Unholy Death Knight PvP Talents and Builds (Shadowlands / 9.1)
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
|15||✔ Infected Claws||✔ All Will Serve||✔ Clawing Shadows|
|25||✔ Bursting Sores||? Ebon Fever||✔ Unholy Blight|
|30||? Grip of the Dead||✘ Death's Reach||✔ Asphyxiate|
|35||✔ Pestilent Pustules||? Harbinger of Doom||? Soul Reaper|
|40||✔ Spell Eater||✔ Wraith Walk||✔ Death Pact|
|45||✘ Pestilence||✔ Unholy Pact||? Defile|
|50||✔ Army of the Damned||✘ Summon Gargoyle||✔ 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 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. This increases the effect of Wound-bursting talents like Pestilent Pustules and Necrotic Wounds.
All Will Serve is passive chip damage that adds up over the course of an arena.
Tier 2 (Level 25) Talents
Ebon Fever provides a pretty sizeable buff to your rot pressure and is totally passive, making it simple to use.
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 can potentially see play against melee cleaves, as it dramatically increases in value in AoE situations. The single target pressure is not quite as noticeable.
Tier 3 (Level 30) Talents
Asphyxiate is almost always going to be the pick in this row. However, Grip of the Dead could see play in niche setups that use the legendary Phearomones which rely on the enemy team to remain within your Death and Decay.
Tier 4 (Level 35) Talents
Pestilent Pustules is the best resource generation talent on this row and helps smooth out the rotation of Unholy. There are a lot of extra wound generation and bursting tools in Unholy PvP talents giving this additional value in a PvP environment.
Harbinger of Doom has added value as you can use the free Death Coil procs to heal yourself during Lichborne. It also works well with the talent Army of the Damned as it helps reset the cooldowns of your burst windows.
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 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 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 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 far outweighs the other choices in this tier. It adds a passive amount of additional AoE damage to Dark Transformation as well as granting you Strength which simply increases all of your damage during that window.
Defile is precisely useful when you are using the Night Fae Covenant as it will lower the cooldown and increase the damage of your Covenant ability. This makes it a great pick in that exact setup, but very poor otherwise.
Tier 7 (Level 50) Talents
Unholy Assault provides another ability to your burst window and helps to setup 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 gives a little more damage to Apocalypse and 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.
PvP Talents for Unholy Death Knights
You can choose 3 of the following PvP talents. Each of them have their uses, but some are better for certain strategies than others. These talents are sorted into General PvP Talents that can be applied to almost any situation, and Situational PvP Talents that require certain enemy compositions, brackets, or environments to excel in. Unholy has a great deal of viable PvP talents, so all the best use cases will be outlined here for you to choose the proper three for the type of content or composition you are playing.
General PvP Talents
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.
Strangulate is a very impactful crowd control effect. It costs no resources, has no cast time, and lasts 4 seconds on a short 1-minute cooldown. Because of this, you will tend to setup your own CC chain with Asphyxiate into Strangulate. This is going to be very difficult for a healer to deal with, because even if they use their trinket on one effect, they still have to sit the other. You will want to use your burst cooldowns during these windows to make sure the CC will result in a kill.
Necrotic Wounds is a very powerful Mortal Wounds-type effect that stacks with other effects of similar nature. It is a somewhat tricky talent to use, as when you burst a wound, you will start a 12-second timer. Any additional wounds you burst in this period stacks this Mortal Wounds effect higher and it will cap out at 6. However, it will not reset the duration of the effect. Therefore, you will want to burst as many wounds at the beginning of each of these 12-second windows as you can, resulting in you pooling your wounds near the end of the windows. If you can master this cyclical pattern, you will be extremely disruptive toward enemy healers that will struggle to heal through the 30% healing reduction at maximum stacks!
Necrotic Aura is a very simple talent that will increase the magical damage taken by any enemy within an 8-yard radius of you. All spellcasters are primarily magic damage, but many melee such as fellow Death Knights or Demon Hunters will also do a fair amount of magic damage. Therefore, if your composition could use just a little bit more "oomph" to land kills, this talent is a very simple pick that will increase all your pressure in every window.
Doomburst is a very synergistic talent as there are a lot of current effects that happen when a wound is burst. Having another way to burst wounds, especially at a range, can be extremely impactful. Furthermore, if you are using it at range you can apply a massive 90% slow to the enemy, allowing you to stop them from kiting for a brief moment allowing you to increase uptime. This is another pressure-oriented PvP talent but can be very impactful.
Situational PvP Talents
Life and Death is a PvP Talent that should only be used in Rated Battlegrounds. It scales tremendously well with the amount of players on the enemy team, and RBGs have the most players available in them for rated content. The more players getting dispelled and healed the more impact it will have and it is practically a mandatory talent for that environment.
Dark Simulacrum is one of the more interesting spells in the game currently. It is extremely powerful against spammable CC effects, such as Polymorph, or Cyclone as well as powerful healing cooldowns such as 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 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.
Spellwarden is a remarkably powerful survivability tool. It gets most of its value against wizard compositions, but can actually provide a lot of healing against any class with spell damage including other Death Knights or Retribution Paladins. This talent also provides a lot of disruption in the form of cast speed reduction making it a no-brainer into any spell cleaves.
Death's Echo is the ultimate utility answer. A second charge of very impactful mobility and anti-mobility options can be used against any composition you want to disrupt as much as possible. Compositions like Rogue/Mage and Hunter/Feral are prime examples where this PVP talent would come in handy. You can even get a second charge of Death and Decay to stop enemy drinks, pull out players in stealth, or get tremendous synergy with the Covenant ability Death's Due.
- 04 Jul. 2021: Updated for Patch 9.1 of Shadowlands.
- 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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