Ultimate Level 80 Death Knight Guide - Talents and PvE Gear

Ultimate Level 80 Death Knight Guide - Talents and PvE Gear
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It has been a long journey through life - and through death - for any Death Knight that once against finds themselves the hero of the free world. They’ve braved countless battles in life and living-death, switched allegiances at least twice, and have finally conquered the frozen reaches of Northrend in hopes of slaying their former master. At long last, the Death Knight is level 80. Now What?

If you’re a Death Knight that has recently reached level 80, you’ve probably asked that question. This guide will help you figured out exactly what to do at level 80 so that you can enjoy the immense amount of content that has been put there just for you.

Talent Specs

Death Knights are blessed and cursed at the same time with their talent specs. For many classes, it is usually quite clear which talents are best for various situations, be it PvE, PvP, DPS, or Tanking. For Death Knights, however, each of the three talent trees is fairly equally viable for the above situations. Many talents support both tanking and DPS, and the fact that Death Knights can deal quite a bit of DPS while tanking makes it even more confusing. If you are just looking for a good spec and not a spreadsheet of nothing but math, here are some great ones for every spec, both DPS and Tanking.

Death Knight DPS Specs (click link for a more detailed discussion of each Death Knight DPS Spec)

Blood - 51/0/20

Frost - 17/51/3

Unholy - 17/0/54

Death Knight Tanking Specs

Blood - 52/8/11

Frost - 12/52/7

Unholy - 11/10/50

PvE Gear

Gearing up is the biggest challenge any freshly level 80 WoW player faces. Death Knights are in no way exempt. We may seem incredibly overpowered as we level up, but once 80 its a pretty level playing field, and we’re expected to pull our weight. Before entering into any end-game raids, even a 10-man, it is important to improve our gear considerably beyond the various questions and dungeon blues we’ve scraped up while leveling. Most raid groups want you to have, at the very least, level 80 superior-quality gear in every slot. A great way to do this is through purchasing level 80 BoE blues and epics. Most level 80 blues are often under 100g on the AH, and many epics are available for under 400g.

Having a blacksmith craft gear for you is also extremely helpful. For example, the Titansteel Destroyer is a great crafted weapon, on par with many 10-man Naxxramas drops. Other epic and blue items can be crafted by blacksmiths for both tanking and DPS, like the Spiked Titansteel Helm or Tempered Titansteel Treads.

The number one way to get gear pre-raids is through heroics and heroic badges. Try to rid yourself of low level items and greens before even entering heroics, especially if you’re going to be tanking. Finding good gear upgrades is often as simple as going to the Armory and using the “Find an Upgrade” feature. The only problem is that this feature often won’t differentiate gear for whether you’re a tank or DPS, hit or expertise capped, or not. For that reason, it is important that you understand Death Knight stats - so that you can easily recognize an upgrade on site and not rely on someone or something else to tell you which is better.

PvE Gear Stats

Night Elf Death Knight - Death and Decay

DPS Stats

The absolute most important stat for any DPS Death Knight is Strength. Strength effects how hard a Death Knight can hit, and it scales with various talents and buffs. As a general rule, Strength is always more important than Attack Power, even though they appear to be, essentially, the same thing. It is also vitally important for Death Knights to have the appropriate amount of hit rating. All two-handed melee DPS classes need to have an 8% additional chance to hit before they cannot possibly hit their target any more often. Additionally, there is a measure of expertise required for the same reason. Death Knight DPS that attack from behind a raid boss need only 26 expertise. Besides Strength, and its close companion Attack Power, DPS Death Knights also favor Agility. While nowhere near as good as Strength, Agility provies buff-scalable critical strike chance.

