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Death Knight Unholy AOE Levelling (v2)

November 25, 2008
I have found group pulls really boost your XP and help you level much quicker. 5 deads mobs in one pull = 5 times the XP!! An Unholy Death Knight has one of the best tool sets I’ve seen for AOE levelling, but it is a bit more complicated!
I’ve also found Unholy Blight (the 51 point talent in Unholy) more useful than Death and Decay for big pulls, I’ll explain why later! A couple of hours practising group pulls in Western Plaguelands is time well spent before hitting Outland, because the mobs are 50-54 there and a lot of areas are made for AOE. If you quest there as well, you’ll hit Outland at 60 with your group pull technique well on its way!!
This is what I’m doing at 64.
I have a Ghoul pet, so my first consideration is setting the ghoul to passive, this is not so important if you gather your mobs mounted, as I do (and I switch to pet defensive) but if you are pulling on foot it is a must, a defensive pet has a mind of it’s own!!! Next I mount up for my group pull with as much runic power as I can, and I don’t worry too much about period where I’m not doing anything other than auto attack, due to rune cooldown time. Your Auto Attack hits pretty hard, so I suggest you rotate about the mobs AFTER you have your diseases up!! Only having Auto Attack available is unavoidable, but a good rotation can minimise this time.
Before i pull I like to have bone shield up (it is essential!!), remember this also uses an Unholy rune, and runic power decays over time out of combat. I’ve improved Bone shield with Glyph of Bone shield for one extra charge so it is 20% more effective, a nice Glyph bonus and one I believe I’ll be keeping for end game. Bone Shield is essential because of the 40% damage mitigation, so if you pull 5 mobs, it effectively takes 2 out of the picture straight away!!! 3 doesn’t sound so fearsome, 5 is the magic number for AOE, I did manage 12 at one of the cauldrons in WP at 59 before I had Death and Decay (DD) and Unholy Blight (UB), needless to say I died on that pull but managed to finish the job as a Ghoul! I have also glyphed Death Strike because it is almost as good as a primary heal with 100 runic power, and it doesnt use runic power but one frost, one unholy.
I like to kill a single mob and build up my runic power before pulling a group, I then re-cast Bone shield which means you need to think about the Unholy Rune cooldown. I also set my interface so I can see the mobs health bars over their heads. You need to watch who you cast your second phase diseases on, making sure they don’t die before you cast pestilence!!! This is a mistake I have made a few times, it can send things pear shaped!!!
For my spell rotation I open with Icy Touch, then Plague Strike, then Pestilence to disease all my targets. I have talented my disease to 18 seconds and even doing this will leave a period where not all my targets are diseased. I have found getting a decent cycle catering for the rune cooldown to be quite complicated.
For Levelling I do not use Death and Decay, because this leaves you for runeless for quite a long time. One ability costing one blood, one frost and one unholy is expensive, and I’ll be using it more as an Instance ability ‘pull’ ability, so I am not discounting it. Just for levelling I’m not as interested in threat as I am in an active cycle, and getting both Unholy Blight and Death and Decay up while putting down lots of AOE damage means I am unable to use Death Strike as much as I’d like. This is not an issue for Instances because hopefully someone else is healing you!! So no Death & Decay and Unholy Blight is a nice runeless replacement. Ignore the QQ’s about this ability on the EU forums!!! People obviously should not bother with Unholy Blight (or death and decay) for single targets, it only truely shines with groups of 4-6 mobs!! Unholy Blight at 60 runic power it is also quite expensive, but you’ll find getting there isn’t too difficult if you do not use Death Coil, an ability I save for single targets or runners.
This leads me to another point, I have two bars set up, one for single targets, one for AOE, but that’s another post!!
For more AOE damage Blood Boil also add up on diseased targets with three disease!! With Reaping this also creates a Death Rune from a blood rune, and these are invaluable for an additional Death Strike if you are taking a hammering!!
I use Rune of Sword Shatterer on my 2 hander, for the extra 4% parry as well. You need all the mitigation you can get, because the more you have, the more mobs you can kill in one group!!
I’ve not yet found a good way to do this without any time periods where all 6 runes (or the ones I want) are on cooldown but here is my rotation, tweaked from my first version after last nights play!!

BR= Blood Rune, FR= Frost Rune, UR = Unholy Rune DR= Death Rune, x=Cooldown o = Available rune.

 

 

BR

BR

FR

FR

UR

UR

1

Icy Touch

o

o

x

o

o

o

2

Plague Strike

o

o

x

o

x

o

3

Pestilence

x

o

x

o

x

o

4

Blood Boil

x

drx

x

o

x

o

5

Death Strike

x

drx

x

x

x

x

6

Unholy Blight

x

drx

o

x

x

x

7

Icy Touch

x

drx

x

x

x

x

8

Plague Strike

o

drx

x

x

o

x

9

Pestilence

x

dr

x

x

o

x

10

Death Strike

x

drx

x

o

x

o

11

Death Strike

x

drx

x

x

x

x

12

Blood tap

dr

drx

o

x

x

x

13

Death Strike

drx

drx

x

x

x

x

 Note: Occasionally you will need to silence casters but that is a runic power ability and only on a few occasions have I needed to use a blood rune to do that with Strangulation.  I do not use Death Grip, unless there is a runner.  I have tried to maximise the number of death strikes, and try to use them with as much runic power as I can to max the return from Glyph of Death Strike.

It’s a long ‘rotation’, more of the whole fight to be honest!  I have my disease at 18 seconds but this rotation takes into consideration 12 sec diseases. 

Hopefully you pick the right mob to start your disease phase, I cycle about the group because I’ve found Auto Attack hits really hard with the 25% shadow damage talent, so the mobs go down quite fast.   I’ll try to post a video of this rotation, but there are already a few good ones out there. 

I use Blood tap (which I have also glyphed to remove the 6% health penalty) to death strike a little earlier.  Use it is you are losing a lot of health.  If the group’s health is still high at the second disease phase, I use Blood Boil at point 10 instead and go back into an Icy Touch -> Plague Strike -> Pestilence -> Blood tap cycle, either way it is best to end the fight with a few death strikes. 

For most pulls this table does me fine, and I can use Scourge Strike for some of the Death Strikes above if my health is ok, because it uses the same runes.  

This rotation is pretty much my staple at 64. There is no such thing as a definitive rotation, you need to react to whatever the pull throws up, but this one seems to be working for me. I’ve not included any spell caster silences, Anti Magic shield etc, and you will be using these depending on the make up of the group you pull, the silence is a runic power abilities and so far I’ve found I have no problem generating runic power if I actively use my abilities.

Melee groups are easier without a doubt. I have also found Death Knight AOE a lot more fun and a bit more complicated than doing the same thing with my 70 Protection Paladin (much as I love playing my Pally, this is true!!!)

I’ll do something for instances when I have a few more under my belt!! Do you have any better rotations/suggestions for levelling? All are tips welcome!!!

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