After many rumors throughout the years, Death Knight has finally been announced to arrive as Hearthstone's eleventh playable class - as soon as March of the Lich King releases on December 6! This addition takes place roughly 2,5 years after the premiere of Demon Hunter (which was added in April 2020 with the Ashes of Outland expansion), and brings a considerable amount of implications to the game: as you'll see throughout this dedicated deep dive guide, Death Knight starts right off the bat with multiple brand new mechanics, which are unprecedented in their seeming complexity, and as such require further explanations.
The Lich King returns to Hearthstone, leading his Undead army and the new Death Knight class in an all-out assault on the elven city of Silvermoon! The Blood Elves won’t go down easily; they are as thirsty for combat as they are for the magic of the Sunwell that they draw power from. As the Corpses pile up, the Death Knights’ army swells, and so begins the March of the Lich King.
In this article, we're going to break down every single piece of information given to us regarding the Death Knight - if you're interested in a particular section, make sure to click one of the links below, as they'll bring you to the point of the article you're looking for:
- Death Knight's Basic Hero Power
- New Class Mechanic: Corpses
- Class Deckbuilding Mechanic: Runes
- How to Build a Death Knight Deck with Runes
- How to Draft a Death Knight Arena Deck with Runes (NEW!)
- Death Knight Cards - How Many There Are and How to Obtain Them
Death Knight's Basic Hero Power
Let's start with the foremost element: Death Knight's Hero Power. By playing this class, you'll have access to Ghoul Charge, a 2 mana Hero Power that summons a 1/1 Ghoul with Charge, which however dies at the end of the turn.
There are a few notable implications:
- The summoned Frail Ghoul is an Undead token, meaning that it will foster any tribal synergies, like with Acolyte of Death.
- Being a 1/1 that can attack immediately and is guaranteed to die, it will work toward the Corpses mechanic, which we'll talk about immediately.
In case you're wondering, Death Knight's upgraded Hero Power (generated by cards like Justicar Trueheart, Baku the Mooneater and Sir Finley of the Sands) summons a 2/1 Ghoul with Charge, which will die at the end of the turn: same effect, but 1 more Attack point.
Any idea what the upgraded DK hero power is?
2/1 instead of 1/1!
New Class Mechanic: Corpses
Just like Outcast for Demon Hunter, Choose One for Druid and Combo for Rogue, Death Knight has their own exclusive keyword! To be specific, we're talking about Corpses. As the name suggests, the Corpse keyword synergizes with friendly minions dying: once a friendly unit gets destroyed, you'll receive one Corpse point on your counter, which will indicate how many Corpses you've accumulated throughout the game.
The Corpses counter and how it appears under the mana crystals bar. Remember that only Death Knight has access to Corpses and the Corpses counter.
You can use your Corpses to fuel and power up other cards which directly synergize with this mechanic: for example, Vampiric Blood increases your Hero's Health total by 5, but if you have 3 Corpses to spend alongside the 2 mana cost, you'll get an additional 5 Health, setting your Hero's Health total to a whopping 40 - imagine the synergy with Prince Renathal and Reno Jackson! (Note that when you play a card that asks for Corpses, you will spend the Corpses if you have them - you can't choose to forego the Corpse cost. Use your resources wisely!)
Example Death Knight's Corpse Cards. In the meantime, do not pay attention to the colored gems under the mana crystals, as they are completely unrelated to the Corpse mechanic: we'll get to them very soon.
Keep in mind that each friendly minion leaves a Corpse behind (with a few exceptions*): including minions you play, minions you summon with other cards, minions that are resummoned through the returning Reborn keyword, and the Frail Ghoul summoned by your Ghoul Charge Hero Power!
* Minions that were Risen from Corpses, such as Battlefield Necromancer's Risen Footman do not themselves leave behind a Corpse. You can't endlessly recycle the same body!
Class Deckbuilding Mechanic: Runes
Here we are with what is probably the most intricate mechanic regarding the new Death Knight class: Runes! These colored symbols affect the deckbuilding phase and dictate which Death Knight cards can be added to your deck. There are three different Runes, each with their own specs: Blood, Frost and Unholy.
From left to right: the Blood Rune, the Frost Rune, and the Unholy Rune.
How do Runes affect deckbuilding? How do I know what cards can I include in my Death Knight deck? The answer is actually very simple: when building your own deck, you'll be allowed to select a combination of the aforementioned three Runes - you can go one Blood, one Frost and one Unholy, or two Frost and one Unholy, or even three of the same kind!
However, the set of Runes you choose will determine which cards you'll be allowed to include in your deck: let's make some examples.
Let's say you want to build your deck around Patchwerk: this unit has a Blood Rune, meaning that at least one of the three Runes you choose will have to be red - at the same time, the other two may be whatever you wish. However, if you also want to add Horn of Winter, the other two Runes will necessarily have to be Frost, so that your Death Knight deck will be Blood-Frost-Frost.
