury). I’ve done the same before, but I think it’s about time that I did it again.

Sample Searches: Makes Perfect Sense

leveling a mage in 3.3
leveling prot pally rotaion
pally aoe grinding
when should i respec to an arcane mage
simple macro to control shards 3.3.3
world of warcraft dk spell caster
trade proffesion macro,s
customizing bear form

These are all pretty straight forward questions, and all ones that I’ve addressed somewhere on the blog. I’ll assume that those who searched for the answers found them since I’ve addressed them all.

To give some quick replies just in case you want to know:
– leveling mage: Frost or Fire, screw Arcane until 64. Check my Guides Page for details
– leveling prot pally rotation: It’s called 96969. Google It
– pally aoe grinding: DO IT! Check my Guides Page for details
– when respec to arcane: 64, no sooner
– macro to control shards: Read This
– DK spell casters: Read This
– profession macros: Read This
– customizing bear form: Read This

Sample Searches: Potentially Article Inspiring

where can i get a good lvl 20 headpiece
level 30 ret pally rotation
horda exaltado darnassus

So here we have searches that may actually get me to blog about something.

As far as “level 20 headpieces” are concerned, you’re often just out of luck unless you use the Engineering profession. A search on Wowhead solidifies that: search results.

As for rotations for a leveling Ret Paladin, well I haven’t blogged about Ret Pallies because I haven’t leveled one beyond 18 yet. Knowing Paladins in general as I do though, your rotation is going to be “Judgement, Auto-Attack, Auto-Attack, Auto-Attack, Auto-Attack, Judgement” and hope for procs from your Seal. Unless I suddenly roll a Ret Paladin and fall in love with it, you probably will not find the answer to that question here.

Finally we have one in a different language. I don’t know for sure which language it is, but I’m going to assume from the look of it and my studies in High School that it’s Spanish. Following that line of thought it looks an awful lot like they’re asking me how Horde characters become exalted with Darnassus, the Night Elf nation. Quick answer? You don’t. Long answer? Horde characters can’t become exalted with Alliance factions, so give it up because it’s not going to happen unless you faction transfer to Alliance.

Sample Searches: That Relates to Psyn’s Notebook How!?

how do you pronounce druid
how do you pronounce druids
how do you pronounce druidism
death knight fu
jealous gorilla
how do you pronounce notebook?

The first three up there are ones that make me /facepalm all the time. It’s a search that’s constantly hitting my blog and has since the very first time I ever mentioned the Druid class on my blog. It was so incredibly…”out there” the first time it popped up that I even blogged about it the first time.

So for those of you who still don’t know how to pronounce it, here are some sources: – Druid or – Druid

Next up we have the “Death Knight Fu”. Umm…I don’t even know. Maybe they were looking for FuBar plugins for the DK? I really have no idea. Sorry.

“Jealous Gorilla”. Yeah, that’s another one I have no idea on. The only thing even remotely related that I could find is the Kris Kringle post we did during Christmas for Blog Azeroth, because it’s the only thing that even mentions gorillas.

And finally we move on to the newest /facepalm, “How do you pronounce notebook?”. Seriously? Does anybody old enough to ask that question, literate enough to spell it correctly, and intelligent enough to use the internet seriously not know how to pronounce that? I understand what I just said/asked there might be insulting to someone who legitimately asked the question, I’m just a bit blown away by it. Just in case you need to know: – Notebook.


Posted by on May 4, 2010 in Blog



The Three Dragon Sisters

Once upon a time there were three dragon sisters. Though beautiful in their power and glorious in their strength, they agreed to instead take on the form of the most beautiful humanoids on the planet, the Blood Elves.Though they varied somewhat in appearance, in most ways they were alike even down to the way that they dressed. In praise of their beauty and cuteness, the heroes of the land gifted each of them with a beautiful robe and staff of the highest quality.

Only a small amount of their history is known, and few know more than I. Details of the very beginning are mixed in the many tellings, but it’s generally agreed that they started their journey as any other “normal” blood elves would. But for the lack of detail we’ll skip to something more and not jump around. We’ll start with the hunt for the rejects of Ice Crown. Two abominations there were; large, powerful, and overwhelming with the stench of Ugly.

The youngest sister was the quickest to act, slowing their the great construction as the others attacked. But the blood of an abomination does not quickly freeze, so the fires ignited, its stench on the breeze.

“Luzran” was its name, but no one knew why. It charged the three sisters not knowing it would die.

