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Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide

Unholy Death Knight DPS GuideSpreading the Disease

As they say, you are a master of death and decay, spreading infection and controlling undead minions to do your bidding.

This Unholy Death Knight guide is primarily intended for PvE and Raiding at max level. However, the principals will still apply during the leveling process. If you’re looking for more advice on leveling your Death Knight, check out our Death Knight Leveling Guide.

Unholy Contents

  1. Talent Build
  2. Unholy Glyphs
  3. Unholy Stat Priorities
  4. Unholy Rotations
  5. Unholy Death Knight Gems
  6. Unholy Enchants
  7. Professions
  8. Race Choice
  9. Consumables
  10. Level Faster

If you want the same in-game step by step leveling guide that we use to get to the level cap as fast as possible, take a look at our favorite in-game leveling guide.


Other DK Guides: 


Unholy Talent Build

Your talents can easily be changed IF you’re in a “rested XP” area, such as your garrison, an inn, or the big city. No reagents, trainers, or special rituals required. You can change your spec (go Blood, to Frost, back to Unholy) any time you’re out of combat, but for the individual talents you need to get to the rested area. As with changing specs, no special items are required for changed talents. So if you want to DPS one fight and then you need to tank the next one, or try unholy because it looks like a bitter fit, then switching is easy.

If you are in the raid/dungeon and need to change talents (or Azerite Essences) before the next fight? Buy or make (with Inscription) a stack of Tome of the Quiet Mind. That will give you one minute to switch up.


Our general picks are checked, Best talent, but do note that you might want to change now and then, depending on the particular fight.

Tier 1 Talents

  • All Will Serve: A passive dps increase that happens to best on single target.
  • Best talent Bursting Sores: The best talent for most cleave (2+ enemies) situations and pretty close to All Will Serve for single target. Since you can’t change talents on the fly this will be the best overall pick if you’re looking at mixed encounters.
  • Ebon Fever: Makes Virulent Plague do all of its damage in half the time. Useful for fighting packs of short lived mobs.

Tier 2

  • Epidemic is by far the best talent in this tier for any sort of burst AoE. Let ’em all get infected then blow them up. This could have very interesting utility with large groups. 3 charges and a quick cooldown.
  • Best talent Pestilent Pustules: Should take this one just for the name… Your rotation is, in part, creating and popping Festering Wounds and this talent gives you runes for doing so. It’s the best overall pick.
  • Blighted Rune Weapon: A talent that you can only take when also talented in to Bursting Sores. Blighted Rune Weapon is only useful on AoE where you have set up and in Legion there just are not any scenarios where this talent is good.

Tier 3

  • Unholy Frenzy: A mostly passive talent that significantly increases your auto attack damage and increases the generation of Sudden Doom procs. It doesn’t do enough to compete with the other two.
  • Best talent Castigator generates many more Festering Wounds and consumes them just as fast. It makes it easier to build up wounds on new targets as well as doing significantly more damage overall.
  • Clawing Shadows is basically a ranged Scourge Strike. If you need to be a caster instead of melee, and you still have to apply those wounds, then maybe this would be useful. Most of the time Castigator will be much more effective.

Tier 4

  • Best talent Sludge Belcher: For any sort of PvE content this is almost mandatory. With this pet giving us a second grip, via it’s “Hook” ability, it is simply the best overall pick in this tier.
  • Asphyxiate: A 5 second stun on a 45 second cooldown. Generally it just isn’t as good as Sludge Belcher, but if you need a single-target stun…
  • Debilitating Infestation: This talent applies a slow when you cast Outbreak. Not generally as useful as the other two, especially if someone on your team already has slows.

Tier 5

Undead Death Knight states his opinionThis pick really depends on the set of fights you’re about to enter.

  • Spell Eater: Unless you are on a very magic-damage-heavy fight, there is little justification for taking this talent. Corpse Shield gives you a 90% reduction to all damage.
  • Best talent Corpse Shield: We’ll probably lose our ghoul if we take too much damage during the duration of the buff. With this in mind, this talent has great synergy with All Will Serve. If you are taking high sustained damage, you can constantly resummon your pet to keep the 90% damage reduction up for as long as possible. This talent has a lot of niche uses and will save you from a lot of damage and deaths. Don’t forget to activate your pet’s own defensive ability (Huddle or Protective Bile,) which will keep it alive longer.
  • Lingering Apparition: More mobility is never bad, especially since yours is lousy. If you don’t need the defenses of the first two, then it’s a good pick.

Tier 6

  • Best talent Shadow Infusion: Enables a much higher of uptime on Dark Transformation due to Death Coil reducing the cooldown of Dark Transformation by 5 seconds when Dark Transformation is not on your ghoul.
  • Necrosis will complicate your rotation, since you’ll be weaving your Death Coils and Scourge Strikes together. If you’re good at that and enjoy it, then it might well be worth your while to take Necrosis.
  • Infected Claws: More Festering Wounds since your ghoul/abomination can now deliver them. Note that it now becomes that much much easier to cap out your Wound stacks, making additional applications useless. If you’re efficient at popping wounds then this is a definite plus to your damage.

Tier 7

  • Dark Arbiter: Dark Arbiter replaces your Summon Gargoyle. While it’s a pretty nice improvement to that Gargoyle, it’s outclassed by Soul Reaper.
  • Defile: If enemies are with in the area then it grows each second of its duration. As it grows it adds to your Mastery stat and your Scourge Strike will hit all targets within range. It doesn’t seem to be as effective (damaging) as the other two, though it might shine with large groups.
  • Best talent Soul Reaper: If you have Apocalypse then this talent becomes a lot easier to play. Due to Apocalypse popping wounds, you can easily line up Soul Reaper and pop 8 Festering Wound with Apocalypse to get the max value out of this spell. If Apocalypse is not up, you should have at least 3 Festering Wounds on the target (for maximum haste) before casting Soul Reaper. This is the best pick of the three for most situations, even without Apocalypse.


