Unholy Death Knight DPS Spec, Builds, Talents, and Glyphs (WoD 6.0.3)

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Unholy Death Knight Art Image
General Information

On this page, we present the viable talent and glyph choices for Unholy Death Knights in World of Warcraft WoD 6.0.3. We detail what each of the talents and glyphs 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 Mendenbarr, a prominent theorycrafter who maintains Death Knight guides on Elitist Jerks. He also works on Destiny Softworks, a blog for DPS Death Knights.

6.0.2 Transition Guide

If you want to read all about the Patch 6.0.2 changes and learn how they affect your character, make sure to read our Death Knight Transition Guide!

1. Talent Choices↑top

Level Choices
56 Plaguebearer Plague Leech Unholy Blight
57 Lichborne Anti-Magic Zone Purgatory
58 Death's Advance Chilblains Asphyxiate
60 Blood Tap Runic Empowerment Runic Corruption
75 Death Pact Death Siphon Conversion
90 Gorefiend's Grasp Remorseless Winter Desecrated Ground
100 Necrotic Plague Defile Breath of Sindragosa
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  • Performance-enhancing
  • Survival
  • Crowd Control
  • Movement
  • Utility
  • Situational

Talents can easily be changed, thanks to Tome of the Clear Mind Icon Tomes of the Clear Mind. You will frequently find yourself changing talents and glyphs between encounters, in order to adapt your play style to different mechanics. Therefore, it is important to understand what each of your talents does and how they affect your play style.

2. Tier 1 Talents↑top

Tier 1 offers you a choice between 3 talents that interact with your diseases.

  • Plaguebearer Icon Plaguebearer passively causes your Death Coil Icon Death Coil to extend the duration of your diseases on the target by 4 seconds.
  • Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech is an active ability, with a 25-second cooldown, which consumes your diseases on the target, activating two depleted runes as Death runes. It can only be cast if both Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever and Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague are on the target, and it activates 1 Blood rune and 1 Frost rune.
  • Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight is an active ability with a 1.5-minute cooldown, which causes you to spread your diseases to all enemy targets within 10 yards of you, for 10 seconds.

Which talent is better will depend on your playstyle, and there is currently no consensus, except that Plaguebearer Icon Plaguebearer is quite lackluster. Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech will provide a very small single target DPS increase, but this is so small that it can generally be neglected for the convenience that Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight offers in getting your diseases up on targets that enter the fight all at once.

3. Tier 2 Talents↑top

Tier 2 talents offer you a choice between 3 abilities that improve your survivability (and, in the case of Anti-Magic Zone Icon Anti-Magic Zone, your raid's survivability as well).

  • Lichborne Icon Lichborne is an active ability with a 2-minute cooldown. It lasts for 10 seconds, during which time the effectiveness of Leech is increased by 10% and you are immune to Charm, Fear, and Sleep effects.
  • Anti-Magic Zone Icon Anti-Magic Zone is a raid cooldown. The ability has a 2-minute cooldown, and it allows you to place a bubble at a location on the ground. The bubble lasts for 3 seconds, and during this time it reduces all spell damage taken by raid members inside it by 20%.
  • Purgatory Icon Purgatory passively allows you to survive a killing blow, once every 3 minutes. The attack that would otherwise kill you places a 3-second healing absorption debuff on you instead. The debuff absorbs healing equal to the amount of damage that the killing blow would have done to you. While the debuff is active, you cannot be killed, and any damage taken is added to the healing absorption effect. If the effect is still present when the 3 seconds run out (meaning, if you have not been healed for the entire amount by then), you will die.

Your choice here will depend entirely on the requirements of the encounter and on your own personal preference.

Anti-Magic Zone Icon Anti-Magic Zone should be taken if there is use for it in the fight (such as a powerful burst of damage that can be reduced by the zone), since it benefits your entire raid.

Lichborne Icon Lichborne provides a rather reliable, on-demand healing increase that can save your life. It is also worth noting that the Fear, Charm, and Sleep immunity that Lichborne offers may be of use in some encounters.

Purgatory Icon Purgatory can save your life, it can allow you to overcome mistakes from your own part or from your healers, and it can help you bypass otherwise deadly encounter mechanics.

4. Tier 3 Talents↑top

Tier 3 talents offer you a choice between abilities that improve your movement, kiting, and crowd-control.

  • Death's Advance Icon Death's Advance passively increases your movement speed by 10%, and actively (with a 30-second cooldown) grants you 30% movement speed increase for 6 seconds. The movement speed bonus offered by this ability stacks with other movement speed increases (such as the one from Unholy Presence Icon Unholy Presence).
  • Chilblains Icon Chilblains causes the targets on which you cast Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever to be slowed by 50% for 10 seconds. Additionally, it causes your Chains of Ice Icon Chains of Ice to immobilize the target for 3 seconds.
  • Asphyxiate Icon Asphyxiate is an improved version of Strangulate Icon Strangulate, which it replaces. It has a 30-second cooldown, and it stuns the target for 5 seconds. In the event that the target is immune to stuns, it silences them instead.

Death's Advance Icon Death's Advance is by far the best choice here, in the majority of situations. The other two talents could have some usefulness, although only situationally.

5. Tier 4 Talents↑top

Tier 4 talents offer you a choice between 3 means of improving your rune regeneration rate.

  • Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap passively causes every 15 Runic Power that you spend to generate a Blood Charge, and you can have up to a maximum of 12 charges. Using Blood Tap consumes 5 charges, activating a random fully depleted rune as a Death Rune. Blood Tap is not on the global cooldown, and it has no cooldown and no cost.
  • Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment acts passively whenever you spend Runic Power. For every point of Runic Power spent, you have a 1.50% chance to activate a random fully-depleted rune.
  • Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption acts passively whenever you spend Runic Power. For every point of Runic Power spent, you have a 1.50% chance to increase your rune regeneration rate by 100% for 3 seconds.

The best talent in this tier is Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption, and you should always use it.

6. Tier 5 Talents↑top

Tier 5 talents offer you a choice between 3 self-healing abilities.

  • Death Pact Icon Death Pact instantly heals you for 50% of your maximum health, but also absorbing 25% of your maximum health in healing received over the next 15 seconds. It has a 2-minute cooldown.
  • Death Siphon Icon Death Siphon costs 1 Death Rune, and instantly deals a small amount of Shadowfrost damage to the target, healing you for 335% of the damage done. It can be used from as much as 40 yards away.
  • Conversion Icon Conversion is an ability that can be toggled on and off at will. Toggling it on costs 10 runic power, and keeping it on costs 10 runic power per second. For each second that it is active, Conversion restores 2% of your maximum health. While Conversion is active, you can only gain runic power from using runes. Note that having Conversion active does not prevent you from performing any actions (i.e., it is not a channeled spell). The spell is turned automatically off when you run out of Runic Power.

We believe that Death Pact Icon Death Pact is the best choice here, not only because of its nice amount of healing, but also because it has no resource cost, and, as such, does not detract from your DPS.

7. Tier 6 Talents↑top

Tier 6 talents offer you a choice between 3 crowd-control abilities.

  • Gorefiend's Grasp Icon Gorefiend's Grasp places a buff on an ally or enemy, which pulls all enemy targets (enemies of the Death Knight, not the target itself) within 20 yards to the location of the target. It has a 1-minute cooldown.
  • Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter causes all enemies within 8 yards of the Death Knight to be slowed each second for 8 seconds. Each time they are slowed, their movement speed is reduced by 15%. When they have been slowed 5 times, the targets become stunned for 6 seconds. Remorseless Winter has a 1-minute cooldown.
  • Desecrated Ground Icon Desecrated Ground places a friendly void-zone under you, lasting 10 seconds. While you stand in this void zone, you are immune to roots, snares, and effects that cause loss of control of your character.

The choice here is absolutely preference-based. It is possible that some specific encounter mechanics will cause one talent to be favoured over the others. Only Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter may have some usefulness in stunning trash mobs so that they cease to deal damage for a few seconds.

8. Tier 7 Talents↑top

Tier 7 offers you a choice between 3 talents that improve your DPS and tanking performance.

  • Necrotic Plague Icon Necrotic Plague is a DoT that replaces Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever and Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague, and which is applied by the same abilities that apply these two DoTs. Necrotic Plague lasts 30 seconds, and it deals Shadowfrost damage every 2 seconds. Each time it deals damage, it gains 1 stack, and infects another nearby enemy within 8 yards. Necrotic Plague cannot be refreshed, and any abilities that normally apply it will simply increase the number of stacks it has by 1. The maximum number of stacks is 15. Whenever you are attacked by an enemy affected by Necrotic Plague, you will gain 2 Runic Power.
  • Defile Icon Defile is an improvement over Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay, which it replaces. It is active ability with a 30-second cooldown, which allows you to place a void zone at a targeted location. This lasts for for 12 seconds, and each second it deals damage to enemies standing in it. Whenever it deals damage, its radius and damage is increased by 2.5%. Enemies who are standing in Defile deal 10% less damage to you. It costs 1 Unholy rune.
  • Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa is a frontal cone attack with a 2-minute cooldown. It costs 15 Runic Power to cast, and it then drains 15 Runic Power for each second that it remains active (until canceled or until you run out of Runic Power). While active, Breath of Sindragosa deals Shadowfrost damage to all enemies in the cone in front of you, and also affects them with Mark of Sindragosa Icon Mark of Sindragosa for 6 seconds. This effect causes you to be healed for 10% of the spell damage that the affected targets deal.

Currently, the only viable option in this tier is Defile Icon Defile. The other two talents simply lag too far behind it.

9. Major Glyphs↑top

There are several Major Glyphs that can be beneficial to you as an Unholy Death Knight.

  • Glyph of Shifting Presences Icon Glyph of Shifting Presences allows you to retain 70% of your runic power when switching between presences. This can be helpful if you are switching between Unholy Presence Icon Unholy Presence and Blood Presence Icon Blood Presence. While there is no reason to do so from a DPS standpoint, Blood Presence boosts your survivability, which may be desirable in certain situations.
  • Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell Icon Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell improves your Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell, by increasing the amount of incoming damage that it absorbs to as much as 100%, up from 75%. Note that Anti-Magic Shell's absorption still remains limited by 50% of your maximum health. This glyph always has the potential of being beneficial, so you should take it if you do not need to use another glyph instead. Note that this cooldown is exclusive with Glyph of Regenerative Magic Icon Glyph of Regenerative Magic.
  • Glyph of Icebound Fortitude Icon Glyph of Icebound Fortitude reduces the cooldown of Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude by 50%, but also reduces its duration by 75%. This glyph is excellent when you need to use Icebound Fortitude more often, but for very short periods of time. It is well suited to the DPS role, where most times when you use Icebound Fortitude to reduce damage, the damage comes in the form of a single raid-damage spike.
  • Glyph of Dark Simulacrum Icon Glyph of Dark Simulacrum reduces the cooldown of Dark Simulacrum Icon Dark Simulacrum by 30 seconds and increases its duration by 4 seconds. If you can find an ability in the encounter that you can use Dark Simulacrum against, then this glyph could be a DPS increase.
  • Glyph of Death Coil Icon Glyph of Death Coil causes Death Coil Icon Death Coil to place a damage absorption effect, if cast on an ally. This will generally not be a worthwhile thing to do, but it remains a possibility in some remote situations.

10. Minor Glyphs↑top

The only two Minor Glyphs that may be of interest are Glyph of Tranquil Grip Icon Glyph of Tranquil Grip and Glyph of Army of the Dead Icon Glyph of Army of the Dead.

Glyph of Tranquil Grip causes your Death Grip Icon Death Grip to no longer taunt the target, making it ideal if you wish to pull an add to you (or away from the tank) and you do not wish to take aggro.

Glyph of Army of the Dead causes your ghouls to no longer taunt their target. This glyph is useful because it gives you the option of having your target (an add, since bosses cannot be taunted by Army of the Dead anyway) continue attacking its tank, in case this is desirable.