It held a great butcher’s axe in one hand, and chained hooks in the other two. Its last thought should have been to flee, and perhaps it would if only it knew…

..that these three dragon sisters had come for his loot.

Powerful these sisters were. Each was strong in arcane magics, and each of them especially attuned to the element of Fire. No foe was too powerful for them, and it was they who discovered that all faces will melt if enough heat is applied. If you need some proof, just look at its eyes!

The three dragon sisters.


Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Blog, Roleplaying, World of Warcraft


The End of Book 1: Happy Blogiversary

Alright, so I’m three weeks late, but that’s not the important part. As of 23 days ago, Psynister’s Notebook is officially 1 year old!!!

“Why is the frosting green?” you ask? Because I like green. You got a problem with that?!? Huh!?!? Didn’t think so. It’s chocolate, and that’s all that matters.

Now everybody grab a fork and get your /nom on.

And a very sincere thank you to all.



Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Blog


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Altoholicism: An Addiction

Been busy, blah blah, blog’s been slow, blah blah, filler post is filler, blah blah blah, so on and so on. Alright on to something a bit more

Addiction to Alts
In case you don’t know, haven’t noticed, or haven’t followed the blog for long, I’m an alt leveling junkie. It’s sort of become my personal motto that “I play to level, not to raid”. I have 80s, I play them, I raid with them, I enjoy them, but they aren’t the reason why I play. Instead I play to roll up a level 1, get them up to whatever level I feel like getting them up to and then either abandon or delete them.

Everyone has their own scale for judging whether or not they are an altoholic. Some say that if they have more than two or three toons that they’re “focusing” on then they’re an altoholic, others say you achieve that label once you’ve gotten the message that you already have 50 toons and cannot roll another, and other still will say it’s once you’ve got four or more toons leveled up to 80.

For me it’s more a matter of what you do with your alts and how much time you spend on them compared to your main, or how often you’re playing on a variety of toons as opposed to a single one. Using “alt” is sort of misleading for someone like me because everyone is an alt to me, even my main. When people ask me to get on my main I know they’re asking me to relog over to my 80 Mage, but to me my main is whatever character I’m logged into and playing at the moment.

People who claim to not be altoholics often say things like “I just can’t ignore my main that long, I have to focus on him”. I understand where they’re coming from, I just look at it through a different window. When I log into a toon it becomes the main and my focus is there, right up until I get a desire to do something on a different toon, at which point they become the main.

Finding Accomplishment
People often wonder when they hear me talking about things like this how I ever feel any sense of accomplishment or how I can stand jumping around all the time. The main thing you need to understand if you really want to comprehend my meaning in that is that when I get a character to the level cap the character is done, they’ve beaten then game. I don’t need to kill raid bosses or get great gear, I don’t need anything to feel accomplished except for that experience bar to stop moving.

I jump around on different toons so much because I love leveling, but I hate seeing the end draw near. I get to Northrend and I do a few quests, max my professions, do a little farming, and then set the character aside for an undetermined amount of time. Having a toon reach Northrend is like being on vacation for a couple of weeks and then two days before you have to come home realizing that it’s all about to end. Leveling is my vacation, and Northrend is the last couple of days before it’s time to pack up and head back home.

I find accomplishment in things other than bosses and gear. I find it in leveling itself, I find it in capping my professions, I find it in forcing myself into a situation with a character that I stand almost no chance of winning and then fighting my way through it, I find it in changing specs and trying new things, I find it soloing content that I shouldn’t be able to solo with my given level or gear level, and I find it in helping other people remember that this game has so many avenues for enjoyment and that not all of them consist entirely of repeated runs through end game raids.

Character Slot Issues
The first problem any altoholic runs into is going to be character slots. It’s usually too many toons on your current server to start with, but eventually it gets to the point that you’ve already got the maximum 50 toons per account.

I couldn’t even venture a guess as to how many times I’ve filled up my server slots. I know on my current main server of Durotan right now that I’ve hit it at least twelve different times and I’ve done the same thing on at least four other “main” servers in the past as well.

The most unfathomable thing (to non-altoholics) that someone like me does is deleting toons. I can delete any character at any time. I don’t care what level they are, how much time I’ve played them, what their professions are, what achievements they have, or anything else. Level 80? /delete. Has 450 in two crafting professions? /delete. Only level 30 but has every PvP achievement from both WSG and AB? /delete.

