Lichborne: Guide to PvE unholy death knights in Mists of Pandaria
With Mists of Pandaria less than a month, it's a good time to get caught up on your chosen class' mechanics and playstyle in order to get a good start in the new expansion. With that in mind, we've spent the past few weeks discussing the various specs and how they'll play. This week, we add to the collection with a guide to unholy death knights in PvE. As a reminder, the following guide is for the basics of the class and spec.
Unholy, much like its sister trees, remains more or less unchanged in basic look and feel. Of course, there's enough tweaks that there's stuff to learn, but if you liked the way unholy played back in patch 4.3, you'll like the way it plays in patch 5.0.4 and Mists of Pandaria. The biggest change you'll notice is that the new version of Ebon Plaguebringer no longer has the magic damage debuff or the third disease. They have upped the damage on our strikes to compensate, but it's one more little piece of unholy look and feel that's gone.
Unholy is, of course, played with a two-handed weapon enchanted with Rune of the Fallen Crusader, as you will need its power to get the most damage from your strikes, and in Unholy Presence. You will also want to make sure you have your ghoul out as much as possible, as it makes up a not insignificant amount of your damage. If you don't want to deal with a pet or want to dual wield, you're better off switching to frost DPS.
Stats to spread disease to
Your stat priorities have seen some changes over the course of Cataclysm due to selected buffs and nerfs, and Mists of Pandaria nudges this along again. The basic order is as follows:
- Strength remains king. It informs all damage we do, even spell damage, and boosts it more than anything else, especially with Unholy Might in the mix. You will continue to gem for it whenever possible, switching to purple or orange gems only if the gemming bonus is incredibly good.
- Hit/Expertise In patch 5.0.4 and beyond, hit has a soft cap of 7.5%. Hit 7.5% hit rating, and your melee attacks won't miss. However, you will also want to get expertise to 7.5% now. This is because Expertise can now affect spell miss as well as dodges, and with Runic Focus gone, you will want to get it capped so you don't miss all those important abilities. Don't be afraid to use your reforging power to hit these caps.
- Haste increases not only attack speed, but rune regeneration. It also affects pet attacks, and since pets are such an important part of unholy death knight DPS, that stacks the deck even more in its favor. If you're hit and expertise capped, you'll want to focus on getting more haste.
- Critical strike rating comes in second to haste, in part because it affects our pets now, and therefore provides a bigger boost to all of our damage.
- Mastery generally lags behind the other secondary stats because it does not affect pet damage in any fashion. It can become more important if you have a weapon with a shadow damage proc such as Gurthalak, but on a day to day basis, it'll be your least desired secondary stat.
Unholy continues the trend of having no real cookie cutter spec, although there are some talents that come across as more mandatory than others.
Tier 1Plague Leech will be a DPS increaser on this tier if you can consistently use it every time your Outbreak is up and/or your diseases have only a couple seconds left before they drop. That can be very hard to master though, so don't be afraid to take Unholy Blight instead simply to avoid having to deal with that issue. Unholy Blight is a great backup for those moments when you really need your diseases up, but Outbreak is on cooldown. Roiling Blood can also certainly help if you're doing a lot of AoE, too, especially since Blood Boil is affected by Reaping now. If you're chain pulling, you can use Roiling Blood to essentially keep diseases up indefinitely.
Tier 2Lichborne continues to be a very solid self-healing mechanism, and something you may want to keep in reserve for soloing or when your healers just don't have the mana to heal you. On the other hand, Anti-Magic Zone gives you a very nice group defensive cooldown that could save your raid or dungeon group if you're facing down a boss with some nasty magic AoEs. Purgatory is the distant 3rd runner up. Sure, it might keep you alive if you accidentally pull aggro or get stuck in the fire while Anti-Magic Shell is on cooldown, but you'll only die 3 seconds later unless someone's willing to dump a lot of mana on the DPS that got himself killed. I'd only take Purgatory if I had a very strong bond with my raid healers.
Tier 3Death's Advance is a pretty clear winner on this tier. Its passive speed boost does stack with Unholy Presence, and you'll have that cooldown to chase down runners. In most cases, you'll want to take it without hesitation. Chilblains and Asphyxiate are primarily going to be situational, something you'll spec into if you're called on to kite mobs or help keep them otherwise locked down.
Tier 4Death Pact probably has the best return for the least amount of resources on this tier. It won't actually kill your ghoul, it's off the GCD, and 50% of your max health is a pretty sizable chunk. The only real downsides are the 2 minute cooldown and the possibility of your ghoul dying to a stray hit until he heals back up. Death Siphon and Conversion both have no cooldowns, but they will require giving up resources you could be using for DPS, and Conversion just plain locks you out of your rune regen talent for all intents and purposes while it's up.
Tier 5 Used properly, Blood Tap provides the most bang for your buck, since you can use it to refresh a depleted frost or blood rune and have a "free" Scourge Strike ready to go. If manipulating the system like that is a bit much for you, though, you can either macro Blood Tap to your Death Coil button, or just call it even and spec to Runic Corruption instead.
