This section of the Death Knight guide is all about the gear you use and the improvements that you can apply to it.  You spend a lot of time leveling, questing, and raiding to earn your gear, but what is it that really makes a piece any good?  Which stats are good for which type of Death Knight?  Better yet, what can you do to make that gear even better? 

We start this guide by looking at the basic and advanced stats that you will require as a Death Knight as both a DPS and Tanking character.  Since gear lists change all the time depending on your level or the current raid content you are working on, it is far more important to have a good understanding of the stats you are looking for rather than the pieces at that level or in that raid.

As a Death Knight, unlike most other classes, you can choose your role regardless of which talent tree you wish to focus on.  This means that unlike a Paladin tank that must spend most if his talent points on the Protection tree, as a Death Knight you can choose to tank with the majority of your points in any of your three talent trees.  The same holds true for DPS.  Each tree offers enough to make you viable as either DPS or Tank.

Basic Stats

Lets Start out by looking at the basic stats and see which is best for each type of Death Knight.  For a breakdown of what the stats provide check back to the Death Knight Basics page. Remember though that these are only your basic stats – Strength, Stamina, Intellect, Agility, and Spirit, not your advanced stats.  The next section will cover your advanced stats and they are at least as important as the basics, if not more so.

DPS – As a DPS Death Knight your main goal is to get as much Strength as possible since it allows you to cause the most damage. Beyond the stats that come on the gear that bring you the most Strength, don’t even worry about other stats.

Tank – As a Tanking Death Knight your main stat will be Stamina to increase your health pool.   Strength is also a solid stat since it will up your damage output and therefore your threat, but it is a distant second from Stamina.

Advanced Stats

The advanced stats in WoW are all the extra things past what would be considered normal stats in most RPG’s.  These advanced stats include things like your critical hit chance, defense score, dodge chance and more.  These stats are critical to your character and must be watched closely to ensure you are getting the right ones.

DPS – Death Knights that choose to focus on damaging their opponents require several bonus stats.  While leveling you should just focus on bonuses to Critical Hit, the rest of your focus is still on Strength.  Once you have reached max level then you should also focus on getting enough Hit and Expertise to reach their caps.  Armor penetration is also an important stat but since it is known to be too good, Blizzard has already started to nerf it and will continue to in the future.  How much effort you put into obtaining it is up to you, just be forewarned it will change.  As of patch 3.2 Armor Penetration is still a top notch stat for Blood specced DPS Death Knights.

Tank – Tanking Death Knights need to worry primarily about Defense until they reach the relevant cap, which is 540 for level 80 raids.  Beyond that they also need to focus on Hit, Expertise, Dodge and Parry. While many Tanks are tempted to only focus on Stamina to give them as big a health pool as possible, the better method is to balance Stamina with a good bit of avoidance, granted from your Dodge and Parry.


Now that you understand the best stats for each of your builds, gems should be pretty easy to understand as well.  You should always gem for your most important basic or advanced stat.  Ideally every gem will be the same other than your meta gem in your helm and enough other gems to meet its requirement.  This means that for most slots you will not be matching the slot colour.  This is important to understand, since many players think that they must follow the slot colour and therefore hurt themselves by not getting the biggest benefit possible.

Damage – You should be gemming and enchanting for hit and expertise until you reach the caps and then focus on Strength.  If you are still leveling just focus on Strength.  The best meta gem is a Chaotic Skyflare Diamond since it provides crit and a causes all critical hits to cause more damage.

Tanking – You should gem and enchant for Defense until you are defense capped and then for Stamina. For Defense this means either yellow “Thick …” gems or green “Enduring …” gems until you are capped.  When focusing on Stamina it will be “Solid …” gems.  As a Tanking Death Knight the best meta gem is an Austere Earthsiege Diamond which provides Stamina and increases your armour value. 


Enchants are much the same as gems.  Focus on the stats that are best for the type of Death Knight that you play and you should be good. 

A very important thing to remember with both gems and enchants is that each time you get a new piece of gear your balance will change.  For example: As a Tanking Death Knight that had 540 Defense and replaced a piece of gear it is possible that the new piece has much more stamina and dodge, but less Defense.  Therefore you may need to re-gem or re-enchant a different piece to make up for the change.  This is critical for any spec and you should remember to look all the time and see where all your stats are currently.

This chart provides some suggestions as to which enchant is good for which slot based on your talent build.


DPS Builds

Tank Builds


Arcanum of Torment (50 Attack Power and 20 Crit) – Revered with the Knights of the Ebon Blade

Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector (37 Stamina and 20 Defense) – Revered with the Argent Crusade


Inscription of the Axe – Sons of Hodir

Inscription of the Pinnacle – Sons of Hodir


+10 to all Stats

+22 Defense


+50 Attack Power

+16 Defense
+16 Agility


+20 Hit
+44 Attack Power

+10 Parry and 2% Threat


Belt Buckle with appropriate Gem

Belt Buckle with appropriate Gem


+75 Attack Power and +22 Crit

+55 Stamina and +22 Agility


+12 Hit and Crit

+22 Stamina


Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Rune of Stoneskin Gargoyle
Rune of Sword Shattering


Glyphs are found in two different types, Major and Minor.  Once you reach max level you can have 3 of each type.  As a Death Knight the three major Glyphs that are best for you vary depending on your chosen role and your talent spec.

DPS – As a DPS Death Knight there are several options available to you.  If you are Unholy Glyph of the Ghoul is an extremely strong Glyph since your ghoul will be out all the time.  Even for non-unholy Death Knights though it is still a decent choice. Depending on your build you will take Obliterate (Frost), Scourge Strike (Unholy) or Death Strike (Blood).  To round out your three slots Glyph of Dark Death is a glyph that fits in no mater the DPS build but is best with Blood due to the extra free Death Coils.  The Death and Decay Glyph isn’t bad either if you are worried about putting out more AOE damage, but it isn’t as good as the others.

Tank – Tanking Death Knights have a few options as well.  A fairly standard mix is Icebound Fortitude, Unbreakable Armor, and Death and Decay.  Icebound Fortitude ensures you are able to use the ability when you need it.  Unbreakable Armor provides a very solid increase in damage mitigation.  Death and Decay provides extra threat, especially when there are groups of creatures to tank.  Bone Shield for extra charges or Death Strike for extra damage and threat are also valid options, most stick with the initial three though.

Minor Glyphs

There are only three minor glyphs that most players even look at, so those should be the three you take.  Horn of Winter allows your horn to stay active for an additional minute every time you use it, which saves a GCD in combat.  Raise Dead saves you a reagent when you summon your ghoul.  Lastly Pestilence increases the distance that pestilence affects enemies.  All very solid little buffs, the rest of the minors do not compete.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our World of Warcraft Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.


Related Content

54 professions square
Patch 5.4 Profession Changes