So, you've decided to play a Death Knight and now want to know how to
level him or her to 80. Lucky for you Death Knights are probably one of
the easiest classes to solo and level...
So, you've decided to play a Death Knight and now want to know how to
level him or her to 80. Lucky for you Death Knights are probably one of
the easiest classes to solo and level quickly. They come out of their
starting zone fully equipped with blue quality equipment ready to cut
through anything that opposes them. In fact, for the first 5 or 6
levels you will probably be laughing yourself silly at how easy and
fast they are to level.
Leveling a Death Knight really starts at around level 58, since before
then you are locked into a quest chain that teaches you what it is to
be a Death Knight. The starting zone and chain is one of the coolest
areas Blizzard has created for a single class. In it, you get to meet
and be trained by the various bosses from Naxxramas and even meet the
Lich King himself.
The initial quest chain is a great way for everyone to let
loose, and express their evil side. Hopefully you
will even have some fun doing it. The quest chain walks you through
learning your various spells, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/talents"
target="_blank">talents and acquiring talent
points. Just when you are convinced that you will be locked into your
evil ways for all eternity, you are reminded of the good in life, and
repent your ways. By this time you will be level 58, have all your
abilities, and are then thrown to the wolves in the Eastern
Plaguelands. There is really no reason to stick around in the old world
though. Instead head straight to the Outlands.
To solo as a Death Knight you really only have two choices, Blood or
Unholy specced. While you could spec frost for survivability and the
odd bit of tanking, it will really slow you down. Your only real choice
is whether you want the amazing health regeneration and survivability
of Blood, or the insane damage and AoE ability that Unholy offers.
Unholy players will level faster if they are at all skilled and
understand how to survive. If you are a newer player or just not into
being careful then Blood will allow you to play more recklessly and die
Death Knights have great abilities called Presences. These are self
buff abilities that cost nothing to activate, and stay active until you
die. Only one presence may be active at a time. Eventually you have
three different presences to choose from as follows:
Presence - Increases damage by 15% and healing the Death
Knight by 4% of the damage dealt. Only damage dealt to targets that
grant experience or honour can trigger this heal. Gained at level 55.
Presence - Increases total health by 10%, armour
contribution from items by 80%, and reducing spell damage taken by 15%.
Increases threat generated. Gained at level 57.
Presence - Increases attack speed by 15% and reducing the
global cooldown on all abilities by 0.5 seconds. Gained at level 70.
While you have the three choices to work with, for the most part you
will want to be using your Blood Presence while leveling. The extra
damage and the healing make it the go to presence for almost any PvE
When fighting casters that are giving you issues, or when you are
fighting a difficult creature switching into frost may be able to save
your life. This is especially true when fighting creatures for group
quests where you are the one taking the hits. It is easy enough to
become a poor mans tank for quick group quests by simply changing
If / when you venture into any PvP situations, for example in Grizzly
Hills, you may want to change up to Unholy as it allows you to react
faster when being attacks. The extra speed and cooldown however do not
help as much as you would expect in PvE as you will still be waiting on
runes to cooldown to use abilities again.
While soloing and leveling, the most important thing to do is get a
solid handle on the Death Knight damage rotations. Unlike most classes
that have very simple rotations of 2-3 spells, a Death Knight needs to
manage runes, runic power, cooldowns and 5-8 spells. The sooner you get
used to doing this the better off you will be.
Death Knight rotations are usually split into two sequences. This is
done to ensure that you use all of your available runes each time they
become available, keep diseases up, and burn off all of the runic power
that you generate. The first cycle in a rotation ensures that you get
diseases up on the target so that your special attacks do more damage.
