- This article is about the playable class in World of Warcraft. For other uses, see Death knight (disambiguation).
|Available to||All playable races|
|Specializations|| Blood (tank)|
Frost (melee DPS)
Unholy (melee DPS)
|Resource(s)||Runic Power, Runes|
|Weapon skills||Polearms, One-handed, Off-hand or Two-handed Swords, Axes and Maces|
|Armor type||Plate; can also equip Mail, Leather, Cloth.|
|Signature abilities|| |
Death knights, often abbreviated to DK, 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 8 in a phased, instanced area known as Plaguelands: The Scarlet Enclave. Originally, only one death knight could be created per realm per account, but this restriction was lifted in patch 5.3. The requirement of already having a level 55+ character in order to create a death knight was lifted in patch 6.1.
Death knights rely on enchanted rune weapons to use 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 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 utilize a rune system which, when used to perform attacks, generates Runic Power as a resource for different attacks. Runic Power is capped at 100. Blood death knights primarily focus on building enough runic power to consistently self-heal through attacks. 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 undead minions.
Death knights can wear any type of armor (though they specialize in Plate) 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 , and also have three unique mounts, the , the purchasable , and the quest reward .
- 1 Class overview
- 2 Background
- 3 Races
- 4 Notable death knights
- 5 Overview
- 6 Specializations
- 7 Runeforging
- 8 In the RPG
- 9 Trivia
- 10 Gallery
- 11 Videos
- 12 Patch changes
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
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.
Creation screen description
- Death knights are a hero class, which means they start at high level. Death knights are a melee class with an emphasis on causing diseases and using dark magic.
Creations of Gul'dan
These soldiers of darkness were created by Gul'dan to replace the slaughtered Warlock clans. Assembled from the corpses of the Knights of Stormwind slain in the last battles of the First War, these abominations were then instilled with the ethereal essence of the Shadow Council. Further empowered with magical energies culled from the slain necrolytes, the death knights wielded an arsenal of necromantic and elemental spells that mete out all but certain death to the enemies of the Horde.
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.
Fallen Knights of the Silver Hand
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.
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 were primarily made up of other fallen warriors or paladins whose souls were twisted and bound to the will of the Frozen Throne. Unlike Gul'dan's death knights, these dark champions possessed unholy strength, however, they did not possess free will and their minds were inexorably entwined with and dominated by the Lich King's vast consciousness. Despite the heavy costs of free will, some powerful mortals were intrigued by the promise of immortality and pledged their souls freely into the Lich King's service to achieve it.
In the years since Arthas shattered the Frozen Throne and merged with the Lich King, the power and fury of the death knights only grew. These unrelenting crusaders of the damned eagerly awaited the Lich King's command to unleash their fury on Azeroth once again.
The Death Knights of Acherus
- Main article: Knights of the Ebon Blade
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.
The playable death knights are the uniformly undead members of the Death Knights of Acherus, a regiment consisting of hundreds 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. In a large burst of Light, the power of Light's Hope Chapel freed the death knights from the Lich King's grasp. Darion threw the Ashbringer to Highlord Fordring, purifying it 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.
Death knights of formerly Alliance races could potentially make individual cases in order to join the Forsaken under Sylvanas Windrunner. For example, if a worgen death knight proved his loyalty beyond a doubt, he may be allowed to serve under Sylvanas. However, this is considered extremely uncommon, and no known undead worgen character has yet to join the Horde in the lore.
Undeath as a knight
- After being raised by the Lich King and regardless of their past life, almost all death knights embraced the honor of their new status. However, there were the rare few that were reanimated and retained emotion and memory, and in some cases, fear. These "unworthy initiates" to the dark brotherhood were then disposed of, fed "alive" to ravenous ghouls. Death knights afflicted by the worgen curse had their feral instincts shattered in favor of the Lich King's will. This held true even after their freedom from the Lich King.
- All death knights are inflicted with an "addiction" of sorts; referred to as the "eternal hunger" by Highlord Darion Mograine and as the "endless hunger" by the dread Instructor Razuvious. A death knight will feel immeasurable pain and agony if it is not inflicting suffering and/or death on a regular basis. The pain is so great that failure to sate the hunger could result in the death knight becoming lost in a blood-seeking, murderous frenzy. After sating the hunger soon upon creation, a death knight is then instructed to duel other death knights in a ritual known as Death's Challenge, which was born from the Lich King's victory over Illidan Stormrage in the frozen wastes. The hunger even overrides magic dependency.
