WotLK Classic Unholy Death Knight Guide

Last updated Yesterday at 12:00 by Sellin 16 comments

Welcome to our Unholy Death Knight guide for WotLK Classic, tailored for PvE content. Here, you will learn how all you need to know to play Unholy Death Knight proficiently. Click the links below to navigate the guide or read this page for a short introduction.

1.

Introduction

Death Knights are capable of both Tanking or DPSing and are near the best at both depending on the encounter. Unholy is primarily a DPS specialization with a large emphasis on diseases and pets, but if you are looking for a more reactive/proc-based style of play Frost is extremely competitive damage-wise not only with Unholy but all other Melee specs. Blood, meanwhile, is the default tanking specialization for Death Knights and offers a massive amount of self-healing and group utility on top of being particularly sturdy against any kind of damage.

Unholy Death Knight has a very unique style of play based around following a very specific set of priorities to maximize the damage of your diseases, buff your pets to maximize their damage, and in general deal a lot of damage. In addition to being a great source of damage, Unholy Death Knight also provides the spell damage taken increase debuff via Ebon Plaguebringer IconEbon Plaguebringer.

In PvP, Unholy Death Knight is the master of sustained pressure. Outside of their Summon Gargoyle IconSummon Gargoyle talent, Unholy Death Knights are dealing the same, consistent damage any time they can connect to a target. Death Knights in generally are extremely susceptible to crowd-controlling effects, so it is especially powerful to team up with a class that is able to dispel Magic effects.

If you would like to see where Unholy Death Knights fall in the overall rankings among DPS specs for both PvE and PvP in Lich King Classic, we have created pages dedicated to explaining what classes and specializations are the best of the best through multiple factors. However, ultimately, you should not let these lists dissuade you from playing what you enjoy.

2.

Strengths and Weaknesses

V Strengths
  • +Commands two powerful minions that are greatly empowered by talents.
  • +Ability to talent for powerful debuffs, greatly increasing your group's damage.
  • +Powerful personal and group defensive cooldowns.
  • +Death Grip IconDeath Grip allows for repositioning mobs and other players in a way that no other class is able to.
X Weaknesses
  • -Extremely immobile and vulnerable to slows or stuns after cooldowns are expended.
  • -Must be in melee range to be able to self-sustain.
  • -Pets can at times be vulnerable to raid-wide damage mechanics.
  • -Heavily dependant on generation of Runic Power.
3.

Best Races for Unholy Death Knight

The best race to play as a Unholy Death Knight depends on your goals and faction choice. If you are Horde, Orc is the the best option as changes to Blood Fury IconBlood Fury have made it more viable for Tanks and DPS, allowing you to better take advantage of snapshotting your debuffs early into encounters. As Alliance, you can choose from any of the races, though if you are looking to frequently tank either Dwarf or Night Elf are the best choices. Stoneform IconStoneform offers a small personal cooldown while Night Elves' Quickness IconQuickness adds a considerable amount of Dodge passively. If you are looking mostly for PvP, Human is your best option because of how powerful Will to Survive IconWill to Survive is, allowing you to have an entire extra trinket slot that would typically be dedicated to a CC-breaking PvP trinket.

3.1.

Alliance

3.1.1.

Draenei

Draenei offers a very situationally useful heal in Gift of the Naaru IconGift of the Naaru that can save you or a party member in an emergency. Heroic Presence IconHeroic Presence is the most powerful racial though as it allows you and people in your party to itemize completely differently because of the added Hit Rating.

3.1.2.

Dwarf

Dwarf is in a unique spot, as Stoneform IconStoneform can be a powerful defensive cooldown in a situation where you are unable to get dispelled, have a nasty bleed on you, and are taking a lot of Physical damage. Unfortunately Find Treasure IconFind Treasure and Gun Specialization IconGun Specialization are both completely useless for Death Knights in any kind of combat situation.

3.1.3.