Your second cycle takes advantage of not having to cast diseases to do
more damage. By the time the second cycle is over the diseases are
falling off the target and you revert to cycle one. Realistically
though, while leveling, if you get to the end of cycle 2 in a rotation
and the target is not dead, you are doing something very wrong or are
fighting something that is very likely too tough for you. Repeating
rotations through both cycles is only likely to happen on instance
However, like they always say, a plan on a battle field never survives
first contact, so it also happens that in combat it becomes very
difficult to stick to the rotations. Don’t worry, deviate
when you need to, but remember to come back to them as soon as possible.
target="_blank">Blood Leveling Build (56/0/15)
Icy Touch - Plague Strike - Heart Strike - Heart Strike - Death Coil - Death Coil
Heart Strike - Heart Strike - Death Strike - Heart Strike - Heart Strike - Death Coil
The first cycle in the Blood rotation uses its first two attacks to
place your diseases on your target and burns off a frost and an unholy
rune. Your next two attacks are Heart Strikes which do damage and burn
off your two blood runes. You then do Death Strike, before dumping your runic power into one
or more href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Death_Coil"
The second cycle uses Heart Strikes early to ensure more damage while
your diseases are still on the target. You then use a Death Strike for health regeneration and then more Heart Strikes to do
more damage to max out your runic power so that you can do a sequence
of Death Coils again.
target="_blank">Unholy DPS Build (12/0/59)
style="font-style: italic;">Initial Cycle
Icy Touch - Plague Strike - Blood Strike - Blood Strike - Scourge Strike - Unholy Blight
Scourge Strike - Scourge Strike - Scourge Strike - Death Coil - Death Coil - Death Coil
The first cycle in the Unholy rotation starts off the same as
Blood’s rotation as it uses its first two attacks to place
your diseases on your target and burns off a frost and an unholy rune.
It then changes to two href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Blood_Strike"
target="_blank">Blood Strikes which do damage and
burn off your two blood runes. You then do a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Scourge_Strike"
target="_blank">Scourge Strike that uses up your
last two runes, a frost and unholy. Once done you will then use Unholy
Plague or href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Death_Coil"
target="_blank">Death Coil to dump your runic
power. To decide which one to use think about the situation, if there
is more than one creature around you or if the creature you are
fighting is going to take a full 20 seconds to kill, then Unholy Plague
will do more damage. If you are fighting a single target that you are
likely to kill in the next few hits, then use a Death Coil instead.
The second cycle uses Scourge Strikes to max out your runic power so
that you can do a sequence of Death Coils again. This second cycle
starts as soon as you can cast Scourge Strike and due to your Reaping
ability you should have death runes available allowing you to use it
three times in a row. Once you have finished dumping your runic power
you revert back to the first cycle in the rotation only if you do not have a Scourge Strike glyph or if the glyph did not refresh your diseases.
Death Knights can very easily adapt their rotations to AOE rotations by
adding in Death and Decay at the start of a rotation. Then as soon as
they have applied their diseases (Icy Touch and Plague Strike) they add
target="_blank">Pestilence and then href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Blood_Boil"
target="_blank">Blood Boil before the diseases
expire. This makes using your normal single target rotation difficult
so expect to miss out on many of the attacks.
If you are fighting a large number of creatures all at once you should
really switch to a dedicated AOE rotation such as this one.
- Icy Touch
- Plague Strike
- Death and Decay
- Blood Boil
- Unholy Plague (if Unholy)
This rotation makes sure that you get your diseases onto a target and
then spreads it to all other targets in the area using Pestilence. You
then place your large AoE ( href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Death_and_Decay"
target="_blank">Death and Decay) and then use
Blood Boil to cause the diseases to cause additional damage to your
targets. Lastly if you are Unholy you can add in an Unholy Plague to
cause even more damage to those around you. This is a very powerful
rotation any time you are caught with multiple creatures attacking you,
and is very common in an instance or group situation.
While Death Knights don’t always have a minion available to
them or up, they do have many different options. The first and probably
most important minion that a Death Knight gets is their Ghoul. A ghoul
is an essential part of a Death Knight and something that you should
never underestimate. A Death Knight without a Ghoul up is
kinda’ like eating Mac without Cheese. Sure, you can do it,
by why would you?
