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Thread: (3.2) State of the Death Knight - Current Specs/Styles

  1. #1
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    (3.2) State of the Death Knight - Current Specs/Styles

    That poor http://www.tankspot.com/forums/f14/4...rotations.html thread has been beaten to death and fallen out of relevance. In addition the author has stopped posting, so it will not be updated again.

    As the thread was quite popular though, I wanted to resurrect it, in a form. I'll post up a brief description of the current state of each major spec (i.e. Blood, Frost, Unholy) along with mine and any other specs that have been vetted and applied. I'll also briefly highlight what the style and spec bring as far as unique buffs and roughly how each style is played.

    **Major Disclaimer: the DK class is open to a LOT of personal choices and adjustments to playstyle, each person will do things slightly different more often than not. Anything presented here is just one of those options.**


    ================================================== =============

    All Death Knight Tanks will be assumed to be using the "Holy Trinity of DK Tanking" 5/5/5: Blade Barrier (5/5), Toughness (5/5), Anticipation (5/5). Most DK tanks will also take Improved Icy Touch for survival (unless your team specifically has someone else responsible for the full de-hasting debuff), and will take Bladed Armor (5/5) for threat. As these are readily available to all tanks, they will not be referenced within individual builds.

    ================================================== =============
    Blood

    The Blood style is characterized by primarily physical damage for threat, and a survival style that relies on very high health and health restoring abilities.

    Unique Survival Skills:
    Will of the Necropolis = reminiscent of the old Ardent Defender for Paladins, this ability will reduce an incoming hit that takes the tank below 35% health by 5/10/15% once every 15 seconds (provided the hit deals more than 5% of the tank's total health).

    Vampiric Blood = usually referred to as Vamp Blood. This ability is the signature active cooldown of Blood tanks. It has a 10 second duration (15 sec with glyph) and a 1 min cooldown. While active it increases the health of the DK by 15% and increases the effect of all heals on the DK by 35% (both self-heals and heals from other players apply).

    Spell Deflection = this ability has a chance equal to your parry chance to reduce incoming non-periodic (i.e. *not* DoT's or Auras) spell damage hits by 15/30/45%.

    Blood also relies on a variety of self-heals which may include some of the following depending on spec: Improved Death Strike, Rune Tap, Mark of Blood, Improved Blood Presence, Bloodworms.

    Typical Threat Styles:
    Blood spec relies on physical damage primarily, and sports passive crit buffing and armor penetration to increase that effectiveness. The standard style will use Death Rune Mastery to exchange Frost/Unholy rune pairs for Death runes to allow the DK to use single Blood rune abilities (Heart Strike primarily) continuously.

    Typical play style will involve maintaining both diseases at all times, using Heart Strike heavily on single targets, Blood Boil and Death and Decay on multiple targets, and using Death Strike frequently to exchange runes and heal the tank.

    Popular Glyphs:
    Survival = Vampiric Blood, Rune Tap
    Threat = Rune Strike, Death Strike, Death and Decay, Dark Death
    Utility = Disease

    Popular Specs:
    Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
    Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
    Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft

    ================================================== =============
    Frost
    The Frost style is characterized by fewer large hits and heavy amounts of Frost damage. The survival tools of Frost are the most balanced of the trees, though it also sports the strongest passive survival buffs. Frost is currently the only tree to carry talents to expressly support dual wielding.

    Unique Survival Skills:
    Acclimation = a different take on anti-magic defense. When the tank is hit with any sort of magic damage, Acclimation has a 10/20/30% chance to apply a stack of a resistance against that school of magic for 18 seconds. Each stack is worth 50 resistance, and it can stack up to 3 times with no cooldown.

    Unbreakable Armor = the characteristic cooldown of the Frost tree. This ability grants 25% additional armor (30% glyphed), and 10% additional Strength (which also trickles down to parry chance) for 20 seconds on a 1 minute cooldown.

    Improved Frost Presence = this talent increases the passive damage reduction granted by Frost Presence by 1/2% (to 9/10% total).

    Frigid Dreadplate = increases the passive chance all mobs have to miss you by 1/2/3%.

    Typical Threat Styles:
    The Frost style can use either 1 or 2 disease-based styles to generate threat. A 1-disease style relies on the fact that Frost Fever is all that is required to get the full 15% damage increase from Tundra Stalker, and that Howling Blast, Blood Boil, Frost Strike, and Rune Strike do not require both diseases to do full damage (Blood Boil does full damage with only 1 disease present). A 2-disease style is a little less clean and easy for maintaining because of the rune combinations required, but because of the increase gained in Blood Strike and Obliterate damage, it can yield stronger threat results on single or small group pulls. In general, Frost relies on heavy use of Obliterate to trigger the Rime talent for free Howling Blast casts. If dual wielding, the Threat of Thassarian talent allows Blood Strike, Obliterate, Frost Strike, Rune Strike, and Plague Strike to all hit with both weapons. Note: each strike will consist of two hits, but there is a single hit roll for both. Each strike of an Obliterate also appears to have a separate chance to trigger Rime. It is somewhat less common for Frost tanks to take Icy Talons as it is an expensive investment and is generally easily supplied by the raid team.