Unholy Glyphs

Legion pretty much did away with almost all of your glyphs. The only ones remaining are cosmetic only, like the old “minor glyphs.”

You now have:

Nothing like changing your ghoul’s appearance to improve your DPS, right



Stat Priorities:

Strength improves everything you do. All your attacks are based on it.

Mastery boosts your Shadow damage, which is pretty important to Unholy.

Crit is simply a damage boost. The Castigator talent allows more Festering Wounds, and more bursts, from your crits.

Versatility is a small add to your damage, healing, and damage reduction.

Haste lets you do everything faster, including your attacks, disease speed, reducing cooldowns, and so on.

Click here now to get your Unholy self to Max Level ASAP!Faster Leveling all the way to the Level Cap!


Unholy Rotation Guide



Your diseases base their damage off of your Str and whatever buffage you have at any given moment. Keep them on your target(s) at all times and when the buffs proc your diseases will adjust accordingly.

  • Outbreak can be used to apply your disease to begin an encounter or to refresh your diseases
  • Use Festering Strike to apply Festering Wounds and Scourge Strike to pop them.

Keep your Ghoul Happy

The goal here is to have your empowered ghoul up as often as possible.

  • Dark Transformation is now a buff with a one minute cooldown. It should be used whenever it’s available.

Single Target Attacking

Note: Defile hits harder than Scourge Strike if your target will last long enough and is stationary, so should be used on cooldown, even against single targets. Save it if adds will be coming in shorty, so you can attack all of then with the Defile.

To Begin: 

When facing multiple targets…

  • apply your disease with Outbreak
  • Use Runic Power for your Death Strikes and Death Coils.

Useful Cooldowns

  • Army of the Dead should be used when engaging a boss. They’ll swarm the area and attack everything, including any CCed targets.


Unholy Death Knight Gems

Sockets do exist on some items in Legion, such as on Ancient Maelstrom Amulet. If you do find yourself with sockets to fill, then this should be your priority (use similar, but lesser, gems if you’re cash poor:)

  1. Saber’s Eye of Strength – +200 Str
  2. Quick Dawnlight for +250 Haste or Deadly Eye of Prophecy for +250 Crit.



Unholy Death Knight Enchantments

In BFA you can only enchant your rings and weapons. In your earlier levels you can enchant other gear, which is great when leveling. Enchant all your heirlooms.

If you want to buy the best enchants, fund all of your alts, donate to the guild, etc., but don’t have the cash, then see what the Zygor Gold Addon can do about about fixing your poverty.



Professions for Death Knights

It used to be that any gives profession would give you a bonus to your best, or some, stats. Blacksmithing, for example, would give you two extra slows for your gems. No longer. There are no special bonuses.

Professions now are for the gear and/or the gold. Most have something that can be used as starting raid/pvp gear or sold. Some of the professions, eg: Engineering, have really useful items for leveling and world events. They’re not usable in raids, however (sigh.. no firing rockets at the boss…)

Blacksmithing Mail and Plate armor and weapons. Keys for locks.
Engineering has lots of interesting toys, some of which have situational use.
Jewelcrafting Useful rings and neck items, pretty gems, gemmed mounts.
Inscription Glyphs, some trinkets, caster weapons, fortune & Darkmoon cards, and more.
Alchemy Chemistry is fun, unfortunately you can’t make acids or bombs. You can make flasks and potions to boost stats and cause other interesting effects.
Enchanting Enchant all those items and cast illusionary enchants.
Tailoring Cloth armor, flying carpet, murlock chew toy.
Leatherworking Leather and mail armor, if your garrison LW shop has the follower minion you can make tents which will give you a 10% boost to all stats. This boost cannot be used in raids.
Skinning For gold gathering and for leatherworking
Herbalism For Inscription, Alchemy, and gold gathering
Mining Making gold and powering Blacksmithing and some engineering.



Unholy Consumables

Note that Pandarens get twice the food buff. All food buffs last one hour and provide only one stat.


Potions, Flasks, Elixirs





  • Stout Augment Rune: +50 Str for one hour. Occasionally drops from WoD bosses (in Raid Finder mode) and is also rarely found as mission rewards from your Garrison. Stacks with flasks and other buffs.



Get Your Death Knight to the Level Cap ASAP

Zygor's Guide, to hit the level cap fastUnholy Death Knights to a ton of damage and have solid defenses, so leveling is going to be easy.

Still, there are thousands of quests and a bazillion mobs to kill (not to mention other players, but they don’t count here.) Sorting out which quests are best and which series of quests will get you to the cap the fastest is the issue, otherwise you can waste a lot of time running hither and yon, getting nothing useful done. This is why we highly recommend Zygor’s Guide.

Zygor’s is an in-game guide and it almost automates the whole leveling process: you just pick your starting point, whatever level you are, and the guide tracks which quest you’re on, tracks the quest objectives, and automatically advances and updates as you complete your tasks and quests, and switches to the next quest you need to do.

In addition, a waypoint arrow is set automatically, so you never have to any doubt as to where to go. All of the important quest info is also included in the guide so you never have to wonder what to do.

Playing with Heirlooms and/or Recruit a friend? Gaining a few Unholy levels in the dungeons or in PvP? Zygor has your backThe guide knows what level you are and will correctly suggest where to go next. It will also help you to dump all of your obsolete quests (if you want to do that.) And you will probably never have a need to look at your quest log again.

Grab your copy here. And yes, Zygor will be 100% ready for Shadowlands. 

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