Death Knight Shadowlands Leveling Guide from 8 to 60

Last updated on Jun 29, 2021 at 09:57 by Bicepspump, Mandl, and Panthea 1 comment

Table of Contents


Leveling in Shadowlands

Welcome to our DK leveling guide. Here you will find all you need to know to level up your DK efficiently. Leveling received a lot of changes in Shadowlands, which we have documented in our Shadowlands Leveling Changes page. In addition, we now have a revamped Leveling guide, complete with detailed information on XP, mounts, addons, consumables, tips, and more. We encourage to read it to increase your leveling speed even more.

Death Knights embody the fantasy of slow, feared harbingers, with absolute control over the undead, the possibility to unleash devastating frost attacks, or to sustain themselves on the life-force of enemies. Three radically different specializations await you, with very unique playstyles.

As one of the two available hero classes, Death Knights start with a level advantage over most other specs: instead of starting at level 1 (while not being an allied race), we start at level 8.


Best Leveling Spec for Death Knights in Shadowlands

Solo players will typically find Frost better as a leveling spec due to its fast-paced, direct gameplay. Easier to deal damage, without the need to ramp or rely on DoTs, and, honestly, more sustainable as well.

Should you happen to be more of a dungeoneer, or prefer to pull very large number of mobs while levelling, Blood can also be a very decent option. As a tank specialization, they trade some of their damage for self-sustain, and this is something you can definitely take advantage of while grinding.


Starting Abilities for Death Knights Leveling in Shadowlands

Due to your level advantage over other classes, you will realistically spend very little time (and use very few abilities!) while not being able to pick a spec. We have highlighted them below.

You start with access to Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike, acting as your main rune spender, and Death Strike Icon Death Strike and Death Coil Icon Death Coil acting as your main RP spenders. Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay is also available for large groups of enemies, although Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike does not cleaver while inside it.

Simply burn runes with Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike and RP with Death Coil Icon Death Coil (or, for a bit of healing at a cost of some damage, Death Strike Icon Death Strike)

After you choose your spec, there are very few class-generic abilities that you will be pick and those that you do are largely irrelevant. So from that point on, simply head to one of your DK spec leveling guides (linked in the previous section) to continue.


Best Heirloom Items for Death Knight Leveling in Shadowlands

Generally, heirloom choice is very dependent on the maximum possible level you have upgraded them for. Neither of the three specs particularly loves or hates a stat in particular. If in doubt, pick heirlooms with Haste, as this stat reduces your GCD, granting a feeling of speed and efficiency.


Runeforge choice

When you get the option to Runeforge make sure you apply the Runeforge Rune of the Fallen Crusader Icon Rune of the Fallen Crusader. This comes with a 15% strength buff on a very generous uptime, and a heal whenever it procs. It is a very good all-around runeforge, and something you absolutely should not pass on.

If you are running a dual wield setup, make sure to apply Rune of Unending Thirst Icon Rune of Unending Thirst to your offhand weapon.

Do not forget! When you use Death Gate Icon Death Gate, using it again while inside Acherus teleports you to the nearest graveyard or instance portal from which you used Death Gate Icon Death Gate. There is rarely an excuse to wait, just go and affix whatever new weapon you get.



  • 29 Jun. 2021: Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
  • 09 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
  • 12 Oct. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands.
  • 26 Jun. 2020: Updated the rotation for Frost.
  • 28 Jun. 2019: This page has been reviewed for the release of Patch 8.2 and no changes are necessary.
  • 10 May 2019: Added a section for Frost Death Knight leveling.
  • 09 Dec. 2018: This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.1 and no changes are necessary.
  • 12 Aug. 2018: Consistency updates to give all leveling guides a similar feel.
  • 11 Aug. 2018: Added 110-120 leveling section for BfA.
  • 02 Aug. 2018: Improved presentation.
  • 31 Jul. 2018: Updated the entire leveling page for the Battle for Azeroth pre-patch.
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