Runes: The biggest change to Unholy (and all) DKs is the removal of unique Runes.  The Rune system is now made up of all one type of rune instead of Frost, Blood and Unholy, and these generic runes all recharge individually;

 Diseases: Unholy DKs now have only one disease, Virulent Plague , which is now applied via Outbreak .  In addition to dealing DoT damage for 33 seconds, it also has a 30% chance on each tick to explode and deal AoE damage to all nearby enemies;

DPS Mechanic Changes:

New Abilities:

  • Festering Wound: is a new core mechanic for Unholy.  Each Festering Strike applies 2-4 Festering Wounds on the target, to a maximum of 8.  On target death, or by successful use of Scourge Strike or Apocalypse, these wounds will explode, dealing shadow damage and generating 3 Runic Power each;
  •  Wraith Walk: A channeled spell that breaks Root effects, increases movement speed by 70% and makes the DK immune to all movement-impairing effects for 3 sec. Any action will cancel the effect;



Stat Priority:

Strength > Haste > Mastery > Crit > Versatility


Strength: Provides Attack Power;

Mastery: Through Mastery: Dreadblade, increases all shadow damage dealt;

Haste:  Increases attack speed and Rune regeneration rate, and lowers the global cooldown;

Critical Strike: Increases chance to critically hit with all spells and abilities;

Versatility: Increases all damage and healing done, and decreases all damage taken;






Level 56:

  • All Will Serve : Raise Dead summons an additional skeletal minion, and its cooldown is removed.
  • Bursting Sores : Festering Wounds deal 50% more damage when burst, and all enemies within 8 yds of a burst Festering Wound suffer Shadow damage
  • Ebon Fever : Virulent Plague deals the same damage in half the time.

Level 56 talents offer a choice between disease, wounds and minion damage boosts, which is a common theme throughout the tree.  All Will Serve is a straight DPS increase, giving the DK a second minion.  Bursting Sores increases the damage of Festering Wounds, and adds an increase to AoE damage, while Ebon Fever essentially doubles the damage of Virulent Plague at the cost of more micromanaging the application.

Level 57:

  • Epidemic :  Causes each of your Virulent Plagues within 100 yds to flare up, dealing Shadow damage to the infected enemy, and an additional Shadow damage to all other enemies near them.  3 charges, 10 second recharge time.
  • Pestilent Pustules :  Every 6 Festering Wounds you burst, you gain 1 Rune.
  • Blighted Rune Weapon :  The next 4 auto attacks infect the target with 2 Festering Wounds. 60 sec CD.

Three very good talents.  Epidemic is a massive DPS increase on AoE encounters, while Pestilent Pustules allows for Rune regeneration which leads to higher burst DPS.  Blighted Rune Weapon has great synergy with other Festering Wounds talents, and offers a good single-target DPS increase.

Level 58:

  • Unholy Frenzy : When a Festering Wound bursts, you gain 100% increased attack speed for 2 sec.
  • Castigator : Each Festering Strike critical strike applies 2 additional Festering Wounds, and each Scourge Strike critical strike bursts 1 additional Festering Wound.
  • Clawing Shadows : Deals Shadow damage and causes 1 Festering Wound to burst.  Replaces Scourge Strike.

The Level 58 tier is focused on adding extra effects to the Festering Wounds mechanic.  Unholy Frenzy adds a short attack speed bonus, while Castigator allows Critical Strike to increase the damage of Festering Wounds.  Clawing Shadows replaces Scourge Strike as a ranged option for Festering Wounds.

Level 60:

  • Sludge Belcher : Raise Dead now summons an abomination instead of a ghoul, with improved innate abilities.
  • Asphyxiate: Lifts the enemy target off the ground, crushing their throat with dark energy and stunning them for 5 sec.  45 sec CD.
  • Debilitating Infestation: Outbreak reduces the movement speed of all affected enemies by 50% for 3 sec.

Two abilities, Asphyxiate and Debilitating Infestation, focus on Crowd Control for the Unholy DK.  Sludge Belcher replaces the ghoul with an abomination, for a significant increase in minion damage.

