MMO Melting Pot MMO Melting Pot
Unholy Death Knight Quick-Start Guide For WoW Patch 5.4 – Stats, talents and spec, glyphs, rotation, reforging and gems, and ability priorities

It’s exciting times ahead for both you, the Unholy Death Knight, and Timmy, your loyal ghoul.But before you get into fighting Garrosh, you’ll have to get used to all of Patch 5.4‘s system changes. We’re here to bring you up to speed on talents, glyphs, stats, reforging and gemming, MoP rotation, and more, without a wall of text – just what you need to know to get going.

Updated 17th September 2013 to World of Warcraft Patch 5.4

Unholy Death Knight changes in WoW Patch 5.4

No PvE-relevant changes of any significance.

Unholy “Rotation” and Priorities

Some glyph and stat changes.

Single-target DPS

  • Top Priority: If the target is below 35% health and it’s available, use Soul Reaper.
  • Second Priority: Diseases and Dark Transformation. Apply or reapply diseases as first priority, preferably using Outbreak or Unholy Blight, and using Plague Strike if not. Use Dark Transformation whenever it’s available.
  • Third Priority: Cast Death Coil if not in Dark Transformation. Use Scourge Strike if DnD is on cooldown.
  • Fourth Priority: Festering Strike. If that’s not available, use Death Coil if you’re close to maximum runic power or have Sudden Doom active.
  • Fifth Priority: Scourge Strike, Festering Strike, Horn of Winter or Death Coil. This is your bread-and-butter.

Note: either macro Blood Tap to Death Coil or use Blood Tap when you use Death Coil.


  • Top Priority: Put diseases up on all targets, using Outbreak and Pestilence or Unholy Blight.
  • Second Priority: Use Death and Decay if it’s available. Use Festering Strike if that’s available.
  • Third Priority: Use Blood Boil. If you can’t, use Scourge Strike if there are any Unholy runes left.


For the love of Pete, remember that you can use Raise Ally to combat-res! Other abilities to bear in mind are Icebound Fortitude (to not die), Death Strike (to not die) and your various interrupts.

As far as your damage cooldowns go, Empower Rune Weapon, Gargoyle, and Unholy Frenzy should be used together, ideally. Army Of The Dead is best used on a pull or a phase transition.


Make sure you’re in Unholy Presence. Make sure to cast Horn of Winter before a pull. Make sure Timmy the Ghoul is active.

Unholy Death Knight Talent Choices

5.4 talent choices are meant to be situational – but here’s a good standard build to get started with.

  • Tier 1: Roiling Blood – already assumed above.
  • Tier 2: Anti-Magic Zone – great “barrier”-type spell.
  • Tier 3: Death’s Advance
  • Tier 4: Death Pact – gives you a strong self-heal.
  • Tier 5: Blood Tap
  • Tier 6: Desecrated Ground – gives you a CD against effects that control you.

Stats, reforging and gemming for Unholy Death Knights

Strength is our best stat, followed by Hit and Expertise to cap (7.5% or 2550 points), followed by Crit.

Reforging: Reforge for Hit and Expertise to cap first, then Crit. Reforge from excess Hit and Expertise, then Haste, then Mastery
Gems: Inscribed for Red, Smooth for Yellow, Piercing for Blue.
Meta Gem: Reverberating meta gem.

Unholy DK Glyphs

Unholy DK glyphs are very situational, but here is one solid loadout to begin with:

Major: Glyph of Festering Blood, Glyph of Regenerative Magic, and Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell
Minor: Glyph of Army of the Dead. Otherwise, your choice!

Unholy Death Knight enchants and item enhancements

You should almost always use a profession enhancement item if it provides appropriate stats instead of a general enchant.

  • Shoulder – Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
  • Back – Enchant Cloak – Accuracy or Enchant Cloak – Superior Critical Strike
  • Chest – Glorious Stats
  • Bracers – Enchant Bracers – Exceptional Strength
  • Gloves – Enchant Gloves – Super Strength
  • Belt – Living Steel Belt Buckle
  • Legs – Angerhide Leg Armor
  • Feet – Enchant Boots – Greater Precision
  • Weapon – Rune of the Fallen Crusader


There’s only one good guide for Unholy 5.4 that I’ve found – but it’s very good:

  • Icy Veins continues to dominate the WoW theorycraft world – their Unholy guide is great
  • Finally, as a WoW player, you should really check out the latest and greatest from the blogosphere on World of Warcraft, here at the Melting Pot.

If you’ve found this article useful, please consider sharing it using the buttons below!

arrow9 Responses

  1. Hulksmashyou
    26 mos, 2 wks ago

    I find the newer version of blood tap to be more effective since sudden doom and death coils proc free runes on command. I usually find myself forgetting to even refresh my runes when it’s stuck at 12.

  2. 25 mos, 4 wks ago

    I personally wouldn’t use or recommend Runic Empowerment as Unholy.

    Unholy gets most of it’s DPS thorough maximizing the usage of unholy runes, therefore increasing the number of Scourge Strikes and Soul Reaper casts (our most damaging rune abilities).

    The issue with RE with regards to Scourge Strike and Soul Reaper is that RE has just as much a chance to regenerate a fully depleted frost or blood rune as an unholy rune, and then you must wait (and hope for) the next proc. Because of this, Blood Tap and Runic Corruption are more optimal choices, Blood Tap because any rune comes back as a Death Rune (able to be spent as an optimal unholy rune), and Runic Corruption because it simply speeds up the rune regeneration of all runes simultaneously (including unholy runes).

    In short, it is a DPS loss to game RE as Unholy, and not gaming it results in many more non-unholy runes- another DPS loss. Even though you get more runes per minute with RE, they are quite probably less damaging runes.

    Kind regards,

  3. 25 mos, 4 wks ago

    Hmm – one of the reasons I chose it was because it’s passive, and thus not subject to user error. That’s a bias of the “Quick-Start” nature of this guide – all else being approximately equal, I tend to choose options that require less thought.

    How much of a DPS loss are we talking here? Is it critical, or is the simplicity worth it?

  4. Heya i’m for the primary time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped
    me out a lot. I am hoping to offer one thing back and help others such
    as you aided me.

  5. hello!,I really like your writing so a lot! share we keep up a correspondence extra about your article on
    AOL? I require a specialist in this area to resolve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Taking a look ahead to look you.

  6. 7 mos, 1 wk ago

    If only all people would understand the dangers
    of carbon monoxide poisoning. Every year more than twenty
    people are killed by carbon monoxide escaping from faulty gas boilers together with hundreds more who suffer serious ill
    health because of it.

  7. 5 mos ago

    Appreciation to my father who stated to me about this blog, this webpage is really amazing.

  8. Thanks for any other excellent article. Where else could anyone get
    that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a
    presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the look for such information.

Leave A Comment