Unholy Death Knight DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Dragonflight 10.2.7

Last updated on May 07, 2024 at 11:20 by Bicepspump 69 comments
General Information

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Unholy Death Knight in both single-target and multiple-target situations. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Dragonflight 10.2.7.

1.

Unholy Death Knight Rotation

Welcome to our Rotation page for Unholy Death Knights. Here, we will go over everything you will need to know to optimally play your spec for Raiding and Mythic+ scenarios.

Below you can find the rotation guide in a video format, including a beginner and advanced version!

2.

Mythic+ Rotation

Unholy is a very interesting Mythic+ spec because it has solid single-target and AoE burst potential. For more information about Mythic+ as an Unholy Death Knight, please check out our Mythic+ guide linked below.

2.1.

Beginner Mode

Unholy can be a very complicated spec. If these rotations seem fairly complicated, then you may want to check out our Beginner Mode page, which gives you a much more simplistic build and rotation to play.

2.2.

PvP

The guides on this page are for PvE content, so if you are looking for a PvP rotation guide, then please visit our PvP page linked below.

3.

Single-Target Opener for Unholy Death Knights

I have opted to include the core rotation in these sections, leaving everything that is considered a cooldown to be explained separately further down!

  • Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse Talented
  • Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon Talented
  • Abomination Limb Icon Abomination Limb Talented
  • Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault Talented
  • Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight Talented
  • Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle Talented
  • Fyr'alath the Dreamrender Icon Fyr'alath the Dreamrender equipped
  1. Use Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead 2 seconds before pull.
  2. Use Outbreak Icon Outbreak.
  3. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike.
  4. Use Fyr'alath the Dreamrender Icon Fyr'alath the Dreamrender
  5. Use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile.
  6. Use Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation + Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle + Potion.
  7. Use Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation.
  8. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil.
  9. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil.
  10. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil. Use exactly 3 Death Coils here (2 without Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust).
  11. Use Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault + Trinket.
  12. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike.
  13. Use Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.
  14. Use Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse.
  15. Use Blood Fury Icon Blood Fury (if Orc), Berserking Icon Berserking (if Troll) (See below for exact timings).
  16. Follow the Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle priority (details further down).

If you still have the 4-piece from Aberrus, make sure you are in combat with the boss before you cast Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead. Your stacks will reset otherwise!

Once you have the legendary Fyr'alath the Dreamrender Icon Fyr'alath the Dreamrender, you use it after your first Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike. This creates a nice gap in your opener, allow for better buff overlap with your Army. Furthermore, it's not much of an opportunity cost at this point, as you aren't pressing very high-impact buttons!

Make sure to use your second charge of Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile after the first one runs out, to make sure your burst benefits fully from Unholy Ground Icon Unholy Ground (and Defile Icon Defile Mastery buff).

When it comes to timing your trinkets, you can generally just macro them with Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault. However, there are some trinkets in Season 4 that require more detailed use. Here are all trinkets and their use:

  • Blazebinder's Hoof Icon Blazebinder's Hoof — Macro with Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault
  • Mirror of Fractured Tomorrows Icon Mirror of Fractured Tomorrows — Macro with Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault
  • Ashes of the Embersoul Icon Ashes of the Embersoul — Macro with Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault
  • Manic Grieftorch Icon Manic Grieftorch — Use outside of CDs.
  • Irideus Fragment Icon Irideus Fragment — 15 seconds before Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle finishes. Good to use with your second Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile and Berserking Icon Berserking.
  • Algeth'ar Puzzle Box Icon Algeth'ar Puzzle Box — Use after the first Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike

For racials that benefit our burst, we use them in the following way:

  • Blood Fury Icon Blood Fury — 20 seconds before Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle finishes (can be macroed with Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault).
  • Berserking Icon Berserking — 15 seconds before Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle finishes. This is at the point where you use your second Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile in the opener.

If you are lucky enough to receive Power Infusion Icon Power Infusion, ask for it when you use Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault in the opener!