Death Knight

Tank Stats

Death Knight tank stats look a lot like other tank stats, with the exception of block chance/value (seeing as that DKs have no shield to block with). Death Knights are much more damage mitigation than they are avoidance, because of this. When looking for gear upgrades, Death Knight tanks need to min/max. The Defense cap for a level 80 Death Knight is 540. Any amount of Defense above that is wasted, however, the Death Knight should never sink below this mark. After maintaining the Defense cap, Death Knight tanks should focus on gear that gives additional Stamina, Armor, Dodge, Parry, and Strength - in that order. Parry has a much worse diminishing return than Dodge. This means that as you gain parry it takes more and more rating to equal 1% of parry. This means that, generally speaking, 15 Dodge is going to be much better than 15 Parry.

PvP Gear

PvP gear can be obtained in a variety of ways - all of which require you to actively engage in PvP. You can get honor through Battlegrounds, daily quests, and Wintergrasp which can be used to purchase superior and epic PvP items. Additionally, you can obtain these items from Wintergrasp vendors or bosses. You can also choose to do Arena, and if your team is good enough, earn some of the best PvP items in the game. For more information about getting PvP gear for your new 80, please see the PvP Gear Guide section of the article linked here.


The Spiked Titansteel Helms is one of the best.

Everyone always asks which gems they should put in their new gear. I’m going to answer that question in a simple and easy way here.

DPS Gems

In every slot possible, socket pure Strength gems. It doesn’t matter if you’ll get the socket bonus or not - socket Strength. The only time you wouldn’t do a red strength gem would be if the socket bonus plus a different gem (ie: +8 Strength, +12 Stamina in Blue socket with +8 Strength as bonus) gave equal to or more strength than 16. Another reason to socket something other than Strength is if you’re trying to activate a meta gem. In this case, use a +8 Strength/+12 Stamina gem for a blue, and +8 Strength/+8 Crit for a yellow. The final reason to gem something other than Strength is if you’re trying to hit a Hit or Expertise cap. In this case you may want to use pure hit (yellow) or expertise (red) gems. For a meta gem use +21 Critical Strike Rating (or +21 Agility) and +3% Critical Damage.

Tanking Gems

Death Knight tanks should, whenever possible, socket pure raw Stamina gems (blue). They may find that they need to socket Hit (yellow) or red (expertise), however, to meet caps for those stats. If low on Defense, a gem slot may have to be used for a Defense gem (yellow). For a meta gem, the Austere Earthsiege Diamond is definitely the best.


Enchants add so much to every class, as long as they choose the right ones. Here are the best gear enchants for new level 80 Death Knights to get, to help them on their way to epics.

Best Cheap(ish) DPS Enchants

Head - Arcanum of Torment. Sold by Knights of the Ebon Blade quartermaster. Requires Revered reputation.

Shoulders - Greater Inscription of the Axe. Requires Exalted Sons of Hodir Reputation.

Back - Major Agility

Chest - Super Stats

Bracers - Greater Assault

Gloves - Greater Assault

Belt - Add a gem slot to your belt with an Eternal Belt Buckle.

Legs - Icescale Leg Armor

Boots - Greater Assault

Rune of the Fallen Crusader - Courtesy of WoWHead.com

Weapon Runeforge - Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Best Cheap(ish) Tanking Enchants

Head - Arcanum of the Stalward Protector. Requires Revered with the Argent Crusade.

Shoulder - Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle. Requires Exalted with the Sons of Hodir.

Chest - Greater Defense or Super Stats, depending on what you need.

Cloak - Titanweave, Agility, or Armor, depending on need.

Bracer - Major Stamina

Gloves - Armsman

Belt - Add a gem socket with an Eternal Belt Buckle.

Legs - Frosthide Leg Armor

Boots - Greater Fortitude

Weapon Runeforge - Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle if you need the Defense, Rune of Swordshattering if not.

This post is part of the series: WoW Level 80 Raiding Guide

I dinged level 80: Now what? Preparing for raiding with various classes in World of Warcraft.

  1. I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for Mage
  2. I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for the Paladin
  3. I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for Warlock
  4. I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for the Shaman
  5. I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for the Death Knight
  6. I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for the Priest