ToME: the Tales of Maj'Eyal

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:13 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:46 am
Posts: 16
Death Knight is a mod class by Razakai, available here:

For my own credentials, I've beaten the game with one on Insane / Roguelike with no other major content mods: ... 276952e138

And again after the bugfix/nerf to Lightbane: ... 9693172915

== Introduction ==

Death Knights have strong damage mitigation, cooldown management, and numerous proc-on-hit talents balanced by an extreme vulnerability to sustain disruption. They also have the unique mechanic of Soulforging, where nearly every active ability the class possesses has an "improved" version that costs souls. These effects are very strong, but your soul bar powers both your primary passive buff sustain and your "cheat death" sustain, making for a lot of interesting and difficult decisions about how to spend your resources.

Core Talents

Dread: 1+/1/1/5
Desecration: 3+/1/5/0
Necrotic Might: 1-3/1-4/1/5
Undeath: 4/4/0/0
Dusk: 5/4/5/4
Soul 1/0/0/0

If taking Squire: 5/5/5/1
If taking Frost: 5/1+/5/0+

Shalore: 1/1+/1/5 or Ogre: 1/5/1/1+
Reaping 5/1+/1/3+
Physics 2-4/2/2/0
Chemistry 3-5/2/2/0

If Cornac or if you somehow have generics left over, Soulforge: 1/1/1+/5

I Can Carry the World + Arcane Might


Shalore is far and away the best choice here. Timeless has fantastic synergy with Death Vortex, Drain Essence, and Lightbane, and increases Death Knight's already powerful ability to hasten cooldowns via Grim Harvest. Go 1/1+/1/5 in the racial tree.

Cornac is a strong choice whose extra skill points will allow you to invest more heavily in Death Knight's utility and survival talents, as well as the strong but back-heavy Soulforge tree on the generic side. Go 1/1/1+/5 in Soulforge and put a little more emphasis on spellpower if going Cornac.

Ogre is quite good since, like Sun Paladins, Death Knights have normally-exclusive shield and 2H trees -- and since Soulforged Lightbane can convert all your damage to darkness, the different elements are less of a problem than you'd think. If you do decide to go Ogre, 1/5/1/1+ the racial tree and max the first and third Frost talents at minimum.

Anything else is at your own discretion.

Heal / Wild (Physical) / Movement early. Add Heroism / Shielding when you get your fourth slot, and if possible transition to Medical Injectors via the Tinker tree in the lategame. Cornacs, or Ogres who decide to forgo the Squire tree, might consider a second Movement and/or a second Healing infusion.

Be careful with Shielding runes as your Reaper's Shroud skill will still trigger while you have other shields up, leaving the original shield intact but wasting Shroud's cooldown. It can still be worthwhile to use one in the early game when Heroism infusions are scarce, especially if you find the Rune of Reflection, just be aware of the interaction there.


I Can Carry the World is non-negotiable; some folks in IRC pointed out to me that for classes that rely primarily on STR it's better than Arcane Might, and they were right. 50 STR is a massive boost to damage, and on top of that Deathknight is one of the most fatigue-dependent classes in the game; this prodigy was made for you. If you're an Ogre, the size bonus is the cherry on top.

After that, you have several options:

Arcane Might is probably the best second prodigy. Spirit Feed boosts you physical and spellpower and Arcane Might takes them even further -- an endgame Death Knight can easily exceed 100 physical power (even while Ogre-wielding!)

Cauterize is strong as always but be wary of the interaction with Shadow of Death -- Shadow will trigger first, and if you don't acquire souls before Shadow wears off, you will die without Cauterize ever triggering. Despite this, it's still a decent choice because two ways of cheating death is better than one.

Flexible Combat is an even better choice for Death Knights than it already is for most melee classes, because so many of their abilities are proc-on-hit or proc-on-melee.

Category Points

Inscription > Dusk > Tinkers / Squire > whatever you didn't get at 36 (or Frost for Ogres.)

