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 [patchnumber]’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 [guideupdated] to World of Warcraft Patch [patchnumber]

Unholy Death Knight changes in WoW Patch [patchnumber]

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

[patchnumber] 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 [patchnumber] 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.

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