The Death Knights Rise - A History of Hearthstone's Newest Heroes

Winter Is Coming

Hearthstone’s sixth expansion has been revealed – Knights of the Frozen Throne! After the sweltering heat of the jungles of Un’goro, we’re travelling north to the icy land of Northrend. Take a trip back in time to the fight against the notorious Lich King, and have a moment to wonder – what if, instead of getting a nice happy deus ex Menethil, everybody just died?

Don’t worry though! The Lich King has been kind enough to revive the most powerful heroes – and Gul'dan, I guess – as Death Knights. These revived heroes have glowing blue eyes and sickly grey skin; hailing from the frozen north, they’ll be returning to our screens this Sunday!

Looks like the Warcraft Movie sequel is coming along great.

Death Knight 101

There have been a few different versions of Death Knights in the Warcraft universe. The first Death Knights comprised members of the Horde. After Orgrim Doomhammer – for whom the Doomhammer is named – seized control of the Horde, the Warlocks of the Shadow Council were executed as traitors, leaving only Gul’dan and a few others who pledged their undying – heh – allegiance to him.

In an attempt to curry favour with this new leader, Gul’dan promised an undead army loyal only to Orgrim. After much experimentation, Gul’dan finally succeeded in instilling the soul of a former Council member, Teron Gorefiend, into some poor knight’s corpse. In order to resurrect the rest of the Shadow Council, Gul’dan sacrificed the rest of his followers. Orgrim was pleased with these Death Knights, though unaware that they remained loyal to Gul’dan, not him.

I love a good full circle story.

These original Death Knights were spread throughout the Horde clans, some even making their way to Draenor and joining Mogor the Ogre or the Shaman Ner’zhul. These Death Knights were not accomplished physical fighters, but had horrifying command of dark magics and necromancy, summoning armies of their fallen foes to wage war.

However, the Alliance eventually overcame the Horde, and the majority of these first Death Knights were killed. Those that survived offered their allegiance to Ner’zhul in exchange for a world they could ravage – this ended rather poorly for them, as they ended up captured by the Burning Legion before being transformed into liches under the service of the new Lich King.

But wait, the new Lich King? The guy who’s taking control and reanimating our heroes? Well, you see…

Death Knights 2.0 – The Revival

During the Third War of Azeroth, the undead Scourge was assaulting the land, with many a hero attempting to combat them. The future king Arthas, who at this point had fairly isolated himself from his allies with his rash actions, found himself trapped in Northrend with several of his men and an expedition force led by Muradin, brother of the dwarven king Magni Bronzebeard and of course Brann Bronzebeard.

Convincing them that the only way they could escape would be to obtain the runeblade Frostmourne, they headed to find it together. Upon discovering it to be cursed, Arthas readily accepted it, the process knocking Muradin unconscious. Arthas then used Frostmourne to kill Mal'Ganis, who’d driven Arthas to madness and was leading the Scourge in their destruction. Arthas then fled, abandoning his men and disappearing for months.

That probably means nothing though, I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Given that upon his return, he killed his father and handed the kingdom over to the Scourge, I’m gonna say Northrend is not a good place to vacation to. Arthas had become the first of the Lich King’s new Death Knights, now powerful fighters wielding Runeblades in battle. Others would soon join him.

Former members of the Silver Hand, embittered by the scorn they received from people they were trying to cure of plague, travelled to Northrend to try and find the source, only to join forces with the Lich King, enticed by promises of power. Others were brought in by the allure of immortality, like our friend Baron Rivendare – I suppose that makes his Naxxramas boss fight even more fitting.

Look out for these guys returning to the store soon! Truly the masters of reanimation.

While the Third War ended in defeat for the Burning Legion, the creators of the Lich King, the Death Knights that had been created would end up scattered around Azeroth. Kel’thuzad housed many within Naxxramas, where they trained many new recruits for the Scourge. Death isn’t even a permanent solution to these Death Knights, as many are simply raised into the service of the Lich King again – the Four Horsemen serving Baron Rivendare in Naxxramas are actually multi-rez recipients, and The Black Knight is too.

It is these new Death Knights that our heroes would be joining the ranks of. Instead of defeating Arthas, who has now become possessed by the Lich King – long story, we might have to cover that in full sometime – our heroes are defeated and raised to join his ranks. Perks include living forever, a cool new title and probably being on the winning side, given that the living have just lost their best fighters. You are completely without free will though, and I’m not sure if you get time off to play Hearthstone or like, not go around killing everyone. Pros and cons.

Ebon and Flow – Or, Everyone Has A Good Side

There is a group of Death Knights free of the control of the Lich King. While you won’t find them in this Hearthstone expansion, the Knights of the Ebon Blade are how the Death Knights became a playable class in WoW – they too fight the Burning Legion alongside the other class orders.

No longer are Death Knights restricted to a bunch of resurrected Paladins and mostly human – now anyone can enjoy the feeling of their flesh rotting away as they shamble through the world, an abomination of their former self. Well, anyone except Pandarens. Something tells me they’re not too cut up about it though.

So if you were upset that the Death Knight hasn’t been made a class in Hearthstone, don’t worry! There’s plenty of hope for you yet.

I dunno, anything that can make Anduin this badass is fine by me.

HearthStone Cold Killers

So how have these delightfully murderous minions been translated into Hearthstone? As mentioned before, we’re following what could be referred to as the ‘Probably Bad’ Timeline, in which all nine of the original Hearthstone Heroes were sent to take out the Lich King – including Anduin Wrynn who was like, 12 – and they failed miserably.

They’ve now been resurrected as a brand new card type – Hero Cards! Each class will be receiving a Legendary Hero card in addition to a normal Class Legendary, much like the Quests last expansion. While we’ve only seen one Hero Card so far, the basic design of them is rather simple – when played, they replace your current hero, give you a small amount of armour, some sort of extra effect, and give you a brand new Hero Power.


Wanna try your hand at Frankensteining some critters? Check out our Zombeast Simulator!

Blizzard has been feeling rather generous lately, and as a reward for completing the Prologue mission of the new adventure content, you’ll be given one of the brand new Hero Cards at random. Even better, this random card will also conform to the ‘No Duplicate Legendaries’ rule, so you’re guaranteed to be getting one you don’t already have.

What do you think of the new Death Knights? What powers do you think the other undead heroes will have? Do you think this third question is just here because of the rule of three?

Keep up to date with all the new expansion content by visiting our guide. Remember, July 24th is when the official reveals start back up!

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