Death Knight Leveling Guide

Updated for Warlords of Draenor

So, you want to level a Death Knight? Did you happen to hear about how they are one of the most fun classes in the game, or that they can easily solo monsters that many other players have great trouble with? Regardless of your reason, welcome to the Death Knight leveling guide. I will try to go over the common questions that most players new to the Death Knight class have and give you some tips about how to get to level 100 that much faster. Read on!

Note: Changes are coming with Warlords of Draenor, but other than the level 90+ zones they won’t affect the leveling experience much, or at all. The biggest change you’ll notice will be that stat & item squishes, but that mostly effects level 70+ gear and won’t change the feel of things. You can check out all of the DK changes here.

Contents for this page:

Death Knight leveing is easy.

  1. The Death Knight – A quick intro
  2. Death Knight Leveling Build and glyphs
  3. Abilities
  4. DK Rotations
  5. Stats
  6. Runeforging
  7. Gearing Up
  8. Races
  9. Professions
  10. DK Leveling Tips
  11. The Fastest Death Knight Leveling Guide

 

Please feel free to “like” this page and share the link. If there is anything that I miss or just something extra that you would like to know, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Other Death Knight Guides

 

The Death Knight, an Introduction

First off, some basic background on how the Death Knight “does its thing.” (Or just skip to the builds, here.)

As a Death Knight you use two mechanics to drive most of your abilities.

Runes: You have various runes that power most of your abilities. You start with two each of Frost, Unholy, and Blood runes. Each rune is used by specific abilities, unlike a Warrior’s Rage, for example.Certain abilities will cause used (depleted) runes to come back as Death Runes, which can be used by any ability (and a couple only use Death runes.)

  • Using abilities that cost Runes builds Runic Power.

Runic Power: Your Runic Power builds from strikes that cost runes (eg: Icy Touch.) You can then use that power on other abilities, such as Death Coil or Frost Strike.

The Death Knight Specs, all are mightyThe game then becomes managing your runes and your Runic Power so that you always have something available. Much like managing Rage as a Warrior, Energy as a Rogue, and so on. If your runes and runic power are down then you won’t be doing much until some comes back.

The Ghoul: You also have an undead pet to help you out when things get … interesting. But, only Unholy DKs have a permanent pet. Frost and Blood have it on a cooldown. In Warlords this will change, with the ghoul becoming Unholy only.

Diseases: All DKs get some of their damage via the application of diseases to the enemy. Blood Plague is caused primarily by your Plague Strike (and some other abilities) and does damage over time. Frost Fever is caused by your Icy Touch, also does damage over time, and is also applied by other abilities.

Some abilities will spread your diseases to other targets, others will refresh or extend them on a target.

So which spec is best for leveling?

In Warlords only Unholy has the pets.

This question is a difficult one to answer easily because it really depends on your playstyle and what you want to do while leveling. I’m just going to give you some overall guidelines and example builds that I find work really well for leveling.

Blood: This is the “tanking” spec, but it does a darn fine job as a leveling and a decent PvP spec in certain situations. Tough and durable with good damage, you can round up groups of enemies and easily smash them down. Oft times you will even be at full health when done. The downside is that you don’t hit very hard.

Frost: Not as durable as Blood, but Frost does quite a bit more damage and Howling Blast is an effective area effect strike.

Unholy: Like Frost, Unholy also does much more damage and isn’t as durable as Blood. Your powers are diseases and your Ghoul becomes a permanent pet. Unholy does as much damage as Frost, just has a different flavor.

So Which is Best for Leveling?

The really short version? Go Frost, though the others are basically just as good.

Questing: Go with Frost, or Unholy if you want the “cute” pet. It’s easy, hits like a runaway truck, and you don’t have to deal with the pet. It also works very well for Dungeon leveling (you will join as “damage”) and it’s pretty good at PvP. Here’s the Frost build.

Dungeon Leveling: Blood, if you’re tanking. Blood DKs are excellent tanks and tanks have very short wait times to get into the dungeons. Go here for blood

PvP Leveling: Unholy for the diseases and slows and the pet. Unholy does fine questing, it’s just a bit more complicated than Frost. Go here for an Unholy build.

 

A Death Knight Leveling Build

This build can be used by all DK specs: Death Knight Frost Spec Frost, Death Knight Blood Spec Blood, and Death Knight Unholy Spec Unholy. Check the notes in the descriptions below the image for more info, where certain talents will be better in certain situations.

our favorite gold guideAt the moment, Frost is my favorite talent tree for leveling though all DK specs work very well. The speed and survivability of Frost are great. When you add in Howling Blast it becomes even better. Frost DK leveling is pretty sweet whether you’re questing, dungeoning, or PvPing. Unholy is no slouch either and Blood is awesome when you can grab a large pile of mobs.

There are a number of good talents here, feel free to switch as appropriate. Switching is easy: just click a row on your in-game talent page, pay the price when the pop-up appears, pick the new talent. You can get the materials at your friendly neighborhood Inscription Supplies vendor or of the Auction House (at 10x the price.) Glyphs can be swapped the same way.

The talents shown are best for questing, but will serve you very well in other areas.

Descriptions are below the image, our picks are checked: Best talent

Warlords of Draenor notes

  1. Roiling blood is dead and is replaced with PlagueBearer.
  2. Rows 5 and 6 are swapped.
  3. Unlike most other classes the DK talents are all the same for all three specs.

