Starting a death knight

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Classes Deathknight Demon hunter Druid Hunter Mage Monk Paladin Priest Rogue Shaman Warlock Warrior
Starting a DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Tactics DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Class races DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Quests DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Abilities DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Trainers DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Armor sets DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Useful macros DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr
Class Halls DK DH Dr Hu Ma Mo Pa Pr Ro Sh Wl Wr

Starting a death knight is a little different to starting a character of most other classes.

As a hero class, death knights do not start at level 1, instead starting at level 55. Death knights also do not spawn at their corresponding racial starting area, but instead in a necropolis in an instanced version of the Eastern Plaguelands called Acherus: The Ebon Hold, which includes a dedicated questing area and class trainers.

The death knight is initially required to complete a special series of quests in this area. By completing these quests, players learn how to bend the power of the death knight to their own will, and after they have mastered this, the death knight is then capable of going to any other area.

Creating the death knight

Starting gear
Level 55 Death Knight
Inv helmet 125.png Inv gauntlets 32.png
Inv jewelry necklace 01.png Inv belt 12.png
Inv shoulder 92.png Inv pants cloth 27.png
Inv misc cape 19.png Inv boots plate 05.png
Inv chest plate11.png Inv jewelry ring 03.png
Empty Inv jewelry ring 03.png
Empty Empty
Inv bracer 17.png Empty
Empty Empty
Main article: Death knight quests

Any playable race except pandaren is available for the death knight. When created, the death knight begins at level 55 with uncommon item level 60 gear, 20s, as well as a few spells and abilities already learned. Death knights start without any talents available, and gain their missing talents through the In Service Of The Lich King quest chain. As any other class starting out, there is a beginning series of quests that bring the character into the game. Their first sword is the  [Runed Soulblade], awarded for completing the second quest in the In Service Of The Lich King quest chain.

Death knights come in to being with First Aid at 270 skill.

Unlike other classes, death knights start without a  [Hearthstone]. Instead, they start with a Scourgestone, which has the same functionality but can only be set to Acherus: The Ebon Hold. They get a Hearthstone to replace their Scourgestone once they talk to an innkeeper after the end of the introductory questchain.

For the initial quest chain, see Death knight starting experience.

At the conclusion of the quest chain, death knights wind up with the rare item level 70 gear seen in the paper doll frame below.

Questline complete gear
Level 57 Death Knight
Inv helmet 06.png Inv gauntlets 71.png
Inv jewelry necklace 17.png Inv belt 36.png
Inv shoulder 78.png Inv pants cloth 27.png
Inv misc cape 21.png Inv boots plate 03.png
Inv chest plate18.png Inv jewelry ring 56.png
Empty Inv jewelry ring 38.png
Empty Inv crown 15.png
Inv bracer 17.png Inv misc statue 04.png
Inv sword 126.png Empty

There are options for the cape:

And options for the weapon:

Choices to make for your death knight

Race

Many players like to choose the race with the 'best' racial traits and abilities for their class. Below is a brief overview of how the racials look from a death knight's perspective.

Overall, race is a rather minor consideration. If min-maxing, goblins, orcs and trolls are the strongest Horde race for DPS, and tauren the strongest for tanking. For the Alliance, night elves and dwarves both make good tanks, and worgen are best for DPS. But go with whatever race you feel like, whether for its racials, its looks, its personality and flavor, or any other reason you can think of.

Alliance

HumanHuman Human
Higher reputation gains is the most useful in PvE, allowing you to gain all that reputation you missed from levels 1-55 much faster. The ability to remove snares and crowd control effects from self is invaluable in PvP, allowing you to free up a trinket slot. An expertise with swords and maces helps with both DPS and Tank roles.
DwarfDwarf Dwarf
Can remove bleed, disease and poison effects while briefly decreasing all incoming damage by 10%, the latter part particularly useful for tanking. An expertise with maces for DPSing and a small amount of Frost Resistance to help out against Frost Mages in PvP.
Night elfNight elf Night elf
A light [Vanish]/ [Feign Death] if the fight is going horrible wrong. A small amount of Nature Resistance. Most useful though is the (small) chance to avoid any physical/ranged attack thrown at you, a great passive for tanking.
GnomeGnome Gnome
A bonus to Engineering if you wish to take up that trade, a small amount of Arcane Resistance, and the ability to remove all snare and root effects on yourself.
DraeneiDraenei Draenei
A bonus to Jewelcrafting if you wish to take up that trade, a small amount of Shadow Resistance, a HoT spell that adds to your self-healing abilities, and finally a free 1% chance to hit, decreasing the amount of stats you have to divert to it.
WorgenWorgen Worgen Icon Cataclysm 18x18.gif
A free [Sprint] that improves your mobility in both PvE and PvP situations, a small amount of Shadow and Nature Resistance, a boost to Skinning by decreasing your skin times, and finally a free 1% chance to critically hit.

