A Death Knight Overview for Battle for Azeroth

Death Knight, doing what he does best. When the Lich King’s control of his death knights was broken, his former champions sought revenge for the horrors committed under his command. After their vengeance was won, the death knights found themselves without a cause and without a home.

One by one they trickled into the land of the living in search of a new purpose. (Source: Battle.net)

The Death Knight is the “Hero Class” of WoW. You start at level 55 and, with a bit of extra grinding, will enter the world at level 58 with a nice set of gear. You are now fully ready to inflict mayhem upon the word of Azeroth as Tank, Damage Machine (DPS), or PvPer.

Legion brings a number of changes to DKs, removing some abilities, changing others, adding new talents, killing off pretty much all glyphs, removing the “Perk” system of Warlords, and so on. (See our Death Knights in Warlords of Draenor post for Warlords info.)

This page is an overview of Death Knights, but does not go into much detail with the three specs. See the links below for those details (gems, enchants, rotations, etc.) or scroll down the page for the overview.


Our Other Death Knight Guides

The Death Knight Specs

Death Knights, like most other classes, have three specs (short for specializations:) Blood, Frost, and Unholy.

Blood Spec

This is the “Tanking” spec. Tough and hard to kill, but not a lot of damage. The toughness and ability to handle large groups make them fun to level as well as being fine tanks. Round up a bunch of mobs and burn them down.

Blood isn’t usually a PvP spec, but there are some sweet spots before you hit 100 where the can do very well. Damage will be the main concern.

Frost Spec

Unlike Blood, Frost DKs do plenty of damage and do a pretty good job of spreading it around. They’re the only Death Knights who can dual wield (one handed) weapons, if they choose. Not nearly as tough as Blood they can still handle several mobs with a bit of care. Their damage makes up for the lack of defense.

Unholy Spec

Like Frost the Unholy Death Knight does damage and lots of it. They specialize more in the diseases and have a Ghoul pet. Not nearly as tough as Blood they can still handle several mobs with a bit of care. Their damage makes up for the lack of defense. Generally Unholy is the PVP spec for DKs, but that will vary from time to time. 


Death Knight Leveling Guide – Tips, builds, and info to make your trek to the level cap that much easier.

Go here and check out Dugi’s Guide to get leveled even faster!


Death Knight Stats

All Death Knights want Plate armor and as much Strength as they can get. As for the stat priorities see the detail pages for each spec (linked to above.)

Stats change with the various expansions. For example: Resilience and PvP Power are basically dead, though they still appear on some legacy, sub-level 100 gear.  Hit rating, Multistrike, and Expertise all died awhile back.  Still, they might comer back some day.

  • Strength is your Attack Power and improves everything you do.
  • Mastery is a strong stat for all Death Knights.
    • Blood receives a damage shield
    • Frost gets improved Frost damage.
    • Unholy gets increased Shadow damage.
  • Versatility adds to damage done, healing done, and (at half value) adds to your damage reduction. While it’s a more valuable PvP stat than a PvE stat, it still improves pretty much everything you do.
  • Haste speeds up everything you do, including rune regeneration.
  • Critical strikes do 200% damage (150% in PvP,) but don’t generally proc anything for DKs. Still, big hits are always nice.  Also, Blood gets parry rating equal to their crit rating via the Riposte ability

Tertiary Stats are bonus stats that sometimes appear on upper level gear. These stats have a small chance to be found on gear as an augmentation. There are no enchants, gems, raid buff, etc. that will let you stack these “stats.”

  • Speed: Increases your movement speed
  • Indestructible: Causes the item to not take durability damage
  • Leech: Causes you to be healed for a small portion of all damage and healing done.
  • Avoidance: Reduces your damage taken from area-of-effect attacks.
  • Gem slots, while not being a “stat,” are also quite uncommon. Plop in an appropriate gem and get bonus Strength, Mastery, whatever.

Death Knight Race Choice

Anyone can be a Death Knight except Pandarens or any races introduced after the Pandaria expansion, such as those from Battle for Azeroth. All of the original races, including Worgen and Goblin, can be DKs.

