1. #1
    Pandaren Monk Adlian's Avatar
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    Apr 2008

    Lightbulb Master the powers of death - Unholy Death Knight Guide

    This guide will explain the basics of the Unholy Death Knight and some useful macros.

    Unholy PVE



    Dual wield

    Yes, DW Unholy is viable build and even with BiS 372iLvl gear its doing around 4-5% more dps than 2H unholy. But in normal 359iLvl gear 2H is a little bit better.

    Normal Mode 359iLvl: 2H Unholy > DW Frost = DW Unholy > 2H Frost, with 2H Unholy being ~1.5% ahead, DW Frost and DW Unholy being within 0.5% of one another, and 2H Frost being ~10% behind the middle. For reference's sake, the approximate dps at this gear level is 19k-20k.

    Hard Mode 372iLvl: DW Unholy > DW Frost = 2H Unholy > 2H Frost, with DW Unholy being ~2% ahead, DW Frost and 2H Unholy being within 0.5% of one another, and 2H Frost being ~10% behind the middle. For reference's sake, the approximate dps at this gear level is 21k-23k.

    * [Glyph of the Ghoul]
    * [Glyph of Scourge Strike]
    * [Glyph of Death Coil]
    * [Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell]
    * [Glyph of Pestilence]
    * [Glyph of Blood Boil]
    * [Glyph of Death's Embrace]
    * [Glyph of Horn of Winter]
    * [User's Choice]

    Stats weight

    From the best to worse:

    -Hit to cap (960 hit rating or 8% for DW and 2H)
    -Expertise to cap (885 expertise rating or 26 expertise)

    -Strength is as potent as ever – more so even, thanks to Unholy Might, one of the passives of Unholy, plus the fact that it's value stays constant as you level: 1 Strength will always provide X AP which will more or less lead to a constant amount of dps. This is unlike all of the below secondary stats, whose rating: percent conversion rates almost universally quadrupled from 80 to 85, and thus all of them (even hit) have taken a huge knock down in damage.

    -That said, although it is now inferior to strength, hit is still the best secondary stat. Because of its number two status, you'll never actually want to gem it; reforge to the cap if you're not already there. 8% is still the desirable number, even if dual-wielding. With Virulence now being 9% at max rank, you're automatically spell-hit capped if you're melee-capped.

    -Haste is decent, although it's no longer as remotely amazing as it was towards the end of Wrath. Do remember, it does now affect rune regeneration rates by the same amount at which it affects attack speed (meaning NewRuneRegenTime = (BaseRuneRegenTime) / (1 +(Haste%/100)), as well as our ghoul's energy generation rate (by that same formula). It does not affect diseases or Unholy Blight ticks. There is a softcap - a point at which haste offers diminished value - but it's not yet reachable in any current gear, and thus nothing to worry about.

    -Crit is as middle of the road as ever. Although pet's are intended to benefit from it (and although those of other classes now do), the Ghoul still doesn't. Blizzard has yet to comment on the subject, but presumably it's a bug. Hopefully, anyways. Once it's resolved, the value of the stat will jump, although it's unlikely it will surpass haste until later tiers of gear.

    -Expertise is as oddly distasteful as ever. If you can reach the haste soft-cap, then expertise would surpass crit (due to the fact that you’re GCD capped at that point), but beyond that, expertise is just not worth going out of your way to get. Unlike hit it doesn't affect our pet or our spell damage, and thus just doesn't have a large enough impact.

    -Mastery is absolutely atrocious as the numbers currently stand. 1 point of it increases disease damage by 8%, which just isn’t that much of a boost considering how weak diseases are these days. Compare to crit rating – the two have identical conversion rates – and it’s pretty obvious why it doesn’t stack up. Your disease damage would have to be at least 15% of your total damage for mastery to be worth it, and that just isn’t the case… unless you stacked mastery to get to that point, which would just be silly (and suboptimal).

