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Thread: Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking

    This guide is a compilation work of a lot of things I've been studying and developing that pertain to tanking with a Death Knight. As Kazeyonoma has said, I tend to be a “teach a man to fish” type, so this guide will be phrased to teach you how to create your character the way you want, rather than just making choices for you.

    I will be handling all of the major topics on the subject and as such, I will not be going to the depth that each topic is capable of. Just because a technique or play style isn't discussed here does not mean it is impossible or inadvisable. I will do my best to keep editorials well-labeled.

    This first post will have links to each of the sub-categories. If you are looking for information on one specific aspect, follow the link provided. If you have a general question, follow to the last link to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Please, if you do not find your question answered there, search the forums at large, and only if you have not found an answer to your question, then create a new thread in the Theory/Mechanics Forum. Please only reply to this guide to bring attention to errors, typos, or to request additions to the information.

    While World of Warcraft is a game, software, scripts, and otherwise automated responses, the game has a very key element: human players. When you combine the level of complexity built into the game in terms of talents, glyphs, spells, gear, and the fairly complex interplay of stats, with the uncertainty of network latency, and the still more complex nature of the human being, in reflexes, psychology, perception, and the nuances of the hardware and software tools through which the player interacts with the game, you get a scenario that is anything but set in stone.

    There is no “absolute best” anything in terms of the choices you can make in how you play your character. There are nuances and angles that can be used with varying value and effect and the only limitation is having the creativity to discover them, and the skills to execute them.

    When I provide editorial, I will discuss many elements relative to other factors in terms of how I have seen them used, spoken with those who have used them, or in terms of the relative value next to other roughly equivalent stats. I am not always right, and there is room for new ideas, always.

    Contents to Follow:
    Last edited by Satorri; 01-26-2010 at 07:27 AM.
    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?!?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Terminology, Glossary:

    Common Acronyms:
    BS = Blood Strike
    PS = Plague Strike
    IT = Icy Touch
    OB = Obliterate
    DS = Death Strike
    RS = Rune Strike
    BB = Blood Boil
    DnD = Death and Decay
    DC = Death Coil
    BP = Blood Plague
    FF = Frost Fever
    Pest = Pestilence
    IBF = Icebound Fortitude
    AMS = Anti-Magic Shell
    AoD = Army of the Dead
    RP = Runic Power
    ERW = Empower Rune Weapon

    HS = Heart Strike
    SoB = Scent of Blood
    Vot3W = Veteran of the 3rd War
    MoM = Might of Mograine
    WoN = Will of the Necropolis
    B-G = Blood-gorged

    HB = Howling Blast
    FS = Frost Strike
    HC = Hungering Cold
    NoCS = Nerves of Cold Steel
    CotG = Chill of the Grave
    KM = Killing Machine
    BoN = Blood of the North
    ToT = Threat of Thassarian
    GoG = Gift of Gorefiend

    ScS = Scourge Strike
    CE = Corpse Explosion
    UB = Unholy Blight
    AMZ = Anti-Magic Zone
    RoR = Rage of Rivendare

    Rune System Terminology:

    Rune Set = 2 Blood, Frost, and Unholy runes, the 6 runes available to all Death Knights
    FU Pair = 1 Frost and 1 Unholy rune, frequently used together for moves.
    Rune Blackout = when all 6 runes are on cooldown and are not available

    General Game Jargon/Terminology:

    Mob = an enemy, monster, or computer controlled non-player character (npc).
    Proc = a spell, talent, enchant, or glyph effect that triggers from some set of conditions usually providing a buff or ability.
    Tank = the designated character in a party or raid who gears to be strong on survival and takes the primary attention of enemy targets.
    DPS = short-hand for damage dealers. I will use the lowercase "dps" to short-hand for damage per second.
    Pop = slang for using a spell or ability.
    Cooldown (CD) = the period where a spell or item is unusable because it is refreshing.
    Global Cooldown (GCD) = the game is built with a base cooldown for the player client of 1.5 seconds. This keeps the player from being able to use most abilities less than 1.5 seconds apart. Some abilities can be used without triggering the Global Cooldown, while for certain classes, the Global Cooldown can be reduced in length with certain stats or abilities.
    Internal Cooldown (ICD) = a cooldown hidden in a talent, set bonus, trinket, or gear proc. Cooldown is not visible to the player, but the ability won't be able to proc again until the cooldown is finished.
    Last edited by Satorri; 03-23-2010 at 06:31 AM.
    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?!?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Overview: The Death Knight as a Tank

    The Death Knight was the fourth tank to be introduced to the World of Warcraft. Next to our plate wearing counterparts we are distinguished by the feature that rather than using shields, we tank with a 2-handed weapon, or a pair of 1-handed weapons. Death Knights are the only tanking class that currently does not have access to a shield block mechanic or analogous ability. Otherwise, Death Knights will use the same Plate gear attributed with tanking stats that Warriors and Paladins do, and it is common practice for Death Knights who dual wield 1-handed weapons to use, or maintain a set of 'tanking' weapons for added survival value. It is also not uncommon to keep and use weapons designed for DPS for their superior threat value. This will be discussed further with the Frost tree.

    Death Knights are capable of tanking or dealing damage with any of their 3 trees. Each tree has a unique theme to its talents, will offer its own set of buffs, and will play somewhat differently. However there are common elements to the construction of each play style. Currently, any of the the three trees is equally capable as a tank, though different people will find that different styles will give them varying results. It is more often the skills and tastes of the player that will determine the tank's efficacy rather than the tree itself.

    Death Knights are fully capable of tanking any role in any encounter currently available in the game. As with any encounter, they may not be the best choice based on the various class abilities. In general, Death Knights sport the strongest anti-magic abilities, which can further be strengthened by talent choices. Each tree has its own specialized anti-magic ability.

    Regardless of spec, the Death Knight has 3 main features that they bring to a tanking team that can be used to great effect:
    1.) Death Grip
    The Death Grip ability allows the tank to pull a target from up to 30 yards away to the tank. The ability also applies a fixate effect, like Mocking Blow for Warriors, that will cause the target to focus on the Death Knight for 3 seconds. As with Mocking Blow, if the opponent is already targeting the Death Knight, the fixate will have no effect. The two portions of the effect are exclusive in terms of efficacy, and will not affect each other. Some targets, particularly encounter bosses and some heftier mobs are immune to the physical pulling effect, but that will not keep the fixate from applying unless the target is otherwise immune, and vice versa. This ability is particularly helpful for moving casting creatures or repositioning a target.

    2.) Unlimited Threat Ability
    Thanks to the Rune system, Death Knights can perform their abilities at a constant pace, regardless of whether or not they are the primary target. Because of this, they can put strong second threat on a target, without limitations. None of the tanks, the Death Knight included, can do as much threat when they are not the primary target, for Death Knights this is caused by the Rune Strike ability. However, where Warriors and Bears will see some limitations from reduced Rage generation, and Paladins may have mana concerns in the long run, the Death Knight has no such limitations.

    3.) Ranged Threat
    None of the tanks are capable of putting out fully sufficient threat out of melee range, but the Death Knight more than any other has the tools to put out the most threat at range. With Icy Touch, Death Coil, Blood Boil, and the placeable nature of Death and Decay the Death Knight is very strong at setting up and maintaining some measure of threat at long range. This ability may be stronger still for certain specs.

