Death Knight

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IconLarge Deathknight.gif Death Knight
Orc death knight.jpg
Krog the Deathfist, an orc death knight
Favored byBlood elfBlood elf Blood elf

DwarfDwarf Dwarf
DraeneiDraenei Draenei
ForsakenForsaken Forsaken
GnomeGnome Gnome
GoblinGoblin Goblin
HumanHuman Human
Night elfNight elf Night elf
OrcOrc Orc
TaurenTauren Tauren
TrollTroll Troll

WorgenWorgen Worgen
Role(s)Tank, Melee DPS
SpecializationsBlood, Frost, Unholy
Resource(s)Runes, Runic Power
Primary attributeStrength
Weapon proficiencyPolearms, One-handed, Off-hand or Two-handed Sword, Axe and Mace
Armor proficiencyCloth, Leather, Mail, Plate
Skill(s)Can switch between Blood Presence, Frost Presence and Unholy Presence for different situations, Death Grip, Army of the Dead, Runeforging
Classes Death knight Druid Hunter Mage Monk Paladin Priest Rogue Shaman Warlock Warrior
Starting a DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Tactics DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Class races DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Quests DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Abilities DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Trainers DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Armor sets DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Useful macros DK Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
This article is about the playable class in World of Warcraft. For other uses, see Death Knight (disambiguation).

Death knights are melee fighters that wield dark magic and runeforged weapons. The death knight is the first hero class of World of Warcraft, introduced in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Each death knight begins at level 55 in a phased, instanced area known as Plaguelands: The Scarlet Enclave. Only one death knight may be created per realm, and a player may not create a death knight without having at least one character at or above level 55.

Death knights utilize enchanted rune weapons that enhance their abilities and are powerful foes on the battlefield. Like warriors, they deal large amounts of physical damage and are capable of withstanding large amounts of damage to protect their allies. Death knights spread infections and diseases among their enemies, and use dark magics to heal themselves in battle. Born of the frozen north, death knights can command the frost in their veins to freeze the hearts and minds of their enemies, or even turn the very ground beneath their feet to ice. By their very nature, death knights are resistant to magic, and have a number of abilities for defending against its use.

Death knight abilities rely on a rune system of Blood, Frost, Unholy, and Death Runes that, when used to perform attacks, generate Runic Power as a resource for different attacks. Runic Power is capped at 100. Blood death knights have many abilities and talents that aid in generating runes. Frost death knights deal large amounts of damage through powerful strikes and use of runic power. Unholy death knights focus more on rune regeneration, fast-paced attacks, and the aid of an undead minion.

Death knights can assume and shift between any one of three Presences: Blood Presence, Frost Presence and Unholy Presence. Each provides its own benefits, and certain abilities, such as Rune Strike, change their effects based on Presence, but shifting between Presences will consume all Runic Power collected by the death knight. Death knights can wear any type of armor from the moment of creation and begin with a full set of Uncommon-quality plate armor. They can wield any type of sword, mace, axe, or polearm and can dual-wield one-handed swords, maces, or axes. Death knights have their own, unique, enchantments acquired by Runeforging, and also have two unique mounts, the Acherus Deathcharger (ability) and the purchasable Winged Steed of the Ebon Blade.

Primary death knight attributes are strength and stamina. Death knight tanks also seek to increase their dodge rating and parry rating. Death knight damage-dealers seek to increase their critical strike and haste ratings. Hit rating and expertise can be useful to death knights of any role. While levelling through content from The Burning Crusade, a death knight may also focus on Agility due to the lack of Strength-enhancing items.

Class overview

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. Frost sharpens their strikes; blood fortifies their bodies; and undeath allows them to erupt in unholy rage in the heat of battle. A thousand atrocities are etched in the eyes of every death knight, and foes who gaze into them too long will feel the warmth pulled from their bodies, replaced with cold steel.[1]


Death Knight

Creations of the Shadow Council

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 the slain warlocks of the Shadow Council 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.

Fallen Knights of the Silver Hand

Main article: Death knight (Warcraft III)
Prince Arthas Menethil was the first of the Lich King's death knights.

