Unholy death knight guide 3.3.5

by Zhyknight | 18/07/2010 21:03:44


i posted this before though it was a little messy and had to do some minor corrections.

Death knight Unholy dps guide

This guide is up to date as of patch 3.3.5. by Zhyknight.
So you’ve found out you want to play the death knight, the almighty scourge’s forces that has now regained their memories and control over themself and their fate.

Lets start with the basics, the death knight uses two kinds of sources to do dps, runes and runic power. Runic power you gain by doing rune attacks such as blood strike, scourge strike etc. runic power you use to use the attack death coil or frost strike(not range attack and is frost specc only) which is a filler spell atleast for unholy and other death knights that wants to do a attack at range.


BS – Blood strike

SS – Scourge strike

DC – Death coil

ERW – Empower rune weapon

PS – Plague strike

IT – Icy touch

RP – Runic power

Goyle – Summon gargoyle

HoW – Horn of winter


this is the basic unholy dps specc which is best used once you do not have accses to the higher level of gear such as tier 10 gear, its mostly used with tier 9 or lower.


This specc is used mostly when you see that BS x2 does less dmg than your SS and is usable through most of the tier parts you can get in Wotlk, though you should have atleast some gear for it.

Frost subspecc:

This specc is used mostly when you have aquired quite an amount of gear from icc, like 2/4 of your gear is level 251.

There is a lot of questions what is the best gems for a Death knight, but there is only one stat that we really should aim for, and that is strength.

Red sockets: 20 Strength

Yellow: 10 Strength 10 crit (for frost subspecc you change the crit with 10 haste instead)

Blue: 10 strength 15 stamina.

Nightmare tear: this gem counts as any gem you would want, and since blue sockets is our weakest
socket slot we put it there since we already get enough stamina from our gear in higher level with gear and since we really only need 2 blue gems to activate our meta gem.

Meta: Our meta gem should be chaotic skyflare Diamond, this only requires 2 blue sockets to match to activate it.

Another option is the Relentless earthsiege diamond, this one you should really use if you don’t have enough blue slots on your gear to activate your meta gem. This requires 1 blue gem, 1 yellow gem and 1 red gem to activate.

As for enchants you can use those are:

Hands: crusher (44 attack power)

Back (23 haste rating)

Legs: icescale leg enchants (75 attack power and 22 crit)

Feet: Either tuskarr’s vitality(run speed increase and 15 stamina) or Greater assault(32 attack power)

Bracers: Greater assault (50 attack power)

Chest: Powerfull stats (10 + for all stats)

Head: Arcanum of torment

Shoulders: Greater inscription of the Axe

Weapon: the best thing about us is that we get a free weapon enchant that is better than berserking
which is called Rune of the fallen crusader which gives you 15% of your normal strength and increases your attack power tremendously which is also one of the reasons why we gem strength.

Attack power?!?!?!?!
The thing that i sometimes see is Death knights that goes around gemming Attack power gems (40 attack power) in red gems, or mix with blue gems etc. This is something that you should not copy as that is a dps loss to to and you will mostly be told L2P(learn to play) by other death knights. The reason why attack power is so bad for us to gem is very easy. Attack power is not increased by the kings buffs, but strength does and since strength already gives us 2 attack power per strength there is no reason to gem attack power.

Example: 40 attack power + kings buff = nothing

20 strength + kings buff = 40 + 10 % off 40 = 4 attack power

Plus we still have our weapon enchant Rune of the fallen crusader which increases the attack power we get from strength by 15% for a 15 second window.
It may not seem that much at this small scale but in the long run that can be very much of a difference.

As a Unholy death knight you should be aiming for different hit stats, such as expertise and well hit…
The reason for that is that if you are trying to do a special attack such as BS or SS if you miss thats 0 dps for you! So we negate that by gemming or enchant our gear with hit or expertise if we don’t have enough of it.

You will at most find most of the hit you need on your gear so you should really not be gemming hit unless you are below it, it doesn’t matter if you are 20 hit over, the problem is if you are below that cap.

Hit cap for 2 Handers: 8% or 263 hit which will make it so you don’t miss a mob.

You are now hit capped, but what happens now?:o you get parried and dodged by the boss which is also 0 dps! That is where the expertise comes into the picture.