    Understanding these features can allow your raid team to use your Death Knight tanks to their fullest value regardless of what other tools they may bring.
    Last edited by Satorri; 12-16-2009 at 09:30 AM.
    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?!?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    The Rune System

    The Death Knight class uses a unique power system in the form of 6 runes and a Runic Power bar. Every Death Knight has 2 of each of the three sorts of runes available to them: Blood, Frost, and Unholy. Each rune has an individual 10 second cooldown when used successfully. This cooldown is reduced to 2 seconds if the move the rune is used for misses, or is dodged or parried.

    Runic Power (RP) is generated when the Death Knight uses an ability that uses runes. If the ability costs 1 rune, it will generate 10 RP. If the ability costs 2 or 3 runes, it will generate 15 RP. There are a variety of talents that allow the Death Knight to generate additional RP through different mechanisms. Anti-Magic Shell will also generate RP for the Death Knight when it absorbs damage. The exchange rate is roughly 1 RP per 100 damage, so if the AMS absorbs 5000 fire damage, it will generate 50 RP.

    At the onset the Rune System may seem a bit complicated as it requires you to track 6 different cooldowns as well as a Rage-like bar of energy, but in reality it is a bit simpler, and simpler still if you understand how to follow it. To do so you first must recognize the simple cost system for runes.

    There are 3 ways abilities can be priced:
    1. Single Rune: 1 Blood, Frost, or Unholy rune
    2. FU Pair: 1 Frost and 1 Unholy rune
    3. BFU Set: 1 Blood, 1 Frost, and 1 Unholy rune (this is only used for 2 abilities currently)

    Runic Power abilities will cost a set amount of Runic Power, usually 20, 40, or 60 RP before modification with talents or glyphs.

    With these 3 simple sets of rune prices, rather than watching 6 individual cooldowns, you'll usually be concerned with 4 cooldowns in 2 forms: each Blood rune and each FU pair. In learning to design your method, or recognizing the abilities available to you, you simply need to recognize that you will be able to spend two single Blood Rune abilities and two FU Pair abilities per Rune set. This will further be modified by each tree and the use of Death Runes.

    Death runes are wild card runes. They can be used as if they were a Blood, Frost, or Unholy rune. Each tree will have different tools for generating Death runes, and different uses for the product. All Death Knights have the Blood Tap ability that will convert 1 Blood rune into a Death rune. Blood Tap is off the Global Cooldown (GCD) and has a 1 minute cooldown of its own. I will discuss more tree specific variations in the section for each spec.
    Last edited by Satorri; 12-14-2009 at 04:01 PM.
    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?!?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Rotations, Methods, and Priorities

    These are three words that I use frequently, and it is something I feel merits a section all its own. The rune system, by design, lends itself to a fairly regular rotation as an easy way to simplify the concept of spending 6 individual runes on separate cooldowns, along with a rage-style energy bar. Knowing that when you successfully spend a rune it will be available again in 10 seconds allows for a certain degree if repetition. As such it is very common to find Death Knights, be they damage dealers or tanks, asking for the appropriate “rotation.”

    Rotations have their place and their value. As stated, the consistency of the rune system allows, in a perfect scenario, for the user to simply follow a set pattern or cast sequence as they use their abilities, and for most DPS Death Knights, that is usually the case. As a tank, however, I feel that rotations are a crutch, a means to be lazy in the long term and potentially to not make smart use of your abilities. It is a valuable tool while learning to play, but in the interest of becoming the strongest tank you can, it is well worth your while to invest time in getting a feel for the system and operating freely. To accomplish this, you need to create a sense of the utility and merit of each of your moves, and then learn how to recognize the right time for their use on the fly. I want to discuss both rotations and priorities here.

    Rotations and Priorities

    The term rotation is often used for more than just the original intention of the word. I am guilty of that myself. In the strictest terms, a rotation will be a set cast order that you will repeat indefinitely as the fight goes on. For caster DPS first and foremost, and several other classes now as well, a rotation is a way to optimize the sequence of moves you use to maintain buffs/debuffs, use the most powerful abilities every time they're available and/or when they will be used to the greatest effect, and to maximize different value from your class and talents. This can be the case for Death Knights as well.

    While building a rotation, you will see that the cast sequence will be founded on priorities, i.e. which buff, debuff, or conditions are important to meet for the rest of your performance. If you can learn to identify these priorities, you can develop the tools to improvise and work outside of the stock rotation, this will allow you to become a stronger tank in the same way that learning to use your mouse to turn can remove many of the limitations that keyboard turning imparts. I will discuss the creation of a rotation and try to highlight Death Knight tank priorities as I go.

    Constructing a rotation for a Death Knight is a simple matter of identifying the most valuable use of each rune as it becomes available. For example, applying diseases will usually be your first and most important step. So, unless you are modifying your method with glyphs, you will usually start a fight with Icy Touch and Plague Strike. Icy Touch can be used at range, so a popular sequence for these two abilities is to Icy Touch prior to reaching your target so that your Global Cooldown ends as you reach the target and you can use Plague Strike immediately. This helps make the most of the time it takes to apply the diseases and gives you a lead on threat at the start of the fight. Almost universally, the combined effect of disease damage and disease buffing to many key moves will mean that your first priority will be to ensure you have diseases on your target. Your spec/method may use other tools to maintain diseases, but IT/PS will almost always be the means by which you apply them.

    After diseases, we want to make smart use of each of our remaining runes. As highlighted above, you can generally understand this in terms of Blood runes and FU pairs. Most of your spells will fall into one of those two categories. Frost and Unholy will both use talents to convert Blood runes to Death runes so that they can use additional FU pair moves, and Blood will convert FU pairs to Death runes to use more Blood runes, but the two categories remain the same. For each spec we can identify the key tools and what their cost is, then weaving them together is a simple act of what runes you have available and when. Most of the specific concerns of each spec will be addressed in the following sections, but we can short-hand some of that here for illustration.

    Generic Abilities:
    Blood Spec
    Blood rune = Heart Strike, Blood Boil, Pestilence (Rune Tap, Mark of Blood, Vamp Blood)
    FU pair = Icy Touch/Plague Strike, Death Strike

    Frost Spec
    Blood rune = Blood Strike, Blood Boil, Pestilence
    FU pair = Icy Touch/Plague Strike, Obliterate, Howling Blast (Unbreakable Armor)

    Unholy Spec
    Blood rune = Blood Strike, Blood Boil, Pestilence
    FU pair = Icy Touch/Plague Strike, Scourge Strike (Bone Shield, Anti-Magic Zone)

    These are the basic pieces to fit into the puzzle. Next we need to understand a second important concept. Some builds will use a different method to start a fight than they will as the fight progresses. Use of Glyphs such as Disease, Scourge Strike, and Howling Blast, can allow the user to handle things like maintaining diseases without applying via IT/PS. This means that you will have two general parts of your rotation: the “Opener” (usually consisting of the first 2 rune sets) and your “Cruising” rotation. The opener will be what you do when you first engage a target, or perhaps if you drop an element you are juggling and have to start again (such as letting diseases fall off). Once that stage is set, your “Cruising” rotation will maintain the important things and generate more threat or damage. Keep this concept in mind when considering what tools you use to generate threat, and what glyphs/talents you choose to support that.

