Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide

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This Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE guide is specifically written to provide answers to the most common questions regarding how to play the Unholy spec.

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide Abbreviations

AMSAnti-Magic Shell
AMZAnti-Magic Zone
AotDArmy of the Dead
AoEArea of Effect
BABladed Armor
BBBlood Boil
BiSBest in Slot
BoTBastion of Twilight
BPBlood Plague
BSBlood Strike
BTBlood Tap
BWDBlackwing Descent
DCDeath Coil
DGDeath Grip
DKDeath Knight
DnDDeath and Decay
DPSDamage per Second
DTDark Transformation
DSDeath Strike
DSimDark Simulacrum
DWDual Wield
EPEbon Plague
ERWEmpower Rune Weapon
FeSFestering Strike
FFFrost Fever
FPFrost Presence
GCDGlobal Cooldown
GoXGlyph of X
HoWHorn of Winter
IBFIcebound Fortitude
ICDInternal Cooldown
ITIcy Touch
IUPImproved Unholy Presence
MFMind Freeze
NSNecrotic Strike
PSPlague Strike
RCRunic Corruption
RERunic Empowerment
RIResilient Infection
RPRunic Power
RPMRunic Power Mastery
SDSudden Doom
SFScarlet Fever
SIShadow Infusion
SSScourge Strike
TotFWThrone of the Four Winds
TXTier X
UBUnholy Blight
UFUnholy Frenzy
UPUnholy Presence

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide: Talents

Base Spec

“My Friend of Misery”

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide

No adjustments have been made here. This build continues to take all the key damage abilities to make you, your trusted 2H, and your Ghoul a force of (un)nature.

Spec Options

You will have 1 point to spend on a pre-requisite talent early on and 3 points to spend at the build’s completion as you wish. Your final choices can have some marginal bearing on your DPS.

Your first choice comes at the cusp of tier 3 in Unholy to fulfill the base point requirement:

From here, continue assigning the suggested points in the Unholy tree. 1/3 Magic Suppression is the bare minimum allocation (as suggested by the 32 point investment in the tree). 2/3 points is highly recommended for the purposes of survivability and as a DPS boost from added RP generation. If you want to max the effect or spec into Anti-Magic Zone for your raid, you can certainly return to this talent in a moment.

After the necessities in Unholy are taken care of, assign the 5 points as suggested in Blood talents.

Now we arrive at the final 3 points. These last talent points can be spent at your discretion amongst the following abilities:

Blood Options:

Frost Options:

Unholy Options:





Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide: Priority & Play

Playing 2H Unholy means maintaining a challenging & fun priority system while artfully commanding Timmy to do your bidding. Fixed rotations are long gone and we’re better for it.


Unholy (unless otherwise noted)


Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Single Target Priority

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight’s Single Target Priority:

  1. Diseases
  2. Dark Transformation
  3. Death and Decay/Scourge Strike (UU or Death Runes are up)
  4. Festering Strike (BB and FF are up)
  5. Death Coil (Sudden Doom, high RP)
  6. Death and Decay/Scourge Strike
  7. Festering Strike
  8. Horn of Winter

Diseases: From the start of combat, cast Outbreak to apply your diseases quickly. If Outbreak is unavailable for whatever reason, apply diseases individually via Icy Touch and Plague Strike. The ticking damage from our diseases is minor, but the synergy that they provide is paramount. The first element of synergy is that when you cast Icy Touch/Plague Strike/Outbreak, Ebon Plague will also be applied. Ebon Plague weakens your target to all magical damage by an additional 8% and represents an important raid-wide debuff. Also, for each disease you apply to a target, your Scourge Strike will deal an additional 18% of the physical damage done as shadow damage.

Dark Transformation: Your Death Coils, aside from damaging your target, will apply a Shadow Infusion buff on your Ghoul which is capable of stacking up to 5 times. The player can consume the 5 charges of Shadow Infusions on the Ghoul to transform it into a powerful undead monstrosity for 30 seconds. A huge factor in your overall DPS is maximizing Dark Transformation’s uptime (see the Mods section in this guide for suggestions about monitoring DT and Shadow Infusion). It is key that you super-size Timmy as often and as quickly as you can. If your runes are cooling down while you have 5 charges of Shadow Infusion, remember that Blood Tap is a Death Rune activator that may enable you to DT faster (read more on BT’s mechanic below). One can also reserve Runic Power during an active Dark Transformation for quick reapplication of Shadow Infusion stacks the moment Timmy returns to normal. As a general rule, you will want to ‘throttle’ your non-Sudden Doom Death Coil usage so that you approach the RP cap just as DT fades.