On my Shalore win I waited until the endgame to get Dusk, but this was a mistake, and it probably only worked because Shalore is broken. Dusk increases both your damage output and your survivability (thanks to the lifesteal), you definitely want it mostly filled in before Dreadfell. (Prioritizing the first and fourth skills initially, then going back for the others.)

Squire is optional and now that I've won a game without them, I can honestly say I didn't miss them for the most part. It's still a lot of damage reduction, but they require a massive investment of skill points and no matter when you start investing points in the tree, they're never survivable enough to have full or nearly-full uptime. Consider it if you don't have the Embers DLC or have very bad luck with armor / life / resist gear, but I no longer consider it a core tree.

Gear Priorities

Early game you'll want to max out Stun Resist, get at least 50%+ in Confusion Resist, and stack as much +hp as possible. Consider using items that grant -fatigue or +mana if you can do so without making too big a sacrifice in other areas, as Death Knight needs a lot of sustains active and also absolutely needs to wear heavy armor, which eats into their mana pool.

Most of your damage comes from Darkness or Physical (with Cold a distant third), and midgame you get Lightbane which when Soulforged converts all of your damage to Darkness, making it an excellent element to stack. Reaching the critical hit cap is easy and profitable on Insane and doable even on Nightmare due to Enshroud, which gives you +18% to both physical and spell crit and will boost the former even higher with Arcane Combat, and you absolutely want to reach that cap lategame since critical strikes proc your living shadows.

Of special note is the "of Projection" ego on melee weapons -- this ego can give you anywhere from 2 to 6 extra ranged melee attacks on targets other than the one you initially hit. This has fantastic synergy with Death Knight's abilities and a tier 5 randart with the 6-attack version of this ego and other good stats (crippling, amnesia, gloom, dark damage, or crit multiplier, to name a few) is probably the best possible weapon for the class after Sawrd.

== General Strategy ==

In the early game you'll be using Call of the Grave a lot to get the first hit in, then following up with Necrotic Strike to neuter dangerous enemies. Once you get Meat Shield you can also use Ghouls to grab aggro away from dangerous enemies, potentially saving your own skin. You have very limited mobility as this stage in the game so be sure to abuse corners and line of sight against rares and dangerous ranged enemies like Snow Giant Boulderers.

In the mid game, you'll be leaning heavily on Death Vortex for damage. Use the Soulforged suction version to bring enemies to you, and be very careful of ghosts and other enemies that can disable sustains as this will badly compromise your resource management and, later, your damage buffs and cheat death abilities. Squire gives you strong damage reduction if you took it and allows you to eat your own minions to heal yourself, and you can use cold damage (mainly from Death Vortex but also from Necrotic Strike and a few other abilities) to help cleanse nasty status effects.

Dreadfell deserves special mention, as it's easily the hardest dungeon in the game for this class. Ghosts and Dreads are your worst enemy; they disable your sustains, pass through walls to surround you, and have extremely high defense in addition to turning invisible. On Insane even normal ghosts can have 35-40 defense, so try to have an Accuracy of 50+ and a source of Blind-Fight for Dreadfell -- keep any +Accuracy or +Dex items you find and hope the Withering Orbs drop. In a pinch, a Focus Lens tinker will work too, but this might not be realistic for slow-leveling races like Ogres.

In the late game, most fights will involve you popping Lightbane and Death Vortex and spreading your living shadows around in order to trigger Night's Edge on as many targets as possible. While Lightbane is up, try your best to make a melee attack (or a ranged ability that counts as a melee attack) every single turn to maximize your damage.

If you get into trouble, remember that Drain Essence gives you souls and will satisfy the soul requirement of Shadow of Death after it triggers. Multi-hit attacks will refill Drain Essence more quickly since it has no proc / turn limit. Also, you can escape over walls with Duskwake, but this sometimes fizzles if you try to go somewhere outside of line of sight so be careful not to lean on it too heavily.

