How to play a Death Knight in WoW dungeons

Are you struggling with the Death Knight playstyle? Not sure how to play a Death Knight in WoW? Here’s our guide for newer WoW players.

I keep dying!

Don’t use too much AOE

Generally speaking, the mobs should be hitting the tank, not you. If they’re hitting you, you may have accidentally caused too much threat. Make sure not the use too many AOE abilities. In particular, be careful about using Death and Decay, especially if you’re likely to catch mobs that the tank does not yet have under control.

My teammates say I am a “ninja”

Don’t roll need on armor that is not plate

Death Knights are plate-wearers. Cloth, leather and mail armor is unlikely to have useful stats for you. What’s more, you’ll receive a hefty bonus when all of your armor is plate, granting you an additional 5% Strength. Cloth armor, leather armor and mail armor are all intended for players of other classes, and they will get annoyed if you roll need on it.

Even if the armor is plate, it may not be suitable for you. If the armor gives a bonus to your Parry or Dodge it’s probably intended for a tank player rather than a DPS player. If the armor gives a bonus to Intellect, it’s intended for Paladin players, and will be of little use to you. Your primary stat is Strength, and you should be trying to increase that whenever possible.

Don’t try to roll on shields. As a Death Knight, you can’t use them.

My tank is annoyed with me / other people say I am tanking

Don’t use Blood Presence

Blood Presence is intended for Death Knight tanks. If you use Blood Presence, you’ll generate a lot of threat, causing monsters to attack you instead of the tank. You’ll also do a lot less damage in Blood Presence than you will if you switch to Unholy Presence or Frost Presence.

Don’t use Army of the Dead except on a boss with no adds

Your Army of the Dead ghouls will aggro every monster they can find. That makes it very difficult for the tank to control the fight. You should only ever consider using Army of the Dead on bosses with no other adds. If your party ask you not to use Army of the Dead, then don’t use it. If in doubt, don’t use Army of the Dead at all. The loss to your overall DPS will be minimal.

Don’t use Death Grip unless you’ve been asked to

Although you may think that you’re being helpful dragging monsters towards you with Death Grip, you might be making things a lot harder for your tank and the rest of your party. A mob that’s been death-gripped will then begin to attack you. The tank will have to spend valuable time and resources getting the mob under control again. If in doubt, don’t use Death Grip.

My teammates say my damage sucks

Don’t stand in front of the boss

As a DPS class, you should stand behind the boss whenever you possibly can. Doing so will increase your damage, because the boss will be unable to parry your attacks. As well as that, many opponents have powerful frontal attacks that will do you a lot of damage if you’re stood in front of them.

Make sure you’re using the right spec

As a melee DPS Death Knight, your only viable talent trees are the Unholy tree or the Frost tree. Take a look at our guide to Unholy Death Knight DPS spec, rotations and glyphs or our guide to Frost Death Knight DPS spec, rotations and glyphs.

Use Unholy Presence

As a DPS Death Knight, you should be in Unholy Presence nearly all the time. For fights with a large number of creatures (at least six or seven), you might want to switch temporarily to Frost Presence to increase your overall damage done, but Unholy Presence is the right choice for nearly every fight. Never use Blood Presence unless you’re the tank.

Your choice of talent tree doesn’t affect the presence you should be using. Even if Frost is your primary talent tree, you should use Unholy Presence.

Make sure you have the correct glyphs

You’ll need glyphs in order to make the most of your abilities.

If you’re using the Unholy talent tree, go for Glyph of Death Coil, Glyph of Scourge Strike and Glyph of Raise Dead.

Frost Death Knights should choose Glyph of Howling Blast, Glyph of Frost Strike and Glyph of Obliterate.

Read our guides to glyphs, gems and reforging for Unholy death knights or Frost death knights for a more detailed discussion.

Make sure you’re using a sensible rotation

If you’re an Unholy death knight, your very basic priority system should be, in order from most important to least important:

  • Apply (or reapply) diseases (Frost Fever, Blood Plague and Ebon Plague).
  • Use Dark Transformation if it’s available.
  • Use Scourge Strike and Death Coil.

Read our guide to Unholy Death Knight rotation and priority system for a more detailed discussion.

Frost death knights should use the following simple priority system (in order from most important to least important):

  • Apply (or reapply) diseases (Frost Fever and Blood Plague)
  • Use Obliterate or Frost Strike whenever your Killing Machine talent triggers.
  • Use Howling Blast.
  • Use Obliterate or Frost Strike without the benefit of Killing Machine.

For more details, read our guide to the Frost Death Knight rotation and priority system.

My teammates say my gear is bad

Don’t use anything other than plate armor

Death Knights are plate-wearers. Cloth, leather and mail armor is unlikely to have useful stats for you. What’s more, you’ll receive a hefty bonus when all of your armor is plate, granting you an additional 5% strength.

Don’t dual-wield in unholy spec

The Unholy talent tree is designed for two-handed weapons. If you want to wield a weapon in each hand, you’ll need to change to the Frost talent tree, and take the talent Nerves of Cold Steel. Note that the Unholy and Frost talent trees have nothing to do with Unholy Presence or Frost Presence.

My teammates keep telling me that I’m using the wrong presence

Use Unholy Presence

A common mistake that new Death Knight players make is to assume that Unholy Presence should be used with the Unholy talent tree, Frost Presence with the Frost talent tree, and Blood Presence with the Blood talent tree. That’s not the case – the names happen to be the same, but they’re not linked.

As a DPS Death Knight, you should be using Unholy Presence virtually all the time. This is true whether you’re a Frost Death Knight or an Unholy Death Knight. Frost Presence should be reserved for situations with multiple (at least five) opponents. You should never use Blood Presence unless you’re tanking.


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