Thursday, 29 April 2010

Ghoul School

ghoul [guːl]
1. a malevolent spirit or ghost
2. a person interested in morbid or disgusting things
3. a person who robs graves
4. (Myth & Legend / Non-European Myth & Legend) (in Muslim legend) an evil demon thought to eat human bodies, either stolen corpses or children
[from Arabic ghūl, from ghāla he seized]

But, I'm obviously more interested in the Death Knight versions of these guys. All WoW players will have encountered ghouls in one form or another, usually they're the type that do their best to eat your brains as soon as they notice you, but no need to fear! Ghouls can be our friends.

Ghouls, simply put are temporary, or in some cases permanent Death Knight pets and are summoned via a number of spells. I will attempt to categorise each ghoul species as best I can:

The Temp-Ghoul (necrovates familiaris): Summoned via Raise Dead, this is basically an uncontrolled minion that will do a bit of extra damage - short attention span and tend to go to pieces after one minute.

The Perma-Ghoul (necrovates superioris): Again summoned by Raise Dead, but Unholy Death Knights will have specced into Master of Ghouls, resulting in a far stronger, more resilient ghoul with far less attention span issues. This ghoul acts like a hunter's pet, with all the commands and settings that go with it.

The Army-Ghoul (necrovates vulgaris): A far more sociable ghoul, these chaps like to hang out with seven of their best mates and cause absolute chaos and mayhem wherever they go. They are summoned with Army of the Dead, cause trouble, get bored and disappear after 40 seconds. Those 40 seconds will feel like an eternity, though.

The Clueless-Ghoul (necrovates larisasis): This species differs from all of the others in that it was once a fellow raid member that forgot to move out of the fire. Raise Ally allows a Death Knight to give this raid member a chance to redeem themselves for the next 5 minutes and put some DPS on the boss.

In theory...

Larisa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn has confessed to not being as comfortable playing a ghoul as she is a gnome. Who can blame her? The world must seem a very strange place when suddenly you're the height of a normal person... vertigo must start to kick in, I guess...

But, in all seriousness, she isn't alone and it's quite understandable. One minute you're alive and doing what you do best, the next you're lying on the floor wondering what happened and a few seconds later you've become the superior lifeform with a completely different spell-bar... much like a vehicle for all intents and purposes. It's oddly reminiscent of phase 3 of Malygos, where all of a sudden you're given a whole new set of spells and no time at all to work out what you're supposed to do.

Faced with this, on the rare occasion that Raise Ally is used, the result is quite often a stationary ghoul who doesn't do much to say the least. Because of this, not many DKs are going to bother with it at all -  which is a shame because whilst the ghoul is not going to be anywhere near as useful as a Druid's battle-rez, any extra DPS is better than nothing and it gives the player something to contribute to the raid.

One of things that I'm always conscious of is, "who am I trying to raise?" Melee DPS are prime candidates, because they're unlikely to get a battle-rez and are used to the melee carnage. Next candidates are your ranged DPS and as for healers... I don't tend to Raise them. If a healer is down, they need a Druid to battle-rez them, otherwise they can't do their job and the extra little bit of DPS that they may or may not contribute isn't really worth it. Anyway, if a healer goes down, just wait a few seconds - I'm sure you'll end up with a few more suitable corpses on the ground soon.

So, I'm going to run through some of the impediments to Raise Ally being used effectively both from the Death Knight's perspective and his victim's.

Reasons That the Death Knight Doesn't Cast Raise Ally:

1) They don't know that they have the spell: 

Sorry... can't help with that.

2) They don't know that someone has died:

I have Healbot running on every character that I play, no matter what. If I'm in a group and someone dies, then I know about it.

3) They can't find the body in the middle of all the chaos:

Again, not a problem with Healbot - I see a box go dark, then I click on it and Raise Ally gets cast on that character.

4) Don't have time to spend a global cooldown on a daft spell.

I'm aware that sometimes you have 0.5 seconds to get those diseases refreshed or the rotation will fall apart badly, but you do get the occasional gap due to rune cooldowns, fight movement or whatever. If you have DPS tunnel vision, you'll miss these opportunities to do something rather clever. One advantage of tanking on a Death Knight is that you get the odd second to assess the raid situation to correct or tidy things up.

5) Target Not in Range.

