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Lichborne: Advice on Army of the Dead


Welcome to Lichborne, your weekly look at the death knight class.

In addition to Death Grip, which we discussed last week, there's another major death knight signature skill that requires a bit of a subtle hand to use correctly, and that has cause much angst and hatred on the part of non-death knights over improper or misunderstood usage. This spell is, of course, Army of the Dead. Army of the Dead is another one of those spells that is unique enough that it really doesn't have much of a place in a common rotation, but is powerful enough that it's worth learning to use well. This week, we'll take a look at the mechanics and proper usage of Army of the Dead


Army of the Dead 101

The basics of Army of the Dead are as follows: You will spend a few seconds summoning a bunch of ghouls. While channeling, you will have damage absorption equal to your dodge and parry chances. Once summoned, the ghouls will be around for approximately 40 seconds or until they get killed, whichever is first. They will attack or taunt the nearest engaged enemies until that time. It's a pretty straightforward skill in theory, but in practice, using it at the wrong time can wipe you.

The Army of the Dead Questionnaire

That pesky taunt is the main issue with Army of the Dead. Since it is a true taunt, that means that your Army of the Dead will pull aggro on almost any mob that is not immune to it. That means they will pull aggro on almost all normal and heroic dungeon bosses, as well as almost every trash mob and raid boss add in game. The good news is that they generally do not pull aggro on raid level bosses, which is where Army of the Dead often has a chance to shine. Essentially, you'll want to make sure you answer a few questions to satisfaction:

1. Can the target(s) be taunted? An affirmative answer is almost always a deal breaker here. If the mobs can be taunted, your Army of the Dead will peel them off the tank and will drag them every which way, which will likely lead to frustration for the tank if the tank isn't you, and certainly for the healers and DPS who suddenly have to get out of the way of the mobs and/or follow them around while trying to keep their DPS rotations up or keep in range of their healing targets. Sometimes, though, the extra DPS or ability to keep a huge amount of mobs taunted and in check is worth breaking this rule, such as on the Black Knight's second phase in 5-man ToC. However, these times are few and far between and certainly only after you have considered the questions below.

2. Do the target(s) have any frontal cone, cleave, or limited range area attacks? If the answer here is affirmative, you pretty much should not be using Army of the Dead on these mobs as anything but a panic button after the tank's dead and/or the healer's out of mana. Your ghouls will taunt these targets, and their frontal cone attack will then be turned on the healer and the DPS. It's just an unavoidable fact. If they have those extra attacks, you will at the least be putting extra pressure on your healer, and likely causing a few deaths or even a wipe.

3. Is positioning Important for these target(s)? In most cases, the last question covers this one too, but sometimes there are differences. If a mob has to be moved around or tanked in a certain corner of a room or an area, Army of the Dead can mess stuff up pretty bad, because your ghouls will taunt it and will pull it all around the general area, since they don't seem to stay still either.

4. Is it OK with the rest of your raid or group? Admittedly, it's hard to gauge this in a dungeon or raid PUG, but if we're talking a normal group you run with, it's probably a very good idea to sit down with your raid leaders and talk about their feelings on Army of the Dead and acceptable usage. Explaining your rationale, giving a heads up on your planned or expected uses, being able to prove you're using Army of the Dead in a responsible manner, and being honest can go a long way in smoothing over ruffled feathers because that damn ghoul you summoned totally taunted the tank's target.

5. Are you wiping? This question sort of trumps all of the above. If the tank's dead or almost dead and the healer's out of mana, you probably have nothing to lose by bringing out the ghouls. If they can taunt the loose mobs, they may even just survive long enough to allow your DPS to win the day, even.

So you want to summon your Army

If you done a quick check of the above mental questionnaire, and it still seems like a good idea to summon your army, there's a few other quick points to make. First, just like with Ghouls, Gargoyles, and Dancing Rune Weapon, the Army of the Dead takes a quick snapshot of your stats when it summons the ghouls. That means your ghouls do get faster if they're summoned while Heroism/Bloodlust is up.

That said, it's generally not the best to summon Army of the Dead in the middle of a fight for DPS purposes. That 6 seconds of channeling time is generally better spent using your other attacks for DPS or threat. Therefore, the best time to summon Army of the Dead is almost always right before pulling the mobs or in a phase transition where you can't actually damage the main target, since they're now out and will start immediately attacking as you begin your DPS or threat rotation.

Once your army's out, they're pretty much set it and forget it. Just let them go until they die, and if you chose wisely, they'll have contributed a good chunk of DPS, and everyone should be happier for it, unless they have an usually averse reaction to any use of Army of the Dead whatsoever, which does happen. In that case, you can at least rest easy that most people will probably be better about it, and may even think twice about disparaging the skill once they've seen someone who uses it in a proper manner.
Welcome to Lichborne, the weekly class column on the newest WoW class, the death knight, where we discuss PUG etiquette and Emblem of Triumph gear for the death knight, 5-man Icecrown dungeon gear and basic death knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our death knight category.

Filed under: Death Knight, (Death Knight) Lichborne

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