Frost or Unholy in Dragon Soul?

Hey guys, and welcome to this new blog about Death Knights! I will start things up with a discussion about what spec to choose in Dragon Soul. Of course, this is my own opinion and could be proven wrong in the next few weeks, so take it with a grain of salt!

This whole week, from the official WoW forums, to the Elitist Jerks forums and even in trade chat, you can often see the same question being asked by Death Knights: Should I spec Frost or Unholy in Dragon Soul? This is a question that haven’t been asked since tier 11 and almost every Death Knight raiding seriously in Firelands had to spec Frost dual wield to stay competitive. These past few days, a good number of Death Knights in top raiding guilds have started switching to Unholy, but most are still specced Frost. Most are now specced unholy (as of December 9th).

With the release of Dragon Soul and patch 4.3, it is not as easy to pick the best DPS spec anymore. To quote the patch notes regarding DPS death knights:

–          Death Knight pets now properly inherit their master’s crit and spell penetration stats.

–          The gargoyle called by Summon Gargoyle should exclusively use its ranged attack regardless of range to the target.

–          Unholy Might now increases Strength by 25%, up from 20%.

Our pets inheriting their master’s crit rating has the effect of bumping the value of the stat by roughly 25-30% for Unholy, since the ghoul alone is doing about a quarter of our damage. The gargoyle using melee attacks is a very nice quality of life change since there were ways of preventing it to use melee attacks before. The unholy might buff can seem like a small change, but even if it is a very cheap way of trying and “fix” the spec, it actually brings Unholy very close to Frost dual wield from a DPS standpoint.

So what does that actually mean for raiding? Considering the same level of weapons and adequate reforging, we are probably getting to a point where the optimal spec is going to change depending on the fight (its length for the uptime of cooldowns and the specific mechanics). The following is not based on any quantitative studies or simulations, but rather on my personal “feel” for what spec might pull ahead depending on the encounter in Dragon Soul normal mode.


As a melee, you will need to run out of range and hide during Black blood of the earth. Even if Anti-Magic Shell can help with the downtime, it is still required to move out at some point. For that, Unholy is most probably going to pull ahead on this fight since our friend Timmy the ghoul is going to stay on the boss 100% of the time. Speccing for Anti-Magic Zone can be a really good idea on this fight for slightly more uptime on the boss as Unholy.

Warlord Zon’Ozz:

For the ping-pong boss, the burn phases are spaced by about a minute (it can be a little bit more or less depending on how your raid handles the bounces). With proper timing, Frost can easily be king on that fight since you would be able to use Pillar of Frost for most of the burn phases when the boss takes increased damage.

Yor’Sahj the Unsleeping:

For this expansion ooze boss, if you are required to move out of range and help kill the ooze, Unholy can be better from a personal DPS point of view since you can keep Timmy on the boss at all times. However, if your raid is having trouble killing the oozes in time, you should definitely spec frost as the burst damage is much better. Regardless, both specs should be pretty equal in my opinion on that boss.

Hagara the Stormbinder:

Much like Zon’Ozz, the boss will take increased damage several times during the fight and it might align better with Pillar of Frost. There is also some pet management to do as Timmy will most likely die if you don’t tell him to follow you during a transition phase. I see Frost as being slightly ahead due to these two points, but it probably wouldn’t be a dealbreaker to spec unholy.


For the DPS/gear check of the instance, you want to use the spec in which you know you can pull the biggest numbers.  I am currently unsure if Timmy keeps attacking the boss while the raid is zoned out of the twilight realm for either fading light or hour of twilight. Unholy could potentially pull slightly ahead if it’s the case.

Warmaster Blackthorn:

With two adds up and the need of focusing fire on one, Unholy is great with Pestilence and Death and Decay allowing to significantly damage the second add while focusing the first. Timmy’s stun might also be useful to help dealing with the goblin sapper that spawns. Regardless of the spec chosen though, Death Grip should be ready for these sappers throughout the whole fight! The somewhat short fight against Blackthorn himself (between 3:00 and 3:30) can favour unholy if the gargoyle can be used twice.

Spine of Deathwing:

This fight is about control most of the time, and burst damage on Burning Tendons. Frost is highly favoured since burst damage usable more often and reliably than Unholy. Careful not to Howling Blast these Burning Blood adds too much though!

Madness of Deathwing:

There is a reported bug on the encounter where Timmy despawns or dies upon switching platforms. If it doesn’t get resolved, frost would clearly pull ahead on this final encounter since Timmy would lose all its buffs upon dying. If it ever gets fixed by Blizzard, then Unholy could be slightly preferred for its slightly higher survivability.

So, Frost or Unholy in Dragon Soul?

All things considered, if your raid is not struggling to kill bosses in Dragon Soul on normal difficulty, you can pretty much play the spec you enjoy playing the most. There shouldn’t be that much of a difference if you can comfortably kill bosses. On heroic modes though, the choice of the spec potentially could have consequences on the raid as a whole, especially if you are running with 2 or 3 Death Knights.

I myself have just respecced Unholy after our last Firelands clear for a few reasons: my gear is better suited for Unholy with massive amouts of crit rating on it. The first heroic mode boss that is most likely to be attempted being Morchok, I felt I would be of a bigger help for the raid. Since I also happen to enjoy a lot more the play style as Unholy, I will most likely be spending some more quality time with my old friend Timmy in the next few weeks.

What spec are you thinking of trying out in Dragon Soul this week? Were the changes made with patch 4.3 enough for you to switch specs? In any case, enjoy Dragon Soul and happy raiding!


2 responses to “Frost or Unholy in Dragon Soul?

  1. Another thing about Spine of Deathwing, when attacking the Tendons as Unholy your pet will die. Has happened everytime. It may not happen to normal timmy, but I know for a fact if he is enlarged he will die.

    • Interresting, I did not know that as I just go back frost for that fight even if I’m not reforged for it. The fast burst dps on demand of frost makes the spec just that much better for this fight. Thanks for the info!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s