[shield melee] Beginner's pre-Krieg Death Knight

Picture with all permanent buffs + Ulzaad’s Decree active

Deathknight is often said to be a good build for beginners, the reason being the uniqueness of Krieg set. Unlike most items in the game that are random drops, this set can be acquired by farming certain bosses in Malmouth. The fact that you still somehow need to farm it is often omitted though. This guide is intended to provide guidelines to playing Deathknight before he gets Krieg set and Mindwarp.

Grimtools link (click me)

Build notes

          The build is more or less a standart hackneyed Cadence Soldier with Necromancer as a support mastery for resistance reduction (RR).

    Important note – as with any practical end-game build there are “hard” skill points that were invested into skills and bonus skill points that are, well, granted by items. Since skill growth is non-linear and many skills don’t win much from ultimate levels, bonus skill points often translate into more skill points rather than overcapped skills. If you don’t have that many skill points, whether because your’re still levelling or due to other reasons, you would need to gut something out of my build. The list below was sorted from most important stuff to things you could save on.

    Main question is whether to get Oleron’s Rage or Menhir’s Bulwark. “Obvious” pick is Menhir’s Bulwark because it’s a shield build, but actually sheet DPS is slightly higher with Oleron’s Rage, by about 5%. Oleron’s Rage trivializes OA and movespeed issues, on the other hand 15% damage absorbtion and resistance to life reduction attacks will improve your survivability when it matters. I settled on Menhir’s Bulwark, but I can see someone else making a different choice in the end. When it comes to levelling though I think Oleron’s Rage is a 100% winner.

    Cadence – max this, main damage skill
    Fighting Form – 1 hard point for extra targets
    Deadly Momentum – max this, main damage
    Oleron’s Rage or Menhir’s Bulwark – max
    Blitz – 1 hard point, mobility skill
    Blindside – 1 hard point, might be worth more due to DA shed, but no spare skill points
    Field Command – max, important source of OA, DA and armor
    Warcry – keep at 12/12, doesn’t scale well above it. Useful debuff. You can save some points by investing less here, but I won’t recommend it
    Break Morale – keep at 12/12, necessary RR
    Spectral Wrath – keep at 10/10, necessary RR
    Overguard – keep at 12/12, your bread and butter for surviving through worst situations
    Shield Training – it’s a shield build so 10/10 at least.
    Military Conditioning – keep at 10/10
    Squad Tactics – keep at 12/12, or lower. It’s not super important despite the look of it.
    Decorated Soldier – 1 point is a must, up to 8/8 to taste
    Scars of Battle – 1 point is a must, up to 8/8 to taste
    Fighting Spirit – 1 point
    Menhir’s Will – 12 points
    Mark of Torment – at least 1 point, more if got points to spare. It’s mostly a follow-up after Overguard is off.
    Spectral Binding – 1 point or max, due to accelerating nature of the skill. That’s one of the skills where you can save skill points.
    Ill Omen – picked only because of Stonewall Defender shield, which grants extra RR to this shield. Obviously if you don’t have the shield yet there’s no reason to pick it. I went 10/10 for more uptime, but I think 1 or 5 points might had been enough.

    For guidelines on how to spend points during levelling see the Levelling section.


          As I said earlier, I rush Falcon first because it’s amazing with Forcewave. The endgame build doesn’t have Falcon though. After getting Falcon you’re on a quest to reach Oleron, and obviously you need different devotions for Forcewave levelling and Cadence build.

    For Forcewave:

  1. Crossroads (purple)
  2. Falcon
  3. Hawk
  4. Crossroads (blue)
  5. Eel
  6. Kraken
  7. Remove Crossroads (blue)
  8. Empty Throne
  9. Ulzaad (bind Ulzaad’s Decree to Blitz)
  10. Chariot of the Dead (bind Wayward Soul to any aura¹)
  11. Crossroads (yellow)
  12. Assasin’s Blade (bind proc to Ravenous Earth²)
  13. Panther
  14. Crab
  15. Remove Empty Throne
  16. Remove Hawk
  17. Lizard
  18. Stag
  19. Vire, the Stone Matron

¹ - after you switch from Forcewave to shield build and get enough durability, re-bind Wayward Soul to Mehnir’s Will. This will limit procc-ing Wayward Soul to when you’re low on health, moreover it’ll also increase proc chance to 100%.
² - if you aren’t deep enough into Necromancer yet, temporarily bind to anything