Human

Perception IconPerception is extremely strong against any stealth class and can net you a massive advantage in PvP, but Will to Survive IconWill to Survive is the real game-changer, allowing you to dispel crowd-controlling effects off of yourself and freeing up one of your trinket slots for a second PvE trinket. The Human Spirit IconThe Human Spirit is not particularly useful in any combat situation. Both Mace Specialization IconMace Specialization and Sword Specialization IconSword Specialization are quite strong early on in lower gear levels and even later on might alter your gear choices while maintaining Expertise.

3.1.4.

Gnome

Escape Artist IconEscape Artist can be quite useful as one of Death Knight's greatest limitations is their lack of movement speed, however all other racials other than perhaps Arcane Resistance IconArcane Resistance are pretty useless in any combat situation.

3.1.5.

Night Elf

Quickness IconQuickness offers a considerable amount of avoidance just for being a Night elf as well as a bit more passive resistance against Nature, which is a major source of damage in this expansion. Shadowmeld IconShadowmeld does not really offer any in-combat benefits as a Death Knight but can sometimes help you save a repair bill.

3.2.

Horde

3.2.1.

Blood Elf

While Arcane Torrent IconArcane Torrent does grant a small amount of Runic Power, there are not many combat benefits other than the passive Magic Resistance IconMagic Resistance Blood Elves have.

3.2.2.

Orc

Orc is the overall strongest race for Death Knight thanks to the benefits of Blood Fury IconBlood Fury which, in Wrath of the Lich King, no longer reduces incoming healing, additional pet damage thanks to Command IconCommand, and a slight increase in effectiveness with axes thanks to Axe Specialization IconAxe Specialization.

3.2.3.

Tauren

Tauren are by default the tankiest of the Horde races thanks to their increased health value from Endurance IconEndurance and they have a powerful aoe stun in War Stomp IconWar Stomp where Death Knight has no other stun.

3.2.4.

Troll

There is an argument to be made, if you plan to play exclusively Unholy Death Knight, that Troll may be stronger due to the way Berserking IconBerserking synergizes with Summon Gargoyle IconSummon Gargoyle, but overall Troll is second to Orc by a good amount in all Death Knight specalizations including Blood.

3.2.5.

Undead

While Will of the Forsaken IconWill of the Forsaken is a strong PvP cooldown, it is a bit redundant with spells such as Lichborne IconLichborne and Undead has no other in-combat benefits other than some additional Shadow Resistance IconShadow Resistance which is a major source of damage during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

4.

Best Professions for Unholy Death Knight

Engineering is extremely important for Death Knights both for the personal DPS increases added from the Cloak and Glove enchants, but especially the insane amount of mobility that Nitro Boosts Icon Nitro Boosts affixed to your boots will allow you. Engineering ends up being a slightly lower gain in stats than other crafting professions, but the overall utility that the Profession has to offer makes it a must-have for almost every class and especially ones that struggle with mobility like Death Knight.

Jewelcrafting is the single largest increase of stats of any of the crafting professions especially before the addition of Epic gems to the game. Stamina is the single strongest stat for a Blood Death Knight's survivability and this is the largest possible gain of it.

Engineering and Jewelcrafting are both chosen based on their end-game benefits and do not offer any particularly beneficial gold farms.

5.

Changelog

  • 18 Jan. 2023 (enchants page): Reviewed for Phase 2 release ahead of Ulduar raid release.
  • 18 Jan. 2023 (stats page): Reviewed for Phase 2 release ahead of Ulduar raid release.
  • 18 Jan. 2023 (spells page): Reviewed for Phase 2 release ahead of Ulduar raid release.
  • 18 Jan. 2023 (this page): Reviewed for Phase 2 release ahead of Ulduar raid release.
  • 17 Jan. 2023 (pre-raid gear page): Updated for Phase 2.
  • 17 Jan. 2023 (gear page): Updated for Phase 2.
  • 17 Jan. 2023 (rotation page): Updated for Phase 2.
  • 17 Jan. 2023 (talents page): Updated for Phase 2.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (pre-raid gear page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (gear page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (enchants page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (stats page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (rotation page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (talents page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (spells page): Page added.
  • 23 Aug. 2022 (this page): Page added.
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