Simulation on Unholy Death Knight tank TPS

(For Unholy in patch 3.3: read my full analysis.)

Updated to patch 3.22.

Sept 28: note that no-epidemic is now the highest threat tank build. This below post relates to traditional unholy spec.

October 1st: the below analysis had a error in the character sheet I used, overweighting attack power. Look at the no-epidemic or 3.3 posts for the latest on unholy. I have deleted the data that was below and take the below recommendations with caution.

In this simulation I wanted to work out:

  • does the Unholy Obliterate tank build beat deep Unholy for tanks? Answer no, but it doesn’t suck as much as I’d expected
  • how does an Unholy build compare on single-target to Frost build?
  • is Desolation or Bladed Armour better for an Unholy tank?
  • how does Unholy-Vot3W stack up now?

Also for 3.22, the highest threat Unholy tanks spec is in this simulation.

Deep Unholy

spec 13/8/50 with bladed armour | vs Desolation

the only differences between these two specs is moving 5 pts between bladed armour or desolation.

Key finding: the talents are basically equivalent. You can safely pick one or the other talent, the difference is insignificant.

DPS for the tank is 7.5% to 10% more in Frost according to this simulation, depending if you bias to single-target talent or not (like Suno does).

Suno’s fireside build | EJ thread

DPS 3138. Not posting sim results for sake of brevity.

the spec loses corpse explosion, loses Scent of Blood, has 2/3 wandering plague and 1/5 desolation for a gain of 2.1% DPS.

However, I can’t model SoB and the benefit to Rune Strike procs, so that result (like all of these) needs to be seen with that limitation in mind.

Frost does 7.5% more dps than this build.

Unholy Oblit

No longer viable in 3.22. Don’t use it.

Spec example was virulence not BCB.


The Unholy-Veteran of the Third War spec was necessary for Sartharion-3D, but is not so popular now. I tested its tps in the Sim. It might work actually if you have the full 3/3 Ebon Plague or Warlock CoE put up by someone else to boost your threat. As it stands though, the threat in deep unholy is about 6.3% more than this spec, which is a fair bit more.

So you wouldn’t take Unholy-Vot3W unless you had a threat lead all the time (from gear advantage) and you didn’t need to bring the full 3/3 debuff to the raid.

Caveats and shortfalls

I can’t model Scent of Blood (RP generation) vs two-handed weapon specialisation. In-game you’d test whether you are ever RP-starved, in which case SoB will likely be better because it will give you more Rune Strikes. My general principal now is to favour 2H-spec.

See the bottom of Frost post for other details on the simulation method, which remained the same in this seim, and shortfalls.

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6 comments to Simulation on Unholy Death Knight tank TPS

  • Bane

    What about taking Black Ice over Bladed Armor? I have heard of some success with an 8/13/50 build with 3/5 Bladed Armor and 5/5 Black Ice.

    Considering how much of Unholy’s damage is magic, it stands to reason Black ice would generate more TPS than a nerfed Bladed Armor.

    Thanks and great work!

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    I simulated it, by moving 5 bladed armour into 5 black ice as you suggested. Good idea. Result DPS was 3058, again about the same, very slightly less, as the first deep unholy test on this post.

    The average damage for abilities changed to:
    Scourge Strike 4371.4 (up nearly 5% as you'd expect)
    Main hand 1976.8 (down 7%)
    Death coil 3002.9 (about the same)
    Fevers 993 (about the same).

    So this shows why bladed armour is a good tanking talent. For DPS, you would find it a weak talent. The difference is a tank has ~25K armour, a DPSer has ~15K.

  • Bane

    Wow, thanks for trying that out! One more question. What about 3/5 in Bladed Armor and 5/5 in Black Ice? It’s possible to do it by leaving only 50 points in Unholy, if one is willing to give up Wandering Plague.

    I’ve been dual spec tanking as Frost and Blood and I really want to return to Unholy despite the naysayers. It’s primary weakness was single target threat in 3.1. If that can hold its own, I like the mitigation of Bone Armor (especially as one gets over 40% avoidance) and the freedom in the rotations with Glyph of Scourge Strike.

    Thanks again for your theorycrafting!

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Hi mate, you’re welcome. I think Unholy can do fine threat. It’s only in extreme hard-modes like Hodir you’ll have trouble, but you would in any DK spec. I am not sure yet how to mathematically assign tps% values per talent point. I wish I knew how Methods on EJ did it. I can get EP values easily but that doesn’t help decisions like Wandering Plague -vs- Bladed Armour per point.

    So that said, I took 2 points out of Dodge and stuck them into Wandering Plague. The damage then became this:
    Wandering Plague, total 39623552, 3.5%, 991.4 average damage
    DPS 3136

    So each talent point earned about 1% increase in damage overall.

    Then I took those two points from W Plague and put them into Black Ice instead (so it just has 1/3 wandering plague)
    DPS 3146
    which is as you’d expect, it’s about the same DPS% per point as WPlague.

    I hope that helps.

  • Bane

    Yeah it helps. If they’re roughly equal, I think I’ll take Wandering Plague for the AoE utility.

    I’m the primary OT in Ulduar and 10 man ToC. Frost feels clunky without the single disease rotation, and Blood, while nice, is not meant to OT with…at least that is not its primary strength. That and it’s messing with my healers when I squeeze my own heals into a seemingly more squishy tank.

    Have you tried Unholy in 3.2? Or even 3.1 for that matter? I’m wondering how mitigation compares to the other 2 trees. my damage is just so spiky these days and it seems alternating Bone Armor one minute and IBF the next could help.

    Great site, by the way, I got it bookmarked!

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Yah I’m pretty sure I tanked Ulduar for one or two runs in Unholy 3.2, and it was fine. In 3.1, yes definitely. I quite like the AMS doing 100% reduction, and with the 4/4 set bonus it’s brilliant to use all the time.

    Also I updated this post to include Unholy-vot3W in case anyone else was wondering about it.