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This article is about the hero class in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. For other uses, see Death Knight (disambiguation).
"DK" redirects here. For the old PvP mechanic, see Dishonorable Kill.
See also: Starting a death knight

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King This article concerns content exclusive to Wrath of the Lich King.

When the Lich King's control of his death knights was broken, his former champions sought revenge for the horrors committed under his command. After their vengeance was won, the death knights found themselves without a cause and without a home. One by one they trickled into the land of the living in search of a new purpose.
Death knight crest.png

Death knights (introduced in Wrath of the Lich King) boast powerful melee abilities as well as plate armor. These warriors supplement their strength with dark magic. Calling upon a rune system of magic, the death knight may summon unholy, blood, and frost spells. The criterion for creating a death knight previously required the existence of a level 55+ character on the player's account on any realm[1]. However, as of December 2014, that requirement has been removed.[2]

The death knight is the first hero class in World of Warcraft. Death knights start at level 55 in Acherus: The Ebon Hold over the Eastern Plaguelands, with multiple spells and abilities ready to use, and a set of uncommon gear. When departing Ebon Hold, they have a full set of rare gear ready for Outland. Through the death knight-specific quests in this necropolis and the surrounding areas, they learn to master the power of the death knight and learn to use this new power for the will of the Lich King. Quests take them outside the necropolis and into an area within the Scarlet Enclave.

Before Patch 5.3.0, players could only create one death knight per realm, so long as they had a level 55 character already and Wrath of the Lich King on their account. Now players are able to create multiple death knights on one realm. As of patch 8.3, the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Pandaren and the recently introduced World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Allied races are now able to become death knights.


Main article: Death knight (lore)

Death knight is a name shared by several organizations of powerful necromancers. These orders share a few things in common, including riding horses with horned skulls and many of the same abilities. Playable death knights, however, are specifically death knights of the Scourge.

Immortal Soldiers

Dwarf death knight

Human death knight

Death knight as depicted in a teaser (very early concept).

Main article: Death knight (Warcraft II)

The original death knights were created for Orgrim Doomhammer by Gul'dan as powerful soldiers of the Horde. These death knights were created by placing the souls of slain Shadow Council warlocks into the corpses of fallen Stormwind knights, the first of whom was Teron Gorefiend. Unlike modern death knights of the Scourge, these ghoulish fiends were not battle-hardened warriors; they were insidious necromancers who possessed superior intellect and tremendous magical power. They often favored the use of terror tactics and reanimated the corpses of enemy soldiers who fell in battle to serve them as mindless undead minions.

Most of these death knights were destroyed during and after the Second War, either killed by the Alliance or transformed into liches by Kil'jaeden.

Champions of the Lich King

Years after the destruction of Draenor, the immensely powerful Lich King created a new breed of death knights: malevolent, rune-wielding warriors of the Scourge. The first and greatest of these was the Lich King's chosen champion, Prince Arthas Menethil, once a mighty paladin of the Silver Hand who sacrificed his soul to claim the runeblade Frostmourne in a desperate bid to save his people. The rest are primarily made up of other fallen paladins whose souls were twisted and bound to the will of the Frozen Throne [3].

Unlike Gul'dan's death knights, these dark champions possess unholy strength; however, they do not possess free will and their minds are inexorably entwined with and dominated by the Lich King's vast consciousness. Despite the potential loss of free will, some powerful mortals are intrigued by the promise of immortality and pledge their souls freely into the Lich King's service to achieve it. Baron Rivendare is an example of this.

In the years since Arthas shattered the Frozen Throne and merged with the Lich King, the power and fury of the death knights has only grown. Now these unrelenting crusaders of the damned eagerly await the Lich King's command to unleash their fury on Azeroth once again. Unlike death knights of the Old Horde, the Scourge's death knights are not limited to their use of ranged spell casting abilities. In addition, these tireless death knights are considerably stronger, faster, and more agile than they were in life. However, both generations are equally destructive and terrifying to engage in the field of battle.[4]

The Ebon Blade

A new group of death knights, the Death knights of Acherus, was later created by the Lich King to garrison the necropolis of Acherus: The Ebon Hold for the ultimate purpose of assaulting Light's Hope Chapel and destroying the Argent Dawn. In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, these death knights are freed from the will of the Lich King and ally themselves with their former factions. Working closely under the guiding blade of Highlord Darion Mograine and the bolstered Argent Crusade, the newly-freed death knights have begun their march to Northrend.

