This guide is currently being updated for 6.1, it will be available sometime before servers are up for 6.1. Stay tuned!
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The Basic Play
External Character Adjustments
Hello, this is my guide to Unholy Death Knight for patch 6.1 Warlords of Draenor. This guide is a work in progress and I plan to keep it continuously updated throughout Warlords of Draenor. My hope is that every player, beginner, intermediate and seasoned veteran can find some information, insight, or interesting perspective in here that will prove useful to them. The opening sections ( start until "advanced play") is intended for people who are just starting out playing unholy but are reasonably familiar with the death knight class. For those who are unfamiliar with the death knight class and wish for more information, links will be provided in the additional resources section below. I apologize about the length of this as it felt like there was always another section that I needed. My hope is that this guide should look fairly clean with all the spoiler tag collapse menus without it being too confusing. Feel free to comment and discuss corrections, typos, and other problems with this guide by posting in this thread, messaging me on these forums, or ( shameless plug) tweeting to me @NangzDK.
State of Unholy
The State of Unholy, or "Why you should play Unholy from a totally unbiased source *cough* *cough*". Unholy is in a very solid place. Our single target dps has been improved through previous hotfixes at the cost of nerfed aoe, however necrotic change and breath of sindragosa changes in 6.1 bring new sources of aoe damage for us.
These changes result in a reasonably well balanced unholy, one that has the potential to do both great single target, and great aoe dps.
Our utility at the moment is primarily brought through Gorefiend's Grasp and Anti-Magic Zone; powerful raid cooldowns that are a key reasons to be taken to fights for reasons other than dps. Finally, Unholy's final strength is its similarity in terms of gearing with Blood. Both specs prioritize the same stats and swapping between them has never been easier.
The Basic Play
Key Changes since last patch (6.0.3)
- Breath of Sindragosa's initial tick cost removed, now only applies Mark of Sindragosa for Blood Death Knights
- Defile now only provides damage reduction for Blood Death Knights
- Necrotic Plague's damage increased by 20%, now only grants runic power for Blood Death Knights
- Death Siphon now heals for 400% of damage dealt, up from 335%.
- Tier-17 2-piece bonus for Unholy Death Knights in addition to its current effect also causes Dark Transformation to apply an additional 40% damage bonus to the ghoul. (February 12th Hotfixes)
- Festering Strike's damage has been increased by 28% (January 13th Hotfixes)
- Scourge Strike's damage has been increased by 28% (January 13th Hotfixes)
- Haste's stat is now 11.1% more effective (January 12th Hotfixes)
- Blood Boil's damage has been reduced by 33.3% (January 12th Hotfixes)
- The Reaping Bug has been fixed!
Changes by Perks
This is an evaluation of the 4 perks that unholy gains and the impacts they cause that changes play between max level and lower level. Each perk is gained randomly every 2 levels after level 90 stopping at level 98. They are;
Of this list, Improved Soul Reaper and Enhanced Dark Transformation are the only ones with significant alteration to their effects. Dark Transformation allows you to spend the unholy rune you would have spent on Dark Transformation on another spell and Soul Reaper is able to be used on targets below 45% rather than below 35%.
Our Talents are fairly dependent on each other at the moment so discussion of one may lead into discussion of another. This is particularly relevant in the level 56 and level 100 synergies.
Rather than going through every talent and explaining the pros and cons, I thought I would just link the ideal choices with some possible substitutions depending on a few factors.
Stat Priority and Gearing
Stats depends on your gear! No one stat list will tell you what piece of gear is better than another! Learn how to sim your character in order to find out what stats are best for you! See the section below for how to do this For inconsistencies with stat priorities, post your simcraft profile to have more eyes look at it! Maybe you made a simple typo!
For most reasonable gear setups and best in slot, the stat priority looks something like this
There is quite a bit of discussion as to which is superior in 6.1 With buffs to NP and the UB/NP playstyle becoming superior in many cases, Mastery has surpassed Multistrike in weight. This isn't to say it is always superior; Multistrike is still superior on both single target, as well as Defile and Breath of Sindragosa setups. Its also worth noting that sims aren't well suited for simulating short duration aoe like is present on fights like Kromog, Ko`ragh, Imperator and more.
The difference between a full mastery and full multistrike setup is around a +.4% increase in damage on aoe when favoring Mastery, however on single target, Mastery becomes a loss of over 1%.
