Unholy, not so bad?

Just wanted you to know, I checked Unholy vs Frost and Blood in Kahorie’s sim, and the TPS gap I’d seen in earlier simulations has been closed somewhat. This is because of improvement in the sim’s accuracy of Unholy.

Full spec and details on Unholy are in my original 3.3 post.

I updated my test comparisons in i245 gear, assuming ICC aura:

  • 2H Frost did ~3.7% more threat than the Unholy spec,
  • Blood did between 1.6% and 3.4% depending on the spec,
  • and dual-wield Frost gave between 2.8% more with a 2.6 MH and 2.0 OH (Quel’serrar) and 6.2% more with two nice slow 2.6 speed weapons. Getting that from Frost though does require skilful management of Rime and KM procs.

If you use two 1.5s weapons in DW frost, you would do about 10% less threat than an Unholy tank who has a nice slow two-hander. Two slow weapons is really important to DW frost TPS (for strike damage, obviously, they also hit for about 10% more damage).

The threat gap is not as great as it was when I first wrote about Unholy (it looked like 10% then).

So whilst I’m not advocating Unholy, I wanted to say it’s not dead, and I’d be interested to hear any more opinions on how it’s going in the real world. Here’s one already.

Update, after half a day of 5-mans in this spec. I found that no-reaping but with epidemic (for AOE), at most gear levels for tanks is more threat, by a few percent, than with reaping. I tried it, I still like that spec and rotation. I had no real trouble with threat in HoR or other heroics, but I did notice that my DW Frost build had more single-target threat. I still love bone shield.

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14 comments to Unholy, threat not so bad?

  • Christopher S. Penn
    Twitter: cspenn

    In the real world, at least in our casual raiding guild (still chewing on Ulduar) and the ever fun game show, Wheel of Heroics, Unholy is my preferred spec for AOE threat. There’s nothing else that comes close for DKs when it comes to creating a lot of threat, especially when that PuG rogue starts spamming FoK or the mage unleases a half dozen Blizzards in a row. The only place where I’ve really suffered is H HoR because Unholy’s nature also creates havoc with CC, so for that one I’m thinking about a heavy frost build with emphasis on CC (Hungering Cold) and snares/slows like crazy.

  • Satorri

    Unholy has largely only been unpopular with people who’ve never given it an honest go, or had trouble making it work.
    I was Unholy back in Naxx so I was fairly comfortable with it, but when Blood was fixed up in 3.1 I made the switch as I’ve always preferred the feel of Blood (ok that sounds weird).
    For a long, Unholy was unappealing because, even though the Bone Shield uptime was functionally the same, double the bones and double the cooldown left you feeling the longer gaps where you had no special protection from any talents against physical damage (beyond the Holy Trinity).  When the flipped that back to the old style I picked up an Unholy tanking spec, with a funny design of my own, and tanked ToC10/25 with it.
    Here’s the funny thing. I fairly frequently cycle my offspecs to get a sense of tanking setups relative to my own and stay versed in the how-to’s. Every time I go Frost my healers feel particularly aware of me taking more damage and they can usually call me out on my stealth spec switch. When I switched to Unholy no one noticed. Apparently, and anecdotally, Unholy’s mitigation is quite strong when well-handled. Furthermore, my threat actually (and again anecdotally, I only measured based on glances at Omen) was distinctly better than my typical Blood cruising speed.
    I won’t get into too much detail, but the wonky, experimental design I was playing with was pre-nerf abuse of Unholy Blight. Short-hand method made a point to keep UB rolling by throwing a DC every 10 seconds. Combined with well-timed use of AMS I was able to get some pretty silly sized UB ticks, and my tps scaled accordingly. The anecdotal distinction is that while I tend to keep a healthy lead over most of my dps as Blood, Unholy built an almost comical margin, the sort I don’t usually see unless I outgear my dps by a healthy margin.
    The issue I see with Unholy, and probably why it’s not generally respected, is that it is HARD. It’ is the DK tanking equivalent of a plate spinning act. To optimize threat and survival each requires careful attention to short cooldown refreshes. Bone Shield needs to be micro-managed, pre-buffed, rebuffed, and kept up as often as possible, and to minimize the feeling of squishiness in between, you can and should use trinkets, IBF, and other tools at your disposal to cover those wholes when they crop up. Similarly, for my threat design it involved some very sharp short-cooldown maintenance. That said, if you’re just using a ScS-centric method and hammering the daylights out of something, it shouldn’t be quite as complicated on that end. Like Frost it’s just a matter of using your rune blackouts well.
    Since then there have been two changes:
    1.) Unholy Blight was nerfed. The % was cut in half from 20% of DC damage to 10%. This would marginalize my old quirky method, perhaps, but it shouldn’t kill the style as Unholy Blight was only 7% of my total damage (would be less of my threat), and some of that loss could be recouped by just not using Glyph of UB.
    2.) ScS was buffed. The current form of ScS should hit a good measure harder than the old one did, so I imagine a heavy ScS spamming design could be a power house.
    I really like that Kahorie built a simulator, but it concerns me when people try to refute real execution, experience, or even theory with simulator results (not here, but on TankSpot I had someone tell me my math/logic was wrong because the Simulator came out slightly differently). Generally I love using tools like that, but I feel like it can be misused by people who think the simulator will necessarily proximate real play experience.