Tier 6 This tier, since no ability does damage, is preference based. Remorseless Winter can help keep trash pulls locked down nicely, ready for your tank to pick off. Gorefiend's Grasp can be used to help reign in a pull that's starting to go bad. Desecrated Ground may prove useful if you come up against a boss fight mechanic that it can break or protect you from.
Glyphs, for the most part, no longer directly affect your damage or play in incredibly meaningful ways, so much of what you choose will come down to preference, at least for PvE. I would recommend you go for Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell, as you should be using that ability to absorb magic damage and generate runic power as often as possible. Other than that, you can feel free to go wild. I would suggest reading our death knight glyph guide (don't miss part two either) to get a handle on what each glyph may mean for you.
Damage priorities: Promoting death and decay
As has been the case since Cataclysm, a death knight's damage is less a pure rotation and more of a priority system, but let's go down the list and get a basic idea for how to run a single target mob fight.
- Keep your diseases up. You'll need both the debuffs and the extra damage they provide to your scourge strike. Whenever possible, use Outbreak or Unholy Blight, as using runes will almost always mess up the rest of your priority.
- Use Dark Transformation. Getting your ghoul pumped up and powerful means more damage, and the sooner he's through with it, the sooner your death coils can build up for the next one. Don't waste any possible stacks of Shadow Infusion if you can help it.
- If your target is below 35% health, use Soul Reaper.
- If your runic power is capped or near-capped, use Death Coil. You don't want to waste the runic power generated by your other attacks.
- Use Death and Decay if the target is not moving and it won't pull adds. Death and Decay is still a net DPS gain to our single target rotation, believe it or not, thanks to our high shadow damage.
- Use Scourge Strike if both unholy runes or all death runes are up.
- Use Festering Strike if both sets of frost and blood runes are up. You will also want to make sure you use it often enough to keep your diseases refreshed.
- Use Death Coil if you have a Sudden Doom proc
- Use Scourge Strike
- Use Festering Strike
- Use Death Coil
As always, be sure to use your cooldowns to supplement damage. If you have 60 RP and the mob won't die before he's done, summon your Gargoyle. He still has a lot of problems, but he is a DPS boost overall in most situations. Unholy Frenzy is also a decent DPS boost if you can take (or glyph out of) the health drain, but don't use it in conjuction with Heroism or similar abilities, or you will more or less waste the haste. Anti-Magic Shell should be cast whenever you're the target of a major spell, not only survivability purposes, but for the extra runic power it generates. Finally, our guide to using Army of the Dead still applies, and you can make it even easier to use if you glyph out of the taunt.
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.
Death Knight of the specialization Unholy relies on using dark magic and diseases, all of this combined with their mastery of two-handed weapons in Melee. As assisting force, there are Skeletons, Ghouls, Abominations. Gargoyles and even a Val’kyra.
Like any other Death Knight spec, Unholy uses 2 resources: Runes and Runic Power (hereinafter – RP). Runes are always ready out of combat. After a Rune is used, it starts to restore. Only 3 Runes can be restoring simultaneously. Rune restoring speed depends on the speed rating, traits and whether you haveRunic Corruption. The RP is somewhat like Fury – you can earn it and then spend it.
Let’s take a closer look at the strong and the weak points of this specialization:
- Depending on the selected talents, it can show remarkable results on single-target, and nice results on cleave and AoE.
- It has several defensive abilities
- Low mobility.
- To do AoE damage, time for speeding up is needed.
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AoE (Area of Effect) is basically the area where this of that effect is actuated regardless of whether its damage or healing. This command is usually used to act in a team/raid on several targets. It is also used to describe any ability of a Boss with the aforementioned effect.
Buff stands for any positive effect. Always reflected to the left of the mini-map, by its upper edge.
Burst is an ability to do – in multiple ways – massive damage within a short period of time.=
GCD (Global Cooldown) is the overall ability recovery time.
Debuff stands for negative effect. By default, it’ reflected to the left of the mini-map by its lower edge.
DoT stands for Damage over Time.
DPS (Damage per Second) is a measure that reflects the damage done within one second.
Cleave is an ability to damage secondary targets through damaging the main one with no (or minor) loss in the damage done to the main target.
Cooldown (often CD) primarily refers to the ability recovery time. Can be often applied to bursts and various protective abilities.
Melee and Range. Melee is the close-range combat zone, also used in the titles of all the classes and specs that do effective damage in this zone. Range usually refers to a zone that is not a close-range one and is used, respectfully, in the titles of all classes and specs that do effective damage remotely.
Trait is a name for the ‘talents’ your azerite armor has.
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Festeing Wound is a debuff on a target which, when bursting, does minor Dark Magic damage and generates 3 RP. One taget can bear no more than 6 of these. Stays on the victim for 30 secs. Fester breaks either when the target dies, or when certain abilities or various passive effects are used.
Scourge Strike demands 1 Rune, generates 10 RP. It is comprised of two damage components – physical and dark magic. And the last but not least here is that it bursts oneFestering Wound.
Outbreak applies a debuff on the target for 6 secs; at also infects them and all the nearby targets withVirulent Plague. Demands 1 Rune, active radius – 30m.
*Virulent Plague is a dark magic DoT doing substantial damage; each tick has a 30% chance to do minor additional dark magic damage distributed among all the enemies hit. This effect also kicks in when the infected targets die.
Death Coil is your main RP spender. Allows to hit an enemy within 30 yards for 45 RP with shadow magic reducing by 1 sec for each Dark transformation tick. Sometimes due to your passive abilitySudden Doom, you get to utilizeDeath Coil for free.
Death and Decay. Select an area in which, within the next 10 secs, a minor dark magic damage will be placed. This ability’s main peculiarity is that while you’re in the zone of its action, yourScourge Strike starts hitting all the enemies around your target which allows to burstFestering Wounds on several targets at a time. Used on AoE.
You have the default ability ofRaise Dead which allows you to summon an under-control Ghoul. This ability has a 1 min CD.
There is alsoDark Transformation in your arsenal. It transforms your pet and empowers or modifies their ability. Briefly, your pet can do the following:
Gnaw provides a 1 sec stun with a 1.5 min CD. InDark Transformation the damage of this ability is increased, and the stun is cast for 2 secs.
Leap jumps you behind your enemy’s back. InDark Transformation, it interrupts your enemy while casting the spell and stuns them for 2 secs.
Huddle halves your incoming damage down for 10 secs and prevents your enemy from doing anything for that time. InDark Transformation the effect is the same but a Ghoul can act.
Claw is your Ghoul’s main attack. When Dark transformation is active deals less damage but hits all targets in front of it dealing dark magic damage.
Bursts, important CDs and passive effects
Apocalypse Does nice instant physical damage and bursts 4Festering Wounds. It also summons a member of yourArmy of the Dead for 15 secs perWound.
Army of the Dead is a powerful CD summoning a bunch of various undead within a 4-sec period. The warriors of the Army will fight for 30 secs. Demands 3 Runes. CD 10 min. There are two important traits that empower the Army.
Sudden Doom. Auto-attacks have a certain probability that the nextDeath Coil will come in without spending any Runes.
Runic Corruption. For each RP spent you get a 1.4% chance that you’ll receive a 3-sec buff increasing the restoring speed for your Runes by 100%.
Anti-Magic Shell (often referred to as AMS) covers you with a shield for 5 secs for 30% of your total HP (increasing the value of Versatility) making you resistant to magical effects. The consumed damage generates RP. CD 1 min.
Icebound Fortitude decreases the incoming damage by 30% and makes you stun-resistant. CD 3 min.
Wraith Walk cancels all the movement-limiting effects and increases your running speed by 70%. And you can’t go slower than 170%. Active for 3 secs, CD 45 secs.
Raise Ally is a combat resurrection. It has a mechanics quite similar to that of other spells of the kind from other classes. Outside a raid combat, CD 10 min. Inside a raid, the restoring speed depends on the number of players on the raid (90/x – CD per res, where x is the number of raiders).
Death Gate is your teleport to Acherus – your class Hold. CD 1 min.
RuneForging is an important thing many forget about because in this addition to the game, they didn’t care to remind the gamers that they can apply various runic empowerments on their weapons. Basically, we’re interested in only one Rune –Rune of the Fallen Crusader. Just don’t forget to apply it to your artifact, and then you can forget you had this ability again.
Mind Freeze interrupts your enemy while they are casting a spell and keep them from casting a different spell from the same school for 3 more secs. CD 15 secs, action radius 15m.
Chains of Ice for 1 Rune allows you to slow down your enemy’s running speed by 70% for 8 secs. Action area – 30m.
Path of Frost allows you and your allies within the 50m radius run on water surface for 10 min. Receiving damage cancels the effect.
Control Undead allows you to control an Undead enemy no higher than 121 lvl for 5 min. Costs 1 Rune, is applied one every 1.5 secs, action radius – 30m.
Dark Command is your taunt making the target attack you within 3 secs.
Death Strike, for 35 RP, does minor physical damage and restores 40% of the damage done to you over the last 5 secs, but no less than 10% of max HP. After the enemy is killed,Dark Succor kicks in allowing you to apply theDeath Strike within the next 20 secs for free, and its restoring effectiveness will grow by 100%.
Death Grip helps you drag an enemy within a 30m radius towards you. CD 25 secs.
On a Pale Horse is a passive effect increasing your riding speed by 20%.
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General information. On achieving several new levels you’ll get access to new talent ‘Tiers’. Talents may have different effect on abilities: add new features, replace old ones, modify passively different effects and spells. Talents can be changed in Sanctuaries or any recreational zones. However, if you don’t have any of those places nearby you can use theCodex of the Tranquil Mind which allows you to switch channels within a minute. You can’t change talents in combat. You can’t change a talent if the talent you’ve picked in the last Tier is on Cooldown. You’ll have to wait until it’s restored first.
Tier 1. Lvl 56
Tier 2. Lvl 57
- Bursting sores. Bursting Festering wound deals 25 % more damage, and deals shadow damage to all nearby targets within 8 yards. The best bursting aoe talent.
- Ebon fever. Virulent plague deals 15% more damage over time in half duration.