There are arguments for which is superior based on the difficulty of particular fights as well as which content the player may be progressing in, but this isn't something one can specifically tell you is better. I recommend you focus on Multistrike, regemming and reenchanting for Mastery if you are stuck on a heavy aoe encounter however the difference will be small and potentially non existant depending on the duration and size of the aoe. Use at your own risk.
You should look to enchant and gem Multistrike or Mastery on your Neck, Rings, and Cloak. Your weapon enchant will always be Rune of the Fallen Crusader.
Defile and Base Priority
Priority wise unholy is fairly simplistic with some very goal driven objectives. This priority is listed with Defile in mind
1. Plague leech should be used when diseases are about to fall off or when outbreak is coming off cooldown.
2. Soul Reaper should be used on cooldown when the target is below 45% health.
3. Defile as long as the target will remain in the aoe for a significant part of the duration
4. Cast Summon Gargoyle if it is off cooldown, attempt to align procs of trinkets and potion with this.
5. Dark Transformation should be used when at 5 stacks of shadow infusion.
6. Diseases should be maintained with 100% uptime by outbreak when off cooldown or plague strike when on cooldown.
7. Scourge Strike should be used on death runes and unholy runes. Prevent the runes from capping!
8. Festering Strike should be used on a Blood and Frost rune pairs prevent them from capping!
9. Death Coil with runic power and on sudden doom procs. Delay sudden doom if other resources will cap.
10. Use Plague Leech if you are unable to do any of the above!
11. Use Empowered Weapon if you're unable to do any of the above!
If not talented into Defile, Death and Decay is only used when two targets will stand in it for its duration.
For 2 Targets, practice a single target rotation, substituting a scourge strike for a blood boil to maintain diseases on multiple targets. In addition, you will attempt to Festering Strike each target fairly equally in order to blood boil as few times as possible. Finally, Plague Leech should be prioritized on the target whose diseases will run out first, ideally as close as possible to your diseases running out.
Our AoE rotation is fairly simple and easy to understand and should be used when you are able to hit 3 targets for an extended period of time.
1. Defile should be cast on cooldown.
2. Cast Dark Transformation when at 5 stacks of shadow infusion
3. Blood Boil should be cast on death runes/blood runes
4. Soul Reaper if a target is below 45% on unholy runes.
5. Scourge Strike on unholy runes
6. Death Coil as normal with runic power and sudden doom procs.
Breath of Sindragosa
For the most part, the above priority should be followed with a few key exceptions. Breath of Sindragosa is played by sustaining the channel for as long as possible. While Breath of Sindragosa is active, your priority changes to something simpler. Empowered Rune Weapon should be used to extend the channel by providing burst RP and reset runes.
Because of Necrotic Plague and Defile's performances, it is not recommended to use Breath of Sindragosa on aoe except in rare circumstances where both of the following are true.
1. The targets will be moving enough to keep them out of Defile's effect.
2. The targets have no "main" target to spread a 15 stack Necrotic Plague from.
Rotation while BoS is active:
Scourge Strike if no RP generated will be wasted and you have an unholy or death rune
Festering Strike if no RP generated will be wasted and you have a B/F pair
Empowered Rune Weapon should be used when RP falls below 60 and you stand to refresh the majority of your runes.
Death Coil on Sudden Doom Procs, Take care to not accidentally death coil during BoS and waste runic power!
One should attempt to pool high resources by throttling Death Coil usage. A reasonable goal is high (70+) runic power, at least one of each rune, pooling Blood Tap charges and saving Plague Leech if it doesn't greatly impact its above priority.
This playstyle is fairly straightforward with the goal being ramp a 15 stack of Necrotic Plague quickly through Unholy Blight, and maintain it for 1 minute and 30 secs exactly so that the cooldown of Unholy Blight has time to refresh. Then the process is simply repeated.
Its easier to explain this without a priority because, for the most part, it follows the Defile priority. Simple math indicates that it takes 10 Festering Strike to bridge the gap between the 30 second duration Necrotic Plague, and the 1:30 cooldown of Unholy Blight. 10 Festering Strikes is normally more than available due to rune recharge times, so a couple Festering Strikes should be used on Death Runes.
Some key things to look out for.
1. You should carefully monitor trinket procs in order to avoid Festering Striking on Death runes during them.
2. For AoE, the same priority is followed as the Defile priority, however the player must keep in mind that if an encounter's aoe begins when you are busy stacking your Necrotic Plague, you will suffer a severe loss in dps. It can be worthwhile to "overextend" your Necrotic Plague to prepare for substantial aoe. An example of this would be Kromog, where extending Necrotic Plague by ~10-15 seconds will allow all the "hands" to be diseased during the Rune of Grasping Earth phase.
