wotlk classic pve unholy death knight talents, builds & glyphs

Unholy Death Knights have one “Standard Build,” which can be adjusted as needed, and one “Early Game Build,” that has a stronger focus on Haste. Unholy Death Knight’s builds can be generally distinguished based on whether you want to use Scourge Strike as your main offensive tool, or rely on your diseases to do the work for you.

There also is a variation of the Unholy Death Knight build that uses “Blood Talents”, which we will explain in more depth under the Optional Talents section.

Talent Builds

Standard Build

build 1
View the Standard Build in the Talent Calculator

Early Haste Build

build 2
View the Early Haste Build in the Talent Calculator

Runic Power Mastery increases your overall Runic Power by 30. This is a great talent as it allows you to make use of Death Coil more often.

Icy Talons improve your overall attack speed by 20% when a target is afflicted with Frost Fever. This talent is extremely powerful, as you will always benefit from the effect of Frost Fever. Sadly, this effect can’t stack with itself if you afflict multiple targets with Frost Fever.

Necrosis provides an additional 20% Shadow Damage to each of your normal attacks. This talent is extremely powerful, basically offering you free damage without any special condition that needs to be met. Do not skip this talent!

Outbreak increases the damage of your Plague Strike by 30%, and the damage of your Scourge Strike by 20%. This talent has been debated by the community as being more of an optional talent. However, if you plan to follow the Standard Build which strongly emphasizes Scourge Strike as your main ability, you will not want to skip this talent.

Blood-Caked Blade gives your attacks a chance to get an additional hit that deals 25% weapon damage, plus 12.5% for each disease present on the target. This talent, just like Necrosis, enhances your normal auto-attacks by a large amount, and should never be skipped. The proc chance of this talent is fairly high.

Unholy Blight places a debuff on the target after you cast Death Coil, afflicting that target with a DoT effect that damages them for 10% of the value of Death Coil. This talent also ensures that your diseases cannot be dispelled as long as the target is afflicted with Unholy Blight. This talent is usually skipped by a lot of people, however, it can prove to be very powerful, providing an additional damage source without requiring you to spend a GCD.

Desolation causes you to deal 5% increased overall damage for 20 second after casting Blood Strike. An excellent, must-take talent.

Bone Shield is a buff that reduces damage taken by 20%, having 3 charges. The damage reduction will persist as long as you have one charge active. A particularly great part of this talent is the 2% damage increase, which means that you can use it in your rotation.

Wandering Plague is one of your strongest talents. It gives your diseases a chance, equal to your melee critical strike, to flare up and deal an additional 100% damage to the target and all other nearby enemies in an 8-yard radius. The reason this is one of your most important talents is its massive Area-of-Effect damage: this talent can trigger on any of your targets afflicted by your diseases, and this is not limited to just one of these afflicted targets.

Ebon Plaguebringer allows you to infect your target with Ebon Plague, increasing all magic damage done to that target by 13%. This talent is extremely powerful and should never be skipped, as it offers a very powerful utility tool for your entire raid.

Rage of Rivendare increases all the damage done to a target by 10% if they are afflicted by Blood Plague, while also offering you 5 expertise. This talent simply cannot be skipped — it provides a very powerful damage-enhancing effect that will always be present, since you will always apply Blood Plague. The 5 expertise will also help you min-max your items better.

Morbidity increases the damage of Death Coil while also reducing the cooldown of Death and Decay. This one can be seen as optional: players tend to spend points elsewhere, looking for more utility rather than damage increase.

Desecration makes your Plague Strike and Scourge Strike lay waste to the ground beneath the target, resulting in an area that reduces all movement speed by 50%. This talent is optional. However, many players prefer it over Morbidity, as it can be extremely useful for certain raid encounters.

Unholy Blood Variant

The following talents are residing in the Blood tree, which are entirely optional. But, if you want to create an Unholy/Blood build variant, you would want to pick them all instead of all of the talents in the Frost tree.

Butchery allows you to generate runic power passively, while also granting you runic power whenever you kill an enemy that gives you experience or honor. This is often seen as a filler talent, used to reach other talents in the Blood Tree. However, the passive runic generation can be a helpful addition.

