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Thread: 3.1 and the Death Knight Main Tank

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    3.1 and the Death Knight Main Tank

    This is more of a personal follow up to Ven's "Return of the MT" podcast which can be found here: http://www.tankspot.com/forums/f189/46589-tankingtips-com-podcast-7-return-mt.html

    The big difference between DK's and Warriors, in my humble opinion, is the lack of specialization that DK's have. For the Death Knight all three trees are capable of tanking and DPSing which makes it difficult to determine which will be the best to take as your “Main Tank” spec. Most of us notice the homogenization between the tanking classes and that is the same feeling I get when dealing with the DK tanking trees. Each tree accomplishes the same goal with a slightly different flavor and while this may not have been as extreme prior to 3.1, it is now fairly obvious.

    To explain my point we’ll look at two sets of talents/abilities. First we’ll look at Spell damage reduction which comes in three forms, from three different trees.

    Spell Deflection - Spell - World of Warcraft for Blood, Acclimation - Spell - World of Warcraft for Frost and Magic Suppression - Spell - World of Warcraft for Unholy. Of course each ability has different requirements to be useful and some are more affective in different situations. Spell Deflection only works for direct spells so while it is not as flexible as Acclimation or Magic Suppression, it excels in encounters like Sir Zeliek or Blaumeux. The down side for SD is that it is a complete waste of points when dealing with AoE spell damage. Acclimation jumps ahead of the pack in encounters where magic damage is constant and consistent. I cannot think of a better example than Sapphiron where it is up for 100% of the fight, all but eliminating the aura, breath and blizzard damage but for magic damage that cannot be resisted, it does nothing. Magic Suppression works all the time for every type of magic damage and although it may not provide as much mitigation, at least you know it’s always working. AMZ was left out because it isn’t passive.

    The second set we’ll look at is AoE tanking. Prior to 3.1 it was apparent that the Unholy tree was king of AoE tanking. Even though Frost could AoE tank efficiently, it was not as consistent or effective as Unholy. There may be some that disagree, this is simply my opinion. While we could argue all day about which one was better there is definitely something we can all agree on, Blood AoE tanking was crap. With the changes to Blood in 3.1, AoE tanking is now on par with Frost and Unholy.

    We know the tree’s are similar in design, now we have to decide the means to an end. I’ve poured over specs, ran numbers in the PTR and have come up with my two tanking specs.

    11/55/5 Frost, the mitigation spec - http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...4&version=9767

    Frost offers the maximum amount of physical/spell mitagation and avoidance through talents like Frigid Dreadplate - Spell - World of Warcraft, Improved Frost Presence - Spell - World of Warcraft, and Acclimation - Spell - World of Warcraft while still having the threat talents like KM. Where DW-DPS builds have lost, the DK tank has gained. The change to Rime was a change that I was hoping for, for a long time. There should no longer be a question whether or not to use Obliterate over HB as Blizzard has given us the answer. I like the feel of the Frost tree and can’t wait to really dig in with my fellow raiders.

    55/5/11 Blood, the threat spec - http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...4&version=9767

    Beyond the basic 5/5/5 foundation this spec is built for threat. The extreme changes that were made to the Blood tree have simply been a dream and for tanks like Veneritio and myself who favor Expertise as the threat stat, Blood is an Expertise whores’ dream. My desire to tank as Blood really came after the change to Sudden Doom and Death Strike. There really isn’t much to explain about the spec as it seems fairly self explanatory. The talent synergy of Sudden Doom - Spell - World of Warcraft and Morbidity - Spell - World of Warcraft is a no brainer and the addition of Glyph of Dark Death - Item - World of Warcraft makes Death Coil absolutely amazing. The self healing of the Blood tree and the additional threat that comes from it is amazing. The spec is just amazing period. I opted out of Glyph of Vampiric Blood - Item - World of Warcraft because this is a threat build.

    If you have any questions feel free to ask.

    Edit 4/16/09 - Changed out Glyph of Disease for Glyph of Howling Blast in the Frost build.
    Last edited by Inaara; 04-16-2009 at 10:54 AM.

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    Nicely said, and well written.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
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    An excellent post! I do have some questions though ;0)

    I've dived head first into blood and frost, and this post is great as its the first I've seen that is updated for 3.1 (there's another topic Satorri you and I have talked on I'd love to see updated to 3.1 lol) but my only question is:

    What about unholy?

