Character Class

Unholy Death Knights in Patch 5.0.4

Patch 5.0.4 is right around the corner, in fact Blizzard recently announced, the patch would drop on August 28th.  This means its time to get ready for some big changes.  Mostly in our glyphs, and talents.  Granted many of these will now be based on personal playstyle but doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead a little bit.  For unholy DK’s there are some slight changes but not a huge change to our overall playstyle.  I will go over my talent preference, and invite you to share yours as well.


Tier 1Plague Leech is really the only single target talent here, the other two, Roiling Blood and Unholy Blight both are mostly for AoE situations.  Most of the time especially for leveling you will be dealing with single target mobs, so go with Plague Leech.  If you plan on doing a lot of AoE encounters, or AoE grinding, either Roiling Blood or Unholy Blight depending on your playstyle may suit you better.  Most likely I will grab Roiling Blood for leveling, but for dungeons & raids I will stick mostly with Plague Leech.

Tier 2.  Your 2 main choices here will be Lichborne or Anti-Magic Zone.  Lichborne will let you heal yourself with Death Coil, while Anti-Magic zone will let you place a bubble to protect folks from incoming magic damage.  Personally I will be switching it up depending on the encounter, but for leveling I will definitely be going with Lichborne.  For fights I know will be heavy with AoE spell damage I may switch over the Anti-Magic Zone.  Lichborne will be my baseline.

Tier 3.  To me the most obvious choice is Death’s Advance, faster movement speed just seems like a no brainer especially on many fights where you need to switch targets or move quickly out of the bad.  The other options I don’t see much PVE use out of.

Tier 4.  Lets look at some of these choices.  First Death Siphon sounds good, but it uses a death rune, thus directly competing with Scourge Strike.  Conversion sounds good but uses your valuable runic power, which is harder to come by in 5.0.4.  So just like with the blood build, the no brainer choice seems to be Death Pact which is what I will be going with.  Just make sure to time it during a point where you can bring your ghoul back to life if necessary, since your pet is such a large part of your DPS.

Tier 5.  After trying out all three options in this tier, I prefer Runic Corruption over all others.  This just seems to flow better with the Unholy DK rotation than the other two, a 45% chance at improving rune regeneration plays well with our diseases and keeping up death runes for Scourge Strike.

Tier 6.  This is mostly a PVP tier, so go with what works with your personal playstyle, I will probably go with Gorefiend’s Grasp as I can think of more scenarios that will be viable, for example pulling enemy mobs off of the squishy targets so a tank can pick them up.


For your major glyphs there seems to be one guaranteed glyph, the other 2 spots are up to the individual amongst three viable glyphs, in my honest opinion.  Glyph of Unholy Frenzy deserves a spot on the glyph wheel, all the glory none of the damage.  There is nothing but benefit here.  The next two glyph spots can be filled with any of the following three glyphs:

  • Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell – Improves Survivability, by slightly increasing the amount of spell damage your AMS can absorb.
  • Glyph of Death Coil – Lets you heal allies with your death coil, so survivability for others
  • Glyph of Death and Decay – Lets you slow down enemies who enter your DnD, good for leveling in my opinion, past that it may not get much use outside of PVP.

This will be my spec once 5.0.4 goes live, my baseline, as mentioned I will be moving some stuff around based on the situation & encounter.|0zhc0s

Spells & Abilities

First off, let me brace everyone for the largest change, Unholy no longer has 3 diseases.  Ebon Plaguebringer was revamped to a passive specialization for Unholy DKs.  Many people who have read my blog know that this ability made us great in the past, it truly differentiated us and brought something very valuable to the table.  This ability now provides the Physical Vulnerability debuff on the target which increases physical damage taken by 4% over 30 seconds.  Also Ebon Plaguebringer no longer increases magical damage done on a target.  No worries, though EP still improves disease damage, and our Scourge Strike ability was scaled to reflect this change of only having two diseases up, so don’t worry there.

The newest ability in our arsenal is Soul Reaper.  This ability is by its definition a finisher and will be used on enemies at or below 35% health, and moves to the top of our priority list once a mob is below 35%.  Beyond this change, our rotation and spell priority is largely untouched from 4.3.

