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[DPS question] Unholy or Frost ?

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How in mind that this is a discussion post. I really want to see your oppinions.



I guess I start with sharing my experience with playing a Death Knight. (don't worry, it won't be long).


My first Death Knight was during the end of wotlk. I used it mainly for PVP since my main character was a Restoration Shaman (PvE). I did however play some encounters in ICC and Cata as an Unholy. (Since it was the only talent spec I knew how to play).

During the end of MoP (SoO) I started to use it as my main character, still playing Unholy.


Also during MoP I joined a "progress guild". We managed to down all the bosses in Heroic before the change to Mythic. Back then, we had 3-4 Death Knights. 1 tank and 3 dps. I was the only one with the Unholy spec. With the right rotations, I managed to win against them all the time.



Let's start the Topic..

Since we're a progress guild, the leaders change players all the time. Simply because it's a new expansion and players are quite lazy when it comes to "gearing up". I find it rather easy to grind gear so I managed to keep my spot. We're not a hardcore guld, but we've done 8/8 Normal and 4/8 Heroic and I do decent DPS all the time. Only issue I see is the Single Target bosses but still manage to maintain a good DPS.


I can't say that I follow Noxxic DPS rankings, but a player in my guild mentioned that Frost DPS do a higher DPS than Unholy. I personally have a ilvl 652 and never seen a Frost DPS in any pug (or guild run) I've done.

Do you have any sort of experience how big the difference is?


Back in MoP players said that Frost 1h was OP as a Death Knight but I still managed to reck them with a good rotation. Is it still the same or do they have any advantage?


I rather not re-roll to a Frost Death Knight since I enjoy Unholy a lot!

But would it be worth it in this expansion?

Surely you should use the spec you enjoy playing but I dont want to be a "pain in the arse" for my guild. I know some friends saying that Frost is quite fun to play.



I guess the questions will be:


Which talent spec do you prefer ?

Which talent spec do you consider the best in WoD ?

Which talent spec will you use and why ?



And these questions are for DPS players. I'm terribly sorry if a similar thread already exist. [ In WoD ]


I personally enjoy Unholy a lot. I find it hard to burst with an Unholy Death Knight but maintaining my DPS is no issue at all.

I guess I made this thread because I've seen the Noxxic rankings my friend mentioned and wanted to know if it was legit or not.

I can also mention that I'm always top 3 in the DPS list in my guild and in pugs I'm always first! ( I change my talents for each fight).

The only boss I struggle with is Ko'ragh.


Hope you read it and understand my point. Anyway, let's start the discussion!

I really hope this community are understandable and can see my point..




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Unholy seems to be the best for me so far at all ilvls (i'm up to 650) and the talents I use are blood tap and blood tap all other ones are depending on fight imo, also use plague bearer is almost all cases. I use them cause they're statistically highest and from the tests I've done it seems to be correct.



(sorry if this is a short reply I didn't have a bunch of time to write this)

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First off, anything I post is purely a personal observation and is backed by very little(if any) real data:


Right now, due to my familiarity with the 2H Frost rotation I pull at least 10% more DPS (multiple 5+ minute parses on dummies, and a few heroic runs) than I do with Unholy. Unholy I find to be clunky and less intuitive than Frost. This is due to two factors: One is that I've been playing a Frost DK since the WoTLK beta, and the other is that 2H Frost is flagrantly easy to play. 


Currently both Simulationcraft and Noxxic(dubious, but it is secondary confirmation) show 2H Frost as either really close to or overshadowing UH on some fight types and this has been born out for myself in testing. Results will vary per player skill and styles. 


My take is thus: 2H Frost will win out for the majority of average skilled players at most gear levels due to the simplicity of the play style(It's a game of whack-a-mole at the most basic). UH will, in the hands of attentive players, come ahead in the majority of fights. 


I look forward to the DPS race with our guilds 2 Unholy DK's on the next raid night, just to see how it goes. 



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I prefer Frost, but unholy is better in most of the fights in high maul. I'm consistently doing 90th+ percentile frost dps now, and I'm typically in the 21-24k dps range. but that's as high as my frost dps is going to get until I start getting mythic gear. I haven't done unholy in the last week since I got a lot of gear, but 2 weeks and 10 ilvl ago I was doing 20k dps in unholy and was in the 40th percentile. even if I were to assume that with new gear my dps would be similar to my 21-24k frost dps, that would still only be about 75th percentile for unholy, meaning there's still a lot more room for improvement.


Frost is easier to play at a high level, but good unholy dps is equal to the best frost dps. and the best unholy dps are unbeatable.

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Quick question Storm,


Does your comparison of the two specs take into count the buffs done to Frost in the week? This tweak should actually make your DPS, stat optimization not withstanding, quite close. 


  • Death Knight
    • Frost
      • Frost Strike's damage has increased by 7%.
      • Howling Blast's damage has increased by 7%.
      • Obliterate's damage has increased by 7%.

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Ya, I switched back to frost this week after the buffs. I've been top dps as frost in almost every raid I've done this week, and I'm doing 21-24k single target, and even pulled a #26 rank on heroic Twins last night with 25.6k dps as frost. I'm putting up big numbers with frost, but the problem is I'm seeing logs of Unholy dk's doing even more.


That graph shows the 90th percentile for each DK spec, across all bosses in heroic highmaul. a 90th percentile Unholy DK is 2.5k dps higher than a 90th percentil Frost DK. You can adjust the settings at the top and look at specific fights, and change difficulties, and what percentile you want to look at also.


