Saturday, January 17, 2009

Comparing Playstyles: Dual Wield to Unholy DPS

I've been Dual Wield for a few days now and ran several heroics and three raids with the setup. Until Patch 3.08 hits there is a clear DPS advantage to Dual Wielding, but it loses the flexibility to tank that I had in my Unholy DPS/Tank spec here.

Due to the amount of material in this post I'll break it into sections.

Section 1) Frost Talent Review
Section 2) DW Rotation and Damage Breakdown
Section 3) Unholy Review
Section 4) Comparing the two

Section 1) Frost Talent Review

Improved Icy Touch through Improved Icy Talons increases the damage your IT does, slows the mobs attack speed, and increases the raids haste. This is all good.

Glacial Rot and Black Ice increase your frost damage significantly which is a large portion of your output with this spec.

Nerves of Cold Steel is imperative for all dual wield builds. Without this, you would miss all the time. As it is, you need to stack way more hit that using a 2 hander.

Chill of the grave boosts your RP production. In fact I have found mine is so high that I waste RP. Between Gargoyle cooldowns I generate more RP between Howling Blasts and Icy Touches I can't burn it all with Death Coils between rune cooldowns.

Killing Machine is the talent that is causing all the commotion regarding this spec. Even with a slow MH/ fast OH, I get this to proc incredibly frequently. That allows my Howling blasts to hit incredibly hard all the time.

Whenever Rime procs your Howling Blast is rune free, which means you can get two more Icy Touches in your rotation.

Finally Howling Blast is a short range AOE centered on you that can hit for large amounts of damage in the right circumstances.

Section 2) DW Rotation and Damage Breakdown

The trick to DW damage is to ensure your Frost Fever is on every mob you fight and ensure a Killing Machine Proc before you use Howling Blast.

On single targets your rotation is:



This includes the standard runic power dumps. On the second half PS does less damage than IT but you use it to give Killing Machine a chance to proc before Howling blast.

On Multi targets your rotation is:

IT, PS, Pest, BS, HB


Like before you will use runic power dumps and you want to keep HB in the same part of the rune rotation for efficiency.

In both cases whenever Rime procs a free HB, use it then resume your rotation.

To review the output, I pulled a recount breakdown of my damage from a Heroic UK run last night.

As you can see Howling Blast was my primary source of damage. Even better with all the talents to buff its crit rate it crit for 62% of the time. Crit damage has a high degree of variance depending on whether the mob has frost fever, talent procs, racials, and item procs. Even non crit blasts have a large range but over all this ability hits hard. In fact on AOE pulls I would steal aggro on secondary targets whenever this crit on the first pass.

Melee is the second largest source of damage because you are hitting constantly with two weapons. I had fallen crusader on my slow main hand and razor ice on my fast off hand.

Icy touch and its frost fever pack a punch as well. This is why you take virulence in the Unholy tree to increase your hit with these.

Blood Caked Blade from Unholy also benefits nicely from Dual Wield and contributed over 5% of my output.

Section 3) Unholy Review

Since the DW spec is DPS only I will not compare tanking rotations in this post.

The single target rotation for Unholy is:



For your runic power dump on the first part you will use Unholy Blight and then use Death coil to dump power after the second rotation.

On multi targets your Unholy rotation is:

IT, PS, Pest, BB, SS


Like the single target you will dump RP on the first pass using Unholy Blight.

Section 4) Comparing the two

Unholy has cleaner rotations than DW since you don't have to deal with Rime Procs. I also have noticed I have a tendency to wait casting Howling Blast trying to score a KM proc for some big numbers. I realize that is not-optimal and I try to avoid it, but I am sure we all will have that issue. That doesn't detract from DW's current superiority in DPS.

You also need to Glyph differently between the two specs.

For Unholy, you want Icy Touch to get more RP to cast UB on the first pass, Bone Shield for more uptime on your shield to lower AOE damage taken plus some DPS benefit, and Scourge Strike to greatly increase its damage.

For DW Glyphs I'm not as confident that there are must have glyphs. However, I can assure you that Icy Touch is bad, and bone shield and scourge strike glyphs are worthless. Glyph of the Ghoul increases an important source of DPS and the plague strike glyph limits the suckage that is PS a little bit. I also took IceBound Fort so I can use it when I'm RP starved.

After the patch the DPS difference between the two play styles will be reduced. I don't believe DW will go the way of the dodo but there will be more parity. They are both fun ways of cranking some damage and currently DW allows you to flex your epeen. I will most likely go back to my Unholy tank/dps spec after the patch due to the flexibility it provides.

At some point I will spec frost tanking and blood dps just so I can be less ignorant about those as well.


  1. on ur D/W multi target dps.. change BS to BB... uses same rune and hits all targets.. duh ;)

  2. @ Anon,

    Thanks for catching my typo. You are absolutely correct you should be using Blood Boil instead of Blood Strike when DPSing multiple targets as a dual wielder.

  3. yeah of course yout right, I can just made 5700 dps on trash mob at nexus, my usual rotation is, IT PS Pest BB HB