Subversion reduces your threat generation while in Blood Presence or Unholy Presence by 25%, while also improving the critical strike chance of Blood Strike, Scourge Strike, Heart Strike, and Obliterate by 9%. This talent is mainly used for the increased critical strike chance. However, the additional reduced threat generation should not be underestimated, especially in AoE fights.

Bladed Armor increases your attack power based on your armor rating value. This one is similar to the Fury Warrior talent, allowing you to massively empower yourself. This is one of the talents that make the Unholy Blood Variant build viable.

Two-Handed Weapon Specialization increases your overall damage with a two-handed weapon by 4%. This talent is pretty much self-explanatory, and should be acquired.

Dark Conviction increases the chance to critically hit with all your abilities and attacks by up to 5%. This talent is pretty self-explanatory. It offers you a helpful stat increase in the early parts of the expansion.


  • Glyph of Dark Death increases the damage or healing of Death Coil by 15%. This is an extremely strong Glyph that is pretty much mandatory, since the only way you can spend your Runic Power efficiently would be on Death Coil.
  • Glyph of Icy Touch increases the damage of Frost Fever by up to 20%. This Glyph can be seen as mandatory, since our specialization heavily relies on diseases.
  • Glyph of the Ghoul increases the overall strength and stamina of your Ghoul by 40% of your own. This glyph is probably one of the strongest, as it massively enhances your Ghoul’s damage and survivability.
  • Glyph of Disease allows Pestilence to refresh the duration of all diseases, as well as the secondary effects of your diseases on the primary target. This glyph has stirred up a lot of controversy in the Death Knight community: people tend to argue that this glyph cancels out the effect of the Wandering Plague. However, this is entirely dependent on how many times you actually use Pestilence in an encounter. Choosing to use this glyph will severely alter your entire rotation.
  • Glyph of Pestilence increases the radius of your Pestilence by 5 yards. This glyph can be considered mandatory, to properly spread your diseases. The added range to Pestilence will ensure that you will not miss any mob, effectively preventing the need for a secondary Pestilence cast.
  • Glyph of Horn of Winter increases the duration of Horn of Winter by 1 minute. Out of all your minor glyphs, this glyph can be optional, mainly because Horn of Winter is part of your general rotation and will be reapplied often.
  • Glyph of Blood Tap removes the health cost of casting Blood Tap. This glyph will be useful in fights with heavy incoming AoE damage, allowing you to use Blood Tap without putting extra strain on your healers.


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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10 days ago

You really need to find “unholy king of anything” guide, that is the guide Justin is referring to. Has really in-depth knowledge of the spec. There’s also low geared specs that use blood vs frost, then as you progress with gear you would go to a uh/frost spec. Both of your specs are jacked up. Try this as a spec https://www.warcrafttavern.com/wotlk/tools/talent-calculator/deathknight?t=B000116666688888ffC001114455577788899999eeeffhhhhhnoooootttuxxxywwwEEEEEI&g=cpo-054

Reply to  Tundrawookie
10 days ago

Upvote, this one of the top guides about a wow class ever written. You want to use blood subspec as low geared.

Reply to  Netoca
9 days ago

well thats what im getting at with blood subspec, there’s a low end one, then there’s a middle one, then finally with decent gear you go frost subspec. This Talent tree I linked is one i used when I had 4p t10. Yeah classic is gonna open with naxx, but we should also keep end game raiding in focus as well.

Reply to  Tundrawookie
4 days ago

Exactly! Also even with those three spec as the guide says they are all never more then a few % points away from each other even with the gear they ask for. So you can play any of them and do fine. It boggles my mind all the bad info on Unholy I keep seeing. ESPECIALLY on YouTube now and that one whose name is something on the floor.

22 days ago

You really need to read the Elitist Jerks Unholy guide if you want to know about Unholy and its builds. This reads like someone who has only ever played on private servers. The “standard” build always has dirge in it and Outbreak is NEVER optional. Christ I am rolling laughing reading this. Dirge maybe but not Outbreak

Reply to  Justin
4 days ago

Lol the down votes make me smile. These builds are not even right for ST all the private server people thinking they know how to play Unholy. Even the Unholy guide writer Ginmo from Warmane says to listen to the EJ Unholy PvE King of Everything guide.

Reply to  Justin
2 days ago

unfortunately warmane forums is the only place Ive found with that guide. I just wish the links to the talent builds were updated to a working site.

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