Death Knight Dragonflight Leveling Guide from 8 to 70

Last updated on Jan 15, 2024 at 15:00 by Bicepspump, Mandl, and Panthea 1 comment

Table of Contents


Leveling in Dragonflight

Welcome to our DK leveling guide. Here you will find all you need to know to level up your DK efficiently. In addition, you may wish to check out our general 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 play styles.

Thanks to the talent overhaul that Dragonflight brought to Azeroth, all three Death Knight specializations now have access to a large core of shared offensive and defensive tools - and massive upgrades to existing spells that were not possible before. For example, all specializations can now reduce the cost of Death Strike Icon Death Strike by a significant amount, and DPS specializations are now able to further increase its healing done by 60% - enough to outmatch any outdoor content!

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. If you picked an allied race (such as Dark Iron Dwarf, Highmountain Tauren or Vulpera), you instead start at level 10 and can instantly pick your specialization, right before you even talk to Bolvar!


Best Leveling Spec for Death Knights in Dragonflight

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.

Whatever route you take, we strongly encourage you to select your favorite time period through Chromie Time. This will allow you to live (or re-live) some of Azeroth's best questing moments while also allowing you to queue for the dungeons present in that expansion. If you pick Classic, Burning Crusade, Wrath or Cataclysm, a large number of quests are present in the dungeon themselves. This allows you to double-dip on experience and level even faster!

If you are unsure of where and how to level, we strongly recommend checking out our leveling guide.


Starting Abilities for Death Knights Leveling in Dragonflight

Due to your level advantage over other classes, you will realistically spend very little time (and use very few abilities!) without a specialization. We have highlighted the abilities you will spend your three levels as a specialization-less death knight below.

Your journey in Azeroth starts with three main damage abilities:

  • Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike is your main way to spend Runes. This deals a small amount of damage to your target, and generates 10 Runic Power
  • Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay allows you to place a zone on the floor that deals light damage to all enemies inside it. This also costs one Rune and generates 10 Runic Power.
  • Finally, you can spend all the Runic Power you generate with Death Coil Icon Death Coil. This deals a significant amount of shadow damage to your target at the cost of 30 Runic Power

For the next two levels, these skills will be your bread and butter - spend your runes, then spend the Runic Power you acquired without wasting either. You also start with access to Death Grip Icon Death Grip, a way to forcefully grab enemies to you from afar.

At level 9, you unlock a minor defensive (Lichborne Icon Lichborne) and an ability granting you a major movement speed bonus (Death's Advance Icon Death's Advance). You will keep those all the way to 70 and they will be an integral part of your kit.

When you pick your specialization, you gain access to one of three signature abilities from the class tree, along with your very first talent point. If you picked Frost or Unholy, we strongly recommend spending this talent point into Death Strike Icon Death Strike.

Once you reach level 11, you will be able to spend your first specialization talent point. This first point will invariably be spent on your very first signature specialization ability:

  • If you picked Blood, you will unlock Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike. This replaces Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike and deals a much larger amount of damage to your target along with another nearby enemy. It also generates 5 bonus Runic Power
  • If you picked Frost, you will unlock Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike. You should stop using Death Coil Icon Death Coil at this point, and instead switch to using Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike as your main Runic Power spender.
  • Finally, if you picked Unholy, you will unlock Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike. This replaces Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike, deals more damage, and also applies 2 to 3 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound to your target. These will come to the fore in a few levels, as they are a key part of the Unholy gameplay - for the next two levels (when you can pick Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike), they will just be a debuff on your target.

Best Heirloom Items for Death Knight Leveling in Dragonflight

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, and every time you acquire a new weapon, make sure you affix your weapon with Rune of the Fallen Crusader Icon Rune of the Fallen Crusader. This runeforge has a very high chance to grant you 15% bonus strength, and every time it does, you also get healed for 6% of your maximum health. It is very strong offensively and defensively, and is significantly stronger than any other weapon enchant in the game. It is also completely free!

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. This will allow you to gain a noticeable speed boost whenever you defeat an enemy. There are better throughput and damage runeforges, but Rune of Unending Thirst Icon Rune of Unending Thirst's benefits outweigh raw damage when levelling.

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.



  • 15 Jan. 2024: Reviewed for Patch 10.2.5.
  • 06 Nov. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.2
  • 04 Sep. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.1.7
  • 10 Jul. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.1.5.
  • 01 May 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.1.
  • 20 Mar. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.0.7.
  • 24 Jan. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.0.5.
  • 11 Dec. 2022: Reviewed for Dragonflight Season 1.
  • 28 Nov. 2022: Reviewed for Dragonflight launch.
  • 25 Oct. 2022: Updated for Dragonflight pre-patch.
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