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    The Unholy Death Knight Guide: Updated for 6.1

    Table of Contents


    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%.

    Talent Analysis

    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.

    Level 56


    Plaguebearer -This talent is most useful on aoe, as it allows us to aoe without worrying about diseases running out since they will be extended by Death Coil.

    Unholy Blight - This talent is most useful when utilizing Necrotic Plague from the level 100 tier of talents. Its reapplication of diseases allows for Necrotic Plague to stack to 15 stacks in a 10 second duration rather than the 30 it would take without this active. This talent is near useless in a non Necrotic Plague setup because there isn't many circumstances where you would want to spread diseases, but not aoe with Blood Boil, especially because Blood Boil is now deals significantly more damage than our diseases.

    Plague Leech - Finally, the most ideal talent for the most common unholy death knight setup. This talent has very few downsides for very significant benefit. The rune refund allows for at least, one free rune if diseases need reapplication and at best, two free runes when outbreak is off cooldown or when aoeing. This talent gives enormous dividends on rune regeneration and significantly reduces downtime. The lack of snapshotting on diseases had made this the optimal talent for Unholy in nearly every current situation.

    Level 57


    Lichborne - A talent that is just plain under-tuned. Its ability is a bit misleading. With WoD, a change was made to prevent us from Death Coiling ourselves to heal as undead. However this was not actually made and it is still possible to heal yourself with lichborne death coils. This makes the talent either: a small cd based free heal that depends on the damage you do, or a higher amount of healing that costs you dps during the duration. In situations where the Fear, Charm of Sleep break effect is useful, this may be a valid option for maximizing damage. Not a horrible choice, but probably not as good as the other two.

    Purgatory - A fantastic talent in almost all raiding situations. Every fight has situations where you may die and allows for you, or healers, the ability to salvage a mistake. A great default talent when the following talent is not needed.

    Anti-Magic Zone - This strong talent, though nerfed in effectiveness for WoD, is still a very potent damage reduction raid cooldown. AMZ is most effective on damage in a large burst rather than long duration sustained damage. The weakness of this talent is that it is limited to reducing magic damage and its stationary location, so its use both depends on the encounter at the time as well as your raid's needs. Most likely you will use this or Purgatory depending on what your raid leader requests.

    Level 58


    Asphyxiate - A situational talent that you'll take this when told by your raid leader. This will be a rare occurrence as other classes possess stuns that don't require a valuable talent point.

    Chilblains - Another situational talent, useless on most boss fights that you'll skill when doing a specific job for your raid. Another case of "take this when your raid leader tells you to".

    Death's Advance - The only true option on this tier and this talent is amazing! The movement speed buffs fully stack with unholy presence and, when combined with the highest quality of cloak enchant, gives Unholy Death Knights a 135% passive movespeed. The active effect its also very powerful, its short cooldown allows you to move around with great freedom. The best choice on this tier by far.

    Level 60


    This tier is very personal preference, and rather than just repeat the description of these talents, I figure the best way to explain this would be to explain the key differences in playstyle. All 3 of these options are around 1% of each other when played properly and representative rng so the choice is truely up to you. For more information on these, go to the Blood Tap vs Runic Corruption section below.

    Blood Tap - This talent offers the most control on the part of the player. This talent is currently the highest simulating for Unholy, but again, the difference is not insane. The moderate risk high moderate-high option, the most common way to learn to use this talent is by understanding two concepts, resource capping and downtime.

    One should use charges to prevent this talent from stacking above 12 and wasting charges as well as when there is nothing else to do in order to generate resources.

    The ability can also be macro'd into another ability. This turns it into a Runic Empowerment that refunds a death rune rather than a rune of a specific type with good consistency rather than relying on the proc of RE. For macroing Blood Tap, one should macro the ability into Death Coil. See Advanced Section for a better discussion of Macroing this.

    Runic Corruption -This talent is what I like to describe as the "passive" option. Its effects are passive and they are not specific to a rune type and effects each rune uniformly. Multiple procs increase the duration so there is no need to throttle your Death Coil usage for fear of overwriting the proc. There is not much to say about this talent here other than it being very close to BT in terms of simulated dps. This option is my recommended choice for new players of unholy because of its simplicity and is easier to manage than Blood Tap. More discussion is listed below under the BT vs RC section.

