Unholy Death Knight PvP Rotation and Playstyle (Shadowlands / 9.1)

Last updated on Jul 04, 2021 at 14:24 by Flarkness 13 comments

PvP requires you to perform various actions in the course of a duel, match, or battleground: interrupting/silencing enemies, damaging them, bursting them down, defending yourself, keeping yourself alive, etc.. It is a game mode that fully utilises your kit, especially spells that are rarely used in PvE. On this page, we go through all the spells you need to use in PvP as an Unholy Death Knight, how you should use them, and we explain what your playstyle should be.

This page is part of our Unholy Death Knight PvP Guide.

1.

Playstyle for Unholy Death Knights

The Unholy Death Knight provides both powerful rot pressure in the form of diseases and pets that deal damage regardless of crowd control done to you, as well as high burst damage from the powerful cooldowns at its disposal. It also comes equipped with a great deal of utility from Death Grip Icon Death Grip, Mind Freeze Icon Mind Freeze, Leap Icon Leap, Asphyxiate Icon Asphyxiate and Gnaw Icon Gnaw. All of these tools can be very disruptive to the enemy team, specifically casters, so while they are difficult to use mastering them will be extremely beneficial. Furthermore, once you are very familiar with the rotation and using all your tools properly, the vast amount of ways you have to deal damage will make enemy teams unable to properly deal with it.

1.1.

Before Gates Open

Make sure to communicate with your teammates the kill target and the grip target. You will be pulling one player to another in order to set up AoE burst on the two stacked targets. Generally, the grip target is the healer, but sometimes it has to be the other DPS, namely against caster cleaves.

1.2.

Using your Ghoul's Abilities

What makes Unholy Death Knights so unique is that they have access to a ghoul by using Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead (you also get a skeleton minion if you are using the All Will Serve Icon All Will Serve talent).

Your normal ghoul has the following abilities:

  • Claw Icon Claw — deals physical damage. Your ghoul should always be attacking your main target.
  • Gnaw Icon Gnaw — a 1-second stun. This is great to use on a healer or caster as a pseudo-interrupt or a way to deal with impactful casts that are not kickable.
  • Leap Icon Leap — leap behind an enemy target. This makes it faster for your pet to swap targets if you are switching your main target.
  • Huddle Icon Huddle — reduces all damage taken by 50%, but prevents all other actions for 10 seconds. This should be used when the enemy team is focusing your pet.

These are your ghoul's normal abilities. However, Unholy Death Knights have an ability called Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation that is normally used during their burst rotation. This empowers your ghoul's damage and abilities dramatically.

Here is what Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation does to your ghoul's abilities.

  • Claw Icon Claw — Deals Shadow damage to all enemies nearby the monstrosity. This gives you cleave damage if the enemy team is stacked.
  • Gnaw Icon Gnaw — a 2-second stun. This is great to use on a healer or caster as a pseudo-interrupt or a way to deal with impactful casts that are not kickable. The extra second makes it significantly more threatening as you will generally use it with the enemy team is in a tough spot.
  • Leap Icon Leap — Interrupts and roots your target for 2 seconds. This will primarily be used on the enemy healer if they are in range. You should also use it to interrupt crowd control like Polymorph Icon Polymorph or Cyclone Icon Cyclone.
  • Huddle Icon Huddle — reduces all damage taken to your ghoul by 50% for 10 seconds. This just makes it so you can use other abilities while Putrid Bulwark Icon Putrid Bulwark is active. Putrid Bulwark is the buff that is placed on your ghoul.
2.

The Opener

3.

The Opener

The opener refers to your team's opening crowd control chain and damage done as soon as you get out of the gates. The main goal in the opener is to force your enemies to use their cooldowns and/or trinket. To do this, Unholy Death Knights will set up an AoE burst window for them and their partner with Death Grip Icon Death Grip.

This is the rotation you should use on your target at the beginning of the game.

  1. Use Chains of Ice Icon Chains of Ice to keep your primary target slowed.
  2. Use Outbreak Icon Outbreak to apply Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague.
  3. Use Raise Abomination Icon Raise Abomination to begin applying Wounds and dealing damage.
  4. Use Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight to set up your burst.
  5. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to finish applying 4-5 Wounds to the target or use Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault if you are using this talent.
  6. Immediately coordinate with your teammate to begin your burst rotation.

It is important to note that there can only be 6 stacks of Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound on a target at one time. Once you are at 4-5 Wounds, you should not waste additional Runes on Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike. This will severely hamper your burst window, as you will not have the resources you need during it.

4.

Damage Techniques

4.1.

Burst Damage

Unholy has massive single target burst windows, that can also cleave and rot nearby enemies. Making good use of these windows both by having the enemy team in CC, and also by making sure your setup globals (shown above) are active prior to this window is extremely important. This will allow you to focus your global cooldowns and your Runes on burst damage.

  1. Use Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation.
  2. Use Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse. This will spend 4 of your Wounds on the target.
  3. Use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to spend Wounds.
  4. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil if you have a high amount of Runic Power or if you get a Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom proc.
  5. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to reapply Wounds to your target only once they are fully spent.
4.2.

Sustained damage

Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available.

  1. Maintain Chains of Ice Icon Chains of Ice on all targets to hinder their movement.
  2. Use Outbreak Icon Outbreak to maintain Virulent Plague Icon Virulent Plague.
  3. Use Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike to generate and refresh Festering Wound Icon Festering Wound.
  4. Use Scourge Strike Icon Scourge Strike to spend Wounds.
  5. Use Death Coil Icon Death Coil if you have a high amount of Runic Power or if you get a Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom proc.
  6. Use Death Strike Icon Death Strike if you are about to cap on Runic Power and you are being attacked.
  7. Use Epidemic Icon Epidemic to generate spread pressure or stop enemy drinks.
5.

Defensive Techniques

Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell is your primary defensive. This is very strong against caster classes. With a relatively short cooldown, use this if you are being focused and need to negate incoming spell damage.

Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude is another strong defensive. This will give you immunity to all stuns and reduce all damage on you. Use this when you are in a stun and being focused.

Lichborne Icon Lichborne allows you to use Death Coil Icon Death Coil on yourself to provide solid healing. This can be done even when you do not have a target nearby and increases in value with Strength procs, unlike Death Strike Icon Death Strike. Therefore it has great situational uses. It also gives you 10% leech, which provides additional healing when damage is done.

Death Strike Icon Death Strike is another primary defensive. If you are the primary target for the enemy team and have Runic Power, use Death Strike to heal yourself for a percentage of the damage that was dealt to you.

Death's Advance Icon Death's Advance, although not exactly a defensive ability, should be used when you need to get to an enemy or to avoid incoming crowd control.

Wraith Walk Icon Wraith Walk, similar to Death's Advance Icon Death's Advance, is not exactly a defensive ability and should be used when you need to get to an enemy or to avoid incoming crowd control.

6.

Macros

It is advised to use Macros to use abilities on enemies or allies without having to target them. For this reason, we have a page dedicated to them.

7.

Changelog

  • 04 Jul. 2021: Updated for Patch 9.1 of Shadowlands.
  • 20 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
  • 05 Dec. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands Season 1.
  • 14 Oct. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands pre-patch.
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