Monday, September 10, 2012

Unholy DPS (Mists of Pandaria)

Unholy remains the most nuanced, under-rated, and under-appreciated spec among Death Knights in Mists- making it that much more lovable.

Mists of Pandaria has actually been pretty great for Unholy Death Knights. We gained several new tools, got several outstanding issues addressed, and perhaps most importantly the Unholy spec has gained much flexibility.

The list of significant differences is seemingly small, but they really change everything.
  • Soul Reaper is added at level 87. Soul Reaper is an execute, which does little initial damage but applies a debuff, which after 5 seconds falls off, doing an insane amount of damage that scales with Unholy's mastery.
  • Army of the Dead has had its damage buffed (still optimal to use when you cannot otherwise hit the boss, but not nearly so punishing if used in other situations)
  • Any minion entities (AotD ghouls, Gary the Gargoyle) now update their stats dynamically (as opposed to the old static snapshots) to match yours- meaning that if you summon Gary and three seconds later you pop Unholy Frenzy, Gary gets that buff when you get it.
  • Expertise has jumped in value from the bottom of the list all the way up in-between hit and haste. Hopefully you have some pocket change available for reforging! The new priority is Hit(to 8%)>=Expertise(to 8%)>Haste>Crit>=Mastery
  • Our revamped talent tree brings us a slew of interesting abilities. 
  • New glyphs
For the talent tree-
Math, sims, and logs tell us the perfectly optimal set up is taking Plague Leach, Lichborne,  Death's Advance, Death Pact, and Blood Tap. However, deviating from this optimal build is a DPS variance of less than 5%, and lets face it- playing with Plague leach and Blood Tap is difficult enough that your DPS will probably drop significantly by using the so-called optimal build as opposed to the much simpler Roiling Blood/Unholy Blight and Runic Corruption.
More importantly, it should be considered that all of our abilities will have specific uses on specific fights, and that respeccing can be done anytime out of combat for a very small fee, so really the choices here are very flexible- if a specific fight actually has a great use for Anti-Magic Zone, take it! 

A few personal notes- 
  • Unholy retains it's position among DKs as single-target DPS king in Mists.
  • Unholy has the potential (through several buffs to diseases, Blood Boil, and Unholy Blight) to become an AoE monster again, although it still lacks Frost's burst. As far as I can tell this is Blizzard's intent- and welcome news for many Unholy DKs who've suffered through lackluster AoE for too long.
  • Many AoE abilities (Unholy Blight, Blood Boil etc) can now proc Gurth's tentacles on large groups. This may or may not be intentional (read: Arms Warriors with Bladestorm & Gurth), but no matter, it's massively fun!
  • Unholy feels butter smooth, extremely fun, more flexible, and more engaging in Mists with my current talent point allocation (Unholy Blight, Lichborne, Death's Advance, Death Pact, Runic Corruption), and my DPS has never been higher. All in all things are looking rosy.
  • Gary the Gargoyle's AI seems to be broken in many ways, specifically target swapping, target acquisition and movement don't work properly. 
  • Managing cooldowns is key. This aspect can be rather clunky.

Obligatory Elitist Jerks Link

Why am I not surprised that Matron Heartless managed to make yet another amazing guide?!

Updated to Mists of Pandaria