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Death Knight Beginner Guide WoW – Overview & Builds for ALL Specs

Death Knight Beginner Guide WoW – Overview & Builds for ALL Specs

Guide Written By: Dottz Gaming

Table of Contents

  1. Video
  2. Introduction
  3. Specializations
    1. Blood
    2. Frost
    3. Unholy
  4. Contact Info
  5. Update Log

Video

Introduction

Welcome to DottzGaming.com’s beginner guide for the Death Knight class in World of Warcraft! This guide will give you a brief overview to what the class has to offer, its specializations and new player focused talent setups to get you going on your adventures through Azeroth! If you are brand new to WoW and are reading this guide, I also recommend checking out my WoW Complete Beginner Guide, which will teach you all non-class specific things you need to know to get yourself started in WoW.

Death Knight’s were servants of the Lich King, fallen heroes who have been ressurrected to fight again in his army. When the Lich King lost control of his death knights, the former champions sought revenge against the Lich King for the atrocities that he made them commit. Once freed, the Death Knights rallied under the banner of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, and sought their revenge against their former master. Once this was achieved, they rallied under a new cause: helping to fight the threats that Azeroth faces alongside its other champions in the Alliance and Horde.

Death Knights are a hero class and start at level 8 in their own starting zone, where you learn more about your class and what it means to be a DK! They focus on dealing large amounts of physical damage, mixed with other damage types such as shadow and frost. Death Knights are a slow moving arbiter of death and disease, and although not a particularly mobile class, they have several tools in their kit to keep their enemies rooted in place or bring the enemies straight to them.

Death Knights have two damage dealing specialization and a tank specialization. Blood Death Knights are the tanks of the class, primarily defend themselves with blood and bones, with a focus on consistently healing themselves through their attacks, and utilizing a bone shield to help provide damage mitigation! Frost Death Knights focus on dealing large amounts of burst damage through powerful physical and frost attacks, with the ability to keep their opponents slowed in their tracks. Unholy Death Knights are the master’s of the undead, having a permanent undead companion by their side, and focusing on empowering that minion for large amounts of damage alongside their fast paced attacks!

Death Knights utilize 2 primary resource systems for their skills: Runes and Runic Power. You build up runic power by spending runes on skills, and then you use the runic power you generate on other skills! Unholy Death Knights have a 3rd resource they look to manage, called Festering Wounds, which you focus on building up on your target and then making those wounds explode for massive damage!

In addition, death knight’s wear plate armor, they utilize Strength as their primary stat to deal damage, and wield polearms, two-handed swords, axes and maces, and Frost Death Knight’s are also able to dual wield one-handed weapons (no daggers, though). Death Knight’s can also apply a special enchantment called a rune to their weapons via a skill that only Death Knights gain access to called Runeforging. You can use an ability called Death Gate to get back to the Death Knight “home-base”, and apply your runes to your weapons there!

All races in World of Warcraft are able to be Death Knights as well!

Now that we have a brief summary of the class out of the way, let’s get into the specs and what they have to offer. The following builds are going to be tailored to new players, looking to make your rotation as easy and straightforward while adding as few additional skills to your action bars as possible. If you’re looking for something more advanced and focused on dealing as much damage as possible, I recommend checking out Icy-Veins or WoWhead for builds more tailored towards end game raids, mythic+ and rated PvP. Thankfully, these builds in the article don’t differentiate too much from the “advanced” versions.

Specializations

Blood

Click here to view the talent calculator.

