Northrend uncovered

Make space in your social life, because World of Warcraft’s second expansion is almost here. We’ve already been playing it for a solid month, exploring the nooks and crannies of Azeroth’s new continent, Northrend. Now it’s time for you to find what awaits adventurers fresh off the boat. Over the coming pages you’ll discover the zones, quests and improvements that make Wrath of the Lich King essential. Are you prepared?

Meet the Death Knight

The really funny thing about the Death Knight is when you start experimenting with your selection of starting powers. This isn’t like WoW’s typical class development, where you’re gradually introduced to mediocre skills. With the Death Knight, you begin with the ability to warp a character to you, dragging them over like Scorpion’s “GET OVER HERE” attack from Mortal Kombat. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Death Knight is the first new class to be added to World of Warcraft, a kind of unholy Paladin. He uses a mix of melee combat and necromancy, wielding double handed swords and bidding hordes of zombies to do his bidding.

To create one, you’ll need to have reached level 55 on any server. From that point on, you’ll be able to create a new Death Knight on any realm you like. The good news is that by the end of the Death Knight introduction quests, you’ll have gone from level 55 to 58: it’s a neat way of quickly joining friends on other servers. They play in a similar way to Warriors: you unlock more powerful attacks by engaging in combat – what looks like a Rage bar in fact holds your Runic Energy. But it’s complicated by the limitation of runes etched onto your main weapon. You have six: two unholy, two blood and two frost. Each attack costs a certain number of runes as well as Runic Energy – preventing you from repeatedly spamming your most powerful attacks.

And they’re hilarious. When played well, they can zip through similar level monsters, pinning them in place, stacking them with diseases, and dragging any fleeing stragglers back into combat. In dungeon groups, they lead the charge, acting as the main or secondary tank, distracting boss-monsters with flamboyant magic while the standard classes deal damage and heal. In PvP, Death Knights hang at the front of groups, darting in to pull squishy cloth-wearers into the fray where they can be hit upon by the rest of their friends. So beware. You might think you can live without starting a Death Knight. You may also think that your current Priest/Warrior/Mage will do you just fine. You’ll be wrong. Be ready to experience class envy.

Mighty magic: The Death Knight’s key skills

Death Strike: Your basic melee strike. The damage it does increases with the number of disease effects you’ve already stacked onto a target.

Death Grip: Drags the target toward you, inflicting a little damage, and causing it to attack you over the next three seconds. Literally, a pull.

Chains of Ice: Roots the target in place for a short time. Once freed, they’ll be slowed for a further five seconds, gradually regaining their speed.

Pestilence: Causes any single disease effect on the target to spread to two further targets. Consider yourself the plague spreader.

Raise Dead: Raises a ghoul from a nearby corpse. If no corpse is available, it consumes corpse dust (a reagent available to buy from vendors).

Blood Boil: Causes all disease effects to erupt, leading to massive damage, but consuming the disease. The more diseases, the more damage.

Death Pact: Kills one of your friendly ghouls, and heals you as a result. It’s mandatory to murmur OM NOM NOM when you trigger it.

Army of the Dead: Summons an entire army of your best ghouls to do your fighting for you. You’ll do less damage while fighting. But it’s still the win button.

Anti-magic Shell: Absorbs 75% of the next magical attack, and transfers the power to your runic energy pool. Runic energy is what powers your attacks.

Dancing Rune Weapon: The final blood talent summons a second blade that will fight independently for you. Stand back and watch it slice and dice.

Hungering Cold: The final frost talent purges all heat from the surrounding area, freezing all enemies within 10 yards. It’s going to an epic PvP talent.

Unholy Blight: A plague of insects surrounds the Death Knight, infecting anyone who comes near with diseases. Mix with Blood Boil for full effect.