[Death Knight][Unholy][Leveling] Spec


This is a simple spec for leveling by using Area of Effect (AoE) attacks. I have found that this is the fastest way to level a DK as you deal damage to many mobs at once. With many talents geared towards doing AoE damage, unholy is the tree that best supports AoE damage, whether it be leveling or raiding that you are trying to accomplish. I used the following spec when leveling my DK and found that it works well with Jame’s Guides.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Unholy?
  2. The Spec
  3. Glyphs
  4. Rotations
  5. Gear
  6. Last Comments

Why Unholy?

Unholy is a fairly versatile tree with plenty of single and multi-target talents. This guide will focus on using the multi-target talents in order to kill mobs and complete quests faster.

Unholy has some very good talents for AoE, namely Morbidity, Wandering Plague, and Desecration. These talents allow for faster AoE killing and thus, more experience faster.

The Spec

As Death Knight talents are a little hard to do because of the way that a DK gains talent points, I will be using the idea that you “start” at level 10 to provide a way to create a talent tree that has some sense of order.

10-11: Vicious Strikes 2/2
12-14: Virulence 3/3
15-16: Epidemic 2/2
17-18: Morbidity 2/3
19: Outbreak 1/3
20-22: Ravenous Dead 3/3
23-24: Necrosis 2/5
25-26: Night of the Dead 2/2
27-29: Necrosis 5/5
30-31: Dirge 2/2
32: Unholy Blight 1/1
33-34: On a Pale Horse 2/2
35: Outbrek 2/3
36: Master of Ghouls 1/1
37-38: Desecration 2/2
39-40: Blood-Caked Blade 3/3
41-45: Desolation 5/5
46-48: Crypt Fever 3/3
49: Bone Shield 1/1
50-52: Ebon Plaguebringer 3/3
53-54: Wandering Plague 2/3
55-59: Rage of Rivendare 5/5
60: Summon Gargoyle 1/1
61: Wandering Plague 3/3
62: Scourge Strike 1/1
63-65: Subversion 3/3
66-67: Butchery 2/2
68-69: Two-Handed Weapon Specialization 2/2
70-74: Bladed Armor 5/5
75-79: Dark Conviction 4/5

The finished spec should look like this: Unholy Leveling Spec

At level 80 you should re-spec to something that suits your end-game goals. Any spec works for raiding, but generally blood does best in single target, unholy does best a AoE, and Frost is a good hybrid, and the only viable spec when dual wielding. If you would like to keep this spec as it is a decent spec for grouping, then the last talent point is yours to spend as you wish. You should know what you want to use by now.


As soon as you can you should get the following glyphs:

Glyph of Disease
Glyph of the Ghoul

Glyph of Pestilence
Glyph of Raise Dead

At level 70 get Glyph of Horn of Winter and if you stick with the spec at level 80, get Glyph of Death and Decay.


These rotations are useful in many combat situations, from leveling solo to running an instance in your spare time; both of these rotations should serve you well.

  1. AoE Rotation
  2. Single Target Rotation

AoE Rotation

This section is mainly an update on Jame’s AoE’ing guide

I will use the following abbreviations:
IT = Icy Touch
PS = Plague Strike
DnD = Death and Decay
Pest = Pestilence
DS = Death Strike
BS = Blood Strike
BB = Blood Boil
DC = Death Coil
HoW = Horn of Winter

You will want to pull 4 or 5 mobs depending on their difficulty. If there are only 2 mobs, use the single target rotation but use the modifications I made at the bottom. Use Dark Command or Icy Touch to pull melee and Death Grip or Strangulate to pull casters. Once you have all the mobs start using the following rotation. I will assume five mobs for simplicities sake, just replace mob 5 with the one with the highest health if you have only 4.

1. Drop DnD around yourself
2. IT mob 1
3. PS mob 1
4. Pest
5. Switch to mob 2
6. HoW
7. DC mob 2 until runes are off CD
8. Switch to mob 3
9. BS mob 3
10. DS mob 3
11. Switch to mob 4
12. DS mob 4
13. BB
14. Switch to mob 5
15. DC mob 5 until your blood rune is off CD
16. Pest; mob 5 becomes mob 1 and then repeat steps 5-16 until all mobs are dead.

Single Target Rotation

I will use the following abbreviations:
IT = Icy Touch
PS = Plague Strike
DS = Death Strike
SS = Scourge Strike
BS = Blood Strike
DC = Death Coil
HoW = Horn of Winter

This is for a single mob, generally a difficult one or if the mobs in the area are spread out. Replace SS with DS until you get SS if you don’t have it yet.

1. IT
2. PS
3. BS
4. SS
5. BS
6. DC until runes are off CD
7. DS
8. SS
9. BS
10. BS


1. Pest
2. SS
3. SS
4. BS
5. DC until runes are off CD
6. SS
7. DS
8. BS

Repeat the above rotation until your mob is dead. If you have 2 mobs, simple replace the first BS(in the initial) with Pestilence and do a BS before the SS, and continue as normal. This will allow you to quickly kill the first mob and start dps’ing the second one so you don’t die.