Warlords of Draenor Death Knight Leveling Talents

Level 56:

Spreading the disease

  • Best talent Plaguebearer allows other attacks to infect the target (Death Coil and Frost Strike,) making it easier to apply and spread diseases.
  • Plague Leech is a fine talent for single target fights, such as bosses or duels. With two or more enemies around you the others are much better.
  • Unholy Blight- Your insect swarm infects all the enemies with 10 yards with your diseases. Great way to make sure than all nearby enemies are appropriately infected. This is the easiest to use of the three and costs no runes, but has a longish cooldown at 1.5 minutes.

Level 57:

Survival

  • Best talent Lichborne – Become undead for 10 seconds, which grants immunity to various effects and gives you another heal (you can Death Coil yourself.)
  • Anti Magic Zone isn’t much use when soloing. It doesn’t last long, but has some use in fights when you can predict when large magic damage, that will effect the group, is incoming. Fairly useless in PvP (unless your timing is really good) and you’ll never use it when questing, but for some dungeons and raids, if you know the fights well, it can be valuable.
  • Purgatory delays your death by 3 seconds, giving you a chance to get healed. 3 minute cooldown is another point in Lichborne’s favor. Pretty much requires a good healer on your team. Some value in PvP.

Level 58:

Tough tier to pick from: Mobility or a stun…

  • Death’s Advance – Move faster and slows/snares have less effect. Your one weakness, as any flavor of DK, is mobility and this helps. If you don’t need the stun then this is a fine pick.
  • Chillblains is for those who want the opposition to move slower (such as in the Battlegrounds) rather than themselves moving faster.
  • Best talent Aspixiate is a nice, ranged, stun (silence,) especially useful when things are throwing spells at you or kiting you in PvP. A very solid pick.

Level 60:

Your abilities that use Runic Power have a chance to improve your Rune regeneration.

  • Blood Tap lets you build charges then activate runes (as a Death Rune) on demand.this is the best talent for those who like to more actively manage their resources. You can put the blood tap into a macro to activate the charges. Not perfectly efficient, but it works well.
  • Runic Empowerment – Death Coil and Frost Strike have a chance to activate a random depleted rune.
  • Best talent Runic Corruption increases your rune regeneration rate for a short time.

Level 75:

Healing

  • Best talent Death Siphon – Damage the enemy and heal yourself. This talent is great for leveling, not so hot once you’re done leveling. It will occasionally “one shot” quest mobs (when it crits) and is a very nice heal. It gives you an extra ranged attack that hits hard, even in PvP or the dungeons. Once you hit the 80s it doesn’t scale so well and you might want to look at Death Pact.
  • Death pact no longer requires the ghoul (as it did before Warlords.) it heals you for 50% of your max health right now, but blocks (absorbs) 25% of your max health of any incoming heals. This is fine if you’re solo (just don’t quaff that healing potion for the next 15 seconds,) but if you have a healer then Death Siphon might be better.
  • I don’t like Conversion because I want the Runic Power for doing damage, especially as Unholy, and the other two are “right now” heals.

Level 90:

  • Remorseless Winter slows and eventually stuns nearby enemies, which is a very useful thing at this level, while fighting groups that move about too much, and we always love stuns.
  • Best talent  Gorefiend’s GraspBest for Blood as that’s the “tanking” spec. Kind of an A of E Death Grip that can be applied to friendly or hostile targets. All enemies in the area are pulled to that target’s location. This might get interesting if you pull in more than you can handle, but at level 90 you should be able top deal with the crush so go for it.
  • PvP – Desecrated Ground protects against “loss of control” effects, which will find a lot more use in PvP than PvE (though there are times when it’s nice for the latter.)

Level 100:

  • Necrotic Plague replaces Blood Plague and infects the target with a disease that does damage over the next 30 seconds and every time it ticks it tries to infect another nearby target. (Q: Can it re-infect a target?) It is applied by anything that applies the regular diseases. You also gain Runic Power when attacked by Plague infected opponents.
  • Best talent Defile looks like the Lich King ability. It defiles the area and increases in both area and damage (every time it does damage) over the next ten seconds. Enemies standing in the defile do less damage to you. Replaces Death and Decay. Picked because it seems to be the most efficient talent of this set and just looks too cool.
  • Breath of Sindragosa uses your Runic Power to continually deal Shadowfrost damage to the enemies in a cone in front of you. It lasts until you either run out of Runic Power or you cancel it. It also applies Mark of Sindragosa, which will heal you for 5% of the spell damage dealt by afflicted enemies.

 

Leveling Glyphs

As you level you will automatically learn some glyphs, just like you learn your abilities. You will still have to instal these glyphs, you just won’t have to buy them. Additional glyphs must be obtained from the Auction House or a friendly scribe (Inscription.)

  • At level 60, the following Glyphs are automatically learned by all DKs: Shifting Presences, Unholy Command, Death Grip
  • At level 75 your get Glyph of Death and Decay
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Major Glyphs

The first three glyphs listed will be the most generally useful, but a couple more are listed. Lots of DK glyphs have some use, fortunately they are easy to swap out if you want to experiment.

You get two slots for each type of glyph early on, then the last pair at 75.