    The final aspect of building a rotation for Death Knights is to understand the best usage of Runic Power for your spec so that you can cover rune blackouts to best effect. In my experience, learning to fill those gaps is what will transition a good Death Knight into a powerful tank or damage dealer. For all tanks RS will be your most efficient exchange of RP into threat, though that will not require Global Cooldowns (GCDs) as it is used on your next weapon swing. So, for active use of RP for threat, Frost will use Frost Strike, while Blood and Unholy will use Death Coil. With 6 runes at 1.5 seconds per GCD, you will always generate at least 1.0 seconds per rune set of open GCD. The least GCDs each rune set will use is 4, which will leave 4.0 seconds of open GCD per rune set. So, depending on the rotation you design/use, you will have a certain number of GCDs that cannot be used on abilities that cost runes (without the use of Blood Tap or Empower Rune Weapon). Managing these spaces can be a matter of interest for optimizing an ideal rotation, but for a tank, we will generally have to fudge the specifics as we will frequently use abilities not central to our threat rotation to improve our survival.

    So, now that we have the items to fill in the gaps, what is the framework? The first framework is created by the game in the form of the Global Cooldown. This is designed to limit the amount of input the player's game client can submit to the server to manage load on the game servers. The GCD for Death Knights cannot be altered except by use of Unholy Presence, which we will not use while tanking. That means that we will be able to use one ability that is not “on-next-swing” once every 1.5 seconds. The second framework is the cooldown of our rune abilities which we have simplified with the B and FU categories, and our RP abilities for when our runes are on cooldown.

    So, as an example, we create a simple rotation with generic abilities: IT/PS, Blood Strike, Death Strike, and Death Coil. So, at the start of the fight we will use IT and PS as described above. This will use the first FU pair and leave us with two Blood runes and the other FU pair, 3 seconds elapsed. Blood Strike twice will use the Blood runes, and Death Strike will put the FU pair on cooldown, now with 7.5 seconds elapsed. Your first rune won't come off cooldown for another 2.5 seconds, but since we'll want to use an FU pair rather than IT/PS on the next set, we'll wait one GCD longer, or 4.0 seconds. In that time we could use 3 abilities, if we have the ability. One method to fill this could be to use Blood Tap and another Blood Strike to use one cooldown, then Death Coil a second. Chances are you cannot fill the third. This will happen sometimes, but it can help to find additional tools such as trinket uses, engineering bombs, etc to fill these spaces. Every GCD not used is a little opportunity lost. That said, there will sometimes be spaces you just can't help. Finding a way to minimize these is the key to optimizing your Death Knight's performance.

    I will discuss both rotations and priorities in each section as it relates to each spec, but the remaining concept I will reference from here on is that of “method” or “methodology.” When I say method, I am using a short hand for the full package that you use to play your Death Knight. This will combine elements of rune usage, priorities, talents, and glyphs to structure what moves you use when and for what purpose.
    Last edited by Satorri; 02-24-2010 at 06:56 AM.
    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
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Talents and Glyphs:

    The Death Knight class is definitely a creation from an evolved development staff. The trees have required a lot of tweaking over the course of the expansion, but in less than a quarter of the life of the game the class has quickly caught up to a balance with the other 9 classes.

    The Death Knight class has a unique aspect in that it is the only class that can accomplish two different roles with each of the three trees, by intent of design. It is also the only class that is intended to tank with more than one of its trees. Because of this, spec’ing with a Death Knight is a very versatile affair. Each tree has tanking tools, and each tree has a style all its own.

    My standard disclaimer to anyone looking to spec their Death Knight tank is this:
    Each tree has a specific style, method, and tools to accomplish the job. The talents in the tree are designed specifically to support that tree’s style, and the deeper you go the more that becomes true. Your best bet as a new Death Knight is to stay true to one tree primarily and only take talents to support that single theme. I do not recommend getting creative with specs or splitting trees until you have a generous amount of experience and familiarity with the talents and the class.

    The trees allow for a great many permutations and styles, and in the interest of not trying to explore every road for you, I will keep my discussion here to the mechanism of the talents, and the central theme of each tree. I won’t offer more than a couple styles for each tree. Hopefully the information here can support folks in the community to be more creative.

    I am including the discussion of glyphs here, as by nature of design, each glyph is meant to be a stand-alone talent that anyone can take regardless of where you put your points. The glyph discussion will come with each tree, and I will try to discuss any of the glyphs that would be meaningful to that tree and the general play styles I am describing.

    General Death Knight Tanking Talents and Glyphs:

    The first thing that demands attention is what I have coined the “Holy Trinity of Death Knight Tanking Talents (H3T).” In the first tier of each tree there is a 5 point talent that is a simple and very valuable passive tanking buff. These are:

    Toughness: The standardized tank armor buff. It increases the armor contribution from your helm, shoulders, cloak, chest, bracers, gloves, belt, legs, and boots by 2/4/6/8/10%. It does not increase armor from necks, rings, trinkets, or weapons, and it does not increase the bonus armor on the gear pieces listed above (if the armor value appears green). To find the bonus armor not increased by this bonus, simply find another piece for the same slot, with the same item level, and find the difference in armor value. Armor is standardized so that every item at the same item level, slot, and armor weight will have the exact same armor without bonuses.

    Anticipation: The standardized tank dodge bonus. Gives the Death Knight 1/2/3/4/5% additional chance to dodge. This is added to the base chance to dodge and is not subject to diminishing returns. It also does not affect the diminishing returns on defense or dodge rating, or agility, from gear, gems, and enchants.

    Blade Barrier: This is a unique buff for Death Knights. While we receive 8% damage reduction from being in Frost Presence (which can be increased in the Frost tree), this talent allows us to add 5% damage reduction with a simple stipulation. Whenever both your Blood runes are on cooldown, you receive the Blade Barrier buff for 10 seconds. Because of the way you will usually spend your runes, this will be a near 100% uptime. As a simple illustration, if you have one Blood rune with 5 seconds remaining on the cooldown and you spend the other, you will start or refresh the 10 second buff. If 5 seconds later when the positions are switched, spending the other rune will refresh the 10 second duration again. Usually this will take care of itself without undue attention, but if you’re concerned about maximizing uptime the best solution is to simply stagger your Blood rune uses so they aren’t back to back. A common confusion on this is the use of Blood runes converted to Death runes. This talent will operate based on the cooldown state of those two runes regardless of what their state is. If the rune recharges as a Death rune and you spend one or both, so long as both are on cooldown again at the same time, the buff will be refreshed.

    There are two other talents that I consider to be nearly as non-negotiable that are found early in the trees. These two talents are:

    Improved Icy Touch: This buff makes your Frost Fever reduce the melee attack speed of any target affected by the full 20% reduction (to match Improved Thunderclap, Judgments of the Just, and Infected Wounds). If your team has arranged for someone else to handle this buff, that is the only reason it is reasonable not to take it. That said it is worth considering.