If I want to roll a new toon on a server that’s already full then I don’t bother finding a new server, I just go through spring cleaning instead. I go down the list of toons and ask myself: Have I played this toon at all recently? Do I have any intention of playing them in the near future? Did I hate leveling him so much that I refuse to go through those levels again? If all the answers are “no” then I log in, sell/mail everything on the toon, log out, and then delete them. Nothing fancy, no special goodbyes, no messages to anyone, just a plain and simple clean out and delete.

When I do manage to reach the account limit I do a mass cleaning and go to every server I haven’t been on in a while, do spring cleaning on every character sending all the gold to a single toon, and then I’ll either give the gold away to the first person I see below level 20 or I’ll just leave the one toon there with everything I’ve got in case I start over fresh on the server at a later date.

Altoholism In Action
To give you a better idea of what my version of an altoholic is and show you some of what I’ve talked about here in action, we’ll look at the last week in Psynister’s WoW.

During the week I rolled two new toons, a Draenei Priest and a Dwarf Warrior. That’s right, the two classes I despise leveling above all others and I rolled them both in the same week. The Priest I got up to around 13 or so and the Warrior sits right now at level 15. Surprisingly, both of these toons are still “alive”. Unsurprisingly, the Priest is getting deleted tonight. Surprisingly, the Warrior will be sticking around for a while. In addition to leveling those two fresh I also leveled up my Shaman to 33, my Hunter to 25, my Druid to 45, and my Warlock to 71.

Over the weekend I rolled a Tauren Warrior, an Undead Mage, and an Undead Rogue. After playing each of them for a short while I decided they weren’t catching my attention much so they got sent to the chopping block shortly (prior to level 10) after being rolled. I also rolled a female BElf Fire Mage named Lyrysyn that made it to level 22 and is still kicking strong by burninating the country side, and a male BElf Paladin named Limpwrists (have you ever watched a male BElf jump?? o.O) that made it to level 10 but he may be replaced with an Orc Warrior within the next couple of days. I’m going to try to keep the Paladin at least until he gets his DPS Seal and then make a call from there. If I keep the Paladin then I might delete my Dwarf Warrior and replace him with an Orc Warrior so that we have another tank on Horde side just in case. I rolled another toon as well, but…well, he’s a secret.

All but one of those new toons was on my current main server which was already full. All in all I had 6 toons created during the weekend and about 20 toons deleted from spring cleaning across all servers.


Posted by on April 19, 2010 in Blog, Leveling


Play Styles: DK Caster Used in ICC-10

To expand on last week’s article, Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters, I’d like to mention a specific example of where the concepts within that post were put to use. Some people disagree with what I had to say there, called it crap, said it was inaccurate and not worth reading.

Don’t make me Death Coil you…

Since my intentions in the original post were apparently not made clear, let me say it again right here. The intention of last week’s article was to show someone who’s uncomfortable playing a melee class a method by wish to play the Death Knight (a melee class) in a caster-like playstyle so that it wasn’t so completely foreign that they could not stand playing the class. In no way was that post meant to suggest that it was a viable raiding spec, that it could be top DPS, or anything of the sort. The whole reason for it being there was to show you a different way to play the class.

Caster-Death Knights Used in ICC 10?
Yeah, you heard me right. Not just one, but two Death Knights asked to “go caster” in an ICC-10 raid this passed weekend. My guild isn’t large enough to run 25-man raid right now, but we do have enough high leveled and decently/acceptably geared alts to do Alt Runs for a second 10-man each week. I’ve been taking a break from raiding lately in favor of leveling other characters (I Play to Level, Not to Raid, remember?), so I wasn’t in the run I’ll be talking about or else I would have had screenshots to share with you as well. I also wasn’t in Vent while it happened because I was hanging out with one of my buddies in his own Vent server. My wife wasn’t in the raid that night because she’s currently chasing after the Loremaster title on her Shaman, but she was logged into vent and let me know about it during our lunch break today.

While we do have enough characters for a second raid, we don’t have exactly have the optimal setup for it. Of particular importance, we’re lacking caster DPS. We had one caster and one hunter in the group that ran on Saturday and there they were facing off against Lady Deathwhisper. For those that don’t know much about the Lady D fight, there are two types of adds that she spawns throughout the fight, casters and melee. She also randomly Empowers one of each group of adds where that mob becomes almost immune (99% damage reduction) to the type of damage that they deal – so casters are “immune” to spells, and melee are “immune” to melee. And the empowered melee mobs can just about one-shot anybody stupid enough to get in front of them, so the tanks taunt and kite them around the room while the ranged casters burn them down.

