Unholy Death Knight DPS Easy Mode — Shadowlands 9.2.5
On this page, we explain how to easily play Unholy Death Knight in World of Warcraft — Shadowlands 9.2.5, using the simplest rotation, talent tree, stat priority, gear setup, etc., without sacrificing performance.
This page is intended for players who are new to the game or class, have no intentions of raiding Mythic difficulty, or simply want a more straightforward way to play their specialization without being overwhelmed by the numerous subtleties and active abilities that need to be taken into consideration for optimal play.
The Basics of Unholy Death Knights
For those who are new to Unholy Death Knight and are not sure what each ability does or how they interact with the Unholy toolkit, we recommend checking out our Spell Summary guide linked below.
Unholy Death Knight is a melee DPS specialization that provides strong single-target and AoE DPS. Its playstyle is somewhat complex, however it is incredibly rewarding to master.
Your main goal throughout a fight is applying the Festering Wound debuff with Festering Strike (ensuring not to over-cap it) and then consuming these stacks with Scourge Strike, while also making sure to use Death Coil or Epidemic to not over-cap on Runic Power.
Covenant Choice for Unholy Death Knight
Covenant choices are a very important part of Shadowlands. With how important this choice is you want to make sure you choose what is best for the content you are focusing on. We recommend Necrolord for Raid content and Night Fae for Mythic+ content.
Soulbinds are also an important system within your Covenants. We recommend picking Plague Deviser Marileth since it offers both the best single-target and AoE throughput. Here is our recommended Soulbind path. For Mythic+ with Night Fae, we recommend utilising the Dreamweaver Soulbind. Here is our recommended path: Unholy Death Knight Dreamweaver Mythic+ Tree
For more information, please refer to our Covenant, Soulbinds, and Conduits page:
Conduit Choice for Unholy Death Knight
Best Potency Conduits for Unholy Death Knight
- Eternal Hunger the strongest Conduit currently for Unholy, providing high single-target and AoE damage.
- Convocation of the Dead is our second-best option, providing both great single-target and AoE.
- Brutal Grasp is our third option as Necrolord. It scales really well, especially once we pick up our second Legendary Abomination's Frenzy.
- Withering Ground is our third option as Night Fae. Combined with Defile it deals so much AoE damage!
- Adaptive Armor Fragment is the third option for Venthyr and Kyrian. It is bland and boring, but does the job!
Best Endurance Conduits for Unholy Death Knight
- Condensed Anima Sphere is our best Endurance Conduit, providing a significant amount of healing for any encounter!
- Hardened Bones is a solid Endurance Conduit, transforming Lichborne into a solid defensive cooldown.
- Reinforced Shell generally does not find any value. The increased AoE is nice but the duration has difficulty of finding value.
Best Finesse Conduits for Unholy Death Knight
- Spirit Drain provides Runic Power whenever we successfully interrupt a target. Its small but non-zero DPS boost makes this the best Finesse Conduit!
- Fleeting Wind gives us a nice extra speed boost when using Death's Advance, something we generally need as a slow Death Knight!
Talent Choice for Unholy Death Knights
The following talent choices are effectively best in most situations.
- Level 15: All Will Serve
- Level 25: Unholy Blight
- Level 30: Asphyxiate (for a stun), Death's Reach (for an increased range on Death Grip), Grip of the Dead (for slows)
- Level 35: Soul Reaper
- Level 40: Spell Eater (against magic damage), Wraith Walk (for mobility), or Death Pact (for an emergency heal)
- Level 45: Unholy Pact
- Level 50: Army of the Damned
These are the easiest talents to use when factoring in gear and rotation, but if you want to use the absolute best talents for Unholy Death Knight depending on the situation then we have a more in-depth page linked below.
Legendary Choice for Unholy Death Knights
In Patch 9.2, we will gain access to the Unity power, enabling us to equip two Legendaries. This Unity power will always represent your Covenant-specific Legendary. In general, we run the following combinations:
- Deadliest Coil + Abomination's Frenzy in Raids.
- Frenzied Monstrosity + Rampant Transference in Mythic+.
