Unholy vs Blood Presence for PvE

Update (3 May 2011): Patch 4.1 has changed Frost Death Knights again, so now the use of Unholy presence is viable and desirable, but the jury is still out on exactly which circumstances require which presence. For now use Unholy for Frost, especially if you have a need for high movement.

Old info (9 March 2011): Cataclysm has totally changed the choice of which presence to use. Please do not use Blood Presence for DPS any more, its a Tank Presence now. I have written an updated post on this topic, but the content is repeated here.

From now onward the choice of DPS presence is between Frost and Unholy. Generally if you are an Unholy DK, then use Unholy Presence especially where fights require a lot of movement. Also if you’re a Frost DK then use Frost presence for dual-weild and Unholy for using a two handed weapon (see links for proof). This is a deliberate change in style so that the spec matches the presence.

So the DPS rule is now: 2h weapon = Unholy, x2 single handed weapons = Frost.

Original post is below.

dk-symbolI ping’ed a question about Unholy vs Blood presence for Death Knights in PvE, to Skeleton Jack. The response left little doubt in my mind of his opinion.

Noted SJ, I won’t ask again. 🙂

heya SJ,

How about this old topic: Unholy vs blood presence, as a blood spec dk

I was doing HoA (? big boss that is a 4 minute dps race), and was told to switch from Blood to Unholy. Could the reason be the fight being very short? The reason I ask is that I thought that blood was better overall, and increased the damage on all abilities.

I’ll have to try some target dummies. And then I remembered you posting something along the lines of “blood always for dps pve” and it got me thinking.



The response goes:


Yeah, but the why is still missing.

A quick Google Search will garner you forum debates and three good links: (a) from Dunsparrow, (b) from WoW Forums (read at your own risk), and (c) WoWHead.

I’ll stick to Blood for the most part. However Unholy will get a look when:

  • I know that 3 fast hits will kill something, and the fight is only going to last as long as the one mob.
  • I can spam DeathCoil. The speed that you can unload DeathCoil alone is fantastic.
  • A fight with a very high degree of movement needed.

Example One: The Harvester in Naxx – when doing the Live side that is basically a pvp fight at the start, with downtime between waves. I go Unholy Presence so that I unload powers asap, and the mobs die. No question in my mind that this is better. However I switch to Blood if the waves get too close to gether, and always just before the gate opens so I can smash the boss using Blood Presence.

Example Two: The Ulduar “flame spout” trash before Ignis. For these guys you need to be moving constantly, and I’ve read that if you burst for about 10s then run back you might avoid the spout. Avoiding the spout reduces your healing needed and means you’re in control of where you go. It smells like speed and burst to me, and that means Unholy Presence.

Example Three: The Thorim Arena, many waves of trash, which can be single mobs or waves of mobs – Unholy is actually a cool thing here. I unload far faster on the Evokers that Blood allows, and often burn through mobs before really knowing whats happening. All those commoners can be nuked with AoE – as long as they go down fast. When you get close to the end of that phase, switching to Blood Presence is a easy thing to fit in before Thorim walks in.

17 thoughts on “Unholy vs Blood Presence for PvE

  1. I’ve actually given reasons on why not to use Unholy in a PvE DPS environment on several different occasions now. You’ve just missed it. The reason why?

    15% haste on white attacks will yield roughly a 4-5% damage increase at most. 15% bonus damage to all of your attacks will yield a 15% damage increase.

    So you have only left to compare 1 sec GCD versus 1.5 sec GCD. If it was possible to swap at will between presences without the cost of a Rune, then swapping back and forth would likely become more prevalent. There could be significant advantages. As it will cost you 2 runes to flip into Unholy and then back to Blood after, this becomes less feasible. Every spec/rotation built around a 1 sec GCD fails to surpass any current Blood Presence spec/rotation (regarding the “top” PvE specs that is).