    The Death Knight version of this buff is by far the easiest to apply and maintain across an unlimited number of targets. The Paladin version is tied to judgments and as such can only be applied to one target at a time. The Druid’s form can be applied with abilities that can be used frequently, but only hit 1-3 targets at a time. For that reason it can cumbersome and unreliable to try and maintain the buff on more than a few select targets at a time. The Warrior version is almost as flexible as a Death Knight’s, but it requires a move that has a 6 second cooldown, and so there is room for blackouts on targets that join the fight late or are momentarily out of range. The Death Knight’s version applies to every target with Frost Fever. Thunderclap is not a tool that Prot Warriors would actively use unless it is to support AoE threat, or maintain the de-hasting buff, whereas it is always in the interest of the Death Knight to have diseases on every target. To that end, I would contend that the Death Knight is the best choice to be applying this buff. Your team may go a different direction, or may have a DPS Death Knight who can handle this more easily, but otherwise, you should strongly consider the value of this talent.

    In addition, with patch 3.3.3 Icy Touch becomes one of the most powerful threat hits with a bonus threat multiplier of 7 (with Frost Pres, IT will do 14 times the damage as threat), so improving IT damage is a worthwhile endeavor regardless of threat and frequency of use.

    Bladed Armor: The four previously mentioned talents were all survival values first and foremost (though arguments can be made for the not insignificant amount of Rune Strike threat gained from the avoidance of Anticipation). Bladed Armor translates a percentage of your armor into Attack Power (AP). AP in turn filters down into each and every one of your threat generating abilities to buff your threat. As a tank, with 5/5 in Toughness, and in Frost Presence, the AP gained from this talent will out-strip any other talent for total threat gained, with the possible exception of tree-specific spells like Heart Strike. I have not found a spec yet that benefits from any other passive buff talent more. I will make specific mention of what this means to each of the trees when I discuss them specifically.

    These five talents can and should be included in any tank spec unless you have a very strong rationale to not include one. They will each contribute to making you the strongest tank you can be.


    When discussing glyphs in general here, the selection will be very important to each tree and spec designed. Even the rare glyph that is used in more than one spec will have different value to each spec. Instead, here I want to discuss a handful of glyphs that are not good for tanks, though there are occasional misconceptions about that fact.

    Glyph of Icebound Fortitude: For a brief time following patch 3.2, this glyph was adding value for tanks to the damage reduction of Icebound Fortitude. Shortly afterwards, Blizzard hot-fixed the ability so that it would work as originally intended. Glyph of Icebound Fortitude increases the minimum damage reduction from IBF. As a tank who has reached the defense value where they cannot be hit with critical strikes, you are long since passed that increased minimum so the glyph will give you no value whatsoever. This glyph is intended for PvP where players may not have any defense at all.

    Not all the glyphs are cut and dry as not useful for a tank, but some of them may seem like a good idea at first while the application may be disappointing.

    Glyph of Blood Strike: an increase in Blood Strike damage may seem nice to Frost and Unholy in passing, but the requirement to have a snare on the target diminishes the value. There are scenarios where this may be applied on trash in raids or 5-man instances, but in general, most bosses in 5-mans and raids are immune to snares and so you will see no effect there. In addition, there are only two methods that Death Knights have to apply their own snare: Frost Fever with special talents from Frost, and Chains of Ice. In order to get the former, you have to spend 1-3 points in a talent that offers you no other value (and as I said, many targets in instances are immune). In order to get the latter, you have to use an extra Frost rune to maintain a 10 second snare duration, which would require 1 Frost rune per rune set. With talents from Frost your Chains of Ice can apply Frost Fever, but this is another talent that takes points away from other arguably more valuable talents simply to get use out of this one glyph. If you need any further convincing, check your combat logs, parses, or Recount logs to see what percentage of your total damage comes from Blood Strike.

    Glyph of Death Grip: With this glyph, when you deal the killing blow to a target that yields experience or honor (it does count if you are max level and kill something close enough to your level even you though can’t gain experience), the cooldown on Death Grip is refreshed. This may seem like an appealing idea, but once you reach the point where you are tanking 5-mans or raids, you will be getting very few killing blows next to the DPS section who will do larger and more consistent damage.

    Glyph of Plague Strike/Icy Touch/Chains of Ice: These glyphs increase the damage done by PS by 20%, increase damage dealt by Frost Fever by 20%, and add damage to Chains of Ice respectively. They may seem like it has no real downside, but in the current state of things, these glyphs never manage to make it into the top 3-4 best choice list, even the top 3 if you are trying to get all threat glyphs, with the possible exception of Glyph of Icy Touch for some Unholy designs. There is almost always a better choice.

    The last glyph I want to touch on applies to all Death Knight tanks fairly equally, and there is some measure of confusion about its significance. Glyph of Dark Command reduces the chance that your Dark Command (standard taunt) will miss by 8%. In order to understand that value, first you need to know what your current liability is.

    Hit rating grants you separate reductions on your chance to miss for melee abilities and spell abilities. Melee abilities are any thing that you have to be in melee range to hit with and with the exception of Obliterate, they all have “-strike” in the name. Dark Command actually uses the miss chance for spells. Whereas Hit rating will give you a 1% reduction to melee miss chances for every 32.79 Hit rating, it will give you 1% reduction to spell miss chance for every 26.23 Hit rating. You can find a complete listing of Hit caps for Death Knights HERE, but the relevant miss chances for this glyph can be found here. To hit a target at level:
    83 (Raid Boss, ‘skull’ level) = 17% chance to miss with spells.
    82 (Heroic bosses) = 6% chance to miss with spells.
    81 = 5% chance to miss with spells.
    80 = 4% chance to miss with spells.

    So, if you have enough Hit rating to never miss a melee special attack against any target currently in-game (8% physical miss reduction), you will have a 10% reduction to your chance to miss with spells. In addition, if you have a Balance Druid with Improved Faerie Fire, or a Shadow Priest (applying the Misery debuff) in your party or raid, that miss chance is further reduced by 3%. That means that unless your target is a raid boss, you will never miss a taunt. If your target is a raid boss, you will have a 4% chance to miss with your taunt.

    There are a few bosses in the current endgame that require taunt switching on a regular basis, but given the small chance to miss, I rarely find it advisable to take this glyph. In addition to your main taunt, you have Death Grip which will function the same on a raid boss, bringing your threat on par and redirecting their attention. In other words, you have two taunts, and with only a 4% miss chance, the odds of both missing are very slim. The one reason to take this glyph is if a missed taunt will absolutely kill your team/attempt and you want to be entirely sure that never happens. Otherwise, the applications are few and far between, and you are strongly advised to use different glyphs. If you want to use this for specific encounters, I highly recommend just carrying a stack of this glyph and whichever you switch it for so you can swap just for the single encounter.
    Last edited by Satorri; 03-23-2010 at 06:42 AM.
    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?!?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    The Blood Tank: I Got Healz!

    The Blood Death Knight tank is a unique creature in the tanking world. They have little by way of special mitigation tools, or passive mitigation/avoidance bonuses, and will take the most damage of the three trees. You won’t know it to look at them though, as they also rely on several tools for self-healing to offset that incoming damage!