    Runic Empowerment - This talent is basically a waste. Not only does it require Unholy to keep a pair of blood and frost runes off cooldown in order to force unholy runes to proc, but its effects are RNG. The better option is to macro Blood Tap. Not recommended even though its simulated dps is still only around 1% lower than BT.

    Level 75


    Death Siphon - An interesting talent, it is very restrictive in its cost of a Death Rune but very potent in its ability to heal without restriction of cooldown. Its damage is a bit less than a death coil and it heals for quite a bit. This option will gain potency when our mastery and attack power levels rise. The 6.1 healing buff has caused this to be the superior option when dps is second to personal survival.

    Death Pact - The most safe and best option. Its best aspect is that it is free; it costs zero dps in order to use this talent. This is a striking difference between this talent and the others it shares a tier with. Its effect is very strong for recovering from raid wide damage as well as from mistakes. Even with its healing nullification its effect is a net gain and therefor recommended.

    Conversion - A very poor option indeed. Its cost of 20 runic power for 2% health is incredibly steep and even worse when you compare it to the other options on this tier. A strong advantage is that its possible with this to spend both Runes through Death Strike and Runic Power through Conversion on healing, buts its damage to healing ratio is very poor. It is very rare that you will require this much healing so this talent should almost never be taken.

    Level 90

    This tier is entirely situational and dependent on the encounters one will be facing. Likely you will pick whatever your raid leader requests for a specific fight. Most fights will not have any use for this tier however so pick whatever visual ( Remorseless Winter) you like the best.

    Gorefiend's Grasp - Not much to say about this, its some fantastic unique utility for some boss encounters and a fantastic tool on trash for grouping mobs that your group is too lazy to interrupt. I normally run with this for pretty much everything.

    Remorseless Winter - If Gorefiend's Grasp is the best option based on number of practical uses, this is the runner up. A solid trash mitigation tool for your tanks/raid but many mobs are immune to its effects. Possibly some fights in the future where this will be relevant.

    Desecrated Ground - A pretty underwhelming talent. Its possibly a talent with the greatest dps potential as it may allow for the removal of certain crowed control effects, however many of them are unable to be removed by this talent. Future fights may make this relevant but its not particularly likely.

    Level 100


    Each of these talents provide a significant playstyle change for unholy and each one is not only viable, but optimal in specific situations.

    Necrotic Plague - With 6.1, this talent is quite a bit closer, and even pulls ahead of the other two depending on the situation. Utilizing this talent makes Plague Leech significantly weaker except in situations of aoe where Necrotic Plague will jump back to the target Plague Leech was cast on.

    Some key notes about how Necrotic Plague works.

    • Necrotic Plague is not like a normal Dot, reapplying it with a disease applicator will not reapply it, but will instead add a stack up to the cap (15).
    • Festering Strike is the only ability that extends the duration of Necrotic Plague.
    • When Necrotic Plague spreads to a nearby target, it takes on the current stack and duration of the target it spread from.
    • It jumps on its own as well as able to be applied by all disease applicators ( Icy Touch, Chains of Ice, Plague Strike, Outbreak and Unholy Blight) as well as spread by Blood Boil

    Necrotic Plague is currently best used with Unholy Blight in order to stack it quickly to 15, and then maintain it for 1 minute and 30 seconds until Unholy Blight is back off cooldown, let it fall off, and reapply continuing like this until the end of the fight. An interesting and skill intensive playstyle coined "Necroblight" by other guide authors, I prefer just to refer it to its talents NP/UB because there really isn't another playstyle with those talents.

    Necrotic Plague's single target damage is lagging slightly behind the other options by around 2%, however it pull ahead in cleave and sustained spread aoe. The definition of this is fairly vague, see rotation section for a better explanation of each talent's strengths.

    Defile - This is the highest simulating option on both aoe and single target as well as the easiest to fit into the Unholy rotation. Its usage is the same as Death and Decay pre-wod and can be best seen as a simple upgrade. Use this in all situations unless there is a fight where you are unable to get the majority of ticks off because of boss movement.

