Unholy Death Knight Talents & Build Guide – Legion 7.3.5
Welcome to the Unholy DK talent guide. This guide provides an overview of all Unholy DK talents, information on which talents work well in different situations, and popular Unholy DK builds in Wowhead's talent calculator. This guide is currently updated and maintained by
, who has been a raider in various DPS capacities for 9 years, and is currently 5/9M in Tomb of Sargeras. You can also find him on
This guide was originally written by
Midwinter on Sargeras-US
. You can learn more about him on his
Unholy Death Knight talents in 7.2.5 have quite a bit of leeway now. There are 5 distinct builds (Which feed a bit off of each other as modified builds) that are now viable in a variety of forms of PVE content, from Mythic+ to Raiding environments. In general each has its own strengths and weaknesses, which will mean you can swap between them in order to augment your ability to excel in different situations. Below, I'll address the different builds, discussing their strengths and weaknesses.
Rotation & Abilities
Macros & Addons
The "premier" spec since Patch 7.2.5, the Val'kyr Battlemaiden has been the cornerstone of the most powerful Unholy Death Knight spec setup. With the cost increase of Death Coil spiking her ramping ability, as well as the increase of her duration from 15 seconds to 20 offering her a much wider window of power, and the buff to the Legendary Shoulders offering her an even greater spike in damage, in addition to an adjustment to her duration to account for her inactivity time prior to casting, Dark Arbiter is the star of our final talent tier. Using Dark Arbiter as a burst cooldown, this build offers great single target burst damage on relatively long-lived targets. In exchange, it does give up some AOE damage. Though, as with all Unholy Specs, you still retain a respectable amount of AOE power in comparison to the single-target focused specs of other classes. In any single target situation where you must hold your Arbiter, however, you will see a marked lack of damage.
The following suggested items will work well with Arbiter, but are not at all requirements to do well with Dark Arbiter. Typical guidelines for useful items are that they grant static or On-Use, flat Haste or Strength that lasts 20 seconds or more. on a cooldown at or less than two minutes. (Ramping Haste is worthless to DA, but ramping Strength or Mastery can be okay, as Dark Arbiter is most powerful in the latter part of its duration, when managed correctly.)
Shadow Infusion can be taken over Infected Claws at a cost to rotational smoothing, if you have a high item level
, this combination can increase uptime on longer fights. Keep in mind that as fight length decreases, Convergence of Fates loses value; any fight time shorter than 4:45 will mostly negate the use value of Convergence. (As you will not increase the number of complete Dark Arbiters you can cast by having Convergence or not in this timeframe.)
Suggested Useful Items:
This build is a very single-target oriented build. Note that Unholy Frenzy, circled in Red, is very important to making this new build viable, but some may find comfort in the use of Clawing Shadows as an alternative. Please note that taking Clawing Shadows over Unholy Frenzy will result in a significant loss of damage when using Necrosis in a post-7.2.5 enviroment. This build is highly single-target oriented, and will suffer from being out of melee range for extended periods
This build utilizes Castigator and high Critical Strike chance in order to successively launch bursts of damage by bursting several wounds in large rounds. It can see success with a wide variety of alternative talents, but does best with Blighted Rune Weapon (Circled in Red), which allows you more control over your burst phases. This build does suffer from reduced Mastery, which can leave your "down" phases feeling somewhat weak. If you do not have enough Critical Strike chance, you will not see very strong output with this build. However, with the powerful combination of
, this build can have some very powerful AOE, if allowed set-up time. It also boasts very strong passive cleave as well. This is a good alternative build for those who are either interested in a change of pace, or happen to find themselves in possession of a very high amount of Critical Strike chance. You will still want some Haste (~15-18%) with this build, so the Critical Strike will likely come at the expense of your Mastery.
This build is a balanced unholy DK build. It is the simplest option available, offering balanced damage, and average complexity. It is relatively easy to use in comparison to the other available builds. It is more single target oriented than other builds in general, but offers a moderate amount of AoE damage. It is versatile, and generally does not suffer great losses if you must deal with complex mechanics.
