Best Death Knight Build in Baldur’s Gate 3

Become Arthas the Lich King with our Death Knight Necromancer build in Baldur's Gate 3.

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Does becoming a heavily armored Death Knight Necromancer summoning, controlling, and strengthening hordes of undead in BG3 sound fun? The Oathbreaker Paladin and the Necromancy Wizard can channel this fantasy superbly. Here’s my best Death Knight build in Baldur’s Gate 3.

What is the Best Death Knight Build in BG3?

For this BG3 Death Knight Necromancer, put 6 Levels into Necromancer Wizard and 6 Levels into Oathbreaker Paladin. I like this tanky build for a caster because it gives Heavy Armor Proficiency on a Wizard with sustain abilities and undead-boosting from Oathbreaker.

That said, the main feature of this build is our Wizard’s Animate Dead spell. It scales as we progress since Paladin spell slots stack with our Wizard slots.

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  • Level 1: Paladin 1 (Subclass: Any Oath but I recommend Devotion or Ancients as it’s easy to break it early, more on that later).
  • Level 2: Wizard 1. 
  • Level 3: Wizard 2 (Subclass: Necromancy).
  • Level 4: Wizard 3.
  • Level 5: Wizard 4 (Feat: Warcaster, can later be respected into Resilient Constitution once we get Advantage on Concentration).
  • Level 6: Wizard 5.
  • Level 7: Wizard 6.
  • Level 8: Paladin 2 (Fighting Style: Defence).
  • Level 9: Paladin 3.
  • Level 10: Paladin 4 (Feat: Intelligence Increase).
  • Level 11: Paladin 5.
  • Level 12: Paladin 6.

Though I love to run this build, the Death Knight is a strange build, nonetheless. We’ll be respecing at certain points of the game to rearrange our stats as we get items that boost our Intelligence and Strength.

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Best Death Knight Build Stats, Race, Cantrips, and Spells

I’ve chosen the Warped Headband of Intellect as one of our core items. You get it by killing Lump the Ogre at the Blighted Village. Additionally, we need the Club of Hill Giant Strength by breaking the footstool atop the Arcane Tower in the Underdark and later the Gauntlets of Hill Giant Strength in the House of Hope.

The former allows us to dump Intelligence, setting it at a 17. The latter allows us to dump Strength, setting it at a 19. With the level-up structure in mind, let’s discuss our stats, spells, and the choices we’ll make.

Stats: Start with Strength 16 (+2 there), Con (15), Intelligence 16 (+1 there), and then dump the rest. We don’t need Dexterity because of Heavy Armor. We’ll get Charisma through respec once we get more Paladin levels. (Once you get the Warped Headband of Intellect, you can respec and reallocate Intelligence points into Charisma.)

With the Club of Hill Giant Strength, you can respec again to put Strength points into Intelligence and Constitution. We’ll swap out the Warped Headband of Intellect. Your final stats should be Str 19, Dex 8, Con 16 (Resilient Con +1), Intelligence 20 (Auntie Ethel hair, +2, +2 From Feat), Wisdom 8, Cha 16 (+1).

Race: I recommend the Githyanki or Tieflings for the extra mobility or damage spells, respectively.

Oathbreaker: You can break your oath easily with Devotion by killing the Tieflings guarding Lae’Zel early. Alternatively, you can break it with the Ancients oath and killing Auntie Ethel while refusing her plead for her life.

Cantrips: I take Ray of Frost here. It’s a must for items later and then Bone Chill or Poison Spray as a secondary.

Spells: Animate Dead is our core spell. However, we only get it on Wizard 5. Until then, I pick up Inflict Wounds, Hellish Rebuke, Bless, and Aid from Paladin. From Wizard we need early spells like Shield, Ray of Sickness, Longstrider, Misty Step, and Shatter.

For great late-game spells, I take Animate Dead, Fireball, Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern, and of course Blight. If you want to lean more into the Wizard spell aspect, I would just pick up Paladin 3 for Control Undead and go full Wizard for Conjure Elemental spells meaning more minions.