    See the rotation section for a better explanation of each talent's strengths.

    Breath of Sindragosa - An interesting talent that has become very worthwhile with 6.1.Because its use is more difficult, requiring pooling and throttling of resources along with aligning of proc effects and stat buffs, this talent is not recommended for beginners. The goal of using this ability is to maintain it for as long as possible by using abilities like Empowered Rune Weapon, Plague Leech, Anti-Magic Shell, and Blood Tap to pool and burst generate resources to fuel its damage.

    See rotation section for a better description of these talent's strengths.


    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.

    Major Glyphs

    There are 6 major glyphs that compete for the 3 slots we have available, death knights looking to min/max may be willing to change often for varying benefit.

    Glyph of Blood Boil - This glyph is one of the 3 "recommended" glyphs for general use. Its a fantastic 50% range increase to our aoe nuke which increases both survival and damage by allowing yourself to reach mobs without putting yourself in danger. This glyph should be substituted if you are facing an encounter with no or low aoe. The Butcher heroic is a great example of this.

    Glyph of Raise Ally - A glyph that makes up for the majority of the cost of battle rezing. Drop this glyph if for some reason you have so many battle rezes and one of the other glyphs are more appealing. Probably the one glyph you can/should avoid dropping however. The second of the 3 "recommended" glyphs for general use.

    Glyph of Regenerative Magic - A very solid glyph that often reduces Anti-Magic Shell to a 25 second or less cooldown. This is the last of the 3 "recommended" glyphs for general use. Replace this on fights where Magic damage is non existant/infrequent enough that the cooldown reduction is actually beneficial. A good example would be Butcher heroic....again.

    Glyph of Empowerment - A glyph mostly forgotten by unholy players, this passive heal turns Empowered Rune Weapon into a very strong healing cooldown. It is rare that you should use it as such so this ability mostly becomes a nice little boost to something you are pressing anyway. A nice substitution when one of the above glyphs are not needed.

    Glyph of Dark Simulacrum - This glyph is only useful when Dark Simulacrum is useful. This depends on what Blizzard allows for us to Dark Sim which is completely out of our hands. Historically, when an ability is worth using DSim for, it is worth using it more often so it stands to reason that this glyph would be ideal in such a situation.

    Glyph of Runic Power - Like Dark Simulacrum, this glyph is very situational. Its use would be a dps increase but the times when it is beneficial is rare. Note that this is passive so its benefit can trigger and be almost completely unnoticed. Its best to setup a way to track when you gain resources from this. This has great potential to be powerful. If for some reason my raid had plenty of battle rezes, one current fight I would use this on is Imperator for the slow the Mages put out.

    Minor Glyphs

    Only 2 real minor glyphs of note here.

    Glyph of Tranquil Grip - Fairly self explanatory, occasionally we have to Death Grip things, and it is nice when those mobs don't spin slap us to death.

    Glyph of Army of the Dead - I would use this glyph unless you want to piss off every tank and melee dps when the non boss mobs begin running around trying to attack the ghouls.

    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

    Weapon DPS>Strength>Multistrike>Mastery>Crit>Versitility>Haste

    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.

    Priority Rotation

    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:

    Maintain Diseases
    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!

    Before BoS:

    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.

    Necrotic Plague

    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!

    1. Download the Simulationcraft program from, choose a download that best suits your system.
    2a. Extract the files to a location on your computer.
    2b. Step 2a may be skipped as of 12/23/2014 because Simulationcraft now has an installer! It can be accessed from the same link above and installed like any other program.
    3. Run the Simulationcraft.exe file inside the folder that you extracted.
    4. Click on the Import tab, search for your character, and press import. If you are a non US player, you may need to navigate to the options tab and change the armory search region to EU, TW etc.

    5. Double check in the options tab that proper settings are enabled before you simulate! You should have all relevant raid buffs/debuffs under the buffs/debuffs tab inside the options tab.

