Unholy Death Knight DPS Spec, Builds, and Talents — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1.5

Last updated on Dec 14, 2018 at 12:41 by Abyssalwave 36 comments

On this page, you will find out the best talents for each tier for your Unholy Death Knight in World of Warcraft — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1.5. We also have default talent lists for various types of content, such as raiding or Mythic+. If you play with Warmode on, we have your PvP talents covered as well.

1. Talent Choices for Unholy Death Knight

Level Choices
56 Infected Claws ? Infected Claws All Will Serve All Will Serve Clawing Shadows Clawing Shadows
57 Bursting Sores Bursting Sores Ebon Fever Ebon Fever Unholy Blight Unholy Blight
58 Grip of the Dead ? Grip of the Dead Death's Reach ? Death's Reach Asphyxiate ? Asphyxiate
60 Pestilent Pustules Pestilent Pustules Harbinger of Doom Harbinger of Doom Soul Reaper Soul Reaper
75 Spell Eater ? Spell Eater Wraith Walk ? Wraith Walk Death Pact ? Death Pact
90 Pestilence Pestilence Defile ? Defile Epidemic Epidemic
100 Army of the Damned ? Army of the Damned Unholy Frenzy Unholy Frenzy Summon Gargoyle Summon Gargoyle

Talents can be freely changed when out of combat and in a rested XP area (such as an inn or a capital city). Moreover, Tome of the Tranquil Mind Icon Tome of the Tranquil Mind and Codex of the Tranquil Mind Icon Codex of the Tranquil Mind can be used to temporarily allow players to change talents anywhere, as long as they are out of combat.

2. Tier 1 (Level 56) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Infected Claws ? Infected Claws All Will Serve All Will Serve Clawing Shadows Clawing Shadows
  • Infected Claws Icon Infected Claws grants your ghoul's Claw Icon Claw a 30% chance to apply Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound on the target.
  • All Will Serve Icon All Will Serve causes Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead to summon a skeletal minion in addition to the ghoul. The skeletal minion lasts indefinitely and it uses a ranged attack against your target and cleave onto targets nearby your focus.
  • Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows replaces Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike. It has a 30-yard range (instead of being melee only) and it deals all Shadow damage instead of Scourge Strike's part-Physical and part-Shadow damage.

Infected Claws Icon Infected Claws is currently a viable choice for most AoE situations, due to the cleave ability of your ghoul applying Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds to multiple targets. This has good synergy with the talent Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores and the ability Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay.

Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows is currently the best choice for situations where you will be away from your target and want to maintain high uptime. Another reason this talent is a strong single target choice is due to the damage being 100% Shadow damage, whereas Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike is half-Physical, half-Shadow, making it scale better with Unholy Mastery.

All Will Serve Icon All Will Serve is the best single target choice currently, however it does add value to AoE situations. Currently, the Risen Skulker that is summoned when this is talented attacks the target near your focus.

3. Tier 2 (Level 57) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Bursting Sores Bursting Sores Ebon Fever Ebon Fever Unholy Blight Unholy Blight
  • Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores increases the damage of bursting Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound by 25%, and also causes all enemies within 8 yards of a burst Festering Wound to take Shadow damage.
  • Ebon Fever Icon Ebon Fever passively reduces the duration of Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague by 50% while causing it to deal 15% more damage.
  • Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight grants you a buff that, for 6 seconds, causes you to infect nearby enemies with a disease which lasts 14 seconds from the moment of application. It has a 45-second cooldown.

Ebon Fever Icon Ebon Fever is currently the best option for single-target situations. It does require you to spend more Runes during a fight on refreshing Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague, however the damage this provides is very powerful.

Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores is currently the best option for AoE/cleave situations and Mythic+. A good way to use this talent in AoE is the apply Festering Wound Icon Festering Wounds on multiple targets then casting Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay then casting Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to pop multiple Festering Wounds in an AoE setting.

Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight is not far behind Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores for AoE and requires less setup to play with. Unholy Blight is behind Ebon Fever Icon Ebon Fever for single target, currently.

4. Tier 3 (Level 58) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Grip of the Dead ? Grip of the Dead Death's Reach ? Death's Reach Asphyxiate ? Asphyxiate

None of the talents in this tier improve your DPS, but they still have a lot of potential usefulness.

Grip of the Dead Icon Grip of the Dead should be used if you are in need of a slow. This effect decreases over the duration of Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay, meaning your Death and Decay will slow the enemies standing in it for the entirety of the duration (although not by much by the end).

Death's Reach Icon Death's Reach is a comfortable pick for fights that require you to control adds using your Death Grip Icon Death Grip (Aggramar for instance).

Asphyxiate Icon Asphyxiate provides a stun which can be very useful in dungeons, Mythic+, and certain raid encounters.

5. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Pestilent Pustules Pestilent Pustules Harbinger of Doom Harbinger of Doom Soul Reaper Soul Reaper

Pestilent Pustules Icon Pestilent Pustules is currently the easiest option and is competitive with Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper.

Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper is a great option and can lead to more damage single target than Pestilent Pustules Icon Pestilent Pustules, however it is a more difficult talent to play with making it harder for new players.

Harbinger of Doom Icon Harbinger of Doom is currently not as strong as the other 2 talents in this tier.

6. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Spell Eater ? Spell Eater Wraith Walk ? Wraith Walk Death Pact ? Death Pact
  • Spell Eater Icon Spell Eater increases the absorption capacity of Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell by 30%, and extends its duration by 5 seconds.
  • Wraith Walk Icon Wraith Walk is a channeled spell that increases your movement speed by 70% for 4 seconds. While channeling, your movement speed cannot be reduced below 170%. It has a 1-minute cooldown.
  • Death Pact Icon Death Pact heals you for 50% of your maximum health, but absorbs healing equal for 30% of your maximum health for 15 seconds. It has a 2-minute cooldown.

The talents in this tier do not increase your DPS either, but they can provide you with great benefits during raid encounters. They are quite situational, so you will have to choose based on the requirements of the fight.

Spell Eater Icon Spell Eater is the preferred choice in fights with large amounts of magic damage, allowing you to survive if you make a mistake, to soak the damage of certain abilities, or to avoid certain mechanics altogether.

Wraith Walk Icon Wraith Walk is a great movement speed cooldown that, if chosen, gives you a second movement speed cooldown (along with Death's Advance Icon Death's Advance). This should be chosen if you need a faster movement speed cooldown than the 30% movement speed increase of Death's Advance, or if you need this talent along with Death's Advance.

Finally, Death Pact Icon Death Pact provides you with a large heal which may be useful in Mythic+ or some raid encounters.

7. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Pestilence Pestilence Defile ? Defile Epidemic Epidemic
  • Pestilence Icon Pestilence causes your Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay to have a 10% chance to apply a Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound to any enemies standing in your Death and Decay.
  • Defile Icon Defile replaces Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay. With every tick, the Defile area of effect will increase if there are any enemies standing in it. Your Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike also gains a cleaving effect while you are in your own Defile. Finally Defile has a 20 second cooldown (as opposed to Death and Decay's 30 second cooldown).
  • Epidemic Icon Epidemic is an active ability that costs 30 Runic Power. When used, it causes all instances of your Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague (within 100 yards) to deal Shadow damage to the affected enemy, as well as a small amount of additional Shadow damage to all other enemies around them.

Currently, Pestilence Icon Pestilence is the best option for single target fights. Playing this talent will require you to cast Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay in a single target setting where the target will not move out of your Death and Decay. If you expect the target to move when you would cast Death and Decay, you should hold off on casting it.

Epidemic Icon Epidemic is the best option for and Mythic+ and AoE burst fights. If you are running this talent then you would replace Death Coil Icon Death Coil with Epidemic when there are 2 or more targets.

Defile Icon Defile is currently not as strong as Epidemic is for AoE/cleave situations for open world. For single target situations it is close to Pestilence, making it a viable option.

8. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents for Unholy Death Knights

Army of the Damned ? Army of the Damned Unholy Frenzy Unholy Frenzy Summon Gargoyle Summon Gargoyle

Currently, Unholy Frenzy Icon Unholy Frenzy is the best option for both single target and AoE fights. Army of the Damned Icon Army of the Damned is a close alternative and is much easier to play with if you are newer to Unholy.

Summon Gargoyle Icon Summon Gargoyle is currently not as strong as the other 2 options. If this talent sims close to Unholy Frenzy and you enjoyed the Dark Arbiter playstyle of Legion then you can try playing this talent.

9. PvP Talents (War Mode)

In Battle for Azeroth, there will be the option to go into "War Mode". Enabling War Mode provides the following benefits:

  • PvP talents enabled in the outdoor world.
  • 10% increase in World Quest rewards at maximum level.
  • 10% more experience gained while leveling.
  • Earn Conquest Points which can reward gear every week.

With the benefits of enabling War Mode for leveling and PvE content, it is recommended to enable the feature to maximize your leveling and rewards at maximum level. However, you will make yourself available for open world PvP, and the possibility to be "ganked" while leveling or doing World Quests exists.

9.1. Unholy Death Knight War Mode Talents

In this section we will rank the PvP talents best for leveling and doing solo / small group PvE content. Below is a ranking of both General PvP Talents and Unholy Death Knight-specific PvE talents.

