WAWK: Death Knight Artifact Edition

Death Knight Emblem

SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

As we get further and further into the Legion development cycle, I thought I’d continue the lore behind us being psychopathic homicidal maniacs by writing a new Who Are We Killing series in the flavor of the artifact questlines. I’ll be exploring a little more into the backstories and lore surrounding the artifacts themselves, as well as the scenarios we get to enjoy in getting the weapons that will last us an entire expansion.

In my previous post that came out before these scenarios were available, I had concerns that although it’s awesome to have 36 unique questlines for each spec, we’d also end up seeing some overlap because it’s more than the equivalent of an entire zone of questing when you break it down. It seems that these concerns have already become apparent as Affliction Warlocks, Balance Druids and Unholy Death Knights all share the same scenario area and can even see the other specs do the scenario in Deadwind Pass. It seems to be phased once you get into Karazhan itself, so the immersion isn’t broken, but beware that you might see the same experience across different alts. At least the quest text is different per spec that goes through it, and in the case mentioned above, there’s a different resolution with the NPC accompanying you.

As the first class to get all their scenarios unlocked first, the first part in this 12-part series is going to look at Death Knights. Do note that this is alpha content, not even beta, so things may change between now and release – from previous experience this can also mean the story!

Introductory Quests

Death Knights have no real introduction that all specs can enjoy, such as Warriors or Druids – they get straight into the action and pick their artifact weapon of choice right from the get-go. You speak to Duke Lankral and he explains that the Knights of the Ebon Blade are now allied with the Lich King. It would appear that the new Lich King still hates the Legion as much as he used to pre-Bolvar fusion, and in return for our assistance to him he will aid us in getting a powerful weapon in order to combat against the Legion. As long as the Scourge remains in Northrend, at least.

DKBlood

Blood – Maw of the Damned

The Maw of the Damned is the Blood Death Knight artifact, and from the official preview it gives a brief description:

“An ancient Legion axe forged from a metal that drains its victims’ vital energies. The soul of its original creator is trapped within and cursed with unending hunger. For more than a thousand years, an old and cunning mo’arg has used the axe to butcher uprisings and consume the life force of the Legion’s foes. Over its long and infamous history, the weapon has made its demonic bearer extraordinarily powerful.”

This old and cunning mo’arg is a demon called Gorelix the Fleshripper. Usually mo’arg are associated with all forms of demons the Legion has in its armies – they range from the tiny gan’arg that we saw tending to machines, to the stitched horrors such as The Maker in Blood Furnace, to even Felguards that Warlocks summon and Fel Lords like Zakuun in Hellfire Citadel. Typically however, when called mo’arg Blizzard are usually referring to the tinkers and scientists that were dotted around Outland. Gorelix certainly shares many similarities to these demons, though he’s just a little more brutish, similar to the differences you see with dire trolls and orcs.

As a weapon that steals the life forces from enemies by gouging into their bodies, it is certainly a fitting weapon for Blood Death Knights to take from the Burning Legion. DKs start their quest with the Lich King whispering into their mind, instructing them to head back to the Broken Shore, enter a demon portal and join Baron Sliver in slaying Gorelix and obtaining the Maw of the Damned. He explains that a group of Ebon Blade went there earlier and haven’t been heard from since, so he’s now getting the best Knights to finish the job.

After an uneventful short trip to the Broken Shore (which, if you’re a fan of Legion architecture, looks gorgeous on the short flyover), you run past a few death knights securing the Azeroth side of the portal, and make your way to the demonic world of Niskara. It appears that Baron Sliver has already killed a few demons, but is captured by a jailor (one of the new Legion demons/models) and we bust him out in a long, boring fight.

From what I’ve seen so far from tank specialisations, these scenarios do take a while to complete if you can only pull one mob at a time, but AOEing and pulling the most you can take is pretty satisfying. Hopefully Blizzard balances out the health pools, but it’s a minor issue that I’ve seen in previews. But even then, what happens in questing from 100-110 if you level as a tank? Doomed to be slow killers or are we going to have to level as a DPS spec and level a DPS artifact first? What about healers, for that matter?

Anyway, continuing with the scenario, after you free Sliver you then cut your way through some felguard until you see a building up ahead. Inside it is a Death Knight strung up by fel iron chains – they will always be the same race that you’re playing. They tell you that a nearby demon called Zalinor holds the keystone to unlock the bindings. After you kill the demon and return to the chained up Knight, you increase the party to the three of you and are now told to help release Margrave Dhakar (a Death Knight apparently famous for going missing). Baron Sliver argues that you’re here to kill Gorelix, and shares the same view on comradery as Orbaz Bloodbane that those that get caught aren’t worth his time.