    After 4.0.1 there is no more a certain DPS rotation like before. Now its more like an a priority system:

    Diseases > Dark Transformation > Death and Decay*/Scourge Strike if both Unholy and/or all Death runes are up > Festering Strike if both pairs of Blood and Frost runes are up > Death Coil if Sudden Doom, 100 Runic Power, will overcap Runic Corruption with anything else or if Runic Corruption isn’t up > Death and Decay*/Scourge Strike > Festering Strike > Death Coil > Horn Of Winter - and repeat
    *DnD is used in the single target rotation of both 2H and DW builds, due to its hidden 11th tick, as a replacement for SS whenever one can.


    The Ghoul is very important thing for Unholy. You should take care for him while fighting bosses or fighting versus real players. Roughly the pet brings around 15% of your total damage. I suggest you to make the following macro:
    #showtooltip Raise Dead
    /cast Raise Dead
    When you press it once you will summon your ghoul, if the ghoul is summoned and you press it, he will come back to you.

    Also i suggest you to add the following macro to your most used abilities (Scourge Strike,Death Coil etc):
    /cast [target=pettarget][combat] Claw
    When this is added to your most used spells your pet will use his Claw ability instantly when he have 40 energy. Without this macro for some reason the ghoul do not cast claw right after he have 40 energy - aka. you lose some dps.
    I do not recommend using this macro for PVP.

    - Ghouls receive 100% of your strength, stamina, haste rating, and hit rating. Glyph of Raise Dead causes your ghoul to receive 140% of your strength and stamina.
    - Your scale with your Hit rating. If you have 8% hit your pet will also have 8%. But if you have 7.76% hit he will have 7%.
    - Ghoul gain expertise based on your hit rating. If you are hit capped (8%) your pet will be expertise capped.
    - Ghoul benefit from the 15% haste of Unholy Presence and the 10% damage of Frost presence.
    - As like the other pets, ghoul have a 90% passive AoE damage reduction buff which does not show up in the spellbook.
    - Ghoul receive a portion of your stats and benefiting from any buffs on you – although he, cannot be individually buffed so as to prevent double dipping.


    Meta Gem - [Destructive Shadowspirit Diamond]
    This gem will be used until the next patch. According to Blizzard, they plan to revert Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond to "at least two blue gems" which is better than Destructive Shadowspirit Diamond.

    Red - [Bold Inferno Ruby]
    Yellow - [Fierce Ember Topaz]
    Blue - [Etched Demonseye]


    Head - [60 Str / 30 Mastery] - Wildhammer/Dragonmaw revered. No competitive alternatives.
    Cape - [65 Crit] - No competitive alternatives.
    Shoulder - [50 Str / 25 Crit] Therazane exalted. - 130 Str / 25 Crit for those with Inscription, of course, but no competitive alternatives otherwise.
    Chest - [20 Stats] - No competitive alternatives.
    Bracers - [65 Haste] - 130 Strength for those with Leatherworking, of course, but no competitive alternatives otherwise.
    Gloves - [50 Str] - No competitive alternatives.
    Legs - [190 AP / 55 Crit] - No competitive alternatives.
    Feet - [50 Haste] - 50 Hit is a viable alternative, which you take ultimately matters on how you can best reforge your gear at the time


    As an Unholy DK, you only have three cooldowns - Army of the Dead, Summon Gargoyle, and Unholy Frenzy. Maximizing their use is essential to maximizing one’s dps.

    Army of the Dead

    Similar to a Blood or Frost DK’s Ghoul or our own Gargoyle, Army of the Dead will take a snapshot of your AP, haste, and hit at the time summoned. Changes in these stats after you have casted the spell will have no effect on the summoned minions, and other stats – crit, mastery, and the like – will have no effect period.

    The most optimal time to use Army of the Dead will vary from boss to boss, but it is typically right before the beginning of an encounter. Using it mid-fight can lead to lost dps time, as the spell is channeled, and can also open the possibility of the spell getting interrupted by an npc mechanic, drastically lowering the value of the spell. That said, if you are unable to cast it before the fight begins it is still worth casting mid-fight – ideally during a phase transition or similar period of down-time – simply not as large a gain as using it immediately before the pull.