Talents

  1. Heartbreaker – This talent makes your Heart Strike, an instant attack that you have that hits your target and 1 nearby enemy, generate additional runic power for each target it hits!
  2. Hemostasis – This talent adds a synchronization between your blood boil (an AoE damage dealing skill that applies a disease damage over time to your enemies) and Death Strike (your primary self-heal and runic power spender) by making each enemy hit by blood boil increase the damage and healing of your next Death Strike. This effect can stack up to 5 times (so up to 5 enemies hit), and each stack increase that damage and healing by 8%.
  3. Relish in Blood – This talent increases the potency of one of your passives, Crimson Scourge. This passive gives you a chance to reset the cooldown on Death and Decay (a ground area-of-effect ability that also increases the potency of your heart strike against enemies in it by allowing it to hit more targets) and makes its next cast free. This talent makes it so that whenever you get that Crimson Scourge proc and then use it, you immediately gain runic power and get a small heal!
  4. Will of the Necropolis – A passive talent that gives you 30% damage mitigation while you’re below 30% health, making you extremely tanky at low health and allowing you to recover!
  5. Grip of the Dead – This talent reduces the movement speed of enemies in your death and decay by 90% (decaying by 10% every second), allowing you to hold enemies in place!
  6. Bloodworms – This passive talent gives you a chance for your auto attacks to summon a Bloodworm. These Bloodworms deal minor damage for 15 seconds and then explode, healing you for 15% of your missing HP. However, if your health drops below 50%, they’ll burst immediately and heal you!
  7. Red Thirst – A passive talent that lowers the cooldown on Vampiric Blood (a big defensive cooldown that increases your maximum HP and healing/shields receieved), by 1.5 seconds per 10 runic power you spend, allowing you to have this defensive cooldown available as much as possible!
  8. Murderous Intent – This gives your taunt some use in PvP, make it increase the damage your target takes by 3% for each person (up to 5) that attacks the taunted player! As you attack the player effected by Murderous Intent, this debuff that is placed on them is refreshed!
  9. Decomposing Aura – This passive talent causes all enemies within 10 yards of you to lose up to 3% of their max HP every 2 seconds, stacking up to 5 times and lasting for 6 seconds. The longer someone is near you, the more health they’ll lose!
  10. Necrotic Aura – Increases the amount of magical damage any enemy with 8 yards of you receives by 8%, increase the damage of you and your allies against these targets!

Rune Choice: Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Rotation

How to Play Blood

If you don’t know how threat works, I recommend checking out my complete beginner guide, as understanding threat is essential for playing a tank properly. Tanks also play a bit more dynamically than damage dealers, responding to what is happening in any given instance. Here are some things to keep in mind when tanking!

  1. Use Marrowrend to build stacks of Bone Shield, which increase your armor and haste. Attacks against you will consume these stacks. You want to always make sure you have at least 5 stacks of Bone Shield active on yourself or you wont benefit from the Ossuary passive, which makes Death Strike cheaper and gives you a larger runic power pool.
  2. Use Blood Boil to apply Blood Plague, your primary disease, to your targets.
  3. Use Death and Decay to keep targets in place, and every single time you get a Crimson Scourge proc.
  4. Use Heart Strike to hit targets in your Death and Decay and build runic power to spend on death strike.
  5. Use Death Strike to heal yourself while tanking.
  6. Use Dark Command on an enemy if one of your allies takes aggro from you.
  7. Utilize Gorefiend’s Grasp and Death Grip to keep enemies near you if you’re having trouble with problematic enemies getting away from you.

Additional Offensive Notes

  • Use Dancing Rune Weapon if you want a boost to both your offensive and defensive capabilities, by increasing your chance to parry attacks and having it mirror your offensive moves!
  • You can use the Raise Dead skill to summon a temporary minion by your side to deal some damage to your target, and before it expires, you can use Sacrificial Pact to gain some health!

Additional Defensive Notes

  • When you are taking big damage or know you’re about to take a big hit, using Rune Tap will give you a spike of damage mitigation.
  • If you need a BIG boost to damage mitigation, use Icebound Fortitude. Keep in mind this has a long cooldown, so it should be used in emergency situations.
  • Anti-Magic shell is a strong self-defense tool against magical attacks. If your entire group is taking large amounts of magical damage, use anti-magic zone instead.
  • Utilize Vampiric Blood when you feel you need to increase your healing. This cooldown can be used more liberally, as Red Thirst will be constantly lowering the cooldown of this skill!
  • If you want another passive boost to your healing and preventing yourself from being afflicted by certain types of crowd control, use lichborne! Since this makes you undead, you can also use death coil on yourself to heal yourself up.

Secondary Stat Priority

  1. Versatility
  2. Haste
  3. Critical Strike
  4. Mastery

Shadowlands Specific Information

Recommended Covenant: Venthyr

Recommended Legendary: Memory of Bryndaor

Frost

Click here to view the talent calculator.

