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Thread: Swam's Deathknight Frost Tank Guide

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    Swam's Deathknight Frost Tank Guide (For 3.3)

    This Guide is made as of patch 3.3 (ok Lulia Update for ya, let me know what you think)

    There is a lot out there on Frost tanking and a lot of misleading information. I have been tanking as frost since Death knights came out, and went dual wielding as soon as it became viable. In this guide I will cover both dual wielding and two handed weapons, but My personal bias and opinion Is that the frost tree is far more effective if you take use of dual wielding.

    This guide is also not a stand alone work. There are many strong resources here at tank spot that I draw from and you should by no means read this guide and consider yourself a good tank if you are new to it. This guide will however help new Frost Tanks get a solid ground work as to how Frost works and what its strengths and weaknesses are.

    Also to help yourself I recommend looking at other classes and specs guides, If not for the details of the class/spec, then for the bits and pieces of hints and tips on tanking in general and how to work best with other tanks. Frost tanks are strong tools when used well, and If you know how you work as a part of a whole, that tool will become even stronger.

    Frost tanks are based abound mitigation. They are not self healers like blood. In some ways this makes them similar to the other tank classes.

    Anyway on with the show.
    Part 1: Resources
    Part 2: Talents
    Part 3:Stats, gems, enchants and glyphs
    Part 4: Rotations and abilities
    Part 5: Setup and play



    Part 1 Resources

    The death knight has two different resources at their disposal. Runes and Runic power. There are 3 different runes, and two of each rune. Blood frost and unholy. Most abilities use 1, 2, or 3 runes. others use varying amounts of runic power. The key to managing the death knight, is the effective use of both resources so you minimize ability downtime.

    Runes when used are on a set cool down and can be predicted visually. Runic power is generated when you use runes. 1 rune 10rp 2 or 3 runes is 15rp.

    When tanking you want to have as little down time on abilities as possible. That is why it is important to take stock of your abilities and what they consume so you will keep yourself running smoothly. Try not to rely on 1 rune or runic power as the hinge of your ability. All runes and RP are useful and should never be ignored while waiting to land a specific ability.


    Part 2: Talents


    First off all dk tanks should grab the holy trinity.

    Blade barrier from the blood tree grants 5% damage reduction every time your blood runes are on cool down, this effect lasts 10 seconds so every time your blood runes are used it is refreshed. Great thing about this skill is fairly quickly in your rotation your blood runes will be on cool down. As the fight progresses you will constantly refresh this. All in all a constant 5% damage reduction.

    Toughness from the frost free, increases armor value by 10% and reduces movement impairing effects.

    Anticipation from unholy increases your dodge chance by 5%
    If you do not have these tier 1 talents as a death knight tank, you are wrong.

    Blood Tree and Frost Tanking
    For frost tanking there are 2 abilities that may be helpful to you based on your weapon.

    Bladed armor in T2 increases attack power by armor, a strong threat ability.

    Two handed weapon specialization also in T2 is a must if you use a 2 handed weapon, if you use dual wielding of course you have no need for this ability. Now for frost 2 handers are becoming less and less popular as Blood and unholy utilizes them better, however It is still viable.

    Unholy tree and frost tanking
    there are several tank helpful abilities in the second tier that you can use to put your extra points in as play stile dictates.

    Unholy command reduces cool down on death grip. A nice talent if you rely heavily on death grip but not a core skill.

    epidemic increases the duration of plagues. Recently I find this less useful than it used to be. If you use the glyph of howling blast to apply frost fever, or run a single disease rotation, the timer on diseases should be for the most part a non issue.

    Morbidity reduces cool down on death and decay and well as upping the healing and damage of death coil. This Is another “extra” point slot based on play style.


    Frost tree. Here I will point out the essential abilities and the useful

    T2
    Black ice Frost and shadow damage increased 10%
    For dual wielders, Nerves of cold steel increases chance to hit and damage done from offhand weapon. Both the dual wield abilities are necessary to make dual wielding viable. So if you roll this way Make sure to get em or you get slapped.