    One note about Army of the Dead is that although the summoned ghouls will not taunt a boss, they will taunt most adds present on boss encounters. Keep this in mind as it can cause a wipe if used inappropriately… or prevent one if used intelligently.

    Summon Gargoyle

    Summon Gargoyle isn't terribly complex in its use. Your Gargoyle scales with your attack power and haste based on the moment it was cast, and will retain those exact stats for its entire duration. Try to wait on using it until all of your procs coincide, however, don't let this make you miss an opportunity to cast it. Summoning your Gargoyle three times in a fight is better than only summoning it twice, regardless of procs. As such, figure out how many times you'll be able to use it based on the fight length. Try and use it at some point during Heroism's duration - it needs to be popped after Heroism is cast, while the buff is active on you, to benefit. This is also the time to pop your potion, ideally.

    Also remember, your Gargoyle has horrid AI. It will melee if summoned too close to the center of the boss’s hitbox. There is a trick to avoid this, however, and it’s popularly referred to a Gargoyle Twisting. When you’re about to summon your Gargoyle, you want to quickly turn your character about 90 degrees from where you were facing the boss, cast the summon, and then quickly turn back, all in a fraction of a second. Done properly, you’ll only lose a miniscule fraction of auto-attack time on the boss, which is easily made up by your Gargoyle not meleeing for its entire duration. The only real way to mess up this technique is to keyboard turn… and if you’re doing that, you have more important issues to resolve!

    Your Gargoyle will follow the same commands you give your Ghoul (i.e, follow, stay, attack, etc), so you can move it out of AoEs such as Shock Blast – however you are best off simply waiting until immediately after such spells to go off to summon it.

    Unholy Frenzy

    A 20% melee/range haste buff with a 30 second duration and a 3 minute cooldown is rather impressive - in fact, it would be an 18% or so dps boost for us during its course. Quite good. Unfortunately, the buff is classified as an enrage, and because of that fact it's an even greater damage gain for Fury Warriors, whose mastery amplifies the effect of enrages. They would get at least 25% more out of the buff than we would. When using it on others, try to time it with Heroism or various self-buffs they have such as Death Wish.

    Be warned; you don't want to use UF on yourself when Heroism is up (or shortly before it does). Even if the two were to stack, either cooldown on its own is sufficient to GCD cap us, and thus it wouldn't be worthwhile to have them coinciding regardless.


    #showtooltip Death Coil
    /cast [modifier:shift,target=Pet] Death Coil
    /cast [nomodifier] Death Coil
    - Shift will cause you to Death Coil your pet for the heal; otherwise, it will Death Coil your target as usual.

    /cast [modifier: ctrl] Frost Presence; [modifier: shift] Blood Presence; [nomodifier] Unholy Presence
    -Depending on your key binding, when you use it in conjunction with ctrl it will swap you into frost presence if you aren't in it, if you are, it will do nothing, so hitting shift will put you on blood presence etc.


    -Use your Anti-Magic Shell whatever you can and soak some of the non-lethal spells. With the talent Magic Suppression your AMS can reward you Runic Power when it absorb magic damage. This is very useful at the beginning of the fight to stack Dark Transformation on your pet.

    Unholy PVP

    There are not a lot of things here (like the PVE part) but there are some useful macros and tricks.


    0/8/33 with Unholy Blight


    0/8/33 with Resilient Infection
    Still debating which talent is better [Resilient Infection] or [Unholy Blight]


    * [Glyph of the Ghoul]
    * [Glyph of Scourge Strike]
    * [Glyph of Death Coil]
    * [Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell]
    * [Glyph of Blood Boil]
    * [Glyph of Chains of Ice]
    * [Glyph of Death's Embrace]
    * [Glyph of Horn of Winter]
    * [Glyph of Resilent Grip]

    Stats Weights

    From the best to worse:

    -Hit to cap - 5%
    -Spell penetration up to 195
    -Haste Rating

    #showtooltip Lichborne
    /cast Lichborne;
    /cast [@player] Death Coil
    -Use a macro to Lichborne-heal yourself along with the Glyph of Death's Embrace (This refunds 20 runic power when using death coil to heal). This is assuming you don't have a problem with filling your inventory with corpse dust instead of using the Glyph of Raise Dead).

