Unholy Death Knight DPS Guide - Battle For Azeroth 8.3 1
by Aether in
Death Knight Guides

Last Updated on October 18, 2020 by Aether

Welcome to our Unholy Death Knight guide for DPS players – updated for Battle For Azeroth (BFA) 8.3. This is a work in progress, and will be updated accordingly for Shadowlands. We will cover everything you need to know in order to play a Unholy Death Knight in raids and Mythic+ dungeons. You will learn how to optimise your stats for damage, as well as what to look out for in order to min-max your character to its fullest.

Quick Overview

Unhoiy Death Knights rely on their necrotic-themed abilities to do great damage over time. Unholy can look like a very daunting spec to play, but with the universal rune change that happened to all DK specs a few years back, Unholy has never been easier to learn. Managing runes, DoTs, and runic power, will be your main focus. Learning how to spread your DoTs efficiently without running out of runes will separate you from the average Death Knight.

Unholy Death Knights are roughly on par with their Frost counterparts, excluding specific encounters that may, or may not, favour a specific one.

Unholy DK Pros

  • Strong single target and AoE damage capability
  • Good survivability
  • High raid utility

Unholy DK Cons

  • Worst mobility of all classes
  • Struggles with target switching
  • Takes time to ramp up damage

Best Races For Unholy Death Knights

From a PvE standpoint, the best races are Blood Elf, Human, and Night Elf. Blood Elves and Humans provide the most raw DPS, but Night Elves are very useful in Mythic+ dungeons due to Shadowmeld.

For PvP, please check out our PvP guides.

Unholy Death Knight Stat Priority

The following stat priority will increase your effectiveness in dealing damage in PvE content, without having to run min-max sims. However, we do recommend running simulations with your exact stats if you want to be 100% efficient; especially useful for those who are in cutting edge guilds.

Stat priority

Haste > Crit > Versatility > Mastery > Strength

Stat summaries

Stamina increases your health pool.

Strength increases your attack power and damage from abilities.

Versatility increases damage, healing, as well as decreasing damage received.

Haste increases attack speed, reduces GCD, and increases rune regeneration speed.

Critical Strike increases the chance of attacks to hit for additional damage or healing.

Mastery increases the Shadow damage, which Unholy’s main abilities are comprised of.

Unholy Death Knight Enchants, Gems & Consumables

Based off of the stat priority above, below we have listed the best enchants, gems and consumables that Frost Death Knights should utilise. These recommendations should be used for those who are not creating personalised sims for their specific character, as their results may vary. However, for the general population of Frost DKs, these recommendations should be more than adequate.

Weapon Enchants

Rune of the Fallen Crusader 

Ring Enchants

Enchant Ring – Accord of Haste

Enchant Ring – Accord of Critical Strike


Leviathan’s Eye of Strength (Jewelcrafting profession only)

Quick Sand Spinel

Deadly Lava Lazuli


Greater Flask of the Undertow


Potion of Unbridled Fury

Superior Battle Potion of Strength


Famine Evaluator And Snack Table

Sanguinated Feast

Boralus Blood Sausage


Battle-Scarred Augment Rune

Unholy Death Knight Talents & Build

Infected ClawsAll Will ServeClawing Shadows 
 Bursting Sores Ebon Fever Unholy Blight 
Grip of the DeadDeath’s ReachAsphyxiate
Pestilent Pustules Sudden Doom Soul Reaper
 Spell EaterWraith Walk Death Pact
Army of the DamnedUnholy FrenzySummon Gargoyle

The above setup is ideal for both raiding and mythic+ dungeons.

All Will Serve is best for single target fights, whereas Infected Claws is more useful for AoE encounters and mythic+ dungeons.

 Death Pact can be useful to pick up on occasion, as it’s a fantastic self-healing ability.

Unholy Death Knight Rotation & Cooldowns

World of Warcraft has moved away from strict rotations, and now instead relies on a priority order to efficiently play your class. The below guide should help to give you a good understanding on what abilities to focus on, as well as how to combine them in specific situations. It’s important to note that dungeons and raids never go 100% smooth every time, so you’ll have to adapt constantly to work out which ability should be used, and when. Therefore, don’t worry too much about following the priority order strictly.

Single Target DPS Rotation Priority list

  1.  Outbreak (If Virulent Plague is about to fall off)
  2.  Death Coil (if Sudden Doom procs or you are about to cap Runic Power)
  3.  Death and Decay (If you chose Pestilence)
  4.  Scourge Strike (If >1 Festering Wound on the target)
  5.  Festering Strike
  6.  Death Coil

AoE DPS Rotation Priority List

  1.  Outbreak (If Virulent Plague is about to fall off)
  2.  Epidemic (If you’ve talented Epidemic and are about to cap Runic Power (80+).
  3.  Death and Decay/Defile 
  4.  Scourge Strike (If you are standing in your Death and Decay/Defile
  5.  Epidemic (If you’ve talented Epidemic)
  6.  Death Coil (if Sudden Doom procs or you are about to cap Runic Power. Ignore Runic Power capping if you’re using Epidemic)
  7.  Scourge Strike (If you have >1 Festering Wound on the target)
  8.  Festering Strike
  9.  Death Coil

DPS Cooldowns

Dark Transformation – Use on cooldown.

Unholy Frenzy – Use on cooldown.

Army of the Dead – Use on pre-pull.

Soul Reaper – Use if you run out of runes. Be sure to use the ability before targets die in M+ dungeons, to take advantage of the Haste buff it applies.

Aether has been playing World of Warcraft since 2006. In his youth he raided 7 days a week, but now just plays with friends doing Mythic dungeons and Arena. He swaps his main more often than he should.
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