Well, when you’ve only got one caster and one hunter, that mob isn’t going to go down very fast. Knowing this, our raid leader asked the two Death Knights in the raid to “go caster” when the Empowered Melee showed up to help bring them down faster. And sure enough, they took her down just fine and did so on their first fight with her.

No Undue Credit for Me
Now, let me jump right out here for a second and mention that to my knowledge only one person from my guild reads my blog, and he’s a bit more of a PvP Fiend than a Raider. The decision to have the DKs go caster was not based on my post, and the two players I’m talking about do not have specs matching the one I listed in the previous post. These guys both pull over 8,000 DPS consistently with their melee skills, so they’re entirely comfortable with melee and don’t need to focus on playing like casters. At least, not in general.

So What’s Your Point
The point I’m making with this post is that sometimes you’re required to do things that you’re not familiar with or that you’re not used to doing; like acting like a spell caster when you’re playing a Death Knight. Even if you don’t have any trouble playing a melee DK, even if you already know the ins and outs of your class and every one of its specs, sometimes you have to step up and do something that’s “different”.

If you need to focus on casting your spells instead of using your melee attacks, then it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with which ones you should use and how to use them with the most benefit. In situations like the Lady D fight, AoE spells aren’t going to do as much for you as direct damage spells. Knowing that you’ll be able to prioritize your Rune and Runic Power usage.

Spells to Use Against Lady Deathwhisper’s Adds
If you find yourself fighting against Lady D and need to put your caster skills to use against her adds, here is some information to help you fulfill that role and help your raid:

Single Target Spells
Spells that hit only one thing will deal more damage to a single target than AoE spells will, but we don’t always have that option because of our Runic system. So here’s a list to guide you through your spell choices in a situation like this:

Blood Runes: Blood Boil, Pestilence (see below)
Frost Runes: Icy Touch
Unholy Runes: None
Runic Power: Death Coil, Gargoyle (Unholy only)
Frost + Unholy Combo: Howling Blast (Frost only)
Blood + Frost + Unholy: Death and Decay

Plague Strike isn’t going to help you much against the Empowered melee mobs, but you can still get your disease from it applied to them if you use Pestilence on another mob in the area that is diseased since Pestilence itself is a spell. Otherwise your source of damage from Blood Runes is going to be the Blood Boil AoE spell.

Whether or not you’re using a Frost spec, your best bet in a situation like this is probably going to be to use Icy Touch for one or both of your Frost Runes instead of something like Howling Blast which works better for AoE. If the mob just got empowered and is still near other mobs, then you can use HB instead to deal damage to them all, but otherwise stick to double-IT for your Frost Runes.

Since Plague Strike is the only Unholy-only attack we have, you won’t be putting these runes to use much unless you’re using them as combo points for something like Howling Blast or Death and Decay. If you decide to lay down a Death and Decay be sure to place it so that the mob will be kited through its area of effect for as long as possible. Your tank probably isn’t going to want to kite the mob back and forth through your D&D, so don’t count on too much damage coming from it.

With Gargoyle being a cooldown, you’re probably better off saving it for the boss herself, but if you need the extra dps on the add then go ahead and burn it now. Otherwise you want to stick to Death Coil for use on the empowered melee as often as you can.

Done and Done
So again, the purpose of last week’s article wasn’t to get you to pick up some freaky spec that I showed you and claim that it was great for DPS, it was merely to show you a new way of playing a class that’s not readily apparent. But as you can see from what I’ve told you here, just because it’s not the optimal spec or play style of DPS, it does have its uses and it can be the difference between a successful raid and failure. Never get so stuck in your ways or in the theoretical mathematics of others that you fail to look for the value in something different.

..because I may give you chills with my Icy Touch.


Posted by on March 31, 2010 in Blog, Caster, Class, Death Knight, Melee, Play Styles


Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters

Psynister here with another potential, could-become-a series. Today we’re going to talk about the play style of the DK class. My guest post over at For the Lore prompted some discussion on Twitter about people brushing off their old Death Knights, or perhaps giving them another shot for those that had given up on DK’s as I had not too long ago.

One person in particular, Anexxia of Bible of Dreams, mentioned that they could barely manage to get a DK out of the starting area because she just doesn’t work well with melee classes. Me and Miss Nexxi go way back in blogging/twitter terms as she was one of the first to show interest in my blog, so I made a special effort to let her know I’d gladly help her not fail as a DK and that you don’t have to be entirely melee focused to succeed as a Death Knight.

The Situation
At that point another one of our twitter/blogging friends, Furiey of Troll Bouquet, stepped in and said that DK’s are melee, and don’t fit the bill for spellcasters. A discussion followed between the two of us, with a fair amount of misunderstanding in what I was trying to express (that you can be a DK and not be overwhelmed by melee combat) and what Furiey thought I was saying (that DK’s could be likened unto Warlocks, Mages, EleShamans, Priests, etc.).

What it came down to was a level 76 Frost Tank (me) and a level 80 Frost Tank (Furiey) both expressing different view points on how you can play the exact same class, and both of us getting the impression that the other thought we had no idea what we were talking about. That’s probably the one major drawback to using Twitter (140 character limit on messages); misunderstandings or misinterpretations due to not being able to express your full thought.

So let me state right off the bat here that in no way did I mean to offend Furiey, and this post is nothing more than expanding on the playstyle that I spoke of and how to use it effectively without feeling entirely like you’re playing a melee class all the time.

If you’re playing the class to maximize your DPS then you have to embrace the melee aspect of the class, that’s all there is to it. But if you’re not comfortable with melee and need to stay more caster-like in the method of playing the class, then this is the setup you want to go with. It’s not about maximizing your DPS potential, it’s about maximizing your own potential with your given skill set.

Death Knights ARE Melee
It’s a simple statement, and largely true. It’s hard to consider a class that wields a two handed weapon, wears plate armor, is known for its powerful melee properties, and only has only two spells that aren’t instant cast in their entire arsenal as a caster. I don’t argue those points in the least. That’s right, Death Knights are a melee class, and a dang good one at that.

But what else defines a class as being melee rather than something else? To me, being a melee class means being able to deal your damage while you’re on the move chasing mobs, it’s about moving into position so that you’re behind the mobs as much as possible, it’s having the best weapons you can find to continue dealing the most damage possible, and it’s having the majority (not necessarily all) of your attacks resulting in melee swings rather than other forms of attack.

Death Knights can certainly match all of those definitions, but there’s one of them that it doesn’t have to match, and that’s the last point of the majority of your attacks being melee swings. And within that exception there is only one spec that can actually fill that role and still be successful: Frost.

Death Knights ARE NOT Spellcasters
Yet another simple statement of (mostly) truth. Spellcasters are known for being “squishy” (except for Holy Paladins), they’re known for stacking stats such as Spell Power, Intellect, Spirit, or MP5. They’re known for their crowd control, for their high DPS numbers, for their single target DPS and often their AoE DPS as well, and for spamming spells over and over to burn down their targets.

Death Knights definitely do not fit most of those definitions. We aren’t squishy little cloth wearers, we couldn’t care less about Spell Power (if you do, I will break your freaking legs), or other “caster stats” as we prefer stacking things like Strength, Agility, and Crit. We have very little crowd control, and our spec strongly determines our AoE capabilities. On top of all of that, our unique resource system of Runes and Runic Power prevent us from spamming much of anything.

Spec Details: Psynister, Make Some Sense Already!
Alright, so let’s break this down and get to the point – using a caster-like play style to be a successful Death Knight. To do this, the first thing we need to talk about is our spec. Hands down, no questions asked, there is only one primary tree that you can do this in, and that is Frost. It can be further enhanced by the Unholy tree if you like, but that will be closer to level 80 and we’ll talk about that further down the post anyway. Unholy actually does the most Magic Damage of the three trees, but most of that damage is dealt via melee.

As I said, the spec is the key to being able to use this playstyle, so here are the specifics on the spec for levels 60, 70, and 80. The minimum is level 60 because until then you do not have the talents you need to make this happen, particularly Howling Blast, the level 60 talent at the bottom of the Frost tree.

Level 60 Level 70 Level 80
Especially Notable Talents
Level 60 Level 70 Level 80
Killing Machine
Hungering Cold
Howling Blast
Corpse Explosion

Normally I go into detail about all of the talents you take, what they do, and so on, but this time I’m going to skip most of that since you can just follow the links if you really need to know. I am going to cover the ones that are key to this style of play though.

I will break it down into each of the spec levels that I laid out up there so that you have some guidance in each level bracket rather than a simple, general overview of the whole thing. Information in the lower brackets also applies in the higher brackets unless otherwise specified.

Level 60 Spec
This spec looks pretty similar to your generic Frost Tank spec at level 60, except that we’re missing some of the more notable tanking talents and instead we’re going for things such as Runic Power Mastery to increase our maximum Runic Power supply, and Merciless Combat which increases our damage to targets with low health.