    I was kinda looking forward to jumping into the unholy spec after hopefully reading everyone's thoughts here on the tree after the patch, but so far I find it's been a little lacking ( I may not have looked hard enough too ). Anywho, thank you very much for this great post

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    With the changes to mitigation talents and "oh shit" buttons Unholy falls last on my list. Bone Shield being nerfed to a 2 minute CD is absolutely devastating to the tree because it lacks the power of Vampiric Blood and Unbreakable Armor.

    I also compared the difference in magic damage mitigation above and I don't like what Magic Suppression and AMZ has to offer over Acclimation and Improved Frost Presence (Which also reduces physical damage by 2%).

    Another area that the other trees caught up with is AoE tanking. Glyhp of Howling Blast makes the ability 100% retard proof and you can effectively AoE tank by pressing one button. Since Morbidity is imo a requirement in any Blood build, it gains the faster DnD while having the new and improved BB which can be spamed to pick up and hold mobs. BB also outshines Unholy Blight.

    I don't see any reason to go Unholy for tanking at the moment but I'll work on a build and post it here for you.

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    Im assuming rotations remain the same as before? Or has your rotation for single target and aoe completely changed now with the frost build and blood builds?

    Would be great to see your openers etc.

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    Very nice Builds!! I wanted to know if you had any Macros for the Blood 55/5/11 tree. Thankyou for taking your time and posting those for us DK tanks.

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    I think Unholy is doing fine, in that Bone Shield is just about as hurt as Blood or Frost. In my setup, glyphed, it's worth about 20-40 sec depending on if it is trash or a boss, and how fast they swing it's competitive with the other two's duration. The problem for me, heavily reinforced last night, Bone Shield is Unholy's ONLY physical survival buff.

    I got hammered last night in Ulduar. It felt good to remember hot gear prior to 3.1 is now at best lightly geared.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
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    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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    I've been unholy my whole life as a DK tank. I've been MT'ing Naxx25 for quite a long time and have never had problems with threat. Im usually hovering around 6.5k tps on single target with spikes going up to 8.5k ish. I dunno if thats good or bad, i've been trying to find average tps tables but couldnt find em.

    I've decided to try out these 2 builds as well since they look very well put together, however I really dont understand what the best rotations would be as I've never even tried these trees before.

    Can you guys elaborate on the rotations for me and post what your avg tps usually is in a 25 man run? Thanks a million.

    this was the unholy spec that i was going to use to MT( i kinda threw this together in 2 mins since im at work right now, glyphs were thrown together too so if you have any critiques please post! )

    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...4&version=9767
    Last edited by Eximius; 04-15-2009 at 08:53 AM. Reason: Adding notes.

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    I have some minor disagreements with your Frost build and likely your Blood build. Rune Tap is pretty bad and Acclimation extremely situational. My frost builds are

    15/51/5 with Glyph of Disease

    or 12/52/7 if you want to wait longer to hit Pestilence or swap the Glyph for Frost Strike, Unbreakable Armor or Howling Blast.

    54/8/8 for Blood. I know you called your build a threat build, but I don't see many benefits in excluding the tanking talents. I mean you again put 4 points into Rune Tap and you didn't get WotN. I think the latter, while no longer up to its former glory, is still pretty good. Similarly, Ravenous Dead isn't particularly good for threat and you dropped 6% physical mitigation by neglecting IIT.

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    Why do you have points into Merciless Combat? is it out of necessity or is it a viable tanking talent? I assumed it is just for raid boss dps or pvp.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BotD View Post
    I have some minor disagreements with your Frost build and likely your Blood build. Rune Tap is pretty bad and Acclimation extremely situational. My frost builds are

    15/51/5 with Glyph of Disease

    or 12/52/7 if you want to wait longer to hit Pestilence or swap the Glyph for Frost Strike, Unbreakable Armor or Howling Blast.
    My builds are specifically catered to my style of tanking and to fit the role of "main tank". Acclimation is a mitagation talent and is therefore a must for a mitigation. The days of balancing tree's to fit 1 role while being "okay" at another is gone. The specs are meant to maximize your potential and role as a tank, therefore no mitigation talent is spared.