Talents

  1. Inexorable Assault – This talent causes you to gain a passive boost to your obliterate every 8 seconds, causing your next Obliterate to deal additional frost damage! This effect can stack up to 5 times.
  2. Murderous Efficiency – This talent boosts the potency of your Killing Machine passive (which makes your next Obliterate automatically crit), by additionally giving you a 50% chance to generate a rune when you use the proc!
  3. Asphyxiate – This talent gives you a strong single-target stun, allowing you to prevent your target from doing anything for 4 seconds and giving you a chance to unleash an onslaught of attacks!
  4. Frozen Pulse – A passive talent that gives you additional damage while your runes are on cooldown. When you have less than 3 runes available, your auto attacks deal extra frost damage!
  5. Wraith Walk – Gives you a movement cooldown, allowing you to remove all roots and increasing your movement speed by 70% for 4 seconds. However, if you do anything else besides move during this time, the effect will end.
  6. Gathering Storm – This talent converts runes into more power for your remorseless winter, an incredibly strong skill that cloaks you in frost dealing damage to and slowing all enemies around you, by increasing its damage by 10% and extending the duration by 0.5 seconds per rune spent while its active on you!
  7. Obliteration – This talent gives you an incredibly strong passive by increasing the potency of your Pillar of Frost, your primary offensive cooldown that increases your strength. What this passive does is it makes Frost Strike (one of your primary runic power spenders that deals instant frost damage) and Howling Blast (an AoE frost skill that afflicts the targets with a damage over time disease effect) automatically grant Killing Machine and giving these skills a 30% chance to generate a rune. This combines extremely well with Murderous Efficiency, making you even more of a killing machine (pun intended) while your burst cooldown is active!
  8. Chill Streak – A PvP talent that launches a ball of ice at your target, dealing damage and slowing the target, and then bouncing to the nearest target in 6 yards. So, if you use this on a group of closely grouped enemies, this will keep bouncing between them and deal massive damage!
  9. Heartstop Aura – This reduces the rate at which enemies near you recover their cooldowns, preventing them from being able to use their most important skills as frequently as normal!
  10. Necrotic Aura – Increases the amount of magical damage any enemy with 8 yards of you receives by 8%, increase the damage of you and your allies against these targets!

Rune Choice: Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Rotation

Dealing Damage

Frost is one of the easier specializations in WoW due to its extremely straightforward rotation. You want to open a fight using Remorseless Winter, use Howling Blast to apply Frost Fever to your enemies, and then from there you move to a basic priority system:

  1. If you have runes or get a Killing Machine proc, spend them on Obliterate.
  2. When you get a Rime proc (Obliterate has a chance to make your next Howling Blast free and hit 3x harder), use Howling Blast.
  3. When your runic power starts to get high or you have no runes to spend on Obliterate, use Frost Strike.

Offense

  • Use Pillar of Frost when you want to deal big damage to your enemies. This cooldown gives you a ton of additional benefits from your talents too, so this is when your damage will be its highest.
  • Near the end of Pillar of Frost when your damage is at its highest, use Frostwyrm’s Fury to deal and additional HUGE burst of damage!
  • Use Empower Rune weapon when you need to deal damage in a pinch, as this skill grants you a boost to haste and grants you a rune every 5 seconds for 20 seconds. This lets you attack quicker and generate runes at a much faster rate!
  • You can use the Raise Dead skill to summon a temporary minion by your side to deal some damage to your target, and before it expires, you can use Sacrificial Pact to gain some health!

Defense

  • If you need a BIG boost to damage mitigation, use Icebound Fortitude. Keep in mind this has a long cooldown, so it should be used in emergency situations.
  • Anti-Magic shell is a strong self-defense tool against magical attacks. If your entire group is taking large amounts of magical damage, use anti-magic zone instead.
  • If you want another passive boost to your healing and preventing yourself from being afflicted by certain types of crowd control, use lichborne! Since this makes you undead, you can also use death coil on yourself to heal yourself up.
  • Spend runic power on Death Strike if you need a heal in a pinch!

Secondary Stat Priority

  1. Mastery
  2. Critical Strike
  3. Versatility
  4. Haste

Shadowlands Specific Information

Recommended Covenant: Night Fae

Recommended Legendary: Memory of the Biting Cold

Unholy

Click here to view the talent calculator.