    T3
    Annihilation, increased chance to crit with melee special abilities by 3% and Obliterate will not consume your diseases. This is a key ability for frost players. Obliterate being a key frost skill, It is important to grab this to keep your diseases up.

    T4
    Killing machine; melee attacks have a chance to make next icy touch, howling blast, or frost strike a critical hit. Free crits = moar threat. Moar threat = good.

    T5
    Frigid Dreadplate; reduces chance melee attacks will hit you by 3%. Simple logic here you get hit less, you live longer.

    Glacier rot' diseased enemies take 20% more damage from it, hb, and fs. Another threat ability (note it only requires one disease to gain the extra crit)

    T6
    Merciless Combat; IT, HB, OBL, and FS, do 12% more damage when target is below 35% hp.

    Rime increase crit chance of IT and HB by 15% and has 15% chance to refresh HB and make your next HB consume no runes. This is a very important ability. Gives extra crit and getting extra free HB's is a great way to get group aggro faster and stronger. (also keeps you diseases refreshed)

    T7
    Improved frost presence, damage done decreased another 2% and you retain the stam buff of frost presence in other specs.

    T8
    Threat of Thassarian; (also for dual wielders only) when dual wielding your death strikes, obliterates, rune strikes, blood strikes plague strikes and frost strikes deal damage with offhand weapon. Second ability that ensures the viability for dual wielders.

    Blood of the north; blood strike and frost strike damage increased by 10% and when you hit with blood strike or pestilence a blood rune becomes a death rune. Death rune counts as any type of rune

    Unbreakable armor. Increases armor by 30% and strength by 10% for 20 seconds. The only major cool down for frost dk's that you need to spend points to have.

    T9
    Acclimation; when hit by a spell you have a chance to boost your resistance to that type of magic for 18 secs, stacks up to 3 times. Now this is not a must have talent but I find it very useful. The majority of damage you will take is physical but I like to have a little extra protection.

    Frost strike; strike enemy for 60% weapon damage plus 57 as frost damage.

    Guile of gorefiend; increase crit strike damage bonus of your blood strike, frost strike, howling blast and obliterate by 45% and increase duration of icebound fortitude by 6 seconds.

    T10
    Tundra stalker; increase expertise by 5 + spells and abilities deal 15% more damage to enemies with frost fever.

    T11
    Howling blast; blast all enemies within 10 yards for frost damage. The key of frost tanking is this baby. Its one of your top threat abilities, will make you a master of aoe and really what makes frost the bee's knees.

    I have left out the Icy talons and Hungering cold abilities for sound reasons. Firstly they are not part of a standard build, You may be called to get these abilities for a raid if the utility is needed. However as a rule, they really are not effective tanking tools.
    Other abilities relating to runic power are also not needed, You really should never have a need for more than 80 or so RP as you should be using it as often as it is available in your rotation.

    This is what im running with right now
    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...1,awr3eO,10835
    http://talent.mmo-champion.com/?deat...69Q4eFR,,10894


    Part 3: Stats gems and enchants.


    Your primary stats are:
    Stamina, Dodge, Parry, armor
    Defense, expertise, hit
    strength

    Defense as long as you are over 540 don't worry about it, It increases avoidance by a small amount, but after you hit 540 never gem for it.
    Expertise, 26 is the optimal number to aim for.
    Hit; 8% for 2 handers to never miss and for dual wielders to not miss with special attacks.
    27% for 1 handers to never miss white swings.
    Strength, its nice but again never gem or enchant for, there is always something better.

    Meta gems;
    32 stam 2% increased armor value is hands down the choice to make. There are other stam gems with reduced stun time etc but they are really only for pvp.

    Enchants
    Head;
    37 stam 20 def from argent crusade rep vendor
    Shoulder;
    20 dodge 15 def from sons of hodir rep vendor
    30 stam
    Back
    16 def rating
    225 armor
    22 agi
    chest
    22 def rating
    275 health
    wrist
    40 stamina
    hands
    2% threat 10 parry
    240 armor
    18 stam
    15 expertise
    20 agi
    legs
    55 stamina 22 agility form leather workers
    boots
    15 stam and run speed increase (tuskars vitality)
    weapon:
    Rune of sword breaking and spell breaking for 1 handers, Now they are less preferable than the 1% stamina bonus and 13 defense skill., stone skin gargoyle or swordshattering for 2 handers.


