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Unholy Death Knight in the Shadowlands: Class Recommendations and Spec Highlights

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Update: the Unholy pre-patch guide is ready and you can check it out here:
Unholy Death Knight Shadowlands Guide

After checking in with the elements it's time to head to the darker side of things, as Unholy has also received some solid changes, with a big raid cooldown added and more. And so we raised our resident guide expert Abyssalwave from the dead to give us some insights on the Covenant choices, new baseline abilities, talent changes, legendaries and more!

Exciting Changes for Unholy Death Knights in Shadowlands

One of the best new features in Shadowlands is Covenants, however Unholy Death Knight doesn't have much of a choice currently in their Covenant pick. When it comes to new abilities Unholy has gotten many new additions that are very welcomed, such as a raid cooldown and a baseline AoE Runic Power spender. Unholy is currently not as amazing in Mythic+ scenarios as they were in Battle for Azeroth, mostly due to the new target caps put on abilities, however they still do significant AoE and single target burst damage.


Covenant Choice

Night Fae

Generic Ability - ability_nightfae_soulshape.jpg Soulshape – 1.5 min cooldown

Transforms you into a Vulpin, instantly teleporting you 15 yards forward, increasing your Movement Speed by 50% for 12 seconds.

The Generic ability granted by the Night Fae is ability_nightfae_soulshape.jpg Soulshape. This is a 12 second ability that teleports you forward 15 yards and increases your movement speed by 50% for the duration. This is a fantastic movement ability and fits very well for Death Knights which have had a lack of movement cooldowns. This movement speed CD is a bit easier and more convenient to use compared to the Venthyr generic ability which is an added bonus to the strength of Night Fae.

Death Knight Ability - Death's Due Death's Due - 30 second cooldown

The Death Knight ability for Night Fae is Death's Due Death's Due which replaces Death and Decay Death and Decay as a baseline ability. Death’s Due still does the ground effect and the shadow damage of Death and Decay, however, enemies damaged by Death’s Due deal 1% reduced damage to you up to 15% maximum, and their power is transferred to you as an equal amount of Strength (also up to 15%). Death's Due Death's Due still has the effect where your Scourge Strike Scourge Strike and Clawing Shadows Clawing Shadows will hit up to 4 enemies near the target.


Generic Ability – Door of Shadows Door of Shadows – 1 min cooldown

Teleports you up to 35 yards to a targeted location.

This generic ability, like Night Fae’s generic ability, helps Death Knights where they really need it. Since DKs have limited mobility, this is a very welcomed ability, but it is a bit more niche and difficult to use than Night Fae’s ability_nightfae_soulshape.jpg Soulshape, since that also increases your movement speed for a period of time. This ability is very versatile in allowing you to chose the location that you teleport yourself making it still very useful in general.

Death Knight Ability – Swarming Mist Swarming Mist – 1 min cooldown

Surrounds you for 8 seconds increasing your Dodge by 10%, deals shadow damage every 1 second to nearby enemies and gives you 3 Runic Power for each enemy hit (up to 5 enemies).

This ability isn’t as useful in the Unholy toolkit as it is for Frost Death Knights, but is still a fairly strong choice, just not nearly as strong as Night Fae’s Death’s Due. This signature ability would have to either have some extra damage benefit or do more damage for it to be useful. It does however scale with the Unholy mastery, which is an added benefit and gives it potential to scale even stronger.


Generic Ability - Fleshcraft Fleshcraft - 2 min cooldown

Grants you a shield over 4 seconds (channeled) that absorbs 20% of your maximum health for 2 minutes.

The generic ability for Necrolord is fairly niche and difficult for Death Knights to fit into their rotation. It can be useful in specific scenarios where the shield will allow you to avoid a mechanic or survive a high damage burst. The channel effect of this ability is what makes it so difficult to fit into a fight, however, you can channel Fleshcraft Fleshcraft before a fight in order to have the shield before and into the encounter.

Death Knight Ability - Abomination Limb Abomination Limb - 2 min cooldown

Sprouts a limb for 12 seconds that deals shadow damage to all nearby enemies every 1 second and also pulls an enemy to your location if they are further than 8 yards away.

This seems to be incredibly useful in PvP scenarios and has utility in Mythic+. In order for this to be more useful in Mythic+ and Raids it would need to do significantly more damage due to how competitive Night Fae’s Death's Due Death's Due ability is and how long of a cooldown Abomination Limb Abomination Limb is.