  1. Glyph of Unholy Command – Refreshes Death Grip cooldown. Since your fights will mostly be short this is a very nice glyph to have.
  2. PvP – Glyph of Icy Touch – enemies often have some protective effect, this removes one such effect when you use Icy Touch. Occasionally useful while questing or in the dungeons, this has it’s real value in PvP.
  3. Glyph of Death Grip – increases range
  4. Glyph of Blood Boil – Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect when Blood Boiling.
  5. Death and Decay – Also reduces enemy movement speed. Enemies moving around too much? Need to kite those enemies? This will help.
  6. Glyph of Empowerment – Your Empower Rune Weapon heals you for 30%
  7. Glyph of the Ice Reaper – Runes spent on Chains of Ice become Death Runes when they regenerate.

Minor Glyphs

Unlike for most classes, for whom minor glyphs are little more than cosmetic, your minors actually have some useful functions.

  1. Glyph of Resilient Grip – Resets Death Grip cooldown
  2. Path of Frost – for questing, especially if you like to jump from high places.
  3. For dungeons, Glyph of Tranquil Grip – nice for dungeons. You do not want to be taunting targets, let the tank do that.
  4. For dungeons, Level 80+: Army of the Dead – You don’t want to be taunting targets away from the tank while in the dungeons. THis glyph removes the taunts from your army, allowing them to just do damage.
  5. Fun: Glyph of Corpse Explosion – explode them when you’re done killing them.

 

Death Knight Abilities, by Spec

These are the abilities that you will eventually get as you level. These abilities are unique to you. (P) = Passive ability. In addition to these, of course, are all of your other abilities, including diseases.

Your diseases do damage over time and you should make sure that your enemies are always diseased. In addition, various strikes hit diseased opponents harder than otherwise, for example: Obliterate, Scourge Strike, and Heart Strike.

  • Frost: Frost damage and hard hitting strikes
  • Unholy: Strong strikes, more reliant on the Ghoul and the diseases.
  • Blood: Less damage, but a lot more survival. Much better able to handle larger groups (ie: Tanking) than the others.

Note: Warlords of Draenor brought about lot of ability changes, especially for Blood. There are few new abilities, but you do get perks. These are enhancements to existing abilities, such as +20% damage to one ability. They are also awarded randomly from your list of possible perks.

Some of the changes are:

Abilities removed in Warlords are crossed out.

Frost Unholy Blood
  1. Dual Wield (55, P) – now for Frost only.
  2. Rime (55, P) – Obliterate strikes have a chance to make Howling Blast or Icy Touch free.
  3. Blood of the North (55, P) – Your blood runes become death runes. This effectively gives you more Frost attacks.
  4. Frost Strike (55, P) – One of your basic strikes, runic power driven
  5. Howling Blast (55, P) – Blasts all targets withing 10 yards and infects them with Frost Fever.
  6. Icy Talons (55, P) – Faster melee attack speed and +5% Haste from all sources.
  7. Obliterate (58) – Strong strike that uses two runes, might cause your next Howling Blast or Icy Touch to be free.
  8. Unholy Aura (60, P) – Increased melee and ranged attack speed of entire group.
  9. Killing Machine (63, P) – Your auto-attacks can grant a big crit bonus to Frost Strike and Obliterate.
  10. Improved Frost Presence (65, P)- While in Frost Presence your Frost Strike uses less Runic Power.
  11. Brittle Bones
  12. Pillar of Frost (68) – Increases Str for 20 seconds and provides immunity knock-back effects (such as when fighting Druids or a Shaman.)
  13. Might of the Frozen Wastes (74, P) – More weapon damage.
  14. Threat of Thassarian (74, P) – Greatly improves duel-wield damage
  15. Mastery: Frozen Heart (P) – Increases all Frost Damage
  16. Soul Reaper (Frost) – Medium strike that also inflicts enemy with the Soul Reaper effect. It does massive damage if they’re low health.

Your Frostie Perks

Frost  Summary

  • No pets
  • Frost damage, diseases are secondary, though still useful.
  • Can dual wield
  • Apply diseases with Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Plague Strike, Chains of Ice, Outbreak.
  • Main strikes; Obliterate and Frost Strike
  • Area: Howling Blast
  • Procs from Killing Machine and Rime
  • Raid: Increase attack seed of the group.
  • Attuned stat is Haste
  • Master of Ghouls
  • Reaping (10, P) – More Death Runes over time. Various strikes cause spent runes to regen as Death Runes.
  • Ebon Plaguebringer (55, P) – Greatly increases the damage done by your diseases and  causes your Plague Strike to also apply Frost Fever.
  • Unholy Might (55, P) – +10% to your Strength
  • Scourge Strike (58, P)- Your basic strike
  • Shadow Infusion (60, P) – Death Coils work to Power Up your Ghoulie. This (Death Coil) will be your basic attack to spend Runic Power.
  • Unholy Aura (60, P) – Increases the Haste and Versatility of your entire group.
  • Festering Strike (62) – A strong strike that increases the duration of your diseases and Chains of Ice. Runes spent become Death Runes when they come back.
  • Sudden Doom (64) – Cheaper Death Coil and the occasional free Death Coil.
  • Unholy Frenzy
  • Dark Transformation (70) – Your ghoulie has enough Shadow Infusion and can now Power Up!
  • Summon Gargoyle (74) – You summon a gargoyle to rain plague damage down upon the enemy.
  • Improved Unholy Presence (75, P) – Your Haste is increased by 10%.
  • Mastery: Dreadblade (P) – increases all Shadow damage.
  • Soul Reaper – Massive damage to targets at low health.
  • Necrosis is a new passive ability (gained at level 90.) In addition to +5% Multistrike from all sources, your Multistrikes from Festering Strike, Pestilence, Plague Strike, Scourge Strike, and Soul Reaper also deal additional Shadow damage.