Level 75:

  • Spell Eater : Your Anti-Magic Shell is 20% larger and lasts 5 sec longer.
  • Corpse Shield : For the next 10 sec, 90% of all damage you take is transferred to your ghoul/abomination. If your ghoul/abomination is slain while this spell is active, it cannot be resummoned for 30 seconds.  60 sec CD.
  • Lingering Apparition : You move 30% faster during Wraith Walk, and its cooldown is reduced by 15 sec.

Level 75 talents focus on defensive bonuses.  Spell eater is excellent for magic-heavy encounters, while Lingering Apparition allows for a significant movement increase.  Corpse Shield is a very powerful defensive CD but will result in a short term DPS loss should the minion die because of it.

Level 90:

  • Shadow Infusion : While your ghoul/abomination is not transformed, Death Coil will also reduce the remaining cooldown of Dark Transformation by 5 sec.
  • Necrosis : Dealing damage with Death Coil causes your next Scourge Strike to deal 35% increased damage.
  • Infected Claws : Your ghoul’s Claw/abomination’s Cleaver attack has a 35% chance to cause a Festering Wound on the target.

Level 90 again offers choice between buffing minion or Festering Wounds damage.  Shadow Infusion allows for more uptime on Dark Transformation, while Necrosis allows for Death Coil to be introduced to the rotation to increase Festering Wounds and AoE damage.  Infected Claws allows for more Festering Wounds to be generated.

Level 100:

  • Dark Arbiter : Summon a Val’kyr to attack the target for 15 sec. The Val’kyr will gain 1% increased damage for every 1 Runic Power you spend.  3 min CD.  Replaces Summon Gargoyle.
  • Defile: Defiles the ground targeted by the Death Knight for 10 sec. Every 1 sec, if there are any enemies standing in the Defile, it deals Shadowfrost damage to them and grows in radius, and increases your Mastery by 31, stacking up to 10 times. While you remain within Defile, your Scourge Strike will hit all enemies near the target.  30 sec CD.  Replaces Death and Decay.
  • Soul Reaper: Strike an enemy’s soul for Shadow damage, afflicting them with Soul Reaper for 5 sec.  Bursting a Festering Wound on an enemy afflicted by Soul Reaper grants 7% Haste for 15 sec, stacking up to 3 times.  45 sec CD.

Three very distinct abilities are offered at Level 100.  Dark Arbiter is a very powerful single target DPS increase, while Defile allows for a significant boost to AoE damage.  Soul Reaper will have extremely high synergy with the Artifact ability Apocalypse upon Legion release.


Talent Build Options:

As with every spec and class, the Unholy Death Knight talent tree allows for a lot of personal choice as to how the player would like to play his/her character.  Below are just some ideas to start off, but are by no means the ‘best’ or the ‘only’ builds


Minions Build

All Will ServePestilent PustulesUnholy FrenzySludge BelcherCorpse ShieldInfected ClawsDark Arbiter

This build focuses on increased minion damage and utility, from defensive (Corpse Shield) to higher Festering Wounds generation (Infected Claws).

Diseases Build:

Ebon FeverEpidemicClawing ShadowsSludge BelcherCorpse ShieldShadow InfusionDefile

This build focuses on talents that increase the damage done by diseases and significant AoE damage.

Festering Wounds Build:

Bursting SoresBlighted Rune WeaponClawing ShadowsSludge BelcherLingering Apparition – Infected ClawsSoul Reaper

This build is meant to make the most out of the Festering Wounds mechanic, through obtaining more Festering Wounds (Blighted Rune Weapon, Infected Claws) and then having them turn into a DPS increase (Bursting Sores, Soul Reaper)




Upon obtaining Apocalypse, the Unholy Death Knight obtains a new ability:

Apocalyptic Deathblade: A deadly strike with the runeblade Apocalypse. Chance on hit; triggers a visual effect and does massive damage to a mob that is below 20% (potentially an instant kill mechanic)


Additionally, with Apocalypse equipped, the corpses of mobs killed will sometimes decompose rapidly, with a sickly hue and flies around them.



With the amount of variance through talent choices, this guide will only touch on the basics of the Unholy rotation, without going into how each talent choice affects it.


Priority List: