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Death Knight Unholy Spec PvE Guide

Unholy Death Knight DPS Talent Build:

Default Unholy DPS build, leaves 4 free points. Click here to view.

Extra points are recommended to be placed into Runic Power Mastery and Magic Suppression.


Glyphs come in three varieties, Prime, Major and Minor.

  • Prime glyphs enhance core aspects of your class and generally provide the greatest benefit of the three types.
  • Major Glyphs, while not quite as powerful as Prime Glyphs, are still useful and continue to provide a myriad of benefits.
  • Minor Glyphs often times provide small quality of life improvements or visual changes.

Prime Glyphs:

  • Death Coil
  • Scourge Strike
  • Raise Dead
  • Icy Touch – AoE
  • Death and Decay – AoE

Major Glyphs:

  • Anti-Magic Shell
  • Blood Boil
  • Pestilence

Minor Glyphs:

  • Blood Tap
  • Death’s Embrace
  • Horn of Winter


Presence: Unholy

Here are your highest priority abilities.

  • Outbreak – To apply Frost Fever and Blood Plague
  • Dark Transformation – When you have 5 charges of Shadow Infusion
  • Death and Decay – On Cooldown
  • Scourge Strike – Primary Attack Ability
  • Festering Strike – To keep Blood Plague and Frost Fever active
  • Death Coil – To generate Shadow Infusion for Dark Transformation

Keep your diseases active at all times on your target, extend their duration with Festering Strike when necessary, or otherwise re-apply them with Icy Touch and Plague Strike.

Make certain to use Death and Decay as often as possible, along with Scourge Strike.  Death Coil is to be used as a way of dumping runic power for extra damage and to charge your ghoul with Shadow Infusion so that you can use Dark Transformation.

AoE Rotation

  • Pestilence
  • Blood Boil

Apply diseases with Outbreak to start before spreading them using Pestilence.  Continue your regular rotation otherwise.


  • Army of the Dead
  • Unholy Frenzy
  • Summon Gargoyle
  • Horn of Winter

Stat Priorities:

Strength > 8% Melee Hit > Haste > Critical > Mastery > Expertise

  • Strength increases your attack power, and thus damage, making it your most effective stat.
  • Missing is bad. Hit rating reduces your chance to miss with attacks.  A hit rating of 8% makes it so that your special abilities will no longer miss on bosses, thereby avoiding loss of DPS.
  • Haste increases attack speed and rune regeneration speed. There are theoretical points where you may experience timing issues, but most people won’t.
  • Critical Strike rating increases your chance to critically hit with attacks. With 4.3 your ghoul now gets your crit rating, significantly increasing the value of this stat.
  • Mastery – Dreadblade: Unholy Death Knight Mastery increases all shadow damage done, but has significantly less value than Hit or Haste
  • Expertise reduces the chance for an enemy to dodge or parry your attacks. It just happens to not be of much value to Unholy DKs.


When reforging gear, it’s important that you look to reforge from your least effective stat into the most effective for whatever gear goal you are currently aiming for.  See our stat priority list for more information.

Reforge Expertise and Mastery into: 8% Hit > Haste > Critical

  • First check that you have 8% melee hit, and if not, reforge until you reach it.
  • Once you’ve reached the 8% melee hit cap, optimize the amount of haste on your gear.  If a piece of gear already has Haste on it, reforge the weakest stat into Critical instead.


The Queen’s Garnet gems (and other epic Cata gems) are likely to be very expensive for awhile. It’s not a big DPS hit to drop down one level and save a lot of gold.

Socketing: If the socket bonus isn’t at least 20 Str, then forget the bonus and insert the Bold gems.

  • Red – Bold Queen’s Garnet/Bold Inferno Ruby – +50/40 strength
  • Blue – Etched Shadow Spinel/Etched Demonseye
  • Yellow – Fierce Lava Coral/Fierce Ember Topaz
  • Meta – Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond


  • Weapon: Rune of Fallen Crusader
  • Helm: Arcanum of the Wildhammer/Arcanum of the Dragonmaw
  • Shoulders: Greater Inscription of Jagged Stone
  • Cloak: Enchant Cloak – Greater Critical Strike
  • Chest: Enchant Chest – Peerless Stats
  • Bracers: Enchant Bracer – Major Strength
  • Gloves: Enchant Gloves – Mighty Strength
  • Belt: Ebonsteel Belt Buckle
  • Leggings: Dragonscale Leg Armor
  • Boots: Enchant Boots – Haste


Death Knight Unholy Spec PvE Build

Unholy Death Knight DPS Talent Build


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