Horde

OrcOrc Orc
Shorter Stun duration is useful in PvP situations, and some free Expertise with Axes. Your minion will also do more damage by default, and you can improve your attack power as well thanks to [Blood Fury].
UndeadUndead Undead
The ability to remove Fear, Charm and Sleep, the former being a common form of PvP control, while having a small amount of Shadow Resistance. You can eat Humanoid and Undead corpses for health in or out of combat. You also have greatly increased underwater time.
TaurenTauren Tauren
A larger amount BASE Health helps slightly in tanking, a small amount of Nature Resistance, greatly increased Herb picking speed, and the short range, AoE Stun for crowd control
TrollTroll Troll
Constant health regeneration, coupled with all your self-healing will make you just that much harder to kill, and a decreased duration on snares makes you harder to control in PvP. You also do more damage to beasts (the most common enemy type in the game,) and you have your own mini-Bloodlust, without the debuff.
Blood elfBlood elf Blood elf
The ability to silence all casters within melee range (which you should be in,) is a useful PvP tool that has the added bonus of giving some Runic Power. A small amount of Arcane Resistance and a bonus to Enchanting if you wish to take up that trade.
GoblinGoblin Goblin Icon Cataclysm 18x18.gif
A bonus to Alchemy if you wish to take up the trade, having the best prices despite reputation with a faction, your own portable bank, A long-range damage attack or a personal [Blink]. Finally, you have a free 1% haste, allowing you to hit your haste cap with less effort.

Professions

Death knights start from scratch with their professions and it can be tedious to build them up. However, if players are willing to do so they can reap the benefits of whatever professions they choose.

Primary

Alchemy
Death knight players can make their own potions and elixirs, made even better through [Mixology]. This profession has a good level of demand since most of its products are consumable and the buffs stack with magic and well fed effects. Mixology bonus is equivalent to the bonuses from the other professions.
Blacksmithing
Being able to make plate armor and melee weapons should appeal to a heavy melee class. Unique gem sockets in gloves and bracers; allowing for a good deal of customization.
Enchanting
Convenient enchantments should appeal to any class. However, death knights should never enchant via enchanting their own weapon, as [Runeforging] is strictly superior. Enchanter-only ring attacks (+60 stamina or +80 attack power).
Engineering
A vast array of gimmicks. Choice between engineer-only armor boost to gloves (excellent for tanking) and an on-use haste boost (decent for DPS). Synapse Springs is the best option for DPS.
Herbalism
[Lifeblood] provides a little bit more self-healing, and a handy Haste cool down. Fuels alchemy and inscription.
Inscription
Gives players a convenient source of glyphs and scrolls, along with shoulder enhancements at high levels. Saves having to do the Sons of Hodir grind in Wrath. The itemization on the shoulder enhancements is less than ideal, but not terrible.
Jewelcrafting
Convenient gems are good, and there are some rings, necklaces and trinkets that a death knight might like. Special JC-only gems, giving a customizable bonus to anything. The JC-only gems provide a 81 bonus to the stat of your choice, rather than the 80 most other professions provide.
Leatherworking
None of the BoEs will do death knights any good, but they do get a nice stamina or AP boost to bracers, and cheap leg enhancers.
Mining
Fuels blacksmithing, engineering, and jewelcrafting.
Skinning
[Master of Anatomy] increases critical strike rating (okay for DPS, bad for tanking). Fuels leatherworking.
Tailoring
This offers death knights bags and clothes for role-playing, but not much else.

Secondary

Cooking
Well fed buffs are nice.
First Aid
Death knights do have self healing, but it's limited, so keep up with first aid. Conveniently, death knights start with 270 first aid and the ability to make Runecloth Bandages, which are level-appropriate.
Fishing
It's slow to level up, but it makes cooking and some primary professions easier, and there are achievements to be had.

Blizzard regarding the death knight creation process

Bornakk, a CM on the US forums, wrote, back in 2007 before the launch of Wrath of the Lich King:

Blizz.gif
Bornakk
The idea is that a character goes to become a Death Knight, is trained as a Death Knight, but then realizes they don't want to go through with the evil acts that they are instructed to perform. So the character finds a new Alliance or Horde home who accepts them as a necessary evil (like warlocks) to help them fight their enemies. BlizzCon happened at the beginning of August and the story continues to be worked on so things could change quite a bit from now until the Death Knights are implemented. Details on this and many other things will become available as we get closer to launching Wrath of the Lich King.

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The idea seems to be a bit different, as the death knight doesn't just realize on their own that they don't want to go through the evil acts. Instead they are fighting for the Scourge unwillingly and the Lich King reveals that their life is meaningless; during which time most of the death knights (except for Orbaz Bloodbane, who flees) regain their will from their life.

Trivia

External links