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Unholy Death Knight DPS Spec, Builds, and Talents (Legion 7.1)

Last updated on Oct 16, 2016 at 09:25 by Vlad 306 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, we present the viable talent choices for Unholy Death Knights in World of Warcraft Legion 7.1. We detail what each of the talents do and in which situations they should be taken.

The other pages of our Unholy Death Knight guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Tegu, one of the best DPS Death Knights in the world, who raids in Serenity. You can follow him on Twitter, and you can watch his stream on Twitch.

1. Talent Choices

Level Choices
56 All Will Serve All Will Serve Bursting Sores Bursting Sores Ebon Fever Ebon Fever
57 Epidemic Epidemic Pestilent Pustules Pestilent Pustules Blighted Rune Weapon Blighted Rune Weapon
58 Unholy Frenzy Unholy Frenzy Castigator Castigator Clawing Shadows ? Clawing Shadows
60 Sludge Belcher Sludge Belcher Asphyxiate ? Asphyxiate Debilitating Infestation Debilitating Infestation
75 Spell Eater ? Spell Eater Corpse Shield ? Corpse Shield Lingering Apparition ? Lingering Apparition
90 Shadow Infusion Shadow Infusion Necrosis Necrosis Infected Claws Infected Claws
100 Dark Arbiter Dark Arbiter Defile Defile Soul Reaper Soul Reaper

Talents can be freely changed when out of combat and in a rested XP area (such as an inn or a capital city). Moreover, Tome of the Tranquil Mind Icon Tome of the Tranquil Mind and Codex of the Tranquil Mind Icon Codex of the Tranquil Mind can be used to temporarily allow players to change talents anywhere, as long as they are out of combat.

2. Tier 1 (Level 56) Talents

All Will Serve All Will Serve Bursting Sores Bursting Sores Ebon Fever Ebon Fever
  • All Will Serve Icon All Will Serve causes Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead to summon a skeletal minion in addition to the ghoul, and it also removes Raise Dead's cooldown. The skeletal minion lasts indefinitely and it uses a ranged attack against your target.
  • Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores increases the damage of bursting Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound by 50%, and also causes all enemies within 8 yards of a burst Festering Wound to take Shadow damage.
  • Ebon Fever Icon Ebon Fever passively reduces the duration of Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague by 50% while retaining its overall damage done.

The best choice for both single target and 2-target DPS is Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores, especially when you have the The Instructor's Fourth Lesson Icon The Instructor's Fourth Lesson legendary bracers.

All Will Serve Icon All Will Serve should be taken if you are going to be spending a lot of time outside the range of the boss. All Will Serve scales with Strength, Critical Strike and Versatility. You have to be careful with this talent in Mythic+, because the Skeleton can easily pull packs that you might want to skip (/petdismiss [pet] helps with this). This talent is also a good choice for leveling content.

Ebon Fever Icon Ebon Fever should be chosen for AoE damage, especially when the targets will not live for a long time.

3. Tier 2 (Level 57) Talents

Epidemic Epidemic Pestilent Pustules Pestilent Pustules Blighted Rune Weapon Blighted Rune Weapon
  • Epidemic Icon Epidemic is an active ability with 3 charges and a 10-second recharge time. When used, it causes all instances of your Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague (within 100 yards) to deal Shadow damage to the affected enemy, as well as a small amount of additional Shadow damage to all other enemies around them.
  • Pestilent Pustules Icon Pestilent Pustules causes you to gain 1 Rune for every 6th Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound you burst.
  • Blighted Rune Weapon Icon Blighted Rune Weapon is an active ability with a 1-minute cooldown, which causes your next 4 auto attacks to infect the target with 2 stacks of Festering Wound each.

For single target and 2-target damage, we recommend Pestilent Pustules Icon Pestilent Pustules. It works very well with  Icon Apocalypse (the artifact ability) and with the The Instructor's Fourth Lesson Icon The Instructor's Fourth Lesson legendary that can burst 1-5 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds.

For AoE damage, Epidemic Icon Epidemic is a clear winner. It also allows you to generate some Runic Power before the pull if you do not have Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead available (up to the maximum of 20 with which you can start a fight).

Blighted Rune Weapon Icon Blighted Rune Weapon should be used in situations where you need single target damage if the boss is going to die within 1 minute, or if you need 2-target cleave burst damage.

4. Tier 3 (Level 58) Talents

Unholy Frenzy Unholy Frenzy Castigator Castigator Clawing Shadows ? Clawing Shadows

Our recommended choice for this tier is Castigator Icon Castigator for all situations. It provides the highest amount of DPS, and also provides you with additional Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds.

If you have the The Instructor's Fourth Lesson Icon The Instructor's Fourth Lesson legendary bracers, then Unholy Frenzy Icon Unholy Frenzy gains a lot of value, and might even surpass Castigator Icon Castigator for single target damage, provided that you are not starved for Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. If you have the bracers and are capping your Festering Wounds, you could try Unholy Frenzy. That said, simply using Castigator at all times is still a very solid choice. Note also that Unholy Frenzy combined with the legendary bracers significantly increase the power of Dark Arbiter Icon Dark Arbiter by allowing you to cast more Death Coil Icon Death Coils.

Currently Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows is behind Castigator Icon Castigator. It can be taken in situations where you need to spend a lot of time outside of your target's melee range, but aside from this it should not be considered.

5. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents

Sludge Belcher Sludge Belcher Asphyxiate ? Asphyxiate Debilitating Infestation Debilitating Infestation
  • Sludge Belcher Icon Sludge Belcher causes Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead to now summon an abomination instead of a ghoul. The Abomination has similar abilities to the ghoul, with the notable difference being that its Hook Icon Hook, which it can use to pull a target to it and immobilise it for 2 seconds (the latter part only during Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation).
  • Asphyxiate Icon Asphyxiate is a single-target, 5-second stun with a 45-second cooldown.
  • Debilitating Infestation Icon Debilitating Infestation causes Outbreak Icon Outbreak to reduce the movement speed of affected targets by 50% for 3 seconds.

None of the talents in this tier improve your DPS, but they still have a lot of potential usefulness. We recommend taking Sludge Belcher Icon Sludge Belcher as a default talent, as this provides you with good utility (in the Hook Icon Hook) and increases the damage reduction of your pet.

Alternatively, Asphyxiate Icon Asphyxiate could have some uses in dungeons, especially in Mythic dungeons.

Debilitating Infestation Icon Debilitating Infestation is generally regarded as sub-optimal, and there are many other classes who can slow targets more efficiently.

6. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents

Spell Eater ? Spell Eater Corpse Shield ? Corpse Shield Lingering Apparition ? Lingering Apparition
  • Spell Eater Icon Spell Eater increases the absorption capacity of Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell by 20%, and extends its duration by 5 seconds.
  • Corpse Shield Icon Corpse Shield is an active ability with a 1-minute cooldown and 10-second duration. During this time, 90% of all damage you take is redirected to your ghoul. If the ghoul dies while Corpse Shield is active, then you cannot resummon it for 30 seconds.
  • Lingering Apparition Icon Lingering Apparition increases your movement speed during Wraith Walk Icon Wraith Walk by 30%, and reduces the cooldown of Wraith Walk by 15 seconds.

The talents in this tier do not increase your DPS either, but they can provide you with great benefits during raid encounters. They are quite situational, so you will have to choose based on the requirements of the fight.

Spell Eater Icon Spell Eater is the preferred choice in fights with large amounts of magic damage, allowing you to survive if you make a mistake, to soak the damage of certain abilities, or to avoid certain mechanics altogether. This talent works very well with the Acherus Drapes Icon Acherus Drapes legendary, which further extends its duration.

Corpse Shield Icon Corpse Shield could be used to help you survive mechanics that should otherwise kill you, and can generally provide a good damage reduction (provided that you pair it with the Ghoul's Huddle Icon Huddle, or with the Sludge Belcher's Protective Bile Icon Protective Bile, if you have taken this tier 4 talent). It is an extremely strong defensive cooldown. We recommend this talent for fights without significant magic damage.

Finally, Lingering Apparition Icon Lingering Apparition increases your mobility, which is always a good benefit to have.

7. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents

Shadow Infusion Shadow Infusion Necrosis Necrosis Infected Claws Infected Claws

For both single target and AoE damage, we recommend using Shadow Infusion Icon Shadow Infusion. This talent also synergises well with your artifact weapon and its  Icon Eternal Agony trait.

Infected Claws Icon Infected Claws is a good alternative to Shadow Infusion Icon Shadow Infusion if you have the The Instructor's Fourth Lesson Icon The Instructor's Fourth Lesson legendary (in fact, it might even become the best choice, but we are not yet certain of that). Keep in mind that Infected Claws might cause you to overcap your Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds stacks, and this is something you need to look out for.

We do not currently recommend Necrosis Icon Necrosis in most situations. The only case in which it might be worth taking is a Patchwerk-style encounter, combined with Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper, but more testing is required to confirm this.

8. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Dark Arbiter Dark Arbiter Defile Defile Soul Reaper Soul Reaper
  • Dark Arbiter Icon Dark Arbiter replaces Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle. Instead of a Gargoyle, the ability summons a Val'kyr to fight by your side for 15 seconds. For every 1 Runic Power you spend, the Val'kyr will gain 1% increased damage.
  • Defile Icon Defile replaces Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay. With every tick, the Defile area of effect will increase if there are any enemies standing in it. Moreover, each time this happens, your Mastery is increased by, stacking up to 10 times. Finally, your Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike gains a cleaving effect while you are in your own Defile.
  • Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper is an active ability with a 45-second cooldown. It deals Shadow damage to the target, and debuffs them with Soul Reaper for 5 seconds. During this time, bursting a Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound on them grants you 7% Haste for 15 seconds, an effect which can stack up to 3 times.

The default choice for this tier should be Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper, in all situations except when you require burst damage. Soul Reaper works well when paired with the  Icon Apocalypse artifact ability (allowing you to instantly get 3 stacks of Soul Reaper by bursting Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds.

When you need burst damage, you should take Dark Arbiter Icon Dark Arbiter, which works especially well with the Tak'theritrix's Shoulderpads Icon Tak'theritrix's Shoulderpads legendary shoulders.

Defile Icon Defile is currently undertuned to where it is nowhere near the other talents.

9. ChangeLog

  • 16 Oct. 2016: Updated certain aspects of the guide, particularly the All Will Serve and Unholy Frenzy talent discussions.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 03 Aug. 2016: Updated tier 3 talent discussion to account for the nerf to Clawing Shadows.
  • 21 Jul. 2016: Updated tier 1, 2, 6, and 7 discussions to account for encounters that last less than 1 minute, which can happen during the pre-patch.
  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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