The Death Knight was World of Warcraft’s first Hero class, starting off on their own introductory area at level 55, and quickly becoming a top choice for players wanting to skip most of the early game zones and level a character fast. In this Death Knight guide, we’re going to cover all you need to know about the class.
Death Knights were introduced to the Warcraft universe all the way back in Warcraft II, and a big chunk of the third game's storyline was about the Paladin Arthas’ transformation into a Death Knight and - later - into the Lich King. From there on, Death Knights served the Lich King, until they rebelled against their master WOW's Wrath of the Lich King expansion - when the class was unlocked to players.
The Death Knight is a powerful, plate-wearing melee fighter that uses dark powers to hurt his opponents and enhance his combat abilities. This Death Knight guide will give you an overview of what to expect from the class’s three possible specialisations: Blood for tanking, and Frost / Unholy for melee damage-dealing. You’ll also find links to our more specific guides that will tell you how to master each spec.
In Legion, Death Knights underwent several changes intended to make each of the specializations feel more distinct from one another. While initially this resulted in a strong leaning towards the Unholy specialization, the current patch has given Frost Death Knights a much-needed boost - they are once more near parity with the other specs in terms of relative power.
One notable change in Legion was the big simplification of Death Knight resource management. Where there used to be several types of runes that each Death Knight regenerated over time and used to power his spells, there is now only one universal type of rune - the Death Rune - which powers most of the Death Knight’s arsenal. Death Knights are also now the only class that has access to weapon enchantments, through their Runeforging ability!
This page represents our hub for anything Death Knight-related, so check back in the future - we will update it often!
Editor's note: Update #2 - Our Bloood Death Knight guide is finally ready. Go check it out just below for our no-nonsense take on how to become an expert tank through this specialisation. We cover talents, rotations and defensive cooldowns, with explanations that get straight to the point, and more specialised advice to come in the near future!
Unholy Death Knight
Wielding two-handed weapons to devastating effect, Unholy Death Knights weaken and hurt their opponents with the powers of disease, decay and corruption, while seeking support from minions they raise from the dead. Once they reach the apex of their careers, they embark on a quest for their Artifact Weapon Apocalypse, which grants them a massive attack that capitalizes on how diseased they've made their opponents.
Unholy Death Knights are currently one of the raiding community’s melee darlings, capable of dealing massive damage in nearly any situation, but especially shining when up against large groups of enemies. They are also considerably tougher than their Frost counterpart.
|Strengths||AoE damage-dealing: Unholy shines when facing large groups of enemies. Strong survivability with good defensive cooldowns.|
|Weaknesses||Very low mobility - just like their Frost brethren. A lack of consistency in that the effectiveness of their rotation has an element of randomness.|
Frost Death Knight
The Frost Death Knight is a master of rapid-fire melee combat, wielding dual blades (swords or axes) and using frost-themed attacks to strike at their enemies. At high level, they reforge the legendary Frostmourne, once greatsword of the Lich King, into their Artifact Weapons, the Blades of the Fallen Prince.
While a recent patch brought Frost’s damage output up from what was a rather unflattering comparison with their Unholy colleagues, the specialisation still suffers somewhat from being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, performing pretty well in all melee combat situations but not standing out in any single scenario.
The spec nonetheless has a very distinct visual style and flair that will no doubt appeal to many players, and features a very reactive gameplay style that sees players juggling two separate resources moment-to-moment: very satisfying to master!
|Strengths||Consistency: pretty good at everything, although neither bad nor spectacular at anything at the same time.|
|Weaknesses||Very low mobility, and tied with Paladins as the slowest-moving class in the game. Low survivability too, with poor self-healing and defensive cooldowns.|
More WOW class guides:
|Death Knight guide||Demon Hunter guide||Druid guide|
|Hunter guide||Mage guide||Monk guide|
|Paladin guide||Priest guide||Rogue guide|
|Shaman guide||Warlock guide||Warrior guide|
Other WOW guides:
Blood Death Knight
Despite wielding massive two-hand weapons, the Blood Death Knight is actually a tank, focused on drawing his enemies away from other party members and enduring their intended punishment instead. He uses the powers of decay, undeath and vampirism to increase his survivability, and at high levels earns the right to wield the greataxe Maw of the Damned, which grants the Blood Death Knight even greater resilience.
Much like Protection Paladins, Blood Death Knights place a premium on self-healing rather than damage mitigation, and as such can be more challenging to play than other tank classes. They are, however, a well-rounded tank that can also deal quite a bit of damage, and their precise playstyle, coupled with the sense of power of being an “immovable object” is sure to delight any player that takes the time required to learn the ropes.
|Strengths||Good defensive cooldowns, and high damage output for a tank!|
|Weaknesses||Low mobility, and reliant on healing over mitigation.|
Remember to keep checking this Death Knight guide for all content updates related to the class! Do you play a Death Knight? Please tells us your tips and tricks in the comments. Next addition: Frost Death Knight talent spec and rotation.