    5a. If you are interested in calculating the stat weights for your individual character, click the scaling tab. The less you check the faster the sim will go, I normally just leave Strength, Multistrike, Mastery, Versatility, Haste and Critical Strike checked. The box at the top labled "Enable Scaling" is a fast toggle allowing you to quickly sim without stat weights if you desire.
    5b. To make your sim run faster or slower, under Options> Global, adjust the "threads" to a different value. The higher the number, the faster the sim. Max speed is when threads is equal to the number of cores your pc has. If you're unsure, you can always just leave it on "1".
    5c. The global option menu has tons of other options you can adjust like Number of enemies you will be fighting. DK profiles auto change from an aoe rotation to a single target one depending on number of enemies so this adjustment is a simple toggle. Options like "iterations" is a statistical term that influences the accuracy of a simulation. Higher iterations are better, but at some point the higher becomes unnecessary. My recommendation is 10k iterations for things like gear comparisons/dps checks and 25k for stat weight analysis.

    6. Back in the simulate tab, this is where your import would be located, this is your Simcraft Profile of your character. Near the bottom is the list of gear you are wearing. For beginners, it is not recommended that you adjust any of the things on this list. Instead, if you want to change something, change it on your character, logout, and re-import.

    7. Press Simulate to begin simulating your character

    8. ?????

    9. Profit ( view results)

    Why to use this

    So why would you simulate your character? The most common reason, in my opinion, is to compare two different pieces of gear that are reasonably close. Now that you know how to simulate your character, here is how you can simulate your character to compare two different upgrades pretty easily.

    1. Logout of your character with gear set 1 equipped.

    2. Import your character wearing Gear set 1 into Simcraft.

    3. Login to your character, adjust your gear to make gear set 2 and logout.

    4. Import your character wearing Gear set 2 into Simcraft.

    5. Note that each import will be placed into separate tabs on the Simulate tab inside Simcraft.

    6. At the top of each profile it says the line deathknight="YOURNAME_Active". Edit the name of each one so it is easily distinguishable. For example, when I compare two different belts, I name one after one belt, one after the other.

    7. In either one, select all of the text of the profile, with CTRL-A, copy it with CTRL-C, and paste it at the bottom of the other profile with CTRL-V. You want to paste it so that one of the tabs has both profiles after each other.

    8. While on the tab with both profiles now pasted, you are free to press simulate! The results will display a comparison of the two, which performs better.


    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

    Recommended Addons

    WeakAuras 2

    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.

    Compact Runes

    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!

    Magic Runes

    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.

    CLC DK

    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.

    Advanced Play

    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

    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: 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.

    My Conclusion
    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".

    Old Sections


    The Reaping Bug


    Lets just jump into this to see how deep the rabbit hole goes...
    (much like "you have to see the Matrix for yourself", you should test these for yourself for a better understanding!)

    The Reaping bug is a concept that has recently become better understood so I thought I would attempt to explain it here.

    "But first, a little background"
    This bug has been around for quite a long time. It dates back to at least Cataclysm launch when Blood Boil was put on reaping.
    When I see a problem like this go untreated for so long it begins to almost feel like a feature. Because of this, I hope that this guide will provide a framework of how to best take advantage of this feature. Celestalon tweeted about a possible fix to this coming in a future patch. Fingers crossed.

    What is Reaping?

    The full text of Reaping is
    Whenever you hit with Pestilence, Festering Strike, or Icy Touch, the Runes spent will become Death Runes when they activate. Death Runes count as a Blood, Frost or Unholy Rune.

    Reaping has been removed and its effects merged into relevant spells in the ability pruning of WoD.

    The Reaping bug occurs when death runes spent on an ability do not convert the rune that was spent, rather they convert another one.
    There are cases for all 3 abilities that proc Reaping so i'll discuss it in a case by case fashion. There are quite a few ways to actually get different results from these, the most complete list I've found is here, but i'll discuss the ones that I see as "common".

    Icy Touch
    Casting Icy Touch should only ever be done on frost runes as unholy and doing it this way causes an expected outcome of the rune converting to death.

    1. Casting Icy Touch on an unholy/blood death rune however will cause not the unholy/blood rune to convert, but another rune.

    This entire case can be avoided by only casting Icy Touch on Frost runes as stated above. For this reason, I will avoid going into further specifics.

