Character Class

4.0.6 Unholy Death Knights: How To Guide

4.0.6 has seen Death Knights change yet again.  So in 4.0.3 Unholy DKs saw themselves torn between dual wield and 2h viability.  In 4.0.6 that all changes.  Some changes to our mastery are also being factored in so with all these changes, what is a Death Knight to do?  Well so many folks have contacted me saying they enjoyed my 4.0.1 DK posting, that I decided to write up one focusing on Unholy DKs first since they have been modified to hell and back (yes that was meant to be a pun).

Spec & Glyphs

Some of the biggest changes to Death Knights are the reduction in damage of our pets and our Death Coil.  Our mastery was renamed Dreadblade and now increases shadow damage per point of mastery.  This actually makes mastery a viable stat for Unholy Death Knights now.  Dual Wielding is effectively dead now that Sudden Doom only procs off main hand attacks.

So what does all this mean for our spec?  Well you want to start with the base 5/0/32.  This is with 4 free talent points at level 85.  These 4 points realistically can be put just about anywhere without truly impacting your DPS.  But where should you put these points?  Well you have some front runners.  You can put 2 points into Magic Suppression, this provides only slightly more runic power generation, but does provide a lot more survivability.  With many magic AoE fights in the current tier of raiding this isn’t a bad idea to use 2 of your 4 points here.

Another option is in the Frost tree, to put points into Runic Power Mastery, its not a bad option to bank extra runic power, but in my opinion its not entirely necessary as you shouldn’t stay maxed at 100 RP for very long anyway.  However 1 point here could be beneficial to help you avoid being capped too often and give you more room in your rotation for some more flexibility.

In the Blood tree, another option is Improved Blood Tap, this while it looks good on paper as a DPS improvement, it can be hard to work into your rotations.  So while you can throw 2 points into this if you feel confident in being able to work it into your rotation but you may only want to put in 1 point, you know dip your toe in the water to see how it is before you fully commit.  If you are sold on this, I urge you to put in 1 point, but then make it a point to work it into your rotation.  If you do and do it well, you can reconsider adding in another point.

Your glyphs haven’t changed much from 4.0.3

Your Prime glyphs should be Glyph of Raise Dead, Glyph of Scourge Strike and Glyph of Death Coil.

Your Major glyphs should be Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell, Glyph of Pestilence, Glyph of Blood Boil.

Your Minor glyphs do not matter much, now if you did go with Improved Blood Tap I recommend you using the Glyph of Blood Tap.  Two other minor glyphs I recommend are Glyph of Path of Frost and Glyph of Horn of Winter.  There aren’t many minor glyphs to choose from and these are just two that I use, but any you want are fine as they won’t noticeably impact your DPS.

Here is the Spec + Glyphs I would recommend for the level 85 Unholy DK: 6/1/34


The rotation for DKs still hasn’t changed since 4.0.1

Single Target Priority Rotation:

*This is done in Unholy Presence

  1. Get your Diseases up, and keep them up
  2. Activate Dark Transformation
  3. Scourge Strike if both Unholy and/or Death Runes are up
  4. Festering Strike if both pairs of Blood and Frost runes are up
  5. Death Coil on Sudden Doom proc or at 100 runic power
  6. Scourge Strike > Festering Strike > Death Coil > Horn of Winter

AoE Priority Rotation (3 or more mobs):

*This is done in Frost Presence

  1. Get your Diseases up and spread them with Pestilence
  2. Activate Dark Transformation
  3. Death and Decay
  4. Scourge Strike if both Unholy and/or Death Runes are up
  5. Blood Boil + Icy Touch if both pairs of Blood and Frost are up
  6. Death Coil on Sudden Doom proc
  7. Scourge Strike >Blood Boil + Icy Touch > Death Coil > Horn of Winter

Stat Priority

With 4.0.6 stat priority has changed slightly

  1. Strength
  2. Hit to Cap
  3. Haste
  4. Mastery
  5. Expertise to Cap
  6. Critical Strike

Reforging is simply taking an item thats lower on the priority list and upgrading to a stat that is higher on the priority.  It is recomended you reforge for Hit if you are below the hit cap.  Do not gem for hit if you can help it, and that leads me into…


The below are the gems you should be using.  However you should gem Bold Inferno Ruby in all gem slots unless the socket bonus is +20 strength or more.  Of course if you are a jewelcrafter, you will want to use the +strength epic JC gem that only JC can use.