Your Unholy Perks

 Unholy Summary

  • Ghoul pet, which can become mighty for a time, via Dark Transformation.
  • Gargoyle is a temporary “pet.”
  • Diseases are primary, but direct (hacking) damage is still important.
  • Main strikes: Scourge Strike & Death Coil
  • Apply diseases with Plague strike and Icy Touch, Chains of Ice, Outbreak.
  • Area: Blood Boil
  • Procs from Sudden Doom
  • Attuned stat is Multistrike
  1. Blood Rites (55, P) – Death Strike hits harder and causes Frost and Unholy runes to become Death runes when they regenerate. Your Multistrikes can generate Runic Power.
  2. Veteran of the Third War (55, P) – +10% to Haste and Multistrike, more dodge, more death strike damage.
  3. Crimson Scourge (10) – Chance for free Blood Boils or Death and Decay.
  4. Resolve (10) – More healing and absorption.
  5. Bladed Armor (10) – your bonus armor adds to your attack power.
  6. Scent of Blood (10, P) – More healing from Death strike, Pestilence refreshes your diseases.
  7. Dark Command (58) – This is your taunt
  8. Heart Strike
  9. Improved Blood Presence (64, P) – Increases damage and reduces your chance to be critically hit.
  10. Rune Tap (64) – Converts a Blood rune into a small heal.
  11. Rune Strike
  12. Blood Parasite
  13. Scarlet Fever
  14. Will of the Necropolis (70, P) – Better survival when at low health.
  15. Sanguine Fortitude (72, P) – Improves Icebound Fortitude with additional damage reduction.
  16. Dancing Rune Weapon (74) – Summon a Rune weapon that fights for you, increasing Parry by 20%.
  17. Vampiric Blood (76) – For a short time gain more health and more effect from heals.
  18. Riposte (76) – Your Parry rating is increased by your Crit chance from gear.
  19. Bone Shield (78) – Take less damage from all sources.
  20. Mastery: Blood Shield (80, P) – Death strike heals create a damage absorption shield, if you’re in Blood Presence. IN creases your Attack Power.
  21. Power of the Grave (P, 80)grants a bonus to Mastery to all Party and Raid members.
  22. Soul Reaper (87) Medium hitting strike that afflicts target with the Soul Reaper effect and improves your next death strike.
  23. Runic Strikes (90) gives you +5% Multistrike from all sources and your 2-hand auto-attack Multistrikes generate 15 Runic Power.

Your Bloody Perks

Blood Summary

  • No pets
  • Very tough
  • Diseases are solid, strikes are primary
  • Apply diseases with Plague strike and Icy Touch, Chains of Ice, Outbreak.
  • Procs Blood Boil & Death and Decay
  • Area: Blood Boil & Death and Decay
  • Better damage and heals from Death Strike
  • Raid – Party gets Mastery
  • Attuned stat is Multistrike

 

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DK Leveling Rotations

Your Presences

Generally you’ll be in Unholy stance while leveling, except if you’re tanking dungeons or need added toughness for PvP.

  • Blood DKs: Use Blood Presence, especially if tanking. – It adds stamina and armor and reduces incoming damage. Use this presence until at least level 70, when you can get Unholy. At 64 your Blood presence is improved for faster Rune regeneration and receiving fewer crits. At 80+ your Mastery does not work if you are out of Blood Presence.
  • Frost Presence provides faster Rune regeneration and you’re harder to slow down (esp. nice in PvP.) The improved presence gives you cheaper Frost Strikes.
  • Unholy Presence: (level 64) Haste and movement speed is a good reason to be in Unholy Presence while leveling. The improved presence adds more Haste. That Haste will nicely improve the speed at which all over your Diseases do their thing (DOTs.) That’s a fair amount of added damage over time.

Generally Speaking you Frost and Unholy DKs will use Unholy Presence, for the movement speed and Haste.

Rotations

When done properly (mixing heals and attacks) a Death Knight can withstand a lot of punishment.

The basic routine is to Ranged attack or  Death Grip > apply diseases > beat the mob’s head in. Application and spreading of diseases becomes more important, especially for Unholy, as the number of mobs you’re fighting (and/or their toughness) increases.

Death Siphon (talent, level 60) is very nice for leveling. It’s easily hour hardest hitting attack and you also get the heal. It will “one shot” quest mobs when it crits. Equally useful in PvP and Dungeons. It doesn’t seem to scale well as you get into the 80s, but is still useful.

Blood Boil (dead in Warlords) is an area attack. Add in the level 15 Roiling Blood talent and Glyph of Festering Blood and you can remove Pestilence from your bars. Hits like a truck (esp. for Blood) and it’s area effect. Lets you effectively kill groups. Blood can throw away their Heart Strike ability ans use this instead.