How to respec into Cadence:

  1. Remove Vire, the Stone Matron
  2. Remove Kraken
  3. Bull, bind proc to Cadence
  4. Hammer
  5. Remove Falcon
  6. Remove Crossroads (purple)
  7. Remove Stag
  8. Shieldmaiden
  9. Vire, the Stone Matron
  10. Remove Crossroads (yellow)
  11. 2 pt in Obelisk of Menhir
Gear Notes
    • Weapon: Wendigo Cleaver – Barrowholm faction item. Use Whipwine Powder augment from Coven.
    • Shield: Stonewall Defender – craftable. Affix of choice – anything with %physical resistance, there are a bunch of them.
    • Chest: Elite Coven’s Combatant Chestguard – Coven of Ugdenbog faction item.
    • Shoulders: Elite Malmouth Vanguard Pauldrons – Malmouth Resistance faction item.
    • Head: Elite Malmouth Defender Casque – Malmouth Resistance faction item.
    • Rings: Coven Storm Seal – Coven of Ugdenbog faction item
    • Amulet: Bloodsurge – craftable, blueprint can be bought from Solael cult faction shop.
      Alternative: Empowered Essense of Beronath – craftable
    • Medal: Mark of the Voracious One – craftable, blueprint can be bought from Barrowholm faction shop.
    • Malmouth Bladed Girdle – craftable, blueprint bought from Malmouth faction shop. Go for “of Attack” or “of Readiness” affix here.
    • Gloves: Turin’s Grip – random drop, will be better than most things you could craft, even though skill bonuses are useless.
      Alternative: basic craftable heavy gloves with attack speed (“of Alacrity”, “of Honor Guard”).
    • Stoneplate Greaves – craftable. Go for “of Attack” or “of Readiness” affix here.
      Alternative: basic craftable heavy boots. Since they are cheaper than the above, try to get better affixes in this case.
    • Kubacabra’s Chausses – the only MI in the build. Relatively easy to get on elite, and you don’t need some super rare affix combo here to make it work – the build is tailored to work with anything.
      Alternative: basic craftable heavy pants.

    Very important: before you begin levelling I need to warn you on one thing. The levelling is done with Forcewave, which is a high damage high aoe mid-range 2H spell. The final setup uses Cadence with a shield, which is medium damage with very low aoe. Based on the feedback I received switching from Forcewave to Cadence was pretty unpleasant for some, there’s an extra hassle of adjusting your playstyle as well. The chance of you just not liking the new playstyle exists as well.

    This is a fundamental problem with this levelling path, fixing it is impossible. Designing an alternate levelling path so that it is less of a shock is a work in progress. And now that is is made clear, please proceed to the actual levelling path below.

    Attribute points: you need the bare minimum of Spirit for Jewelry and the rest goes into physique and cunning, at about 50:50 ratio, but early game more into physique and late game more into cunning. Generally investing into cunning is discouraged, but for this particular character it makes sense because I’ll smooth some of the extremes later in the game. Always have about 5-10 attribute points to spare so you could adjust things.

    Level 1-19: Start with Soldier. Levelling with Cadence early on is not a super fun experience, so I suggest to level with Forcewave instead. Get any 2H mace, preferably with “of Celerity”, get Forcewave, Tremor and Rending Force. Suggested by-level path:

    • Level 2 – 1 point into Soldier Mastery Bar, 2 into Forcewave
    • Level 3 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 into Forcewave
    • Level 4 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 into Forcewave
    • Level 5 – 3 points into Soldier
    • Level 6 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 into Forcewave
    • Kasparov quest bonus point – I assume you already have 2H weapon by now, so invest it into Tremor
    • Level 7 – 3 points into Forcewave
    • Level 8 – 2 points into Forcewave, 1 point into Soldier
    • Level 9 – 2 points into Forcewave, 1 point into Soldier
    • Level 10 – 2 points into Forcewave, 1 point into Soldier
    • Level 11 – 2 points into Forcewave, 1 point into Soldier
    • Level 12 – 1 point into Soldier, 2 points into Rending Force
    • Level 13 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 point into Rending Force
    • Level 14 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 point into Rending Force
    • Level 15 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 point into Rending Force
    • Level 16 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 point into Rending Force
    • Level 17 – 2 points into Soldier, 1 point into Rending Force
    • Level 18 – 2 points into Rending Force, 1 point into Rending Force
    • Level 19 – 2 points into Rending Force, 1 point into Blitz

