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Lichborne: Soloing old content for fun and profit

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Lichborne: Soloing old content for fun and profit
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. In the post-Cataclysm era, death knights are no longer the new kids on the block. Let's show the other classes how a hero class gets things done.

Greetings. Your usual master, Daniel Whitcomb, is out accumulating bones for his tier 13 set, so I'm filling in. Today, we'll discuss a topic that's received some attention lately in the WoW community and here on WoW Insider: the soloing of old raid and dungeon content. Why go solo? Well, there are many good reasons. Rewards are plentiful: achievements, gold, and transmogrification loot can all be harvested from older dungeons and raids.

If you're not interested in the rewards, though, try it for the challenge. Since the majority of the game's single-player content is tuned to be accessible to all, there are very few options for the solo player looking for something difficult. For harder bosses, you'll have to know your rotation, your cooldowns, and your enemies intimately. For the most difficult bosses, it's quite typical to need a night or nights to perfect your strategy and execution -- when to use cooldowns, what time to move to pick up adds, etc. If this interests you, you're in luck; death knights are generally acknowledged as the class that's best suited for soloing pursuits.

The best soloers

What makes DKs so good at soloing? First, they're a tanking class. This may seem obvious, but most DPS classes (except hunters and locks with pet tanks) are not very well suited for taking consistent punishment. A DPS class can typically only solo bosses that they can DPS down before they die; tanking classes can survive for a while, since their gear and specialization causes them to take much less damage.

Second, they have excellent self-healing. This is balanced for current content by them taking a bit more damage overall, but in a soloing scenario, the incoming damage is vastly reduced, letting them have a chance to compensate. Death Strike is absolutely godly for self-healing compared to a feral's Leader of the Pack, a warrior's Blood Craze, or a paladin's Seal of Insight. More importantly, though, they can get that healing while still keeping up reasonable DPS, unlike a paladin who sacrifices a significant amount of DPS by using healing abilities.

Finally, DKs have the best tool kit in the game to manage various boss abilities. They can do a bit of ranged damage for bosses that fly. They have not one but two AOEs for handling adds. They have twointerrupts, as well as on-demand magic immunity. They even have (temporary) pets. Not all of these things are useful for every fight, but as a whole, it means there are very few bosses that a DK can't at least attempt with some success.

Planning ahead

When tackling a dungeon solo, there are several things to keep in mind. First, make sure you are specced and geared appropriately. While older bosses hit less hard than bosses in current content, you will still need an appropriate tanking spec to reduce the amount of damage to take to a reasonable level. (Very light-hitting/low-HP bosses, such as those in Karazhan/Molten Core, can be burned down by frost/unholy death knights, but anything else may give you trouble.) Your basic blood tanking spec and glyphs should work fine, though you may want to tweak a few points for specific fights. Notably, there are a few encounters with Mind Controls that only activate if there are multiple targets; for these, you'll have to forsake your Ghoul and Bloodworms.

Gear-wise, things are just a bit different from the normal blood strategy. Obviously, you want the best gear you can get, especially a good weapon, since your DPS is all you have. For gemming and reforging, you want to either focus on stamina or mastery. Extra stamina will increase your HP, which increases the healing of your Death Strikes. Extra mastery will increase the size of your Blood Shields, effectively lowering your damage taken.

The one thing you don't want, however, is to reforge/regem for avoidance stats such as dodge or parry. You want to take a few hits to keep your Vengeance rolling, which will increase your DPS. It can work, but it's not optimal.

The second key factor is maximizing your use of Death Strike. As with regular tanking, you'll want to fire off as many Death Strikes as you can to stay healed up and keep a strong Blood Shield going. This means the usual game of "rune tetris," or depleting your runes as fast as possible so they have a chance to be refreshed by Runic Empowerment procs.

The third key factor is reading up on each boss encounter, so you know which of your abilities you'll need to use when. Some bosses require interrupts or add killing, so you'll need to be prepared with Mind Freeze or Heart Strike/Death and Decay. Other bosses are relatively simple and are simple gear checks. Above all, the two key abilities you'll need to time properly are Anti-Magic Shell and Icebound Fortitude. AMS will let you dodge most of the nasty boss debuffs and has a short cooldown; use it frequently. Icebound Fortitude is more of an emergency cooldown, for the times where your HP dips low and you don't have the runes for a Death Strike.