After opening the citadel, you cut your way through some more demons and see Margrave in the middle of a fel rune circle all tied up. Upon moving closer to him, a cutscene interrupts what you’re doing – so make sure you’re not currently tanking several mobs – and Gorelix enters the scene holding the Maw of the Damned and slaughters Margrave on the spot.

After a short and uneventful fight against him we can take the artifact from the ground. The fight itself is extremely underwhelming: I thought this was the guy who’s lived for centuries, if not millenia, being empowered by this weapon, and he’s nothing more than tank and spank? There’s no reason to do ‘tanky’ things either such as peeling things away from your Ebon Blade allies nor any dangerous mechanics to use personals for or move out of.

When all’s said and done, you take a Death Gate to Icecrown Citadel and get to meet the Lich King inside his icy block, where he’ll use telepathy to tell you how awesome you are at being a Death Knight and marks you with his sigil, and explains that the Ebon Blade are moving Acherus to the Broken Shore to hunt for the Dreadlords. It certainly seems interesting that the Nathrezim are returning with the Legion too, as they’re more in line for working behind the scenes instead of being part of a full frontal assault.

Meeting with Highlord Darion Mograine inside Acherus and he says that the weapon you hold is undeniable in its power and hunger, and that although the Ebon Blade will use whatever it takes to win the war, that we should be careful with the weapon. If that makes for a plot point for the future or just a minor lore bit that won’t be build upon, we’ll have to see. Or it might simply link to its flavour text in that if it is not fed the blood of its enemies, it will drink the blood of its wielder instead.

DKFrost

Frost – Blades of the Fallen Prince (Icebringer and Frostreaper)

The Blades of the Fallen Prince, Icebringer and Frostreaper, are what remains of Frostmourne, reforged into something that resembles more than shards of metal and can actually be used to stab things. The official blurb for them are as follows:

“Crafted by the Burning Legion to corrupt the world of Azeroth, the soul-stealing runeblade Frostmourne was shattered by Ashbringer atop Icecrown Citadel. Countless souls were freed from the broken blade, but others were not so fortunate. Today the shards of Frostmourne can be recrafted and infused with even more power. However, the spirits still trapped within must first be subdued and bent to the wielder’s will.”

After what happened to the last wielder of Frostmourne, for it to be infused with even more power sounds like a bad idea. Hopefully we won’t be getting any more champions of the Scourge rising in our raids but the quest kicks off straight away with the Lich King touching your mind.

Bolvar-Lich King instructs you to go to Acherus and to bring it to Icecrown Citadel. After a short cutscene once you take your Death Gate you find yourself docked to Deathbringer’s Rise and you head straight into the Citadel. When Frostmourne shattered at the peak, its fragments littered the halls below, and the souls freed now lash out in eternal torment. Veterans of WoW will recognise the halls you walk down, and the ice traps are now as dangerous at level 100 as they were at level 80. Either AMS or sit them out and continue killing the trash.

Before you enter the main spire, you will likely notice that Bolvar has installed some additional security measures. Gargoyles on buttons will become active, releasing the buttons and dropping the portcullis in front of you. Simply kill them to turn them back to stone and Death Grip the gargoyles back onto the buttons to raise the door once more. I love that they’re making these scenarios use abilities that are specific to your class and not necessarily rotational abilities to get you to use more of your kit!

The first miniboss of note stands before you as Baelgun Flamebeard. Players of Warcraft III may remember this guy as being part of Muradin’s explorers in Northrend. When Muradin was left for dead, Baelgun took control of the remaining dwarves and went deeper into Icecrown Glacier. Illidan attempted to destroy the Frozen Throne using the Eye of Sargeras, and accidentally unleashed the Faceless Ones down below. This caused Baelgun and his people to seal the entrances of the Inner Kingdom, and when Arthas met with them on his race to the Frozen Throne, he slaughtered the rest of the dwarves, claiming Baelgun’s soul into Frostmourne.

As his cursed soul stands next to the first fragment of Frostmourne, he only sees you as his enemy. You’ll notice he has lines relating to Arthas and claims you are with him, and he seeks only vengeance for what he did to Muradin. Going toward the Frostwing Halls, and killing a couple more spirits you are then confronted by the second fragment of Frostmourne and its accompanies soul, Halahk the Deathbringer.