    Popular Glyphs:
    Survival = Unbreakable Armor
    Threat = Rune Strike, Frost Strike, Obliterate
    Utility = Howling Blast, Icy Touch

    Popular Specs:
    (2H) Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
    (2H) Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
    (DW) Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
    (DW) Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
    (DW) Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft


    ================================================== =============
    Unholy
    The Unholy style is characterized by heavy stacking of damage over time (DoT) effects and heavy use of spell damage. This spec will sport the hardest hitting diseases. The survival tools of Unholy are few but potent, primarily focusing on the use of Bone Shield.

    Unique Survival Skills:
    Bone Shield = this ability applies 3 charges (4 when glyphed) to the tank. So long as 1 charge remains the shield will reduce all damage taken by the tank by 20% and increase all damage dealt by 2%. Each damaging attack that lands will strip a charge away, but there is a ~2 second cooldown on removing charges. The shield will last 1 minute or until the charges are consumed and has a 1 minute cooldown.

    Magic Suppression = this talent reduces all magic damage taken by the tank by 2/4/6%, and increases the damage absorption of Anti-Magic Shell to 83/91/100% (but does not increase the total amount the bubble *can* absorb).

    Anti-Magic Zone = this spell creates a bubble roughly 20 yrds in diameter that will reduce all magic damage taken by friendly players inside by 75% for 10 seconds, or until it has absorbed 10,000 plus double your attack power in damage. If the absorption happens simultaneously it will provide the full shield value to all targets (i.e. if there is a splash of 15,000 dmg hitting 10 players all at once, the bubble will absorb 75% of that on all targets equally). The ability has a 2 minute cooldown.

    Typical Threat Styles:
    The Unholy style uses a high focus on diseases, supported by hard-hitting Scourge Strikes. The Unholy Blight talent allows the typical Death Coil runic power dumping to apply a stacking DoT to targets hit. Combining the high power diseases, spell damage buffing, with Death and Decay and Blood Boil gives Unholy very powerful cruising AoE threat (as opposed to Frost which sports large spikes of AoE threat). That can be increased still more by use of the Wandering Plague talent which allows diseases to crit and cause their own AoE. The Desolation talent gives a passive timed damage buff for using Blood Strike, and the Reaping talent allows the Unholy tank to pick up extra uses of Scourge Strike.

    Popular Glyphs:
    Survival = Bone Shield
    Threat = Rune Strike, Death and Decay, Dark Death
    Utility = Scourge Strike, Disease

    Popular Specs:
    Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft

    ================================================== =============
    *So far I have only included some spec choices of my own. I'd appreciate anyone from the community who has a tried-and-true spec they use to please post it below and I will add it to the list. Please do not post new or experimental specs here, as I'd like to keep the list restricted to specs people are completely confident in.

    Last edited by Satorri; 11-08-2009 at 06:24 PM.
    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?!?

  2. #2
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    Blood Specs I use - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft

    Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft - For Single Target Boss Survival

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    Good summary.

    Your first unholy spec linked looks suspiciously frosty.

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    That is really bizarre. I even tried wiping it and re-entering it, the spec wouldn't generate a proper link...
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  6. #6
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    Good stuff Satorri. I noted you used the 3.22 no-reaping spec, good stuff. Perhaps put a 'note in 3.3 you will use reaping again'. My preliminary results are that unholy in 3.3 will also use Glyph of Disease.
    The DK tank site: pwnwear.com.

  7. #7
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    My tanking spec, DW Frost:

    Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft

    Major Glyphs:

    Disease
    Frost Strike
    Obliterate

    I refresh diseases with pestilence. This removes a blood strike from your threat table but it also removes the necessity of using 2 GCD's and a frost/unholy rune combo to refresh your diseases, leaving them open for obliterate, and KM procs are never wasted on IT. Glyph'd pestilence is also a godsend on aoe packs if you run a 2-disease rotation without glyph'd HB like i do.
    Last edited by lyd; 10-22-2009 at 11:11 AM.

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    I'm pretty new to tanking, but this macro is very helpful:

    #showtooltip Obliterate
    /cast Obliterate
    /cast !Rune Strike

    I've made this macro for all of my main abilities, this uses rune strike whenever it is up, and the ! prevents it from being unset when it's set. With that up, rune strike is my #1 damage.