    Glyphs
    Major
    Glyph of Unbreakable armor: increase total armor granted by 30%
    Glyph of Disease: Refreshes diseases on primary target with pestilence
    Glyph of antimagic shell: 2 seconds longer
    Glyph of Dark command: 8% increase in success
    Glyph of death and decay: Damage increased 20% for D&D
    Glyph of Howling blast: HB infects all it hits with frost fever
    Glyph of Frost strike: reduces cost by 8 RP
    Glyph of Obliterate: increases damage of this skill by 20%
    Glyph of rune strike: increase crit chance of this skill by 10%


    Now you should choose you glyphs to compliment and enforce your spec. Don't pick glyph of D&D if you aren't speced into it etc.

    Minor
    Glyph of horn of winter: horn of winter duration 1 min longer
    Glyph of pestilence: radius increased 5 yards
    Glyph of raise dead: Reagent no longer required.


    Part 4: Rotation and abilities.


    First off cool downs.
    Anti magic shell: Absorbs 75% of magic damage, up to half of your max life, gains runic power and lasts 5 seconds. An amazing ability for shrugging off big magic hits like the lightning nova from Emalon, or the Twin Valkyries if you need to eat an orb.

    Unbreakable armor: Increases armor by 30% and strength by 10% for 20 seconds.

    Icebound fortitude: Immune to stuns and reduces damage taken by 20% plus damage reduction based on defense. Which with 540 defense comes to around 40-43%

    Army of the dead can be helpful in rare instances for extra damage or to absorb a few melee hits from rare bosses they can taunt or trash.
    Addition to AOTD. When casting damage taken is reduced by your parry plus dodge chance, so it can be used as a 6 second damage reducer.
    The combo of raise dead and death pact can give you a chunk of health in a tight spot. If you raise your ghoul and immediately sacrifice him for 40% of your hp, you can survive in a tight spot when heals are late or dead, Similar in my mind to a last stand like the warrior, except the health doesn't vanish after a few seconds.

    Other abilities are not a part of the stick rotation but are none the less important. Horn of winter, Death chill, and empowered runic weapon.
    Death chill and horn of winter are more for dps and threat than anything else.
    Empowered runic weapon will instantly refresh all your runes allowing you to react to varied situations. This skill is your best friend for reacting to unexpected or disasterouse events. It gives you any rune powered attack instantly which in turn can give you that extra threat, pick up a new add, or whatever else is needed.


    Weapon choice


    Now the big choice in frost abilities lies in weapon choice. 2hander vrs. 2 one handers. 2 handers only require 8% hit and have the
    25 defense enchant. however there are no tank specific 2 handed weapons. For 1 handers you can have traditional tanking weapons,
    or a mix of tank and dps weapons as you see fit.



    Rotation

    Frost presence. This is the universal tanking presence. It grants 6% stamina, 60% armor increase, 10% damage reduction, and increased threat generated.

    While Frost has strong single target threat, They really pull ahead in AOE tanking. Building mass threat fast on several mobs is the bread and butter of frost.

    There are three main ways to pull.
    Death and decay is the most useful when pulling groups as you get a decent amount of threat on all targets.
    Icy touch , useful for single target pulling when there is a good chance of adds. This is most often what I lead with.
    death grip when you know there will be no adds and are positive your dps will not surpass you in threat before you can get into your rotation. I dislike using a taunt as a pull in most situations, however it can be useful if you want to move a caster or situate the fight in a certain way.

