Friday, October 19, 2012

Frost Verses Unholy (Mists of Pandaria)

I imagine I'm not the only PvE Death Knight questioning my spec at this point in the expansion

So what spec should a concerned PvE Death Knight play?

Well, as you may imagine, the answer is not so straight forward. I'm going to start at the end with this article. I just made the switch from Unholy to Frost. While I still have a heartfelt attachment to Unholy, I realized that I was attached to what Unholy represented rather than what it brought to the raid. 

The thought of switching came more on a whim than anything else. There are a series of factors that seem to have taken some of the elegance from Unholy, which made playing it less fun for me. Atop that, Frost has some undeniable advantages in ten man especially where you need flexibility from every player.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had no reason not to switch

With that out of the way, let's take a close look at the contenders.

In the Green corner...
I started this expansion leveling as Blood, and doing Dungeons with my guild group as Unholy. Unholy has been my favorite DPS spec since Firelands. I've always used words like "surgical" and "nuanced" to describe it's gameplay. It isn't simple, and it requires a lot of forward thinking and strategy to play properly. 

However, played properly Unholy drops enormous single target DPS, and it's AoE sustained over a timespan of greater than thirty seconds on more than 4 targets is an awesome sight to behold. Unholy brings flexibility to heavy movement fights (Timmy the Ghoul and Gary the Gargoyle can DPS one thing while you beat on another), and is loaded with cooldowns that can stack atop each other for enormous bursts of DPS at critical times. 

Unholy's DPS is characterized by a rapid series of small inclines and declines, a large burst of damage every 3 minutes, and a meteoric rise of damage during the last 35% of the boss' health. (Image a World of Logs 5th highest DPS for Unholy Death Knights on Elegon- Rothulean of Nesingwary. Grats Roth!)

In the Blue corner...
Frost has been on my backburner since T11. I did enjoy Frost greatly then, but with 4.2 effectively killing 2H DPS, it was the final straw that initially pushed me to Unholy. 

I typically describe Frost as "frantic", "spammy", or "inelegant", but it does have its strengths. Frost offers much higher and far more frequent bursts of DPS compared to Unholy. It is slightly lower on single target DPS, but much more powerful in AoE situations. Frost also offers better raid utility (awesome kiting, cleaves etc) and can offer much better DPS at range (a bigger advantage than you may think).

As the log clearly shows, Frost DPS is characterized by a rapid series of huge spikes and dips in damage, with a large burst in damage every few minutes correlating to Pillar of Frost usage. Frost also has another burst in the last 35% of the boss' health, but not nearly so dramatic as Unholy's. (Image above a World of Logs 5th highest DPS for Frost Death Knights on Elegon- Kreigerz of Lothar. Grats Kreigerz!)

Final weigh in...
Aside from Frost being simply easier to play at a high level (no pets to attend to, rapid and effective target switching, fewer cooldowns while remaining competitive) it also provides a more useful damage profile. That huge burst in AoE and single target allows quick destruction of any adds that need to die faster than Unholy can ramp up, and Frost can push phases on demand.

While Unholy is no slouch at all, Frost's simplicity and usefulness in a larger variety of situations makes it a more attractive choice (IMHO) for progression raiding.

Your mileage may (and will) vary here.

As you may imagine, with this switch from Unholy to Frost, a Frost MoP guide is imminent.