Halahk the Lifebringer was also one of Arthas’s kills back in Warcraft III. When he makes his return to Lordaeron after the defeat of Archimonde at Mount Hyjal, the remaining living humans banded together and Halahk was the head of the Circle of Holy Light. Once Arthas killed him, his soul was tormented inside Frostmourne to the point where he forsook the Light. The Lich King asks that you slay his soul because of his lack of faith, while lines from Halahk are reminiscent of that Warcraft III mission.

The next paladin broken free from Frostmourne is one that goes back a little further than Halahk in lore, though still a very minor throwaway character. Magroth the Defender first appears in the Frozen Throne Night Elf campaign where he is rescued from Illidan’s Naga by Malfurion and Maiev. Afterwards, he forms the Defenders of Justice and is eventually slain by Arthas in the same mission that Halahk is taken out in. The Lich King then immediately contradicts himself from Halahk and tells you that BECAUSE of his faith in the Light you must slay his soul.

The final fragment is guarded by Gavinrad the Cruel. In life he was known as Gavinrad the Dire, and he was one of the first members of the Silver Hand. He presented Arthas with Light’s Vengeance, the hammer he used right up until he took Frostmourne, and classed him as a brother. When Kel’Thuzad necromancer form was slain, Gavinrad was stationed with his Champions of Peace at the cemetery to ensure that he would not rise again. When Arthas required Kel’Thuzad’s remains, he was forced to kill Gavinrad. Again, Gavinrad’s quotes are from around the time of his death.

Finally, you enter the teleporter in the center of the Spire and arrive at the peak of the citadel. You find the hilt of Frostmourne (though at this stage of alpha all the pieces you have collected have been hilt-like in appearance) and the Lich King tells you to channel your power into it to create your weapon.

As soon as you touch the newly formed Blades of the Fallen Prince, you are brought within the soul realm of Frostmourne and are confronted with the two most famous souls Frostmourne consumed: Arthas and Ner’zhul. Ner’zhul commands Arthas to take up the runeblade Frostmourne inside this eerie vision of the past. They both turn on you, and once you get Arthas down to a certain amount of health, he will become invincible and Ner’zhul attempts to claim his soul by sacrificing Scourge into him. After 3 staggered waves of enemies, all you need to do now is finish Arthas off.

With the corruption within the blades purged (at least having defeated Arthas’s spirit), you are safe to collect Icebringer and Frostreaper and claim them as your own. Will we see Ner’zhul resurface later on, as we didn’t kill his soul? I guess we’ll find out later on. From here on out we follow the same path as the Blood quest line.

The Lich King marks you with his sigil to let all recognise you as the enforcer of his will, and commands you to go to the Broken Shore to hunt the Dreadlords. As I mentioned before, it seems interesting that a race of the Legion that is usually associated with manipulation and working behind the scenes is out on the front lines

DKUnholy

Unholy – Apocalypse

Apocalypse is the final Death Knight artifact, a two-handed sword that is also a Legion creation. What is it with DKs and their weapons of power being Legion corrupt? Similar to the Maw of the Damned for Blood, Apocalypse is a previously unknown weapon, but the scenario featured in order to gain the artifact expands on a token enemy faction we heard about back in vanilla Duskwood…

“Vampiric demons known as nathrezim forged this ancient sword, which brings with it violence, plagues, and death. Apocalypse soon earned a horrific reputation in the hands of a Tirisgarde mage who couldn’t control its destructive energies. In time the sword was seized by the malevolent Dark Riders: servants of Medivh, the corrupted Guardian of Tirisfal. They hid the blade in the catacombs under his home, the tower of Karazhan.”

The Lich King’s voice fills your mind, telling you to go play detective to find the whereabouts of the Dark Riders by going to Duskwood to Manor Mistmantle. Taking the teleport to Karazhan and going for a short flight to Duskwood, you’re met by Revil Kost residing inside the Manor. Fans of WoW’s comics may recognise this guy and his history with the Dark Riders.

When you meet him it’s clear that he doesn’t like you, purely because you’re a Death Knight (hooray, someone who doesn’t immediately fawn over our heroic achievements)! You have a choice in method of convincing him: through an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” argument; a more assertive stance or a more aggressive stance where you just beat him up to get the information from him.

One day, Blizzard might make these choice quests do something more than just be flavour for a single stage of a quest line… Whichever option you pick, you’ll get the same outcome – Kost will join you in hunting down the Dark Riders. In return for Apocalypse, we will allow Kost to return the rest of the Riders’ vaults to their rightful owners. Seeing as we’re only after the sword, it seems a good deal.