Death Knights were once virtuous defenders of Humanity. However, once the Paladin ranks were disbanded by the failing Alliance, many of these holy warriors traveled to the quarantined lands to ease the suffering of those left within the plague-ridden colonies. Though the Paladins were immune to disease of any kind, they were persecuted by the general populace who believed that they had been infected by the foul plague. A small band of Paladins, embittered by society's cruelty, traveled north to find the plague's source. These renegade Paladins succumbed to bitter hatred over the course of their grueling quest. When they finally reached Ner'zhul's icy fortress in Northrend they had become dark and brooding. The Lich King offered them untold power in exchange for their services and loyalty. The weary, vengeful warriors accepted his dark pact, and although they retained their humanity, their twisted souls were bound to his evil will for all time. Bestowed with black, vampiric Runeblades and shadowy steeds, Death Knights serve as the Scourge's mightiest generals.[2]

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 warriors or paladins whose souls were twisted and bound to the will of the Frozen Throne.[2]

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 heavy costs 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).

There are examples of death knights created during the Third War who did not give themselves willingly. Falric and Marwyn were killed and raised as death knights against their will by Arthas. Thassarian was killed by Captain Falric shortly after this. As all three precede the destruction of Lordaeron, they would have been created before the aforementioned paladins. Koltira Deathweaver was also killed and raised by Thassarian in the midst of the destruction of Quel’Thalas during the Third War.

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.[3]

The Death Knights of Acherus

Main article: Knights of the Ebon Blade
A female, human Death Knight of Acherus.

A hero... that's what you once were. You stood boldly against the Shadow and purchased another dawn for the world... with your life. But the evil you fought is not so easily banished; the victory you claimed, not so easily held. For now, the specter of death looms over the world yet again and it has found new champions to bring about its final reign. Knights of darkness, wielding runes of death and destruction, bound by the will of the Lich King. This is the hour of their ascension! This is the hour of your dark rebirth...

Death knights are the former champions of the Scourge. They fortify their bodies and drain life energy itself with the power of blood, sharpen their blades and strike powerfully with the power of frost, and raise the dead while striking with the unholy fervor granted by undeath. They are engines of destruction chosen by the Undead Scourge to serve the almighty will of the Lich King.[4]

The playable death knights are the uniformly undead[5] members of the Death Knights of Acherus, a regiment consisting of hundreds[6] of death knights stationed at the necropolis Acherus: The Ebon Hold under the direct command of the Lich King and Highlord Darion Mograine. These death knights were set loose upon the Scarlet Enclave, culminating in the flight of the newly-formed Scarlet Onslaught to Northrend and the subsequent massacre known as the Scarlet Apocalypse, in which the death knights decimated Scarlet reinforcements. After this, the Death Knights of Acherus were sent to Light's Hope Chapel to destroy the Argent Dawn.

During the Battle for Light's Hope Chapel, the Lich King, in betrayal of his death knights, was willing to sacrifice them to kill Highlord Fordring. Darion threw the Ashbringer to Highlord Fordring, purifying it and, in a large burst of Light, freeing the death knights from the Lich King's grasp and forcing the Lich King to retreat.

The freed death knights took Acherus from the Scourge and formed the Knights of the Ebon Blade under the command of Highlord Mograine. The Ebon Blade sent many of its freed death knights to their respective factions – Alliance or Horde. The Knights of the Ebon Blade would later become a major factor in the death of the Lich King, joining the Argent Crusade to form the Ashen Verdict.

Knights of the Ebon Blade are conditioned with a need to cause pain; the need is so great that, if not sated, it can drive a death knight into a blood-seeking hysteria. It overrides magic dependency.[7][8] Additionally, without the protection of the Lich King, shades from the Realm of Shadows constantly torment liberated death knights.[9] Death knights afflicted by the worgen curse have their feral instincts shattered in favor of the Lich King's will. This holds true even after their freedom from the Lich King.[10]

While in the Scourge, death knights are known to have eaten meals consisting primarily of humanoid meat, vermin, and insects.[11] They are capable of sleeping though it is not necessary and was forbidden by the Scourge.[6]


Main article: Death knight races

All races released prior to World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria can be death knights, and start with the following attributes:

Race Strength Agility Stamina Intellect Spirit Armor Health
Alliance IconSmall DraeneiDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall DraeneiDeathKnight Female.gif Draenei WotLK 109 70 99 29 44 140 2169
Alliance IconSmall DwarfDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall DwarfDeathKnight Female.gif Dwarf WotLK 113 69 100 28 41 138 2179
Alliance IconSmall GnomeDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall GnomeDeathKnight Female.gif Gnome WotLK 103 75 99 33 42 159 2169
Alliance IconSmall HumanDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall HumanDeathKnight Female.gif Human WotLK 108 73 99 29 43 146 2169
Alliance IconSmall NightElfDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall NightElfDeathKnight Female.gif Night Elf WotLK 104 77 99 29 42 154 2169
Alliance IconSmall WorgenDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall WorgenDeathKnight Female.gif Worgen Cataclysm 111 75 99 25 41  ? 2169
Horde IconSmall BloodElfDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall BloodElfDeathKnight Female.gif Blood Elf WotLK 105 75 99 32 40 150 2169
Horde IconSmall ForsakenDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall ForsakenDeathKnight Female.gif Undead WotLK 107 71 99 27 47 142 2169
Horde IconSmall GoblinDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall GoblinDeathKnight Female.gif Goblin Cataclysm 105 75 99 32 40  ? 2169
Horde IconSmall OrcDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall OrcDeathKnight Female.gif Orc WotLK 111 70 100 26 44 140 2179
Horde IconSmall TaurenDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall TaurenDeathKnight Female.gif Tauren WotLK 113 69 100 25 44 138 2246
Horde IconSmall TrollDeathKnight Male.gifIconSmall TrollDeathKnight Female.gif Troll WotLK 109 75 99 25 43 150 2169

Racial abilities

In-game model of a dwarven death knight.

These are some of the racial traits relevant to death knights:

Notable death knights

See also: List of death knights
Name Role Condition Location Allegiance
Neutral IconSmall Cultist Male.gifIconSmall Skeleton.gif Lord Alexei Barov Lord of the House of Barov. Former owner of Caer Darrow, Brill, Southshore, and Tarren Mill. Undead Scholomance Formerly Undead Scourge and Cult of the Damned.
Neutral IconSmall HumanDeathKnight Male.gif Orbaz Bloodbane A leading member of the Death Knights of Acherus. Escaped during the Battle for Light's Hope Chapel and later went on to lead the Host of Suffering, the death knights assigned to the necropolis named Malykriss: The Vile Hold that was under construction in Icecrown. Slain by Darion Mograine and agents of the Knights of the Ebon Blade. Deceased (lore); Undead, Killable (WoW) Icecrown Undead Scourge, Host of Suffering. Formerly Death Knights of Acherus.
Neutral IconSmall UndeadDeathKnight.gif Ragnok Bloodreaver Death knight of the Shadow Council. Attempted to enslave Nether drakes on Draenor. Slain by Jorad Mace. Deceased Unknown Shadow Council, Horde of Draenor.
Horde IconSmall BloodElfDeathKnight Male.gif Koltira Deathweaver First Death Knight to re-join the Horde. Undead Unknown (lore); Orgrim's Hammer WotLK, Andorhal Cataclysm Knights of the Ebon Blade, Undercity, Silvermoon City, Horde, formerly Undead Scourge
Neutral IconSmall Teron.gif Teron Gorefiend First death knight created by Gul’dan. Former warlock of the Shadow Council and leader of the Shadowmoon Clan. Deceased (lore); Undead, Killable (WoW) Black Temple Illidan's Forces, formerly Shadowmoon Clan, Shadow Council, and Horde of Draenor.
Horde IconSmall Trag.gif Trag Highmountain Raised into undeath by the Orb of Ner'zhul. Allied with the Taunka. Undead Argent Tournament Grounds The Icemist Tribe, formerly Undead Scourge.
Neutral IconSmall ArthasDK.gif IconSmall LichKing.gif Arthas Menethil Former Prince of Lordaeron, Knight of the Silver Hand, Death Knight of Ner’zhul, former Lich King. Slain by the forces of the Ashen Verdict. Deceased (lore); Undead, Killable (WoW) Icecrown Citadel Undead Scourge, formerly the Kingdom of Lordaeron, Knights of the Silver Hand, and Alliance of Lordaeron.
Neutral IconSmall Mograine.gif Highlord Alexandros Mograine Former Knight of the Silver Hand. Original wielder of the Ashbringer. Former leader of the Four Horsemen of Naxxramas. Slain and freed from undeath by his son. Deceased Naxxramas (original) None. Undead Scourge in undeath. Knights of the Silver Hand and Alliance of Lordaeron before undeath.
Neutral IconSmall Darion.gif Highlord Darion Mograine Former Highlord of the Death Knights of Acherus. Wielder of the Corrupted Ashbringer. Highlord of the Knights of the Ebon Blade. Co-leader of the Ashen Verdict. Undead Acherus: The Ebon Hold, Light's Hammer Knights of the Ebon Blade. Formerly Death Knights of Acherus and Undead Scourge.
Neutral IconSmall DeathKnight.gif Baron Rivendare Former Baron of the Stratholme Service Entrance. Leader of the Four Horsemen of Naxxramas. Deceased (lore); Undead, Killable (WoW) Stratholme (original), Naxxramas Undead Scourge, Cult of the Damned.
Neutral IconSmall Deathbringer.gif Dranosh Saurfang Known as The Deathbringer, strongest of the Lich King’s death knights. Slain during the Battle of Angrathar the Wrathgate and raised into undeath. Slain once more by the forces of the Ashen Verdict. Deceased (lore); Undead, Killable (WoW) Icecrown Citadel Undead Scourge, formerly the Horde.
Horde IconSmall UndeadDeathKnight.gif Gaz Soulripper Placed in charge of matters on the Azerothian side of the Dark Portal reconstruction during the invasion of Draenor. Slain by Turalyon. Deceased Unknown Shadow Council, Horde of Draenor.
Alliance IconSmall Cultist Male.gif Thassarian First Death Knight to re-join the Alliance. Undead The Skybreaker WotLK, Andorhal, Sethria's Roost Cataclysm Knights of the Ebon Blade, Alliance, formerly Undead Scourge