    Rune Tap is a health pot on a 1 minute cooldown which can pull you out of a sticky situation in a hurry. Why just pop IBF and wait for a heal to get you out of a danger spot when you can pop IBF and heal yourself for 5k.

    As for Acclimation there are many bosses in Ulduar with some sort of magic damage, each of which can activate Acclimation and being a progression tank means doing all that you can to stay alive. Your build included Epidemic which is now a useless talent, especially considering that you also have Glyph of Disease. Why put two points into that when you can put it into something that can prevent incoming damage?

    Quote Originally Posted by BotD View Post
    54/8/8 for Blood. I know you called your build a threat build, but I don't see many benefits in excluding the tanking talents. I mean you again put 4 points into Rune Tap and you didn't get WotN. I think the latter, while no longer up to its former glory, is still pretty good. Similarly, Ravenous Dead isn't particularly good for threat and you dropped 6% physical mitigation by neglecting IIT.
    My Blood build includes the required tanking talents, after that realize again that this is a threat build meant to produce the maximum amount of threat/damage when survivability/mitagation is not required.

    I used to be the biggest opponent of Rune Tap you would ever meet. My thinking was that if my healers cannot keep me alive then we should wipe. Since then I have realized the great potential of the ability and unlike Spell Deflection and WotN it adds to the threat role by producing self heals.

    Comparing WotN to Rune Tap I'll give you the following scenario. If I have 40k hp (which would be really low) my Rune Tap will heal me for approximately 8k health. If a 30k hit takes me below 35% WotN will prevent 4.5k of that damage. My question to you is, why risk going below 35% when you can keep yourself up and if you do go below 35% the heal is twice as beneficial.

    You linked one of your frost builds twice instead of the Blood build so I don't know if you included Spell Deflection. Since you didn't like that I was skipping on tanking talents I would assume that you took it. If so, Spell deflection is even more situational than Acclimation and with the nerf to Blade Barrier it's about 10% less effective as it used to be.

    Lastly I did not pick up IIT because I either have a warrior OT or a dps DK that picks it up. Even if I didn't I repeat that this is a threat build that I would only use on bosses where mitagation/survivability wasn't an issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugenbeefy View Post
    Why do you have points into Merciless Combat? is it out of necessity or is it a viable tanking talent? I assumed it is just for raid boss dps or pvp.
    It is definitely a viable tanking talent. Blizzard changed tanks roles at the end of BC to not only hold aggro but to do DPS as well and there really isnt a better place to put the points lol.

    Also in extreme avoidance/mitigation sets your threat may not be the best and when your raid is outputting so much DPS you need every edge you can get. Keep in mind that when bosses drop to lower %'s most classes are also doing more damage so this is a way to keep ahead.

    Lastly, who doesn't like seeing those 8k Obliterate crits while tanking AMIRITE?
    Last edited by Inaara; 04-15-2009 at 02:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eximius View Post
    I've been unholy my whole life as a DK tank. I've been MT'ing Naxx25 for quite a long time and have never had problems with threat. Im usually hovering around 6.5k tps on single target with spikes going up to 8.5k ish. I dunno if thats good or bad, i've been trying to find average tps tables but couldnt find em.
    I don't think any of us said that Unholy threat was a problem, it has always performed well and because of necessity for AoE tanking it was the best tree for tanking current content... well I guess it's old content now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eximius View Post
    I've decided to try out these 2 builds as well since they look very well put together, however I really dont understand what the best rotations would be as I've never even tried these trees before.

    Can you guys elaborate on the rotations for me and post what your avg tps usually is in a 25 man run? Thanks a million.
    I'll start with AoE rotations, first up is Frost. Note that this rotation takes into account the use of Glyph of Howling Blast.

    HB-BB-BB-OB-HB-BB-BB, rince and repeat. I find that it's worth the 2 second delay for the second HB to get an Obliterate on the main target and try to proc Rime. Glyphed HB also adds Frost Fever to every target which automatically makes BB hit for it's full value.



    For Blood there are alot of variables that need to be considered before deciding how to tank them.

    For a group of 3 with focused DPS my opening rotation would be the following.
    DnD-IT-PS-Pest-HS-DS-DS-ERW-Pest-HS-HS-yadayadayada.

    Switch between the mobs and Heart Strike to your hearts content. My Pestilence may be in the wrong place, just keep an eye on your diseases and refresh as needed. For the bigger groups you would simply switch out the HS's for Blood Boils.

