If Frost DPS is the golden boy of Cataclysm, Unholy is the unwanted stepson locked in the basement.
OUT OF DATE (look for updated guides soon!)
(Hint: Frost DPS truly is the golden boy of Cataclysm.)
But don't let that discourage you from playing Unholy! By no means is Blizzard's recent neglect of the spec indicative of its inferiority. In fact, I'd go so far as to claim the opposite. It's no secret that Unholy dominated Frost in every way (except tanking) during Wrath of the Lich King. Because of this, it seems to me (and many others) that Frost got a lot more development attention during Cataclysm, and Unholy wasn't given nearly as much attention because it honestly didn't need it as much.
Despite the apparent neglect, Unholy is a very complex, competitive, fun spec with unique and rewarding gameplay.
However, the neglect does indeed show when it comes to AoE damage output. Instead of applying your diseases, dropping D&D and spamming two buttons over and over like Frost Death Knights do, Unholy really has to work very hard to put out presentable AoE DPS numbers.
Another place the neglect is apparent is when it comes to stat scaling. You'd think that a stat that greatly benefits Unholy Death Knights would also greatly benefit your permanent pet, right? Well that is not the case with your Ghoul and mastery, although he does benefit nicely from crit and haste! But then, your Gargoyle (a huge DPS cooldown for DKs) doesn't benefit at all from crit or mastery, but does benefit from haste.
This makes gearing, gemming, and reforging a little bit tougher with Unholy, because things like a different weapon will change your stat priorities.
The most important thing to make you an excellent Unholy Death Knight instead of an average one is properly stacking your procs and cooldowns. These are literally tiny details and minor technique adjustments, but applied correctly they make for huge differences.
When I first started playing Unholy in 4.3 after reading the Elitist Jerks guide, I was able to pull off about 21K DPS on a target dummy while in mostly Firelands gear. After sitting down and learning just a few extra details and beating on a target dummy for about 3 hours (getting myself comfortable with the changes), I had raised that number to about 26K DPS with the same gear.
Even to this day I keep running across little tweaks to add a bit more damage here and there. Thankfully, a post was created on Elitist Jerks for these minor tweaks, and so far it's flourishing.
And, without further ado- the links!
Another great, simple introduction to the spec by MMO Meltingpot.
Always makes the short list! This particular one is written by Matron Heartless, a major figure in the very active Death Knight community
This one picks up where Heartless' guide leaves off, trying to more accurately define the minor tweaks and techniques to squeeze every last ounce of DPS out of your Unholy Death Knight
This is Matron Heartless' website, and the center-point of a very wonderful, friendly, and helpful Death Knight community.
Now that all of the specs have coverage on this blog,
Go break things!
As always, comments, questions, corrections, screaming, and all other forms of human feedback are welcome!