Macros can significantly reduce the amount of keybinds needed for executing the opener, here are two that I personally use:

  • #showtooltip Summon Gargoyle
  • /cast Summon Gargoyle
  • /cast Dark Transformation
  • /use Fleeting Elemental Potion of Ultimate Power
  • /use Elemental Potion of Ultimate Power
  • /use Elemental Potion of Power
  • #showtooltip Unholy Assault
  • /use 13
  • /cast Unholy Assault
  • /cast Empower Rune Weapon
4.

Single-Target Rotation for Unholy Death Knights

  • Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper Talented
  • Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer Talented
  • Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows Talented
  • Defile Icon Defile Talented
  1. Cast Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper if the target is below 35% (if you have taken this talent).
  2. Cast Outbreak Icon Outbreak or Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight to apply Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague on the target. Try to maintain 100% uptime on the disease.
  3. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil when you have 80+ Runic Power or a Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom proc or your Death Rot Icon Death Rot debuff is about to run out.
  4. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to apply Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on the target. Do this if the target has 1 or fewer Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. Go to 4+ just before your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse Cooldown becomes available again.
  5. Use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike when there is at least 1 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound on the target.
  6. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil.

Now, we will take this priority list and put it into a wordier description!

  • Cast Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper whenever you can make the secondary effect trigger. In execute, Soul Reaper is your highest priority, and you should save Runes so that you can use it as much as possible! It is, however, not worth casting Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper if the target dies before the explosion!
  • Use Defile Icon Defile if you have taken this talent to leverage the mastery buff. Make sure to use it once you have accumulated two charges so that you can chain the buff window. Save it for your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse windows and use it exactly twice at that point.
  • Ensure 100% Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague uptime with Outbreak Icon Outbreak and Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight.
  • Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil to avoid capping Runic Power. Death Coil Icon Death Coil is your hardest-hitting button, and you should avoid wasting any Runic Power that could have been spent on the ability! Also make sure to use it to spend any procs of Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom and keep up your Death Rot Icon Death Rot debuff if it is about to fall off.
  • Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to build up Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on the target. We want to aim for 0-3 wounds at all times! This means casting Festering Strike whenever you hit 0-1 wounds, but never when above 3! If you use Festering Strike at 4+ wounds, you risk going above the ceiling of 6, wasting resources! We stay at low wounds to maximize the value from Festermight Icon Festermight. Make sure to keep track of your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse cooldown, as we need to go to 4+ Wounds before we use this ability!
  • Use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows to burst your wounds. This is used in sync with Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to keep your wound count at a healthy level. You go up to 2-3 and then use Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows to drop down to 0 again. You use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike as a high-priority to keep up your Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer buff as well if you are running that talent!
  • Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil as your filler spell when you have nothing else to do!

When you want to deal AoE damage in your Single Target build, it is all about leveraging Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile. In conjunction the Cleaving Strikes Icon Cleaving Strikes talent, this creates nice Cleave windows where you leverage your Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows to deal AoE damage. Simply put, whenever you want to do AoE, pop down Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile and spam Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows. Do not worry about your Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds; ignoring them is actually only a small Single Target priority loss. Furthermore, if you have Epidemic Icon Epidemic specced, used this instead of Death Coil Icon Death Coil to spend your Runic Power. Generally, at 2+ targets unless you also have Improved Death Coil Icon Improved Death Coil (unlikely due to how our builds work), where you instead use Epidemic Icon Epidemic at 4+ targets.

This priority does not include any Cooldowns. Instead, that is something we cover further down in this guide. Any cooldown will come at the top of the priority list!

5.

Rotation during Summon Gargoyle for Unholy Death Knights

When Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle cooldown is active, our priority changes. Any Runic Power we spend buffs the minion we summon, and the idea is to leverage this as much as possible. Using Death Coil Icon Death Coil, therefore ends up much higher on our priority list! Essentially, you use Death Coil Icon Death Coil as soon as you can, either by going above 30 Runic Power or getting a proc of Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom (it still counts towards the empowerment, even if it is free of cost). We also try and push our Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds down to 0, to get as much value as possible from Festermight Icon Festermight.

  • Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper Talented
  • Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer Talented
  • Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows Talented
  • Defile Icon Defile Talented
  1. Cast Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper if the target is below 35% (if you have taken this talent).
  2. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil when you have 30+ Runic Power or a Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom proc
  3. Cast Outbreak Icon Outbreak or Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight to apply Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague on the target. Try to maintain 100% uptime on the disease.
  4. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to apply Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on the target. Do this if the target has 0 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds.
  5. Use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike when there are at least 1 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on the target.
6.

Multiple Target Rotation for Unholy Death Knights (Disease Build)

Unholy's Disease AoE rotation is all about high Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer uptime and lots and lots of Epidemic Icon Epidemic spamming. The idea is to ensure your DoTs are doing as much damage as possible and generating as much Runic Power as possible to spend on Epidemic Icon Epidemic.

As we approach a given pack, we execute essentially the same opener every single time, just skipping parts of it if we do not have the cooldowns ready. This is what it looks like:

  1. Defile Icon Defile as we run towards the pack.
  2. Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike as we reach the pack and stand in our Defile Icon Defile (Apply DoTs if your GCD frees up before you reach the pack).
  3. Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight to apply Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague. Outbreak Icon Outbreak if Blight is not ready.
  4. Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation + Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.
  5. Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault or Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to build some wounds on a target.
  6. Abomination Limb Icon Abomination Limb.
  7. Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse.
  8. Epidemic Icon Epidemic until Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer needs to be refreshed. Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to refresh.
  9. Defile Icon Defile when your previous Defile Icon Defile buff falls off.
  10. Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike.
  11. Epidemic Icon Epidemic until low RP.
  12. Refresh your Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague when it is about to expire.
  13. Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike.
  14. Epidemic Icon Epidemic until low RP.

The idea is to get your disease up and Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer quickly. We also make sure to use Defile Icon Defile early to get the mastery buff. We then use all our cooldowns and dump our Runic Power. Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse is used early here to make sure we get good value from our Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 2pc Icon Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 2pc and Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 4pc Icon Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 4pc. As Plaguebringer Icon Plaguebringer is about to run out, we use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to refresh it, ideally within a Defile Icon Defile window to get the benefit of the cleave. At this point, your pet has applied a ton of Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on the pack, meaning we get lots of Runic Power every time we cleave with Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike. We use this to funnel our damage into Epidemic Icon Epidemic!

You might notice the lack of Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike in this rotation! As a general rule, we almost never press it in our Mythic+ rotation. It is only ever if we need to set up a Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound for Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse or if Defile Icon Defile is not currently active. Since Defile Icon Defile uptime is so high, we just end up spamming Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike the majority of the time (ignoring the fact that there sometimes are no Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds active in the pack). Still, in a long pack, after our Defile Icon Defile sequence is finished (after 40 seconds or so), we will revert back to building and bursting Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds, spending the Runic Power on Epidemic Icon Epidemic! Without Deadliest Coil Icon Deadliest Coil, we do Epidemic Icon Epidemic at 2 targets. With it, we use Epidemic Icon Epidemic at 4+ targets.

7.

Multiple Target Rotation for Unholy Death Knights (Wound/ CS Build)

The Wound/ CS build deals the majority of its damage through Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows cleaving in Defile Icon Defile. You will essentially aim to apply your Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds passively via Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation with Infected Claws Icon Infected Claws and Defile Icon Defile with Pestilence Icon Pestilence. You then burst these wounds by spamming Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows as you stand in your Defile Icon Defile. You will overcap on Runic Power with this build, but that is fine, it is all about getting as many cleaving Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows out as possible! Do try and dump your Runic Power in the short 2-3 seconds window between Defile Icon Defiles. The optimal way is to pop down your Defile Icon Defile just before the Mastery buff from the previous one is about to drop. Since the buff lasts for around 4 seconds, you get this window of Runic Power dumping.

Outside our Defile Icon Defile windows, we pretty much play our normal single target rotation, swapping out Death Coil Icon Death Coil for Epidemic Icon Epidemic as our Runic Power Spender. We do this at 3+ targets if we haven't picked up Deadliest Coil Icon Deadliest Coil, otherwise we do it at 4+.

To make it hopefully easy to understand, this is a simplified version of what your multiple target opener should look like.

  • Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion Talented
  1. Defile Icon Defile.
  2. Use Outbreak Icon Outbreak or Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight to apply Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague on all targets.
  3. Use Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation + Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.
  4. Use Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse.
  5. Spam Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows until your first Defile Icon Defile runs out.
  6. Spam Epidemic Icon Epidemic until your Defile Icon Defile mastery buff is about to drop.
  7. Use Defile Icon Defile.
  8. Spam Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows
  9. Use Epidemic Icon Epidemic if you have no Runes for Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows
  10. Refresh your Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague when it is about to expire.
  11. After you run out of Death and Decay Icon Death and Decays/ Defile Icon Defiles to use, tab through the targets with Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to set up for your next window!

If any cooldown listed above is not available, simply skip that part of the opener and proceed to the next step. With Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion, you ideally use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike before your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse and then Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault + Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike afterward to build max wounds on your main target.

7.1.

Keeping Track of your Resources

Since Death Knights have multiple resources that they need to track, it is very helpful to customize your UI to easily track your resources. Unholy Death Knights have a very clunky opener, so being able to easily focus on your rotation and resources can help you maximize your damage and positioning.

8.

Cooldown Usage for Unholy Death Knights

Here is a quick summary of your Cooldown usage as an Unholy Death Knight:

  • Fyr'alath the Dreamrender Icon Fyr'alath the Dreamrender should be used on Cooldown but not during your Cooldown windows (it doesn't scale with strength or damage buffs etc)! For AoE, use it towards end of packs (just after a Festermight Icon Festermight window is a good timing). Using the channel early is a big opportunity cost since you aren't spending time pressing your big hit buttons!
  • Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon should be used with your other cooldowns (save for Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle in raid build).
  • Abomination Limb Icon Abomination Limb should generally be used on cooldown. Hold it for add waves that need grouping up.
  • Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight should be used on cooldown. It is primarily a way of applying your Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague efficiently, especially in AoE.
  • Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault should be used on cooldown. Especially strong in Mythic+ when paired with Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion. Used in Single Target with your other CDs.
  • Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion should be used in AoE on a target that ideally has 6 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. This should then be followed by Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay and Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to pop all wounds.
  • Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead should be used on cooldown. This is the first ability you press as you run toward the boss. With Army of the Damned Icon Army of the Damned, the cooldown is 3 minutes. Make sure to time it with your Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle and Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation (if you have Commander of the Dead Icon Commander of the Dead).
  • Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse should be used when you have 4 stacks of Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. In AoE, use with 1 or more Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds.
  • Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation should be used off cooldown and as an opener on packs of multiple mobs.
  • Sacrificial Pact Icon Sacrificial Pact should only be used to save yourself from death.
  • Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle should be used on cooldown. Once used, prioritize spending Runic Power via Death Coil Icon Death Coil above everything else.
  • Defile Icon Defile should be used back-to-back with your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse. In AoE, use it as much as possible, chaining the Mastery buff you get from the ability.

As an Unholy Death Knight, you have potentially 11 unique cooldowns to keep track of, depending on what you choose from your talents.

For raids, we always combine our Cooldowns as much as possible. This works out nicely as they all align on a 45-second cycle. A cooldown plan for a 4-minute boss fight would look like the following:

  • 00:00 — Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead, Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation, Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle, Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault, Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse
  • 00:45 — Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse
  • 01:30 — Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse, Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault
  • 02:15 — Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse
  • 03:00 — Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead, Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation, Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle, Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault, Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse
  • 03:45 — Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse

Notice the delay of Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon, saving it for 1 minute to use with your 3-minute cooldowns. Due to everything aligning perfectly like this, it is crucial that you use your Cooldowns as soon as they come up. Any delay means that your 3-minute burst window will be delayed, potentially making you miss out on a ton of value.

In Mythic+, the name of the game is Cooldown efficiency. It is so easy to lose out on a ton of value by holding your cooldowns "for that one big pack that comes soon". As a general rule, use your Cooldowns as much as possible. It is by far the easiest way to improve your DPS in Mythic+!

8.1.

Defile

Defile Icon Defile sees play in Mythic+ and sometimes in raid, and becomes an ability you use everywhere once you pick it up. For Single Target, we want to overlap the buff with our Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse windows. Use it twice back-to-back to leverage the Mastery to buff our Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse! For AoE, we use this cooldown as much as possible, generally waiting ~3 seconds between uses to maximize the buff overlap. This will be the first GCD you use as your run towards the pack!