    Frost Single Target Rotation: IT-PS-OB-BS-BS-ERW-OB-OB-BS-Pest.
    OB is the top of your priority list. HB when Rime procs. FS when KM procs. Keep Diseases up at all times.

    Blood Single Target Rotation: IT-PS-HS-HS-DS-ERW-DS-HS-HS-HS-Pest.
    Make sure you have at least 50 runic power when using DS. Don't Death Coil if it will take you below 50 RP if DS is next on your priority list. You will usually have a HS to take you up to 50 before using DS to maximize it's damage. Of course if you have nothing else to use you're going to DS to get the runes on CD.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eximius View Post
    this was the unholy spec that i was going to use to MT( i kinda threw this together in 2 mins since im at work right now, glyphs were thrown together too so if you have any critiques please post! )

    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...4&version=9767
    I would go for something like this:
    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deathknight=0055000000000000000000000000305000000 0000000000000000000235030330102015233001003133150& glyph=040812060502&version=9767
    Last edited by Inaara; 04-21-2009 at 11:42 AM. Reason: Edited for those who didn't appreciate the sarcastic Frost rotation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Inaara View Post
    My builds are specifically catered to my style of tanking and to fit the role of "main tank". ...

    I used to be the biggest opponent of Rune Tap you would ever meet. My thinking was that if my healers cannot keep me alive then we should wipe. Since then I have realized the great potential of the ability and unlike Spell Deflection and WotN it adds to the threat role by producing self heals.

    Comparing WotN to Rune Tap I'll give you the following scenario. If I have 40k hp (which would be really low) my Rune Tap will heal me for approximately 8k health. If a 30k hit takes me below 35% WotN will prevent 4.5k of that damage. My question to you is, why risk going below 35% when you can keep yourself up and if you do go below 35% the heal is twice as beneficial.
    Hi - First time TS poster:

    Let me quickly address this point: WotN vs. IRT.

    And it comes down to a single phrase: passive ability.

    A dead tank puts out no threat. :-)

    You are getting a free Super Health Pot every time you DeathStrike. And you are blowing a CD and a blood rune to do the healer's job with Imp. Rune Tap (4 Talent points is a significant investment).

    I would understand this more if you didn't have the title for the thread as "Death Knight Main Tank". As MT - your goal is survivability first - threat second. In that order - but balanced - unless it is a gimmick fight.

    This is my recommendation using your basic framework:

    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...4&version=9767

    Also - for what it is worth - Scent of Blood is a crazy good talent at the moment. With Rune Strike still being a HUGE part of our threat - and the DS glyph needing >26RP to hit hardest - RP generation is important.

    If you know you will have someone else applying an attack speed reduction to the Boss - you could shift the 3 pts from Imp. Icy Touch to your Sudden Doom (you said you always had that... but others may not).

    Hope that helps. Thoughts?

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    The blood build is a threat build..... not a Survival/Mitagation spec. Thats what the frost spec is for. The two specs serve different purposes. Please understand that and read thoroughly as I have stated that multiple times now.

    True Knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.
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  16. #16
    i'd like to know the difference between getting imp icy talons and KM. like which is better as a main tank or why is one prefferable over the other.

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    The difference between gettin imp IT or KM is whether or not you have another member in the raid that provides that buff, either another Frost DK or an Enhancement Shaman.

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  18. #18
    ahh okayy thanks

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    I'm thinking about giving your frost build a try in my next ulduar raid as well as your blood tanking spec. Though one thing I'd like to ask is how your threat build is for your frost spec (aka mitigation spec). Our raid only had one attempt at Ignis the Furnace Master before the instance was locked out the whole night due to an error (instance not found), but with my current spec it seemed that my threat as well as my survivability was decent. The number one thing I'm only concerned lately is how my threat will be and I might be focusing too much into it. Though I have been getting replies saying that "It's not a problem healing you", but of course I always try to aim for better survivability and threat as much as I can (less mana on me = more mana to use on raid for heals). Anyway, I see that you have glyph of unbreakable armor and disease. With the unbreakable armor gyph and disease cuts out the frost strike and rune strike glyphs (which are great threat building glyphs). Yes, I know you're making the build strictly for mitigation, but of course sometimes for bosses you do need the in between. You need the good mitigation while pushing out good tps.

