Patch 4.3 Unholy Death Knight (DK) Quick-Start Guide: stats, spec and talents, glyphs, gems, reforging, and rotation

Ah, Unholy. After a brief and unpleasant interval at the bottom of the tree in 4.1, it’s going from strength to strength as it heads into Patch 4.3, and the Fight with Deathwing’s Appendages. So, get your stats, specs, glyphs, gems, reforging priorities, rotation and all that other stuff sorted out right here, and let’s get on to the slaying.

Updated Nov 29th 2011 for Patch 4.3

Unholy Death Knight changes in Patch 4.3

Unholy only has a few changes, but they’re good ones. Unholy Might now offers 25% additional Strength, up from 20%. In addition, all DK pets now properly inherit Crit and Spell Penetration stats from their master, and Unholy’s gargoyle will now always use its ranged attack, which will make it more effective. Finally, we’re the beneficiaries of the global 4.3 melee DPS buff, giving us an extra 10% attack power.

Unholy set bonuses in T13 are strong, but don’t significantly change gearing or rotation once achieved.

Rotation / Priorities

Unholy DKs, like most DPS classes in Cataclysm, do not have a “rotation” as such. Instead, they work on a priority system – use the most important abilities whenever possible before less important ones.


Top Priority: Diseases and Dark Transformation. Apply or reapply diseases as first priority, preferably using Outbreak, and use Dark Transformation whenever it’s available.

Second Priority: Death and Decay or Scourge Strike if Death Runes are available. Use DnD even on single-target fights. Use Scourge Strike if DnD is on cooldown.

Third Priority: Death Coil IF Sudden Doom is up or Festering Strike. Only use Festering Strike here if it will extend your diseases.

Fourth Priority: Death and Decay or Scourge Strike. This is your bread-and-butter.


For standard dungeon packs, you still want to use the single-target rotation above. Only use the AOE rotation here for LARGE packs of mobs. Switch to Frost Presence when using this.

Follow the same priorities as for Single Target – however, ignore Festering Strike, and use Pestilence to spread your diseases.

Other abilities

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 – and be SURE that your ghouls won’t taunt anything important before using it. Seriously. Or you will be very unpopular.


Best Unholy DPS Spec

The unholy forces of Elitist Jerks and #Acherus on IRC align to agree that this build (Patch 4.3) is the best option.

At Tier 3, you’ll have to spend a point in one of two places – either Unholy Command or Desecration. Unless you have a specific need for mob slowing abilities, take Unholy Command.

There are also 3 points left at the end of the talent build that you can spend in a variety of places. Good options include:

  • Improved Blood Tap (Second Tier, Blood) – can be used to increase your DPS with more runes. Not always useful, but a handy option.
  • Runic Power Mastery (First Tier, Frost) – increases your maximum Runic Power. Useful, but less so than you might expect because you’ll usually be below 100. One point highly recommended.
  • Magic Suppression and/or Anti-Magic Zone (4th and 5th Tier, Unholy) – very useful survival talents with some DPS application. Anti-Magic Zone is very situational, Magic Suppression generally useful.

Stats, Reforging and Gems

Strength is by far your most important stat, followed by Hit to the Hit Cap (961 for anyone except Draenai, for whom it’s 841), then Haste, Crit, Mastery, Expertise to the Expertise cap of 26

Gems: Always choose a Bold Inferno Ruby unless a socket provides 20 or more Strength or 40 or more of another important stat. In the latter case, use either Fierce Ember Topaz or Etched Demonseye as appropriate.

Reforging: Reforge to Hit up to the hit cap. Then, reforge to Haste, or Crit if that’s not possible. Never reforge Haste to anything else, including Hit.

Buffs: Stay in Unholy Presence and use Rune of the Fallen Crusader. Keep Horn of Winter up whenever possible.

Enchants for Unholy

Remember to check if your profession offers better enhancement options for a slot!

Head Arcanum of the Wildhammer (Alliance) or Dragonmaw (Horde)
Shoulders   Greater Inscription of Jagged Stone
Back Enchant Cloak – Greater Critical Strike
Chest Enchant Chest – Peerless Stats
Wrist Enchant Bracer – Major Strength
Hands Enchant Gloves – Mighty Strength
Belt Ebonsteel Belt Buckle
Legs Dragonscale Leg Armor
Feet Enchant Boots – Haste or Precision if you’re not hit-capped
Weapon Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Glyphs for Unholy

Prime: Glyph of Death Coil, Glyph of Scourge Strike, Glyph of Raise Dead unless you want to focus on AOE damage, in which case replace the first two with Glyph of Icy Touch and Glyph of Death and Decay.

Major: Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell, Glyph of Blood Boil, Glyph of Pestilence.

Minor: Glyph of Blood Tap, Glyph of Death’s Embrace, Glyph of Path of Frost – all of these are actually useful!

  • Elitist Jerks – Unholy Guide – Unusually well-written and easy to follow for EJ, this is a superb guide. If you want more detail than this article has given you, go here. Updated for Patch 4.3 already!
  • Son Of A Lich – from the people who also write the EJ Death Knight guides, a superb site for all DKs.
  • #Archerus IRC channel on – GREAT DK community.

