Unholy Death Knight PvP Talents and Builds (Shadowlands / 9.0.5)

Last updated on Mar 20, 2021 at 11:20 by Flarkness 13 comments

Choosing the right PvP and PvE talents is a prerequisite to proper performance in PvP. This guide goes through the various talent choices available to you as an Unholy Death Knight and gives you the best combinations you can take.

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


Talent Choices for Unholy Death Knights

Level Choices
15 Infected Claws Infected Claws All Will Serve All Will Serve Clawing Shadows Clawing Shadows
25 Bursting Sores Bursting Sores Ebon Fever ? Ebon Fever Unholy Blight Unholy Blight
30 Grip of the Dead ? Grip of the Dead Death's Reach Death's Reach Asphyxiate Asphyxiate
35 Pestilent Pustules Pestilent Pustules Harbinger of Doom Harbinger of Doom Soul Reaper ? Soul Reaper
40 Spell Eater Spell Eater Wraith Walk Wraith Walk Death Pact Death Pact
45 Pestilence Pestilence Unholy Pact Unholy Pact Defile Defile
50 Army of the Damned Army of the Damned Summon Gargoyle Summon Gargoyle Unholy Assault Unholy Assault

While the above table provides a generally accurate overview of the viability of talents, some finer points are discussed in the sections that follow, and we recommend you read those for a deeper understanding.


Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

All 3 talents in this row have value. Infected Claws Icon Infected Claws provides another form of wound generation, and also resets the duration of wounds on a target when you are in crowd control, helping to retain your stacks. You will generally use this talent when using Necrotic Strike Icon Necrotic Strike.

Clawing Shadows Icon Clawing Shadows provides a potent ranged spender which keeps pressure up even when you are being kited. It also scales with your Mastery, and Necrotic Aura Icon Necrotic Aura which heavily increases its value. You will generally avoid this talent when using Necrotic Strike Icon Necrotic Strike.

All Will Serve Icon All Will Serve is passive chip damage that adds up over the course of an arena.


Tier 2 (Level 25) Talents

Ebon Fever Icon Ebon Fever provides a pretty sizeable buff to your rot pressure and is totally passive, making it simple to use.

Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight deals a solid amount of damage when fully stacked, and increases the damage of your minions. This adds another source of damage to Unholy, making it even more difficult to peel the rot pressure and sustained output. This is a very good talent.

Bursting Sores Icon Bursting Sores could potentially see play against melee cleaves, as it dramatically increases in value in AoE situations. This also increases the healing absorption done by Necrotic Strike Icon Necrotic Strike, making it a strong pick if using that talent.


Tier 3 (Level 30) Talents

Asphyxiate Icon Asphyxiate is almost always going to be the pick in this row. However, Grip of the Dead Icon Grip of the Dead could see play in niche setups that use the legendary Phearomones Icon Phearomones which rely on the enemy team to remain within your Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay.


Tier 4 (Level 35) Talents

Harbinger of Doom Icon Harbinger of Doom has added value as you can use the free Death Coil Icon Death Coil procs to heal yourself during Lichborne Icon Lichborne. It also works well with the talent Army of the Damned Icon Army of the Damned as it helps reset the cooldowns of your burst windows.

Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper is a solid execute, with enough Mastery, and could help push a target into the execute window of other classes like Warrior or Windwalker Monk.


Tier 5 (Level 40) Talents

Spell Eater Icon Spell Eater is extremely potent because even when you are not able to get perfect use out of its survivability increase, the duration increase allows to prevent and immune more crowd control effects. This stops you from being peeled during your burst windows.

Wraith Walk Icon Wraith Walk helps deal with some of DK's mobility issues. It is on a fairly long cooldown, but helps tremendously if you are rooted after your healer has already dispelled, or if you are LoS.

Death Pact Icon Death Pact is very meta-dependant. In dampening metas with a lot of sustain, and passive self-healing, it is very poor. In burst matchups, with windows where you need to survive just a few more seconds, it is fantastic.


Tier 6 (Level 45) Talents

Unholy Pact Icon Unholy Pact far outweighs the other choices in this tier. It adds a passive amount of additional AoE damage to Dark Transformation Icon Dark Transformation as well as granting you Strength which simply increases all of your damage during that window.


Tier 7 (Level 50) Talents

Unholy Assault Icon Unholy Assault provides another ability to your burst window and helps to setup Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse by immediately giving you 4 wounds. Furthermore, it increases the potency of that window by granting haste to you and all your minions.

Army of the Damned Icon Army of the Damned gives a little more damage to Apocalypse Icon Apocalypse and Raise Abomination Icon Raise Abomination as well as reducing their cooldowns. These quicker cooldowns help keep your pressure available and more consistent. This synergizes very well with Harbinger of Doom Icon Harbinger of Doom.


PvP Talents for Unholy Death Knights

You can choose 3 of the following PvP talents. Each of them has their uses, but some are better for certain strategies than others. The top three choices are the most useful, but can be replaced with other PvP talents, depending on your team's goal.


Mandatory PvP Talents

Raise Abomination Icon Raise Abomination applies wounds, your disease, and deals a fair amount of damage. This is a lot of value from one cooldown, and helps establish the powerful burst window that Unholy provides right now. As mentioned, this talent has great synergy with Army of the Damned Icon Army of the Damned.

Necrotic Aura Icon Necrotic Aura is very powerful when paired with a teammate that also does magical damage. For Unholy DK, a significant portion of your damage comes from spell damage.


Situational PvP Talents

Decomposing Aura Icon Decomposing Aura is very disruptive to the enemy team, with a near permanent max health reduction on your main target. This makes your burst windows much more impactful, because they have 15% less health to go through every time you set one up. It also lowers the effect of their heals that are determined by a percentage of their maximum health.

Dark Simulacrum Icon Dark Simulacrum is one of the more interesting spells in the game currently. It is extremely powerful against spammable CC effects, such as Polymorph Icon Polymorph, or Cyclone Icon Cyclone as well as powerful healing cooldowns such as Life Cocoon Icon Life Cocoon. It is a neat addition to Death Knight's toolkit, while having a high skill-cap and awareness requirement.

Dome of Ancient Shadow Icon Dome of Ancient Shadow is very powerful for team survivability and should be used in almost every spell cleave where you will not be targeted. It provides an answer to the 'setups' of any comp that deals with magical damage. This also handles rot comps extremely well, as stacking in it allows your team to stabilize through the sustained pressure.

Cadaverous Pallor actually has a niche against spell cleaves, despite being underrepresented, if you are fairly certain you will be the target. The survivability that this provides over the length of the game against two spellcasters is unmatched.

Necrotic Strike Icon Necrotic Strike is extremely impactful, as the healing absorption ignores all damage reduction effects, including enemy defensive cooldowns and other mitigations. It is entirely dependant on how high health pools are relative to damage done, which makes it fluctuate in value depending on the tuning of that season.



  • 20 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
  • 20 Feb. 2021: Updated to highlight Necrotic Strike synergies.
  • 05 Dec. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands Season 1.
  • 26 Oct. 2020: Updated Talent Table.
  • 14 Oct. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands pre-patch.
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