    Devotion-wise you should have around 7 points by level 19, which need to be used to get Falcon. Bind Falcon Swoop on Forcewave

    Level 20-29: Plain and simple - go for Oleron’s Rage

    If you happen to get the Guile relic blueprint then craft it, it’ll help you a lot till very late into the game. Otherwise craft Sanctuary. Also it is a point when you should start using components in your gear, at least some of them. Recommended ones are:

    Level 20 is about when you’re expected to start using components, my usual early go-to’s are:

    • Imbued Silver or Purified Salt in the weapon
    • Wardstone into amulet and medal.
    • Ectoplasm in rings (Forcewave could be a bit energy hungry, especially with enough cast speed stacked)
    • Silk Swatch in the shoulders.
    • Scaled Hide into pants
    • Antivenom Salve in the belt

    Aside from Ectoplasm these are basic craftable components, you don’t need a blueprint to unlock them.

    Level 30-49:

    Skills to get now, in no particular order:

    • Field Command
    • Squad Tactics
    • War Cry
    • Break Morale
    • Military Conditioning

    This is a level range when you’ll probably encounter chthonian tyrants who drop Obsidian War Cleaver, which is a super good item for Forcewave. You need an “of Celerity” one, ofcourse – cast speed is a number one thing to boost dps of Forcewave.

    Level 50-64: Level 50 is about time you should consider investing into Necromancer mastery, or perhaps even slightly earlier. Rush Spectral Wrath. Get skills you still haven’t got from the list above.

    Level 65-89:

    If you happen to reach Respected with certain factions then consider buying following level 65 items from the faction shop:

    Malmouth Vanguard Cuirass from Malmouth Resistance
    Dreeg Combatant Spaulders from Cult of Dreeg
    Coven Combatant Casque from Coven of Ugdenbog

    If you happen to reach Revered with Homestead then buy Elite Harvest Foodpads at level 70 from them.

    Overall this level range is when which skills you get is less important than which gear you use. Optimizing your resistances is pivotal, but pay attention to armor as well. If you’re using level 65 gear pieces past level 80 you’re doing it wrong.

    Level 90+: get gear pieces listed in the Gear List section and work on fleshing out the build. It’s pretty much complete by now.

▼  Prospects

         When I started to write the guide back in 2018 Deathknight was a pretty popular class, so there was a lot of high end builds I could refer people to. Sadly, most of them are outdated by now, and it doesn’t seem like high end builders are interested in this class much. The reason is there’s a Warlord.

  1. Krieg Death Knight on budget, the Soul Reaver by me. If you’ve got Krieg but struggle to get Mindwarp check this build out.
  2. Beronath’s Death Herald by mad lee. The build was made after FG release, so it’s actual.
  3. Ghouls & Ghosts – pet death knight by Maya. Another build that was made after FG release.
  4. Warpblade - Krieg DW Aether Cadence Deathknight by veretragna. Also got a shield version. Not updated with FG in mind.
  5. Krieg DK by Zhuugus. A basic Krieg DK, but not updated with FG in mind. Also got a physical Forcewave version inside.

Other beginner guides

Guides by myself:

Guides by Nery:

Guides by others:


  1. Please do not send me pm’s with questions about the guide, post them in this thread instead. Don’t worry, I won’t miss your post - I’d get a e-mail notification.
  2. Do not expect me to answer questions about the game that are not related to the guide.

I’m not a fan of this, but I don’t have time to personally monitor your progress through the game and consult you tet-a-tet.

Thanks for this guide. It’s nice to see a build guide aimed at beginners. Especially with explanation of skill point investment. Sometimes it seems like build guides are just discussions of BiS items. :stuck_out_tongue:

How get all those components though? … Living armor, Seal of Might, Ugdenbog leather… Not something I have even after 100h into the game

They’re blueprints so they can technically drop from anywhere but you have better chances from running rogue-likes, killing Nemeses, completing Crucible etc.