In this scenario, you won't be able to include in your deck cards like Plague Strike, Battlefield Necromancer or Vampiric Blood, as they do not align with your choice of Runes.
One major implication of the Runes deckbuilding system is that cards that would do wonders together may not be playable in the same list because they have totally incompatible Runes! Let's take Vampiric Blood, a great survivability tool, and Lord Marrowgar, wonderful top-end finisher: the first one requires three Blood Runes, while the second requires three Unholy Runes, making them totally incompatible, with no chances at all of starting in the same deck.
Examples of cards with three Runes of the same color: they cannot go in decks that include Runes other than the one they have three of.
Generally speaking, the deeper you go into a particular Rune, the more you can tap into the types of things that Runes specializes in. Some of Death Knight’s most powerful cards (like the aforementioned Vampiric Blood and Lord Marrowgar) require you to fully commit to one Rune, but sometimes tapping into a secondary Rune is a great way to cover your primary Rune’s weaknesses. For instance, the Blood Rune tends to play a few big minions and not many small ones, so you need to decide whether you want to run the very powerful triple Blood cards or if you’d rather add a single Unholy Rune for some Corpse generators.
Finally, as obvious at it may sound, there are also some Death Knight cards that don’t have any Rune restrictions. These cards tend to be general-purpose, which are vital to deckbuilding - otherwise, creating a playable deck would take an insane amount of cards and would be a highly difficult task!
Let's now go over each Rune, showcasing their strengths and flavors, as well as some cards that require you to build your deck around specific Runes.
The Blood Rune is the tankiest Rune. It represents the Blood Death Knights, incredibly resilient: they drain life force from their opponents and defend with walls of flesh and bone. Blood cards tend to have board control effects, large minions, and cards that manipulate life totals.
If you love stats and games when board matters, this is probably the spec you should be looking forward to the most.
Example Death Knight's Cards with a Blood Rune.
The Frost Rune has powerful burst potential. With ice and sword in-hand, Frost Death Knights strike hard and true. Frost cards tend to have lots of spell synergies, with direct damage, card draw, mana manipulation, and Freeze effects.
If you want to stall the game and exhaust your opponent, this is probably your favorite Rune.
Example Death Knight's Cards with a Frost Rune.
The Unholy Rune has the greatest command of the Undead armies. Unholy Death Knights resurrect their friends and foes alike to do their bidding. Unholy cards tend to be very good at summoning swarms of Undead minions, while generating and spending Corpses.
This Rune has great swarm potential, which synergizes with the Corpse mechanic and is perfect for aggressive builds.
Example Death Knight's Cards with an Unholy Rune.
How to Build a Death Knight Deck with Runes
Fortunately for us, Team 5 added some optimization to the in-game deck builder, so that building decks revolving around certain Runes will be a lot easier!
Here are the most relevant pieces of information you should keep in mind before heading into the deck builder:
- Whenever you're building a Death Knight deck, the Rune selections will automatically update as you add cards to your deck (see GIF above).
- You can choose to either “Show All Runes” as you tinker, or you can uncheck that option and the deckbuilder will dynamically filter as you add cards to your deck, automatically hiding cards that are incompatible with your Rune selections.
- You can filter your collection by a particular Rune by searching for “runes:---” where the “-”s are replaced by "b" (Blood) "f" (Frost) or "u" (Unholy).
- For example, the search "runes:bb" will give you just all your double-Blood cards, and the search "runes:u" will result in only single-Unholy cards.
- Alternatively, you can search by the Rune, and enter the devotion to that Rune as a number
- For example, the search "Unholy:1" will return all your single Unholy cards.
- You can also add a range to your research.
- For example, the search "Frost:1-2" will return all your single and double Frost cards.
- Frost is obviously a special case because it represents both a Rune and a Spell School: in order to differentiate between the two, you'll be able to use different search methods.
- For Frost spells, you'll have to type "school:frost", so that Frost Rune cards won't get in the way.
How to Draft a Death Knight Arena Deck with Runes
As you already saw, Runes bring a decent amount of complexity to the game and, to be specific, to the deckbuilding aspect of it. However, how does the Runes limitation work in Arena, a game mode where your deck is built one card at time?
Fortunately for us, Hearthstone Game Designers Matt London and Chadd "Celestalon" Nervig answered this intricate question. Basically, your deck's Runes get filled in as you draft cards, and you'll only get offered cards that are valid for your available Runes.
Let's make an example: if the first card you pick during your draft is the triple Blood Vampiric Blood, all the other 29 will cards will adjust to that, and you won't get offered any Unholy or Frost cards.
Here's another example: if the first card you pick is Acolyte of Death, the other 29 cards you can draft will necessarily have to coexist with that Frost Rune, meaning that you won't get offered any triple Blood or triple Unholy cards!
Any word on how Death Knight will draft in Arena mode with their unique rune system?