    The Generic Blood Method

    Every tank will play things a little differently, but the Blood style is generally the least varied. A standard talent spec will use Death Rune Mastery (DRM) along with Death Strike (DS) to generate 2-4 Death runes with the two FU pairs. Blood and Death runes will be used for Heart Strike, Blood Boil, and the occasional survival tools, Vamp Blood, Rune Tap, Mark of Blood, and possibly more Death Strikes. Note: Death Strikes used with Death runes will simply refresh the runes as Death runes again, they will not revert to an FU pair.

    There are a variety of small changes you will see from one Blood spec to the next. These swings are usually found in whether the tank takes Rune Tap, Mark of Blood, Spell Deflection, Will of the Necropolis, and what supporting threat tools they take. The standard Blood build, however, will reach for Blood-gorged, going at least 50 points into Blood, and will make use of the Holy Trinity of Tanking Talents (H3T).

    The play style of Blood is relatively very simple, and to discuss it, I will split into three sections: Threat Styles, Survival Styles, and Ease Of Play.

    Threat Styles of Blood Tanking

    As Death Knight styles go, the Blood spec is very simple to play. The Blood tree uses heavy physical damage effects to build threat, and can rely on many small hits, rather than fewer large hits, to generate threat.

    The tree itself is built around two compounding elements that improve the Blood tank’s threat: Direct/passive physical damage buffing, and passive critical chance buffing. For the former, Blood-gorged will provide a passive armor reduction that will amount to roughly a 2.5% physical damage increase at all times, while the other portion will increase all damage done by 10% so long as the tank is above 75% health. The larger the tank’s health pool, the easier this condition will be to meet. Bloody Vengeance allows the tank’s crits to stack and maintain a buff that will increase all physical damage done by 9%. Thanks to the passive crit buffs the tree grants, along with raid buffing, this is a very easy effect to stack and maintain. For passive crit buffs, Dark Conviction, Subversion, and Improved Death Strike will grant your 4 largest threat tools generous bumps to their crit chance. Might of Mograine allows you to improve the value of each percent of crit chance on HS, DS, and BB even further, as critical strikes will deal more than the standard double damage.

    Hysteria is a powerful tool, but there are nuances in how to use it most effectively. First of all, it is a highly valuable spell to take, as it only costs 1 talent point. Understanding when and how to use it for best effect is a little trickier. It can work as threat boost to the Blood tank, as roughly 75-80% of your total damage-threat will be caused by physical effects.

    If you choose to use it for yourself, I highly recommend not using it at the start of the pull, but rather after your opener. Set diseases, and collect a full set of Death runes, then use Hysteria, fire off your best physical threat (usually HS chaining), use Empower Rune Weapon to refresh all your runes immediately, use a couple DS’s to refresh your Death Runes, and continue spamming HS. This can make for an enormous burst of threat. The thing to be wary of, however, is that this increased threat comes at the cost of 1% of your health every second for the 30 second duration. As a Blood tank who relies heavily on stacking health, this will be a pretty sizable bleed. Be careful that you don’t use this at a time when you are already requiring intense healing.

    An alternate use, when you do not need the added threat, is to use it on one of your best physical damage dealers. Feral Kitty Druids and DPS Warriors are usually the best investments, but Blood DPS Death Knights, Hunters, Rogues, and Retribution Paladins can follow pretty closely and may get more total value if they’re doing better total damage than the Druid or Warrior. Frost or Unholy DPS Death Knights along with Enhancement Shamans are your third best choice, but because of their heavy proportion of spell damage in their total output, they will not make as strong use as the others listed above. For your consideration, using Hysteria on yourself while doing 2k dps will represent roughly a 320 dps increase in total raid dps. However, if you use it on a Feral Druid who is doing 7k dps, it will become a 1400 dps increase for your raid. Be mindful that you only use it on yourself for strategic threat, and not as a standard tool for yourself in all situations..

    The Blood tree relies on a very simple set of moves to create a rotation from. You will always want both diseases active for the sake of buffing Heart Strike damage and Death Strike healing. After that, you will have two paths you can follow at any given time. Death Strike will be your tool to convert FU pairs into Death runes, but once they are Death runes you can choose to either us them for Heart Strike or Death Strike. Heavy use of Death Strike, even if glyphed, will generate a little less threat than Heart Strike unless you get high effective healing from its use. For this reason, in general, you will want to favor HS when you are at full health and only use DS on Death runes when you know you can get value from the heal. Blood Boil can be a strong AoE threat tool for a Blood tank, it will not hit nearly as hard as HS, but on large groups it will allow you to spread the threat far more broadly. I recommend using HS and swapping targets smartly for any pull of 4 or smaller, though BB will do more total damage, I find the focused threat to be more ideal. Beyond 2 targets BB will always do more total damage, and against larger groups it can allow you to set a solid foundation of threat against any AoE dps. It can be very useful to fire off several BB's at the start of the pull then use HS to strengthen your threat on strategic targets. It can also be very smart while spamming BB to simply change your target. Just the threat generated by melee attacks and RSs will prop up threat on select targets.

    Additional threat values can be found in the use of Sudden Doom (particularly when compounded with Morbidity and possibly the Glyph of Dark Death) and Necrosis. These values are standalone buffs, however, and will not improve the benefit of any of the other talents that Blood relies on.

    Scent of Blood (SoB) is a talent that can be generally misunderstood or mis-valued. As a Blood tank, your #1 priority for RP is that Rune Strike is usable on every proc. With the physical damage buffing, this is easily one of your strongest threat moves, and is far, far and away your strongest use of RP for threat, regardless of talents or buffs. To that end, you will want to make sure you have more than 20 RP at all times. For practical application this means that you should avoid using Death Coil unless you have more than 60 RP. The only time you can and might miss the immediate use of an RS proc is in the first two GCD’s of a fight, after that if you find yourself RP starved it is for a lack of care on your spending. Scent of Blood, at best, will generate upwards of around 40 RP per point, per minute. It will not frequently help you in your first two GCD’s as during that time you will either not proc the effect, or not get more than 1 swing to return 10 RP. Later in the fight, you should be budgeting your RP so that you always have the required amount to use RS, as described above. What that means is that SoB will only allow you to use Death Coil more often. Because of the damage that Death Coil deals, even with Morbidity, it is a smaller threat priority than reapplying/refreshing diseases (for investment purposes) or using HS or DS, so the only appropriate time to use Death Coil is during a rune blackout. The Blood style uses a very high amount of single-rune abilities which means you won’t usually be generating many rune blackouts relative to Frost or Unholy. The GCD’s that may fall into these rune blackouts can be further reduced by use of Blood Tap and other non-rune abilities (such as Engineering bombs or trinkets), so the value of Scent of Blood is only in never missing such an opportunity for Death Coil.

    Survival Styles of Blood Tanking

    The Blood tree is designed to rely on total health as its primary passive survival attribute. Total health will have a trickle-down effect that will increase the efficacy of many of its tools. Avoidance and armor still play very important roles, but neither will offer quite the same value as pure health for a Blood who relies on their self-healing.