Clearly the Lich King either wasn’t aware of the newer races or just wasn’t interested.

Alliance Races

Night Elf

  • 2% extra dodge is a nice ability for Tanking, questing, and PvP.
  • Shadowmeld is occasionally a great ability. You can lurk in wait in (battleground or world) PvP or break incoming spells if you ‘meld just as the spell is launched. In PvE it will drop aggro if things go bad. Don’t do this if you’re the tank, you’ll get on the “undesireable tanks” list. On the other hand… if you’re dungeoning and you’re tired of the group, why not ‘meld and let the Boss eat them?
  • Hopefully you won’t have much use for the “quicker movement while dead” ability.
  • Night Elves gain +1% Crit by Day and +1% Haste by night.


  • A Heal over time effect is rather nice, even for the nearly indestructible Blood DK.
  • Good with Jewelcrafting
  • Draenei gain a Strength bonus (Heroic Presence) which scales with level. Those massive muscles have to be good for something, right?


  • “Escape from stun” ability is great for PvP and allows the use of two DPS trinkets, instead of one and an escape trinket. The escape might disable some pve/raid mechanics, which is especially nice if you’re the tank.
  • Diplomacy allows you to gain rep with any of the many available Wow factions a bit quicker than otherwise.
  • Humans also gain +2% to all secondary stats: Human Spirit.



  • Stoneskin sheds some effects and reduces damage by a small amount, all of which is nice for those tight situation.
  • Good with Archeology
  • Dwarves also have Might, which improves Critical bonus damage (not crit chance) by 2%.


  • Their escape ability is nice for PvP (as is their size) and will occasionally help in PvE.
  • Good with Engineering
  • Gnome DKs have an additional 5% Runic Power.
  • And they also get +1% Haste. The Nimble Fingered DK.

Horde Races


  • Blood Fury is a cooldown which adds a nice chunk of Attack Power for 15 seconds.
  • More damage from ghoulie (Unholy only) is always useful, even if it is only 1%.
  • Resistance to stuns has some small utility, especially in PvP.


  • Stamina is nice. Even though it doesn’t scale well at very high levels it’s still a nice boost.
  • War Stomp, an always useful ability, stuns up to 5 melee range opponents.
  • Good with Herbalism
  • Having superior mass, the Tauren gain Brawn, which improves Critical bonus damage by 2%. 

Blood Elf

  • Arcane Torrent is a generally useful ability which removes a beneficial effect from the enemy, such as a buff, and restores a bit of your Runic Power.
  • Good with Enchanting
  • Blood Elves also gain a +1% Crit Rating, due to their Arcane Acuity.


  • Increased attack speed (berserk) is a pretty ncie cooldown. Add it to a macro for those burst phases.
  • Increased XP Vs beasts helps with leveling.
  • Voodoo Shuffle reduces the duration of snares and such, which is occasionally useful.


  • Will lets you wash away fear, sleep, and charm; More of a PvP ability but will have use every once in a while in PvE or while leveling.  Also allows you to indefinitely “breath” under water.
  • Drain Life and restore some health from it. This is a passive ability which will add to your DPS and longetity. It will also be annoying if you are grinding mobs that need to be left alive for some reason.
  • Cannibalize lets you devour dead players or humanoid (dead or undead) NPC corpses for a max of 35% health recovery over ten seconds.


  • Rocket Jump is a useful movement ability, into or out of combat.
  • Fire a R at the enemy and get their attention.
  • Since Time is Money  you get 1% Haste.
  • Your fast talking gets you the best from any vendor.
  • Bank access from anywhere has its uses.
  • Good with Alchemy,

Click here and Level to 90, Fast.

Click Here and Get Yourself to max level, Fast


Death Knight Abilities

These are the abilities for the Death Knights. Hover over the links for the descriptions.