Unholy has 36k parses to Frosts 10k, so there could be some skewing based on the difference in sample sizes, but the way I'm reading the data, If I'm a decent 70-80th percentile unholy DK I should do about the same dps as I do as a 90th+ percentile frost DK's. And with unholy I'll still have room to improve and get better. with Frost I'm already pretty much at the top so my dps won't get any better until my gear gets better.

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I see what you're on to here. There's going to be a really small skew on that, 10k parses is more than a large enough sample size, and any differences aren't statistically significant. 


From what I'm seeing, on single target fights the two specs are within ~900 DPS of each other at the 90th percentile, less so at 95 and 99. Honestly, that's a minuscule difference. I think for - I hate to say this - less skilled or less invested(ie. Invested in learning or playing at the top of their game) players, Frost 2H will be the better spec in most cases. 


Unfortunately, I'm going to have to bounce between UH and Frost in raids due to the huge disparity in DPS in AoE situations for me. I cannot seem to get UH to pull anywhere near the single target DPS of Frost.


Time for more practice it seems. 

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To tell yall the truth even for PvE UH is simplier for most fights.  Your opening Garg>Defile>Festering strikex2.  Then all you do is BB > SS > RS and use your DT, Defile, Garg, Reaper (sub 45%) on CD. The only real fight  you will want to go frost on is Butcher or Karg if you are not going up top.

Edited by k9k922

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My perspective is that 2H Frost is whack-a-mole. It is extremely easy. Hit the buttons that flash, use an unholy rune for blood plague, macro PoI with Oblit and you're pretty much playing at a decent level. 


With UH, in order to optimize, death coil needs to be used only when your pet isn't transformed, blood and UH runes need to be used appropriately, frost runes can be left orphaned, and it is really easy to back yourself into a corner where you have no runes and diseases are falling off. 


Even when I can get a solid 5 minute parse with everything going well, a high multistrike and mastery, and almost all 630 gear, I find UH is under performing for me by 10-12% on single targets. I blame this on me however, not the build, as I've played frost since the Wrath beta. 


I fully admit that at higher levels of skill UH pulls ahead. I'm just not practiced enough with UH, while I pulled 23k average in heroic Slagmines this afternoon after swapping to frost. 


TL;DR: The spec that's best will depend on individual play style preferences at this point. Discomfort or a lack of familiarity with a rotation can lose you a large % of DPS. 

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I really appreciate all the posts!


I have to admit that I've already made a decision after managed to test some Highmaul (normal) bosses with my frost DK friend. And decided to stick with Unholy.

Like most of you mentioned, an Unholy player that know's what he's doing can be equal and sometimes even pull a higher DPS.

Which I did in this case.


The bloody annoying part though... is Kor'agh. I personally feel useless until the adds spawn. (or he's close to 45%)

But besides that, I manage to retain a good dps through the other fights. And even pull a higher dps than my friend. (we had simillar ilvl). 


Though, it was like a "friend-run". Which mean we had a good tank and healer. So I was able to go "All-in" without waiting for a good situation to e.g use defile (some cases the tank moves like an idiot).


Unfortunately I cannot really remember what dps me and him pulled. And it was never a huge difference between us.

I guess the point is that Unholy still got a chance in the "race" if you know how to handle them. 

Which was the main question of this thread. I really appreciate all your thoughts, and I'll stick with Unholy untill a see a huuuuge change.



Thank you.

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I love playing Unholy; I've played it in every exp except for MOP where Unholy was underperforming sad.png, so I elected to be the tank during that time.. If I can and raiding progression permits it I will stay in Unholy as the dps is comparable to frost and at times even better than frost. The one weakness that I’m finding with Unholy is its ability to lose track of your "rotation" as its more a priority system than anything, but if you start making the wrong moves your DPS will start to dirt dive and trying to recover is a long steady process up were dirt diving takes nothing to drop down 1k to 2k worth of dps. In my raiding guild there is two of us that raid, myself as Unholy and the other DK who is frost, we normally go back on forth on boss fights only being separated with less than 1k DPS outside of the multi trash mob fights where BB is just stronger than anything that 2H frost can deal with.


I'm also playing around with some of the less used talents, such as breath of Syndy on certain fights. For Butcher our normal kill time is 4m20s so I figured I can get at least 2 off and being a BE I can keep it running for a little longer. I ended up taking TOP dps on the fight with the Frost dk taking a close second, me being just over 21k and him right on my heals above 20.5k and honestly he was above me for most of the fight till I was able to pull of the second BOS. I also used it for ko'ragh and saved BOS for recharge phases but unfortunately I tunneled a little too hard at 10% I accidently stepped in a suppression field with fire rune active and boom dead DK.


BOS feels fun to use but it will wreck your "rotation" if you’re not properly setup for it. I tried only using it after my pet was DT and even then I can keep BOS running for a good portion of time since BE racial also on a 2min timer but I'll find myself after BOS is done my pet has already reverted back to normal leaving me with 0RP. So it takes much longer to get my bet back in DT. I honestly need to play with it more, I don't think it’s a good replacement of Defile for certain fights but it certainly gives you options.

Edited by Deathdoc

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I have been using frost before and it worked pretty well for me, but after a couple years I thought it started to get dull, so I am gonna switch to unholy today!

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