- Unholy blight. Surrounds Death knight with a a vile swarm of insects for 6 sec, stinging all nearby enemies and infecting them for with a low damage disease for 14 sec
Tier 3. Lvl 58
- Grip of the dead. Death and decay reduces the movement speed of enemies within its area by 90%, decaying by 10% every sec. A good talent for mythic + or raid where a boss fight requires movement reduce
- Death’s reach. Increases the range of Death grip by 10 yards. Killing an enemy resets the cooldown.
- Asphyxiate is a single-target stun for 4 secs. Action radius – 20m, CD 45 secs. If you need a stun in your encounter, this talent could be of use.
Tier 4. Lvl 60
- Pestilent pustules. Bursting a Festering wound has 10% to grant you runic corruption.
- Harbinger of doom. Sudden doom triggers 15% more often and can accumulate up to 2 charges.
- Soul reaper. Dots an enemy for 8 sec dealing shadow damage and restoring 2 runes. If the enemy dies you gain 10% haste for 8 sec. Cooldown is 45 sec. This is the best talent in the tier because of the damage and regeneration.
Tier 5. Lvl 75
- Spell Eater empowers theAnti-Magic Shell by 30% and prolongs its action by 5 secs.
- Wraith walk. Removes all root effects increasing your movement by 70%. While active your speed cannot be reduced below 170%. Taking any action cancels the effect. Lasts 4 sec, has 60 sec cd.
- Death pact. Heals you for 50% of your maximum health but absorbs incoming healing equal to 30% of your max health for 15 sec .A situational talent.
*The choice is up to you, take what is required for a fight but the standard choice in the tier is Spell eater.
Tier 6. Lvl 90
- Pestilence. Death and decay damage has 10% chance to apply Festering wound to the enemy.
- Defile. Replaces Death and decay using the same mechanic but dealing more damage and growing in size if atleast one enemy stands in Defile.
- Epidemic. Causes each of your Virulent Plagues to flare up dealing shadow damage to the infected enemy and an additional minor damage to all enemies nearby. The best aoe talent.
*Talents in this tier do not increase single target damage so the standard choice would be Epidemic for Aoe potential.
Tier 7. Lvl 100
- Army of the dead. Death coil and Epidemic. reduce the cooldown of Apocalypse by 1 sec andArmy of the dead by 5 sec.
- Unholy frenzy. Incites you into killing frenzy for 12 sec increasing haste by 20% and causing you auto attacks to infect the target with Festering wound. The best choice for single target fight and for Aoe.
- Summon gargoyle. Summon a gargoyle for 30 sec to attack your target. The gargoyle gains 1% increased dmg for every 2 rp you spend. A weak talent that attaches you to the target for 30 sec.
As a result, we could mock up 2 builds intended for meeting absolutely different objectives.
- Single target:
- AoE and M+:
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Sets in BFA were removed and azerite armor took their place. Now any chest, shoulder and helm has a few rings to choose a talent.
- Festermight. Bursting a festering wound grants you additional strength for 20 sec stacking up. Stacking this effect does not extend its duration. The best trait you definitely need to obtain in amount of 3. It is actively used for AOE and single target fights.
- Magus of the dead. Apocalypse and army of the damned additionally summon a Magus of the dead for 20 sec who attack your enemies. Also a good trait that is preferably to have in amount of 1-2.
- Harrowing decay. Death coil infects the target with DOT that deals shadow damage for 4 sec. The best talent in case you don’t have options to obtain others.
*SInce there are a lot of azerite traits in the game, it would be a good thing to check optimal variants on raidbots.com and also see the best currently traits on herodamage.com.( AzeritePowerWeights:2:"herodamage.com - Stacks_1T_T24":6:252: 575=10, 199=9.86, 526=9.46, 522=9.40, 193=8.79, 562=8.24, 82=7.80, 196=7.75, 109=7.67, 479=6.47, 488=6.36, 494=6.36, 501=6.31, 157=6.27, 192=6.06, 504=5.95, 244=5.86, 478=5.81, 483=5.58, 485=5.52, 486=5.50, 492=5.50, 142=5.40, 482=5.28, 30=5.27, 495=5.27, 489=5.27, 505=5.24, 195=5.22, 523=5.18, 480=5.13, 194=5.12, 521=4.97, 481=4.69, 561=4.62, 498=4.07, 350=3.98, 156=3.57, 576=3.42, 500=3.16, 459=3.16, 351=3.05, 31=3.04, 22=2.89, 560=2.75, 21=2.75, 487=2.69, 493=2.69, 20=2.52, 499=2.41, 18=1.99, 497=1.97, 491=1.97, 461=1.97, 541=1.96, 496=1.89, 490=1.89, 462=1.81, 140=0.12: )
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EssencesThese ratings are based on simulations, statistics of WarcraftLogs and players experience.
As it was mentioned in the previous sections, even in one type of combat, various talents and even trinkets can be used. That’s why some of the important things will change.
To begin with, let’s take a look at the default priorities regardless of the aforementioned factors.
- Virulent Plague should always be on the target.
- Dark Transformation per CD.
- Festering Strike, if there are noFestering Wounds on your target, or there are no more than 2 of them.
- Apocalypse, if not on CD and on targets with 4Festering Wounds.
- Scourge strike / Clawing shadows if there are 4+ Festering wounds, Festering strike if there is 2 or less wounds
- Death Coil, if the RP is on max or close to it
- Unholy frenzy per CD
- Soul reaper (to restore runes)
- Army of the dead5-6 sec before pull
- Prepot 1-2 seconds before the fight
- Dark transformation
- Festering strike x2
- Apocalypse(only of there are 4 wounds on the target)
- Unholy frenzy
- Soul reaper
AoE and Mythic+
- Remember to drink prepots before packs
- Dark transformation (using it like this will allow you to get wounds stacks faster on all targets)
- Unholy frenzy
- Festering strike x2
- Apocalypse (when there are 4 wounds on the target)
- Do not hold runes (3 runes always have to recharge at the same time)
- Death and decay
- Scourge strike at least with 1 wound up
- Spend rp on Epidemic
- Death coil when procs
On bosses and other single targets
- Army of the dead 5 sec before the pull
- Prepot 1-2 sec before the fight
- Dark transformation
- Festering strike x2
- Unholy frenzy
- Soul reaper (to restore runes)
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The default characteristics priority is as follows:
Haste> Strength> Crit = Versatility> Mastery
Considering the information above and your own results after checking your character you can decide what gems, chants and pots you need for raiding. It is better to check your character on raidbots.com after every new piece of gear.
Based on the aforementioned characteristics and results of your character’s own simulation results, you can draw conclusions on Gems, Chants and Raid Chemicals.
Flasks and pots
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Kick with a modifier, with the Shift key held, the ability is applied on a remembered target, without – on the current one./cast [mod:shift,@focus] Mind Freeze
Combat resurrection by cursor’s position:#showtooltip Raise Ally /cast [target=mouseover] Raise Ally
An outbreak by cursor’s position:/cast [target=mouseover] Outbreak
An extremely useful macro for Mythic+ – dismiss the pet:/petdismiss
Death Grip on cursor position; if there’s no target under your cursor, the Grip is applied to the current one:#showtooltip Death Grip /cast [target=mouseover, exists] Death Grip; Death Grip
A similar macro for the Abomination:#showtooltip Hook /cast [target=mouseover, exists] Hook; Hook
If you want your pet to constantly attack your current target without getting distracted for other buttons:#showtooltip Festeing Strike /cast Festering Strike /cast Claw /cast Cleaver
* Keep in mind that with these macros, if you want your pet to grip a target outside the reaching zone, your pet will have to make a run for it. When you actuate your macro, the pet cancels that command and goes back to hitting your target (if you’ve actuated the macro after you’ve sent it to grip a target, of course).
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- Leveling. If your character has been inactive since the previous expansions, the best option to level up it is by Timewalking dungeons. You will gain a lot of experience, but there is one big disadvantage of leveling this way. Timewalks are available only for one week during a month, but Overgear is always here.
- Equipment. At high level, the most important thing for you will become your gear. WoW is a multiplayer game, that’s why we recommend for you to play it with your friends, or to find a new friends for mythic+ runs. If you have any trouble with it – Overgear may help you to find not just friends for a run, but a complete well geared and experienced group that also will be glad to trade all the loot you need.
- Raids. Raids are the top-tier PvE content in the game. That’s why the equipment’s base ilvl is higher than anywhere else. These dungeons require knowing all the tactics and have a good gear to kill the bosses. The possibilities of Overgear might let you skip those criteria.
Azerite. It is also not the best idea to forget about the Heart of Azeroth and not to feed it with more Azerite. Ignoring this won’t make your character stronger. The easiest way to do it – just complete all the world quests with Azerite rewards everyday. You can get extra azerite from Island Expeditions. Companions can be found at Overgear.
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Welcome to the Unholy Death Knight DPS guide for World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King 3.3.5a. In this guide, you will learn about playing an Unholy Death Knight in a raid. The guide includes Talents, Glyphs, Gems, Enchantments, Add-ons, Gameplay & Skill rotation tips.
The first build is suitable for players with lower gear level (Pre-ICC build). The Blood subspec provides great early talents such as Subversion, Bladed Armor, Two-Handed weapon specialization, and Dark Conviction.
The second build is similar, but we’re trading 3 points from Dark Conviction for Reaping. This build is for moderately geared players (2P Tier 10 set and above). The loss of 3% crit will be covered by improved gear. Meanwhile, we get access to Death Runes, optimizing the rotation to focus on single-target damage.
The third build is a high-end alternative for moderately geared players. The Frost subspec provides Icy Talons and Endless Winter, making auto-attacks the highest percent of your damage. Haste becomes more important, as it scales of Icy Talons.
Choose the remaining two glyphs depending on whether you want to focus on Single target or AoE damage. Use the following glyphs for improved Single target damage:
For increased multiple target & AoE damage use:
Gems are situational and depend on the build and equipment. They are used to reach the required stat caps.