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

Death knights in World of Warcraft are a new class mirroring their previous incarnations. While boasting 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 is the existence of a level 55+ character on the player's account on any realm[12].

Unlocking your death knight

Main article: Starting a death knight

The death knight is the first hero class in World of Warcraft. The death knight will 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 you leave Ebon Hold, you will have a full set of rare gear ready for Outland. Through the death knight-specific quests in this necropolis and the surrounding areas, the character learns to master the power of the death knight and learns to use this new power for the will of the Lich King. Quests will take them outside the necropolis and into an area within the Scarlet Enclave.

Players can create one death knight per realm, so long as they have a level 55 character already (on at least one realm), and the Wrath of the Lich King on their account. Except for Pandaren (who did not appear in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion), there are no racial limitations for creating your death knight.

The rune system

The final frame art used since WotLK public release.

The death knight uses a unique rune-based resource system to govern his/her spells and abilities. Three rune types exist: blood, frost, and unholy, each with an attached color and symbol. Using certain abilities exhausts one or more runes, starting a cooldown of 10 seconds. When both runes of a particular type are used, the second rune does not begin its cooldown until the first one finishes. The death knight can use spells to turn a rune into a Death Rune, which can be used as a blood, frost, or unholy rune. In addition, whenever the death knight uses a rune ability, it builds up a certain amount of Runic Power. This Runic Power is only used by a few abilities.[13] All abilities that use Runic Power use a set amount, like Death Coil. Death knights cannot reallocate the number and type of runes - they are fixed to two runes of each type.[14]

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.

Runeforging is a profession available only to death knights, providing permanent weapon enchants. 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.

Character's role

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 weapons. Like druids, they tank without shields. Their tanking mechanics involve high armor and a high chance to dodge and parry a,d.[15] Death knight tanks depend on a combination of high damage abilities, in addition to high threat abilities, such as Death and Decay and Rune Strike, to generate and hold aggro.


An orc death knight wielding a runeblade.


A dark guardian who manipulates and corrupts life energy to sustain <him/her>self in the face of an enemy onslaught.