== Class Talents -- Analysis ==

Necrotic Might

Necrotic Strike lets you perma-debuff the speed and damage of bosses at level 3. I don't really see the point of taking it past that, and leaving it at 1 is acceptable if you're tight on points. The Soulforged version turns the debuff (but not the damage) into a small AoE but the skill is mostly useful in 1v1 situations.

Soul Reaper is pretty weak as mobility -- it needs a target to activate, so it's mainly useful for initiating rather than escape, although in a desperate situation you can target your own minions to get away. However, it has an excellent Soulforge buff that gives you a flat 50% resistance penetration in all elements -- the effective damage buff is huge. Leave it at 1 for Soulforging or raise it to 4 for maximum range.

Dark Tide is mostly filler, I barely used it. The confusion effect is nice but unreliable since sometimes it'll apply Blind instead and most enemies are immune to that by endgame. The Soulforged damage is unremarkable.

Grim Harvest is one of the most important skills that makes Death Knight tick. Your Darkness damage will reduce the cooldown of multiple skills, and Cold damage will erase debuffs like they were never there. Maxing it is non-negotiable, although when to get it is debatable -- mid-game if you're not taking Squire, mid-late otherwise.


Call of the Grave is your only real long-range attack (at least until the Lightbane engine comes online) and typically the first skill you should level. 4/5 is a good breakpoint, giving you the greatest possible range. The Soulforged version isn't too exciting -- it's the initial hit that gives you the damage, not the Ghouls themselves -- but might be worth using in the early game when your damage is weak.

Meat Shield is a fantastic skill and it will save your life. Raise it to 1 or 2 early on to get the damage reduction to a respectable level, and raise it to level 4 later on -- the taunt effect on the Ghouls is extremely useful in the mid- to late-game to get dangerous rares off your back, and the 4th point doubles the radius of the taunt.

Corpse Explosion might be worth tinkering with for the power reduction -- basically stopping enemies who kill your ghouls from dealing real damage for the next 6 turns -- but it's another sustain in a class that already spends the early and mid-game strapped for mana.

Necrotic Wall lets you block line-of-sight on command which is nice, but you should be able to use terrain to this effect most of the time without spending skill points.


The first point in each skill in this tree increases the size of your aura, which you need to gather souls to power basically everything you do.

Enervate strips enemy resists and saves and decreases their damage. Leaving it at 1 is a reasonable choice, but raising it to 4 for the maximum level of damage reduction, or 5 for the maximum amount of resistance-stripping, is a legit choice if you have points to spare.

Shackle Soul is filler, and will trigger with adequate frequency even at 1 point.

Vampiric Embrace would be nice if not for the "cannot activate more than once per turn" proviso.

Death Vortex is very good. That damage is very strong in the midgame but falls off somewhat later on, but it's your major source of cold damage procs for Grim Harvest, and when Soulforged the suction effect is extremely useful throughout the game. Max it as soon as you have the stats to do so.


Drain Essence is an incredibly versatile ability -- it refills your mana, your souls, and once you level Hungering Blade it also gives you a powerful lifesteal buff after using it. It also has no activations-per-turn limit, so multi-hit attacks can fill it up very quickly. Be careful of using it if you're close to death and have Shadow of Death sustained -- Drain Essence is the only guaranteed way you have to regain souls, and if you have no souls left when the Shadow of Death status wears off, you will die. 3/5 is a good breakpoint, but maxing it for the extra soul is also a sound choice.

Pale Rider is mostly filler but it's a nice buff to extend with Timeless or to tide you over right after you use Drain Essence and no longer have the buffer it provides. One point is plenty.

Hungering Blade takes Drain Essence from good to fantastic and should be maxed, as it has nearly linear gains for each point you invest. The lifesteal and damage buff it grants can be extended with Timeless, and since the added damage is cold it should trigger Grim Harvest as well.

Undying might be worth a point in theory, but in practice you want to avoid going below 0 health whenever possible, so I don't recommend investing in it.


