PvE Unholy Death Knight Stat Priority

wotlk classic pve unholy death knight stat priority

Unholy Death Knights have a similar stat priority to other Strength-based physical DPS specs, with the extra gimmick that we also care about capping our spell hit chance, as a large percentage of our damage comes from our spells.

Stat Priority

  1. Hit Rating
    • Cap: 368 / 289 if the raid has Shadowpriest or Boomkin / 263 if you also have Draenei in the group
  2. Expertise
    • Cap: The soft cap for Expertise is 26
  3. Armor Penetration Rating
    • Cap: 1400 rating (100% armor penetration after raid debuffs)
  4. Strength
  5. Crit Rating
  6. Haste Rating
  7. Attack Power
  8. Agility

Stat Explanation

Hit Rating is the most important stat that you can acquire, no matter what class or specialization we talk about. For Unholy Death Knights, it increases our chance to hit with both of our physical attacks AND spells, making it an extremely strong stat for us. It takes 32.79 hit rating to get a 1% increased chance to hit with physical attacks, or 26.23 hit rating to get a 1% increased chance to hit with spells.

Unholy Death Knights require 8% increased hit chance in order to never miss with melee attacks, but more importantly, they also require 17% increased hit chance in order to never miss with spells — this is the cap we’ll be going for. 17% is fairly difficult to reach on with gear alone, but thankfully, there are multiple ways to reduce that amount.

As Unholy Death Knights, we get 3% increased spell hit chance thanks to our Virulence talent, so right off the bat we only need 14% spell hit chance / 368 hit rating for our cap. Furthermore, a typical raid will have either a Shadow Priest or a Balance Druid applying the 3% increased spell hit chance debuff (Misery / Improved Faerie Fire, respectively), which means we only need 11% spell hit chance from our equipment, or 289 hit rating in order to cap. Having a Draenei player in your party reduces that requirement by a further 1%, meaning we need 10% spell hit / 263 hit rating. These amounts helpfully cap your physical hit chance, too!

Expertise reduces the chance that your attacks will be either parried or dodged, this stat is extremely important for all melee classes. This stat should always be capped, with the cap being 26. You will not want to reach the Hard Cap of 56 expertise as you will always place yourself behind a boss.

Armor Penetration is one of the most powerful stats in WotLK, empowering all physical damage-dealing classes, allowing them to considerably bypass the target’s armor. Armor Penetration can be considered weak at the beginning of the expansion, growing to be one of the most broken stats in the game in the later stages of the expansion.

Note: Armor Penetration is a very potent stat in the later phases of the expansion, being weaker than Strength at the beginning!

The cap for Armor Penetration is 1400, reaching the cap at the beginning of the expansion is not possible, having only trinkets providing large amounts of Armor Penetration for a very short period of time, making its effect of it hardly noticeable and not reliable. As an Unholy Death Knight, the first phases of the expansion will provide scarce amounts of Armor Penetration, with the only reliable effects provided by trinkets. You can choose to combine your raw stat trinkets with trinkets that provide Armor Penetration to make the best out of both worlds.

In the later phases of the expansion, reaching as close as possible to the Armor Penetration cap is an absolute must, especially considering how reliant we are on physical damage even if we are considered a hybrid damage-dealer specialization. However, and I must emphasize this, you will never be able to achieve 1400 Armor Penetration! A more realistic number will be around 900 Armor Penetration.

You can choose to use Armor Penetration gems, however, Strength gems are overall better throughout the expansion!

Strength is the core stat of our class, increasing our Attack Power. You should aim to acquire as much Strength as possible to maximize your damage. Your gear will naturally offer you Strength, while you also have the possibility to stack Strength Gems on your sockets to further increase it. Especially in the early parts of the expansion, stacking Strength Gems will allow you to maximize your damage output.

Crit rating is a great stat for any physical damage dealer, increasing your chances of landing a critical strike. You gain a 1% increased chance to crit for every 45.91 crit rating you have. This stat is extremely important in the later phases of the expansion due to the Wandering Plague. The talent itself procs depending on how much Melee Critical Strike Chance you acquired, therefore, the more Critical Strike Chance you acquire, the more Wandering Plague procs.

Haste can be considered one of the stronger stats that you can acquire after you manage to maximize the rest of your stats. When talking about an Unholy Death Knight, Haste Rating will provide you with increased rune regeneration and increased attack speed. In the early phases of the expansion, Haste will be more powerful than Critical Strike Chance!

You gain a 1% increased attack speed for every 32.79 haste rating you have.

Attack power makes your attacks hit harder — it is the core stat of all physical damage dealers, melee or ranged. For Death Knights specifically, you’ll get the bulk of your attack power from strength, as items with strength will generally offer more attack power than items that offer raw attack power. it is not a bad stat at all, you’ll simply gain more of it via strength.

Some may be surprised to see agility on this list, as it is typically associated with rogues and hunters rather than Death Knights. The truth is that it’s useful for every physical damage dealer, as it increases your crit chance, by an amount that varies between classes. Death Knights in specific gain 1% increased chance to crit for every 62.5 agility they have, or 1% crit per 56.82 agility when buffed with Greater Blessing of Kings.

In general, agility will be a slightly weaker version of crit rating, like attack power is a weaker version of strength. It’s by no means a bad stat — don’t shy away from taking an item because it has agility, as many strong armor penetration items will be leather or mail, and thus have agility on them. Most strength items don’t have agility, however, so don’t go out of your way to grab agility items either. Never gem agility!


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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1 year ago

I think this stat prio is very poorly labeled and not 100% correct. what I mean by that is ArP is ONLY above str IF you are running DW (not shadowmoure) and if you have more than about 800ArP (not exact number) AND if you are using a Scourge Strike build, the current standard Morb build for P1&P2 content would not benefit from this stat in a measurable way.

Also, Crit is a great stat for us as UH, however it is not better than haste until 4set T9.

Expertise is also strong for us BUT going for expertise cap over str in P1 and early P2 is a dps loss.

This is what I mean… nothing here is “wrong” but it is only correct P4+ and it should be labeled that way… overall good guide just I feel a small labeling issue.

I currently play 2h unholy for the lawls and don’t really play as HC as I used to.


1 year ago

arp over str?

Reply to  Nevermore
1 year ago

What about other leather? As a Dw unholy dk I find myself weighing the stats of leather items vs plate in phase 1 and the leather almost always beats the plate because of the hit/crit/AP of leather, it ends up adding up to more than I get from the plate gear..?

Reply to  Awgat
1 year ago

For instance the egotism shoulders seem to be very very good for me

Reply to  Nevermore
2 months ago

lol how did this get downboated? smh people of the past.

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