    Now that you have the mob, you need to keep him. He is your friend and everyone else in your group is jealous and wants him to be their friend. Dont let then take your friend away! Now frost dk's are very good at both single target and aoe threat. You have 1 ability that generates high threat for each. Rune strike and D&D. rune strike is an on next swing ability, much like the warrior's heroic strike and
    cleave. It uses runic power and should be your primary ability for this resource. D&D is an aoe ability much like consecrate. It costs 1 of each of your runes, and is well worth them.

    Regular single target rotation
    starts off with the Icy touch pull, and plague strike. Then you use blood strikex2 and obliterate. As soon as rune strike is available use it. Every time it is up you use it. it is very cheap and a huge threat attack. If rune strike is not available and you have 60 or more runic power you use frost strike.

    Aoe rotation is similar but a few differences. D&D to pull icy touch>Plague strike>pestilence. (at this point your runes are all on cool down)
    Now burn of some runic power same priority as single target. However Howling blast replaces obliterate and blood boil replaces blood strike. Rune strike should still be used as often as possible.

    It is a very popular method for AoE tanking, especially if you have glyph of HB, to use a single disease setup. You HB to pull, or collect the targets and HB. Then you only use HB and BB,
    and hit OB when HB is on CD to proc Rime so you can HB more. No IT, no PS, no BS, etc. Shore up threat with FS and to dump some RP when there's cause to. Neither BB nor HB require both diseases
    to do full damage, OB is a little diminished but its primary role is to refresh HB only. Glyph of HB with this method means you never have to bother applying or renewing diseases with IT/PS/Pest.

    These rotations are not inviolate, they are just what I find myself using most often. Frequently however this is not the case and You have to switch things up. As long as you rely heavily on the key abilities, you really should have no troubles.

    Always keep your diseases up, always always always. How often should you keep your diseases on the mob? That's right, bloody always.


    Part 5: Setup and play


    There are other tactics that are universal to all tanks. positioning, camera, handling adds. Knowing when to use cool downs and how to kite. these are things that cannot be simply told.

    A very important skill for any tank is the ability to mark fast and accurately.
    This will allow dps to know the kill order, thus if kill order is followed you should have top threat as mobs go down. If you can maintain top
    threat than half your job is done. watching all the mobs is only a part of your job though. you need to watch your healers so you are always in range,
    watch dps threat so yo can alert them if they are about to pull, and if they pull you need to taunt back before the mob can get to them.

    Another thing left out often is how you set up your interface. I'm not going to sell any add ons here but I am going to emphasize you try and have a flow. If you are a clicker, have abilities you use the most together, don't have abilities you use back to back far apart from each other. If you use key binds then I recommend setting up your bars in a way that makes sense to your key binds. A trick I use is to have my bars set up like my quick keys so if I happen to forget for a second what skill is what key, I glance down and from the set up know where the key is. I try and make my setup as intuitive and simple as possible.

    Now this is not an end all be all guide, I have laid out a lot of helpful information and ideas. However with death knights there are those who want to bring utility instead of survivability etc. Your role in raids will dictate some of the changes to your build.

    Also I would like to add a personal note, always be open to learning. I always keep my eyes out for frost tanks who differ in spec from me and ask them why they do what they do. Its one of the easiest ways to learn new ideas. Sometimes you will run into idiots, and sometimes you will run into amazing players who will help you improve. And just because a tank is not a frost death knight doesn't mean you have nothing to learn from them.

    So get out there and get your feet wet. succeed, fail, learn from your mistakes and improve.
    If you have any further questions feel free to ask me through Tankspot, pm me in game, or refer to any of the several guides here.
    Good luck and happy tanking.
    Last edited by Swam; 12-13-2009 at 07:13 AM. Reason: Update for clarity and new patch
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  2. #2
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    Good guide, a few comments:

    Glyph of Howling Blast and Glyph of Disease are mutually exclusive I find. Reason being you cast HB every time Rime procs, and most Frost tanks seem to run a single-disease rotation.

    Glyph of IBF is waste on tanks, it no longer provides any extra mitigation above 540def.

  3. #3
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    There are obvious errors here and there, but I wouldn't label spellbreaking wrong, it's just a little more case specific.

    There are some fights where I might be tempted to take the spell damage reduction over the parry (the current incarnation of the Twins actually makes that a bit tempting).