Soul Rend: It's a good idea to take one point in this skill at character creation simply for the free stuns, plus killing Soul Fragments grants Souls (and they'll pretty much die by themselves once your AoE and projected attack talents get rolling.)

Heavier investment in this tree is probably a good idea -- the second skill gives buff stripping which is always fantastic, and the third skill gives you an unresistable confusion-like effect -- but I haven't played with it much just yet. My tentative advice would be to go 4/4/4/0 if you decide to go this route.


Dusk costs a category point to unlock, but is essential for a 2H build, and completely changes how the class plays. With the full tree filled in and Lightbane active your living shadows will spread all over the screen and any enemies in them will explode, giving you tremendous AoE and single-target damage alike.

Enshroud is a simple crit and damage buff. You need it sustained for the third and fourth skills to be of much use. Max it.

Duskwake is an excellent mobility skill that, in addition to spreading living shadows and dealing respectable damage, does not require a target to function (so you can use it for escapes) and sometimes lets you teleport through walls -- like Controlled Phase Door it's unreliable when you don't have line of sight, but it's still handy for escaping from bad situations or sneaking into vaults. Raising it to 4 gives you the greatest possible range. I rarely used the Soulforge version, but it gives you extra attacks and spread your living shadows around even more.

Night's Edge is a passive damage buff that, most significantly, gives you extra free ranged attacks that count as melee for proccing purposes. Max it.

Lightbane is your build-defining skill. While it's up, simply attacking will spread living shadows (and thus damage via Night's Edge) to any enemy you can see. The Soulforge version converts all your damage to Darkness which allows you to stack that element for incredible damage.


Squire costs a category point to unlock, and is primarily a defensive tree. While he's alive and your sustains are active, Squire gives you an amazing 27% damage reduction. Unfortunately, he dies rather easily; it's hard to find enough skill points to get him his full survivability, and by the time you do enemy damage outscales the Squire's survivability. (At least on Insane. On Normal or Nightmare he'll probably live forever.) Still, the Squire can compensate for poor item drops, and is useful for avoiding sudden bursts of damage at the beginning of an engagement -- for instance, in High Peak.

One thing the talent tooltips themselves do not explain (at least in detail) is that the Squire gains new abilities based on the total number of points you've invested in the tree. The final and most important skill unlocks at 16 points invested, giving the Squire a whopping 40% buff to his max HP and generally making him much more likely to survive.

Early on, going 2/1/3/0 in this tree gives you most of the benefits for a relatively slight investment, but in the long run the Squire's survivability (and thus the uptime of the damage reduction) will suffer, making a larger investment wise.

Raise Dead should be maxed, it gives the Squire more dexterity and constitution and improves his survivability.

Death Pact is a very solid healing spell that allows you to damage your Squire to heal yourself, scaling off your maximum life. You can Soulforge the spell to also transfer negative status effects, or you can target a regular minion for a half-power effect that also has only half the cooldown. I often used this spell to eat my own ghouls or wraiths when my other heals were down. Max it to get the most out of the healing effect.

Soul Link is the real reason you're here -- it reduces your damage taken by a flat 27% and transfers that damage to your Squire, but also heals the Squire by 22% of the damage you deal. This is insanely valuable, so max it.

Dark Transformation makes your Squire very hard to kill and causes him to taunt enemies. It's not awful, but it's less good than anything else in this tree. If you really like it you might consider taking points out of Death Pact and investing them here, as long as the total points still add up to 16, but I wasn't too impressed -- one point here is enough to unlock the Squire's final skill. The Soulforged version says "grants immunity to negative effects and increases global speed by 30%," but sadly, it's talking about the Squire, not you.


While Frost is normally only available to sword-and-board Deathknights (who are beyond the scope of this guide), Ogres can take Dusk and Frost and combine them to great effect.

Rime gives you a decent source of random cold damage procs, which do respectable damage and proc Grim Harvest, helping keep you status effect-free. Max it for damage and maximum proc chance.