Death and Decay/Scourge Strike: Death and Decay is a solid tick that requires minor effort to place. Regardless that it is an AoE, it is still a DPS gain to use it on a single target. Astute observation of the current fight’s mechanics will be key to maximizing the damage. The most frustrating and unfortunate situation is when you have just cast Death and Decay and the mob moves or the dynamics of the fight shifts. Whenever possible, plan ahead to avoid losing potential DnD damage. If it means deferring DnD until the target it situated or when the timing will align with phases or periods of movement, so be it.

Scourge Strike is our hard hitter and is similarly high in priority. Scourge Strike will replace Death and Decay when it is on cooldown.

Festering Strike: In the continued philosophy of utilizing our runes and managing cooldowns, supplement your priority with Festering Strike. With Reaping (from our Unholy specialization), the runes consumed by Festering Strike will become death runes when they reactivate. Also, Festering Strike serves the very important purpose of adding 6 seconds to your diseases. Mechanics allowing, our diseases should nearly always auto-renew themselves. It’s like watering a plant of doom. At the very least, Festering Strike bridges the gap between Outbreak cooldowns.

Death Coil: Similar to efficient rune expenditure, we want to capitalize on Sudden Doom procs. With Runic Corruption’s mechanic revamped in past patches, we no longer have to worry about overriding our rune regeneration. Death Coil may be done freely to make use of Sudden Doom procs, to build Shadow Infusion stacks quickly (as prioritized above in Dark Transformation), and to avoid the RP cap. Although it’s not a necessity to visually track Runic Corruption anymore, it’s still nice to see your uptime and gains (see Mods if you’re interested).

Death and Decay/Scourge Strike and Festering Strike: This is your ‘rinse and repeat’ in order when you have runes (and the cooldown) available.

Horn of Winter: When all else fails, you can toot your horn for RP and to maintain its uptime for yourself and cohorts. It’s a step above twiddling your thumbs if you have a vacant GCD that cannot be filled with Engineering bombs.

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AoE Target Priority

  1. Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight’s AoE Target Priority:
  2. Diseases + Pestilence
  3. Dark Transformation
  4. Death and Decay/Scourge Strike (UU or Death Runes are up)
  5. Blood Boil (BB and FF are up)
  6. Death Coil (Sudden Doom, high RP)
  7. Icy Touch

By AoE fight, I do not just mean multiple targets. For your standard dungeon pull, you would still use the ‘Single Target’ as above. This AOE priority is written for the cultist packs in Bastion, the non-elite cultists before High Priestess Azil, roaming Trogg packs, minion patrols, and other mass pulls. In these cases, you will want to switch momentarily to Frost Presence.

Diseases: If any of the mobs will survive for more than a few seconds, it is worthwhile to Pestilence. One caveat on this: do not Pestilence if it will pull an adjoining group or if there is a CC nearby. This is particularly noteworthy if you are glyphed for extended range on Pestilence. Mages get really frustrated when their sheep spasms with cooties and comes to cough in their face.

Dark Transformation: Is still of equally high importance. Same as with single target priority.

Death and Decay/Scourge Strike: Same as with single target priority.

Blood Boil: Blood Boil, for Unholy DK’s, always results in a leftover Frost rune which can only be used offensively for Icy Touch. We’ll capitalize on the Frost rune lowest in our priority.

Death Coil: Same as with single target priority.

Icy Touch: If no other attacks are available, make use of any leftover Frost runes.


The Ghoul still deals some of your best damage, so it’s wise to learn how to use him properly.

As with 4.2, ‘Assist’ will remain the standard command stance for our pet.

