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WoWJul 18, 2016 5:00 pm CT

Plaguebearer: Legion Death Knight talents and abilities in patch 7.0

Legion’s pre-patch is nearly upon us. There are a lot of changes coming in patch 7.0 tomorrow, so if you’re currently one of our dead but loving it knightly sorts, we’ll be covering some of the most important changes here. While this isn’t an exhaustive compilation of every change made to Death Knights in Legion, it will help you get to grips with your class and spec of choice once the patch drops.

One of the biggest changes is that Presences are gone. Death Knights no longer use Blood, Frost or Unholy Presence — any benefits from these Presences are either gone, or just baked into your specialization (all Blood DK’s generate more threat, as an example) so you don’t have to think about them.


Other changes of note:

  • Each spec has a unique disease it uses. Frost DK’s will use Howling Blast to spread Frost Fever to their targets, while Unholy DK’s use Outbreak to infect enemies with Virulent Plague, and Blood DK’s use Blood Boil and Death’s Caress to spread Blood Plague.
  • Both Icy Touch and Plague Strike are gone – Death Knights apply their diseases via the methods above.
  • All runes are equal now. Instead of there being Blood or Frost or Unholy or Death Runes, there are just runes.
  • Many talents have been changed, and several old favorite abilities are either talents for a specific spec, or abilities that only one spec gains access to. For example, Army of the Dead is Unholy only.
  • Blood and Unholy Death Knights use a two handed weapon. Frost Death Knights use two one-handed weapons. While Frost can still equip a 2h, many of their abilities require dual wielding to use properly — Obliterate, Frost Strike and others won’t work at all if a two hander is equipped.
  • If you’re Frost, you will be provided two 1h weapons as soon as you log on after the patch. They’ll be ilvl 655, so if you have access to better 1h weapons you should use those instead. Keep in mind that there’s a chance to get ilevel 700 weapons from the invasion event.

That covers the bare minimum basics for the class. Each spec plays differently — some old hands at Death Knight play might be thrown by the changes. I’m going to break down what I consider the easiest Blood, Frost and Unholy specs to play once the patch drops to get to learn your abilities.



To some degree, Blood DK’s won’t be too confused about how to play their class come Legion. You use Death’s Caress to apply Blood Plague to a single target, Blood Boil to apply it to multiple targets. Marrowrend is a new attack, it stacks Bone Shield on you so you’ll use it when possible. Heart Strike is your cleave, it hits two targets and generates Runic Power. Death Strike is your self heal, it costs Runic Power, generates threat and heals you. Your talent choices can customize certain abilities like Death and Decay or Heart Strike as well as giving you all new abilities or passive benefits.

The talent selection I’ve used here is extremely generic. That’s because you may be a raid tank in Mythic content, or you may just run five mans or solo on your Blood DK, so I wanted to give you the fastest, easiest to grasp options. Once you’re more comfortable with your new abilities you can make choices and customize yourself accordingly.

  • Level 56 Bloodworms hearkens back to the old days of Wrath DK tanks, and it doesn’t require you to remember it. It just procs sometimes, and heals you when it does.
  • Level 57 Rapid Decomposition is another passive, and it buffs Death and Decay, which you’ll be using frequently — especially when AoE tanking.
  • Level 58 Ossuary buffs available Runic Power as well as reducing the cost of Death Strike. I’m not saying Anti-Magic Barrier isn’t also a great choice, it’s down to what you’re comfortable with.
  • Level 60 Red Thirst I liked because it gives you more uses of Vampiric Blood, which frankly I feel is necessary in the new tanking scheme for Legion. In fact, I feel like almost all tanks have been overly reduced in terms of their durability and survival tricks, and Blood DK’s are definitely feeling the pinch.
  • Level 75 I took Tremble Before Me originally just for the name, but the effect actually saved my life a few times while doing the Artifact quest — it’s a solid, if unremarkable, choice.
  • Level 90 The level 90 tier is really a “However you want to play it” tier but I went with Foul Bulwark because it rewards you for vigorous application of Bone Shield, which you should really be doing anyway.
  • Level 100 Finally I went with Bonestorm because it’s freaking Bonestorm and I may have yelled Booooooooonestoooooorm almost constantly while using it. It’s a strong talent, and Purgatory feels nerfed, so I stand by my decision.




If you are playing DW Frost on live right now, you’ll recognize Frost in Legion. If you’re playing 2h Frost, you’ll pick it up fairly quickly. Use Howling Blast to spread Frost Fever (which you want even single target because Frost Fever is your main Runic Power generator), Frost Strike to spend Runic Power, Obliterate when Killing Machine procs to deal out high damage, and Death Strike when your health is getting low. You want to use Frost Strike over Death Strike when you’re not taking damage, it costs less RP and does more damage. Remorseless Winter and Howling Blast are your big AoE moves, and proper use of Howling Blast in an AoE situation can give you very solid Runic Power generation.

