Class General Info

The Wrath of the Lich King is the next release within the WoW Classic project frameworks. Apart from a new continent, Arthas Menetil storyline and his famous Invincible stallion, this expansion is known for the appearance of a new class – Death Knights. These former Lich King’s servants have gained popularity and respect throughout all times and lands.

Every race can choose a Death Knight, however, Alliance’s races are more suitable because of racial passive buffs. Death Knights are great tanks and damage dealers in the melee zone. This class is represented in three specializations: Blood, Frost, and Unholy. Blood Death Knights (BDK) are tanks, the rest are MDD. Death Knights use class-unique runes for different occasions and abilities. They wear plate armor and use maces, axes, and swords. The special class sets are also added into the game, but we will tell you about the gear next time.

In this article, we are going to concentrate on the leveling process, look at each specialization to find its unique features. We will also learn the class’ strengths and weaknesses and find the best leveling talent builds.

Starting Zone

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic

The adventure for the Death Knight begins in Acherus: The Ebon Hold – a specific starting zone for this class. This is a phased area in the Eastern Plaguelands the on Eastern Kingdoms continent that only Death Knights can interact in. Death Knights must complete this zone before venturing out into the larger world. They will get a full set of blue-quality gear and approximately three levels of experience while doing so.

Unlike other classes, young Death Knights have several advantages, such as ground mounts and a unique quest chain. Moreover, they start at level 55, which makes their journey a way shorter and easier. On the whole, the starting zone for newly made Death Knights is very unusual, so we recommend visiting it.

Buy WotLK Character Bundle!

Get Leveling, Gearing, Reputation and Professions in One Convenient Bundle!

Wotlk Character Boost Bundle

Blood Death Knight

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic

Specialization Details

This is a tanking specialization. When this class was represented back in 2008, all three specs could tank. This time we have patch 3.3.5 with all its changes and renovations, which means only Blood DK can be a tank. A very good tank, by the way, as this class has self-healing abilities, which help Death Knights sustain against elite foes.

Strong sides: A combination of strong offensive and defensive cooldowns, highest self-healing among all tanking classes.

Weak spots: DK has a low mobility, more downtime than other tanks, threat and damage need time to ramp up. They also rely on the proper gear way too much.

It’s a bit more complicated with pertinent races. The very best choices are Draenei and Night Elves; the latter are, by the way, the best tanks for the whole WotLK expansion. Horde races aren’t that great for BDK, however, if you insist on using Blood spec for the Death Knight, select a Tauren.

The best professions for the Blood specialization are Engineering and Jewelcrafting or Leatherworking. Even though it’s kinda hard and expensive to have two crafting and zero gathering professions, it is still the best choice, as they provide the best spec bonuses.

Engineering, for example, provides great hands enchant Hyperspeed Accelerators that increases haste for 12 seconds and perfectly combines with Empower Rune Weapon ability. Another great Engineering bonus is Nitro Boosts, as it gives an immediate 150% movement speed bonus. Alternatives for the Jewelcrafting may be Mining, Blacksmithing, or Enchanting. Engineering, at the same time, keeps leading positions.

Best BDK Glyphs

Warning: the following information is valid for the pre-patch and may change on the release.

There are two types of glyphs, major and minor. Major glyphs give useful for battle bonuses, while minor are usually more of a cosmetic use, though you may always find interesting variations and combinations. Right now, the very best BDK glyphs are:

Major Glyphs

Glyph of Death Grip is useful for questing or grinding mobs;

Glyph of Rune Tap may become your life savior in no-win situations.

Minor Glyphs

Glyph of Raise Dead;

Glyph of Blood Tap;

Glyph of Horn of Winter.

Talent Builds

Each WoW activity requires its unique approach. In some situations, players concentrate on a number of targets, in others they have to pay attention to game mechanics. Each situation requires concrete talent builds, which makes gaming experience easier and more interesting. Below, you may find the most effective BDK leveling talent builds for different occasions.

The following build is used for solo questing. Note that it won’t be very effective in raids. The center of a setup is the Heart Strike talent; everything else should be organized around it. Total distribution between talent trees is: 54/7/0 and you will have 10 points left to input them into something of your choice.

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic
Option 1

If you would want to level through multiple dungeon runs, we recommend the following leveling build.

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic
Option 2

The trees’ proportions here are 43/10/8 and you won’t have any free points left. This is the most efficient build for Blood Death Knight, as it uses all strong points of a Blood specialization. Works for all PvE group encounters where your character is a tank.

Another tanking build variation specializes on defensive skills combined with threat holding ones for maximizing tanking potential. Talent distribution is 0/53/8 with 10 free points left to put them wherever you like. This is what this build looks like:

Calculator link

BDK Rotation

Warning: the following information is valid for the pre-patch and may change on the release.

It is recommended to start with Death Grip; then use:

After this step has been successfully finished, use one of the rotations below depending on how many targets you have.

Single target rotation:

  1. Heart Strike spam while diseases are up;
  2. Death Strike if you need health;
  3. Refresh Icy Touch and Plague Strike if needed.
  4. Multiple targets rotation (AOE):
  5. Apply Icy Touch and Plague Strike on all targets with the use of Pestilence
  6. Drop Death and Decay;
  7. Spam Blood Boil.

Leveling Tips

Use defensive cooldowns like Rune Tap and Vampiric Blood together. Also, don’t forget to use Icebound Fortitude while fighting elites or lots of foes altogether.

Try finding the gear from dungeons; it will make your leveling experience much easier.

As long as BDK has self-healing abilities, leveling First Aid is not needed, however, it wouldn’t be too much to learn additional healing skills. 

Do not hesitate to use Auction House to buy some BOE items, as they may increase your stats drastically.

Unholy Death Knight

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic

Specialization Details

Unholy DK is a melee Damage Dealer, or MDD, to be short, and this is the best spec for leveling your character. The greatest support is that the most useful ability, Wandering Plague, is given to you at level 58, meaning you can speed up your adventures very early, much earlier than other classes and even other DK specs. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Unholy DK is the ability to deal passive damage to multiple enemies altogether with the help of Crypt Fever at first, and Ebon Plaguebringer later on.

Strong sides: The Crypt Fever and Ebon Plaguebringer abilities are a substantial support in raiding groups; UDK has extremely high AOE damage and strong offensive cooldowns.

Weak spots: Low Mobility; Unholy DK is the slowest MDD in the game. The whole AOE debuff idea becomes close to useless if mobs die too quickly. Do not rely on first places in DPS charts, as this spec combines spells with physical attacks.

The best Alliance race for the Unholy Death Knight is Draenei or Humans. Dwarfs have a Mace Specialization racial ability that increases the damage. Gnomes have a very strong PvP ability, Escape Artist, but they have nothing to offer in PvE.

Trolls and Orc are the best Horde races for Unholy Death Knight. Trolls’ racial Berserking increases damage and makes a use on bosses. Orc’s Axe Specialization, at the same time, makes them very strong characters throughout the second part of the expansion.

The profession choice is the same, we had in the previous part of the article: Engineering and Jewelcrafting. The gems like Bold Dragon’s Eye give additional Attack Power; if we sum this bonus up with the talent bonuses, we will have a significant increase in Attack Power. From the other side, gems like Precise Dragon’s Eye help to level expertise, which is great during the last stages of the game. If you want something different, look at Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, Enchanting, Inscription, or Tailoring.

Best UDK Glyphs

Warning: the following information is valid for the pre-patch and may change on the release.

Death Knight in the Unholy specialization right now has two out of three minor glyphs similar to the Blood spec.

The best choices for major glyphs are:

Glyph of Dark Death is good for dealing damage to a single target, especially for Two-Handed and Dual Wield Unholy;

Glyph of the Ghoul;

Glyph of Icy Touch is good in AOE damage.

Minor Glyphs

Glyph of Horn of Winter;

Glyph of Pestilence. This is the only minor glyph that increases the DPS, so pay attention to it;

Glyph of Raise Dead is a very useful thing, by the way.

Talent Build

As long as Unholy is a damage dealing spec, it has only one useful talent build. Points distribution is 0/0/51, meaning, you have 20 points left unspent to allocate them according to your needs and wishes.

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic
Link to build

The On a Pale Horse and Improved Unholy Presence talents are highly recommended if you level on quests, especially in Outland zones; you might probably remember how large they are. Fill in the Rage of Rivendare talent as it improves your single target and AOE damage. You can also improve Scourge Strike in the Unholy branch, and Improved Icy Touch and Runic Power Mastery in the Frost branch.

UDK Rotation

Death Knight spends runes just like Warlock, for example, spends mana. All abilities cost runes of equal quantity: Blood runes for blood skills, frost runes – for icy skills. We will not give you tons of recommendations about DK runes and how to use them here; we will just mention that you have to take into consideration their quantity and allocate them correctly. Keep it in mind while translating our rotation tips into practice.

Use Plague Strike and Icy Touch;

Power up your ghoul with Ghoul Frenzy every 30 seconds or so;

Cast Blood Strike and Death Coil;

Once you have Scourge Strike, use it instead of Plague Strike after the Blood Plague.

If you have followed our build thoroughly, you have chosen Morbidity talent; in such a case, it is reasonable to use Death and Decay after applying diseases even on single targets, though it does have a stronger effect on multiple foes.

Leveling Tips

Do not neglect talents, skills, and trinkets that increase your movement speed, especially if you level up on quests. You can always redistribute  them later.

Do not save your defensive and life-saving cooldowns such as Death Pact or Icebound Fortitude for better times – they might never happen.

Do not hesitate to pull multiple enemies – Unholy Death Knight is a good AOE fighter.

Even though Death Knights do already have blue armor and weapons from the very beginning, keep searching for better gear – it is always a good thing to do. Change the locations often, but don’t stick in one place, trying to get those concrete gloves – you will find another pair soon enough.

Frost Death Knight

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic

Specialization Details

Death Knights in the Frost spec are Melee Damage Dealers just like Unholy DK, which impose certain restrictions and responsibilities. Frost DK is a viable spec that is good throughout the whole WotLK expansion. This spec singles out by having a raid wide buff that increases haste by 20 percent! The only class to have a similar ability is Shaman, but not every party has a Shaman, so we can say that FDK is pretty unique.

Like every spec of every class, Frost Death Knights have their strengths and weaknesses. We have enumerated some of them below. 

Strong sides: the raid, wide buff, we’ve spoken before. It is called Improved Icy Talons, and it is one of the greatest supports during boss or elite mobs’ fights. Another FDK talent, Howling Blast, has a strong AOE damage, which helps a lot in multiple situations. This spec has great attacking abilities in general, like Unbreakable Armor and Empower Rune Weapon.

Weak spots: unfortunately, Frost Death Knight is very slow, which makes them rather unpopular; even the raid buff they have, cannot change it. They also are gear dependent, and just like other DK specs can’t have high Damage Per Second (DPS), because of their mixed nature.

The race choice for Frost Death Knights is similar to other DK specializations. The best Alliance race is Draenei in case you have no other Draenei DK in your group. If you do, try Humans or Dwarfs, as they both have very useful racial abilities: Mace and Sword Specialization

The race selection for Horde representatives is also the same since Frost DK is not that different from Unholy spec. Orcs and Trolls are the most preferable choices. Orcs are good due to their Axe Specialization racial bonus, as Axes are the best weapon for DK in later game phases. Trolls’ racial Berserking increases attack and casting speed by 20% for 10 seconds. Even though this ability has a long cooldown (3 minutes), it still makes Trolls a preferable choice over other races.

There aren’t any changes with professions as well. The best choices are still Engineering and Jewelcrafting, as they give the greatest DPS increase in PVE content. Other useful professions might be Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, Enchanting, Inscription, or Tailoring.

Best FDK Glyphs

Warning: the following information is valid for the pre-patch and may change on the release.

Frost DK has both, unique for this specialization and repetitive with other specs glyphs. Major Glyph of the Ghoul and Glyph of Icy Touch are the same as Blood Death Knight has. Minor glyphs are the same as the ones from Unholy spec, so we won’t describe them one more time.

There are four best Major Glyphs for the FDK:

Minor Glyphs

Talent Builds

Some talents are good for early game and some – for the late phases. You should pay attention to Chilblains and Icy Reach talents, as they will ease your leveling experience. As soon as you reach maximum level, you may redirect them. On the whole, the leveling build for the Frost DK looks this way:

Death Knight Leveling Builds Guide For Wotlk Classic
Link to build

The talent points distribution is 0/51/0 with 20 points left to your personal preferences.

FDK Rotation

Warning: the following information is valid for the pre-patch and may change on the release.

Use  Plague Strike and Icy Touch first;

Collect enough Runic Power with Obliterate to deal damage with Frost Strike;

We recommend prioritize Obliterate over Howling Blast;

Use your blood runes on Blood Strike to deal with a single target and Blood Boil when you have two and more enemies.

Use Pestilence to fresh your diseases if you have inserted Glyph of Disease.

Leveling Tips

Do not be afraid to learn some new talents for the leveling – you may (and most probably will) change them later. A good example is a Lichborne talent that can save you from death, when used in combination with Death Coil.

 Unbreakable Armor is also a defensive skill that gives you additional 25% of armor. Try not to forget about that, it may be unexpectedly useful.

As always, do not hesitate to pull several mobs at once. You are a true can, and may overcome almost everything.

The same tip goes for the gear. Visit new zones and dungeons, don’t stick at one place, waiting for that very item to drop to you; you will always have new armor and weapon variants.

Buy WotLK Character Leveling

Fast and Reliable Leveling Services

Wotlk Wow 1-80 Power Leveling - Epiccarry


Whichever spec you will choose, you may be absolutely positive about its viability and strength. Death Knights may be slow, but their offensive abilities in combination with self-healing skills make them great tanks and very helpful damage dealers. In fact, each raiding group should have at least one Death Knight; better more. We recommend completing the starting quest line at least, to learn more about their nature and past. After all, do you know lots of WoW classes with their own starting location? Maybe you will have sympathy for this class and DK will become your main; who knows?