For extra control, bind his Attack/Follow/Stay & Huddle commands to keys/buttons you can access quickly (I use Shift + letters, but whatever works for you). For the most part, your Ghoul is a resilient pet. He has an unspoken 90% AoE damage reduction and can be healed by your Death Coil (discounted healing with Glyph of Death’s Embrace). Rather than putting your pet on cruise control, it’s far better to have an awareness of him and his actions (particularly given the AI’s observable hiccups). It will greatly help survivability, group tactics, and your DPS.


Raise Ally: Raise Ally is instant cast, costs 50 Runic Power, and has a 10-minute cooldown. The requisite Runic Power means you must be in the midst of combat activity and temporarily forgo your personal DPS for the benefit of returning others to the field. It shares the same global battle resurrection cap with other players, so like our Druid and Warlock rezzers, communication with the raid before and during an encounter is required. Only one manner of resurrection is allowed in a 10-man and three within a 25-man fight (excluding self-resurrections) so there is stressed value in using it wisely. Also be aware that Death Knight resurrection brings the player back with just 20% health and mana so if another rezzer has a superior resurrection effect, defer to them whenever possible. Resurrections have raid saving potential so don’t waste it by selecting the wrong person or watching someone accept prematurely. Often people are so eager to be rezzed that they will immediately take their resurrection and get killed again. Macros or Ventrilo are both fine ways to warn the recipient to take their rez with discretion.

Anti-Magic Shell: Using Anti-Magic Shell intelligently is one of the key aspects that separates the ‘good’ Death Knights from the ‘great’ ones. AMS provides a two-fold benefit and understanding it well will optimize your play.

Firstly, AMS is a powerful defensive ability that absorbs 75% (83%/91%/100% Magic Suppression) of the damage dealt by harmful spells up to 50% of your total health and prevents the application of harmful magical effects. In heavy damage situations, this is a lifesaver and aids on healing resources.

Secondly, and often underutilized, is AMS’s DPS boon. Damage absorption (again via Magic Suppression) will cause you to become ‘energized’ and generate a substantial amount of Runic Power. When you can anticipate AMS a few seconds ahead of time, make sure to have very low RP so that you do not cap while energizing.

The only caveat associated with AMS is not to use it when you a required to get a magical debuff. One example of this is Elementium Monstrosity where you have to get the grounded or levitated debuff to survive. These are rare situations but worth keeping in mind.

Observed offensive and defensive AMS usages are explained in greater detail within the Raid Strategies section.

Other Resources: Don’t forget that you have a myriad of interrupts, Icebound Fortitude (which now breaks stuns), Death Strike, Death Pact, and Army of the Dead (i.e. as aggro fodder). Death Strike consumes a valuable rune and Death Pact is a last resort, but these can sometimes make the difference between a dead boss and a dead you.


Unholy Frenzy & Gargoyle: Unholy Frenzy can be a potent enrage cast in exchange for a small expenditure of health. Unholy Frenzy and Heroism/Time Warp/Bloodlust do not stack, hence the former should be saved until the latter has worn off.

It should be noted, however, that Unholy Frenzy’s benefit will become more variable in this patch due to increasing haste figures on gear. Depending on your personal stat values, you will encounter at least one, or possibly two, haste breakpoints in this tier. The first breakpoint, valued at ~1600 personal haste, will provide the Gargoyle an attack speed that exceeds its own global cooldown of 1.5 seconds. Effectively, any inherited haste beyond this point can have no effect for him: the Gargoyle is GCD locked. The second possible breakpoint in this tier occurs for the player at ~2600 haste. Not to be confused with a hard cap, this benchmark merely represents when rune regeneration rates create diminishing returns via rune capping. The easiest test for determining when/if you want to use Unholy Frenzy on yourself is whether you become GCD locked, simple as that.

Blood Tap: Blood Tap activates a Blood Rune and converts it to a Death Rune. The cost is a tithe of health (6%) or free if you glyph for it. Its relatively short cooldown will allow you use it frequently provided you aren’t capped for GCD or ‘global cooldown’. Meaning: if you are in a GCD capped situation where your actions are limited, don’t bother activating runes you can’t use anyways.

Empower Rune Weapon: A potent reset button to activate all your runes and generate 25 runic power. With a 5 minute cooldown this will generally equate to a 1/boss fight use. This is best paired when you have Unholy Frenzy, Bloodlust, or Time Warp up and have expended your runes. Absolutely great for burst DPS.

Army of the Dead: Bit of a long channel so it’s best to cast either just before the pull, during a phase change, or when things go south. Army Ghouls will taunt adds and normal mobs in combat so have that in mind before using. You might be screaming, “No, no, no!” and all they hear is, “Who wants cake? Who wants cake!?”. Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.


Speaking of cake, consumables can add a significant bonus to your primary DPS stat. These are must-haves for optimum performance.

Flask[Flask of Titanic Strength]
Potion[Golemblood Potion]
Food[Beer Basted Crocolisk] [Fortune Cookie] [Feasts]

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide: Character Optimization


There are immediate and undeniable PVE performance benefits to what race you select. Each race also brings unique aesthetics and story that is a totally separate matter of opinion.

For our purposes, races will be listed in the order of most optimized to least optimized within each faction.


Viciousness1% critical strike
DarkflightIncreased movement speed by 40% for 10 seconds (2 min cooldown)
Aberration64 shadow and nature resistance at level 85
Running WildIncrease ground speed by 60%/100%
FlayerSkinning skill increased by 15 and allows you to skin faster
Two FormsTurn into your currently inactive form

Verdict: More crit and movement increasing effects are stellar for any melee DPS class. Alliance Death Knights looking to optimize will therefore find Worgen of the most interest.

Heroic Presence1% melee and spell hit (raid boss hit cap = 841 hit rating)
Gift of the NaaruHeals the target for 20% of their total health over 15 sec. (3 min cooldown)
GemcuttingJewelcrafting skill increased by 10
Shadow Resistance1 point shadow resistance per character level

Verdict: 1% hit will reduce the cap and allow for some more creative reforging. The free self-heal is on par with a post-kill glyphed Death Strike and operates over the course of 15 seconds.

Every Man for HimselfRemoves movement & control impairing effects (2 min cooldown)
DiplomacyReputation gains increased by 10%
Mace & Sword Specialization3 expertise
The Human Spirit3% spirit

Verdict: The added expertise is beneficial if you conveniently happen to equip such a weapon. Asides from that potential, the ability to simulatanously run away and still be well liked gets an impressed nod. Humans will fare the best through reputation grinds.

StoneformRemove poison, disease, and bleed effects; +10% damage reduction for 8 seconds (2 min cooldown)
Mace Specialization3 expertise
Frost Resistance1 point frost resistance per character level
ExplorerArchaeology increased by 15 points and allows for faster surveying
Gun Specialization1% crit with guns

Verdict: Dwarves also have a potential addition to expertise and a nice ability to counteract common status effects. Stoneform is a bit less desirable than Every Man for Himself on the basis that mobility is still preferred.

Escape ArtistEscape immobilization or movement speed reduction effect (1.5 min cooldown)
Shortblade Specialization3 expertise with daggers and 1h swords
Arcane Resistance1 point arcane resistance per character level
Engineering SpecializationEngineering increased by 15 points
Expansive Mind5% mana

Verdict: As another form of movement restoration, Escape Artist has plenty of great PVE uses. The rest of their racials unfortunately fall short in terms of use for a Death Knight.

Night Elf 
ShadowmeldStationary stealth (2 min cooldown)
QuicknessReduces the chance of melee/ranged attackes hit you by 2%
Wisp Spirit75% increased death speed (+25% than other races)
Nature Resistance1 point nature resistance per character level

Verdict: Being a Night Elf provides no tangible benefit for Death Knights, but hide-and-go-seek with Darion Mograine will have acceptable results.


Blood FuryIncrease attack/spell power for 15 seconds (2 min cooldown)
Command5% pet damage
Axe Specialization3 expertise with axes
Hardiness15% stun duration reduction

Verdict: If you made a shopping list of the the bonuses you would want to give an Unholy DK, it would almost certainly include pet damage and attack power. Given that Orcs have both of these and, maybe even a smidge of extra expertise, they make the best Horde race for Unholy Death Knights. Orcs may also be the universal winner by a small margin (it was a very close sim between the green guys and the monocle dogs).

Time is Money1% attack speed
Rocket JumpJump forward (2 min cooldown, shared with Rocket Barrage)
Rocket Barragelaunches rockets at enemy (2 min cooldown, shared with Rocket Jump)
Best Deals Anywherereceive the best discount regardless of faction
Pack HobgoblinBank access 1 minute (30 min cooldown)
Better Living Through ChemistryAlchemy increased by 15 points

Verdict: Goblin racials are rather amazing for melee DPS like Death Knights. Goblins are closely ranked with Worgen, and in Horde-only terms, are just behind Orcs.

Berserking20% increased attack speed for 10 seconds (3 min cooldown)
Da Voodoo Shuffle15% reduction of movement impairing effects
RegenerationHealth regen rate increased by 10%, 10% of total regeneration during combat
Beast Slaying5% damage versus beasts
Throwing Specialization1% crit with throwing weapons
Bow Specialization1% crit with bows

Verdict: A short haste bonus and a snare reduction isn’t bad, but it’s a downgrade in comparison to Orcs and Goblins.

Blood Elf 
Arcane TorrentSilence all enemies within 8yds for 2 seconds and gain 15 runic power (2 min cooldown)
Arcane AffinityEnchanting increased by 10
Magic Resistance1 point arcane resistance per character level

Verdict: The silence can be helpful when Mind Freeze is down or when you just want an ounce of free RP to Death Coil. Asides from that, you’re basically joining this race for the hair: the superbly immaculate hair.

Will of the ForsakenRemoves charm, fear, and sleep (2 min cooldown)
CannibalizeRegen 7% health every 2 seconds for 10 seconds (2 min cooldown)
Shadow Resistance1 point shadow resistance per character level
Underwater Breathing233% duration

Verdict: Will of the Forsaken would be impressive if charm, fear, and sleep were more common in PVE. Since they’re not, sadly there’s not much benefit here for Death Knights.

War StompStuns up to 5 enemies within 8yds for 2 seconds (2 min cooldown)
EnduranceBase health increased by 5%
Nature Resistance1 point nature resistance per character level
CultivationHerbalism increased by 15 points and speeds the gathering process

Verdict: Tauren are on par with Night Elves in regards to lacking useful PVE racials.


Blacksmithing is now the top choice because the new raid gems vastly improve the worth of having 2 extra sockets. Engineering will still be a great second choice with its stackable 80 strength bonus to gloves (avg. passive) and the ability to make bombs and various craftables. Jewelcrafting has unfortunately suffered a steep decline with the lack of a new Chimera. I hope, as I’m sure many of you do, that new Chimeras, tinkers, recipes and so forth will be added later in the patch to reduce this parity. Enchanting, Alchemy, and Leatherworking therefore become great tertiary choices and are followed thereafter by Inscription, Herbalism, and Skinning.

AlchemyMixology adds an additional 80 strength on to [Flask of Titanic Strength] and increases the duration of all alchemical consumables
BlacksmithingSmithing allows for an extra socket in your bracers and gloves netting 100 strength (2x [Bold Queen’s Garnet]).
Enchanting[Enchant Ring – Strength] can be used on both rings for a total of 80 additional strength
EngineeringEngineers can add [Synapse Springs] to gloves (480 strength * 10s/ 60s cooldown = passive 80 strength) and it stacks with normal enchants
HerbalismHerbalists have the castable [Lifeblood] ability (480 haste * 20s / 2 min cooldown = passive 80 haste)
Inscription[Lionsmane Inscription] is an alternative to the Therazane faction reward shoulder enchant
Jewelcrafting3 x [Bold Chimera’s Eye] to socket into your gear instead of 3 x [Bold Queen’s Garnet] equates to 51 extra strength
LeatherworkingLeatherworkers can add [Draconic Embossment] to wrists and is 80 strength superior to what enchanters can provide.
MiningMiners receive a 120 stamina buff
SkinningSkinners receive a 80 critical strike rating bonus
TailoringTailors can sew [Swordguard Embroidery] into cloaks but it does not stack with [Enchant Cloak – Greater Critical Strike] so it’s generally considered less desirable

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Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide: Gear Optimization

Stat Weights

Hit (to cap)3.00
Expertise (to cap)0.99

Weights were determined using simulations at 50k iterations with modified stat deltas (particularly, a negative haste delta to adjust for the breakpoint).

Stat Priority

Gearing, like your play choices, is also based upon a priority system. Included below is the order of most beneficial to least beneficial stats to help you make informed decisions about gear.

Stat Priority: Strength > Hit to Cap > Haste > Crit > Mastery > Expertise to Cap > Agility

Hit: Hit to cap is still as important as ever. If you miss a lot, that’s 0 damage on a frequent basis. Meters can’t discriminate whether your damage suffered because of low hit rating or because you were too busy watching Fresh Prince reruns to pay attention to the boss (the latter is slightly more acceptable). Also keep in mind that your Ghoul inherits your stats (with hit rating no longer rounding down), so be a good influence on Timmy (for a note on Timmy’s inheritance, see the Appendix).

At approximately 120.11 hit rating per 1% hit, it takes 961 hit rating to become hit soft-capped for a raid boss (841 for Draenei). There is a certain leniency for being slightly over or slightly under, but you want to negotiate this very carefully. When in doubt, test yourself on a target dummy for extended lengths of time or run your character’s paper doll through simulations for a very general idea of how it will affect your real performance.

Haste: Your GCD is affected by various factors such as expertise, Heroism/Bloodlust effects, Runic Corruption, your connection speed and so forth. To repeat what was said earlier, depending on your personal stat values, you will encounter at least one or possibly two haste breakpoints in this tier. The first breakpoint, valued at ~1600 personal haste, will provide the Gargoyle an attack speed that exceeds its own global cooldown of 1.5 seconds. Effectively, any inherited haste beyond this point can have no effect for him: the Gargoyle is GCD locked. The second possible breakpoint in this tier occurs for the player at ~2600 haste. Not to be confused with a hard cap, this benchmark merely represents when rune regeneration rates create diminishing returns via rune capping.
The best way to approach haste itemization is whether or not you personally experience GCD locks. If you have no trouble expending resources, haste remains highly favored, simple as that.

Crit: Naturally, the fixes applied to minion stat inheritance has modified our stat priority selection. Crit will now overtake its other linear counterpart, mastery, quite handily as a preferred stat and something of a ‘dark horse’.

Mastery: It’s not that mastery has slid or gotten worse, merely, other stats have changed or remained better.

Expertise: At approximately 30.0272 rating per point, expertise is barely interesting as a DPS stat. It is rated rather low priority until the’soft cap’ of 781 rating (i.e. 26 expertise) whereupon it decreases even further.


In regards to reforging your gear, start with the hit cap and manage your DPS stat priority as above. Haste and crit are the highest priority with the others trailing sequentially in conversion to damage.

Tips for Reforging:



Red[Bold Queen’s Garnet]
Yellow[Fierce Lava Coral]
Blue[Etched Shadow Spinel]

You will defer to the red gem unless the socket bonus would provide more strength or an important secondary stat. For example, let’s say you had a piece of gear with a red socket, a yellow socket, and a +20 strength socket bonus. If you ignored the socket bonus and gemmed 2x [Bold Queen’s Garnet], you would have a straightforward gain of 100 strength. On the other hand, if you gemmed 1x [Bold Queen’s Garnet] and 1x [Fierce Lava Coral], you would gain 95 strength (75+ 20 from the bonus) and 25 haste. Applying our stat weights, it’s easy to see that it’s an upgrade to follow the socket bonus (by about ~30dps).

Never gem expressly for hit, even if you are under the cap. Given the stat priority discussed earlier, it is a greater DPS sin to miss out on potential strength. Reforging is the best and most flexible method to negotiate the proper hit rating. If, however, an extra 50 rating would fit into your calculations more neatly, I have included the optional 50 hit rating to boots in the enchants section below.


[Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond]
Our meta has not changed. The requirements of this meta will be exceptionally easy to attain.


[Bold Chimera’s Eye]
The best and clear choice for those with Jewelcrafting as a tradeskill. Again, no change yet in 4.3.