Unholy Death Knights are able to keep a ghoul up all the time, while
Blood and Frost can only keep one around for 2 minutes at a time, and
then have to wait until they find another humanoid body and until the 5
minute cooldown is over. No matter what, any time you can have one up,
you should. They raise your damage significantly and are another target
for creatures to attack other than you.
Unholy Death Knights can summon a gargoyle to assist them every 5
minutes, and this is best used for AoE damage when you are being
swarmed. Blood Death Knights have access to a Dancing Rune Weapon, and
it should be used anytime you are in slightly over your head on a
single creature. It adds a lot of damage over a short time and can
really save your butt.
Who to Fight
As a Death Knight you are insanely powerful against almost any type of
creature one on one. Death Knights while leveling can be thought of
like a cartoon Tasmanian Devils, once they start to spin stay out of
their way! Because of this you can really attack and kill anything you
want. For the best results though you want to constantly be fighting
creatures a level or two above your level. If possible you want to be
fighting casters since they have such low health and armor, and you can
cut them apart in seconds.
While attacking creatures you want to attack from the edges of groups
and pull them back to a safe distance from others in the area, then
kill them. Keep moving in from the edge of a group until you have wiped
them out. Think of yourself as a lone wolf stalking its prey, except
this lone wolf can take down the whole pack!
Dealing with special pulls, like casters and runners, can be a real
issue for most classes, however as Death Knights we have several great
abilities that make dealing with them almost trivial.
Death Knights are all about casters. There is not a caster that a Death
Knight does not like, as they are easy kill targets. Death Knights are
all over casters, like trailer trash on a carton of Lucky Strikes. The
hardest part for many classes is just getting a caster to come to you
to fight so that you are not in the midst of other creatures, with a
Death Knight this is never an issue, just use Death Grip and huzzah
they are yanked right to you. A caster getting rest to hit you with a
big damage spell, no problem, use one of your multiple anti magic
abilities. You could use href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Mind_Freeze"
target="_blank">Mind Freeze to stop that spell, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Strangulate"
target="_blank">Strangulate to stop several, or
target="_blank">Anti-Magic Shell to just mitigate
the damage. All this control over them, teamed up with your high damage
output and their low damage mitigation spells dead caster.
Another type of creature that many classes have issues with are those
that run away at low health. This usually happens in the middle of a
group of other creatures, and before you know it the scene is almost as
bad as the paparazzi swarming Brittney on a bad hair day. Death Knights
have many ways to prevent this from happening, or if it does they can
always just AoE the Press down, but that’s a different
Dealing with runners can be as simple as using href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Death_Grip"
target="_blank">Death Grip to yank them right back
to you if they are almost dead anyway. If they have a little more
health you could also use href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/deathknight/spells#Chains_of_Ice"
target="_blank">Chains of Ice to slow them down
significantly to give you time to deal with them. If you are a frost
build you can also try Hungering Cold if it is off cooldown. As Unholy
you can get your ghoul to Gnaw the target and thereby stun them for 3
Death Knights have numerous class based quests, all taking place in
your starting zone. A Death Knight starts in an instanced starting zone
that changes as you progress through the quest chain. Because there as
so many quests in the chain we have a full guide to the Death Knight
starting area target="_blank">here.
Where to level
Leveling as a Death Knight for either Horde or Alliance takes place in
the same zones. As soon as you are done with the Death Knight starting
zone you should make your way to the Blasted Lands and then through the
Dark Portal and into Outland. Even though you will only be
level 58 at this point, don’t worry, you will rock through
the first several zones easily without even needing to upgrade your
gear. From there you can work your way through the zones
in Outland until you hit level 68 or 69 and then make your way
to Northrend. This will likely mean skipping several areas
in Outland, but don’t worry, you can easily hit 80
without running out of quests in Northrend even if you enter at 58. In
fact most players will do so before even entering the zone of Icecrown.
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