Most of the time, you will be using Blood Presence. Below, we have different starter rotations depending on the build. To continue the rotation, be sure to maintain diseases at all times and continue with Blood Strike, Scourge Strike & Death Coil
Standard DPS Rotation:
DPS rotation with Reaping:
When facing multiple targets, start by applying and spreading the diseases with the following combo:
After that, continue with the below-mentioned rotation. There is no need to re-do the first combo if you’re using Glyph of Disease, as Pestilence will refresh the diseases.
Army of the Dead – Is used few seconds before the encounter, or when changing phase. Using it while doing your combo will cause a DPS loss and a combo break.
Use Summon Gargoyle when you have full buffs and procs on you because your stats will be partially transferred to it. It takes 60 Rune Power to summon, so you won’t be able to use it instantly when the fight starts. The Gargoyle inherits Haste from the Unholy Presence, but not the damage from the Blood Presence, so use it beforehand, then swap back to Blood Presence.
Hit -> Expertise -> Strength -> Haste / Armor Penetration -> Critical Strike rating
Death Knights use a combination of abilities and spells, so both melee hit and spell hit are essential stats. In raids, you want to have 8% of Hit (or 263 rating) for your melee abilities. Spells require 17% of Spell Hit, but with Virulence talent and Misery or improved faerie fire on the target, the requirement is reduced to 11% (or 289 rating). A standard soft cap of 26 Expertise is advised, but it’s not as necessary as capping Hit rating.
(Reminder that melee and spell hit is counted differently: 1% Melee Hit = 32.79 hit rating, and 1% Spell Hit = 26.23 hit rating)
Strength is one of the most valuable stats for this Unholy DK because it improves the effectiveness of every ability & spell. Strength also transfers to pets, making them more powerful. Unholy spec heavily relies on the Ghoul and therefore enhances it even further with Ravenous dead and Glyph of the Ghoul.
Whether to focus on Haste or Armor Penetration depends on which spec you’re using. Haste has increased value when using builds with Frost subspec (3rd build) because it stacks with Icy Talons, adding 20% to all Haste received from gear. Focus on Armor Penetration to increase physical damage if you’re using one of the builds with Blood subspec (1st & 2nd build).
Critical Strike rating is a secondary stat for this build. There’s a variety of talents that increase Crits for these builds: Subversion, Dark Conviction, Vicious Strikes, Ebon Plaguebringer. Additionally, there’s Wandering Plague, which also increases in proc frequency depending on your crit chance.
Death knight unholy
Unholy Death Knight Shadowlands 9.1 guide
My name is Lnoght and I will be writing the Unholy Death Knight guide. I've been playing WoW since Wrath of the Lich King and started raiding in WoD, joining Reason in BFA after Uldir and now Method for Shadowlands.
- Unique add control with Death Grip which has been very useful in previous tiers (Hivemind in Ny'alotha, Za’qul and Orgozoa in The Eternal Palace, Mekkatorque in BoD and Mythrax in Uldir).
- Anti-Magic Zone, which is a massive raid cooldown that provides a 20% magic damage reduction for everyone inside the zone.
- Icebound Fortitude, which can have very unique uses, allowing you to break out of stuns like the Stasis Trap on Artificer Xy’mox in Castle Nathria.
- Death's Advance, making you immune to slows below 100% when used and giving you immunity to forced movement effects/knockbacks. This has been useful in the past in fights like Abyssal Commander Sivara’s Crushing Reverberation in The Eternal Palace or Inevitable End on King Rastakhan in Battle of Dazar’alor.
- Strong cooldowns with high single target damage, and promising AoE burst damage.
- Limited mobility. Death knights don't have a jump/blink to quickly deal with mechanics that require to get to a certain spot very quickly
- Target swapping. Is one of the bigger issues if you're on a fight that randomly spawn a new prio target you need to burst down it's going to take the death knight a few globals before they can really start to do damage
- Can be Talent dependent which in some scenarios forces you to choose between single target or AoE and utility.
- Semi Cooldown reliant.
9.1 changes for the spec :
- Anti-Magic Zone got a huge nerf it used to just be 1 big DR for the entire raid but its now capped at 150% of the casters max HP making it a lot worse for unholy DKs and you probably won't be stacking Death Knights like people did in castle nathria.
- Other than that DK's haven't received any changes.
- They went from being a very strong melee to now more of an average melee class.
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Unholy Death Knight Overview
The Unholy specialization currently provides great single target damage and big AoE capabilities. Unholy Death Knights also have a good raid cooldown (Anti-Magic Zone).
Strengths and Weaknesses
Patch 9.1 Changes for Death Knights
We are maintaining a list of changes for Death Knights, so you can see what changes with every patch of Shadowlands. Be sure to also check out Unholy's specific changes this patch.
Patch 9.1 Death Knight Class ChangesPatch 9.1 Unholy Changes
Leveling an Unholy Death Knight
If you want to level an Unholy Death Knight, you can check out our leveling guide for tips and tricks for your journey.
Unholy DK Leveling Guide
Once you reach max level, a great way to customize your game to fit the way you want to play, but also to help you play better, is with addons. We recommend using some of the basic addons that are on our Addons page below while you are leveling, to not only get used to addons, but to also help speed up your leveling. Since Unholy is a fairly clunky spec to play, it is heavily recommended that you use addons to clean up your screen and make your rotation easier.
Unholy DK Addons and Macros
Basics of Unholy Death Knight Gameplay
Unholy Death Knight is a spec that is all about managing your resources and maximizing your burst potential with correct cooldown management.
If you are new to Unholy Death Knight and would like to learn the basics of the class, we recommend looking at the Spell Summary, as well as the Easy Mode page that is linked below.
Unholy DK Quick Guide
We also have a guide for the Unholy Death Knight talents and rotations below.
Unholy DK Talents and BuildsUnholy DK Rotation and Cooldowns
How to Gear Up as a Unholy Death Knight
Unholy DK BiS and Gear
Gear, enchants, consumables, and gems also play a big part in increasing your character's DPS. Linked below is a page to show you which enchants, consumables, and gems to use, as well as a stats page, where you can find more information on each stat and how they interact with your character.
Unholy DK Stat PriorityUnholy DK Enchants and Gems
Unholy Death Knight in Shadowlands
Shadowlands introduced 4 Covenants, new unique "factions" that are core to the Shadowlands experience. Which Covenant you join is one of the biggest decisions you can make in World of Warcraft.
Shadowlands also introduced an arsenal of legendary powers, but you can only have one at a time, and crafting them takes time and money, so choose wisely. Legendary Powers are be acquired from the new endgame activity, Torghast, Sanctum of Domination, and other activities.
Unholy DK Best Covenants, Soulbinds, and ConduitsUnholy DK Best Legendaries
End-Game as an Unholy Death Knight
The end-game of an Unholy Death Knight is very exciting, since your burst is incredibly high and your AoE potential is also very high. Linked below are our Raiding, Torghast, Mythic+, and PvP guides to help you perform well, no matter what content you choose to participate in.
Unholy DK Castle Nathria Raid GuideUnholy DK Torghast GuideUnholy DK Mythic+ GuideUnholy DK PvP Guide
Improving as an Unholy Death Knight
If, after reading all these guides you still find your performance lackluster, then check out the pages linked below for some tips and tricks that may answer any question you have. This is fairly common with Unholy Death Knight, as it is a very clunky spec.
Unholy DK "How to Improve" GuideUnholy DK FAQUnholy DK Simulations
- 17 Jul. 2021 (mythic+ page): Added Anima Power recommendations.
- 17 Jul. 2021 (Patch 9.1 Analysis): Updated with recent hotfixes.
- 17 Jul. 2021 (Legendaries): Added more verbose explanations; updated Frenzied Monstrosity to have Critical Strike and Mastery missives.
- 12 Jul. 2021 (Sanctum of Domination page): Guide created.
- 12 Jul. 2021 (gear page): Added note on Jaithys.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (stats page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (Torghast): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (Covenants and Soulbinds): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (spells page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (enchants page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (FAQ page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (this page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (Patch 9.1 Analysis): Created page.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (how to improve page): Guide updated and reviewed for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (talents page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (simulations page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (rotation page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (gear page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (addons page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (mythic+ page): Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (mythic+ page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (Legendaries): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 29 Jun. 2021 (easy mode page): Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 10 May 2021 (rotation page): Reviewed and expanded on multiple topics.
- 10 May 2021 (gear page): Expanded trinket discussion.
- 10 May 2021 (easy mode page): Updated Covenant recommendation and expanded on multiple topics.
- 10 May 2021 (how to improve page): Added two more tips.
- 10 May 2021 (Castle Nathria page): Updated some legendary recommendations.
- 10 May 2021 (addons page): Added cursor macros and pet claw macro.
- 10 May 2021 (spells page): Added Sacrificial Pact and Summon Gargoyle.
- 10 May 2021 (this page): Reworded introduction slightly.
- 10 May 2021 (talents page): Added some more flavour to talent recommendations.
- 10 May 2021 (Covenants and Soulbinds): Updated to recommend Heirmir for Necrolord and Venthyr for Mythic+.
- 10 May 2021 (simulations page): Reviewed but no major updates needed.
- 10 May 2021 (FAQ page): Added a number of FAQs.
- 10 May 2021 (enchants page): Added Shaded Weightstone to recommendations.
- 10 May 2021 (stats page): Updated stat priority and expanded on pet inheritance of stats.
- 24 Mar. 2021 (mythic+ page): Reworked page under new writer.
- 16 Mar. 2021 (how to improve page): Fixed a typo in Ghoul ability section; changed Leap to Gnaw in the interrupt section.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (spells page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (mythic+ page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (talents page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (stats page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (Torghast): Made small changes and reordering to Powers, added new Powers, removed old Powers for patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (rotation page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (easy mode page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (Covenants and Soulbinds): Updated to include a note about the new 20% damage reduction from Fleshcraft.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (Legendaries): Added a section with the BiS Legendary for each major form of content.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (gear page): Updated with a new section for Valor that goes over the top trinkets to prioritize, and added a dungeon BiS section.
- 09 Mar. 2021 (enchants page): Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 23 Feb. 2021 (rotation page): Added rotation switches for the single target rotation.
- 19 Feb. 2021 (Castle Nathria page): Added more tips for Sire Denathrius.