  • Hensley
    Twitter: hensleydk

    I did a more detailed post about my experience if you are interested.
    (Sorry, my native tongue is swedish – not english. Bare with my grammar/spellings )

  • Matthew
    Twitter: gphreak

    That’s interesting, I did some quick sims after reading this and I am still loosing 6-8% TPS in comparison to my current blood spec (~9100 to 8450 TPS). I got some upgrades in between and will run some more sims tomorrow based on my current gear (finally hit-capped and a decent weapon with strength).
    Regarding Bone Shield I remember the internal cooldown being 3 seconds, so we’re having a minimum of 12 seconds uptime, right?

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    All: I just did some further analysis, and no-reaping Unholy is about 1.8% higher threat than with reaping. Keep epidemic though. Spec like this. I did several tests to verify that today it is the highest threat unholy build I can put together with an i245 or i226 tank. I really liked the no reaping spec, because of its simplified rotation. That said, it’s less flexible in AOE, which is often when you need death runes: when you might use death runes for an icy touch on a new add, for example. I will try it today and see how it feels.

    @Chris: your guild could do ToC-10 surely? With all the Emblem gear now you’d have the HP/DPS/HPS? For HoR, I’ll see how it feels if I get it today and let you know. I’m surprised you have problems. That said, dual-wield Frost in HoR is very good.

    @Satorri: great contribution as always.

    @Hensley: thanks for that, very helpful. I couldn’t comment on your blog, btw, it’s broken for me. Grats on the two-pieces of T10!

    @Matthew: bone shield, yes, I think it’s 2.5 seconds. I don’t know if anyone actually knows for sure, though. Re sim, you may have a lot of expertise in your character profile, to gain more from Blood or other differences.

  • Shazear
    Twitter: Shazear

    Are you suggesting that Unholy is a reasonably viable Tank spec again?  The numbers I’m seeing, it still has some of the lower survivability rates compared to Frost or Blood.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      Not sure yet. I do like bone shield, but I just did some runs of 5-mans and I’m not convinced about it. That said, I didn’t have much threat problems and found AOE really easy.

      I logged several 5-mans in both frost and unholy tank spec, then analysed in WWS and Rehfeld, but it’s hard to get conclusive data this way. Some were about on-par in terms of tps/dps, but there was one outlier of unholy which was 10% more than all the others, because of so many AOE fights.

  • Tusam
    Twitter: tusamdk

    First off, great job on the site. I’ve been coming to it for a while now and the information just keeps getting better and better. Keep up the good work.

    As far unholy Deathknight tanking goes, I’ve been one since my DK hit 80. I’m currently my guild main tank with this spec. This spec allow me to keep agro even when my guild top DPSers are nuke/AoEing a pull, unless I mess up my rotation. My 2 top DPSers put out between 6-8k DPS on most pulls, sometimes more. As an unholy DK I find that messing up a rotation, especially early in a fight, can be costly. I also find that DK threat is very gear dependent; weapon upgrades provide a huge boost to TPS.

    As for survivability, as an unholy DK I find that it’s all about mastering the sweet spots for cool down usage. Understanding the mechanics of your CDs and when to best use them in a fight will make a huge improvement in performance on your part. My healers never complain about me taking too much damage unless we’re still learning a new fight and I haven’t mastered the CD rotation for it yet.

    For those of you interested and with time to kill you can check my current spec and my guild WMO logs. The WMO logs are from last month, our meters guy has been slacking off :-P


  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    I had the unholy and frost tank specs until last night, when I needed to choose one to drop so I could DPS in ICC-10. Wasn’t a hard decision; dropped unholy. If you can only have one tank spec, I choose Frost over Unholy.

    • Matthew
      Twitter: gphreak

      Having a DPS spec that one is familar with is in general a good idea.
      Sure the flexibility of choosing the “right” tank spec for the encounter is great, but at least in 25-mans it’s a besser idea to let the appropiate [b]tank[/b] do the encounter. I’m not doing my raid a favor by insisting on tanking [b]anything[/b] on heroic Anub if two shield tanks and a druid are available.
      I do switch Glyphs (Death Strike / DnD) based on the encounter, though.

  • Melder
    Twitter: Cimegs5088

    I always been wondering, what do you mean by “skillful management of rime and KM proc”?

    would love to get some advice on that. thanks.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      The things a good dpser does, (a) having a buff-watch addon of some kind so you never miss a proc (b) using both KM and Rime at the same time, if possible (c) never wasting KM on an IT (d) never losing a Rime proc.

  • noob

    Unholy tanking with a pet is fun and i would like to share this spec, http://www.wowarmory.com/character-talents.xml?r=Dath'Remar&cn=Tankazor&group=2

    This week we manage to defeat DBS Heroic 10s. Due to the lack of slow effect, i have decided to pick up Desecration as well. Other than just tanking DBS, i now have to slow the blood beast with chains of ice and stun them with ghoul.

    There are many other situation whereby a pet would be useful for tanking. For example I have always tank Prince Keleseth in frost due to extra range ability, but this week I will try out this unholy spec, the extra magic damage reduction and ability to use pet to monitor one of the kinetic bomb allow the dps to focus more on the boss.

    We also did heroic 10s Festergut in this spec as it buff the 2 shadow priest in the raid significantly.

    Indeed “Unholy, not so bad” after all ;D

  • I tank as unholy for my 10-man every week.  It’s perfectly viable for any current raiding scenario.

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