  • Death Grip or other ranged attack, such as Icy Touch or Death Coil to attract the enemy.
  • Outbreak (Lev 81) or Icy Touch (or Howling Blast) & Plague Strike to apply diseases
  • Primary strikes mixed in with Runic Power (RP) strikes. You will build RP then use it.
  • Use your procs as they become available.
  • Death Siphon as needed for the heal and serious damage (or your other level 75 talent for the heal.)
  • Death Strike for added damage and the heal.
  • 87+ Use Soul Reaper when the enemy is at or below 35% health.
  • Use Empower Rune Weapon (level 76) on Cooldown, as necessary. Nice for “burst damage” phases, you won’t need to use it against small stuff. Use it against tougher stuff. Gran an elite or a bunch of mobs and use it then.
  • Next mob.

Frost: Obliterate is your main strike, Frost Strike to spend Runic Power, Howling Blast for A of E and disease application, and at 68+: Pillar of Frost on cooldown. Killing Machine and Rime will generate plenty of procs (giving crits on your main strikes and free Howling Blasts.) Use them for serious damage.

Unholy: Scourge Strike is your main attack, Festering Strike to increase disease durations, Death Coil to burn Runic Power. Empower your Ghoul (dark transform, 70+) whenever it’s available and useful.

Blood: Blood Boil (see above) for multiple targets, Death Strike when possible, Rune Strike to use Runic Power. Round up large groups and burn them down.

Fighting Groups

If you’re fighting a group, then you can apply diseases to one, use Blood Boilto spread them to all the mobs, and then burn them down. Blood Boil is a nice attack for groups, as its damage is increased if the targets are diseased. (Glyph of Pestilence increases the radius of Pestilence and makes disease spreading easier.)

Frost’s Howling Blast is also used here.

Otherwise let your diseases eat away at all the targets as you kill them one by one.

Death and Decay isn’t worth the effort if fighting one thing at a time, but it’s great when fighting several.

 

Death Knight Stats

Undead Death Knight states his opinion

Tanking Blood spec Death Knights will want a lot of Stamina. Otherwise Strength is your #1 stat.

One of your abilities is Plate Specialization (much the same as what Warriors and Paladins have.) Your primary stat (Str) is increased by 5% while wearing Plate in all applicable slots. This means that you never want to wear anything other than plate.

The Stats

Warlords note: Hit and Expertise are dead in Warlords. Reforging is dead. You will have new stats of Versatility, Multistrike, and Bonus Armor (tanks only.) Resilience and PvP Power are also dead.

  • Bonus Armor: Increases Armor and Attack Power for tanking specializations.
  • Multistrike: Grants a chance for spells and abilities to fire up to 2 additional times, at 30% effectiveness (both damage and healing.)
  • Versatility: Increases damage, healing, and absorption done. Reduces damage taken.

Otherwise: Basically it’s going to be: Str & Stam, plus any other stats you happen to find. This won’t change in Warlords. Wait till the endgame before you start worrying about stats other than Str & Stam.

  • You always want Strength! It’s the Death Knight’s primary statistic for doing damage, for any spec. More strength = more damage from all of your abilities, including diseases.
  • Stamina is the important stat for tanking DKs. You will come out of the starting are with enough gear (and heirlooms, if you have them) that Stam won’t be an issue outside of tanking chores.
  • Attack Power is a nice stat, if you happen to find it. Not as good as Str, but better than the other stats.
  • Otherwise don’t worry about Crit or Haste until the end game gearing. Mastery doesn’t appear until level 80.
  • Int, Agility, and Spirit are completely useless to you
  • Gems and Enchants should be skipped unless you’re rolling in gold or want to grab some of the really cheap ones that might be available in the Auction House. Generally you’ll level too fast to make them worthwhile.
    • Note that, as of 5.4, you can apply any of the high level enchants to your gear (of any level.) The crafted enchants (eg: Inscription shoulder enchant) have to be applied by an 85+ character, then sent to you. The other enchants you can apply yourself, even at level 55 (or level 1.) Yes, you can put the highest enchant on your beginning sword(s.) Assuming, for some reason, you don’t want to use your Runeforges.

PvP and Dungeon Stats

Ok, if you’re serious about dungeoning or PvPing, then you might want to start enchanting your better gear and getting gems when slots are available.

  • Blood Tanks will want: Stamina, Str, Multistrike, Dodge, and Parry.
  • Blood DKs leveling otherwise have much less need of Stam and the avoidance stats. So Str & Multistrike.
  • Frost will want Str and Haste.
  • Unholy DKs should look for Multistrike
  • Once you hit 80+ then Mastery is better than Haste or Crit for all specs.

At 90+ Blood and Unholy will want to get more Multistrike, Frost can stay with Haste. Hit and Exp will be dead.

 

Death Knight Runeforging

One of the abilities you learn as a brand new Death Knight is Runeforging. These are special, Death Knight Only, enchants that you can place on your weapons at your base: Ebon Hold. While they aren’t the same as the usual weapon enchants they are every bit as useful. They don’t stack with the usual enchants either, but you probably won’t want the usual ones anyway.

You can apply runes to your weapons to make them more effective. Simply gate back to the Ebon Hold and apply the runes at a Runeforge. Another benefit is that the runes are free and the best weapon enchant (Dancing Steel) might run several hundred gold.

For general leveling you will want to stick with the “any weapon” runes. We recommend Razorice to start, then Fallen Crusader. If you’re dual wielding then use one on each weapon.

In Warlords: Some of these runes have been removed. These are crossed out.

