PvE Unholy Death Knight Rotation & Cooldowns

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The overall rotation of an Unholy Death Knight has been simplified with the arrival of Cataclysm, with some of the more complex mechanics from WotLK becoming obsolete. The addition of Dark Transformation, Outbreak, and Festering Strike alongside the other minor buffs to the rest of the abilities has changed the way Unholy Death Knight functions for the better.

In this section of the guide, we will go over the rotation and abilities of Unholy Death Knights, in both Single-Target and AoE/Cleave encounters.

Single-Target Rotation

  1. Cast and maintain Unholy Presence
  2. Apply and upkeep diseases with Outbreak
  3. Cast Dark Transformation whenever possible
  4. Cast Summon Gargoyle on cooldown (Burst Phase)
  5. Cast Unholy Frenzy on cooldown (Burst Phase)
  6. Cast Death and Decay on cooldown
  7. Cast Death Coil to spend Runic Power and to generate Shadow Infusion stacks
  8. Cast Festering Strike to deal damage and increase the duration of diseases
  9. Cast Scourge Strike (Main Filler)

The Single-Target rotation has been simplified considerably when compared to WotLK in Cataclysm, as we now have two tools that enhance our gameplay considerably. First of all, we gain access to Outbreak, which is a considerably easier way to apply diseases. Secondly, we don’t need to worry about our disease uptime as we also gain access to Festering Strike which increases the duration of remaining diseases on the target, acting as one of our two main filler abilities.

We also gain access to new toys in the form of Dark Transformation and Unholy Frenzy which should be used as much as possible, enhancing both our burst phase and our regular rotation. We will want to cast Death Coil as soon as possible to build Shadow Infusion stacks while also casting it on Sudden Doom procs. Death and Decay becomes an important part of the Single-Target rotation since its damage has been boosted while its rune cost has been reduced while Scourge Strike remains the primary filler spell, having its damage boosted and cost reduced.

AoE/Cleave Rotation

  1. Cast Frost Presence
  2. Cast Death and Decay
  3. Apply diseases with Outbreak
  4. Spread Diseases with Pestilence
  5. Use Pestilence to refresh diseases by casting it on different targets
  6. Cast Death Coil to spend Runic Power and to generate Shadow Infusion stacks
  7. Cast Dark Transformation whenever possible
  8. Cast Blood Boil if Blood Runes and Death Runes are available
  9. Cast Scourge Strike (Main Filler)
  10. Cast Icy Touch to spend Frost Runes to generate Runic Power if everything else is on cooldown

The AoE rotation for Unholy Death Knights remains mostly the same, with a few differences. We will spend our time in Frost Presence for long fights, using Death and Decay as one of the first abilities. We will also use our new Outbreak mechanic to quickly spread diseases with Pestilence. We will want to generate as much Runic Power as possible to spam Death Coil for Dark Transformation since our pet gains a Cleave attack!

Blood Boil should be consistently used on any Death Runes generated by Pestilence and on any Blood Runes if the diseases have enough time remaining while Scourge Strike will remain the main filler that we’ll use whenever we have Unholy Runes.


About the Author


Hey there folks, I am Nevermore and have been deeply passionate about WoW for more than a decade. Whether we talk about the hidden mysteries of Azeroth or the otherworldly Outland, my journey brought me here to share the things that I have experienced with you all.
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