- 10 Feb. 2021 (easy mode page): Added Soul Reaper into the rotation priority.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (Legendaries): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (Torghast): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (Covenants and Soulbinds): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (FAQ page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (how to improve page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (gear page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (enchants page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (stats page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (Castle Nathria page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (mythic+ page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (rotation page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (talents page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (easy mode page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (this page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 19 Jan. 2021 (spells page): Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 08 Jan. 2021 (rotation page): Fixed the description for Soul Reaper.
- 19 Dec. 2020 (spells page): Updated Death's Advance description.
- 14 Dec. 2020 (rotation page): Fixed the disclaimer for the single target rotation.
- 14 Dec. 2020 (spells page): Updated the description for Outbreak.
- 14 Dec. 2020 (gear page): Page updated for Castle Nathria BiS.
- 14 Dec. 2020 (Castle Nathria page): Added information for Huntsman Altimor.
- 08 Dec. 2020 (mythic+ page): Updated for the release of Season 1 with a Covenant and Legendary section.
- 08 Dec. 2020 (Castle Nathria page): Updated Raid Talent, Tips, and Legendary Recommendations.
- 02 Dec. 2020 (gear page): Fixed skill typo.
- 02 Dec. 2020 (enchants page): Updated the recommended consumables.
- 01 Dec. 2020 (Castle Nathria page): Added placeholder Castle Nathria page.
- 28 Nov. 2020 (rotation page): Fixed the Unholy single-target opener.
- 28 Nov. 2020 (stats page): Fixed stat recommendation for Mastery.
- 26 Nov. 2020 (mythic+ page): Added a new well balanced Mythic+ build.
- 26 Nov. 2020 (Legendaries): Fixed an issue with the legendary power/per week breakdown (impossible to get a legendary on the first week).
- 24 Nov. 2020 (Torghast): Guide added.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (easy mode page): Page updated for Shadowlands release, updated talents, stats, removed BfA-specific sections
- 23 Nov. 2020 (FAQ page): Updated for Shadowlands.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (how to improve page): Updated for Shadowlands.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (spells page): Page updated for Shadowlands release.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (this page): Page updated for Shadowlands release, added information on Covenants, Legendary Powers and Torghast.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (talents page): Page updated for Shadowlands release. Updated talent recommendations.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (gear page): Page updated for Shadowlands release, added a section on early Shadowlands gearing and one on Legendary Powers, removed a lot of BfA-specific information.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (stats page): Page updated for Shadowlands release.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (mythic+ page): Page updated for Shadowlands release. Removed the Azerite Traits and Essence sections, updated talent recommendation, added sections for Covenant and Legendary Power choice.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (rotation page): Updated the rotation priority and guide for Shadowlands.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (enchants page): Page updated for Shadowlands Release, added new enchants and oil.
- 23 Nov. 2020 (addons page): Updated for Shadowlands.
- 22 Nov. 2020 (simulations page): Updated for Shadowlands. Removed all sections on Azerite Traits and Essences.
- 22 Nov. 2020 (Covenants and Soulbinds): Added a section on Renown.
- 21 Nov. 2020 (Legendaries): Page added.
- 20 Nov. 2020 (Covenants and Soulbinds): Page added.
- 10 Nov. 2020 (mythic+ page): Updated talent recommendations.
- 10 Nov. 2020 (easy mode page): Updated stat recommendations.
- 18 Oct. 2020 (stats page): Changed to reflect the Pre-patch build.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (talents page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (rotation page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (mythic+ page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (this page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (addons page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (Ny'alotha page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (gear page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (simulations page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (spells page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (how to improve page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (FAQ page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (easy mode page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (enchants page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 12 Oct. 2020 (stats page): Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
- 17 Jul. 2019 (The Eternal Palace page): Added more information on Queen Azshara.
- 09 Jul. 2019 (The Eternal Palace page): Guide added.
- 24 Jun. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): Minor changes to talent selections.
- 24 Jun. 2019 (Crucible of Storms page): This page has been reviewed for the release of Patch 8.2 and no changes are necessary.
- 24 Jun. 2019 (Uldir page): This page has been reviewed for the release of Patch 8.2 and no changes are necessary.
- 19 May 2019 (Crucible of Storms page): Added Mythic tips.
- 16 Apr. 2019 (Crucible of Storms page): Guide added.
- 16 Apr. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): This page has been reviewed and no changes are necessary for the release of the Crucible of Storms raid.
- 16 Apr. 2019 (Uldir page): This page has been reviewed and no changes are necessary for the release of the Crucible of Storms raid.
- 24 Feb. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): Updated boss talent recommendations slightly.
- 18 Feb. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): Fixed the boss order.
- 08 Feb. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): Updated talent recommendations.
- 24 Jan. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): Updated talent recommendations.
- 22 Jan. 2019 (Battle of Dazar'alor page): Added first version of Unholy DK advice for Battle of Dazar'alor.
- 10 Dec. 2018 (Uldir page): This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.1 and no changes are necessary.
- 03 Sep. 2018 (Uldir page): Added information for all bosses in Uldir.
- 12 Aug. 2018 (Uldir page): Page added (empty for now).