Runeforges

  • Rune of Spellbreaking
  • Rune of Swordbreaking
  • Rune of the Nerubian Carapace

 

Gearing Up Your Death Knight as You Level

Heirlooms Vs Blues: At the point when you get them, if they are for your level, blue titled gear will often be a little better than your heirlooms. The ‘looms will pull ahead in a level or two. I recommend just keeping the ‘looms and selling the other gear.

You guild heirlooms (Head, cape, legs) will give you +25% XP. Worth it if you’re just leveling and not seriously PvPing.

If you don’t have any heirlooms then skip that part. :)

Starting out you will receive a full set of pretty nice gear. That will last you for awhile. It’s all “blue” gear and it will be several levels before the gear from questing can replace it. If you’re doing the dungeons you might get lucky and find some pieces, either as drops or as dungeon quest rewards, than can replace your gear. If the new piece has more Strength than the old piece, then go ahead and replace it.

Make a LOT More Gold. Click Here to Start!At level 70 if you like PvP enough to be doing the battlegrounds (BGs) you can get the full PvP set from the legacy arena vendors. It will cost about 2k or so honor. Just do the occasional BG from level 60-70 and you should have enough.

This will be better than anything else you will find until level 77 or so, when the quest greens sill start catching up.

At 81+ Put your level 80 heirlooms, if any, back in your bank. Mists of Pandaria Blue gear will start appearing on the Auction House. This gear will last you until 90 and is better than any of the Cata gear, with the exception of the top (level 85) raid gear. Often the MoP gear is cheap enough. Check it out.

At 85+ you will be heading into Pandaria. There are various Adventuring Supply vendors throughout the lands who will sell you gear starting from 372 up to 408. This isn’t nearly as good as the blue items on the Auction House, but you can get a full set for the price of one of those blues. It’s a decent way to go if gold is tight.

At 90 the easiest thing to do is to explore the Timeless Isle, open boxes, and find the armor items there. If you are on a PvP server then I strongly recommend that you do this with a group.You can also buy valor gear for gold here. You can also buy the Crafted Malevolent PvP gear off the Auction House. Any of those will get you set to go into Warlords in fine shape.

You can also do it with your questing greens, but it will be a bit tougher.

90+ levelers should be sending Warlords gear onto the Auction House. Keep an eye open for it, it may well be much better than whatever else is available. At 91 ilevel 640 crafted gear is available if you have way too much gold. You can craft your own with Blacksmithing, but it will take you awhile to get the materials together.

Congratulations on 100! Now you start your PvP/Heroics etc grind. Happy Hunting!

 

Race Choice for Death Knights

In Mists of Pandaria all races can be Death Knights except Pandarens. Somehow they missed Arthas’ attentions. Pick whichever race works best for you, the racials aren’t that significant though they do offer a small advantage in certain areas.

Warlords of Draenor doesn’t change that, but there are other changes.

  • Any racial with hit or Expertise is now dead. Some have been replaced.
  • Various races have some resistance to some forms of damage. The resistance is small, but nice in specific situations.
  • Various races are good at some form of crafting skill. If you have that skill then you will get a bonus to your skill level. This does mean that at max skill you will have a higher level skill than other races.)
  • All races now offer something that adds to your overall damage.

Alliance:

Human:

  • Faster Rep gains, which is rather nice with the many factions in this game.
  • More Damage: Increased Expertise with Swords and Maces is pretty nice if those are the best weapon available.
  • Escape ability works like a PvP trinket (and allows you to use two DPS trinkets in PvP,)
  • The Human Spirit has been redesigned. It now increases Versatility, scaling with character level.

Dwarf:

  • Defense: Stone form washes away some effects and reduces damage taken for a short time.
  • Good at Archeology.
  • Might of the Mountain is a new racial passive ability that increases Critical Strike bonus damage and healing dealt, from melee weapons, by 2%.

Night Elf:

  • Shadowmeld has some nice situational use in PvP or as DPS in dungeons, it can drop aggro if you get in over your head.
  • Tanking: Higher dodge is a nice racial, especially if you’re a tank. Resistant to Nature damage.
  • You now move a bit faster to go along with that 2% dodge.
  • You get +1% Crit by day and +1% Haste by night.

Gnome:

  • Defense: Escape from some speed altering effects (eg: Slows,)
  • resistant to arcane damage,
  • good at Engineering.
  • +1% Haste
  • Expansive Mind now increases maximum mana, energy, rage, and Runic Power by 5% instead of only increasing maximum mana.

Draenei:

  • A small heal that’s usable on others is pretty nice.
  • Resistant to Shadow damage. Good at Jewelcrafting.
  • Heroic Presence no longer increases Hit by 1%, and instead increases Strength, scaling with your level.

Worgen:

  • Useful Sprint ability
  • Damage: a 1% increased Crit chance.
  • Resistant to Nature and Shadow damage,
  • good at Skinning.
  • WoD: Unchanged.

Horde:

Orc:

  • Damage: Blood Fury for extra damage (spell and melee,)
  • Damage: slightly increased damage from your Ghoul,
  • Defense: resistant to stuns

Undead:

  • Defense: Remove Fear/sleep/charm,
  • Healing: Touch of the Grave drains life and heals you for the same amount and is a small damage buff.
  • Healing: eat the dead (to recover health)
  • resistant to Shadow Damage,
  • Undead can now breathe underwater indefinitely.