    Thanks for the new thread!

  9. #9
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    So you know, Tim, the '!' in the Rune Strike line is unneeded. It was an artifact that popped up from an older time. Using the macro without it will not untoggle Rune Strike.


    And Grav, I had my second Unholy spec posted, the one that uses Reaping, but it kept giving a Frost build link, like the Talent Calculator was mixing up a character somewhere in the URL generator.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  10. #10
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    Very nice, Satorri, thank you.

  11. #11
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    Unholy/Vot3W still viable?

    I occasionaly ran this spec in both Normal and Heroic 10/25 man ToC.
    The threat is actually a lot higher than originally anticipated as with the Scourge strike glyph, a lot of unmitigated strikes are put out without having to refresh diseases as frequently. (Speaking of single target only.)
    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deathknight#Y4RY6_YtokPL4gt,36YO3e,10623

    The spec depends entirely on someone else providing a Thunder Clap/Infected Wounds as well as another DK or lock providing Ebon plague.

    Satorri i know you ran the numbers on this in a previous post and it did indeed seem on par with the other specs and that was without factoring in Bone Shield's 2% increased damage and 20% damage reduction for the 4 charges. (+ 4 piece increasing uptime)

    Just curious if any other DK's out there were running a similar spec as it seems Unholy would be more ideal for ToC, tho i'm still mainly sticking to Blood.

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    I've run Unholy in ToC and works wonderfully, no better or worse than Blood which is my norm. That said, I think it is far more complicated to use effectively, including covering your holes well. Specifically, using Bone Shield well and being prepared to cover the windows where it isn't up with other tools to keep from unwanted spikes in situations where that sort of thing is at high risk (Gormok, Anub, etc).

    I've never been a fan of the Unholy/Vot3W build because it sacrifices from Unholy to get 3% more Stamina (the usual reason people try to grab the ability though it is not lacking otherwise). I understand the build can work well enough, and to a specific end, but it is pretty specialized, and as you pointed out it requires specific support from your raid. I'm reluctant to add it to the list above as I feel like it would require asterisks and explanations.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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    The main question is, what all do you lose by going Vot3W compared to heavy UH? In a 25 man raid, there will almost always be multiple forms of TC/IF or Ebon plague, so for discussion lets exclude these.

    Vot3W:
    +5% crit to all strikes, spells, abilities (Dark Conviction)
    +3% stamina (Vot3W)
    +6% strength
    +6 Expertise (which equates to about .5% more than the +5 from RoR)

    Deep UH:

    +10% increased damage from spells/abilities (Rage of Rivendare)
    +5 Expertise
    +5% damage (if you take Desolation)

    The 6% Strength from Vot3W of an approximate 2000 strength (raid buffed) is 120 additional strength (or 240AP). How much of a gain in damage is it by having 240 additional AP x 20% from Impurity for spell damage? Add on an additional parry rating from this as well.

    My math may be flawed but unless the 10% damage is make or break, Vot3W should be superior.

    Also in regards to 'filling the holes' with UH. I'm a little confused as to what you mean and how this differs from blood? Unless you're using the idea of Deathstrike heals covering the hits (in between healer's heals). If anything BS provides a much better defense then blood in situations like Gormok hitting you with his 3-4th impale with 3+ buff stacks.

    If threat is not an issue (as well as raid debuffs) then i'm at a loss as to why you wouldn't take Vot3W over heavy UH. Something i have yet to try is if the Anub's swarm dots removes the charges from the BS. Anyone know?

    Havx | <Tasty Beverage> | US Alliance | Bleeding Hollow
    http://www.wowarmory.com/character-s...Hollow&cn=Havx

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    My Current Blood Spec

    I'm really hoping Unholy ST threat improves in 3.3 as much as I expect. It means I'll be able to fully embrace the T10 set bonuses. As it is, I'm holding onto T9 2pc and T8 2pc to give my spec some spectacular ST threat.

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    If your guild uses WMO, post a parse here, it'd be easier to evaluate why your threat is low. UH is not 'that' far behind blood in terms of TPS.
    Havx | <Tasty Beverage> | US Alliance | Bleeding Hollow
    http://www.wowarmory.com/character-s...Hollow&cn=Havx

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    I wouldn't have any relevant parses. The last time I tried to UH tank was early 3.2. I'm one of the main tanks and the ST threat was problematic. I hate to try it again now while we're working on some more DPS sensitive hard modes and cause the guild any downtime.

