Unholy Death Knight DPS Spec, Builds, Talents, and Glyphs (MoP 5.4)

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 MoP 5.4. 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.

1. Talent Choices↑top

Level Choices
56 Roiling Blood Plague Leech Unholy Blight
57 Lichborne Anti-Magic Zone Purgatory
58 Death's Advance Chilblains Asphyxiate
60 Death Pact Death Siphon Conversion
75 Blood Tap Runic Empowerment Runic Corruption
90 Gorefiend's Grasp Remorseless Winter Desecrated Ground
+ show color blind markers - hide color blind markers
  • Performance-enhancing
  • Survival
  • Crowd Control
  • Movement
  • Utility
  • Situational

There is no longer such a thing as a default build. Most of the talents are now viable. They can easily be changed, thanks to Dust of Disappearance Icon Dust of Disappearance (and Tome of the Clear Mind Icon Tomes of the Clear Mind from level 86 to 90). 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.

  • Roiling Blood Icon Roiling Blood passively causes Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil to trigger Pestilence Icon Pestilence if it hits a diseased target.
  • 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 the following two runes, based on your specialization.
    • Blood: 1 Frost and 1 Unholy.
    • Frost: 1 Frost and 1 Unholy.
    • Unholy: 1 Blood and 1 Frost.
  • 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. 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 the other two talents offer.

Roiling Blood Icon Roiling Blood is excellent for spreading your diseases to other adds with regularity, especially since Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil (used to spread the diseases through Roiling Blood) is part of the Unholy AoE rotation anyway.

If the adds do not come into the fight at regular intervals, then Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight is a good option for getting your diseases up on all of them.

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 raids' survivability as well).

  • Lichborne Icon Lichborne is an active ability with a 2-minute cooldown. It lasts for 10 seconds, during which time casting Death Coil Icon Death Coil on yourself heals you.
  • 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 reduces all damage taken by raid members inside it by 40%, and it lasts 3 seconds.
  • 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 haven't 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 heal that can save your life. The downside is that healing yourself with Lichborne costs a large amount of runic power. It is worth noting, however, that the fear 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 self-healing abilities.

  • Death Pact Icon Death Pact instantly drains 50% of your minion's maximum health, healing you for 50% of your own maximum health. 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 150% 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 5 runic power, and keeping it on costs 5 runic power per second. For each second that it is active, Conversion restores 3% 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).

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.

6. Tier 5 Talents↑top

Tier 5 talents offer you a choice between 3 means of improving your rune regeneration rate.

Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap is currently the top choice, if managed properly. Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption and Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment come very close, however.

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 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. Major Glyphs↑top

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

  • Glyph of Festering Blood Icon Glyph of Festering Blood causes Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil to damage all targets as if they were infected with Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague and Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever. This glyph is excellent if you need to do high burst damage to targets who are not alive long enough to justify applying diseases to them.
  • 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 Regenerative Magic Icon Glyph of Regenerative Magic procs each time your Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell expires from you without having been fully consumed by damage. When this happens, the cooldown of Anti-Magic Shell is reduced by an amount based on how much damage it had absorbed (the more damage absorbed, the smaller the reduction), up to a maximum of 50%. This glyph is very beneficial in allowing you to gain more runic power over the course of the fight.
  • 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.
  • Glyph of Icebound Fortitude Icon Glyph of Icebound Fortitude reduces the duration and the cooldown of Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude. This glyph allows you to use Icebound Fortitude much more often, for 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 Unholy Frenzy Icon Glyph of Unholy Frenzy causes Unholy Frenzy Icon Unholy Frenzy to no longer deal damage to the player on whom it is cast. If you are not using this glyph slot for something else, then this is a nice way to reduce some damage.
  • Glyph of Pestilence Icon Glyph of Pestilence increases the range of Pestilence Icon Pestilence (including when Pestilence is triggered by Roiling Blood Icon Roiling Blood) by 5 yards, which makes it easier to spread diseases to adds that are not stacked together.
  • 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.
  • Glyph of Dark Succor Icon Glyph of Dark Succor gives you a cost-free Death Strike Icon Death Strike that heals for at least 20% of your maximum health, each time you get a killing blow on an enemy that grants experience or honor (only while in Frost Presence Icon Frost Presence and Unholy Presence Icon Unholy Presence). While it will generally not work, this glyph can sometimes help on fights where you are killing adds and you need a self-heal.
  • Glyph of Loud Horn Icon Glyph of Loud Horn increases the amount of runic power generated by Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter by 10, but doubles its cooldown. This glyph is a small DPS bonus whenever you can afford to use it (that is to say, when you have a free Major Glyph slot).

9. 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.

10. Changelog↑top