    If you have additional tanking weapons you can carry tools to adjust given the situation.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
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  4. #4
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    Problems and mistakes fixed, sorry for the mess ups should be good now!
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    What about pulling with Howling Blast?
    HB > IT > let em get to you > PS > Pest > BB (> HB again) is probably the biggest AoE threat combo you can have without using DnD and/or ERW. You can use BS as Blood Runes as well, depending on what exactly it is you're pulling.

    E.g. Ony whelps would be good to do this, as you can grab em without DnD, then drag em to the middle, smack your pool of doom on the combined pack and watch the numbers fly by.
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  6. #6
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    i rarely HB pull, with whelps ill d&d the entrance IT the first one and pest>HB when they mass on me in the middle. but that's just preference.
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  7. #7
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    I think the HB pull is most effective if you have HB glyphed, otherwise it can be a less efficient use of the spell since that blacks it out immediately for less than the damage it is capable of.

    I do like using strategically placed DnD to grab whelps' (and other add groups) attention. Though I also try to place it a little closer to where I intend to park it so they get more than one or two ticks, as that too is expensive to blow casually.
    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?!?

  8. #8
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    I just reglyphed for HB dropped pest. I really like the new rotation options. loosing the refresh really isnt noticed. Uped my tps a bit and I like it.
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  9. #9
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    The layout could use a lot of work. Correct grammar, linking talent specs with explanations for each spec over just posting the available talents (which anyone can see relatively easily), and describing the downfalls and strengths of each enchant. Right now this is virtually a link to wowhead without the formatting and pictures.

  10. #10
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    Yah I'm with Edge, made me reluctant to read it. I'm a fairly visual guy when it comes to reading longer posts, I like a good layout. Sorry!
    The DK tank site: pwnwear.com.

  11. #11
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    hmm, kk layout is something not to hard to fix, guessing tool tip links are wanted as well. Ill get right on that. Any other suggestions please post, Eventually this will be a good guide lol.
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  12. #12
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    As a personal preference I like Morbidity in my Frost spec and I like the DnD glyph. I tend to use DnD on all pulls; it's just the way I've always done it and now with geared mages, hunters etc. kicking out some wicked dps I see no reason to not use it liberally.

    As much as I like Frost, I've dual spec'd into Blood and, I have to say, it's a lot of fun in places like ToCr; although on Faction Champs Frost is a blast.

    The guide is good and I think shows that there are many flavors to Frost tanking i.e. there's no one size fits all.

  13. #13
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    One of the things I wanna point out to most people making guides as a suggestion:

    One of the KEY things that people need to understand is that there will never be a 'set in stone' guide when playing a tanking class. We all have certain things we do while tanking that work and that do not work. Some people simply enjoy playing the game and knowing how to properly do things.

    A tanking guide is very hard to do because there are some things that some individuals do that seem right to then AND work. An emphasis on the key talents is something I would suggest any individual to focus on as this is a universal agreement upon.

    But if you plan on giving any specs, know that you WILL get chewed up for it by any individual that doesn't agree with point placement. Giving a cookie cutter build for any tanking guide is asking to put your head underwater and see how long you can breathe before it chokes you to death. There's too much disagreement.

    If you plan on ever putting a build, please understand this note: Prove your points. State why you believe the talents you take are best for the situations you are doing. Linking a build and just saying "this is best for threat bar none" will get a lot of critique.

    This generally is the same when it comes to lists about gems and enchants: There are so many different situations for different scenarios. Delving into this realm is going to show a lot of criticism. Be careful.

    Just my two cents.

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  14. #14
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    Puddin's thoughts on frost.

    First off I started as frost, always wanted to be frost, leveled as frost, pvped for a long time as frost, tank in both my guilds as frost. I am a frosty ho and I love it. With good gear choices early on to up your expertise, or gemming for it, it will really allow you to get the most out of what I find to be the core of the build, The Obliterate/HB/Rime of doom rotation.

