After a week of evaluation, I’ve switched my main DPS spec from Unholy to Frost Dual Wield.
Is my DPS better as Frost? Overall, no, not really.
In fact, my overall DPS and AoE DPS might have suffered somewhat. Single target DPS over a long fight is about the same, and suffers on high mobility fights. So why switch? Burst. Burst damage isn’t something you can plainly evaluate in logs and recount meters. It’s something you notice while raiding. I noticed it during the Gunship fight, where being able to rocket-pack over and pop Unbreakable Armor as a burst cooldown every time helped burn down the channeler much faster than what I was used to. The same is true of trash, being able to burn a single dangerous mob down much faster, or on fights like Deathwhisper where you can burn through a Cultists shield that much faster and without having to have diseases up. At the expense of overall sustained damage, sure. Most often the case is that it all somehow balances out. There appear to be some fights that favour Frost, and some that favour Unholy (Sindragosa springs to mind). Picking between these two specs based on damage potential, then, is purely subjective. They appear to be more or less equivalent.
Does it offer better utility? Better buffing?
Not so much, no. If your raid has a lot of shamans, even untalented Windfury Totem can buff melee quite well. The 13% buff Unholy brings to raiding, on the other hand, can only be replaced by a Warlock, and they are quite few and far between. Specifically it has to be an Affliction warlock, and with most locks being destro, it largely falls to the DK’s to provide that (de)buff. However, what Frost DOES provide is a the most versatile hotpluggability in terms of damage role the class has to offer. See, Unholy does good sustained AoE and single-target damage, but that’s it. Not much room for switching things up. Frost, on the other hand, can change gear so to speak from single to AoE damage simply by switching up Obliterate for Howliing Blast whenever it’s available. Moreover, by switching your Razorice offhand for a Cinderglacier-runed weapon, and cleverly lining up Killing Machine and Cinderglacier procs (I use Power Auras to tell me when both are up at the same time) you can unload some incredible AoE burst damage – hitting EVERY mob in the blast radius for upwards of 15K+ in one hit is something to see. Feels like a nuke just went off. Sure you still won’t be doing the same amount of AoE over time as unholy, but for large amounts of mobs with relatively low HP you might, in fact, be able to do more AoE damage than even Unholy is capable of. And it’s that capability to switch up, as the scenario demands, that gives Frost a significant advantage.
The truth is, Unholy and Frost are almost identical in terms of raw damage and raid utility. Frost is a lot more frantic and severely constrained by GCD and careful proc management, and feels far more hectic to play. Unholy is slower, and steady, and terribly reliable. In my opinion it’s far easier to play, but also somewhat limited in comparison to frost.
So choosing which to spec for is entirely up to you. It’s rare that a class has two equally viable DPS PVE specs, so we are quite lucky we can choose which one we enjoy. As for Blood, it’s pretty much fallen by the wayside. With BiS and ARP capped, you can perhaps match Unholy or Frost, but it would be a bad time to pursue that avenue with Blood falling away as a DPS spec in Cataclysm. May as well use the time to get used to Frost or Unholy.
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