3. Outbreak can be utilized as a way to boost Necrotic Plague's stack count. This will only be relevant when you have downtime during Unholy Blight's cast.
External Character Adjustments
This section is for ways you can improve your character without even playing! ( Some restrictions apply)
How to Simulate your Character
Simulating your character can be an intimidating process for new users. In this example, i'll take you through how to simulate your character, gather stat weights as well as a simple process for comparing two pieces of gear. Collapsed sections here display an image with guides to help you along this process. I did my best to explain it through words, but I am totally willing to add more images as requested!
Racials have been significantly improved for Warlords of Draenor, however there are some changes. The key takeaway is that no race is significantly above another. The difference is less than 1% between the best and the "worst". In addition, situational racials like Worgen's Sprint, Goblin's leap, or Human "pvp trinket" are more difficult to quantify. My suggestion is to pick whatever you like the best in terms of looks and whatever suits your playstyle the best. Do you like mobility? Go with worgen or goblin. Do you like a bit more survival? Go with night elf or tauren.
In terms of single target dps, the current rankings are:
Draenei > Blood Elf > Worgen > Human > Orc > Troll > Goblin > Undead > Night Elf > Gnome > Dwarf > Tauren
This addon isn't a death knight specific one, however it is a fantastic addon for tracking things like runes, runic power, trinkets, procs, and encounter specific mechanics in a very clean and easy to customize way. The addon itself is fairly intimidating but many people on both these forums and others have guides and their own auras to both share and discuss.
A rewrite of the older addon DocsDebugRunes, Compact Runes has a very clean and easy to customize interface that doesn't take too much to setup to your liking. Compact Runes also has tracking for things like disease duration, procs of sudden death, shadow infusion stacks and much more. If you're looking for an all in one addon, I would recommend this!
My personal preference for tracking my runes, Magic Runes allows the user to customize his runes to his liking like other addons. It does not have the same amount of functionality that Compact Runes has with regards to non rune functions, however rune addons in general tend to be about preference more than specifically being better.
Another all in one addon, this addon has less customization in terms of looks, but does do a fairly nice job of consolidating the information in my opinion. The one thing I dislike about this addon is the priority window where it tells you which ability to press next. This priority window is far from perfect and I would suggest turning it off.
This section is devoted to topics of advanced play, knowledge of these topics will improve your play, but are by no means required to play Unholy at a reasonable level.
Dark Simulacrum is a fantastic way of gaining some extra damage on specific boss fights when the ability becomes available to us. Blizzard specifically lets abilities be copied via Dark Simulacrum so the availability depends entirely on them. So far in Highmaul we don't have any significant uses but in the past we have had abilities that grant significant dps increases when taken.
A thread on these forums that has good information about current 6.0 Dark Simulacrum uses would be this one: http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/...ns-(WoD-6-0-3) It also shows quite a few nice uses in 5 man instances, I have yet to do challenge modes but my expectation would be that at least some of them work there!
On fights where Dark Simulacrum works, it is usually worthwhile to use the Glyph of Dark Simulacrum in order to use it twice as much.
In 6.1 The Reaping Bug has been fixed! Hooray! But that doesn't mean we get to stop looking for ways to optimize this. Blood Tap and Plague Leech can be utilized to generate Unholy Death runes and they can be "maintained" by using Blood Boil on them in 6.1. This allows for unholy to get 6 Death runes for AoE!.
While not nearly as important as Reaping pre-6.1, this is still a valuable way of increasing burst and sustained aoe. When utilizing 6 death runes, it is important to spend Defile, Death and Decay, and Soul Reapers on Blood-Death runes in order to easily convert those runes back to death once they have recharged. Spending them on Frost-Death runes forces Festering Strike or Icy Touch on aoe or clever utilization of BT/PL.
Blood Tap vs Runic Corruption
While the last topic was a rabbit hole, this one is better compared to a can of Surströmming. Its a topic that has seen just about as much debate recently as histoically controversial topics like death knight scaling, dw blood/unholy and some others i'm probably forgetting.
The truth is that you will do better dps with whatever option you are most comfortable with. Thats my answer. Oh you wanted a real answer? Fine..... Without further ado, lets bust this can open and smell the fragrance.