The Covenant-specific Legendaries are set in stone but the non-specifics are not. You can choose to run Frenzied Monstrosity as a raid alternative for fights that contain lots of adds, or where you cannot leverage the extra cooldown reduction from Deadliest Coil. For Mythic+, Reanimated Shambler is a possible alternative, building you fully into an AoE powerhouse!
Stat Choice for Unholy Death Knights
Currently, you will want to prioritize stats as follows.
- Critical Strike;
This can be different depending on your character's gear, so make sure you sim yourself, in order to find what your personal stat priority is.
Single-Target Opener for Unholy Death Knights
- Use Army of the Dead.
- Use Festering Strike.
- Use Festering Strike.
- Use Unholy Blight + Trinket + Potion.
- Use Dark Transformation.
- Use Apocalypse.
- Use Blood Fury (if Orc), Berserking (if Troll).
- Use Covenant Ability.
Basic Rotation for Unholy Death Knights
The rotation currently assumes that you are using Army of the Damned as your tier 7 talent.
- Cast Soul Reaper if the target is below 35% (if you have taken this talent).
- Cast Outbreak or Unholy Blight to apply Virulent Plague on the target. There is no need to use Outbreak on pure single-target if you have Unholy Blight talented.
- Use Death Coil when you have 80+ Runic Power or a Sudden Doom proc.
- Use Festering Strike to apply Festering Wounds on the target. Do this if the target has 3 or less Festering Wounds.
- Use Scourge Strike when there is at least 1 Festering Wound on the target.
- Use Death Coil.
Multi-Target Rotation for Unholy Death Knight
Please find below of a rotation on a dungeon trash pack. As an Unholy DK, the duration of the pack alters your approach heavily. The shorter the pack, the quicker you want to pop down your Death and Decay.
- Use Outbreak or Unholy Blight to apply Virulent Plague on all targets.
- Use Festering Strike up to two times. If pack dies very quickly, do not use it.
- Use Apocalypse on the target with the most Festering Wounds (ideally 4).
- Use Dark Transformation.
- Spam Epidemic until you are out of Runic Power.
- Use Death and Decay.
- Spam Scourge Strike and use Epidemic if you are about to cap on Runic Power.
- After Death and Decay finishes, go to single-target rotation with Epidemic instead of Death Coil.
Skip steps 2 and 3 if the pack dies very quickly.
For a more in-depth rotation, please consider checking out our rotation page linked below.
Cooldowns for Unholy Death Knights
Unholy Death Knights have 3 Core DPS cooldowns, and 3 Talented. They should be used as follows.
- Army of the Dead (Core) should normally be cast on pull since it only costs 1 Rune. Always time the potential second use with your other cooldowns, making sure to use your Army 5-10 seconds before your other cooldowns. Do not be afraid to use the cooldown a lot in Mythic +.
- Apocalypse (Core) should be used when you have 4 stacks of Festering Wounds.
- Dark Transformation (Core) should be used off cooldown and as an opener on packs of multiple mobs. If you are using the talent Unholy Blight, then always use Dark Transformation and Unholy Blight together.
- Sacrificial Pact (Core) should only be used to save yourself from death.
- Unholy Blight (Talent) should always be paired with Dark Transformation. Use Unholy Blight followed by Dark Transformation.
- Unholy Assault (Talent) should be used on cooldown. Use it early when engaging packs in Mythic+. For single-target, use it after Apocalypse.
- Summon Gargoyle (Talent) should be used on cooldown. Generally use it 10 seconds before you expect to cast Unholy Blight.
- 31 May 2022: Page reviewed for Patch 9.2.5.
- 20 Feb. 2022: Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.2.
- 01 Nov. 2021: Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.1.5.
- 29 Jun. 2021: Guide reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
- 10 May 2021: Updated Covenant recommendation and expanded on multiple topics.
- 09 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 10 Feb. 2021: Added Soul Reaper into the rotation priority.
- 19 Jan. 2021: Guide reviewed and completely updated.
- 23 Nov. 2020: Page updated for Shadowlands release, updated talents, stats, removed BfA-specific sections
- 10 Nov. 2020: Updated stat recommendations.
- 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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