Head[Arcanum of the Wildhammer] [Arcanum of the Dragonmaw]
Shoulder[Greater Inscription of Jagged Stone][Lionsmane Inscription] via Inscription
Back[Enchant Cloak – Greater Critical Strike]
Chest[Enchant Chest – Peerless Stats]
Wrist[Enchant Bracer – Major Strength][Draconic Embossment] via Leatherworking
Hands[Enchant Gloves – Mighty Strength][Synapse Springs] via Engineering (stacks)
Rings[Enchant Ring – Strength] via Enchanting
Legs[Dragonscale Leg Armor]
Feet[Enchant Boots – Haste][Enchant Boots – Precision]
Weapon[Rune of the Fallen Crusader]

Best in Slot


Head[Visage of Petrification]Valor Points (2200)
Neck[Necklace of Black Dragon’s Teeth]Valor Points (1250)
Shoulders[Necrotic Boneplate Pauldrons]Hagara
Back[Dreamcrusher Drape]Valor Points (1250)
Chest[Necrotic Boneplate Breastplate]Ultraxion
Wrist[Bracers of Destructive Strength]Blacksmithing
Hands[Necrotic Boneplate Gauntlets]Warlord Zon’ozz
Waist[Bonescriven Demon Collar]Hagara
Legs[Necrotic Boneplate Greaves]Yor’sahj
Feet[Kneebreaker Boots]Valor (1650)
Ring 1[Breathstealer Band]All Bosses Except Deathwing
Ring 2[Curled Twilight Claw]Ultraxion
Trinket 1[Eye of Unmaking](LFR) Spine of Deathwing
Trinket 2[Bone-Link Fetish]All Bosses Except Deathwing
Weapon[Ataraxis, Cudgel of the Warmaster]Warmaster Blackhorn
Relic[Gutripper Shard]Valor Points (700)

The above list utilizes every available gearing opportunity before stepping into Heroic Dragonsoul. The content requirement is therefore 7/8 completed in LFR’s adjusted difficulty and 6/8 completed in Normal mode.


SlotPre-Deathwing (6/8)Deathwing Included (7/8+)
Head[Necrotic Boneplate Helmet](H) Warmaster Blackhorn[Necrotic Boneplate Helmet](H) Warmaster Blackhorn
Neck[Necklace of Black Dragon’s Teeth]Valor Points (1250)[Necklace of Black Dragon’s Teeth]Valor Points (1250)
Shoulders[Necrotic Boneplate Pauldrons](H) Hagara[Backbreaker Spaulders](H) Spine of Deathwing
Back[Dreamcrusher Drape]Valor Points (1250)[Dreamcrusher Drape]Valor Points (1250)
Chest[Necrotic Boneplate Breastplate](H) Ultraxion[Necrotic Boneplate Breastplate](H) Ultraxion
Wrist[Rockhide Bracers](H) Morchok[Rockhide Bracers](H) Morchok
Hands[Necrotic Boneplate Gauntlets](H) Warlord Zon’ozz[Necrotic Boneplate Gauntlets](H) Warlord Zon’ozz
Waist[Bonescriven Demon Collar](H) Hagara[Bonescriven Demon Collar](H) Hagara
Legs[Necrotic Boneplate Greaves](H) Yor’sahj[Necrotic Boneplate Greaves](H) Yor’sahj
Feet[Treads of Crushed Flesh](H) Warlord Zon’ozz[Treads of Crushed Flesh](H) Warlord Zon’ozz
Ring 1[Breathstealer Band](H) All Bosses Except Deathwing[Breathstealer Band](H) All Bosses Except Deathwing
Ring 2[Curled Twilight Claw](H) Ultraxion[Curled Twilight Claw](H) Ultraxion
Trinket 1[Creche of the Final Dragon](H) Ultraxion[Eye of Unmaking](H) Spine of Deathwing
Trinket 2[Bone-Link Fetish](H) All Bosses Except Deathwing[Bone-Link Fetish](H) All Bosses Except Deathwing
Weapon[Ataraxis, Cudgel of the Warmaster](H) Warmaster Blackhorn[Ataraxis, Cudgel of the Warmaster](H) Warmaster Blackhorn
Relic[Gutripper Shard]Valor Points (700)[Gutripper Shard]Valor Points (700)

Given the percentage of players who completed the final encounter in Tier 12, the BiS list for 4.3 Hardmode is divided into Pre-Deathwing and 7/8+ encounters. Essentially this is done to support a wider base of players if the Deathwing fights become exclusive due to difficulty.