Expertise: 26 expertise is what you should be aiming for in most of the speccs. (except for the frost subspecc). Note that when dpsing you should always be behind the boss unless it is a encounter that requires that you stand at the side of the boss or front etc. Otherwise you need to get even more expertise which would just be wasted since you could have gotten more strength instead of the expertise you took.

When you have gotten all of these caps for the different speccs you have to have something like a stat priority for what stats to go after while in the different speccs.

Basic specc: in this specc the prio is: hit- Expertise -Strength – arp – crit - haste – agility

Reaping specc: in this specc the prio is: same as Basic specc

Frost subspecc: in this specc the prio is: strength – haste – arp – crit -

Why not expertise in some speccs.

Well the reason for that is simple. When you do your usual rotation you will always have a second or two where you can absolutely nothing, no runes you can press, no runic power for death coils, that means we have a extra global cooldown to use. So if you get dodged or parried you will get rid of that extra global cooldown and be able to press your normal rotation without losing dps.

Do note that plage strike can be parried and should that happen use it again as you do not want to do rune attacks without having your diseases up.

Same with Icy touch, it can miss since you are not spell hit capped(don’t try to gem for spell hit cap) so always watch that your diseases gets refreshed everytime you start your rotation over again.

[Basic specc rotation]: PS – IT – BS – SS – BS – SS – DC – HoW -----(global cooldown waiting) SS – BS – SS – BS – DC – DC (DC) Rinse and repeat.

Note that the DC in paranthesis is only used if you have the Runic power for it.

ERW: Empower rune weapon is a very powerfull Cooldown that resets our rune cooldowns and should be used mostly when you have goyle up.

[Starting rotation with Rotation with Goyle and ERW]:
PS – IT – BS – SS – BS – SS – GOYLE – ERW – SS – BS – SS – BS – DC – DC – HoW (DC)rinse and repeat

[Reaping specc rotation]: PS – IT – BS – BS – SS – DC – HoW – SS – SS – SS – DC – DC – (HoW)

Paranthesis means only do HoW if it is up for use.

Reaping specc with Goyle and ERW:
PS – IT – BS – BS – SS – Goyle – ERW – SS – SS – SS – DC – DC – HoW. Rinse and repeat

[Frost subspecc]: This rotation is the same as the Basic specc rotation, check Basic specc rotation for this.

Also BIG NOTE: I ever so often see death knights that do not use Bone armor or forget to refresh it, this is a dps loss and should be kept a close eye on as it also decreases the damage you take from AoE and such by 20%, as many have said before me: ” a dead dps is 0 dps”

Gargoyle and ghoul

As many of you Death knights might notice we have as our 51 talent point a Cooldown with the name Summon Gargoyle, this is a very powerfull cooldown that will boost your dps with quite an amount the 30 seconds when it is up and flying and spitting at your enemies. (alpaka wannabe). The thing with this cooldown is that is takes a picture of your attack power and uses that number to attack with. Example : you have 7000 Attack power, you summon goyle and it takes the ”picture” and attacks with 7000 per shot it does per X seconds.

The second thing that we get as a treat as unholy is our own ghoul pet which should always be up and chewing the boss’s butt, and your pet can also get buffs from your party/raid members so if you die or don’t have pet up remember to get it up before you buff (if you have a rogue in your group and a pala casts blessing of kings on the rogue your pet will get it too, same with blessing of might and etc).


At most there is only 6 glyphs that are usefull to the unholy death knight and those are:
Major Glyphs:

[Glyph of Ghoul] : increases your ghoul’s strength and stamina by 40% of the owner’s own stamina and strength.

[Glyph of Icy touch]: increases the damage on the icy touch damage over time (DoT)by 20 %

[Glyph of Dark death]: Increases the damage and healing of your death coil by 15 %.

Minor Glyphs:
[Glyph of raise dead]: you no longer require corpse dust to cast raise dead.

[Glyph of Horn of winter]: The duration of Horn of winter is increased by 1 minute.

[Glyph of Blood tap]: Blood tap no longer causes damage to you when used.


[glyph of Pestilence]: increases the range on pestilence by 5 yards.

[ Post edited by Zhyknight ]

by Vaneras | 27/07/2010 11:51:08


Excellent guide :-)

This guide has been added to the compilation atop the Death Knight forums:
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