If you would rather have some of those tanking talents to increase your survivability, then by all means do so. The talents I listed in the table above are the ones that are the most important ones in the bunch, as they’ll be the ones allowing you to fulfill your Caster-like role.

The talents that we just cannot do without for this spec and style of play are Howling Blast which is our big AoE spell, Deathchill which makes our hardest hitting spells instant-crits, Killing Machine which can proc for the same effect as Deathchill, and Rime which gives us the chance during the few melee attacks that we are forced to take to remove the cooldown on Howling Blast.

Two other talents are listed up in the table, but they are for survivability and utility more so than they are crucial to the build. Those two talents I strongly recommend, but you are not required to take them: Lichborne which will allow you to dump your extra Runic Power into healing yourself since we are missing some of those tanking talents, and Hungering Cold which serves as a backup to instantly apply Frost Fever to all targets within range, while also giving you the time to either bandage yourself if needed, allow your Runes to cooldown to rush back into a big AoE assault, or to refresh your diseases on all targets.

Minimum Level 70 Spec
On the path to level 70 I suggest you branch off into the Unholy tree to get some utility talents and build towards our Runic Power AoE, Corpse Explosion. Since we’re doing DPS here Virulence gives us some extra Hit, Epidemic increases the duration of our diseases so that it’s easier to keep them up at all times, and Morbidity increases our RP Nuke, Death Coil, which can also be used to heal ourselves when used in conjunction with Lichborne, and it also reduces the cooldown of Death and Decay which we will not use often but the option is open to us.

Required Level 80 Spec
Ramping up to 80 the biggest addition actually comes at level 71 with Corpse Explosion, providing us with an AoE spell that requires Runic Power rather than Runes. From there we say goodbye to Unholy and jump over to the Blood tree for just a second to grab Butchery to keep our RP supply full for use of either Corpse Explosion for AoE purposes, or Death Coil which can be used either for DPS or for healing if you have Lichborne activated.

Butchery is not necessarily required, it’s just a great way to keep yourself topped off on RP so that you can use your abilities more often. In addition to that, it also helps you to have a large supply of RP moving into a new fight so that you can get straight to blasting away rather than having to wait to build your RP. If you want to replace it with something else, feel free. My suggestion for a replacement would be Blade Barrier, also in the Blood tree, and using the three points in Nerves of Cold Steel there as well.

Caster Knight Glyphs

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Icy Touch: Your Frost Fever disease deals 20% additional damage.
Glyph of Disease: Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Howling Blast: Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.

Alternate Majors
Glyph of Death and Decay: Damage of your Death and Decay spell increased by 20%.
Glyph of Hungering Cold: Reduces the cost of Hungering Cold by 40 Runic Power.

Your most important disease, the one that should never fall off of your targets, is Frost Fever. The Glyph of Icy Touch increases the damage of that disease by 20%, which is a solid increase in your DPS.

While you have, or will have, four different methods of applying Frost Fever to targets around you, your Blood Plague disease will only be applied via your Plague Strike melee attack. The Glyph of Disease causes your Pestilence spell to refresh the duration of all of your diseases as well as spreading them around, so by using it you are able to keep both diseases active for longer periods of time, without having to resort to melee attacks. Finally the Glyph of Howling Blast is recommended as an easy way to apply Frost Fever, and keep it applied to all targets without putting special effort into keeping it up. As long as you’re using your strong AoE spell, you’re keeping at least that one disease up at all times.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of Pestilence: Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Corpse Explosion: Increases the radius of effect on Corpse Explosion by 5 yards.

The Glyph of Pestilence is going to give you the most initial benefit by allowing you to spread your diseases around in a larger area. Next up is the Glyph of Raise Dead which allows us to summon our Ghoul without a reagent and without the required type of corpse lying around. You can use your Ghoul to increase your DPS, draw some aggro off of you, or to sacrifice to your Death Pact ability you get at level 66 to instantly heal 40% of your maximum health. Last on the list is the Glyph of Corpse Explosion for a larger radius of burst damage. You don’t need to bother with this glyph until your last slot opens up at level 70 since you won’t even get this spell until level 71.

For this build I wouldn’t suggest any of the other minor glyphs that exist right now.