    Festering Strike
    For Festering Strike, I will attempt to note key pitfalls players may fall into.

    1.Casting Festering Strike on 2 Blood Runes is a very poor usage of runes to being with, but this will convert a frost rune and a blood rune to death, since this is a bad way of spending runes, this should never come up.

    2. Casting Festering Strike on 2 Frost Runes will do the same as the above situation and should be avoided.

    3. Casting Festering Strike on an Unholy (death) and frost pair converts a blood and a frost or both frost if both blood are already death

    This third case is built around the premise that you would intentionally festering strike outside of the clearly defined rotational manner. This case is basically a "do at your own risk", there is no major punishment for festering striking in this way because it converts runes that would be used for festering strike anyway. Think of it as delaying a scourge strike a rune refresh in this manner:

    Festering Strike on Unholy and Frost rune pair converts a blood and a frost rune. You lose a scourge strike from the unholy death rune but gain one from the blood rune you convert. The frost rune is unchanged.

    It is worth noting however that while of there not being a loss, there isn't really a gain either. Its just an interaction that may screw with your head a bit once you begin to notice the behavior of the Reaping Bug.

    Blood Boil

    This case is quite the can of worms. It is an issue that many players have been affected by and actually viewing the effects are difficult because most players do not record themselves playing. Its possible to see it happen in action, but its the type of thing that is easier to see when you know what you are looking for.

    1. Blood Boil on a blood rune properly converts the blood rune to death in all cases.

    2. Blood Boil on a frost rune will attempt to convert a blood rune and if both blood runes are death, will convert the frost rune.

    This second case is the most common type of detrimental reaping bug that players experience. Because encounters are frequently dynamic and players may not be able to properly predict every type of instance they need to blood boil for, casting Blood Boil on frost death runes while blood runes are available to convert is a reasonably common occurrence.

    An example of this is a situation where some adds spawn that needs to die quickly. Mid rotation you switch into an AoE rotation and it screws everything up. From a start of DDDDUU. You cast scourge strike 4 times to spend both unholy runes and both blood-death runes. Then the adds spawn. You blood boil twice to hit both the main target and the adds from a bbDDuu rune order and the bug causes your frost-death runes to not remain death but instead convert the blood runes to death. When all your runes refresh you will be left with DDFFUU, a frustrating situation indeed.

    In addition to this, casting an ability like defile or soul reaper on a blood-death rune will cause the next blood boil on a frost rune to miss-convert as per the above cases. This is why in my priority I recommend casting Defile, Plague Strike, and Soul Reaper on unholy runes only, because casting them on something different causes a conversion that is frustrating to recover from.

    In a nutshell, casting Defile, Plague Strike or Soul Reaper on a blood-death rune will result in the next blood boil spent on a frost-death rune to convert the frost-death back to frost and the blood back to blood-death.

    The easiest way to test this to understand ( because I feel this explanation is a bit confusing) is to replicate these actions.

    Start with DDDDUU.
    Scourge Strike 4 times ( consuming both unholy runes and both blood-death runes)
    Blood Boil Twice ( consuming both frost-death runes)
    You are left with DDFFUU and very annoyed.


    The light at the end of the tunnel:
    3. Blood Boil on an unholy rune NEVER converts the unholy rune to death, instead it converts a blood rune to blood if available or a frost rune to death if both bloods are death.

    What are the applications of this? First, you can use a Blood Boil on an unholy-death rune to convert a frost rune to a frost-death rune without ever casting Icy touch. Obviously this saves a global in the icy touch and lets you cast blood boil immediately on the new frost death rune. Most useful on the pull, this opener is well shown in this video by Skullflower


    Blood Boil
    Festering Strike
    Scourge Strike
    Plague Leech
    Blood Boil x2

    This will give you all death runes and 2 unholy runes as an opener. A fantastic option for some encounters and content like 5 mans.

    Lamperouqe also shows a method for converting runes that drops festering strike from the above priority. However this method takes at least 25 seconds because it utilizes plague leech to generate the unholy-death runes. I feel its a solid video and one that particularly interested me early on about the uses of this bug.

