WotLK Classic Unholy Death Knight Guide
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.
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.
In PvP, Unholy Death Knight is the master of sustained pressure. Outside of their Summon 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.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- 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 allows for repositioning mobs and other players in a way that no other class is able to.
- 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.
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 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 offers a small personal cooldown while Night Elves' Quickness 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 is, allowing you to have an entire extra trinket slot that would typically be dedicated to a CC-breaking PvP trinket.
Draenei offers a very situationally useful heal in Gift of the Naaru that can save you or a party member in an emergency. Heroic 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.
Dwarf is in a unique spot, as Stoneform 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 and Gun Specialization are both completely useless for Death Knights in any kind of combat situation.
Perception is extremely strong against any stealth class and can net you a massive advantage in PvP, but Will 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 is not particularly useful in any combat situation. Both Mace Specialization and Sword Specialization are quite strong early on in lower gear levels and even later on might alter your gear choices while maintaining Expertise.
Escape 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 are pretty useless in any combat situation.
Quickness 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 does not really offer any in-combat benefits as a Death Knight but can sometimes help you save a repair bill.
While Arcane Torrent does grant a small amount of Runic Power, there are not many combat benefits other than the passive Magic Resistance Blood Elves have.
Orc is the overall strongest race for Death Knight thanks to the benefits of Blood Fury which, in Wrath of the Lich King, no longer reduces incoming healing, additional pet damage thanks to Command, and a slight increase in effectiveness with axes thanks to Axe Specialization.
Tauren are by default the tankiest of the Horde races thanks to their increased health value from Endurance and they have a powerful aoe stun in War Stomp where Death Knight has no other stun.
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 synergizes with Summon Gargoyle, but overall Troll is second to Orc by a good amount in all Death Knight specalizations including Blood.
While Will of the Forsaken is a strong PvP cooldown, it is a bit redundant with spells such as Lichborne and Undead has no other in-combat benefits other than some additional Shadow Resistance which is a major source of damage during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
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 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.
- 10 May 2023 (gear page): Updated for Phase 3.
- 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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