In regards to gemming, all sets (Normal & both Hardmodes) will use the matching red, orange, or blue selections discussed earlier in order to meet the socket bonuses for each piece. Gemming is very straightforward this time.

T13 Set Bonuses

Tier 13Bonus
2 PieceSudden Doom has a 30% chance and Rime has a 60% chance to grant 2 charges when triggered instead of 1.
4 PieceRunic Empowerment has a 25% chance and Runic Corruption has a 40% chance to also grant 710 mastery rating for 12 sec when activated.

The values of non-tier vs. tier per slot is incredibly close in several situations (as little as ~0-1 dps) so our BiS maintains that we achieve our set bonuses despite whatever RNG may provide.

Trinkets Explained

Trinket evaluation, in the most basic form, is done by calculating the estimated DPS value. Uptime will be deteriminate on an assumed internal cooldown for Proc-variety trinkets or the listed cooldown for Use-variety trinkets.

Proc-variety Trinket Value =(Passive Stat x Passive Stat Weight) + ((Proc stat x Proc Stat Weight) / 5)
Use-variety Trinket Value =(Passive Stat x Passive Stat Weight) + ((Use stat x Use Stat Weight) / 6)

Assumptions Regarding Trinkets

Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE Guide: Addons

Some people are content with the out-of-the-box game experience, but others feel like they can play and monitor their character better with additional tools.


Magic Runes (link)

If you want a more aesthetic-minded rune watch, Magic Runes also provides a really nice view of your runes with several chart-type variations. It’s very straightforward and graphically clean. It does not show your procs or special cooldowns (for better or worse), so you will need to set up other mods if you prefer having those features.


NeedtoKnow (link)

NeedToKnow lets you monitor specific buffs, debuffs, and totems as timer bars that always appear in a consistent place on your screen. You can track yourself, others, your target, your pet, and much more. This mod is fantastic to let you watch your Shadow Infusion stacks, Dark Transformation timers, Anti-Magic Shell, and Runic Corruption uptime. You can set colors, scaling, and different groups of bars. Very customizable and user friendly.

Deadly Boss Mods (link)

Deadly Boss Mods is a boss alert mod. It consists of many individual “boss modules”, mini addons that are designed to trigger alert messages and timer bars for one specific raid boss each. Instance modules will be loaded and enabled when you enter the corresponding instance. If you don’t already have this, get it yesterday. I have glowing recommendations for all its included features.

 Details! Damage Meter (link)

Details is a graphical combat log meter complete with damage, healing, and more. This is the ‘How’s My Driving?’ equivalent of your DPS performance. Everyone has a job and ours is to put up big numbers. Hold yourself accountable by knowing your output and surpassing the expectations of others. I consider this mod another ‘must have’.

Weak Auras (link)

WeakAuras is a flexible framework that allows you to display customizable graphics on your screen to indicate buffs, debuffs, and a whole host of similar types of information.


Macros expand your ability to customize and automate certain actions via sequences of slash commands. Don’t let the involvement of code deter you from macros. They’re generally very simple to write or, even better, just copy and paste ones that have already been created (as below).

Revised Attacks Macro
If you lack the runes to use an ability, this mod will clear the red error text on the top of your screen and your auto-attack will still begin. I use this macro for each of my major melee abilties where ‘Name’ is the spell/ability.

#showtooltip Name
/cast Name
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear();

Ghoul Claw
If you experience problems with Ghoul hoarding energy, then this macro will still prove of use.

/cast Scourge Strike
/cast [@pettarget,harm][] Claw

Death Coil Pet Heal Toggle
By using modifier keys, you can toggle between a self-heal, pet heal, or damage a target as normal.

/cast [mod:ctrl, @pet][] Death Coil

Max Camera Distance
This isn’t so much of a macro as it is a one-time slash command. The following script will increase the allowable threshold of your camera’s distance. This is wonderful for fights like Al’Akir where there are large scale effects and far away enemies. Just type the script into your chat window and scroll your wheel to experience the amazing new birds-eye view.

/script SetCVar("cameraDistanceMax",30)


We hope that this Cataclysm Classic Unholy Death Knight PvE guide has equipped you with everything you need to excel in your gameplay. Have fun!

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