- Despite their evil natures and even during their service to the Scourge, some death knights remained true to a code of honor — or, at least, to a semblance of order and discipline. For example, the human Thassarian and the blood elf Koltira Deathweaver shared a close friendship that other death knights such as Orbaz Bloodbane looked down upon. The fallen paladin Sir Zeliek was unique in the fact that, while his body was forced to obey the Scourge's commands, he had managed to retain his sanity and morals despite his corruption.
- Without the protection of the Lich King, shades from the Realm of Shadows constantly torment death knights that were liberated from his service. Death knights can feel positive emotions for a brief time and rarely. Bad emotions like remorse and pity they feel deeply.
- Despite all the psychological conditioning and trauma they went through, some knights are able to act mostly like they were before their death. This includes Thassarian, who served among the Alliance and saved his own sister even as a death knight.
- The new generation of the Four Horsemen is made entirely of souls which voluntarily agreed to be raised as death knights and serve the Lich King. It is unknown how they will act yet.
- Most death knights resemble their living selves, though pale and with an unholy light that illuminates their eyes. Others may lack the eye illumination and have tattoos decorating their faces. Death knights that were formerly human may look like Forsaken or even skeletons after some time, examples being Marduk Blackpool, the Black Knight and Lord Darkscythe.
- While in the Scourge, death knights are known to have eaten meals consisting primarily of humanoid meat, vermin, and insects. Some death knights can enjoy alcohol and be affected by its inebriating effects. This, however, is debatable as the only known source is Delvar Ironfist, who was an Arms Warrior in the Warlords of Draenor beta, and his written dialogue remained unaffected when he was changed into a Blood Death Knight.
- They are also capable of sleeping though it is not necessary on a biological level and was forbidden by the Scourge.
- Main article: Death knight races
All races released can be death knights, and start with the following attributes:
Racial abilitiesThese are some of the racial traits relevant to death knights:
- Blood Elves — Have the racial ability . It Silences all enemies within 8 yards for 2 sec and restores 20 runic power. Non-player victim spellcasting is also interrupted for 3 sec. : Increases critical strike chance by 1%.
- Draenei — : Increases your Strength, Agility, and Intellect by 65 (scales with level). Their ability also grants them a heal over time.
- Dwarves — Can be useful for tanking, as well as dispelling harmful debuffs in PvP. (Includes magic and curse since WoD but nerfed to only apply damage reduction to physical). Might of the Mountain (crit strike bonus damage and healing +2%)
- Gnomes — increases runic power by 5%. Escape Artist: Escape the effects of any immobilization or movement speed reduction effect. increases the gnome haste by 1%
- Goblins — increases the Death Knight's haste by 1%. 's damage is negligible and should not be used, as it puts the much more useful Rocket Jump on cooldown. can be used to getaway in PvP, to avoid area of effect damage in raids, for closing gaps, and for making difficult jumps.
- Humans — acts as an extra trinket, removing snare effects.
- Night Elves — Provides the Death Knight with an aggro-dump. Also allows the Death Knight to enter a stealth state (which breaks on movement); can improve a tanking Death Knight's avoidance. Touch of Elune: Increases your Haste by 1% during the night.Increases your Critical Strike by 1% during the day.
- Orcs — acts as an extra trinket (boosting your attack power). Hardiness: Duration of Stun effects reduced by an additional 10%. Command: Damage dealt by pets increased by 1%, useful for Unholy Death Knights and those who use ghouls.
- Trolls — Increases your haste by 15% for 10 sec. increases experience gains from killing Beasts increased by 20%.
- Tauren — causes a short area-of-effect stun around the Death Knight, useful for rough spots, as well as which increases your Stamina by 197 (scales with level). Brawn increases your critical strike bonus damage by 2%.
- Undead — adds a small chance to self heal when causing damage. gives the Death Knight an extra resistance to Shadow damage. acts as an extra trinket, removing charm, fear, and sleep effects. is a decent self heal over time in PvP that allows the Death Knight to restore health when a humanoid or undead corpse is nearby.
- Worgen — acts as speed boost to escape danger or chase down an enemy. increases the Death Knight's critical strike chance. Aberration increases resistance to Shadow and Nature damage slightly.