The Knights of the Ebon Blade is a faction consisting of the renegade death knights that broke free of the Lich King's control after the battle of Light's Hope Chapel (in other words, player-created death knights). Led by Highlord Darion Mograine, the Knights of the Ebon Blade have allied themselves with the Alliance and the Horde with the help of Highlord Tirion Fordring of the Knights of the Silver Hand, and have pledged to do their part in defeating their former master, the Lich King. Their main base is Acherus: The Ebon Hold, taken from the Scourge after breaking free. It should be noted that the Knights of the Ebon Blade are not a separate player faction such as the Alliance and Horde. For the purposes of gameplay, player-created death knights still belong to either the Alliance or Horde depending on their race/faction.

Notable death knights

Horde Horde

Neutral IconSmall Teron.gif Teron Gorefiend
Neutral IconSmall UndeadDeathKnight.gif Ragnok Bloodreaver
Neutral IconSmall UndeadDeathKnight.gif Gaz Soulripper


Neutral IconSmall ArthasDK.gif Arthas Menethil
Neutral IconSmall Mograine.gif Alexandros Mograine
Neutral IconSmall DeathKnight.gif Baron Rivendare
Neutral IconSmall Cultist Male.gif Lord Alexei Barov
Horde IconSmall Trag.gif Trag Highmountain
Horde IconSmall Dranosh.gif Deathbringer Saurfang

Ebon Blade Knights of the Ebon Blade

Neutral IconSmall Darion.gif Darion Mograine
Horde IconSmall BloodElfDeathKnight Male.gif Koltira Deathweaver
Alliance IconSmall HumanDeathKnight Male.gif Thassarian

Shadowfang Keep

Neutral IconSmall HumanDeathKnight Male.gif Commander Springvale


Main article: Death knight races

The death knight class can be played by the following races, with the following stats:

Sortable table
Race Strength Agility Stamina Intellect Spirit Armor Health** New Health
Alliance IconSmall DraeneiDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall DraeneiDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 109 70 99 29 44* 140 2169 2939
Alliance IconSmall DwarfDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall DwarfDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 113* 69 100* 28 41 138 2179 2979*
Alliance IconSmall GnomeDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall GnomeDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 103 75 99 33* 42 159 2169 2939
Alliance IconSmall HumanDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall HumanDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 108 73 99 29 43 146 2169 2949
Alliance IconSmall NightElfDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall NightElfDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 104 77* 99 29 42 154 2169 2939
Alliance IconSmall WorgenDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall WorgenDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Cataclysm 111 75 99 25 41 0 2169 2949
Horde IconSmall BloodElfDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall BloodElfDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 105 75* 99 32* 40 150 2169 2929
Horde IconSmall UndeadDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall UndeadDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 107 71 99 27 47* 142 2169 2959
Horde IconSmall GoblinDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall GoblinDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Cataclysm 105 75* 99 32* 40 0 2169 2949
Horde IconSmall OrcDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall OrcDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 111 70 100* 26 44 140 2179 2969
Horde IconSmall TaurenDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall TaurenDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 113* 69 100* 25 44 138 2246 3117***
Horde IconSmall TrollDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall TrollDeathKnight Female.gif World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 109 75* 99 25 43 150 2169 2959


In general, the death knight can be considered a hybrid melee class that combines damage dealing and tanking, somewhat akin to warriors. They wear plate armor and are able to dual-wield or use two-handed blade weapons (and maces, as revealed later). Like druids and monks, they tank without shields. Their tanking mechanics involve high armor and a high chance to parry.[5] Death knight tanks depend on a combination of high damage abilities, in addition to high threat abilities.

The death knight has three different specializations; the differences between them are not as clear-cut as those of other classes, both for PvP and PvE environments. Notably, death knights can tank or deal damage regardless of specialization, although a careful selection is still required to bolster their preferred role. In Patch 4.0.1, the roles became more defined, with Blood becoming the Tank specialization tree, and the others being DPS.

Blood enhances the death knight's melee abilities and damage and vastly improves the ability to heal itself. Blood also provides healing utility to party and raids and has some very useful buffs and debuffs that the death knight can cast on others. Blood is considered the tree for soloing and should be given a thought when it comes time to level your death knight.

Frost enhances melee abilities and focuses on increasing both AoE and single target damage. It provides some very powerful direct damage abilities.

Unholy enhances the death knight's diseases and damage over time spells, making them effective at AoE DPS. It also provides the death knight with a ghoul who is a permanent pet, a gargoyle guardian he or she can summon, and stronger diseases.

The Rune System

Death knights use a unique rune-based resource system to govern their spells and abilities. Using certain abilities exhausts one or more runes, starting a cooldown of 10 seconds. After the cooldown, the runes refresh. The haste stat reduces the cooldown of runes.

In addition, whenever they use a rune ability against a foe, it builds up a certain amount of Runic Power. Runic Power is consumed by certain abilities, which the death knight can use while his/her runes are on cooldown.[6] All abilities that use Runic Power use a set amount.[7]

The original player frame for death knights shown at BlizzCon was changed as feedback showed it was not ideal for displaying rune power for players.


