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 10 and, with a bit of extra grinding, will enter the world around level 14 or 15, with a nice set of gear. You are now fully ready to inflict mayhem upon the word of Azeroth, and beyond, as Tank, Damage Machine (DPS), or PvPer. No, you do not do heals.
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.
Other Death Knight Guides
The Death Knight Specs
Death Knights, like most other classes, have three specs (short for specializations:) Blood, Frost, and Unholy. The Death Knight Leveling page will have a list of all the abilities for all three specs, plus talent builds suitable for leveling.
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, damage will be the main concern. Want a challenge?
- Death Knight Blood Spec Tanking guide – The build, gems, rotations, and more.
- Blood spec PvP – Tough, heals
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.
- Death Knight Frost Spec DPS guide – builds for dual wield and 2-handers, plus gems, enchants, etc.
- Frost spec PvP – Damage and plenty of it, A of E
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 Unholy Spec DPS guide – Everything you need for higher DPS as Unholy.
- Unholy spec PvP – Damage, Diseases, Pet.
Our Death Knight Leveling Guide – Tips, builds, and info to make your trek to the level cap that much easier.
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 dead. Hit rating, Multistrike, and Expertise all died awhile back. Versatility still lives.
Shadowlands smashed the character levels, gear item levels, and introduced Diminishing Returns for the various secondary stats. Basically that means that each new point of Crit or whatever is worth a bit less than the previous point.
- 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 uncommon, but nice when you get them. Plop in an appropriate gem and get bonus Strength, Mastery, whatever.
Death Knight Race and Abilities
Anyone can be a Death Knight, even Pandarens, and this includes all races introduced after the Pandaria expansion, such as those from Battle for Azeroth.
Clearly the Lich King sees great value in all of the races.
All of the races, including Allied Races, are detailed on our Death Knight Leveling Guide.
The Death Knight abilities, both general and for each spec, are also on that page.
Death Knight Talents
You get a total of seven talents by level 50. at levels 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50. In addition to these you will get, if you like, PvP talents. Earned at levels 20, 30, and 40.
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.
- Blood spec for PvE, Blood for PvP
- Frost spec for PvE, Frost for PvP
- Unholy spec for PvE, Unholy for PvP
- Death Knight Leveling
- Zygor will recommend talents and the best spec for leveling, in addition to a whole lot of other stuff. click here to learn more.
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, but you might want to experiment with the others. Shadowlands introduced several new runeforges.
Runeforges, for your Weapons
- Rune of Razorice, requires level 8, any weapon, 10% extra damage as Frost, increases frost damage taken by opponent. Frost applies this to weapon #2.
- Rune of the Fallen Crusader, 8, any, chance for 6% heal and 15% increased Str (for 15 sec.) Use for Unholy, one of Frost’s weapons, and maybe Blood.
- Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle, 8, two handed, 5% increased armor, 5% increase to all stats. Nice for the dungeon tanking.
- Rune of Unending Thirst, 20: +5% to your movement speed, plus, when you kill a worthy opponent (awards experience or honor,) another 10% speed and 10% Haste and a 5% heal. Nice for leveling, you will want to change for dungeons and raids and such. Especially nice if you’re fighting groups. You will be able to maintain the buffs.
- Rune of Sanguination, 32: As your target falls in health your Death Strike will do more damage. If you fall below 35% health then you will heal for 48% of your max health over the next 8 seconds. Apparently this can only pop every 5 minutes.
- Rune of the Apocalypse, 44: Taken from the four horsemen, your Ghoul’s attacks can occasionally deliver one of the four plagues for a few seconds: Death, War, Famine, or Pestilence. More useful for Unholy, since your pet is permanent.
- Rune of Hysteria,46: increases max Runic Power by 20 and your attacks have a chance to increase Runic Power generation by 20% for 8 sec. More Death Strikes and other RP using abilities over time.
- Rune of Spellwarding, 48: deflects 3% of all spell damage and taking magic damage has a chance to create a shield that absorbs magic damage equal to 10% of your maximum health. When an enemy damages the shield, their cast speed is reduced by 10% for 6 sec. Seems like this is only useful in magic heavy situations. Will be pretty useless for leveling.
- Note that you can apply Runeforges to your artifact or Legendary weapons.
Unholy will generally want Fallen Crusader, Frost also, with Razorice on #2, Blood either Fallen or Stoneskin Gargoyle, depending on what you’re doing.
Consider carrying another weapon or two in your bags, with appropriate runeforges, and swap them as needed.
How to Get your DK to the Level Cap, ASAP
All 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