    My overall recommendation is to avoid cases that are prone to the Reaping Bug by understanding things like rune spend order, add spawn times and properly switching to them. Just know that being affected by the Reaping Bug is probably something you've already experienced, just not something you've known how to properly deal with.

    Reaping Bug Video List

    I thought I would embed a few videos here that I feel do a solid job of explaining or showing the bug in action. Some of them are repeats of ones linked above for completion sake.

    cashballer video:

    This is a pretty well put together video by user cashballer that presents some of the parts of the Reaping Bug however his commentary on the final case being "too complicated" is a bit incorrect, as shown above, its fairly easy once you practice it a bit.

    Skullflower Videos:

    reaping bug example

    reaping bug example #2

    optimal opener

    Lamperouqe video:

    icy touch-less conversion


    Key Changes since last patch (Mists of Pandaria's 5.4)

    • Diseases ( and all Dots) no longer snapshot; they update dynamically to changes in stats.
    • Scourge Strike does not require diseases in order to deal shadow damage anymore
    • Level 60 and level 75 talents have switched places.
    • Unholy Frenzy- Removed in ability pruning
    • Pestilence- Removed in ability pruning. Its disease spreading function is now performed every time Blood Boil is cast.
    • Blood Boil's Disease spread no longer spreads diseases at "full" duration. It now "spreads" by applying diseases to all targets at current duration. If multiple targets are available with diseases, the one with the longest duration is the disease that is spread.
    • Roiling Blood talent has been replaced by Plaguebearer as its effects were redundant.
    • Level 60 talents have been modified to trigger in some fashion for all runic power spent, rather than just through Death Coil. This includes Conversion, Dark Simulacrum, glyphed Mind Freeze,and something else i'm probably forgetting.
    • Anti-Magic Shell's runic power generation has been significantly reduced. Now it requires the shell to be fully expended of absorb in order to grant 100 runic power. This is low compared to the old rate. Its runic power generation is now more of a bonus rather than the best part of this ability.

    Special Thanks
    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
    Last edited by Nangz; 2015-05-21 at 09:24 PM.

  2. #2
    Hey Nangz, great guide you have here. Was wondering if you'd be able to help me improve my DK. Currently as unholy i'm pulling about 19k single target dps at 637 iLvl.

    I'm currently unable to post links on the site, but my DK's name is Gohgrim on is on the Thrall Server

    I know there are places where I can replace mastery on gear in order to get more multistrike, just have been unable to get gear drops. If you could recommend any places where I could improve I would be very thankful for your time and effort. Thanks!

  3. #3
    Finally, an explanation of my frost runes randomly becoming death runes. I've tried to search for this bug before but couldn't find it.
    Now I know how to use blood tap to attempt to manipulate any frost runes that show up to death.

  4. #4
    Very well structured, detailed, and concise. Honestly when I first started, wall of text, popped in my mind, but as I read on definitely didn't that feel. I am already well attuned with my death knight, but as you wanted someone who already knows what they're doing can learn from this and take away more knowledge. 10/10 Thanks.

  5. #5
    very nice read! the reaping bug is something that bothered me for a long time now :>.
    you made a little mistake in the blood boil section of the reaping bug (think u got lost in your own wall of text because u cant even blood boil twice after that :P) for the optimal opener it should be
    outbreak -> festering -> scourge/defile -> blood boil -> scourge/defile -> plague leech -> blood boil x2.
    if you do it like you wrote at the moment, your plague leech will only recover 1 rune, and the frost rune wont convert.
    thanks for the guide!

    edit: after a little testing i find it better to go for this (i play like this for twins, cause we pull them out a bit first so i have to delay my defile):
    outbreak -> festering -> blood boil -> scourge -> scourge -> leech -> blood boil -> blood boil.

    so you have the same effect and full death runes. i lay down defile with the next uh rune coming up, but you can always replace 1 scourge in the opener with a defile.
    Last edited by cashew92; 2015-01-12 at 12:13 AM.

  6. #6
    You're correct and I edited it, I knew I would mess up the occasional thing in that section.