For Raid, we use Defile Icon Defile during our Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle to provide a Mastery buff as well as a haste buff (through Unholy Ground Icon Unholy Ground). After this point, we stack up two charges and use them back-to-back for each Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse window.

8.2.

Death and Decay

Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay is used in a similar manner to Defile Icon Defile in Single Target and AoE. Importantly, in AoE, we use it the first time after we have done our initial cooldown usage and Epidemic Icon Epidemic dump. Note the difference to Defile Icon Defile play here, which is used as we run in to the pack. For Single Target, we only ever use it during our Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle window for the Haste buff. It is technically worth it to use it on cooldown, but any boss movement will invalidate that. It is safest to simply time it with your Gargoyle (using it back-to-back) on pull and whenever it comes up again. In Raid, we leverage it whenever there are adds to gain Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows cleave.

8.3.

Empower Rune Weapon

Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon provides a 20-second buff, granting one Rune and 5 Runic Power every 5 seconds, as well as 15% haste. The first Rune and Runic Power are granted on-use, and the ability is off the global cooldown.

Always combine Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon with your other powerful cooldowns. Save it for Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle if you are using that, otherwise use with your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse and Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation.

8.4.

Abomination Limb

Abomination Limb Icon Abomination Limb provides you with an extra limb for 12 seconds, pulling targets towards you every second and dealing damage around you. Also grants a proc of Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption every 4 seconds.

Abomination Limb Icon Abomination Limb should be used on cooldown to gain the most benefit from its higher damage. Do save it if there are add waves that you can time it with, especially if gripping these adds helps your group to kill them!

8.5.

Unholy Blight

Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight infects nearby targets with Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague every second for 6 seconds. Additionally, applies the Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight disease that lasts for 14 seconds and stacks up to 4 times, dealing increased damage for each stack.

Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight is primarily an efficient way of applying Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague, with the added benefit of some extra disease damage. Use this ability on cooldown in all situations. It is especially good at applying Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague whenever adds enter a pull during some time, like when the tank runs around to pick up all the mobs! Should be timed with Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse and Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation.

8.6.

Unholy Assault

Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault instantly applies 4 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds to your target, deals some moderate damage and provides 20% damage buff for 20 seconds.

Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault is a strong damage buff as well as a very efficient way of applying Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. It should be used on cooldown in single-target, ideally timed with your other cooldowns to leverage the damage buff. In AoE, it should be used early in a pull to boost your first Festermight Icon Festermight window. It is also used to help stack up 6 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on a single-target when one plays Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion. Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion is then used as a follow-up cooldown to quickly spread up to 42 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds!

8.7.

Vile Contagion

Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion spreads the Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds of your primary target to up to 7 nearby enemies.

Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion is a huge AoE DPS cooldown that helps to set up an AoE pull for a big burst window. It is ideally paired with Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault (both are 1.5m cooldown) where you do Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike -> Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault -> Vile Contagion Icon Vile Contagion for a 3 GCD 48 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds infection. You then follow up with Runic Power dumping, Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay/ Defile Icon Defile, and Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows spam.

8.8.

Apocalypse

Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse summons a member of the Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead for each stack of Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds, up to 4. It also generates 2 Runes on use.

For Single Target, Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse should be used when you have at least 4 stacks of Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. It will only consume 4 stacks, even when you have 5 or 6.

It generally sits on the same 45-second schedule as Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation and Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight, resulting in you using these cooldowns together most of the time.

For AoE, we do not care about the number of Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds burst by the cooldown, instead, it is used to summon our Magus of the Dead Icon Magus of the Dead! This cleaves via the Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 2pc Icon Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 2pc set, doing a ton of AoE damage. We do not care about the number of Wounds since the number of Magus of the Dead Icon Magus of the Dead that is summoned is independent of how many Wounds we burst!

8.9.

Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead summons several ghouls to fight at your side for 30 seconds. It is a major cooldown that will end up being a significant part of our overall damage in any situation.