That one's a bit trickier. If you're a DK, you're going to be close and personal with the boss, half the time your dead target is a squishie on the back row. Sometimes that 30 yard range isn't going to cut it; best bet is to wait until some boss movement or a phase change happens - it's very rare to have static Patchwerk fights these days, so hopefully an opportunity will present itself.

Reasons That the Victim Doesn't Do Anything When They're Raised:

1) They Don't Know What to do.

As soon as Raise Ally is cast, the target is informed that their soul has been transferred into a ghoul - don't worry all you RPing Paladins and Priests, we haven't messed with your body - it's still on the ground where you thoughtlessly left it.

One important thing to realise when you're running around a leaping like a mad thing, is that you are still dead, your body is still on the floor, Healbot still shows an empty box and, most importantly you can still be rezzed. That body that I keep mentioning? Your Druid can still battle-rez it. You will still get your normal "Accept Resurrection?" window popping up. Raise Ally is not going to mess things up if the Raid Leader decrees you worthy of a proper resurrection mid-fight.

Your primary actionbar is replaced with the one seen in the screenshot below:

You now have a self-replenishing energy bar (100 energy points) and the following abilities at your disposal:

1] Claw - 40 energy. Causes damage and builds one Frenzy Point.
2] Thrash - 35 energy. Causes damage based on the number of Frenzy Points you have to a maximum of 5.
3] Gnaw - 30 energy. Causes damage and stuns the target for 3 seconds.
4] Leap - 10 energy. Leap behind the targeted enemy. 5-30 yard range.
5] Huddle - 10 energy. Channeled. Go into a defensive crouch and take 50% less damage whilst active.
6] Explode - 10 energy. Time to be a suicide bomber! Explode causing damage equal to to 25% of your maximum health in a 5 yard radius.

So, let me get this straight: You attack from behind, have an energy bar, build combo points, use a finisher, stun targets and blow yourself up? You're basically a rogue.

A suicide bomber rogue.

You are, in fact Ahmed the Dead Rogue...



2) They're AFK.

Yeah... well... if I spent as much time being dead as some players do, then I'd get bored and make coffee, too.

3) Melee is a Scary Place!

This obviously not an issue for Fury Warriors, who revel in the carnage that ensues when you're standing on the hotspot; for the the folks on the back row who like their personal space, just take a deep breath and relax. All you need to do is stand behind your target and press 1-1-1-1-1-2, repeat as long as is required. Mages should have a natural aptitude for this...

One thing that can be done to make the victim's ghoul time a little more productive is to send a whisper to the target when Raise Ally is cast. A simple set of instructions could be:

"Ghoul Control Instructions: Select target, press 4. Spam 1-1-1-1-1-2. When low on health, press 6. Have fun!"

If you're using something like Healbot, it's very simple to add that to your spell cast, just via the Healbot interface. If you prefer to do it manually, a macro may be called for:

(Edit: Blueberrytotem politely pointed out that the original macro was a bit of a dog's dinner - this one is far simpler)

/cast Raise Ally
w %t"Ghoul Control Instructions: Select target, press 4. Spam 1-1-1-1-1-2. When low on health, press 6. Have fun!" 

This advice is not going to result in players running around as ghouls in every fight, but hopefully it will give the odd player a chance to feel like they contributed to a raid. It's fun, it helps the raid and I always giggle when I see a ghoul running around and think "I made that!"

In summary: the most important thing to remember whilst playing a ghoul?

Neeeed more brainnnnssssssss...


  1. Thank you very much! I loved the idea of that macro. I think you'r right - it's not just the raised who need instructions about how to do this best - the DK:s need a bit of instruction too.

  2. Entertaining, amusing and informative post, thank you!

    One question though, wouldn't simple
    "/w %t Ghoul control information" be enough?

  3. @ larisa

    I've never seen another DK use it or even mention it, so I figured that we've got to be partly to blame, too!

    @ blueberrytotem

    That macro would be just a little bit more efficient and simpler - thanks!

    Sadly, I'm completely clueless when it comes to macros and just about everyone I use is stolen from somewhere. Maybe I should stop trying to steal macros designed by gnomes.

  4. OMG what a totally hilarious post!! I'm so glad Larisa asked this question! Now I'm sorta wishing I can die so I can bug a DK to ghoulify me! ;)