Blood is the death knight tanking tree, primarily amplifying the death knight's melee spells, weapons, and abilities. It enhances tanking abilities and provides new abilities to use, such as Bone Shield and Vampiric Blood. As the name suggests, the special abilities it grants through talents are based on the Blood Runes. Blood has a prominent health-regeneration theme, as well as providing healing utility to party and raids. It also has some very useful buffs and debuffs, such as Scarlet Fever.

Ability Level
Blood Rites 55
Vengeance 55
Veteran of the Third War 55
Dark Command 58
Heart Strike 60
Scent of Blood 62
Improved Blood Presence 64
Rune Tap 64
Rune Strike 65
Blood Parasite 66
Scarlet Fever 68
Will of the Necropolis 70
Sanguine Fortitude 72
Dancing Rune Weapon 74
Vampiric Blood 76
Bone Shield 78
Mastery: Blood Shield 80


Spell deathknight frostpresence.png
An icy harbinger of doom, channeling runic power and delivering vicious weapon strikes.

Frost has many control elements, with a strong critical-strike/bonus-damage theme, and enhances the dual-weapon and two-weapon DPS abilities. It provides some very powerful direct damage abilities like Frost Strike and Howling Blast.

Ability Level
Blood of the North 55
Frost Strike 55
Howling Blast 55
Icy Talons 55
Obliterate 58
Unholy Aura 60
Killing Machine 63
Improved Frost Presence 65
Brittle Bones 66
Pillar of Frost 68
Rime 70
Might of the Frozen Wastes 74
Threat of Thassarian 74
Mastery: Frozen Heart 80


A master of death and decay, spreading infection and controlling undead minions to do <his/her> bidding.

Unholy has a heavy focus on diseases and related abilities, with AoE, spell damage shielding, and mobility-improvement sub-themes. It enhances the death knight's diseases and damage over time spells, as well as improving summoned minions. It also provides the death knight with a ghoul who is a permanent pet, and a gargoyle guardian he or she can summon. Raid and party utility is granted by a 4% increased physical damage debuff, Ebon Plaguebringer.

Ability Level
Master of Ghouls 55
Reaping 55
Unholy Might 55
Scourge Strike 58
Shadow Infusion 60
Unholy Aura 60
Festering Strike 62
Sudden Doom 64
Unholy Frenzy 66
Ebon Plaguebringer 68
Dark Transformation 70
Summon Gargoyle 74
Improved Unholy Presence 75
Mastery: Dreadblade 80


Due to starting the game at level 55, death knights get their first three talent tiers at levels 56, 57 and 58, rather than being created with three unspent talents.

Death knight talents
Level Choices
56 Roiling Blood Plague Leech Unholy Blight
57 Lichborne Anti-Magic Zone Purgatory
58 Death's Advance Chilblains Asphyxiate
60 Death Pact Death Siphon Conversion
75 Blood Tap Runic Empowerment Runic Corruption
90 Gorefiend's Grasp Remorseless Winter Desecrated Ground


Main article: Runeforging
The Runeforge is a Scourge instrument that creates runeblades.

Runeforging allows the death knight to permanently enchant their weapon. These enchants act as a replacement for the stat enhancements provided by shields or ranged weapons, which death knights cannot wear.

A weapon can have an enchant from either runeforging or from Enchanting, but not both together (the runeforging enchants are usually considered better). 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 exchanged for a different rune. Like all weapons that have been modified, a runeforged weapon becomes soulbound to its death knight.

Rune Level
Rune of Cinderglacier 55
Rune of Razorice 55
Rune of Spellbreaking 57
Rune of Spellshattering 57
Rune of Lichbane 60
Rune of Swordbreaking 63
Rune of Swordshattering 63
Rune of the Fallen Crusader 70
Rune of the Nerubian Carapace 72
Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle 72



Patch changes

  • MoP Patch 5.0.4 (2012-08-28): Relics have been removed from the game.
  • Cataclysm Patch 4.0.1 (2010-10-12):
    • A dedicated tanking tree (Blood) has been implemented.
    • The way in which runes recharge has changed. Rather than each rune type (Blood, Frost, Unholy) regenerating simultaneously, they now fill sequentially.
  • WotLK Patch 3.0.8 (2009-01-20): All multi-rune abilities generate 15 runic power.

See also


External links

Template:Warcraft RPG classes Template:WoW RPG classes