Use Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead as you run into any engagement, allowing the ghouls to spawn (they spawn over 4 seconds and are stunned an additional 4 seconds before starting combat). The baseline 8-minute cooldown is reduced to around 3 minutes with the Army of the Damned Icon Army of the Damned talent, allowing you to use it multiple times in a fight. Ensure to time it with any other cooldown that increases its damage, such as Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation with Commander of the Dead Icon Commander of the Dead, Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault and Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon. Always use Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead at least 5 seconds before using any other cooldown to buff it (except Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation that can be used immediately).

Make sure to leverage this cooldown as much as possible in Mythic+. Even if it is primarily a Single Target burst CD, it also gives AoE via the Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 2pc Icon Death Knight Unholy 10.2 Class Set 2pc set bonus!

8.10.

Dark Transformation

Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation transforms your ghoul for 15 seconds, causing its Claw Icon Claw to cleave all enemies near your pet.

You should use this ability on cooldown. If you have talented into Commander of the Dead Icon Commander of the Dead, always ensure you time Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation with Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle, Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead and Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse.

For Mythic+, it is important to use this cooldown early in a pull, allowing the lots of time to apply Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds that you can then burst in your Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay window. It will generally be the first cooldown you press.

8.11.

Summon Gargoyle

Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle calls down a Gargoyle to hit your target for 25 seconds. Every 1 Runic Power spent when this cooldown is active increases its damage by 1%. It also generates 50 Runic Power on use.

Once you have activated Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle, your highest priority above all will be pressing Death Coil Icon Death Coil to ramp up its damage. Ideally, you should be full on Runic Power already as you press the cooldown (remember that it provides 50 Runic Power, so you only need to aim for a maximum minus 50). You also want to ensure that you leverage all your other cooldowns that synergize with Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle when you use it. This includes Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation with Commander of the Dead Icon Commander of the Dead, Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault and Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon. In reality, you will get these big 3-minute burst windows where you use Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle and Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead in combination with everything else!

It is very important to note that even Death Coil Icon Death Coils that benefit from Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom procs (and which, therefore, do not consume Runic Power) increase the damage of the Gargoyle, so it is important to make sure to use these procs right away during Summon Gargoyle and not have them wasted.

8.12.

Soul Reaper

Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper initially strikes the target for ~70% of a naked Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike. After 5 seconds, if the target is below 35% health, it hits against 3.5 Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strikes worth of damage. It is crucial as an Unholy Death Knight to trigger as many of these extra hits as possible. Use Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper whenever your target will reach 35% HP within the next 5 seconds. This means using it at ~36% Raid Boss HP. For adds, it generally means using it earlier. Timing it properly is very rewarding!

9.

Optional Read: Mastering Your Unholy Death Knight

To help you better understand how to play the Unholy specialization, we will explain some concepts in more detail below.

9.1.

Runes and Runic Power

Death Knights use a dual resource system of runes and Runic Power. While it is quite straightforward in how it works, we will explain it here for the sake of completion.

9.1.1.

Runes

You have a total of 6 Runes, which are available by default. Some of your abilities have Rune costs, and whenever you use an ability that consumes one or more Runes, those Runes will immediately begin recharging. The exact amount of time it takes a Rune to recharge depends on how much Haste you have.

Whenever a Rune is consumed, you gain 10 Runic Power (more on that below).

At most, 3 of your runes can be charging up at the same time. It is therefore optimal to keep at least 3 runes on cooldown to maximise the recharge rate over the course of the fight.

9.1.2.

Runic Power

Runic Power is a resource that resembles Rage, in the sense that it decays when out of combat, but does not decay during combat. As mentioned above, consuming Runes generates 10 Runic Power per Rune spent, and this is the primary means of generating Runic Power, although some abilities also help with this. You can have a maximum of 100 Runic Power.

In general, spending Runic Power should only be done when 3 Runes or more are charging up or when you are about to cap Runic Power. This is not the case when Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle is active (when using this talent), during which time you should try to maximize your Runic Power expenditure.

9.2.

Runic Corruption

Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption has a chance of proccing whenever we spend Runic Power. It can also proc when we consume Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom and Dark Succor Icon Dark Succor. The proc will always return a total of 0.9 Runes, regardless of haste. The proc also stacks on itself, adding any new duration to the previous remaining one. All this means you do not need to pay attention to this proc.