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    Vah, the gains in AP and trickle-down damage from the bonus strength is nice, but not as big as you might think. Using the extreme example of 2000 Strength to apply the buff to, the AP coefficients are at the most generous only about 0.1 even with impurity bumping them. So that's 24 more dmg added to your effects. It's not bad, but not amazing either. In giving up Ebon Plaguebringer you're also giving up 3% crit which you trade almost evenly into Dark Conviction. Even if you have other players to apply the +13% spell damage bonus, none of the other classes can apply it to every target in range, or maintain it the way an Unholy DK can, so the off-target threat can't be second-guessed there. Rage of Rivendare and the Expertise from Vot3W practically cancel out, yes. RoR also provides the +10% to all damage which is pretty huge.

    Some quick math. We'll use DnD as our random example since there are many many things we'd have to tally to get the whole picture. If our example tank has 6k AP (to keep in line with the 2k Strength, roughly), with DnD's AP coeff of 0.0475, which with 5/5 in Impurity is 0.057. DnD will tick for 465.

    Adding 240 AP adds 14 dmg per tick, rounding up. That is roughly a 3% increase in DnD damage, or 1 pt per pt in Vot3W.

    Increasing all damage by 10% will increase each tick by 47 dmg, or ~9 dmg per pt invested (2% per pt).

    Obviously Vot3W isn't matching RoR point for point, but let's look at the comparison the way you broke it down.

    Vot3W build:
    +2% crit (-3% Ebon Plaguebringer, +5% Dark Conviction)
    +3% Stamina (Vot3W)
    +6% Strength (Vot3W)
    +1 Expertise (+6 Vot3W -5 RoR, 0.25% dodge/parry neglect)
    -10% all damage (RoR)
    -5% all damage (Desolation)

    The final equation will lose threat and gain some health. How much health? We'll round up to 3% increase in health, essentially ignoring non-stamina health. So, if you have 50k health raid buffed (keeping on scale with the 2k Strength), that will be 1,500 more health for a fair amount of threat lost.

    The reason it isn't an easy choice is because some people choose to ride the threat vs survival balance closer to survival's end of the scale. But personally, if I'm going into Unholy, I want to play up Unholy's strengths, not split and sacrifice to get a bit more health.

    As for the hole filling I'm talking about, Bone Shield is a strong damage mitigator, yes, but it does not have 100% uptime. The holes are when Bone Shield is off and you have no damage mitigation but your normal passive amount given by gear. A smart Unholy tank will fill these gaps, if it matters, with other CDs and trinkets. You can't really compare that to Blood as they are apples and oranges. Blood always takes damage like Unholy without Bone Shield up, however, Blood will also regenerate a LOT more health back, functionally reducing the apparent damage taken by the tank for the healers' sake. Blood will not appear to have the same spikey vulnerabilities that Unholy will have. Is it a game-breaker? Of course not. It is a necessary factor to understand while playing Unholy though.


    Also, Sterb, I don't know what your method is, but I generate better threat with my Unholy build than I do with my Blood build, single target included.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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    Not sure what you mean by my method. I honestly didn't think I'd be questioned on the idea that blood puts out much better single target threat than Unholy (particularly after the 3.2 SS nerf).

    Given my current gear, I'd chocked it up to the combo of +5% to HS and +10% to Rune strike. However, I experienced this disparity before achieving my 2pc T9.

  19. #19
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    Sterb,
    Agree-ing with Satorri here regarding UH vs Blood threat atm.
    With my own personal experience with clearing H-TotGC 25 man, Unholy was not far behind blood using the Vot3W spec. Being we discussed the differences among our two different threads, the extra 10% damage + Desolation would definitely put UH on par or even above blood on some fights in terms of threat.
    Havx | <Tasty Beverage> | US Alliance | Bleeding Hollow
    http://www.wowarmory.com/character-s...Hollow&cn=Havx

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sterbefall View Post
    I honestly didn't think I'd be questioned on the idea that blood puts out much better single target threat than Unholy (particularly after the 3.2 SS nerf).
    Ha, I just questioned you.

    I am running both an Unholy and a Blood spec right now, with the 2pc t8 and 2 pc t9 set bonuses. My Unholy build outperforms my Blood build on threat.

    That said, I don't think it's fair to generalize about Blood vs Unholy as a whole, the specific specs will make a bigger difference. My Uholy spec is pretty heavily focused on a specific concept that appears to work very well, especially on single target threat.

    My question of method is two-fold, if you actually want to make your Unholy spec work its best:
    1.) What is your Unholy Build, what is it built around for threat (what moves do you buff best, ScS spam build?)?

    2.) What is your move priority (rotation if you use one)?



    If you're interested in figuring out where your Unholy build is lacking, I can help, otherwise, it is suffice to say you personally perform better with your blood build, not make a sweeping statement about the capacity of Unholy.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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