    Technically the optimal opener would likely be something like Outbreak -> Blood Boil - > Defile - > Festering Strike -> Scourge Strike -> PL -> BBx2

    The goal being to blood boil and defile as soon as possible to get some aoe damage out ( dots ticking, defile on cd etc). Though this highly depends on the fight and its subject to change. I say this because on a fight that requires positioning like twin ogron, you may want to delay defile a few globals.

    The important thing is that you fit 1 festering, 2 unholy spenders, and 1 blood boil along with a disease applicator before you plague leech.

    - - - Updated - - -

    following last night's blood boil nerf, its almost certainly not useful to use blood boil on two targets unless you are very well geared with high mastery.

    It may be a slight increase on 2 targets who remain active forever like twin ogron buut the reaping bug may cause losses on 2 temporary targets such as brackenspore. Adjusting the OP.

  7. #7
    Hey Nangz, I was just wondering where you are currently standing on the Frost / Unholy debate after the recent round of hotfixes. Where does each spec sit overall?

  8. #8
    I need to update my state of unholy, but the gist is that our aoe is still average, maybe even slightly above average. Our single target is better, likely average or above average as well.

    I have no experience with frost this patch so its hard to say from personal experience and sims don't do a fantastic job at judging performance because they frequently contradict parses.

    I have seen the occasional solid frost parse, enough to tell me that frost is good enough to play, depending on the fight.

  9. #9
    I just took up Unholy for the first time and have a few questions.

    - Should Plague Leech be used on cooldown? It makes sense to do that, since you gain more rune refunds over time that way.

    - Is it worth pooling Runic Power towards the end of the Dark Transformation buff in order to get it up again as quickly as possible?

  10. #10
    Updated for 6.1! There are a few sections still in need of minor tuning up as well as a Tier addendum that needs inserted. Will be done later today!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Arctagon View Post
    I just took up Unholy for the first time and have a few questions.

    - Should Plague Leech be used on cooldown? It makes sense to do that, since you gain more rune refunds over time that way.

    - Is it worth pooling Runic Power towards the end of the Dark Transformation buff in order to get it up again as quickly as possible?
    Plague Leech shouldn't be used "on cooldown". Its best used in two situations:

    A. Outbreak is off cooldown and diseases are running out.

    B. You generate two runes from it and won't cap by using it here.

    Pooling RP towards the end of DT is fine, however note that 2 piece tier removes this as necessary for the second half of most fights.

    Pooling 100 RP and a Sudden Doom proc would be "ideal" for Shadow Infusion quickly, however this slows down your rotation significantly and is not worthwhile because of our feedback Runic Power-Rune system.

    Small pooling and throttling in the last short while of DT is fine, however its not something to lose sleep over. If I see DT expiring in the next couple seconds and I have RP for a death coil, I'll usually hold onto it for a few globals as long as I don't cap.

    Apologies for the late reply, busy weeks!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Nangz View Post
    Plague Leech shouldn't be used "on cooldown". Its best used in two situations:

    A. Outbreak is off cooldown and diseases are running out.

    B. You generate two runes from it and won't cap by using it here.
    Not entirely sure I follow. Doesn't B essentially mean 'use on cooldown as long as you don't cap out any runes'? If all my runes are recharging, my runic power is sufficiently low, and Outbreak is on cooldown, I can use Plague Leech and spend one of the two activated runes on Plague Strike to get the diseases up again. The net worth is one activated rune and 10 runic power.

    Pooling 100 RP and a Sudden Doom proc would be "ideal" for Shadow Infusion quickly, however this slows down your rotation significantly and is not worthwhile because of our feedback Runic Power-Rune system.
    How does it slow down our rotation? Do you mean since we're no longer using Death Coil for a brief period of time? Can you elaborate on what you mean with our 'feedback Runic Power-Rune system'?
    Last edited by Arctagon; 2015-02-25 at 05:24 PM.

  12. #12
    Yes that is exactly what B means, the other way of using it would be to use it when you only gain 1 rune, which really only happens when you have resources available in which case you should use them instead.

    It slows down our rotation because you aren't using Death Coil- That is correct. A feedback system is one where one part loops back into another, its also known as a feedback loop. Our feedback loop is that our runes give us runic power, which, through death coil and t60 talents, give us runes.