You also might find the rest of MMO Melting Pot interesting – we scour the blogosphere daily looking for the most interesting discussions and posts about WoW and other MMOs and deliver them straight to you, all in one place, right here. See what’s on the Pot today!

Did you find this guide useful? If so, please consider sharing it! You can find buttons for Twitter, Facebook and Google+ below.


Read more →

Patch 4.2 changes for… Rogues, (Prot and Retri) Paladins, (Feral and Balance)Druids, Warlocks, Death Knights and Mages

With World of Warcraft’s Patch 4.2 looming over us like a tsunami made of pure raid nerf (yes, I’m still a little bitter), it’s time for a great big massive, whopping round-up post. So if you want to know what’s going to happen to your Rogue, Warlock, DK, Mage, Paladin, or Druid, read on!

(AS you can see, we haven’t completed the full set yet. If you know of any guides to class changes, particularly for classes we’ve missed, that we haven’t featured, please do comment below!)

Here goes.

  • Rogues are getting a bunch of buffsbut how significant are they? Top Rosters answers.
  • It’s all change for Druids, with everything including a flaming cat. No, literally, it’s on fire. WoW Insider’s Chase Hasbrouck explains the Feral Druid changes, whilst Grey Matter’s all over the Boomkin alterations.
  • Warlocks aren’t getting as many changes as other classes, apparently, but what they are getting, Skim ‘Locks has coverage of.
  • DKs are seeing some fairly major changes that I know Johnnie’s bouncing up and down about – Daniel Whitcomb at WoW Insider has the analysis, which looks pretty complex.
  • Retridins are seeing some pretty significant buffs, particularly to AOE – about time – and Retpallie’s got the goods there. Meanwhile, tankadins are getting messed around all over the place – Mark Walsh at WoW Insider has a fairly detailed summary.
  • Finally, Mages are also getting a quick going-over, and also a chance to get into a big fight with the rest of their guildies over the caster legendary – Christian Belt’s Arcane Brilliance (at WoW Insider, again) has the goods.So there you go! Again, if you know of a guide to the 4.2 changes for Holydins, resto druids, Priests, Shammies, Warriors or Hunters, let me know below!
Read more →

Another great post for Death Knights

If you’re a regular Pot reader, you probably think that I’m only capable of posting about something if it’s Death Knight-related. That’s simply not true. I don’t have to talk about Death Knights all the time. I just chose to.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that, yes, yet again, I have a post full of DK goodness for you. Somehow I missed Sharden’s three-part series on tanking Cataclysm heroics at 15 Minutes Of WoW (Part 1 is here if you missed it too), but the follow-up post came at just the right time for me. I’m not a very good tank. My main spec is DPS, and I only tank very occasionally. I’ll be totally honest with you: I haven’t tanked anything more challenging than High Shaman MacKilligan since Cataclysm launched. I know I’m not nearly as competent a tank as I am a DPS, so I’ve been doing some reading to try to fill the gaps in my knowledge.

[pullquote]This … isn’t a guide on how to get ready for heroics, it is instead a primer on what to do when you get there.[/pullquote]

Sharden’s primer is chock full of sensible, solid advice for a new DK tank. It’s a great place to start building your tanky know-how. I’ve made copious notes from this post, as well as from Sharden’s previous three-part series. Soon I won’t have any excuse not to occasional switch to my tanking spec and stand right in front of the bad guys.

Read more →

Don’t forget to kill Philip!

If you play an Unholy Death Knight, I’ve got some bad news for you. You might want to sit down. There’s no easy way to break this to you, so I’m just going to come out and say it. Consider is gone. I know, I know. It’s going to be hard, but we’ll have to struggle on together.

Consider has maintained the awesome Unholy DK thread over on Elitist Jerks for quite some time now, and it’s brilliant. Have you ever randomly been grouped with a DK only to realize with shock that they weren’t an idiot and actually knew how to play their class? It’s rare (for Death Knight players, anyway) but it does happen, and the reason is usually because they’ve read Consider’s thread.

Sadly, Consider is finally hanging up his ghoul and calling it a day. Luckily for us poor Death Knights, the thread already has a new maintainer. Matron Heartless has taken over, and she’s in no danger of letting the quality drop. The new thread, Just Act Natural (which scores bonus points for an excellent Shawn Of The Dead reference) is excellent. It’s based on the guide published at Heartless’s own blog, Son Of A Lich (again, bonus pun points must be awarded), which is in itself a great read for Death Knight players.

So, if you play a Death Knight and haven’t yet memorized every damn word of these guides, get reading. Maybe one day we can lose our moniker of Class Most Likely To Attract Morons!

The EJ thread for Frost Death Knights (which was also maintained by Consider) is still in need of an new author, by the way, so if you’re up for the job (and you’re not scared of the notoriously friendly and welcoming Elitist Jerks), throw your name in the ring.

Read more →