A dark guardian who manipulates and corrupts life energy to sustain himself in the face of an enemy onslaught.
- Official description
Stat priority
  • Strength
  • Bonus Armor
  • Multistrike
  • Mastery
  • Versatility
  • Haste

Dark Command

Ability Min Level
Asphyxiate Starts with
Heart Strike Starts with
Marrowrend 55
Veteran of the Third War 55
Blood Boil 56
Death and Decay 56
Dancing Rune Weapon 57
Ability Min Level
Vampiric Blood 57
Death's Caress 58
Crimson Scourge 63
Gorefiend's Grasp 64
Mastery: Blood Shield 78
An icy harbinger of doom, channeling runic power and delivering vicious weapon strikes.
- Official description
Stat priority
  • Strength
  • Mastery (dual-wield) / Haste (until 600, two-handed)
  • Critical Strike
  • Haste (dual-wield) / Mastery (two-handed)
  • Multistrike
  • Versatility

Frost Strike


Ability Min Level
Dual Wield Starts with
Runic Empowerment Starts with
Frost Fever 55
Frost Strike 55
Howling Blast 55
Obliterate 55
Killing Machine 56
Empower Rune Weapon 57
Ability Min Level
Pillar of Frost 57
Remorseless Winter 57
Dark Succor 58
Rime 59
Chains of Ice 63
Mastery: Frozen Heart 78
A master of death and decay, spreading disease and controlling undead minions to do her bidding.
- Official description
Stat priority
  • Strength
  • Mastery
  • Critical Strike
  • Haste
  • Multistrike
  • Versatility
Ability Min Level
Festering Wound Starts with
Runic Corruption Starts with
Death Coil 55
Festering Strike 55
Outbreak 55
Raise Dead 55
Scourge Strike 55
Death and Decay 56
Ability Min Level
Dark Succor 58
Chains of Ice 63
Sudden Doom 64
Dark Transformation 74
Summon Gargoyle 75
Mastery: Dreadblade 78
Army of the Dead 82


Death Grip

* Quest rewarded abilities.
New with World of Warcraft: Legion pre-patch systems Patch 7.0.3.
Ability Min Level
Corpse Explosion 40
Death Gate 55*
Death Grip 55
Death Strike 55
Runeforging 55
Acherus Deathcharger 55*
Anti-Magic Shell 57
Dark Command 58
Ability Min Level
Wraith Walk 60
On a Pale Horse 61
Mind Freeze 62
Icebound Fortitude 65
Path of Frost 66
Control Undead 69
Raise Ally 72

Blood Plague

Blood Plague
Frost Fever
Plate Specialization
Main article: Runeforging


Runeforging allows the death knight to permanently enchant their weapon with enchants that are typically more powerful than enchants available to other classes. The enchants work just like the permanent weapon enchants provided by Enchanting, but are self-only and are designed specifically to benefit the death knight class. These are independent of the rune resource system.

A weapon can have an enchant from either runeforging or from Enchanting, but not both. A player will have to be near a runeforge in order to forge a rune onto their weapon. Once a weapon has been engraved with a rune it is impossible for the rune to be removed, though it can be changed at a runeforge. Also, even if it is not soulbound, once a weapon has been engraved with a rune it is impossible for that weapon to be traded.

Runeforges can be found in Acherus: The Ebon Hold or in some of the Icecrown questing areas inside of the metal dams.