    The Blood tree has the following healing tools available to the tank. Different tanks will use different tools with varying effectiveness, but the mark of a strong Blood tank is using these tools well. If she does so, she will appear to take less damage than other Death Knight tanks. Among these tools are:

    Death Strike: With the talents taken to improve the effect, every use of DS will heal the tank for 7.5% of her total health per disease on the target, or a total of 15% with both diseases. Even when used sparingly, this will easily become your single largest contributor of healing, even with a whopping 60-70% overhealing rate. A smart user can time Death Strikes in rotation to closely follow boss melee swings, and can find ways to use it to counter dramatic health drops, to ease the apparent spiky nature for healers. If the tank uses an average of 2 DS’s for every 2 rune sets, that will be two 15% heals every 20 seconds. Our example tank will have 40k health for simple benchmarking. Our example tank will then get a 6k heal with each use, or 600 heals per second (hps) on average. If the tank uses the maximum possible of 4 DS’s per 2 rune sets, that becomes 1200 hps before considering overhealing. If you average 67% overhealing, this will average roughly 200-400 hps as effective healing.

    Rune Tap: The single point spell version of this talent will instantly grant the user 10% of their total health back, with a 1 minute cooldown. This spell is off the global cooldown (GCD). This allows the heal to be used in a flash, at any time during the fight provided a single Blood/Death rune is available. Within the typical DRM style of play this is very easily accomplished as, in addition to all 6 runes regularly rolling over as a Blood or Death rune, the single-rune spending nature of the spec will often leave Blood Tap free to use. Blood Tap is also off the GCD, so the two Tap spells can be used simultaneously without otherwise affecting your rotation. Fully talented for an additional 3 points, Rune Tap will heal the tank for 20% of her total health on a 30 second cooldown. Using our same example tank, that is a 8k heal available on demand. If used on cooldown that will be 267 hps before considering overhealing. Because the ability is off the GCD, and used actively by the tank, it is very easy for a skilled tank to average less than 20% overhealing on average with this ability. If you take the 20% as your average overhealing, you will see roughly 213 hps on average. The real value of this spell though, is in reacting to health dips. If combined with a quickly executed DS, our example tank could prop her health back up by 14k in an instant, nearly half her total health, and that healing will often come faster than a healer could respond. An easily forgotten element of this is that the healing will also generate threat. Where damage, by default, will generate 1 point of threat per 1 point of damage, healing will generate 1 point of threat per 2 points of healing. Healing threat is also split across all targets you are in combat with. However, if you are using this against a single boss target it can still become a strong threat bump. Note: all threat generated, healing included, while in Frost Presence is multiplied by 2.0735 (the same is true for Prot Warriors in Defensive stance, and the total value of Protadin and Bear threat multipliers). So, if a single HS hits for 2k damage, it will generate 4147 threat. If your Rune Tap, at the same rune cost, heals you for 6k health while you are tanking a single target, that will generate 6220 threat.

    Mark of Blood: This spell is a little more challenging to use well. Mark of Blood will place a debuff with 20 stacks on your opponent. Every time the opponent deals damage to someone, that target will be healed for 4% of their total health. The heal is applied directly after the damage, but instantaneously. As a result, provided the damage dealt is more than 4% of the target’s total health, it will never overheal, and the target will appear to take less or no damage. Because of the indirect nature of this spell, many tanks find it challenging to remember to use it, and harder still to find the right moments to maximize its effectiveness. To give an idea of the range of its use, if it is placed on the boss the example Blood Knight is tanking, and during the 20 seconds she only takes a melee swing every 2 seconds, then the Mark will heal the tank for 1600 on each swing, or for 800 hps. Again, provided the melee swings are for more than 1600, this will never overheal. If the swings are hitting for 10k, it will appear as if the tank is only taking 8.4k damage on each swing. Note, however, that this will only use half the charges. If the tank finds a way to spend all 20 charges in 20 seconds, this will be a much larger total effect. Here are some of the encounter specific locations I’ve found the spell very useful:
    • On Kel’thuzzad, in Naxxramas, applying the buff prior to a Frostbolt Volley will greatly reduce the apparent damage taken by the raid. Applied to one of the adds during phase 3, the add tank will start receiving less damage, or even a net gain from one add depending on when in the phase this happens.
    • On Steelbreaker in Ulduar, using Mark of Blood during a Fusion Punch will actually proc a heal off of each melee swing around the Fusion Punch, and will proc 4 times off of the punch itself. 2 are easy to explain as the punch consists of two parts (one nature and one physical damage), but the other two are a bit anomalous. This can significantly cover the tank almost independently for one punch (provided the debuff is dispelled).
    • On Hodir in Ulduar, using Mark of Blood during Frozen Blows will benefit the tank as, like Fusion Punch, each blow is one part melee and one part magic damage, and each damage source will proc its own heal. Charges will also leach into the raid some and ease the healing on the group as a whole.
    • On Mimiron in Ulduar, Plasma Blast will hit the tank for several rapid-fire hits. Using Mark of Blood here will significantly reduce the healing load required by the tank.
    • On Gormokk in Trial of the Crusader, using Mark of Blood will cause his melee hits and his Impale applications to heal the tank. It will not cause the Impale ticks to heal the tank, but the healing can be more than enough to ease some of the potential spikes if these damage sources line up too closely. If used on one of the Jormungar from the same encounter, prior to a “Spew” they will heal the tank for almost as much as each tick of the damage, and there will be no added need for healing. If used on Icehowl in the same encounter, prior to his Frost Breath, the freeze will deal little or no discernible damage provided it doesn’t hit more than 10 people.
    • On the Faction Champions in Trial of the Crusader, applying this buff to the Warlock before he Hellfires, the Warrior before he Bladestorms, or the Rogue at most any time he finds a squishier raid member, this can save lives and really protect the raid from being bursted.
    • Against the Twin Valkyr in Trial of the Crusader, using Mark of Blood on the Valkyr that is not healing will ease the burst dealt to the tank. Alternately, using it on either Twin at any time during the fight will give the healers a temporary respite from the constant AoE drain as it will most of the raid with every tick.
    • Against Anub’arak in Trial of the Crusader, if you choose to use a single tank on the adds, this spell can greatly ease the healing required on that tank by debuffing one of the adds. This can be done regardless of what your assignment is. The adds attack very quickly and so the charges can be used very quickly. If used during Leaching Swarm, the charges will be used up very quickly, but can stabilize the raid for a moment.

    These are not the only applications, just a few hand-picked. As with most cooldowns, if you understand how the tool works, you can find very ideal places to use it to maximal effect.

    Bloodworms/Imp Blood Presence: I’ve combined these two healing abilities as they have similar concerns. Each of these abilities does not scale with your total health, but instead scales weakly with your Attack Power (AP). Improved Blood Presence converts 4% of each damaging attack you deal into a heal. To compare in general, this means that if you’re dealing 2k dps while tanking, it will generate a stream of 80 hps. The passive nature of the heals will sometimes cause it to skew towards larger overhealing values, but the small size of each heal will counter that to some degree as it provides some filler when you aren’t topped off. This will not save your life, but it will accumulate over the course of the fight to a not insignificant total healed. The Bloodworm talent will cause your melee strikes to sometimes summon a few small worms. These worms’ damage scales very slightly with AP, and when they deal damage you will receive healing proportional to that damage. The problem with worms as a tank is that they are coded as ‘guardians.’ That means that they will spawn at your location and have no special coding or defenses. This has two main problems. First, they will attack from where you are standing. As a tank, that means they will stand in front of the boss, and their attacks are parry-able. That means that if the target is capable of parry-hasting, they could actually increase your damage taken, and possibly more than the amount they heal you for. Second, because they have no defenses and very little health, they will die quickly and easily to any cleave, breath, aura, or other source of damage. As such in many encounters they will have a very short lifespan when they are spawned. These talents are not useless, but compared to the other tools, and the other talents for survival and threat, they are weak values.