How To: Caster-Style Death Knight
So we have our spec and we have a general idea of what we’re doing; now we just need to bring all of that together and make it happen. The first thing to point out is something I already touched on just a bit up above: Death Knights do not have cast times. So our caster style is made up entirely of instant-casts. We do have some occasional melee attacks thrown into the mix as well, but we’ll talk about those as they come up.

So which caster can you think of that doesn’t bother with cast times (for the most part) and still manages to slaughter everything around them?

That’s right, your caster role model is the Affliction Warlock with their instant-cast DoT spells. Rather than spamming the same spells with their cast times over and over like a Mage, Priest, Druid, or Shaman, you’re going to throw your DoTs onto your targets, spreading your diseases as you go, and then bring them all down with your AoE spells. Also like a Warlock, you have spells that can heal you or restore your resources. Where the Warlock regains mana by damaging themselves, Death Knights regain their “mana” (Runic Power) by dealing damage to others with your class abilities. If you’re familiar with Affliction Warlocks then you’ll see the similarities. If you’re not then…well, just trust me on this one, alright?

A Warlock is going to have to cast their DoTs on one target, then another, then another, and on down the line for each mob that they’re fighting. That’s not the case for the Death Knight. Instead you’re going to group the mobs up, DoT one of them, and then use Pestilence to spread the DoTs to every other mob within 10 yards (15 yards if you use the Glyph).

From there it’s just a matter of hitting your AoE attacks to burn them all down, using melee attacks only when you have to to reset your diseases or because other abilities are on cooldown and you don’t like sitting there doing nothing for four seconds.

Caster-like Nuke Spells
If you want to be a caster, then you need to be able to nuke things. And so, here is a list of our nukes:

Single Target Nukes

1. Icy Touch: Cost: 1 Frost Rune. Deals Frost damage to a target within 30 yards, infects them with the Frost Fever disease, and slows their melee and ranged attack speeds by 15% for 15 seconds.
2. Death Coil: Cost: 40 Runic Power. Deals Shadow damage to an enemy or healing damage from a friendly Undead target within 30 yards. Refunds 20 Runic Power when used to heal.

Now, that’s not a very big list for something we’re going to be playing like a caster, but realize that we’ll be casting a lot of AoE spells with this build rather than burning down single targets. Single targets will die faster by taking the melee route, though that doesn’t mean that you can’t still bring them down with AoE spells as well.

Icy Touch is the spell you will usually end up pulling with, both dealing damage and establishing one of your diseases. When you get into your rotation you will not cast it quite as often as most of your Frost Runes will be used to power either Howling Blast, Obliterate, or Death Strike. While it is acceptable to use your Killing Machine and Deathchill procs on Icy Touch, you’re better off saving them for a Howling Blast if you can.

Death Coil is how you’ll burn through your Runic Power most often. When Corpse Explosion is either on cooldown or you do not have any corpses to power it with, Death Coil is your replacement. You can also use this to heal your Ghoul if you feel so inclined, or to heal yourself if you first use Lichborne to become Undead for 20 seconds.

Area of Effect (AoE) Nukes

1. Howling Blast: Cost: 1 Frost and Unholy Rune. Deals Frost damage to the target and all enemies within 10 yards.
2. Blood Boil: Cost: 1 Blood Rune. Boils the blood of all enemies within 10 yards. Deals additional damage to targets infected with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.
3. Corpse Explosion: Cost: 40 Runic Power. Explodes a nearby corpse dealing Shadow damage to all enemies within 10 yards.
4. Death and Decay: Cost: 1 Blood, Frost, and Unholy Rune. Corrupts the ground, dealing Shadow damage every second to targets that remain in the area.

Howling Blast is the big dawg of our AoE, and the reason why we’re focused on the Frost tree. It’s a ranged AoE which makes it great for pulling groups, but it works just as well when cast on a mob standing right next to you. It’s also able to be buffed by our Deathchill talent which will cause our next Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike, or Obliterate to be a critical hit. We will also try to time all of our Killing Machine procs to be consumed with Howling Blast as well, which works the same as Deathchill except that it is not consumed by Obliterate. Most of our Frost and Unholy Runes will be spent on Howling Blasts, except for when it is on cooldown and we use Obliterate instead.

Blood Boil is our next largest AoE spell, costing only a single Blood Rune. The damage is increased when targets are diseased, so we want to be sure that we have applied at least one of our two diseases on a target and then used Pestilence to spread it around so that we get the most damage out of it that we can.

Corpse Explosion provides our Runic Power AoE to fill in the slow points where our Runes are on cooldown and corpses are available to be exploded. This build is designed to allow for a lot of Runic Power to be built and stored, so you should be able to make frequent use of the spell so long as there are corpses to target.