Red: Bold Inferno Ruby

Yellow: Fierce Ember Topaz

Blue: Etched Demonseye

For your Meta gem you should use Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond, if this gem is not immediately available, the next best meta gem you should use Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond.

For assistance with gemming and reforging you can look to Ask Mr Robot, its a pretty solid tool to help you in some of your choices.


These are the best enchants per slot, if these are too expensive find something comparable

Managing Your Cooldowns

You have 6 main cooldowns

1. Empower Rune Weapon

The ability to activate all your runes can be very powerful in the right circumstances.  Where I like to use this is once I hit 2 Festering Strikes, thus turning both sets of my blood and frost runes into death runes, and both my unholy runes are down.  This lets me cast 6 Scourge Strikes in quick succession.  When would you do such a thing, well you need to time this up with a Heroism or Bloodlust AND after you blow through your runic power on Gargoyle and Death Coils to activate Dark Transformation (if available).

2. Blood Tap

The best time to use this, is in situations where you find yourself suddenly with an extra blood rune available, usually this will happen if you are in the middle of using Death and Decay or if your Festering Strike misses (which it shouldn’t) or you need to reapply diseases and your Outbreak is still on cooldown.  But as I mentioned earlier try to work this into your rotations where you can without sacrificing the priority order too much, could also be a good opportunity to use this right before a Heroism to have one more Scourge Strike to bump up runic power in order to prepare to summon Gargoyle

3. Outbreak

Outbreak instantly applies all your diseases to a mob.  This is so great, I can’t begin to tell you, especially on fights where you are constantly switching your targets, like Omnotron Defense System.  This should be used early in the fight, and whenever you need to reapply diseases if Festering Strike isn’t cutting it.  In some cases I have seen where Festering Strike while it hits, just based on timing the time on the diseases is just running out and may be better to just refresh them.

4. Army of the Dead

This is a channeled spell so its best used before a boss fight starts.  If you aren’t able to cast it before the fight starts you want to try and cast it during phase transitions to limit your DPS downtime.  Remember while channeling the spell you do no DPS.  Also fear not the ghouls will only taunt adds and not bosses.  The summoned ghouls will utilize your Attack Power, Haste and Hit at the time they are channeled, so if you have any buffs on you when summoned they will benefit from those (i.e. Heroism).

5. Gargoyle

This spell will eat up 60 of your runic power and will take a snapshot of your Attack Power and Haste at the moment it was cast.  So its best to time this up with a heroism or bloodlust.  Know when that will happen because you will want to make sure you have the 60 runic power to cast this.

6. Unholy Frenzy

This is an enrage that grants 20% melee haste for 30 seconds.  Awesome stuff especially when items like Gargoyle and Army of the Dead both work off of our Haste.  Something to keep in mind.  However because this is an enrage type spell, its actually best used on a Fury Warrior.  If there isn’t one in your group then you might as well as cast this on yourself.

Useful Macros

Some macros that I use greatly increase my effective DPS by helping to keep things timed and together.

1. Unholy Frenzy + Gargoyle

Replace “Warrior” with the name of your raid’s fury warrior to auto cast unholy frenzy on him/her when you hold down shift, if you do not have a fury warrior, the macro will cast this on you, then summon your Gargoyle.  This ties your Gargoyle to your unholy frenzy so it benefits from the extra haste if you cast it on yourself.