9.3.

Virulent Plague

Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague is a Shadow damage DoT that is applied to targets using Outbreak Icon Outbreak or Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight. If the target dies while afflicted with Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague, it erupts for Shadow damage to all nearby enemies. If you are talented into Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight, this will be the only method of applying Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague in a single-target encounter.

9.4.

Festering Wounds

Each time you use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike, between 2 and 3 stacks of a debuff called Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound is applied to the target. The debuff lasts for 30 seconds (and each added stack refreshes its duration) and does nothing if left alone. However, using Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows on a target that has Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on them consumes a stack, causing the target to take Shadow damage. All of the stacks are consumed if the target dies.

Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores will cause any Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds that burst to deal AoE damage around them. This scales well in AoE and is the primary source of our damage in Mythic+. We can also talent into Replenishing Wounds Icon Replenishing Wounds to generate 3 Runic Power every time a Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound is burst.

The ideal number of stacks at which to spend Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds is 4+. If you have 3 or fewer stacks, you should instead generate some more using Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike.

9.5.

Anti-Magic Shell Usage

Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell absorbs 100% of all magic damage taken, up to 30% of your maximum health, for 5 seconds and grants you Runic Power based on the amount of damage that it absorbs.

While this ability has amazing survivability benefits, allowing you to often taken practically no damage from various raid-damaging mechanics, it also has great benefits for your DPS.

Indeed, the amount of Runic Power you gain if you absorb a lot of magic damage is far from negligible. Therefore, you should always try to make use of Anti-Magic Shell to boost your Runic Power generation throughout the fight. The best way to do it is to know when a raid-damaging attack is coming, and to have Anti Magic Shell up for that time. Then, simply enjoy the extra Runic Power (and do not forget to spend it).

That said, for progression content, we fully recommend first and foremost saving Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell to mitigate magic damage, before you consider how to use it to increase your DPS.

9.6.

Festermight

Festermight Icon Festermight is pretty much a mandatory talent, providing a stacking strength buff whenever you burst a Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound. The duration of the buff is always exactly 20 seconds, starting from the time you build your initial stack. Subsequent stacks do not add or refresh the duration in any way.

Maximimising the value of Festermight Icon Festermight is all about getting as many stacks for as long of a duration as possible. We want to integral of Stength x Time the largest. To do this, we want to initiate our window by bursting as many Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds as possible! This is done best with Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse, which instantly provides 4 stacks of the Strength buff. For reference, playing this optimally is around 1-2% DPS gain!

Unfortunately, Festermight Icon Festermight windows are on a 20 seconds cycle, whereas Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse comes every 45 seconds. This means that we need to play around the windows to ensure we start every second one with Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse. This means delaying the start of our non-apoc window by 3-4 seconds! The easiest way of doing this is by making sure you end your Festermight Icon Festermight window at close to 0 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds. You can then naturally spends a couple of GCDs building up to 4-6 Wounds, spending some Runic Power, and potentially refreshing your DoT before you start your new Festermight Icon Festermight window by using Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows. Make sure to look at your Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse timing and try and initiate the new window when the cooldown is between 23 and 21 seconds remaining. You can salvage a window that you started too early by delaying the Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse window, very much in the same way as you delay the non-apoc window.

Do not stress too much if you end up messing this up. Since the gain is relatively low (around 1% or so), you do not lose too much by completely ignoring it. Focus on mechanics before you start min-maxing Festermight Icon Festermight!

9.7.

Rotten Touch

Rotten Touch Icon Rotten Touch is a talent picked on pretty much all bosses in the raid. It makes your Death Coil Icon Death Coils that consume Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom increase the damage your target takes from Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows by 50% for 10 seconds. To properly game this, we want to ensure that we use more Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows when the buff is up, compared to when it is not.

Doing this in practice is all about managing your Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound stacks on your target. If you are setting at 0-1 stacks and get a Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom proc, you will have to Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike quite before you can actually use lots of Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows. Because of this, we want to sit at high Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound stacks when we do not have the proc. Once we get it, we can then go down to 0, using lots of empowered Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike/ Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows to do so, exactly what we want.