Your deck's runes get filled in as you draft cards, and you only get offered cards that are valid for your available runes. (So if you pick a triple blood card first pick, you won't get offered any frost/unholy cards for the remaining 29 picks)
This means that the draft system knows what you're doing and, to an extent, you can manipulate your draft so that the game will offer you certain Rune cards!
I've gotten a few questions about how Death Knight's runes will work in Arena.
The draft knows which cards you have picked. It will only offer cards you could legally play given the runes you have drafted.
So if you pick a Double Unholy card, no double or triple Frost or Blood cards will be shown. If you then draft a Single Blood card, no Triple Unholy or Single Frost cards will be shown.
Can you draft carefully to force certain cards? Why yes, yes you can.
Death Knight Cards - How Many There Are and How to Obtain Them
Now that we have cleared all the mechanics regarding the Death Knight, it is time to explain how many cards this new class will have available at launch and how you will obtain them. On December 6, you'll be able to choose from 68 (almost nice) total class cards in order to build your Death Knight deck - said cards are split as follows:
- 32 of the 68 cards will come with Death Knight's Core Set, which will be free for everyone.
- Considering the Runes deckbuilding limitation, it is fair for Team 5 to give DK a larger Core Set.
- 26 of the 68 cards will be part of the Path of Arthas set, available for in-game gold, Runestones, or as part of the March of the Lich King Mega-Bundle. Also craftable separately.
- The remaining 10 of the 68 cards will be included in March of the Lich King and Standard card packs and will be available for manual crafting after the expansion's release.
But that's not all: there are a few additional pieces of information you should be aware of!
How to Obtain Death Knight's Core Set Cards
Unfortunately, you won't be able to play Death Knight at full power at the very launch of the expansion: for players to obtain the class' Core cards and include them in your deck, they'll have to complete a Solo Adventure first.
On December 6, we'll receive a Death Knight Prologue that will follow the iconic story of Arthas Menethil’s descent into darkness as he becomes The Lich King: by completing said Prologue, players will be able to unlock the entire 32-card Death Knight Core Set for free.
Pretty similar to the one we received for Demon Hunter's launch, and that rewarded the Initiate set.
How to Obtain Death Knight's Path of Arthas Cards
As we already mentioned, 26 Death Knight cards will come with the so called "Path of Arthas" set. Unlike Core, this set won't be free: instead, players will be able to purchase it with either in-game gold or Runestones (or simply by crafting the chosen cards). Here are more details:
- Name - Path of Arthas set
- Content - one-time, separate Death Knight-only set available to help Death Knights catch up with the other classes.
- Cards - 49 in total, split between:
- 3 different Legendaries
- 3 different Epics (2 copies of each)
- 9 different Rares (2 copies of each)
- 11 different Commons (2 copies each)
- Methods of Acquisition
- Path of Arthas is included in the March of the Lich King Mega-Bundle (see next section).
- Once the expansion goes live, it will also be available for standalone purchase in either normal (2000 Gold or 1500 Runestones) or Golden offerings (money or 7000 Runestones).
- Alternatively, craft any of the cards by using your Arcane Dust reserves.
With the Path of Arthas, the cards contained in this set can't be opened from packs, but can still be crafted following the usual rules.
Another final piece of information you should be aware of is that, in case you'll purchase the golden version of Path of Arthas, you'll be rewarded with a Diamond version of the Lady Deathwhisper Legendary minion, which will also be available for purchase as a standalone product.
As of now, we do not know how Lady Deathwhisper is going to look like, as the only thing we can tell for certain is that it's a Legendary Death Knight card and that it's part of Path of Arthas: the reveals planned for the following days are guaranteed to give us some clarity on the matter. However, it's worth noting we have already met her once before in Hearthstone, as part of Knights of the Frozen Throne's solo adventure Icecrown Citadel. See: Lady Deathwhisper. The character itself is based on a raid encounter from World of Warcraft's Wrath of the Lich King.
How to Obtain Death Knight's March of the Lich King Cards
And last but not least, there are the March of the Lich King cards. For these, things are more straightforward: buy the new expansion packs and pray to Yogg!
In case you're interested, Blizzard has already shared information regarding this set's preorders.
Match of the Lich King's Standard Bundle
- 60 March of the Lich King Packs
- 2 random March of the Lich King Legendary Cards
- Lor’themar Card Back
March of the Lich King Mega-Bundle
For the first time in Hearthstone, an expansion’s Mega-Bundle is entirely focused on Constructed.
- 80 March of the Lich King Packs
- 5 March of the Lich King Signature Golden Packs
- 2 random March of the Lich King Signature Legendary Cards
- Path of Arthas Set, consisting of 49 Death Knight cards (26 unique) that are not available through packs.
- Lor’themar Hunter Hero Skin
- Lor’themar Card Back
What are your thoughts on Death Knight finally coming to Hearthstone? Do you have any unanswered questions? Let us know in the comments below!