Icebound Fortitude offers some very nice damage reduction, and if you're sure you're going to remember to block from time to time it might be worth investing some points here. However, Deathknight is already starved for class points as it is, so leaving it at 1 is also justifiable.

Hungering Cold is fantastic. It is your only range 10 ability, and it allows you to yank enemies over to you rather than taking the risk of revealing a larger pack of mobs. Better yet, it procs all of your Dusk abilities as well, and the damage is quite good for an ability with so much utility -- even better if converted to darkness with Soulforged Lightbane.

Remorseless Winter is an odd skill -- I ended up skipping it because I already had all the AoE I needed and because enemies were generally dying too fast for AoE crowd control to be necessary, and I didn't want to lose damage to the ice block effect. On the other hand, an AoE stun effect that goes through stun immunity can be pretty useful for defense, and the Soulforge version gives you an amazing 30% resist all while active. You might consider floating points in Death Vortex and switching them over to this skill in the late game when Death Vortex's damage falls behind weapon-scaling skills.

== Generic Talents -- Analysis ==


Spirit Feed is your main source of mana regeneration and increases your physical and spell power and saves for each soul you have up to 5. (You can hold 10 souls in total, so you can spend the other 5 without penalty.) Max it as soon as possible.

Reaper's Shroud gives you shields on kill. It's a nice boost to survivability, but one point is probably enough.

Dark Simulacrum is insanely cool and utterly useless. One time I lucked out and stole a movement ability from an enemy I was trying to get away from, but it was pure luck. One point as a prereq.

Shadow of Death is your cheat death sustain -- if this triggers, you NEED to regain souls or you'll die at the end. Drain Essence lets you do this as long as it's at full stacks, and multi-hit attacks let you build Drain Essence stacks very quickly. You could probably get away with less than 5 points in this as long as you remember to save stacks for this purpose, but better not to risk it. Also, again, this procs before Cauterize, so don't expect the latter to save you if you mess it up.


The first three skills give you small bonuses when triggering Soulforge -- this is nice enough, but the effects are pretty small and you will very rarely actually want to chain one Soulforge into another since it'll negatively impact your power bonuses and regen from Spirit Feed.

Soulburn, however, is fantastic -- you can use it to make super-powered Death Vortexes or Lightbane procs, adding even more damage to your lategame arsenal. If you invest in this tree at all (probably only affordable for Cornacs or maybe Halflings), then max this.

Combat Training

Pretty much business as usual. Max Thick Skin, Heavy Armor Training, and Weapons Mastery, and invest in Combat Accuracy as needed to compensate for your items (or not). Legacy of the Naloren is a bad choice on Death Knight since Sawrd is better and other prodigies have more synergy, so don't go Exotic Weapon Mastery. Everything else is obviously useless.


Physics 2/2/2 and Chemistry 3/2/2 gets you everything important, although you might want to consider going higher in Smith (up to 4) plus Chemistry (up to 3) or Therapeutics (up to 5) for niche weapon tinkers or Unstoppable Force Salve, respectively.

Slot wise, you'll be using:

Weapon: Razor Edge or Acid Groove, maybe Crystal Edge or Winterchill Edge if you feel fancy.
Body: Spike Attachment or Ablative Armor
Head: Air Recycler, Headlamp, or Focus Lens
Cloak: Grounding Strap
Hand: Iron Grip
Belt: Back Support, Fungal Web (with Medical Injectors), or Deflection Field
Boots: Kinetic Stabilizer
Lite: Black Lite Emitter

Special thanks is due to to Ster for his Sun Paladin guide, which was incredible helpful to me in finding the good tinkers and from which I copied a significant portion of the list above.


Go 1/1/1/5, putting more points in the second skill if you have spares.

Good buffs to extend with Timeless, in rough order of priority:
Death Vortex
Lifesteal from Essence Drain + Hungering Blade
Heroism, Regen, Grace of the Eternals
Pale Rider


Go 1/5/1/1, putting more points in the fourth skill if you have spares.