    In addition to these self-healing tools, the Blood tree sports a very special iconic survival cooldown: Vampiric Blood. Vamp Blood will increase your total health by 15%, and increase all healing effects on you by 35%. This is a very powerful buff for the Blood tank on two fronts. First, 35% increased healing from healers is a powerful buff on its own. The 15% increased health total simply buys them more time to fire heals off. Second, because of the two portions of the buff, it will double-buff your self-healing. Your most powerful self-healing tools all scale with your maximum health, but they also benefit from the increase to healing. That means that each of your self-healing effects will actually receive a total increase of 55.25%! It is important to note that this talent will not reduce your damage taken. That said, provided your increased health total is enough to take the blows in question, the increased healing will mean that for the same mana spent, healers will have an easier time keeping you alive.

    The Blood tree uses two more standard survival tools that work in more specific situations:
    Spell Deflection: This talent uses your current parry chance as your chance to essentially parry spells. However, doing so will not negate the damage; just reduce it by 15/30/45%. The chance nature of this spell means that it will be hard to rely on when you absolutely need to not take the full hit, but when it procs it will be a significant reduction in damage taken. Note: this reduction can only work on direct spell damage, as opposed to periodic effects. That means that it will not work on DoT’s, auras, and damage zones.

    Will of the Necropolis: When you take damage that drops you below 35% of your total health (including damage taken when your health is already below 35%) that damaging hit is reduced by 5/10/15%. Patch 3.3.3 removed both the 15 sec ICD, and the minimum hit-size threshold of 5%. Any hit can trigger this ability. This change effectively converts WotN from a lifesaver that is weaker in the greater equation, into an ability that is very well suited to Blood and can be pivotal in high-damage encounters. The current functionality of this talent effectively makes the Blood tank harder to kill as his health gets low. When the Blood Tank's health gets low he will then take less damage, functionally extending the value of his health and making it easier for healers to pick him back up. As is the theme with Blood tanking abilities, this scales very nicely with health as it extends the range in which this talent will work. This talent can be expensive to get as it is at the bottom of the tree and will never be needed for filler next to the other talents available. The value of this talent will make it most meaningful when you are in a situation where your health can be expected to drop low, either regularly (i.e. progression fights with hard hitting bosses), or when it is possible for your health to drop low (any time when something goes wrong). I'd label this a *very* valuable talent for any progression tank interested in the best survival, but I would label it as a marginal to moderate value for any content you out-gear or are very comfortable with. This ability really shines on fights like Festergut, Marrowgar, and the Lich King in ICC, as well as Garmokk and Anub'arak in To(G)C.

    Ease of Use in Blood Tanking

    The survival and threat tools and techniques are fairly easy to read, but there are harder values to appreciate as a Death Knight tank in the form of play style adjusting talents and glyphs. Using a standard spec, the Blood tank will use DS to convert FU pairs to Death runes, and otherwise rely on HS spam for the primary threat ability. That said, the duration of your diseases and the method for re-application will alter how much you can use those primary abilities. The main two items of interest here are Epidemic and the Glyph of Disease.

    Epidemic will increase your disease durations from 15 seconds to 18/21 seconds. In a typical rotation the Blood tank will be alternating rune sets, using the first to apply diseases and convert FU pairs, and the second to unleash their strongest moves. If their diseases do not last to the end of the second rune set, it can diminish the total effect of the tank by either reducing their damage using HS without diseases, or by requiring them to reapply diseases sooner offering a smaller window to use their big swings. This talent, in two points, allows the Death Knight to complete two full rune sets before diseases need to be reapplied or refreshed. This improvement is hard to quantify as it will vary with the player, the network latency, and the methodology being used, but regardless of circumstances it will represent an increase in overall damage/threat, and a simplifying of the rotations and priorities used by the Blood tank.

    Glyph of Disease allows your Pestilence, in addition to spreading the diseases on your main target to un-diseased targets, to refresh the diseases on any target it hits. That means that if you have a single target, using Pestilence will refresh disease durations to full with a single cast. An interesting side effect of this is that if you use Pestilence on anything, whether or not it has diseases, any targets hit by the chaining effect that have diseases on them will have their durations refreshed. Take note, however, that Pestilence will not apply diseases to additional targets if your main target does not have any diseases on it. The effect of this glyph is most noticeable in the ease of use that it grants. Rather than requiring a Frost and Unholy rune (or 2 Death runes), you can refresh all your diseases with a single Blood/Death rune cast. Because the Blood style has 4-6 runes rolling over as a Blood/Death rune constantly, this is very easy to accomplish at any time to ensure diseases never fall off. Saving yourself one extra rune every other rune set is not a big step up in total damage/threat done, but the simplicity this grants allows for more flexibility and less distraction which in turn allow you to be a stronger tank. With Patch 3.3.3 Icy Touch hits like a truck for threat, and as such it diminishes the value of Glyph of Disease a bit for Blood tanks. On single targets it is actually not in your best interest to avoid the use of IT. This glyph retains its utility, however, and can make AoE tanking and chain pulling much easier, should you choose to use it.

    Blood Tanking Spec Design:

    This talent spec should make up a simple core to the Blood Tank design:
    From the talents taken there are 3 swing points from 32-35 total in Blood that can go into Rune Tap, Improved Rune Tap, Spell Deflection, Mark of Blood, Abomination’s Might, or Hysteria, as desired by the tank. As stated above, I do not recommend Scent of Blood for a Blood tank. In the example spec, I’ve put these points in Abomination’s Might and Rune Tap.

    There are 2 more swing points from 38-40 that can be place in any of the above talents, with Sudden Doom now also available. I’ve put the points into 2/3 Improved Rune Tap, so that I can continue to illustrate the tree.

    I have one more swing point at 44 points spent, that can go to any of the above listed talents, and now Will of the Necropolis is also available. I’ve placed that last point in finishing Improved Rune Tap, for illustration purposes.

    With 5/5 in Blood-gorged, the remaining 6 points are available to swing as the user desires. In addition to the talents listed above, the following talents offer some benefit:

    Morbidity: This talent in the Unholy tree will give you access to Death and Decay nearly on cooldown. This can be very useful for situations where you will want to pull out DnD frequently, and can support your AoE threat nicely. The other half of the talent buffs your Death Coil damage. This is valuable for improving your RP dump value, and is more valuable still if you use Sudden Doom.

    Necrosis: If you take Morbidity, you will have sufficient points in Unholy to spend some in Necrosis. Necrosis will add a small chunk of shadow damage to each melee auto-attack and RS you use equal to 4% of the damage that strike caused, per point spent in Necrosis. This is a competitive threat value as auto-attacks and RS hits will be two of your top 4 chief threat abilities.