Finally, make sure your inventory is empty. I know this suggestion is trite, but I can speak from experience -- it's no fun to spend 10 minutes of travel time to get to the dungeon and realize that your bags are full of crap. If you loot everything, you'll have lots of stuff to sell, and the last thing you want to be doing (especially if you've spent money on consumables) is to waste time playing inventory manager.

Tackling the gamut

So what can you kill? Well, you'd be surprised. A reasonably geared DK alt (say, JP/VP gear) can easily handle the majority of the game's level 60 content, level 70 up to tier 6 (most bosses), and level 80 heroics. A heroic-geared DK can push the limits, soloing Kael'thas and Lady Vashj from tier 6 and large parts of level 85 raids.

Several of you may have heard of Mionelol; the preeminent soloing DK, his YouTube videos are quite popular in the WoW community. Having soloed multiple bosses from ICC (including the Lich King), several bosses from current heroics, and at least one Cataclysm raid boss, he is a force to behold. Check out his interview with Manaflask here, and feel free to discuss DK soloing in the comments!

Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.

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Best Solo PvE Spec?

Bloo… Oh wait yeah that does deal “noodle” dmg since it is a tank spec :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Out of Frost and Unholy my favorite is Unholy. Unholy has really good survivabilty with the right talents (PvP talents too) and will keep you pretty tanky and alive through most mobs. I never had survivability issues with this one.

You seem new to DK so I’ll write some info here which you might already know about, but I’ll write it anyways.

I just want to point out that Paladin is mainly focused around defensive CDs, so you won’t find many other classes that can self-sustain as much as they can. But I’d say that Unholy has some good options. Just don’t switch class and expect Pal survivability :slight_smile:

With talents and all my DK has these defensive spells:

  • Death Strike (Heals min 7% of max health each hit)
  • Death Pact (Heals 50% of max health)
  • Anti-Magic Shell (Def against spell dmg)
  • Icebound Fortitude (Reduce dmg taken and immune to stuns)
    (Some of these have more effects than I wrote here)

I’d say these are plenty, and with proper rotation you will nearly always have intervals of “runic power” you can spend on Death Strike.

I like to think of DK as a “Pal with more focus on offense than defense” hehe.



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.

Frost Death Knight Leveling GuideUnholy Death Knight Leveling Guide

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.

Blood Death Knight Leveling Guide


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 IconRune Strike, acting as your main rune spender, and Death Strike IconDeath Strike and Death Coil IconDeath Coil acting as your main RP spenders. Death and Decay IconDeath and Decay is also available for large groups of enemies, although Rune Strike IconRune Strike does not cleaver while inside it.

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

Shadowlands Heirlooms Guide


Runeforge choice

When you get the option to Runeforge make sure you apply the Runeforge Rune of the Fallen Crusader IconRune 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 IconRune of Unending Thirst to your offhand weapon.

Do not forget! When you use Death Gate IconDeath Gate, using it again while inside Acherus teleports you to the nearest graveyard or instance portal from which you used Death Gate IconDeath 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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Death knight solo

Will you recommend DK for a solo player

I’d say yes, but do so with discretion because some of our specs excel in certain areas more than others.

Blood is one of those tanks that healers seem to hate, especially those who don’t pay attention or know anything about us Blood DK that is Runic Power. Blood Dks have a very weird conundrum of micromanaging your runes, healing off damage taken and have some neat utilities such as a mass grip or have a legendary to make your healer’s love you instead of hate you. Blood has better reception over the months now thanks to the leggo buffs.

Frost is okay, PvP Frost is alright also. They’re not great but they’re not terrible. They’re just decent. It’s the most beginner friendly dps spec of the three and if your friend really wants this spec to make it work, he/she might need a lot of research of stat, talent and resource allocation to make the spec great in ALL contents (not just PvP).

Unholy is great in PvE but not so much in PvP atm unless the meta favors rot or dampening spec. They don’t have the great burst like Frost does but does great constant damage. They also have great area of effect, cleave attacks too. While Unholy deals a lot of damage, with great damage comes great maintenance: you need to know how Festering Wound work, you need to keep track of your Virulent Plague, you need to micromanage your minion, juggle GCDs and CDs alike, etc. etc. etc.

These are DK specs and our state in the nutshell. Would I recommend your friend? Well it depends on the content you’re doing. But if you don’t like Unholy and don’t have enough time investment to make either Blood or Frost work, I would not recommend the class. Otherwise, yes. I would recommend it since we are one of the stronger melees in terms of damage output (Well in PvE anyways :]).

Death Knight solo: Sartharion 10 men #Worldfirst# WoW

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