Death and Decay is the signature AoE spell of the Death Knights, but it’s getting the last slot for actually AoE nuke spells because of how it works. The damage on D&D is fairly low, but the threat rate on it is high. If you are using this build in a group setting then you are already going to generate excessive amounts of threat from using so many AoE spells all the time, so using D&D is often a bad idea in group settings. Also, this is the highest Rune-cost spell that we have, costing one of every type of rune to cast it. By using D&D we remove the ability to use other spells that may be more beneficial to use in the long run.

Melee Attacks You Do Need
There are three melee attacks that we’ll mention in particular here, because they’re the only ones that really matter for this build and playstyle.

1. Plague Strike: This is your second disease, and the only one applied from a melee attack outside of an Unholy build. You will generally use this at the start of a fight to establish a disease, and then rely on your Glyphs to keep it refreshed. If it ever falls off of your targets, go ahead and use it again.

2. Obliterate: This is your key to faster AoE kills, but not necessarily required. It’s also the reason why we’re going to Dual Wield with this build instead of using a two-handed weapon. Each time you attack and hit with it, you have a chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and also make it a Rune-free cast. When dual wielding each time you hit with Obliterate you have two 15% chances to proc Rime which is what makes HB free and resets its cooldown.

3. Death Strike: This is your easiest, most reliable method of healing yourself during combat. When you hit with it you heal yourself for 5% of your maximum health for each of your diseases on the target. With this build and its intended play style you should have two diseases up at all times, so each attack with DS will heal you for 10% of your maximum health.

Other than those the melee attacks you have available are not necessary. If you’re fighting single targets then you may prefer to use Blood Strike instead of Blood Boil since it will do more damage for a single target, but it is a melee attack rather than a spell.

Similarly, it’s better when fighting single targets to use Obliterate instead of Howling Blast from a pure DPS perspective, but again it’s a melee attack rather than a spell, so the choice is yours for which to use and which not.

If you want to maximize your DPS as a Death Knight then you do need to embrace your melee side, but this post isn’t about maximizing your DPS, it’s about playing a melee class from a caster’s perspective and trying to use the play style you’re used to for a class that you’re not.

Putting It Into Action
Time for some Rotations and a sampling of how this actually works.

First Example: Ranged Pull

First Rune Set: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Howling Blast (FU), Blood Boil (B), Runic Powers
Second Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast* (FU), Pestilence (B), Runic Powers

With this rotation we’re going to start off with a ranged Icy Touch to pull our target and establish our first disease. We follow that up with a Plague Strike to establish the second disease, and then Pestilence to spread them around. We finish the first Rune Set with a pair of AoE spells; Howling Blast and Blood Boil. Your first Runic Power dump is probably going to be a Death Coil as you’ll likely not have a corpse to use for an Explosion, if you do have a corpse handy go ahead and Explode it instead.

In the second set we try to use as much AoE as we can muster while also keeping our runes up. Depending on your timing and how often you hit/miss with your attacks, you might need to swap the Pestilence and Blood Boil in the second set, or you may need to replace the second Howling Blast with Icy Touch/Plague Strike instead to reestablish your diseases.

* = If at any point you see “Howling Blast” but your HB is on cooldown, simply replace it with either an Obliterate (FU) or an Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U) combo. If your diseases are about to wear off and Pestilence is not available to get them refreshed, go ahead and replace HB with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead so that your diseases are up and running at all times.

Second Example: Melee Pull

First Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Blood Tap (N/A), Blood Boil (B), Runic Powers
Second Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Runic Power (rp), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast* (FU), Runic Powers

This rotation is meant to burn the mobs down quickly with burst damage from your AoE spells. I suggest you use this one only after you have the Glyph of Howling Blast so that it applies Frost Fever for you or else you rob yourself of some damage during the Blood Boils.

Since we use Blood Tap in the first set to reset a Blood Rune cooldown and proc it as a Death Rune instead, we’re not going to have a Blood Rune available right away in the second set. To make up for that we’ll make use of a Runic Power ability there (Corpse Explosion if we can, Death Coil if not), and then make use of our Blood Runes as they come back up.

* = If at any point you see “Howling Blast” but your HB is on cooldown, simply replace it with either an Obliterate (FU) or an Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U) combo. If your diseases are about to wear off and Pestilence is not available to get them refreshed, go ahead and replace HB with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead so that your diseases are up and running at all times.

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