Rune Type Level Weapon Type
Rune of Razorice Frost 55 Any
Rune of the Fallen Crusader Heal 70 Any
Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle Armor, Stamina 72 Two-handed
Level Abilities (choose one)
56 Blood Bloodworms
Frost (Death Knight) Shattering Strikes
Unholy All Will Serve
Blood Heartbreaker
Frost (Death Knight) Icy Talons
Unholy Bursting Spores
Blood Blooddrinker
Frost (Death Knight) Murderous Efficiency
Unholy Ebon Fever
57 Blood Rapid Decomposition
Frost (Death Knight) Freezing Fog
Unholy Epidemic
Blood Soulgorge
Frost (Death Knight) Frozen Pulse
Unholy Pestilent Pustules
Blood Spectral Deflection
Frost (Death Knight) Horn of Winter
Unholy Blighted Rune Weapon
58 Blood Ossuary
Frost (Death Knight) Icecap
Unholy Unholy Frenzy
Blood Blood Tap
Frost (Death Knight) Hungering Rune Weapon
Unholy Castigator
Blood Anti-Magic Barrier
Frost (Death Knight) Avalanche
Unholy Clawing Shadows
60 Blood Mark of Blood
Frost (Death Knight) Abomination's Might
Unholy Sludge Belcher
Blood Red Thirst
Frost (Death Knight) Blinding Sleet
Unholy Asphyxiate
Blood Tombstone
Frost (Death Knight) Winter is Coming
Unholy Debilitating Infestation
75 Blood Tightening Grasp
Frost (Death Knight) Volatile Shielding
Unholy Spell Eater
Blood Tremble Before Me
Frost (Death Knight) Permafrost
Unholy Corpse Shield
Blood March of the Damned
Frost (Death Knight) White Walker
Unholy Lingering Apparition
90 Blood Will of the Necropolis
Frost (Death Knight) Frostscythe
Unholy Shadow Infusion
Blood Rune Tap
Frost (Death Knight) Runic Attenuation
Unholy Necrosis
Blood Foul Bulwark
Frost (Death Knight) Gathering Storm
Unholy Infected Claws
100 Blood Bonestorm
Frost (Death Knight) Obliteration
Unholy Dark Arbiter
Blood Blood Mirror
Frost (Death Knight) Breath of Sindragosa
Unholy Defile
Blood Purgatory
Frost (Death Knight) Glacial Advance
Unholy Soul Reaper
Name Specialization
Glyph of Cracked Ice All
Glyph of Foul Menagerie Unholy Unholy
Glyph of the Blood Wraith All
Glyph of the Chilled Shell All
Glyph of the Crimson Shell All
Glyph of the Geist All
Glyph of the Skeleton All
Glyph of the Unholy Wraith All
Glyph of the Wraith Walker All
Honor Level Talent
1 Gladiator's Medallion
2 Blood Relentless Assault, Frost (Death Knight)Unholy Hardiness
4 Cadaverous Pallor
6 Decomposing Aura
8 Blood Unholy Command, Frost (Death Knight) Deathchill, Unholy Crypt Fever
10 Blood Last Dance, Frost (Death Knight) Tundra Stalker, Unholy Unholy Mutation
13 Adaptation
16 Blood Murderous Intent, Frost (Death Knight)Unholy Reinforced Armor
19 Dark Simulacrum
22 Heartstop Aura
25 Blood Walking Dead, Frost (Death Knight) Frozen Center, Unholy Pandemic
28 Blood Blood for Blood, Frost (Death Knight) Overpowered Rune Weapon, Unholy Reanimation
31 Relentless
34 Blood Softened Blows, Frost (Death Knight)Unholy Sparring
37 Anti-Magic Zone
40 Necrotic Aura
43 Blood Strangulate, Frost (Death Knight) Delirium, Unholy Wandering Plague
46 Blood Death Chain, Frost (Death Knight) Chill Streak, Unholy Necrotic Strike

Suggested professions

Note: This is a generic section stub. You can help expand it by clicking Sprite-monaco-pencil.png Edit to the right of the section title.
  • Skinning [Skinning] and Mining [Mining] are logical choices for any Plate armor wearing class. This allows crafting decent armor as one levels and sometimes good weapons. Death knights need to play catch up usually, since they start leveling from the mid 50s. So, they have to visit several low level zones to build up their Mining skill.
  • Alchemy [Alchemy] and Herbalism [Herbalism] can be useful for death knights with non-Blood specialization who need quick potion heals and various buffs from elixirs and flasks. These professions are also good all around for making money and supplying guild runs.
  • Cooking [Cooking] is good for any non-healing class for non-combat health regeneration and provides good buff foods.
  • First Aid [First Aid] is good for any non-healing class for in-combat health regeneration and low downtime regeneration.
  • Fishing [Fishing] is good for leveling cooking.




Official art
Fan art


See also

Patch changes

  • World of Warcraft: Legion Patch 7.0.3 (19-Jul-2016): Runes are more straightforward by removing their division into separate Blood, Frost, and Unholy types. Death Knights now have six unified Runes to spend, with a maximum of three recharging at any one time.; Reducing ability overlap between specializations, giving each a single disease with a unique trait and creating a talent tree that’s largely populated with spec-specific talents to better distinguish them.
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King/ World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Patch 4.0.1 (12-Oct-2010): See Death Knight/Cataclysm changes.
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Patch 3.0.8 (2009-01-20): All multi-rune abilities generate 15 runic power.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Nethaera 2014-12-12. Death Knight Creation Change. Official World of Warcraft Community > General Discussion forum (US).
  3. ^ a b Death Knight. Blizzard Entertainment Warcraft III. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
  4. ^ Death Knight Lore. Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
  5. ^ Gerald Villoria 2008-05-09. Enter the Death Knight. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
  6. ^ Cody Bye 2008-05-09. World of Warcraft: An In-Depth Look at the death knight. Ten Ton Hammer.
  7. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Ghostcrawler 2008-07-22. 10. Rune Configuration Swapping: What's the plan?. Archived from the original on 2008-08-31.
  8. ^ Death Knight. Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
  9. ^ A&HC, 24

External links