Look for a shield with the Earth Runes ego (deals bonus damage based on your armor -- this turns into very large numbers) or just with as much armor as possible. Some fixedart shields also have excellent status resists.

== Conclusion ==

While Razakai has described this class as "janky" and an early effort, I appreciate the effort he put into it and I hope it's revisited for bugfixes or even inclusion in the main game at some future date. :V

Get out there and make sure I'm not the only guy with a legitimate Insane win on this fun and flavorful class.

Last edited by Kiralio on Wed Mar 07, 2018 5:10 am, edited 7 times in total.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:12 am 

Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:07 am
Posts: 28
I've always liked this Class, which is quite as good/balanced as the official ones. I hope the author could continue the addon...

Thanks for your guide, it gave me the envy to try this class again.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:29 am 

Joined: Tue May 14, 2013 3:45 pm
Posts: 885
I probably won't be adding new content to the class but I'll still support it with bugfixes. Though long term I plan on fitting in some form of this class to the main game - maybe if we ever got an Undead Campaign for example, although I'd add a lot more polish.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:54 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:46 am
Posts: 16
Razakai wrote:
I probably won't be adding new content to the class but I'll still support it with bugfixes. Though long term I plan on fitting in some form of this class to the main game - maybe if we ever got an Undead Campaign for example, although I'd add a lot more polish.

Even just bugfixes would be great! The main thing (as someone on the SA thread pointed out) is that Lightbane is probably missing a per-turn limit on procs, as it does many times more damage than the tooltip would indicate.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:56 pm 

Joined: Tue May 14, 2013 3:45 pm
Posts: 885
I see the issue with Lightbane. It's using dam rather than eff.dam, so rather than dealing the intended low shadow lightning damage, it's dealing your melee hit damage, and so multiplying that by Enshroud bonuses etc.

Check Steam/addon page, uploaded v1.9 that fixes this bug.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:41 am 

Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:46 am
Posts: 16
Got another win, this time with an Ogre Deathknight going Dusk / Frost, no Squire, and with the fixed version of Lightbane. ... 9693172915

I learned a lot this run, will update the guide itself soon.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:04 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:57 am
Posts: 1
Hey! I was really excited by the flavour of this clas and decided to try it out. I'm a fairly new player and I've been trying to progress through it in NM/roguelike. I drew most of the inspiration from your guide, and here's some comments on the skills I've used so far:

==Necrotic Might==

Necrotic Strike - great synergy with Soulforge(see later)

Soul Reaper - also restores souls on kill, but it's very awkward to use - you have to hit, but not kill your target to get the reap debuff and extra souls. It can be a great way to keep your momentum in a fight with summons. In general, I found the DK performs best when there's a lot of weaklings around to bully for extra souls/procs while killing rares.

Dark Tide - the reason the wave damage is kinda meh is because it's 0.5 of the main damage, while the description states it's 0.75. The main usage I found was to immediately restore Drain Essence stacks vs a crowd.


Devour Soul - the forged version provides soul rends(+ killing the soul fragment), which makes it a great opener and another way to get souls in a pinch. Also has synergy with Soulforge(see later).

Wail of Doom - great synergy with Devour Soul. Forge Devour Soul + Forge Wail of Doom will usually completely neuter a roomfull of enemies. Yet another ranged skill in your arsenal. Both Devour Soul an Wail of Doom are really useful early on, especially vs high defense enemies that you might have trouble hitting.


The whole category seems a bit ridiculous, but Duskwake is especially so. It deals extra damage when you forge it due to a minor bug(it will hit targets twice, even though the description says it won't) - I've fixed it because it was just too much damage.


Maybe the situation is different on Insane, but I feel like Dirge(4) and Endless Cycle(2) have great synergy with each other. Dirge 4 gives 45% global speed for 4 turns when fully stacked, and you can keep refreshing the duration by using low-cost forges like Devour Soul and Necrotic Strike. Goes well with Cornac since you don't have the Shalore speedup.

I can't wait to try out the class some more and finish Nightmare with it :D Thank you very much to Razakai for creating it!

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