(P) = Passive ability

All Death Knights have the following abilities:

Your Death Knight Guide: a Female Draenei Death Knight, wearing Darkruned Battlegear

  • Level 55 – Death Gate – Open a gate to Ebon Hold, either to grab a runeforge or to escape something, or just to take a nap in a safe place.
  • 55 – Death Grip – “Come Here, You!!”
  • 55 – Death Strike – Solid strike that heals you for some damage.
  • 55 – Runeforging – Put a DK only enchant on your weapon(s)
  • 55 – Plate Specialization – If you are wearing only Plate armor in all appropriate slots then Blood gets +5% Stamina, Frost and Unholy get+5% Str.
  • 57 – Anti-Magic Shell – A personal barrier that blocks magic and generates runic power.
  • 58 – Dark Command – Order the target to attack you.
  • 60 Asphyxiate – 5 second stun. (Note: The tooltip says “Frost” and “Unholy,” but my Blood DK disagrees.) Usable by all specs.
  • 60 – Wraith Walk – Sort of a 3 second sprint that breaks roots.
  • 61 – On a Pale Horse (P) – Ride a little faster.
  • 62 – Mind Freeze – Interrupt a spell and sincelence that spell school for 3 seconds.
  • 66 – Path of Frost – Allow you and your party to run/ride on frozen water.
  • 69 – Control Undead – Make an undead (not player) your minion for 5 min.
  • 72 – Raise Ally – Raise a party member from the dead. Note: He/she does not come back as a ghoul.

And these are the abilities for each specialization:


Soak a lot of damage and dish it out. This is the tank spec.


Use the power of Frost to lay waste to your enemies.


Disease and corruption in your Forte. You also get a pet.

55 Heart Strike – Whack the target and his buddy and slow them both. Generates Runic Power.

55 Marrowrend – Smack the target and generate 3 charges of Bone Shield. The charges stack with followup Marrowrend strikes.

55 Veteran of the Third War  60% More Stamina, lots more than Frost or Unholy.

56 Blood Boil – 10 yard area effect that does some damage and and infects all enemies in the area with Blood Plague.

56 Death and Decay – Corrupt an area of ground, doing damage to all in the area. Empowers your Heart Strike to hit 3 additional targets.

57 Dancing Rune Weapon – it mirrors your attacks for 8 seconds and adds +40% Parry.

58 Death’s Caress – Reach out to touch someone and give them the (Blood) Plague.

60 Vampiric Blood – Gain +30% health and +30 healing from any heals for 10 seconds.

63 Crimson Scourge (P) – Your auto-attacks might give you a free Death and Decay.

64 Gorefiend’s Grasp – Pull all enemies within 20 yards of the target to that target. 3 min cooldown.

78 Mastery: Blood Shield (P) increases attack power and your Death Strikes give you a small absorption shield.



Dual Wield – wield two one-hand weapons.

1 Runic Empowerment (P) – chance to gain a rune every time you spend runic power.

55 Frost Fever (P) – damages you opponent over 24 seconds and has a chance to return some Runic Power.

55 Howling Blast – damages the target and all others within 10 yards of the target and applies Frost Fever to all of them.

