WotLK Classic Unholy Death Knight Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities

Last updated on Sep 24, 2023 at 15:15 by Sellin 21 comments

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Unholy Death Knight in both single-target and multiple-target PvE situations in WotLK Classic. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS.


Rotation for Unholy Death Knight in WotLK Classic

If you have not already, please read the Spell Summary page. Knowing how each spell and ability works in detail will greatly increase your understanding of the topics discussed on this page.

Unholy Death Knights are one of the strongest melee DPS in the entire game. The amazing buffs that they bring to any group and the utility they have with powerful abilities such as Death Grip IconDeath Grip, along with the massive amount of damage they can do, puts them in contention for being the among the best DPS melee class.



Unholy lacks a truly spammable AoE damage button, but your AoE damage rotation will mostly consist of applying your diseases using Icy Touch IconIcy Touch and Plague Strike IconPlague Strike and then spreading them with Pestilence IconPestilence while keeping Death and Decay IconDeath and Decay down. Remember to use Blood Tap IconBlood Tap to activate your Runes while AoEing, as the largest limitation on your DPS as Unholy is not having Runes available.


Single-Target DPS

Unholy operates similar to the other two Death Knight specs in that your focus is more of a priority system than a true rotation. However, it is much more of a set rotation than the other two specs due to a lack of damage-increasing procs resulting in a more steady output of damage. The most important rules are to always ensure your diseases are active on the target and your Ghoul is always attacking. Consider macroing pet attack into your commonly-used abilities. In a pure single-target rotation you will not be casting Death and Decay IconDeath and Decay, but as soon as more than one target is active it becomes a DPS increase. Unholy is also the only Death Knight spec where you will have to switch presences during combat to maximize damage. There have been some considerably changes to how Summon Gargoyle IconSummon Gargoyle snapshotting works but it will still be our main source of damage so focusing on maximizing it's damage is key.

As with all other Death Knight specs the largest priority is to use your Runes first and get them on cooldown as it will lead to more casts of your abilities. Blood Strike IconBlood Strike should be weaved in frequently to refresh Desolation IconDesolation, while Death and Decay IconDeath and Decay will be the primary Frost and Unholy Rune spender. Death Coil IconDeath Coil will be your spender of Runic Power.

Your opening rotation should look like the following:

  1. Start the pull in Unholy Presence IconUnholy Presence;
  2. Plague Strike IconPlague Strike;
  3. Icy Touch IconIcy Touch;
  4. Blood Strike IconBlood Strike twice;
  5. Blood Tap IconBlood Tap;
  6. Death and Decay IconDeath and Decay;
  7. Ghoul Frenzy IconGhoul Frenzy;
  8. Any on use effects to increase haste such as Potion of Speed Icon Potion of Speed or Hyperspeed Accelerators Icon Hyperspeed Accelerators
  9. Summon Gargoyle IconSummon Gargoyle;
  10. Empower Rune Weapon IconEmpower Rune Weapon and cancel Blood Tap IconBlood Tap (you want the Blood Runes);
  11. Army of the Dead IconArmy of the Dead;
  12. Blood Presence IconBlood Presence;

Your rotation following this should be focused on casting as many Death and Decay IconDeath and Decays as possible while weaving in Blood Strike IconBlood Strike to maximize Desolation IconDesolation uptime, keeping your diseases active and your pets attacking.


Death Knight Presences

Death Knights have three presences they can be in at any given time: Frost, Blood, and Unholy. Each of these presences offers the Death Knight additional stats, be it increased damage, self-healing, more Armor, increased threat generation, or even movement speed and a faster global cooldown. However, you can only have one presence active at a time. Unholy Death Knight utilizes Unholy Presence IconUnholy Presence at the start of pulls to establish necessary globals to maximize and quickly get your Summon Gargoyle IconSummon Gargoyle out before switching back into Blood Presence IconBlood Presence shortly after your opener as explained above.

  • Blood Presence IconBlood Presence — Increases damage dealt by 15% and causes 4% of non-periodic damage dealt to heal you.
  • Frost Presence IconFrost Presence — Increases Stamina by 8%, the Armor contributions of your gear by 60%, reduces your damage taken by 8%, and you will generate additional threat while in this presence.
  • Unholy Presence IconUnholy Presence — Increases movement and attack speed by 15% and reduces your global cooldown by 0.5 seconds.

Unholy Death Knight Cooldowns

Death Knights have some of the strongest cooldowns in the game both from a buffing perspective and from a personal defensive ability point of view.

  • Anti-Magic Shell IconAnti-Magic Shell — Absorbs 75% of incoming Magic damage (up to 50% of your max health) and prevents the application of any harmful magic debuffs; any damage absorbed by this will also grant you Runic Power.
  • Raise Dead IconRaise Dead — Summons a ghoul that will do a small amount of damage; this ghoul is also required to use Death Pact IconDeath Pact.
  • Death Pact IconDeath Pact — sacrifices your ghoul to heal you for 40% of your max health.
  • Blood Tap IconBlood Tap — Activates a Blood Rune and converts it into a Death Rune for the next 20 seconds. Death Runes count as any Rune type.
  • Summon Gargoyle IconSummon Gargoyle — Summons a Gargoyle pet that will attack your target dealing a massive amount of Nature damage and benefiting from any buffs you have active when the Gargoyle is summoned.
  • Anti-Magic Zone IconAnti-Magic Zone — Summons a small protective barrier that absorbs Magic damage dealt to any players inside of the barrier.
  • Empower Rune Weapon IconEmpower Rune Weapon — Immediately refreshes all of your Runes and grants you 25 Runic Power.
  • Icebound Fortitude IconIcebound Fortitude — reduces damage taken by 30% and causes you to become immune to stuns for 12 seconds.


  • 17 Jan. 2023: Updated for Phase 2.
  • 23 Aug. 2022: Page added.
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