    #showtooltip Summon Gargoyle
    /cast Empower Rune Weapon
    /cast Summon Gargoyle
    -Press once to summon your gargoyle + ERW will save you 25 RP, press again and your gargoyle will come back.

    #showtooltip Death Pact
    /use empower Rune Weapon
    /use Death Pact
    -Death Pact cost you 15RP.

    #showtooltip dark transformation
    /cast blood tap
    /cast dark transformation
    -You can use DT when your unholy runes are on cooldown.

    /cast [@Shadowfiend, harm, exists, nodead] chains of ice
    -Use a Chains of Ice macro for Shadowfiend if you have any binds available.

    /petattack [target=mouseover,exists][exists]
    -In order to better utilize your Ghoul, you can use a mouseover petattack macro. This macro will cause your ghoul to attack your mouseover, and if there is no mouseover, then it will attack your current target. It is great for stomping totems without switching your current target.


    - For PVP you will need 5% hit - 600 Hit rating
    - As of 4.0, resistances have been changed the way they work. They now reduce a set amount of damage from that school instead of resisting (particially or fully) a spell. It is still ideal you get 130 (195 at 85) to not have your damage reduced.
    - As of 4.0, you play in Unholy presence. Haste is a very good stat for DK's now, along with the GCD reduction, 15% run speed and it also affect the ghoul/gargoyle attack speed.
    - After using Lichborne you are considered as a undead, this mean you can be shackled/feared by paladin but it also mean that you can heal yourself via Death Coils.
    - Necrotic Strike can stack multiple times, even by multiple DK's.
    - Outbreak can apply diseases even if the target uses spells like Deterrence (hunter) or Cloak of Shadows (rogue).
    - Using Hysteria before being Sapped, Sheeped or any other similar spell will break the crowd control spell.
    - Dark Command can taunt the pets. Useful to free your healer from enemy's pet.
    - Blood Boil now can hit stealthed targets when they are in range.
    - Death & Decay is amazing for interupting healers who are LOS and drinking. You can be in the middle of Nagrand Arena and interupt a healer drinking almost anywheres on the map.
    - Avoid using Icy Touch as opening spell. Always use Chains Of Ice, as it apply undispellable 60% slow and also Frost Fever.
    - You can stack x5 Shadow Infusion on your ghoul before the beginning of the arena by casting Death Coils at him. Then seconds before the door opens, cast Dark Transformation at him and you will have powerful pet at the beginning.
    Last edited by Adlian; 2010-12-27 at 09:03 PM.

  2. #2
    One question, for PvE purposes how would you think about - or make - a spec including Anti-Magic zone?
    It's absorb is heavily reduced compared to the incoming damage nowadays so it's pretty much useless, no?

    I'd have to drop the Outbreak talent to feasibly get it, something I'm a bit unwilling to do, but I remember it having sometimes amazing effects in WotLK.
    --(The Death of Rats, Terry Pratchett, Soul Music)

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Carighan View Post
    One question, for PvE purposes how would you think about - or make - a spec including Anti-Magic zone?
    It's absorb is heavily reduced compared to the incoming damage nowadays so it's pretty much useless, no?

    I'd have to drop the Outbreak talent to feasibly get it, something I'm a bit unwilling to do, but I remember it having sometimes amazing effects in WotLK.
    AMZ is worthless, raid buffed your looking at 35-40k damage absorb toe pretty much one hit that won't even 100% block. Putting 3 into Magic Suppression I believe is far more helpful then putting the extra point in Desecration. It's more advisable for Arena due to the fact there is only two-five people benefiting from it rather then 10+ depending on your raid comp.

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