Talents

  1. All Will Serve- This gives your Raise Dead the ability to summon an additional skeletal minion, giving you two permanent pets by your side!
  2. Bursting Sores – This talent makes it so that when you burst a festering wound with one of your skills, it deals AoE splash shadow damage to all enemies within 8 yards!
  3. Asphyxiate – This talent gives you a strong single-target stun, allowing you to prevent your target from doing anything for 4 seconds and giving you a chance to unleash an onslaught of attacks!
  4. Pestilent Pustules – This talent makes it so that when you burst a festering wound, you have a 10% chance to get the Runic Corruption passive, which increases your rune regeneration rate by 100% for 3 seconds!
  5. Spell Eater – This talent increases the potency of your anti-magic shell (which absorbs magical damage dealt to you), by allowing it to absorb 30% more damage and causes it to last 5 seconds longer!
  6. Unholy Pact – This increases the potency of your Dark Transformation (which turns your summoned ghoul into a larger, more powerful undead minion) by increasing your strength by 5% while the ghoul is transformed and creating a line of flame between you and your pet, causing all enemies to take shadow damage over time if they stand between you and your pet!
  7. Unholy Assault – This talent gives you a strong burst cooldown which makes you strike your target for shadow damage, instantly applying 4 festering wounds, and increasing your haste by 20% (which makes you attack and recover resources faster) for 12 seconds!
  8. Decomposing Aura – This passive talent causes all enemies within 10 yards of you to lose up to 3% of their max HP every 2 seconds, stacking up to 5 times and lasting for 6 seconds. The longer someone is near you, the more health they’ll lose!
  9. Necrotic Aura – Increases the amount of magical damage any enemy with 8 yards of you receives by 8%, increase the damage of you and your allies against these targets!
  10. Raise Abomination – This talent changes your Army of the Dead into something more powerful, by allowing you to raise an abomination at a target location for 25 seconds. The abomination’s attacks apply a festering wound and afflict nearby enemies with a disease that does damage over time!

Rune Choice: Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Rotation

Dealing Damage

As you walk into a fight, use Outbreak to apply your Virulent Plague disease to your target and enemies near it. From there, you want to use Dark Transformation to make your ghoul more powerful, use Festering Strike to build up 2-3 wounds, and then use Scourge Strike to pop them. When you hit 0 wounds, repeat the process of using Festering Strike to apply wounds and Scourge Strike to pop them. As your runic power gets higher or if you have no runes to spend, start spending runic power on Death Coil if fighting one target or Epidemic if fighting multiple. You also want to use Death Coil/Epidemic every time you get a proc of Sudden Doom, which is a passive that gives your attacks a chance to make your next death coil or epidemic free and cost no runic power. While fighting multiple targets, also be sure to lay down your death and decay, as it will make your Scourge Strike hit additional enemies near your target.

Offense

  • When you want to deal a big burst of damage, build your festering wounds up to 4 using Unholy Assault and then use Apocalypse. This will pop all the wounds at once and then summon a ghoul for 15 seconds for each wound popped, on top of giving you a massive haste buff!
  • When you enter into a big boss fight and you want to do massive initial damage, use Army of the Dead, which will summon a legion of minions by your side to fight your enemy!

Defense

  • If you need a BIG boost to damage mitigation, use Icebound Fortitude. Keep in mind this has a long cooldown, so it should be used in emergency situations.
  • Anti-Magic shell is a strong self-defense tool against magical attacks. If your entire group is taking large amounts of magical damage, use anti-magic zone instead.
  • If you want another passive boost to your healing and preventing yourself from being afflicted by certain types of crowd control, use lichborne! Since this makes you undead, you can also use death coil on yourself to heal yourself up.
  • Spend runic power on Death Strike if you need a heal in a pinch!

Secondary Stat Priority

  1. Mastery
  2. Haste
  3. Critical Strike = Versatility

Shadowlands Specific Information

Recommended Covenant: Necrolord

Recommended Legendary: Memory of a Frenzied Monstrosity

Contact

If you have any questions about the build, join our discord server and ask @Dottz about the build in the #wow-general channel!

Update Log

12/1/2020 – Guide created