Know Your Enemy – Death Knights

While Death Knights can often be handled one vs one, when they have a healer things can get really tough. High damage, aoe dots, the best peels in the game, stuns/silences, massive damage reduction talents, self heals – all these add up to a class that at times can seem impossible to kill. I still struggle against DKs, but found reading about their class/abilities was a big help to me. Beating a Death Knight revolves a lot around managing your CDs to counter theirs. Getting away so you can restealth is insanely hard due to the shear amount of AoE and dots. I play with Deadly Poison so I can envenom, rather than spending 5CPs+ColdBlood for a 1.3k eviscerate. I’ve detailed two of the three specs, the third spec, Blood, isn’t anything special so I won’t go into the couple of unique spells they have.

Death Knights in PVP – What to Expect

Death Grip
If you are chasing down the DK’s partner, expect this every 25-35 seconds. If you are trying to escape from the DK, expect this every 25-35 seconds. The cooldown depends on the DK’s spec (Unholy DK gets -10secs off the cooldown)and costs zero runic power/runes, so unless you can CC the DK out of the game, expect to spend a lot of time flying backwards and forwards through the air.

chains of ice Chains of Ice
While it’s common to see DKs cry out “CoI isn’t spammable!”, theoretically it is on a 5 second cooldown making it a very effective way of locking down a rogue. A common tactic it seems is for the DK to Death Grip you then immediately cast Chains of Ice (unless it is an Unholy DK, more on that later). Vanish/CoS/Escape Artist/Improved Sprint will clear this debuff, but only until the next application – there are no dimminishing returns from CoI whatsoever.

Raise Dead
Summons an undead pet (vulnerable to shackle/turn evil). The strength of the pet depends on the spec of the DK. Unholy DKs have a pet that can stun every 20 seconds which they can resummon/resurect every 30seconds (not worth killing unless you play with a healer that needs to drink). A Frost DK’s pet is easier to kill, dies after 1 minute, does less damage and has a 3minute resummoning CD.

Death Pact
An instant heal for 40% (20% with wound poison) of the DKs health in exchange for sacrificing their ghoul/gargoyle. For an Unholy DK this is pretty much a free heal every 2 minutes.

IBF Icebound Fortitude
Stun resistance and damage reduction for 12 seconds (18 seconds for a Frost DK). A DK with IBF up can be sapped, blinded and gouged so use this to your advantage if needed. I find that DKs tend to ignore me and tunnel my partner instead (priest), saving their IBF for when my partner is in trouble.

Mind Freeze/Strangulate
While this won’t affect you directly (unless the DK has gotten over excited and mashed the wrong button), it’s useful to know that a DK can silence your partner for a long time, especially when using Gnaw as well.

Death and Decay
A cross between consecration and distract, this low-dmg spell can be cast upto 30yards away. This will take you out of stealth if it lands where you are standing so try not to stand anywhere ‘obvious’ if you can help it. If you play with a priest, a PW:shield will prevent DnD from unstealthing you. Otherwise, wait until it wears off – it lasts for 10 seconds and has a 30 second cooldown.

Death Knight Specs

Frost Death knights

How to spot them: Duel wielding,
Strengths: High dps, massive damage mitigation
Weaknesses: Still trying to find one


Hungering Cold
A 10-yard AoE freeze that allows diseases to continue ticking on you.

lichborne Lichborne
This will make the DK immune to charm effects, though it cannot be used to break them. When under the effect of Lichborne, the DK will be vulnerable to anti-undead spells such as Shackle and Turn Evil. Be careful not to confuse the ability with a trinket – if a DK uses Lichborne to break a fear you will not be able to blind him afterwards. Using the Gladius addon helps avoid this confusion.

Unbreakable armor
This defensive ability can be using at the same time as IBF and Lichborne, creating a hard hitting almost untouchable killing machine. When this happens, ‘gouge’ and ‘disarm’ are good friends to have.

Unholy Death knights

How to spot them: 2-Handed weapon, leaping pet,
Strengths: Massive dps, high damage mitigation
Weaknesses: See Frost DK weaknesses

bone shield Bone Shield
Easy to spot, this takes the form of several bones spinning around the DK. Try and knock it off with white damage while your energy regens, rather than using a mutilate.

desecration Desecration
This ground-based aura procs automatically from a couple of a DK’s offensive melee spells. There’s not much you can do about it as it is relatively easy for the Death Knight to keep it active (no internal CD).

Summon Gargoyle
Does exactly what it says on the can. An additional minion that throws out a lot of damage for a maximum of 30seconds. Priests can shackle it and paladins can fear it, and as it now flies close to the ground, it might be worthwhile gouging it if you’re keeping gouge/deadly poison ticking on the Death Knight.

Not bad – I managed 780 words writing about DKs, without moaning at Blizz to delete them all. Ahhh….

About Dcruize

Rogue addict, PVP junkie, insomniac. I started playing WoW in 2006 and, after being told that 'nobody wants a rogue', tried to level a priest. I quickly realized that love and approval were a poor alternative to stealth and ambush and have been backstabbing away quite happily ever since.