New Baseline Spells

  • Anti-Magic Zone Anti-Magic Zone is probably the best change to come for Death Knights so far in Shadowlands. Having a raid cooldown increases the usefulness of DKs in raid and dungeon groups. This cooldown is not multiplicative, however, meaning that if you have 2 Anti-Magic Zone Anti-Magic Zones stacking on each other you get a 24% magic damage reduction, instead of 40%.
  • Epidemic Epidemic. Having an AoE Runic Power spender is also one of the most welcomed changes to Unholy Death Knights in Shadowlands. Epidemic Epidemic is now tied to Dark Transformation Dark Transformation's cooldown reduction as well, meaning if you cast Epidemic your Dark Transformation cooldown is reduced by 1 second.
  • Lichborne Lichborne is now baseline instead of just a PvP talent. This is now a 2 minute cooldown and gives you leech and immunity to charm, fear, and sleep for the duration. This is a good addition to the Unholy toolkit, the immunity to fear can be very useful in some encounters and the leech is very useful in most situations making this a fantastic personal cooldown.

Talent Changes

  • Unholy Assault Unholy Assault. Reworked and renamed from Unholy Frenzy. Instead of causing your auto attacks to apply Festering Wound Festering Wounds for the duration, instead it now applies 4 Festering Wounds. This functionality makes it nicer to get your Apocalypse Apocalypse off, where before you would still have to Festering Strike Festering Strike and wait for Unholy Frenzy to apply 4 Festering Wounds.
  • Army of the Damned Army of the Damned. Now causes Apocalypse Apocalypse and Army of the Dead Army of the Dead to summon a Magus for 15 seconds. This is basically the Azerite Trait Magus of the Dead Magus of the Dead . This is a large improvement to Army of the Damned and makes it more competitive than it was in Battle for Azeroth.
  • Soul Reaper Soul Reaper. Reworked into an execute instead of a Rune generator. Soul Reaper now costs 1 rune and has a 6 second cooldown as well. If the target dies while afflicted you gain Runic Corruption Runic Corruption, however, this is best used for the execute damage that it provides.
  • Unholy Pact Unholy Pact. Replaced Epidemic Epidemic in the Level 45 row. This is the Helchains Helchains Azerite Trait from Battle for Azeroth with a strength bonus. When you Apocalypse Apocalypse, the effect is activated, giving this talent good synergy with a talent like Army of the Damned Army of the Damned that can give you more Apocalypses in a fight.
  • Unholy Blight Unholy Blight. Reworked from just infecting nearby enemies with an Unholy disease to now stacking the Unholy disease up to 4 times and causing your minions to deal 3% increased damage per stack to any enemies infected by Unholy Blight. This talent is now incredibly more powerful than its Battle for Azeroth version and is a very welcomed change to this row of talents.


Legendary Effects

While there are way more Legendary effects than we list here, we tried to focus on the more interesting ones that you might use in Shadowlands.

Frenzied Monstrosity Frenzied Monstrosity – Gives your Dark Transformation Dark Transformation an added bonus that is incredibly powerful, and since Dark Transformation has such a high up time due to the cooldown reduction from Death Coil Death Coil + Epidemic Epidemic + the conduits that increase the duration of Dark Transformation, it's even more valuable.

Reanimated Shambler Reanimated Shambler – causes your attacks to have a chance to summon a super zombie that explodes for shadow damage and applies wounds to 8 nearby enemies. This is an interesting effect, however, it can't compete with Frenzied Monstrosity Frenzied Monstrosity.

Deadliest Coil Deadliest Coil – Reduces the RP cost of Death Coil Death Coil by 10 and Death Coil increases the duration of Dark Transformation Dark Transformation by 2 seconds. This is a strong interaction and with some potential buffs or changes this could be a competitive legendary. However, this effect is dropped from the final raid boss in Castle Nathria, Sire Denathrius.


Unholy Death Knight has received a few changes that increase its rotational functionality and make it better to play. However, it still feels like a clunky specialization to play with all of the cooldowns still on the global cooldown. The toolkit however still has competitive single target and AoE with the addition of a very powerful raid cooldown. Unholy does have the added benefit of now also being one of the only classes/specs with a battle resurrection, making them a stronger choice for Mythic+, and they still have Death Grip Death Grip which can potentially make them a must have for Raid scenarios.


Other Spec Highlights:

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On 9/14/2020 at 2:04 PM, Teufel said:

Missed the Kyrian ability.

Nah, the formats vary between the guide writers, the Kyrian one just wasn't interesting enough to mention ?

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On 9/14/2020 at 12:18 PM, nicoeuw said:

The new raid CD Anti-Magic zone is really awesome,do you think that CD will secure a raid spot for the unholy DK?

It's too early to tell yet but it puts Unholy DK in a much much more competitive spot than it was in BFA!

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