Tauren:

  • Stun: War Stomp stuns nearby opponents (which is a pretty nice ability,)
  • Defense: Maximum health is increased (about 3 Stamina gems worth at highest levels,)
  • resistant to nature damage (poisons, etc.,) and…
  • good at Herbalism.
  • Brawn is a new racial passive ability that increases Critical Strike bonus damage and healing done, by melee weapons, by 2%.

Troll:

  • Damage: Berserk for increased attack speed (spell or melee,)
  • Damage: greater XP gained from killing beasts,
  • Defense: reduced duration of movement impairing effects.

Blood Elf:

  • No damage abilities
  • Defense: Arcane Torrent interrupts (and silences) spellcasting and restores some Runic Power.
  • Resistant to Arcane damage
  • Belves are good at Enchanting.
  • Arcane Acuity is a new racial passive ability that increases Critical Strike chance by 1%.

Goblin:

  • Escape: Rocket Jump is a nice approach (or escape,) esp. since you have no special movement abilities.
  • Offense? Launching rockets has situational use,
  • Damage: Haste is increased by 1%
  • Useful: vendor discounts are always nice as is the ability to summon your personal bank.
  • Goblins are good at Alchemy.
  • WoD: No real changes.

 

Death Knight Professions

In Warlords the profession bonuses are dead, However leveling them is easier and generally cheaper. Once you get into Draenor you will, fairly early on, get a scroll for each of your secondary professions which will raise your cap to 700. For your crafts you will get a quest that will award you with a similar scroll and a number of recipes. One of these will be a “secrets of…” recipe. Use that to generate materials to trade for new recipes, either at your Garrison or in Ashran.

Why get a profession since there are no bonuses? For the item level 640 gear that you will, eventually, be able to create. That gear requires level 91 to equip. Said gear require a lot of materials to create, your Garrison will be a help here if you create a professional building.

If you’re below 90 then youi’ll have to do it (level your skill) the old fashioned way. See our professions page for more info on leveling up the various skills.

Several professions have definite value while leveling, others not so much. If gear is readily available on the Auction House, and you have the gold, then the professions are less important. Sometimes making your gear is the only way to go. Or hoping you win the rolls in the dungeons.

If you just want something to earn gold with, then the gathering professions are the most reliable choice. You can make plenty of gold with some of the crafting professions (Inscription and blackmithing have worked very well for me,) but it takes some work to find the sweet spots.

  • Blacksmithing allows you to make some nice plate gear and weapons.
  • Alchemy better living through chemistry. Drink up and get heals, improved stats, etc.
  • Engineering makes a lot of useful gadgets, especially once you’re 90+ (and have Draenor Engineering.)
  • Inscription will let you make a very nice shoulder enchant, makes shoulder enchants for others, make all your own glyphs (and for your pals,) and make a few other items.
  • Enchanting lets you do everyone’s enchants, plus those rings and neck items.
  • Jewelcrafting creates useful rings, neck items, gems (of course,) and gemmed mounts.
  • Tailoring and Leatherworking are pretty useless for you.
  • The gathering skills are nice for making gold  or supplying the appropriate profession.
  • Recommended skills?
    • If you have lots of gold: Blacksmithing & Engineering for the useful gear and toys.
    • Otherwise: take two gathering skills and level the profession skills later.

 

DK Leveling Tips

Remember that the guild heirloom set will give you +25% XP. Plus rest XP is gained from staying at an Inn, always log out at an Inn.

  • Also, check out our Top Leveling Tips post for ideas to get leveled faster.
  • Get the Dual Build ability from your trainer (10 gold,) this will let you alternative Blood and Frost/Unholy builds if you want to do that. Blood is better for tanking dungeons, Frost is great for laying down lots of damage. Unholy is no slouch in that department, either, but you can only take two…
  • Blood can round up large groups of mobs and smash them down faster than the other specs, but both Front and Unholy will do fine on smaller groups and both do more overall damage.
  • Ghouls inherit their master’s abilities (Str, Crit, etc.) Use your Horn of Winter just before summoning your ghoul so that it picks up that buff. Fire off any other buffs, before summoning, as well.
  • Always carry food and potions (healing) with you. Other potions will buff stats like Strength, Hit, Crit, etc. If you have the gold buy a few and use them in appropriate situations.
  • Pestilence and Blood Boil are great area effect attacks. Apply your diseases to target #1, then use Pestilence to spread those diseases to all of your targets. As Blood your Blood Boil will already do that.

Dungeon Leveling – Blood Death Knights can make pretty good tanks and as tanks they will have very short waits when using the Dungeon Finder tool. Your job is to keep the attention of all the opponents, regardless of what your team might be doing. Do that well and you’ll be a very good tank.

Let the tank pull. As Frost or Unholy you will be Damage (DPS) and your wait times to get into the dungeons will be a few minutes to half an hour. Mix up your dungeons with questing and you’ll be fine. Make sure that you are not in Blood Presence. Let the tank pull and grab the attention of all the mobs, then jump in and kill everything. A couple of the minor glyphs will remove the taunts from some of your abilities.

PvP Leveling – DKs do just fine in the PvP world. Queue up for the battlegrounds and you’ll see some fast XP if your side wins. Lots of players just want to farm kills in the BGs, but you’ll get more honor and a lot more XP if you do what it takes to win and farming kills doesn’t usually do that.

At level 70, if you have 1,500 or so honor, you can get a complete PvP gear set from the legacy arena vendors (Gadgetzan, Dalaran sewers.)