Best Death Knight Gear in BG3

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Besides the Warped Headband of Intellect and the Club of Hill Giant Strength/Gauntlets of Hill Giant Strength, there’s some awesome gear for our Death Knight Necromancer:

Necromancy of Thay: This is an essential item for BG3 Necromancers. You get it in the cellar of that Blighted Village house. Find the Amethyst to power it beneath the Masterwork Forge guarded by the Spider Matriarch. This book grants some of my favorite Necromancer abilities, but we want it mainly for the Summoning Spell in Act 3 to bolster our army of undead.

The Ice Package: Focus on Ice damage to CC your foes with Ray of Frost, the frosty Chromatic Orb, and Ice Knife. Pick up Mourning Frost (Combine rewards/loot from Myconid colony, Filro, Dhourn), Snowburst Ring, WInter’s Clutches, Frostbrim Hat, and Hoarfrost Boots. Your spells and CC effects freeze foes to oblivion and provide Disadvantage on their Dexterity saving throws.

Circle of Bones: This is a circlet you get from Balthazar. It drastically boosts undead defenses.

Defense: I recommend the Armor of Devotion for extra Control Undead or the Reaper’s Embrace for Undead-themed abilities. Additionally, Ketheric’s Shield or the Shield of Devotion works great as they boost your spells. Lastly, the Cloak of Displacement is also a superb defensive piece of gear.

Spell Slots: The Spellcrux Amulet and the Pearl of Power are great for spell slot economy. 

Head: The Firstbreaker Helm or the Hood of the Weave are superb for stronger spells once you ditch the Warped Headband of Intellect upon getting the Club of Hill Giant Strength.

Offense: For your main weapon I recommend Woe from Cazzador and later on the Staff of Cherished Necromancy of course as they both provide useful abilities for your Necromancer build but you can also Divine Smite with them. As for the early game, any one-handed martial weapon like the Thorn Blade that scales with Spell Concentration or staff that boosts your Spell Save DC like Melf’s First Staff works.

How to Use the Death Knight Necromancer Build

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While this is a build I’ve used quite a lot, it’s awkward because it only comes online at Level 6 (Wizard 5), which is drastically later than many other builds. On character Level 7 (Wizard 6), Animate Dead is boosted by the Undead Thralls upgrade to create stronger undead and spawn an additional one. You’re just a Wizard in Heavy Armor until character Level 7.

With the Club of Hill Giant Strength and respeccing into Intelligence, the Death Knight Necromancer comes online. You can summon up to five undead and control a sixth one through the Control Undead channel oath. Increased Charisma also allows Aura of Protection to safeguard our horde once we reach Paladin 6. If the defensive Aura doesn’t interest you, take three levels into Paladin for Control Undead and focus on Wizard to summon more minions with Conjure Elemental spells.

Start fights from range. Let your undead horde tank while you nuke enemies with Blight or your Ice spells for CC. Since Paladin spell slots scale with Wizard ones, Hold Person also works wonders. It allows all your Undead to crits targets automatically.

Whenever I run out of spell slots I can wade into melee with Divine Smites and stay healthy with Grim Harvest. That’s two-fold if we kill enemies with Necromancy spells.

Though the Death Knight build takes a while to get fun, it’s incredibly powerful in late Act 2 and Act 3. You’re a one Death Knight army. Don’t forget to Control Undead for extra buddies, and I would especially focus on undead mini-bosses in Act 2 like Malus. For more BG3 guides, check out my best solo builds and solo play tips if you want to try playing the game alone.

About the author

Gordan Perisic

From playing RPGs and dungeon mastering for his D&D group to reading novels and scribbling about his fantasy setting, Gordan is a full-time nerd and devoted writer for GameSkinny. He loves to overshare and discuss literature, music, animation, and trees with fellow geeks. Also, he may or may not cook too much food for his friends. Cholesterol is one hell of a drug.