- See also: List of death knights
Old Horde death knights
|Teron Gorefiend||First of the death knights||Illidari, Shadowmoon clan||Deceased-Killable||Various|
|Gaz Soulripper||Oversaw the reconstruction of the Azerothian Dark Portal after the Second War||Horde of Draenor, Shadow Council||Deceased||Unknown|
|Ragnok Bloodreaver||Attempted to enslave nether drakes on Draenor||Independent||Deceased||Hellfire Peninsula|
Scourge death knights
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 or Northrend. 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.
As of patch 5.3.0, players are no longer restricted to creating a single death knight per realm. As of patch 6.1.0, the requirement to have an existing character at level 55 or higher before creating a death knight has also been lifted. All races introduced prior to World of Warcraft: Shadowlands can be death knights.
The rune systemThe death knight uses a unique rune-based resource system to govern his/her spells and abilities. Using certain abilities exhausts one or more runes, starting a cooldown of 10 seconds. Only two runes can recharge at once, regardless of how many have been used. In addition, whenever the death knight uses a rune ability, it builds up a certain amount of Runic Power (usually 10 Runic Power per Rune spent). All abilities that use Runic Power use a set amount (for example, Death Coil always uses 35).
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.
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.
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. Death knight tanks depend on a combination of high damage abilities, in addition to high threat abilities, such as Death and Decay and , to generate and hold aggro.
BloodA 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 spec, primarily amplifying the death knight's melee spells, weapons, and abilities. Blood's primary abilities are , which provides a stacking buff that reduces damage taken, and , which provides self-healing and a temporary damage absorption shield. While having less damage mitigation than other tanking classes, Blood has a prominent health-regeneration theme, allowing them to solo many encounters that would otherwise require a healer.
In undeath, some death knights find a special affinity for the blood and bone of the living. They carve into their enemies, sustaining themselves with deadly sanguine strikes, while using the bloody, shattered remains of the dead to fortify their own defenses. These crimson-soaked knights bend the very rules of mortality to control the frontlines of the battlefield.
FrostAn 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 , , and .
At level 10 or above, Frost death knights can wield the Blades of the Fallen Prince - and - after completing the appropriate quest.
Combining martial prowess with supernatural cold, frost death knights leave their enemies chilled to the bone—and broken of the will to fight. Unlike mages who learn to harness frost magic to great effect, these death knights are born of it, rime gripping their decaying hearts. These frozen undead warriors wield dual blades to strike with ferocity and inflict deathly cold upon anyone who would stand against them.
UnholyA 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.
While free from the Lich King’s grasp, some death knights still embody the ever-corrupting nature of the Scourge plague that once threatened to consume Azeroth. No matter their allegiance or cause, they remain defilers of life; and nowhere is their callousness more on display than when threatened. Inflictors of the most aggressive of diseases—and masters of raising unhallowed minions from the ground—these unholy death knights are vicious melee combatants, capable of striking with the force of an undead legion and unleashing pestilence that would bring their foes to ruin.
- Main article: Runeforging
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.
Death knights are afflicted by what is called the "Alabaster Skin". As they progress in power, the death knight's skin hardens and grows pale, resembling marble or alabaster. Their hair also develops streaks of white, and some death knights' hair goes completely white as they progress in power.
- Before the allied race death knights were made available, Lady Tamakeen and Charg "The Boisterous" had been introduced as death knights.
- The quest mentions that Teron Gorefiend might have been creating new first-generation death knights while a member of the Illidari.
- In the Warcraft III alpha death knights were rather different, having the same model the Revenants would eventually get. Their description was as such: "The nefarious Death Knights were created by Gul'dan during the Second War using the corpses of slaughtered Human Knights and the malicious spirits of the dead Orc Warlocks. Death Knights replaced the Warlocks as the Horde's magic-users, but their insubordination and apathy for the Orcish cause led them to be widely mistrusted. The Death Knights, along with their master, Ner'zhul, were captured by the Legion after the war on Draenor concluded. When the Legion remade Ner'zhul into the Lich King, the Death Knights refused to give him homage. As punishment for their insubordination, they were stripped of most of their power and bound to Ner'zhul's iron will. Now the mystical Death Knights serve as some of the mightiest warriors of the Scourge." Since the death knights of the Third War were then supposed to be the same as those of the Second War, the description of the Lich also reflected that by saying Liches were former warlocks and shamans instead of warlocks and death knights. Before the revamp, the modern-style death knights were then a separate unit called the "Anti-Paladin". Even after being changed to their current style, the death knights were originally riding spectral mounts called Nightmares that looked like clouds of mist instead of skeletal horses.
