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WoW WotLK Death Knight guide: talents, abilities, and leveling

The WoW WotLK Death Knight is one of the MMO’s premier classes, so here’s a rundown of the best talents, abilities, and leveling options

WoW WotLK Death Knight guide: talents, abilities, and leveling: Three knights in dark twisted armour stand with green, blue, and red glowing weapons in a snowy landscape as a set of glowing blue eyes looks down on them

The WoW WotLK Death Knight class is one of the MMORPG’s most mysterious, so if you’re looking to dive into Wrath Classic as one of these undead warriors you’ll need a rundown of the best talents, abilities, and leveling options. Picking your class in World of Warcraft completely dictates how the game will play out for you. With unique racial backstories, abilities, and traits, selecting a class that suits your playstyle is an essential part of your WoW adventure.

Given that Wrath of the Lich King Classic is the next expansion to get the World of Warcraft Classic lick of paint, you’ll likely be wanting to dive in as one of Arthas’ Death Knights; a collection of powerful undead warriors who have been pulled from the beyond to serve the Lich King’s abominable regime. Making their first appearance in WotLK, now is the perfect time to relive this chapter of the WoW saga as the class it was literally made for.

So, if you’re looking for a WoW WotLK Classic Death Knight guide, here’s our rundown of all the best talents, abilities, and leveling tools to help you tear down your former master in style.

WoW WotLK Death Knight guide: talents, abilities, and leveling: Three death knights on undead horses stand in a barren wasteland with ogres and monsters around them

Best race for the WotLK Death Knight

While technically all races can be Death Knights (Arthas isn’t exactly picky), there are a few races that are just built to become masters of all things shadowy. If you’re playing as Horde, Orc is the best race for Death Knights – especially if you’re tanking. For Alliance choose Dwarf or Draenei, and for PvP we recommend Human.

These are the best options because their racial traits synergize with different elements of the Death Knight toolkit. Orcs have Blood Fury, which is helpful with tanking debuffs, and the Dwarf’s Stoneform gives you 10% more armour, as well as immunity to bleed, poison, and disease – all of the things Arthas uses best.

With Draenei, the best gear in the endgame are axes, which are perfect for them, so if you plan to stay awhile in Northrend, then Draenei might be the one for you. This is the race I’d recommend, as I play a Death Knight Draenei and their endgame prowess is second to none.

In both instances these buffs are very slight, so we’d urge you to play whatever race you like if you’re not looking to take things too seriously. After all, you can’t change it later on.

Talents, specs, and abilities

When you first step into the undead shoes of one of WotLK’s Death Knights, you’ll be given three different specs to choose from: Blood, Frost, or Unholy.

If you’re new to the class and are looking to play in groups, we recommend taking Unholy because of its reliance on buffs and debuffs. For solo play, Blood will always be the way to go – especially when tanking.

Frost, however, is the balance between the two, so for those looking for an all-round good build, this is what we’d recommend. The talents for a Frost Death Knight are listed below – note that WoW WotLK Classic uses the Talent Tree system, so there is no distinction between talent and abilities as in later expansions.

Talent Spec Rank
Butchery Blood 2
Subversion Blood 3
Bladed Armour Blood 5
Dark Conviction Blood 5
Improved Icy Touch Frost 3
Runic Power Mastery Frost 2
Black Ice Frost 5
Nerves of Cold Steel Frost 3
Icy Talons Frost 5
Annihilation Frost 3
Killing Machine Frost 5
Chill of the Grave Frost 2
Endless Winter Frost 2
Glacier Rot Frost 3
Improved Icy Talons Frost 1
Merciless Combat Frost 2
Rime Frost 3
Threat of Thassarian Frost 3
Blood of the North Frost 3
Unbreakable Armour Frost 1
Frost Strike Frost 1
Guile of Gorefiend Frost 3
Tundra Stalker Frost 5
Howling Blast Frost 1

Death Knight leveling in WotLK Classic

The thing you’ll need to bear in mind when it comes to leveling your Death Knight is that the process is (unfortunately) rather slow. You’ll want to ensure that you keep auto-attacking in the early stages because Death Knights deal some heavy damage with autos, but from there things will get more complex.

You’ll want to make use of Icy Touch and Plague Strike immediately, as these apply different diseases that do damage over time. Layer these with Pestilence to infect other enemies and tear down mobs quickly.

From here, use Blood Boil and Obliterate, then Frost Strike to keep your runic power levels up. For bigger mobs, you can then use Howling Blast to stack Rime, and follow it up with Death and Decay.

You’ll also want to keep Horn of Winter active at all times, as this increases your and your allies strength and agility (provided they’re within 3 metres). It also generates runic power, which is essential to unlocking the likes of Blood Boil or Obliterate.

Of the class’ three different presences, you’ll want to take Blood Presence. This is the standard leveling presence, as it increases your damage output, as well as providing you with little bursts of health.

If you’re really struggling and find yourself getting sent straight back to the afterlife with every fight, you can drop some runic power on Icebound Fortitude in order to give yourself some much-needed defence – death isn’t the end in WoW, but it sure is frustrating.

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So that’s everything you need to know to get a running start as a Death Knight in WoW WotLK Classic. If none of the races we mentioned take your fancy, be sure to check out our WoW Classic races guide to explore Azeroth’s many different cultures, as well as our WoW Classic guide which has tips for new and returning players, to make sure you’re ready to take on the Scourge.