The Mustering of Azeroth: I’ve Suffered Well

I have a strange relationship with the death knight class in World of Warcraft. I’ve always said I love everything about death knights except actually playing them. The playstyle has just never quite clicked for me, and as a result my death knight has long been one of my most neglected alts.

My death knight in World of WarcraftAnd yet the fact remains I really love the idea of the class. For sheer style points, they’ve always been one of the best classes in WoW, with cool spell effects and consistently amazing tier sets. And most importantly, they have an incredible story.

Death knights were WoW’s first (and for a long time its only) hero class, and thus the first class with its own unique starting experience.

That starting experience was a quantum leap forward for WoW’s story-telling. I can still remember when I made my first death knight and was completely blown away. After months of my WoW experience being collecting bear asses, the epic experience I knew and loved from the Warcraft franchise was back. I was rubbing shoulders with legendary lore figures, getting to love a new cast of characters, and wading into massive battles with the fate of Azeroth on the line.

I’ve gone back and made other death knights on other servers several different times just because I loved that starting experience so much.

And so maybe it’s not surprising the death knight class campaign in Legion has been one of my favourites. In fact, with eight classes down now, there’s pretty good odds it will go down as my single favourite campaign.

Archerus: The Ebon Hold in World of Warcraft: LegionAs with all the best class campaigns, the death knight story draws heavily on what has come before. The original starting experience did a very good job of forging a sense of camaraderie between the player and the NPCs, and the Legion campaign very wisely brings pretty much all of them back and puts them at the centre of the story. It felt great to once again be fighting alongside Thassarian, Koltira, and Darion. It was as if no time had passed.

I was especially reminded of how much I love Darion Mograine as a character. Part of it is just his awesome voice, but I love his unique combination of breathtaking bitterness and cynicism tempered with lingering traces of optimism and nobility.

“All is not lost… not yet.”

The Ebon Blade has also always done a very good job of selling the anti-hero angle, and that’s one area where I can’t help but compare with the demon hunter campaign. As much as I hate to use the buzzword, the Illidari mostly come across as a bunch of angry edgelords.

The death knights have a more nuanced approach. They’re monsters, and they know they’re monsters, and they’ve decided to turn their hideous nature against even worse monsters so as to preserve that which is still good in the world. They do heinous things, and they know that no one will ever forgive them for what they’ve done, least of all themselves.

The death knight class story in World of WarcraftThe camaraderie that exists between the Knights of the Ebon Blade, as well as their tremendous self-awareness, adds a very sympathetic angle to what would otherwise be a tremendously unlikable bunch of people.

There’s even more to praise about the death knight campaign, but the rest starts to veer into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say we got to revisit some long-neglected locations, storylines, and characters, and it’s definitely enriched Warcraft lore as a whole.

Really my only big complaint about this story is that it left me wanting more. A lot more. I know the odds of this happening are exactly zero, but I would love to see a single-player game that’s all about the Ebon Blade and their story. They’re such a fascinating bunch.

Gameplay-wise, I also had more fun with my DK than I have in the past. Legion’s changes to the rune system seem to have sped up and smoothed out the rotation a bit. Blood still feels off to me in a way I can’t quite define, but I’ve had a pretty good time playing frost and unholy.

Legion unholy is pretty much the only pet spec in WoW I’ve truly enjoyed (well, I was a big demonology fan for a long time, but I liked it despite the pets). As unholy, your pets don’t feel like they’re detracting from your character — they’re a bonus rather than a crutch — and the sheer number of them you can summon is a real power-trip.

Apocalypse is also one of the very few artifact abilities that is genuinely impressive. One of my few complaints about artifacts is that the abilities granted by these supposedly awesome weapons tend to feel surprisingly weak, but Apocalypse is an exception, looking and feeling awesome to use.

My Tauren death knight in World of WarcraftAlso, if you’re not shouting “APOCALYYYYPSE!!” in your best Lich King voice whenever you use it, you’re playing the class wrong.

Meanwhile, frost spec does a very good job of capturing the “unrelenting killing machine” fantasy of the death knight class. It is a bit on the simple side, but you can add complexity through talents, and it’s fun and relaxing to play.

If you haven’t played a death knight in Legion, you might want to consider it.

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Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”

I have this scene in my mind. It’s the Discovery writers room, and they’re pitching episode titles. Someone quips, “Well, we’ll never come up with any titles as over the top as the original series had.”

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryAnd for some reason Neil Patrick Harris is there, and he leaps to his feet and declares, “Challenge accepted!”

It’s the best explanation I can think of for “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.”

Anyway, four episodes in, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Discovery.

On the one hand, the main plot of this episode does have a nice Star Trek-y feel. Captain Lorca brings Burnham to his Bond villain lab and sets her to studying the creature they recovered from their ill-fated sister ship, dubbed a “Ripper.” It’s the sort of scientific mystery that Star Trek thrives on, with a nice undercurrent of moral quandary. So I like that.

Also, Stamets continues to be awesome.

However, there are also a number of things that are bothering me — about this episode, and about Discovery in general.

For one thing, the show is still favouring spectacle over good storytelling to an unhealthy degree, as evidenced by Landry channeling the spirit of Leeroy Jenkins, as well as a lavish CGI sequence of… a shirt being replicated.

Seriously.

A Klingon in Star Trek: DiscoveryI also remain very unhappy with Discovery’s portrayal of the Klingons. This episode once again takes every opportunity to make them as over-the-top craven and villainous as you can imagine, often in ways that run totally contrary to how Klingons have traditionally been portrayed.

Still having a hard time wrapping my head around their new look, too. Their make-up is so thick you can’t really see the actor’s facial expressions, so they can’t emote properly. Kind of sucks the personality out of them — what little personality is possible with such shallow writing, anyway.

Finally, one other thing that worries me is that after four episodes, this seems to just be the Michael Burnham Show. Every episode focuses on her, to the point where all the other characters are left by the wayside.

Now, I’m not just saying this because I’m not her biggest fan. She is slowly growing on me, actually — I like all her little Vulcan mannerisms.

But even if Burnham was the greatest character ever, it would still be problematic if the show focused only on her. There are lots of other really interesting characters on Discovery — Saru, Tilly, Stamets — but they’re just not getting enough screentime to be properly developed. There’s too much of a laser focus on Burnham.

Star Trek is at its best when it makes full use of ensemble cast. That’s a lesson Discovery would do well to learn.

Overall rating: 6.9/10