    Right now I have chosen to glyph for Oblit, HB, and the new UA glyph, which I must say I do like. It still gives a little buff to threat from the strength, and in most cases should help the DK get up to 30-34k armor depending on gear adding a great period of regular extra mitigation you can rotate.

    I have made the solid choice that I will be sticking with a DPS sigil for the rest of ToC. My avoidance stats are already very high; and the extra 200 STR from using Obliterate which I already button mash when its up is a great bonus to my threat and DMG contribution (I average 2.5-3+ kdps depending on fights).

    I do use the single disease rotation and only use HB for its application for the most part, that does not mean you should always use it. You will easily piss off your guildmates if you throw around HB's on Fac Champs and breaks peoples CC's. However on Twins I highly suggest using a 2 disease rotation for the simple fact that you can pestilence the diseases to both targets, and blow both away with large HB crits from your OBS Rime procs.

    Don't forget to macro your rune strikes!!!!

    Last night made the 3rd group from my guild to clear 10Htoc, and the 4th tribute chest, including one group's "Tribute to Mad Skill" (Our dedicated azn group we keep to make us look good.) We have actually only been working on this for 3 weeks total for the most part.

    Frosty powah!
    Last edited by Pwnanapuddin; 11-24-2009 at 11:15 AM.
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  15. #15
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    I use a slightly different build (link) which I've found quite versatile for several encounters. Single target threat is very rarely an issue (only when the DPS significantly outgears me), and multi-target aggro is also simply a non-issue.

    In one of our recent Ony25 kills, we had all ranged DPS stay on the boss, while melee turned on the whelps and the guardian (only one came out by the time P3 started). As you can see from the damage done here, multi-target damage (and therefore threat) is simply unbeatable by a frost DK. Spamming HB every time it's off CD, and spreading Blood Plague in-between means you have much more threat than most people know what to do with. I even ended up pulling the other paladin's whelps off him by the time they were almost dead.

  16. #16
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    Yep I switch to Frost for Onyxia, HB is ridiculous for threat here. KM seems to proc a lot during this phase and I see regular crits of 84,000-86,000. The whelps stick to me like glue.

    I also ended up top on the damage meters.

  17. #17
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    Yeah Zxian, I used to use epidemic also. Personally I prefer a 15 second DnD just in case. But your build is just fine, and I am sure it is nice getting some extra RP from SoB.
    The Pwnstar Puddin, Now in a Fun Sized Goblin Shell.




  18. #18
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    I have been doing some tweaking over the past week with strong results. I switched from epidemic and glyph of pest to glyph of howling blast and a bit more crit from blood tree. Working on a 1 disease rotation for trash through HB is working fairly well. On bosses such as gormok I have had to slow down my rotation to keep from pulling constantly off of the other tank in my group. I still dont feel that running 1 disease is for everry instance but overall im likeing the flow
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  19. #19
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    I myself tank trash with 1 disease rotations if there are more than 1 mob It works very well and follow up with Obliterate Boilx2
    sKsBlaster/Blasterion for Stim Kill Smile and Last Light on Stim Kill Smile and MedivhUS

  20. #20
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    Things you didn't came up with in your all post are :
    - What about getting Imroved Icy Talon
    - Can I get endless Winter.

    All you discution is more or less about : how do I get more tps. My question do you need more tps ? I'm currently running instances without any chaman, nor rogues for the most part. Cuts & haste buff are important (we do have ret pals, dps warriors and feral droods) for the raid, my tps is not really the best I can produce, but it is enought for them to go with.

    A tank must provide two things. He must not die easily, and then must provide some threat so other can do their jobs, doing damages. The first thing I had to take was this haste buff du to not having a chaman in raid. Them I juste went to get Endless winter so I can get all vital cuts done on time with juste a smal tps done.

    I know this is not to be done for everyone. I do have to respec from time to time just to get some more tps for some fight. We have a really god tps maker that is "used" early in fights, or where tps is needed. TPS is not the only advantage of DK tanks, even more if they are frost.

    Once again, there is no road set in the stone on how to play a frost DK tank.

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