Somewhat of an underdog spec that was buffed in 7.2.5, (with Defile itself receiving a 38% damage increase), as well as the
offering a very substantial potential for cleave situations that benefit from large amounts of Mastery. It is yet to be seen if there are any situations in Tomb of Sargeras itself where this spec may be optimal, but it can be quite good for Mythic+ dungeons, where large, frequent pulls play to the strengths of this build. This build excels at AOE far more than the usual, offering large AOE bursts within the duration of Defile; when using Death March with this build, AOE burst windows can be reduced to as short as 15 seconds, a large portion of which you'll have the stacking bonus Mastery from Defile,
This is a high Mastery build with tremendous AOE, as well as some veiled potential, and as a result, MAY suffer immensely in single-target situations (Testing to be done). I cannot in all good conscience recommend this build to the faint of heart, there is a lot to manage, but I can see quite a bit of potential here for those brave enough to try it.
. (You can swap Talents to Bursting Sores and use the Bracers to achieve similar, but spikier and less reliable damage to the Ring)
: A passive dps increase that doesn’t scale with mastery, and is still much too weak to use, even with the 15% buff to it in 7.1.5. Continues to pale in comparison to the other Unholy Death Knight talents on this row.
: The best talent for all cleave situations. Regardless of your mastery levels, this talent will be best in many types of 2+ target scenarios, especially when targets will be long-lived, share health, and will be in close proximity for long periods. With
, you gain this talent at all times, including when talented into
deal 20% increased damage over a reduced duration. This is useful in almost all situations, making Ebon Fever the better single target damage choice, and very strong in AOE situations where targets are relatively short-lived, not in melee range of you, or if they are separated but share health. Important to note, is that Ebon Fever does not increase tick speed, but condenses the damage into the same tick rate as the original disease, massively increasing the damage per tick.
is by far the best talent in this tier for any sort of mass burst aoe. Few abilities from any class compete with this. The usage of this talent is debatable and changes on an encounter by encounter basis. However, often you can obtain solid AOE results without this talent, making other choices on this tier better in most cases.
: With how our rotation currently works, this has very good synergy with everything we do. This talent is less powerful than it once was (When it activated at 6 wounds instead of 8), but still a viable passive option, if you don't want extra buttons. With 7.2.5, the synergy of this talent is increasing quite a bit; the
Tier 20 4-piece bonus
, offers a greatly reduction on our longest cooldown, Army of the Dead. More runes to spend can potentially increase the rate at which we reduce this cooldown, which will always be a good thing, for every build.
: This is currently the highest-simming talent in this tier, smoothing out your wound generation, giving you on-demand wounds without the need to spend runes, and giving you some flexibility on your opener when you acquire
. It does add an extra button to your bars, but it is off the GCD, and it may be better to learn to work with this than learn without it. If you prefer a more passive option,
is viable, and slightly better in sustained cleave or multi-target situations. It is very strong with certain builds, namely Castigator and the Defile build, but does have its uses in other builds.
: A mostly passive talent that increases your auto attack speed when you pop Festering Wounds, thereby increasing the generation of
procs. Overall it wasn’t that great, due to the requirement of 100% uptime on the target, which does not often happen in practical application. However, with the nerf to the rate of
, this talent has come into its own. With a buff in 7.2.5 to 125% bonus attack speed from 100% (Subject to review), it now offers the benefit of increasing the rate of your
procs through the roof, which is a good thing, considering that the cost of
has gone up in 7.2.5, but the damage of the ability has skyrocketed in tandem. The weaknesses of this talent are even more evident with this buff, but the benefits you gain in exchange can't be beat.
: One of the main perks of this talent is that it generates many more
and consumes them just as fast. This also allows a very easy time when you have to swap targets with the extra boost in generating
. Coupled with
, this allows for a large amount amount of cleave and burst aoe damage. However, the RNG element of this talent, as well as its lackluster Mastery scaling, makes it inferior to
: A ranged
that deals damage based on weapon damage, and scales with 100% of our Mastery, is no longer affected by enemy Armor. This talent was recently buffed going into Patch 7.1.5 and was once the best talent in this tier for everything. Discounting the utility, (it allows us a very large flexibility in our attack range, heightening our ability to continue dealing damage while dealing with mechanics that take us away from enemies). The utility of this talent is still strong, but the power of Unholy Frenzy outshines it quite a bit. This talent is still usable in some situations, but more often than not, Unholy Frenzy will be the way to go.