- The original concept for making a death knight was for the player to sacrifice a pre-existing high-level character in order to create the death knight. The quest is a remnant of that old quest chain.
- Even before their formal introduction as a playable class in Wrath of the Lich King, several death knight NPCs and mobs already existed, with different gear and customization than those playable now. Examples of such old-school death knights are Marduk Blackpool, Lord Alexei Barov, and the many enemies of the death knight wing from the original Naxxramas. Some of these death knight used shields, notably the Death Knight Understudies. Also do note that some of them have been updated since, but pictures of their older appearances are still archived on their respective pages.
- The death knight starting experience was intended to show that a single knight was a merciless nigh-unstoppable force of nature.
- The runeblade is considered an extension of the death knight's being. It is through the runeblade that a death knight commands the powers of frost, blood and the unholy. Instructor Razuvious states that a death knight cannot battle without a runeblade,  while according to Lady Blaumeux a death knight without a runeblade is weak and powerless.
- Both the Dark Riders and the newest incarnation of Attumen the Huntsman look like death knights, having possibly been cursed by Medivh.
- First generation death knights are voiced by Brian Silva.
- Second generation death knights male orc are voiced by Danilo Di Julio. One of the male death knight voices are done by Rena Durham and one of the female death knight voices are done by Lani Minella.
- In Warcraft III, almost all the random Death Knight hero units had a title of nobility, starting with Arthas Menethil himself. As a nod to this, in World of Warcraft death knight mobs and NPCs are among the most numerous to have titles of nobility.
- Concept art
- Patch 9.0.2 (2020-11-17): Core race death knights now start from level 8 and Allied race Death Knights now start from level 10.
- Patch 8.3.0 (2020-01-14): Pandaren and allied race options for the class by pre-purchasing World of Warcraft: Shadowlands and start at a new starting zone in Icecrown at level 58.
- Patch 6.1.0 (2015-02-24): The requirement to have a character that's level 55 or higher to unlock the death knight as a playable class has been removed.
- Patch 5.3.0 (2013-05-21): The restriction limiting players to one death knight character per realm has been lifted.
- Patch 5.0.4 (2012-08-28): Relics have been removed from the game.
- Patch 4.0.1 (2010-10-12):
- Blood is now a dedicated tanking spec; Frost and Unholy are now dedicated DPS.
- The way in which runes recharge has changed. Rather than each rune type (Blood, Frost, Unholy) regenerating simultaneously, they now fill sequentially.
- Patch 3.0.8 (2009-01-20): All multi-rune abilities generate 15 runic power.
- Patch 3.0.2 (2008-10-14): Added.
- ^ The Emblazoned Runeblade#Description
- ^ abThis is my Runeblade...
- ^ The Dead and the Damned#Stage 7: Sieging the Citadel
- ^ Bloody Breakout#Notes
- ^ abClasses of World of Warcraft
- ^ Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness manual, Ground Units of the Orcish Horde, Death Knight
- ^ abWarcraft III - Undead -> Units -> Death Knight.
- ^ Death Knight Lore. Blizzard. Archived from the original on 2010-11-24. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
- ^ Death knight starting experience
- ^ Nyorloth on the official forum
- ^ abThe Death Knights of Acherus
- ^ Chris Metzen on Twitter (2014-05-25). Retrieved on 2017-07-18.
- ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 3
- ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
- ^ Micky Neilson on Twitter
- ^ Corpulous' Mess Hall Rules
- ^ Prince Erazmin#Gossip
- ^ Gerald Villoria 2008-05-09. Enter the Death Knight. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2009-06-20.
- ^ abcLegion Class Preview Series: Death Knight
- ^ Dark Factions, pg. 59
- ^ Concept art gallery
- ^ WarcraftIII.net - Undead Heroes
- ^ Eurogamer WotLK interview
- ^ Dave Kosak on Twitter
- ^ The Emblazoned Runeblade#Progress
- ^ Voiceover: World of Warcraft: Rise of the Lich King