As a summary, go high on Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds when you do not have the Rotten Touch Icon Rotten Touch debuff on the target (still not overcapping). Once you apply Rotten Touch Icon Rotten Touch, go back down to 0. This all happens in parallel to managing your stacks for Festermight Icon Festermight and Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse which will take priority! Also, for reference, playing around this perfectly adds at most 1% more DPS.

9.8.

Summon Gargoyle Death Coil Priority

We have previously discussed the rotation during Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle, highlighting the high priority on spending Runic Power to buff the cooldown. Putting Death Coil Icon Death Coil at the top of the priority during the entire duration of Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle is not the optimal way to play, however!

The value of using a Death Coil Icon Death Coil is directly proportional to the number of Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle casts that will be buffed by said coil. The first couple of Death Coil Icon Death Coils are incredibly valuable since they buff all the casts of the CD. Compare that to the final Death Coil Icon Death Coil that might only buff a single cast. Furthermore, the buffing here is additive, meaning that each coil essentially just adds a flat amount. It is only really Festermight Icon Festermight, stacking up towards the end of the cooldown, that means later coils add slightly more damage per cast.

The optimization that comes into play here is the priority of Festermight Icon Festermight stacking vs Death Coil Icon Death Coil usage. As we reach the end of the window, using Death Coil Icon Death Coil to buff that final cast ends up being less valuable than building a Festermight Icon Festermight stack to buff said cast. One adds a flat amount of damage, the other increases the damage by a %. To make this trade-off even more clear, imagine an infinite Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle. Let's assume the base damage of Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle is 1, and using Death Coil Icon Death Coil adds 1 extra damage to this. The first Death Coil Icon Death Coil will improve the damage by 100%. However, the 100th will add less than 1% extra damage. At this point, it's clear that buffing your strength by 1% ends up being more valuable!

The reality is not that cut and dry, but you can still apply the following tactic to your Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle. At the end of your window, prioritize using Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to go to 0 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds above spending your Runic Power ASAP. Still, do not use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike above Death Coil Icon Death Coil, only Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to 0 Wounds!

10.

Changelog

  • 07 May 2024: Reviewed for 10.2.7.
  • 22 Apr. 2024: Updated for Season 4, added detailed trinket use with all new trinkets.
  • 20 Mar. 2024: Reviewed for Patch 10.2.6.
  • 14 Feb. 2024: Added detail on Rotten Touch gameplay.
  • 23 Jan. 2024: Updated Fyralath priority after changes.
  • 15 Jan. 2024: Reviewed for Patch 10.2.5.
  • 20 Dec. 2023: Minor clarifications to single target priotiy.
  • 12 Dec. 2023: Added Legendary to Opener.
  • 02 Dec. 2023: Updated Wound Rotation section.
  • 24 Nov. 2023: Added macros to opener section.
  • 12 Nov. 2023: Clarified unholy opener with Dark Transformation and Summon Gargoyle on the same line.
  • 06 Nov. 2023: Updated for Patch 10.2.
  • 04 Sep. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.1.7
  • 21 Jul. 2023: Added Mirror to Detailed trinket usage.
  • 10 Jul. 2023: Updated for Patch 10.1.5.
  • 25 Jun. 2023: Max 4 coils to exactly 3 coils in opener.
  • 14 Jun. 2023: Added more detailed trinket and racial timings.
  • 24 May 2023: Resolved issues with the opener not displaying properly.
  • 03 May 2023: Added Death and Decay to opener and expanded cooldown usage section with DnD.
  • 01 May 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.1.
  • 29 Apr. 2023: Reviewed and Updated for patch 10.1.
  • 15 Apr. 2023: Expanded on Disease build rotation.
  • 20 Mar. 2023: Updated rotation for Patch 10.0.7.
  • 24 Jan. 2023: Reviewed for Patch 10.0.5.
  • 11 Dec. 2022: Updated for Dragonflight Season 1.
  • 28 Nov. 2022: Updated for Dragonflight launch.
  • 25 Oct. 2022: Updated for Dragonflight pre-patch.
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