9.1.1. General PvP Talents

  1. Adaptation Icon Adaptation is likely your most passive choice since it will automatically remove loss of control effects over 5 seconds. It is recommended for leveling to take this PvP talent.
  2. Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion is an on-use ability that removes all movement impairing effects and all loss of control effects.
  3. Relentless Icon Relentless is also a passive ability but it does not automatically remove crowd control abilities but instead reduces the duration.

9.1.2. Unholy Death Knight PvP Talents

  1. Life and Death Icon Life and Death causes targets afflicted by your Festering Wounds when they heal to also heal you for 10% of the amount. It also causes your Virulent Plague to deal 400% of the normal eruption damage when it is dispelled. This is powerful for world PvP however it does not get much value when just World Questing.
  2. Necromancer's Bargain Icon Necromancer's Bargain reduces the cooldown of your of your Apocalypse by 45 seconds however your Apocalypse doesn't summon ghouls but instead applies Crpyt Fever to the target. Crpyt fever deals up to 8% of the targets maximum health as Shadow damage over 4 seconds. Healing spells casted on the target refresh the duration of Crpyt Fever. This is a strong choice for World PvP.
  3. Raise Abomination Icon Raise Abomination replaces Army of the Dead and is a 1.5 minute cooldown that raises an Abomination for 25 seconds that applys Festering Wounds when it melees a target and affects all nearby targets with Virulent Plague. This is very strong for both World Questing and World PvP.
  4. Lichborne Icon Lichborne replaces Icebound Fortitude. It is a 1 minute cooldown that makes you Undead for 10 seconds, reducing the damage you take by 30% while also making you immune to Stun, Snake, Fear, and Root effects. While you are under the effects of Lichborne you cannot move faster than 50% normal speed.
  5. Anti-Magic Zone Icon Anti-Magic Zone creates a bubble on the ground that lasts for 10 seconds and reduces spell damage taken by raid members inside it by 60%. It has a 2-minute cooldown and it is a good talent if you are expecting mostly magic damage.
  6. Heartstop Aura Icon Heartstop Aura decreases the cooldown recovery rate of abilities by 20% to all enemies within 8 yards. It provides a slight advantage over other players in longer fights.
  7. Necrotic Strike Icon Necrotic Strike is a melee ability that deals Plague damage and converts 1 Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound into a Necrotic Wound Icon Necrotic Wound. Necrotic Wounds absorb healing received by the target. This ability costs 1 Rune. This talent is only useful for world PvP situations.
  8. Reanimation Icon Reanimation reanimates a nearby corpse summoning a zombie with 5 health for 20 seconds which slowly moves towards the target. If it reaches your target, it explodes, stunning all enemies within 5 yards for 3 seconds and dealing 10% of the enemies' health in Shadow damage. This ability costs 1 Rune. This can be a powerful talent for both open world situations and Battle for Azeroth leveling.
  9. Cadaverous Pallor Icon Cadaverous Pallor is a passive that has a 20% activation chance when you are hit by a spell; when this activates, the damage of that spell is completely absorbed and converted into a disease on yourself dealing Nature damage over time. It allows you the manage and survive through bigger magical hits by acting as a psuedo stagger effect.
  10. Necrotic Aura Icon Necrotic Aura causes all enemies within 12 yards to take 8% increased magical damage. This has good synergy with abilities such as Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague and Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight.
  11. Decomposing Aura Icon Decomposing Aura is a passive that causes all enemies within 10 yards to lose up to 3% of their maximum health every 2 seconds, stacking up to 5 times, lasting for 6 seconds. Great talent for big trash pulls and larger fights.

Raise Abomination Icon Raise Abomination, Transfusion Icon Transfusion, Reanimation Icon Reanimation, and Necrotic Aura Icon Necrotic Aura are good choices in PvE situations due to them adding to your damage output. Dark Simulacrum Icon Dark Simulacrum, Heartstop Aura Icon Heartstop Aura, Necrotic Strike Icon Necrotic Strike, Life and Death Icon Life and Death, Cadaverous Pallor Icon Cadaverous Pallor, and Decomposing Aura Icon Decomposing Aura have more of a place in PvP as opposed to open world PvE content, as they are tough to use on NPCs. Anti-Magic Zone Icon Anti-Magic Zone can be used well in both PvP and PvE situations.

10. Changelog

  • 14 Dec. 2018: Updated the PvP talent section.
  • 09 Dec. 2018: This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.1 and no changes are necessary.
  • 26 Aug. 2018: Updated for the All Will Serve fix.
  • 12 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
  • 06 Aug. 2018: Fixed a typo in the War Mode section.
  • 26 Jul. 2018: Updated level 56 talent choices to be more accurate.
  • 21 Jul. 2018: Updated the talent page with more detailed explanations on certain talents.
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