Heading out of the Manor, and we’re immediately confronted by the elusive Dark Riders, and we finally get hints that they are more of a faction rather than something similar to the Ringwraiths from LotR. Either that or this first encounter with them is very underwhelming. Making our way to Deadwind Pass we get a bit more background about the Dark Riders from Kost, while the path is littered with ambushes from the Dark Riders.

As it turns out, they used to be travelling merchants until they crossed paths with Medivh and were cursed to hunt artifacts for him for eternity. A man named Ariden was the first merchant cursed, and it is believed that he is the leader of this faction. His camp is in Deadwind Pass, and is the key to finding his whereabouts as well as any clues to artifacts the Dark Riders have coveted.

Once you reach the camp you find a relic box full of forgeries – this was the camp Ariden set up to try and ply his dubious wares to Medivh. Upon further inspection around the camp, it appears that a trap is set up, and Ariden taunts you from an unknown location and tries to scare you away.

Reading through Ariden’s journal after the trap you read that whispers called him to the dread blade Apocolypse. What is it with Death Knights and whispers telling them to pick up a sword? Nevertheless, your task now is to go investigate these whispers by raising the dead near Karazhan and working out where you need to go to find out where it is the Dark Riders are hiding. Laith Sha’ol, the ghost of the Tirisgarde mage who was the previous wielder of Apocalypse, tells you where the Dark Riders reside…

Surprise, surprise: Karazhan. Interestingly enough, you have to go to the catacombs beneath the tower, but unfortunately it’s nothing like what we know of what’s beneath Karazhan. No smiley face. No upside-down sinners. Not even what was expected lorewise as the twisted reflection of the tower above… Well, maybe. We don’t get to explore a lot of it. Oh well, let’s head down the sewer grate and find out what’s keeping our cursed blade from us!

Once you reach the bottom of the long spiral staircase and defeat the guardians within, you are able to see Ariden on the other side of a massive void zone corridor. As mentioned earlier, it’s awesome to see Blizzard be able to make quests for specific classes or specs that make use of their unique abilities. Simply Death Gripping Ariden across the corridor causes the spirits to dissipate and you engage in combat with him.

After you smack him about a bit, he will run off and you’re met with the Curator’s little brother, The Conservator. Defeat him, and you see Apocalypse on a pedestal in front of you. When you attempt to claim it however, you spring another trap, and Ariden takes the dread blade and runs off with it. Time to chase him down! After defeating a few more undead and Dark Riders, you face against Ariden himself. For realsies, this time!

Using Apocalypse, it’s clear he has some dominion over the undead, and it becomes a bit of a damage race to try and kill him and his waves of undead before he kills you, but popping cooldowns should make no trouble for you to kill him. Laith Sha’ol’s ghost appears once more, and tells Ariden that the sword’s power wielded him, before finally revealing that Ariden is in fact Laith’s son.

If the whispers calling Ariden to the blade were in fact Laith as is implied in the scenario, this is an incredibly morbid quest chain… The father couldn’t control the cursed weapon, and after he fell, he whispered to his son, damning him for eternity. And then when we slay him he has the gall to say that the curse is lifted!

Oh well, you now get to finally pick up Apocalypse without setting off traps and hopefully you won’t share the same fate as Laith or Ariden! Kost finally catches up and tells you to return to your dark masters, and he hopes that you and him never cross paths again. Using your Death Gate you return to the Frozen Throne atop Icecrown Citadel.

And here is where the different Death Knight quests combine again before you find your class hall. The Lich King marks you with his sigil, and he instructs you to hunt the Dreadlords in the Broken Shore. It’ll be sweet revenge to see the nathrezim felled by a weapon of their own creation (not just you as a Death Knight, but Apocalypse itself).


This is the first of a 12-part series that will outline the different artifact scenarios that our characters will undergo in order to get the weapons that will accompany us for an entire expansion. I can’t guarantee that they’ll be in complete alphabetical order as I want to write the articles for the entire class as a whole.

That being said, Demon Hunters are completely available to play on the alpha and I’ll likely be going over both Havoc and Vengeance’s storyline and scenarios for what Demon Hunters will have to do to get their artifacts. Many specs from other classes are still unavailable, so unless a new build comes out that fills out more classes, after Demon Hunters I will be looking at Shamans and Warriors.

 

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