Questing – nice, easy, relaxed leveling without the hazards of snarky remarks from your team members in the chat.

  1. Group your quests. Do the six “over there” before you fly out for that one that’s a bit “out of the way.”
  2. Do not grind (unless for cash and prizes, and/or practice.) Questing is much faster, plus you get the rewards.
  3. Killing lower level mobs (3 or 4 levels lower) is fast and easy and less risky, higher level mobs the reverse. Find a level of opposition that works for you.
  4. As soon as you’re comfortable then move into the next higher area. DKs can deal a lot of punishment so will have little problem with same level or one level higher mobs.
  5. Get your gear repaired occasionally. Having your weapon break in the middle of no where isn’t all that much fun.
  6. Get your flying mount at 60 and your fast flying skill at 70. Get “cold weather flying” (at 70) if you’re doing Northrend.

Now You’re 90+

  • Go ahead and start your Garrison, since the intro scenario takes you there anyway. A number of quests will start there. There will be a provisioner or Innkeeper in your new “town hall” that sells +20% XP flasks. They cost 100 “Garrison Resources” and last an hour.
  • If you’re leveling a profession then the Garrison profession buildings will be a help.
  • If you are doing dungeons then consider building the Inn, as you will get daily dungeon quests.
  • The Mine will let you gather ores to use or sell.
  • You will have a garrison hearthstone and can pick a second up from any other inn you bump into. Your Garrison is an especially nice place to hearth to if you’re on a PvP server and the other side is invading the area you’re questing in.
  • There are a lot more rare mobs in all the zone than before 90 and the respawn much faster. They are also usually easier than rare in other lands. You can kill them as many times as you like, but you only get the loot the first time. Loot is generally gold, garrison resources, and a sometimes useful blue item.
  • There are a fair number of treasure you can find lying about, just for the collecting. These will also have gold, resources, and green or blue items.
  • One nice change in Warlords is that the quest reward you win from any given Draenor quest has a chance to be upgraded to blue or purple.
  • There are bonus quest areas, several in each zone, which are generally easy and award around 5x normal quest exp and more gold. You will see them marked on your map with a small crossed swords icon.

 

55-100 In-Depth Death Knight Leveling Guide

Blood Elf Death Knight

Now go and kill something!

If you are looking for how you can get leveled faster, either for your Death Knight or any of your other characters (or what you should do while leveling to keep your character equipped with the best gear) then I recommend you seriously consider the following two guides:

To get all your characters to level 100 (in Warlord sof Draenor) as fast as possible use THIS GUIDE. It is an in-game addon that guides you step by step through everything you need to do to level up quickly. You will never again wonder where to go or what to do.

If you want to be rolling in gold the whole time you are leveling, then take a look at this GOLD GUIDE. It was just recently updated for the latest patch, so it’s full of new tips for making tons of gold.

 

14 thoughts on “Death Knight Leveling Guide

  1. Plaguebreath says:

    Wow, I’m sorry but you really need to add Unholy in. I personally find it does *better* DPS than Frost and it’s extremely easy to level with as well. As others have said, only because you have a Frost bias doesn’t mean you should just leave it out of the guide entirely.

    • Rogptor says:

      Actually, I have a Blood bias. It’s my partner with the Frost bias. ;) You are right, though. A lot of people do swear by Unholy. Now since I DO have Unholy in the guide, I’m not sure what you’re looking for. I’ll give it a lookover though, thanks for the heads up.

  2. V says:

    Don’t forget to mention unholy has pet talents to do less work sometimes.

  3. Glitche says:

    How can you just leave out unholy?? Just because your not a fan doesn’t mean others don’t want to try it out. The guide shouldn’t be biased just because you don’t like something. Very disappointed.

    • Rogptor says:

      Probably because we leveled DKs with Blood and Frost. I have played a fair amount of Unholy and you’re right, it does level (and do everything else) just fine. The guide is due for a 5.3 update and I’ll be hitting that in a few days. I’ll include Unholy when I do that.

      First though, what specifically do you like about Unholy?

  4. Destin says:

    I usealy stay in blood tree when I am pvping and tanking because my blood strike does more damage and I don’t have to change back and forth. Do u think that’s a good thing or a bad thing if so could u give me some advice

    • Rogptor says:

      I like Blood for leveling and it’s THE spec for tanking. I don’t it’s optimal for PvP due to lack of damage, though the survivability is there.

      For tanking and leveling you can look at our DK Tanking page, there’s some good stuff there on rotations, talents, etc. Leveling as Blood is great as you can round up large groups, crush them, and go to the next stop with full health.

  5. jack says:

    ive got my dk to lvl 80 (frost) and im quite content. it does great damage in pvp and levling but i might try unholy soon

  6. Damphyere says:

    As a Blood DK leveling, do not even waste your time with Heart Strike. Use Blood Boil in it’s place. Why? Blood Boil and Heart Strike both use 1 Blood Rune BUT Blood Boil does a LOT more damage and hits more than the 3 mob limit of Heart Strike.

  7. Hey you really should post some leveling rotations here, you got a good guide here and its ruined without the rotations.

    [Sounds like a good idea. I’ll see what I can do with that. -Rog]

  8. Ndc457 says:

    Include Unholy! Its way better than frost! Look me up. Im Cheesybeef i have crap gear and i do 18k Dps in unholy

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