Please note that Unholy DKs should use the Unholy Presence.

Single Target Priority

  1. Get Your Diseases Up! – Use Outbreak to apply, and use it to reapply when its not on cooldown
  2. Dark Transformation
  3. Soul Reaper (if target is at or below 35% health, also not available until 87)
  4. Death and Decay/Scourge Strike (If Both Unholy Runes or Death Runes are up)
  5. Festering Strike (If Both Blood Runes AND Both Frost Runes are up)
  6. Death Coil (If Sudden Doom Procs or your Runic Power is high)
  7. Death and Decay / Scourge Strike > Festering Strike > Horn of Winter

Multiple Target Priority

  1. Get those diseases up, then hit Pestilence, hit Blood Boil if you took the Roiling Blood Talent
  2. Dark Transformation
  3. Death and Decay/Scourge Strike (If Both Unholy Runes or Death Runes are up)
  4. Blood Boil (If Both Blood Runes AND Both Frost Runes are up)
  5. Death Coil (If Sudden Doom Procs or your Runic Power is high)
  6. Icy Touch (Burn those unused Frost Runes)

DPS 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 after hitting Empower Rune Weapon.  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. 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 taunt non-boss mobs, so be careful and mindful when using this, unless you glyphed to remove the taunt component of the spell.

3. 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 / bloodlust.  Know when that will happen because you will want to make sure you have the 60 runic power to cast this.

4. Unholy Frenzy

This grants 20% melee haste for 30 seconds.  Awesome stuff especially when used with Gargoyle.  However this does not stack with heroism or bloodlust, so use before or immediately after.  Also this will cause you to take damage if you don’t glyph to remove the damage component, so be mindful of that especially of incoming damage during particular boss fights where there can be a lot of incoming damage.  Use this early in a fight if you plan to use heroism / bloodlust near the end or vice versa.  This ability should in most cases be used in conjunction with Gargoyle to gain maximum benefit.

5. Anti-Magic Shell

Pop AMS during periods of spell damage in order to absorb that damage and convert it into Runic Power.  You want to use this as much as possible during times when you are about to take magic damage.  This will obviously provide you with more runic power to start dumping into death coil and ultimately getting Dark Transformation ready to go as well.  So before you use this, make sure you empty most of your runic power as to not let the RP you generate from using AMS to go to waste.


Your stat priority doesn’t appear to change much in 5.0.4, early results on many sites indicate you will have the following priority at max level:

  1. Strength
  2. Hit to Cap (7.5%) / Expertise to Cap (7.5%)
  3. Haste
  4. Critical Strike
  5. Mastery
  6. Attack Power

For runeforging, stick with Fallen Crusader


A few of our staples have changed, Ebon Plaguebringer, but we got a new tool in Soul Reaper.  The end of the day, not much has really changed for us.  Your rotation is largely unchanged, your stat priority is largely unchanged.  You will notice you generate less runic power than before, that’s normal unfortunately but be mindful of it, and maximize the use of your other abilities.  I am sure we will see additional changes down the line, but this how I am getting started.

8 Comments on Unholy Death Knights in Patch 5.0.4

    • Ceraphus

      Very true, I just like to be safe and make sure my Raise Dead spell is not on cooldown just in case, but yeah making it 50% is much more palatable

  1. Orango

    Nice guide, but I feel you missed a info, what presence you will be using, or have tested? Unholy, or frost?

    • Ceraphus

      Oh good call, they changed the presences now to match the spec, so Unholy should be done in Unholy presence, Frost to Frost and Blood to Blood. I will update the post as well, good catch.

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  4. Monkiy

    I was under the impression that Mastery had effectively over-taken Crit, particularly because of Soul Reaper and due to us just being a low Crit class to begin with.

    • Ceraphus

      Per simulations by members of the elitist jerks boards the stat weight of mastery at level 90 is 1.24, where crit is 1.46. At level 85, Gurthalak was the only reason mastery got weighted above crit.

      Now at level 90 per simulations we are seeing crit slightly ahead of mastery.

      Level 90 Weights

      Strength – 3.57
      Hit (to cap) – 2.20
      Expertise (to cap) – 2.23
      Haste – 1.59
      Crit – 1.46
      Mastery – 1.24

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