: For any sort of PvE content this is almost mandatory. With the removal of
for DPS DKs, any utility we can get in any form is amazing. With this giving us a second grip, as well as an on-demand 1-second stun on targets instead of a root, it is simply the best.
: A 5 second stun on a 45 second cooldown. Simply just isn't as good as
and other classes do it better.
: This talent applies a 3-second slow when you cast
. As is the issue with
, it just simply isn't as good as
and other classes do it better.
All of the spells in this tier have their use in individual fights and should be treated that way. There is not a way to determine the best talent in this tier as it constantly changes.
: Spell Eater is a great talent for most fights in Tomb of Sargeras, allowing you to avoid certain debuffs and forms of damage. If you need to keep that immune up for a longer period, or need more magic damage absorption on the fly, this is the ideal talent.
: Corpse Shield is without a doubt one of the best non-immunity defensive cooldowns in the game. In exchange, we have a chance to lose our Ghoul/Abomination if we take too much damage during the duration of the buf, and thus is not a great option for extremely high damage spikes. That said, this talent has great synergy with
. If you are taking moderate sustained damage, you can constantly resummon your pet to keep the 90% damage reduction up for as long as possible. This talent has a lot of niche uses and can be used and cheesed in many different ways.
: Mobility is never bad and can be useful in most situations, but this talent is quite useful in a wide variety of situations. This talent is one of the better choices in the Tier, as it does not add an extra button to your bars, and helps to remedy one of our greatest weaknesses: Movement.
: Enables a lot higher percent of uptime on
reducing the cooldown of
by 7 seconds when
is not on your ghoul. This means that you’re going to get more, and your pet will hit much harder a lot more often. With the change that makes
now deal Shadow damage, it is now much more attractive for aoe situations. A buff in 7.2.5 increased the rate of cooldown return per
, making talent very viable, as the number of
you are casting in any given fight did not go down significantly, especially when taking Unholy Frenzy.
, how we love to hate you. This talent once had the highest potential damage output in the level 90 Tier, however, the playstyle you were forced into was generally regarded as unenjoyable. With Necrosis, you must constantly weave
, and keep at the very least 1
(3+ when talented into
, or wearing
) on the target. With changes to the cost of Death Coil in 7.2.5, this talent is no longer the best available talent on the tier, and has given way to the choice between Infected Claws and Shadow Infusion
: A passive
generator. Currently it is a very good talent as it is completely passive, and helps to smooth your opener if you fall short. This also allows us to cast less
in our rotation. It is strong in some AOE and especially Cleave situations, as the wounds applied by your pet can be broken by your pet in return via
. The extra wounds can be helpful, especially in Castigator and Defile builds, as well as the ability to spread Wounds to multiple targets without spending copious amounts of runes.
itself was nerfed coming into this patch, but the Val'kyr Battlemaiden finds herself resurgent; through a combination of trinkets and Legendaries, the Dark Arbiter remains the star of the final tier going into Antorus. She continues to offer tremendouis single target damage, excellent for bursting down bosses or long-lived priority targets.
works well with her.
Take a look at the bottom of the Rotation section to see how to properly play using this talent.
: This talent is to only be used on 3+ targets and situationally at that. Defile is great for Mythic+ as it does not require any set up, just fire and forget. Buffed significantly in 7.2.5, dealing 38% more damage than before. With the Defile Build, you will want to spam this talent as much as possible, reducing its cooldown with the effect of Death March.
: With the rotational usage of
, this talent is a lot easier to play and a lot better than without it. Due to
popping wounds, you can easily line up
and pop 6
to get the maximum value out of this spell. If
is not up, you must have at least 3
on the target before casting
. This talent is no longer the shining star it once was on this tier, but is still very strong. If you find you cannot keep up using the Dark Arbiter, Soul Reaper can net you acceptable* results without being too complex to play.
Acceptable, here, means damage within about 6-8% of Dark Arbiter builds on average. For some this may be "unacceptable". Please use sub-optimal builds responsibly. "Acceptability" is not endorsement, coercion, or the suggestion that a build that doesn't offer the greatest possible numbers is in any way "the best".
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