1. RC may perform better than simulations imply due to RNG in a real world scenario.
This argument is flawed just on the premise that while it CAN perform better, it also CAN perform worse. Its actually a two fold type of performance heavily influenced by RNG.
Frequent RC procs improve dps
Well Timed RC procs improve dps
Infrequent RC procs reduce dps
Poorly Timed RC procs reduce dps
And besies, even if RC can perform better, its hardly a reasonable argument to pick RC because it CAN perform better over a consistent option. In dps, consistency is a pretty important factor.BT's consistency is a huge selling point for backing up the simulation claim.
2. BT is "impossible" to execute properly like a simulation does. "No player is capable of that".
I've heard this so many times and I frankly wonder if the people making this claim even know how Blood Tap is used in sims.
In simcraft, blood tap is included in the single target APL a total of 4 times. Here are breif descriptions of what each of those times is to do.
I. Use BT to allow for soul reaper on cd. (Basically, if both in execute phase and SR is off cd, it blood taps).
II. Use BT in order to prevent BT charges from capping.
III. Use BT in order to prevent BT charges from capping.
IV. Uses BT if DND is off cd. (Same reason as soul reaper, it blood taps to use it immediatly).
This is the way of utilizing Blood Tap in simcraft and utilizing it according to this should not be considered overly difficult.
3.The Discussion of Pooling
AoE, Bloodlust, and AMS soaking are cases where decreased downtime are handled better with blood tap. Blood Tap's ability to handle more runic power dumps without overflowing on resource is a very big selling point in these resource intensive situations. The additional resource provided through BT charges is a great way to increase dps in some of the most visible ways.
The reality of the situation with pooling is that the benefit on things like single target for trinket procs are logical benefits, but difficult to quantify. However for aoe, pooling for a set of adds spawning is some of the best ways to increase one's dps.
Past tiers have had fights like Immersius, Fallen Protectors, Sha of Pride, Dark Shaman, Spoils, Thok, Siegecrafter, and Garrosh are fights in the most recent that favor burst aoe, the type that Blood Tap lets one pool for.
Of this tier so far, we have fights like Kargath, Ko`ragh, Imperator and arguably Tectus and we're not even halfway through the tier yet.
In burst aoe, you are competing with other members of your raid. The person who does the most damage to an add spawn of this type frequently deals the highest overall damage. Often this is seen as scummy but the reality is that for most adds, killing them quickly is the goal, min maxing your ability to do so is neither scummy nor incorrect.
Pooling is also important for usage of Breath of Sindragosa as mentioned in the priority section above.
4. Reaping Bug Abuses
Finally, blood tap allows for abuse of the Reaping to generate 6 unholy runes as mentioned in the above section.
5. Runic Corruption's Benefits.
At the same time, Runic Corruption does have its own benefits and they aren't to be completely ignored.
The most significant of these is that Runic Corruption is impossible to mismanage as opposed to blood tap. The only way to mismanage Runic Corruption is to let your runes cap; a mismanagement not exclusive to RC.
Runic Corruption performs well in sims in some scenarios, however the lack of pooling like BT allows and being more prone to significant RNG not shown in sims makes this talent more low risk low reward than blood tap's moderate risk high reward.
Therefor, it is my recommendation for experienced unholy players to learn to use blood tap.
For newer players still learning unholy's quirks, I recommend runic corruption.
For those who disagree, you are still free to choose your favorite, this is a very personal tier, the difference is not exceptional between the two in most situations.
"But Nangz! What about Macro'd Blood Tap!"
An interesting idea clearly meant to be a sort of middle ground between BT and RC, its problem lies in its pros and cons. The pro is that it turns it into a reliable version of RC ( technically closer to RE but still). The dps difference between it and normal BT isn't likely very much.
The problem with Macro'd BT is that it almost completely nullifies the strengths of BT, specifically its ability to act like an extra resource pool, the ability to pool itself and it has an impact on its ability to abuse the reaping bug. My stance is "use at your own risk".
I wasn't able to do this on my own. The work I did was either based off of, or done with the work of many others before me.
Fnx and Nyanmaru -my amazing fellow mods.
Mendenbarr and Spoony for their great simulations and work during the WoD beta and previous.
Magdalena for his #Acherus leadership and general awesomeness.
Skullflowers and Lamperouqe for their reaping bug videos and information
chaud for his help with some bbcode that made this guide above and beyond
The unnamed members of #Acherus for their support and conversation
The Simcraft team for their work, without which we would be lost
Countless others whom I did not mention here