Runeforges: use Rune of Cinderglacier until you get Rune of the Fallen Crusader.

From level 55 until level 70 follow Jame’s DK Shopping List until level 71, when you should get the Spiked Cobalt Set.

From there, you can most likely stay on quest rewards until about level 78 where you should get the Savage Saronite Set.

Weapon wise, I would suggest going to Borean Tundra before Howling Fjord because of the quest Hellscream’s Champion for the Horde or Last Rites for the Alliance. The reward for this is an axe that will last you until level 75 called the Axe of Frozen Death. Once you reach level 75, go to Zul’Drak and find a group for the Amphitheater of Anguish quests, which are like the Ring of Blood in Nagrand. The reward for this is De-Raged Waraxe.

For all other slots, quest rewards should be fine until level 80.

Last Comments

With this spec, you should be able to level through Outland and Northrend quickly and still be an asset to any groups that you are in, whether it is for a quest chain, instances, or leveling. While leveling, blood can allow for more single target dps and a greater ability to solo group quests, but unholy is a faster way to level in my experience.

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    Nov 20, 2010 @ 17:36 pm

    Excellent! Good to hear, IExcellent! Good to hear, I look forward to it 🙂

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    Nov 20, 2010 @ 5:20 am

    I will be updating this asI will be updating this as well as my other guides, possibly adding new ones. Im swamped irl so it will take time, but I am working on it a little bit each day.

    EDIT: By updating, i mean creating an entirly new guide in word as much of this is outdated.

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    Oct 20, 2010 @ 10:15 am

    Out of DateThis guide is out of date. If anyone is interested in adopting it and updating it, please leave a comment here. Until then, it will be moved to the archive section.

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    Aug 6, 2010 @ 20:30 pm

    I will change it come CataSince Cata is coming so soon, there is almost no reason to update this, so come cata you can expect to see all my DK guides re-vamped to suit the new content.

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    Aug 4, 2010 @ 8:01 am

    Talent Tree ChangesHey there, looks like there have been some changes to the DK talent tree since the last time you updated. Outbreak is now not available until the third tier of talents.

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    May 8, 2010 @ 20:17 pm

    Cinderglacier should be usedCinderglacier should be used until you get Fallen Crusader. Razorice is only good for frost dps, as they get much more frost damage.

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    May 8, 2010 @ 3:55 am


    Which rune should we affix to our weapons?
    I was using Cinderglacier until the time I got Razorice and I’m using that now (lvl 68)?

    Can you include a section detailing which ones to use at which times, which ones you think think are better for Tanking vs. DPS and PVP vs. PVE?

    Many thanks!! 🙂
    Faluma | 68 Rogue | Bloodscalp Server

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    Apr 27, 2010 @ 1:26 am

    Thanks for your input, IThanks for your input, I will be making the changes.

    Personally, I would not put another point into morbidity, but rather into Outbreak, so later you can fill up Wandering Plague. The reason is that your DnD already has such a short CD from 2 points that a third is not necessary.

    I did forget to mention to get Scourge Strike now should be obtained asap, with the magical damage part making it a ridiculous attack. I will be updating the guide and spec.

    As to your link, my new spec will be slightly different because of filled WP and no filled Morbidity.

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    Apr 25, 2010 @ 22:15 pm

    Spec IssuesTalton, great guide!!
    I’m using a combination of this, the shopping guide, and of course, Jame’s Horde DK leveling guide for my DK alt.

    I’m running into some issues though and would like some guidance (also some pointers which can be fixed):

    1. I’m not able to get [24-25: Night of the Dead 2/2] because it requires 15 points in Unholy.
    >> Solution for this: I put 1 extra point in Morbidity.
    Is this what you would recommend?

    2. Everything else in the spec due to this is one-two levels later than the level listed.
    >> Example, my DK is 63 currently and will not be able to get [62: Scourge Strike 1/1]
    Here’s a link to the spec at that point to see what I mean: []

    3. The Finished Spec does not match up with the step by step.
    >> Example: [34-35: Outbrek 2/3] is not there.
    Solution: You can link to this one instead [] (where Dark Conviction is now 4/5.)

    Thank you!

    Faluma | 68 Rogue | Bloodscalp Server

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    Jan 25, 2010 @ 13:59 pm

    Good job, we need more ofGood job, we need more of those guides for each classes and specs 😉

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    Jan 18, 2010 @ 4:50 am

    Thanks for the advice, I seeThanks for the advice, I see how doing BS before SS would make sense.

    Also, with the 5/5 desolation, I was trying to look at what would go to make room for it and also the talent [url=]On a Pale Horse[/url], and it seems that taking out Corpse Explosion and magic suppression makes the most sense. Looking at CE, it does very little damage, the max rank doing only 443 damage, and having a 20% mounted speed increase is better for leveling that a magic damage reduction. I will be updating both the spec and the rotation

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    Jan 17, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    Skimmed over this, seemsSkimmed over this, seems really good!

    Only thing is your single target rotation is slightly off; you need to be hitting Blood Strike before your first Scourge so that you keep up the Desolation buff for the next mob.

    -Edit. You need 5/5 desolation. 5% damage is just too good to miss up imo.

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