#showtooltip Unholy Frenzy
/cast [modifier:shift,target=Warrior] Unholy Frenzy
/cast [nomodifier] Unholy Frenzy
/cast [nomodifier] Summon Gargoyle

2. Scourge Strike + Ghoul Claw

Because having claw on auto attack still doesn’t optimize the use of this ability for your Ghoul, macro’ing it to your Scourge Strike will improve its use and increase your pet’s DPS

#showtooltip Scourge Strike
/cast [target=pettarget,harm,nodead][] Claw
/cast Scourge Strike

Helpful Add-Ons

1. IceHud

IceHud will show you your health, runic power, your target’s health along with your buffs and debuffs.  It will also show your runes and the cooldowns of them.

2. NeedToKnow

NeedtoKnow is a buff and debuff timing mod.  I use it to track Blood Plague, Frost Fever and Ebon Plague on my target, and keep these bars front and center.  You can also use it to track your periodic buffs like Horn of Winter and Unholy Frenzy, to help with timing of gargoyle and army of the dead.

3. OmniCC

OmniCC is just a great little utility mod that works well with most addons to include a countdown timer on the spells and effects that are on cooldown.  It works great with IceHud and Bartender (both of which I use).

5 Comments on 4.0.6 Unholy Death Knights: How To Guide

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  2. daisy

    how do i keep my runes up….i am one of those pathetic people that just cant get anything…i just don’t understand it…blizzard has got me so disgusted in my death knight and my hunter that i just want to go find the shit head who is responsible for nurfing my toons….i mean why change up something that is so good….just because some mf don’t like it and they want to cry like a baby and complain….her death knight killed me it is not fair they are stronger than my toon.,…. man i had my hunter finally at 12 k dps….after the patch before cata…her dps was 900 ….my death knight aceindeath….her dps was 11k….not good enough…but good for me…..after the patch before cata it was 700…blizz makes me sick….they are so fing stupid when it comes to these toons….so i started playing rift…..well playing rift for a while i started missing my dk….just to come back and read to remember that i still just cant understand the stats i can’t memorized nothing about it.,….my toons in rift has 9 souls….9 different soul trees (talent trees) you put points in….that should be more complicated than wow….but it isn’t….my fiance plays wow….and i really gripes my ass to see others play wow with ease….i can’t get into raids the guild i was in just ruined me they never let me do anything with them….i was just stupid….couldn’t understand anything….i went to raid….i froze ….they told me what to do….i couldn’t understand or comprehend what they were trying to tell me to do….is that stupid or what….i have three tumors on my brain…and it is hard for me to retain information….can you fix me…i am so fuing pissed right now…..why can’t i be like everyone else and just get the game down pat…i leveled 4 toons to 85….you would think i would understand something…..i do understand the stats…what stats they need….i never could find anything to read on what each state is for….the spells…there are so many of them i cant remember what is what…..runes…when someone says keep your runes up i don’t understand how to do it….gems….i gemmed my dk yesterday thought i was doing good i was proud of myself….dps at the dummie was 8k…i am proud enough of that. i get in a fuing random my dps is only 5k….what is the fucking difference between the dummies in org and the regular boss or trash mobs in a random….the dummies are level 85…..i am sorry for the cussing…i am just pissed….i wish i could give up on wow….but i like it too much….i hate cata…cata is the worse thing that happened for blizz….why? i was just now getting use to the lich king expansion…then cata came out. they promised my hunter will be op….bull shit man….i deleted my 85 rogue because her dps went from 13 k down to 400…what kick in the balls….(if i had some)….is there anything you can do to fix me….any kind of way you can explain things to me easier….i hope this is going to you and not the forums….well anyway thanks for your time…..

    • Ceraphus

      So the idea is that you start with all 6 of your runes. only 1 of each type (frost, blood, unholy) can refresh at a time, so if you use all 6 of your runes, only 3 are recharging at a time.

      So what you have to do is open up your rotation by getting your diseases up, if on a boss fight you should use Outbreak. This will get your diseases up and not use up your runes. Then you can immediately open with Scourge Strike, then Festering Strike, then most likely a Death Coil. You then want to hit Scourge Strike, as your first unholy rune is about to refresh usually about 1-2 seconds until its available. This will make sure you have your runes recycling constantly. Once you get into the groove its pretty simple, its just having to watch to 2 resource systems instead of the 1 that most classes have.

      Hope this helps.

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