    So the end result is that for sustained DPS lasting for 10+ seconds Unholy Presence will never be able to keep pace with Blood Presence. It scales poorly with buffs, and actually increases the chance of error due to the fact that Unholy Presence rotations tend to be very complex and lengthy.

    As far as movement, Unholy Presence is pure win.

    As far as Burst Damage, Unholy Presence is pure win.

    Hence why it owns for PvP.

  2. Update: the current math indicates that Unholy has legs. In any fight where burst is needed, and you’re not going to be hitting the same mob 10 seconds later – Unholy.

  3. how ’bout for fights like, for instance, 4-horsemen?
    -also, in regards to patch 3.1, will this change?
    blood is becoming very reliant on runic power dumps even more so than before. by increasing your runic power (RP mastery) and increasing your runic power per minute (unholy pres) can’t you dump FAR more often? 50% more often. and also your deathcoil is making up close to 30% of overall damage. to me (a person who knows very little about theory craft) this would appear to be 50% of 30% which would equal 15% bonus damage. in fights with a boss that is not stationary and you cannot land nearly as many melee hits, unholy sounds superior. but this also increases your melee dps – your GCD for all other abilities (obviously) and much more. it just sounds to me as though Unholy Presence rotations arent given enough thought because they will be vastly different looking than blood presence rotations

    -blisstine (arygos)

  4. @ Blisstine – its got to do with the amount of time you’re going to spend unloading damage, vs the increase and the cost of switching. I think 10s is my minimum, modified to suit if I need fast movement.

    Have to remember too that you should not be switching Presence in battles too often either, as each move costs a rune that could be used for a power.

    I’ll update the post text with two examples.

  5. Ok i was just wondering, as I have read many debates, for blood spec which is a better horde race choice troll or orc? many say that blood is better for troll, but that orc is overall more versatile. But as I am aiming for maxing my dps I was wondering if the troll’s regen, berserk and voodoo shuffle would outweigh the orc’s axe, pet, bloodlust. Any input would be great thanks

  6. Hey Badluckz, If its pure dps gains then check the EJ forums, I’m sure its been asked and they’ve done the math. My hunch is that Orc is a better choice, but then I’d say that if you are looking to do the best dps you can, you also need to think outside only using Blood spec. Its great for some fights, lower dps on others. Perhaps Troll might be better if you are never going to use a pet and your weapon is not an Axe?

    Also take Skinning as one of your professions, and perhaps Enchanting as they other. The extra crit from Skinning, and the Ring Enchants are good.

    But then I’d also say that race selection should be more about the feel of what you like, and craft selection should complement your existing toons.

  7. Thanks typhoonandrew, those are the xact profs i had in mind lol. I know I won’t be blood spec all the time but it is what I want to be ”mainly”. Thanks again for your response 😀

  8. Blood presence is still better overall for dps; nothing has changed. So for those few times where waves of adds need to be dropped ultra-quick, UP has uses, but BP is better for raids.

  9. The reason to use it is to use up the blood runes, so that you can get them as death runes, and also it hits multiple opponents. Given a DK’s hp regen and high armour you can pull and fight two mobs at the same time.

  10. What Glyphs are you using for your Blood DK? Are you using dedicated Blood Major Glyphs or do you mix n match? Just that if like me you use Death Coil to dump your runic power a lot ( or shoot mobs running away) do you mix in the glyph that gives you the extra % damage from Death Coil?

  11. I’ve not been a Blood DK fro more than a few nights, and found my latency killed the very tight rotations needed at the time.

    For a build that has straight single target more than aoe for blood try this build. However a build that uses diseases more is this one, which might be better for AoE.

    Both are valid for patch 3.3.

    So Glyphs are:
    Major Glyphs
    Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon
    Glyph of Death Strike
    Glypf of Dark Death or Glyph of Disease (see above)

    Minor Glyphs
    Glyph of Pestilence
    Glyph of Horn of Winter
    Glyph of Raise Dead

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