Unholy DK tank build PTR 3.22, simulation

For Unholy in patch 3.3: read my full analysis.

Sept 28: In 3.22 the below spec is no longer the highest threat unholy build, it’s now with no-epidemic.

October 1st: the below analysis has a major error in the character sheet I used, overweighting attack power. Look at the no-epidemic page for the latest on unholy.

Original post continues:

I did a few simulations of a Death Knight deep Unholy tank build to see how useful the new Subversion and Scourge Strike glyph are. This is using patch 3.22 changes. I also wanted to check the relative values of wandering plague, blood-caked blade, ravenous dead, and epidemic.

Read my conclusion for the highest tps DK unholy spec I could find.

These tests are using Kahorie’s simulator v1.1.1 which knows about the PTR changes. My usual caveats apply and baseline stats used (they’re at the bottom of this post).


  • 2 points in wandering plague are worth the same DPS as 2 in blood-cake blade
  • wandering plague is better, however, since it scales with raid buffs, hits AOE, and doesn’t increase boss-parry risk. I didn’t expect it to have been as good as BCB though, that’s good news
  • 2 points in subversion is a tiny bit slightly less DPS (~0.9%) than two in wandering plague or BCB, so basically you can consider them equal for tanking purposes
  • 2 points in epidemic, when you also have the new SS glyph, is worth less than two in those other talents mentioned; ie. 2.2% less dps when spec’d into epidemic instead of subversion
  • I double-checked, plague strike glyph is pathetic. You can’t use it instead of SS glyph and think epidemic is enough.

Can you just use the new SS glyph and have zero in epidemic? They both work to extend disease duration, so do you need both? Here’s what I found:

  1. You do not need epidemic if you have the SS glyph. Sim with zero gave 3067 dps, sim with 2/2 epidemic gave 3079 dps, both had the glyph, no other changes. That’s basically no gain.
  2. However, you’ll screw yourself in AOE situations.
  3. Therefore, take Epidemic anyhow, and don’t get the new +3 second SS glyph
  4. Use Unholy Blight glyph instead.
  5. This is consistent with commentary in the EJ DPS thread.

Next test, how much does Ravenous dead compared to virulence? Virulence buffs death coil, which is your 3rd or 4th biggest damage source, but it uses RP which for a tank is often consumed by rune strikes. Ravenous dead on the other hand, buffs strength which increases all your spell damage directly.

  • Virulence took death coil to 15.7% of total damage from 15.4%, since it missed only 5% of the time and not 7%.  That was a net 0.5% dps increase. Not good.
  • Ravenous Dead on the other hand gave 1.8% more dps for two talent points.

In earlier tests, I have worked out that Desolation is slightly weaker than Bladed Armour. I also found Black Ice is about the same value as wandering plague, around 1% per talent.


This is based on simulation theory crafting.

This means a deep unholy tank, going for highest threat, you would spec like 12-8-51.

Sept 28: that’s not the highest threat build actually anymore, it’s now no-epidemic.

(Don’t gimp your AOE by dropping epidemic and don’t use +3 second SS glyph.)

Remember my caveats for all these sims (sigil/presence, etc).

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8 comments to Unholy DK tank build PTR 3.22, simulation

  • Hinenuitepo

    Nice analysis. I’d agree with everything you have here.
    I was reading what you were writing about the SS glyph and was thinking, “but you’d screw yourself in aoe situations,’ then I read your next line :)

    Personally, when I tank I almost never have threat issues, but if you’re not having any problems with survival, then yes, threat gearing/spec is the way to go. Right now my tank gear has two dps pieces, and rune of fallen crusader, and I have a few dps talents in my spec – while still having 50%+ avoidance and defense capped. Works well for survivability and threat, although some of the other tanks in my guild do more dps. And I didn’t see it in your post, but unholy has been the tree that tradionally has the most threat issues, so your analysis is certainly more important for that tree.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Thanks Hinen. I agree, survival is #1, threat #2. You’re right that Unholy has been the threat laggard in 3.2, though.

  • Truebeliever

    So I’m new to the site and I really like it, what can you say of this spec?

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      I’m generally not going to do spec reviews for people here mate, sorry. That looks like one for heroics, since you don’t have Imp IT.

  • Khakk

    You have chosen to take Minor glyph Corpse Explosion without taking the talent, I then ask should I change the glyph or take 1 point somewhere to put into Corpse Explosion?

  • Sasha

    I Just tonight I finished a quicky with a very geared warlock pulling 6k T spikes and had a terrible time maintaining threat on single target, slow hitting bosses. (I am unholy) I can confirm the issues with SS messing up group AOE. You think the other mobs may have more time then they actually do on their diseases, and it becomes really frustrating. I tried everything, swapping targets and quickly spreading diseases, but bottom line, SS glyph is a pain in the arse. They really need to change it back to its previous state. Thank you for confirming  suspicions on Subversion too.
    Awesome post, I have been searching feverishly for someone to tackle this problem. You sir, are my hero for the day :)

    - reposted this comment for Sasha, it came in just during a host maintenance, Gravity.

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