55 Frost Strike – Use your Runic Power to whack the target.

55 Obliterate – Your main strike. Single target.

55 Veteran of the Third War  10% More Stamina.

56 Killing Machine (P) Your auto-attacks have a chance to make your next Obliterate an automatic crit.

56 Chains of Ice – shackle the opponent with icy chains and greatly slow him for 8 seconds.

57 Pillar of Frost – Immunity to some movement effects (such as knockback) and +20% strength for 20 seconds.

57 Remorseless Winter – lasts 8 seconds and damages all nearby enemies and slows them by 20%.

57 Empower Rune Weapon – activate all runes and gain 25 Runic Power.

58 Dark Succor (P) – killing worthy enemies gives you a free, empowered Death Strike.

59 Rime (P) – Your Obliterate has a chance to give you a free Howling Blast at +300% power.

78 Mastery: Frozen Heart (P) – improves all Frost damage.




1 Runic Corruption (P) every Runic Power you spend gives you a chance to speed up your Runic Regeneration for 3 seconds.

1 Festering Wound – Inflict foul wounds on the enemy, which will burth, doing damage and adding your Runic Power.

55 Raise Dead – raises your ghoulish associate.

55 Death Coil – blast the enemy with Shadow.

55 Scourge Strike – whacks the enemy, bursts a festering wound.

55 Festering Strike – hard strike that inflicts 3-4 festering wounds.

55 Outbreak infects the target with Virulent Plague, which can then infect other targets.

55 Veteran of the Third War  10% More Stamina.

56 Death and Decay – Corrupt an area of ground, doing damage to all in the area. Empowers your Scourge Strike to hit all nearby enemies.

56 Chains of Ice – shackle the opponent with icy chains and greatly slow him for 8 seconds.

58 Dark Succor (P) – killing worthy enemies gives you a free, empowered Death Strike.

64 Sudden Doom (P) – your auto-attacks have a chance to make your next Death Coil free.

65 Icebound Fortitude – immunity to stuns and 20% less damage for 8 seconds.

74 Dark Transformation – your ghoul powers up for 20 seconds.

75 Apocalypse – Damages an enemy and bursts up to 4 festering Wounds on that target. Also summons one of your Army of the Dead ghouls for each wound it bursts. The ghoul lasts for 15 seconds.

78 Mastery: Dreadblade (P) – boosts Shadow damage.

82 Army of the dead – Summons a horde of ghouls who will fight all enemies for 30 seconds.


Death Knight Talents

You get a total of seven talents at level 100. at levels 56, 57, 58, 60, 75, 90, & 100.

In addition to these you will get, if you like, PvP talents.

You can change specs at any time that you are out of combat. Changing the individual talents requires you to be in a “rested XP” area: big city, your garrison, or an inn.

In neither case do you need to use reagents, trainers, tools, or need to sacrifice a player of the opposing faction. Just change them up as you desire.

Take some time and set up the talents for each spec ahead of time and you’ll be able to easily switch specs later, should you need to.

Talent Descriptions are here.



Death Knight Runeforging

You can apply runes to your weapons to make them more effective. These runes do not stack with enchants, but are generally better anyway. Simply Death Gate back to the Ebon Hold and apply the runes at a Runeforge.

Only one rune at a time (per weapon) may be applied, but if you’re Dual Wielding you can apply a separate rune to each weapons.

Generally Rune of the Fallen Crusader will be the choice when you hit level 70, but you might want to experiment with the others.

Legion wiped some of the Runeforges. These are what remain:

  1. Rune of Razorice,  level 55 – Does additional Frost damage and increases target’s vulnerability to Frost damage.
  2. Rune of the Fallen Crusader,  level 70 – A chance to increase your Str by 20% for 15 seconds and to heal you for 3%.
  3. Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle,  level 72 – 4% more armor and 2% more Stamina.

How to Get your DK to the Level Cap, ASAP

Hit the Level Cap FastAll of the DK specs work well for leveling, so pick your favorite and you will find leveling to be easy. Still, there are thousands of quests from 55 to to the level cap and a bazillion mobs to kill (not to mention other players, but they don’t count here.) Sorting out which quests are best and which series of quests will get you leveled the fastest is another game, which is why we highly recommend Zygor’s Guide.

Zygor’s is an in-game guide and it nearly automates the whole leveling process: you just pick your starting point, at any level, and the guide tracks which quest you’re on, tracks the quest objectives, and automatically advances and updates as you complete your tasks and quests. In addition, a waypoint arrow is set automatically, so you never have to wonder where to go. All of the important quest info is included in the guide so you never have to wonder what to do. You’ll find that it’s vastly superior to the in-game questing help.

Playing with Heirlooms and/or Recruit a friend? Gaining a few levels in the dungeons or in PvP? Zygor’s Guide has your back. The guide knows what level you are and will correctly suggest where to go next and will let you dump all of your obsolete quests. You will probably never need to look at your quest log again.

Grab your copy here and get to to the max level as fast as possible


Share this post:

1 thought on “A Death Knight Overview for Battle for Azeroth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.