Honestly, with this spec, I actually felt tankier as a Frost DK than I do as a Blood DK. Frost is my favorite DK spec by a lot this expansion. It feels strong as heck. Again, this is a spec built around ease of use — experienced DK players will likely quickly switch away from some or all of these talents.

  • Level 56 I went with Shattering Strikes because I was using Razorice anyway, why not get something out of it?
  • Level 57 Similarly, I’m using Howling Blast and Frost Strike, and Freezing Fog makes them hit harder.
  • Level 58 I vacillate between Icecap and Hungering Rune Weapon, but while I actually prefer HRW, Icecap is a passive talent choice and so it makes the cut here — getting more Pillar of Frost casts without having to think about it is pretty sweet as you’re learning the spec.
  • Level 60 A similar motive lay behind my choice of Abomination’s Might. It doesn’t change your playstyle, it just gives you a chance to stun enemies for a bit without having to think about it. Honestly, I think Blinding Sleet is a better talent, but it requires you to use it, so I leave that choice to you.
  • Level 75 Permafrost is an amazing talent for soloing and keeping upright, and I’m frankly envious of it on my Blood DK (and Fury Warrior, for that matter.) I really missed it when I tried out other talents.
  • Level 90 Frostscythe is an instant attack for AoE situations — it hits everything in front of you, does good damage, and benefits from Killing Machine (plus, when it crits it does four times normal damage) so while it is an instant, I chose it over passives.
  • Level 100 Finally, I went with Obliteration over Breath of Sindragosa or Glacial Advance because it works better with my own personal heavy Obliterate playstyle. Overall, Frost has a decent amount of depth and can be modified to be more about up close carving or wild AoE throwing, or both really. It’s a very solid DPS spec with very good survival options.



Unholy is a bit different. It doesn’t just rely on Outbreak and Virulent Plague, it also counts on Festering Strike to apply Festering Wounds to its targets. Scourge Strike causes them to erupt and do additional shadow damage, as well as generating Runic Power. Then there’s your pet (either a ghoul or an abomination, depending on if you pick a certain talent) which you’ll use Death Coil to heal up. You’ll want to use Dark Transformation on it as much as you can for the best DPS.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of Unholy. I get the appeal, but I barely like dealing with a pet on my Hunter, and when you’re melee managing the pet in addition to your own attacks is kind of fiddly. You get a hunter style pet bar when you summon your pet, so you can just set it and forget it if you want, which I did. Now, if you prefer the Unholy playstyle, that’s cool, I’m merely giving you my opinion.

This is the spec I chose for Unholy. It got me through the Artifact quest, so I assume it’ll work okay for most other uses.

  • Level 56 I chose All Will Serve because if I’m going to have a pet out anyway, I might as well have two. Honestly, I think Bursting Sores might be a better choice for the experienced player.
  • Level 57 Similarly Pestilent Pustules works on gameplay you’ll be doing anyway. Admittedly, once you’re up to speed and comfortable with the spec Epidemic seems quite a bit stronger, so you may want to go with that instead. PP sacrifices a good deal of power for ease of use, it could use a buff.
  • Level 58 Unholy Frenzy ended up being up pretty often, so I recommend it — you’ll be bursting a lot of those wounds with your Scourge Strike, it’s a solid choice.
  • Level 60 I took Sludge Belcher because I like having a tiny Abomination as my pet. That’s basically it — it’s a stronger pet than the Ghoul you get, but otherwise it’s an unremarkable choice.
  • Level 75 However, since my next talent choice was Corpse Shield, the Sludge Belcher talent does make that a better option, because the Abomination will survive more damage than a Ghoul or Geist.
  • Level 90 Similarly, Shadow Infusion makes Dark Transformation a more appealing ability, because you can use it more often. I’m down with that, because Dark Transformation is the only time my Abomination really felt powerful to me.
  • Level 100 Finally I chose Defile because frankly, I felt like any of these talents was a good choice based on how you play, and I just plain like standing in my own Defile watching it grow and throwing around Scourge Strikes that hit everything around me. In a group situation Defile is ludicrously good.

So what next?

Once you have a handle on your spec of choice, you can start playing with the options — these are just meant to give you a baseline to get started. I really feel like Frost is the clear winner here. If you’re a 2h Frost player and you just can’t stand the idea of dual wielding, then try and decide if you can stand tanking. If you can, Blood’s not bad, if a trifle underpowered.

Suffer well, Death Knights.

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