Since you’re unlikely to be at a level to complete these if you’re following a new player guide, my recommendation is to run Treasure Troves - I haven’t ran Troves since the expansion released but I recall getting blueprints off of them at a fairly decent rate without the risk that roguelike Bosses/Nemeses pose.

Good locations for Troves are the first floor of Bastion of Chaos and the Mountain Deeps (I’ve heard that 1-2 more spots have been added here since but do not know for certain).

Doing God’s work, Stupid Dragon :slight_smile:

That’s a very thourough and detailed beginner’s guide, well done.

I would ask if this build can sustain itself with mana regen or if it needs potion. Because Arcane Spark is actually more affordable than Tainted Heart.

That’s a good question actually. I’m not 100% sure since it has been a while for me. I did a full restart back when AoM was released and just somehow got them w/o much issues.

A friend of mine recently came back to the game (haven’t played much of AoM yet at that point) and he says he easily got them when farming Twin Falls hives on ultimate :undecided:

I have Arcane Spark in the amulet.
It does sometimes need a potion since Arcane Spark can’t cover for the constant use of Blitz and Warcry, but at the very least it doesn’t run out of energy. Potions are meant to be used anyway :rolleyes:

Running treasure troves is like popping superchests in Lower Kurast for high runes in Diablo II, that is too cheesy for me :wink:

I have 3 greens (one of them is MI) on my DK, rest are legendaries and epics, still only have the basic components (like scaled hide, antivenom salve LOL) perhaps I have not been lucky in finding bluerprints.

It is a really good guide, I will definitely try it out at some point :slight_smile:

I have another question regarding the devotion Oreon, the reduced targets physical resistance will not stack with Breaking Morale, right? So is the slower enemy attacks what is in for it? And also, how much OA do you think is needed to get the most out of Assassins mark? 3k?

It isn’t that much about luck but upping the stakes and farming ultimate. Perhaps on elite drop rates for these are rather low.

Oleron proc is for it’s great AOE. A common solution for the common problem of Cadence builds. Also Break Morale’s duration is 5 seconds while cooldown is 8 seconds, so Oleron’s RR isn’t a complete waste as well.

Assasin’s Mark has 18 second duration so you can get the most out of it even with relatively low OA. But having high OA allows you to put it on WPS skills for convenience, which isn’t that great of an idea otherwise. You need high OA for Blind Fury anyway.

I don’t really know everything about Oleron without looking at Gt but it’s basically jist there for damage. RR won’t stack with Break Morale, as you said.

Assassin’s Mark is stackable RR which is basically the most inportant part of your devotion route, so no matter the OA you will want to get it, but you need to put it on a spammable skill to ensure that it procs, especially if you have low OA (below 3k, I think but it all depends on testing).

Thanks dudes

I also noticed that Oleron gives physical resists, but so does Sailors compass. Would the Bull or Dire Bear be suitable replacers for Oleron since I think I might need to pickup a few (partial) constelations for some resistances

I haven’t used Bull Rush or Dire Bear’s Maul in a while, so no idea. Oleron is picked not only for Blind Fury but for massive %phys and %it damage bonuses as well.

Try it, I guess. Might work.

Yeah +180% Physical dmg, the bull “only” gives +90%

Thanks again for all advice

I have visited Benevalds secret shop in Blood Grove many times now, but no signs of blueprints for Stoneplate Greaves and the pants, only skeleton key and spellweave pants are available

Check your blacksmith again, you might already have it!! (I actually don’t know if you even have to find it or just have it from the beginning). The blueprint is a yellow one (called heavy boots or sth similar) and only becomes green if you roll a rare affix / suffix.

Dire Bear you mean? Bull can’t have this much because it’s a T1 constellation, which typically have around 40%.

Yes sorry, I mean the Dire bear

So much green, delete this build

Joking aside nice job. I’d Remove MA as having both ZT and MA cuts your in game DPS in half due to animation. You may not notice it much at 148% AS but at higher speeds it gets worse and worse.

I assumed it wont be severe with my attack speed and will be a net dps gain. I was wrong?

Imo if you want a dps boost just drop MA and overcap Spectral wrath and Break morale. 3 RR is globally more effective


Thank you for that really nice guide!

After over 2k hours in GD, i want to start my first hc char.
I think this one will be fine for that.
Would you recommend any changes for hc, or should it be viable as it is?