    Its the idea that you're forcing downtime upon yourself by pooling in this way for very little benefit.

  13. #13
    As long as we don't cap our Runic Power, though, we shouldn't lose any DPS. Right? I'm not sure how much of a DPS increase DT is, but is being able to get DT up again 10 seconds or so faster really 'very little benefit'?

  14. #14
    Well, DT is a very small benefit which is part of the problem. If it was bigger, pooling would be a significant increase over the marginal or even nonexistent one it is now.

    The point is that GCDs are a resource too, and increasing downtime by pooling to such an extent has lasting impacts on your overall resources as well as your overall downtime.

  15. #15
    I see. If today was anything like a couple of years back when DKs spent every GCD on something, I would understand what you mean, but now we have downtime in our rotation, so I don't understand how pooling runic power without ever letting it hit the cap is going to have a negative impact on our DPS, considering how we later can just consume that runic power whenever the runes are cooling off.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Arctagon View Post
    I see. If today was anything like a couple of years back when DKs spent every GCD on something, I would understand what you mean, but now we have downtime in our rotation, so I don't understand how pooling runic power without ever letting it hit the cap is going to have a negative impact on our DPS, considering how we later can just consume that runic power whenever the runes are cooling off.
    We have a resource loop. If we spend rp we get procs from our rune reg talents granting us runes, which we again spend and get runic power. What might also happen is that you get into a situation where you have overflowing resources for a short period of time, which might lead to overcapping RP or runes which would also be a loss of resources.
    If you delay resources you'll get less procs over the fight as time is limited in actual combat.

    The only point where its almost free to sit on RP is if you use BT and can't get to or above 5 charges with spending your whole runic power.

    Sitting on resources for a really short period of time here and then does not do much, but if you do longer and more often it stacks up until you really lose a bunch of resources for only more waiting and possibly a little bit higher DT uptime, which is are extremely minimal gain.
    Last edited by Raikh; 2015-02-25 at 11:50 PM.
    DH Main: Valien
    DK Alt:Raikh

  17. #17
    I don't follow. Where do I lose DPS by pooling runic power, while also ensuring that neither that nor runes cap? Let's say I pool runic power up to around 90, and that I'm using the talent Runic Corruption. If I spend that runic power on Death Coils, I will have a 45% chance per Death Coil to trigger the talent. That percentage isn't going to change if I choose to expend that runic power ten seconds down the line instead. Since I am also ensuring that none of the resources cap, I don't see how I can lose DPS from doing this.

  18. #18
    Thanks for great guide. Tried out UH last night for the first time (I'm a frost guy) and did 30k on Kromog in brf at 651 ilvl . UH is interesting and I have some intricacies to learn still, but thanks to the guide i ow have the basics down I believe.

  19. #19
    The Lightbringer Sunnydee's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    I have no idea where to ask this in here so il just put it in guide thread..

    got my hands on Horn last night but cant get weakauras to work with it for some reason. anyone sitting on a export i can snitch?
    (pref with trinket icon, uptime and icd in one spot)..
    Progress, 13/13 top 0.7% | Achievements, top 1.1%
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  20. #20
    I have a question about necroblight playstyle.
    It seems to me that there's a lot of downtime in it, so I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but are you supposed to generally be sitting on fully-depleted runes? I'm using runic corruption, and even if I would use BT, I don't think it would give me a huge benefit over RC.
    Also, should you spend your death runes on festering strike with no trinket procs?
    In general my opener is:
    Army>prepot>outbreak>UB>blood fury>gargoyle>2xFS>2xSS>death coil until I have 0 RP or I can use DT.

    After that I usually pool my RP, and use it only on sudden doom procs, if I'm close to max, or if I have a lot of depleted runes.
    And I cast festering strike about 3-4 times on death runes, since I feel NP will fall off if I don't do it and use my death runes for SS. Another problem is that when I use most of my festering strikes in the beginning, during the end of the cooldown on blight, I have 2 frost and 2 blood runes up and just wait for 10 seconds for NP to fall off.

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