    So for Ignis, which of the two specs would you prefer using? At the start out of the fight (10 man) its just a tank and spank fight. So at this point you should be putting out good tps against high dpsers that you have in a raid (especially warlocks which I have seen lately critting high with high threat). The spec that I am currently using did great for the threat I held against them. What I'm concerned about is how much will I be losing and if hopefully not too much so that I'll be getting out threat by the warlocks.

    Oh and heres my current frost build spec.
    Last edited by tehk; 04-16-2009 at 01:02 AM.

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    Some of the discourse here is pretty disappointing.

    I can appreciate the desire to use hyperbole while making your points, but using the phrase, "useless/worthless talent" is a very quick way to lose points in my book because it reeks of ignorance.

    Not a single talent in the trees is actually useless, it's just a matter of application, nuance, and personal choice. Some are obviously less helpful to tanks, but many of the tanking talents are just poorly utilized.

    For example, Merciless Combat is a talent I deem passable as a tank. This is not because it is without value, it is because it buffs a 3rd item I don't handle with any importance as a tank: damage. I separate damage from threat here. The ability kicks in after 35% boss health, so at this point, if you need help on threat, you have bigger problems. Some tanks look to do damage as well, they take DRW/Gargoyle/Perma-ghoul and other similar talents that can't help your threat or survival. That's fine, I just don't value it.

    Rune tap is one of those great moves that many people eschew because they A.) don't know how to use it, and B.) often haven't even tried. My new build is a deep blood meat shield oriented spec. When I'm raid buffed and pop Imp Rune Tap, I get 8k health available every 30 sec. You say, "that's the healers' job" and that's true, that is there responsibility, but your health is not the only responsibility and this also reduces your need for healing (read: funky form of mitigation). The latter point is what we aim for with survival. The difference between a passive and an active survival talent is that the active talent can often be designed to offer more benefit, but it requires intelligent use. Blade Barrier fell into this category previously. You got double the avoidance value budget per talent point, but it required you get both Blood runes on CD every 10 sec. Blizz charted uptime, discovered it was being kept up almost 100% and changed the % improvement per point accordingly. Rune Tap is a skill to use. If it overheals, if you don't use it smartly when needed, or if there isn't a decent window of need (such as Naxx for a well-geared tank), then it's easy for the improved value to be a waste. 8k health every 30 sec, in Ulduar, was being fired like mad. My healers were greatful they didn't need to heal me as much as we were figuring how trash worked from scratch and getting burnt heavily by a glitching Ignis.

    It may not be the traditional method, but self-healing is a fairly powerful way to boost your effective health/apparent mitigation, it just requires one important aspect: a tank who knows how and when to use it.

    WotN is in my iffy pile these days. It's value is clear, I appreciate that, and after seeing how hard things were hitting in Ulduar I can appreciate I will actually hit the zone where it activates, but here's my concern currently. It affects anything that takes your health below 35% of max. In raid buffs that threshold for me is about 16k right now. The fights where my health drops that much the boss/adds are hitting for ~20k or so per swing. So there will be a nice moment where WotN saves a big chunk of dmg when that swing drops me low (3/3 reducing a 20k hit by 3000, a 30k hit by 4500). Then the new CD comes into effect. If I take the next swing for the same amount without heals pulling me up, I'm dead. Compared to Imp Rune Tap which is giving me 8k health, on demand, with a 30 sec CD, so twice as long right. What's the big difference? Imp Rune Tap does not require my health to drop that low. As soon as my health hits 30-35k, I can pop it back up almost to full, and rather than dmg reduction, that heal is also threat for me. This requires a rune, and the awareness of your health and the dmg you're taking. That's part of the challenge, one I appreciate. That is why I take Imp Rune Tap before WotN, but they are not exclusive. If you're worried about getting the biggest survival value, take them both and use them well.

    I can't help but point out that the arguments conflict as well.
    1.) "Self-healing is pointless, that's the healer's job"
    2.) [I want to take a talent that reduces my damage when my health is low]
    If the healers are more than able to keep you topped off at all times, which makes self-healing impossible, then WotN will never proc making it also pointless.

    The value of moves is far more often in the hands of the user. Like Inaara said, the specs are well-developed to suit his play style and experience.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
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    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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