    I do not advocate the following talents, and I’ll explain why:
    Black Ice: The Shadow and Frost damage bonus gained here will only go to serve your Death Coil, Icy Touch, Death and Decay, Blood Boil, and disease damages. Even in heavy AoE fights, this buff is a bit weak compared to the other options.

    Unholy Command: This talent reduces the cooldown on your Death Grip by 5/10 seconds. With your main taunt already on an 8 second cooldown, the only reason to take this talent is to specifically get more frequent access to the pull effect of Death Grip. There is exactly one raid encounter in WotLK that I would advocate that value and it won’t help you if you’re the main tank. Otherwise this talent is only ideal for PvP.

    Ravenous Dead: While the percent Strength gained from this talent may seem like a good idea, the AP and Parry chances gained are actually very minimal even with the strongest gear in the game. The buffing to your ghouls is generally lost as a tank and only serves to represent a marginal increase in total raid dps if you try to keep your ghoul out as often as you can.

    Blood Tanking Glyph Selection

    Glyph of Vampiric Blood: The one standout as a defensive glyph for Blood tanks. This increases the duration of the buff from 10 seconds to 15. This effectively raises the uptime if used on cooldown from 17% to 25%.

    Glyph of Death Strike: This is one of the strongest threat glyphs for the Blood tank, but its value will vary depending on how frequently you use Death Strike. If you use it the bare minimum, largely as a tool to convert FU pairs, then it may garner less threat gained than the Glyph of Rune Strike. If you use Death Strike more often than is strictly required, usually to make the most of heals, this can quickly become a superior threat value. The glyph increases the damage dealt by DS, for all intents and purposes, by 1% per 1 RP available when the ability is used up to a 25% buff. Because we will always try to maintain enough RP to have RS used whenever it is available, it is safe to assume that the full 25% will always be available. 25% more DS damage is the same as 25% more damage threat, before you consider the synergy of Might of Mograine, Improved Death Strike, and Dark Conviction. All tolled, Death Strike is a very powerful tool to buff the damage of.

    Glyph of Rune Strike: The easy contender with DS for the best threat glyph available. The 10% bonus crit granted by this glyph will be the same as a 10% increase in total damage of Rune Strike, and 15% increase in total threat thanks to the passive threat bonus. Rune Strike does not benefit from any of the crit damage buffs from Blood, so this value is not padded, but Rune Strike will be very powerful in general for Blood tanks, as both Blood-gorged and Bloody Vengeance will multiply the damage wonderfully. If you pay close attention to improving your dodge and parry, this value may surpass Death Strike fairly easily, but in general it is not the clear cut superior that some believe it to be.

    Glyph of Disease: While this is not an easily quantifiable value for threat, this glyph can make your abilities much simpler to use. The glyph causes your Pestilence to refresh the diseases on every target it hits. That means a single cast of Pestilence will refresh the diseases on your main target, or on any other target it hits even if there are no diseases on your main target. If there are diseases on your main target, it will still spread them to any un-diseased other targets. This allows you to use a single Blood rune, again, of which you will have 4-6 runes available for at all times, to maintain diseases so you can focus on your other abilities, and not be concerned with IT or PS after the first application. With patch 3.3 it is unlikely this will see an increase in threat for the tank as IT is a threat monster, but it may not be a noticeable loss either, if you choose to use this glyph.

    Glyph of Dark Death: This glyph will increase Death Coil damage by 15%. As stated above, Death Coil is not a terribly competitive damage/threat value, so really the only appropriate times to use it are during rune blackouts. To that end this is not a fantastic use of a glyph slot. The one potential exception is if you decide to play to your Death Coil utility. Combining Sudden Doom, Scent of Blood, and Morbidity can allow you to squeeze extra threat out of your Death Coils and in the end, out of your total setup. This would be my third choice for threat glyphs after Rune Strike and Death Strike, but I expect the gains would be negligible if you are not using Sudden Doom and Morbidity, and I would generally favor the play style aid of Disease, and the survival value of Vamp Blood before I would take this.

    Glyph of Rune Tap: This is another hard item to find the value in. First it will require you to take Rune Tap. If you have Rune Tap fully improved, the glyph will make it so your Rune Tap heals you for 22% of your total health, and heals each member in your party (note: not raid-wide) for 10% of their health. This can be used to great effect if you stack your party carefully, and are paying attention to other people in your party. It can buy a vital moment and save lives. That said, as opposed to Glyph of Disease, this glyph adds complexity to your move and makes it a little less simple to use. Suddenly you may feel the need to use it or save it for better moments in its overall effectiveness. If you can find the best ways to use it that is good, but I would consider this an advance user glyph to really optimize.
    Last edited by Satorri; 03-23-2010 at 07:11 AM.
    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
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Frost Tanking: Like Pounding a Block of Solid Ice

    The Frost tank most closely matches the classic design of a ‘tank.’ The tree sports the strongest passive survival buffing a Death Knight can get in the form of increased miss chance and increased damage reduction from Frost Presence. The Frost tree is also the most varied in terms of spec styles and play styles. It is possible to either dual wield or 2-handed tank with this tree, and depending on which you pick will alter the value you get from different talents. Both styles are equally viable as an endgame tank in any content released so far. The threat generated by Frost on either a single target or an AoE pull will be characterized by massive spikes of threat delivered in fewer heavy-handed hits.

    General Frost Style

    It is worth noting that the only place dual wielding play will really differ from 2-handed Frost tanking is in terms of a few talent point placements and gear selection. Otherwise the specs will play more or less the same. I will occasionally point out where they differ, but you can generally assume that unless I reference one style specifically, what I say can be applied equally to both. The two styles will play the same as far as survival goes, where the only difference will be the shift in stats depending on what 1-handed or 2-handed weapons you use.

    To understand how the two styles vary for threat, I will provide some simple math to illustrate. When dual wielding, your off-hand weapon receives a 50% damage reduction penalty. The talent Nerves of Cold Steel (NoCS) will increase the damage done by your off-hand by 8/16/25% and that value is applied after the baseline reduction, so functionally the net penalty will only be 37.5% for 3 points invested. The talent Threat of Thassarian (ToT) will allow your Obliterate, Frost Strike, Rune Strike, Blood Strike, and Plague Strike to hit with both weapons on each use. This means that each time you cast Obliterate there will be two separate damaging hits. There will only be one roll to hit, so if one hits, both hit, but damage is calculated individually for each weapon, including the off-hand damage penalty. An interesting quirk is that each strike will have an individual chance to proc on-hit effects, which will become important later. So, to understand the relative value of 2-handers, slow 1-handers, and fast 1-handers, I will use sample damages based on item level 245 weapons, for comparison:

    Fast 1-hand: Blood Fury, 196.7 dps, 1.5 speed, average hit: 295
    Slow 1-hand: Stormpike Cleaver (, 196.5 dps, 2.6 speed, average hit: 511
    2-hand: Sharpened Obsidian Edge (, 255.6 dps, 3.5 speed, average hit: 895

    If we take a tank with 5k AP, 0% haste from gear, and the standard 23% melee haste raid buff, then the average hit size and speed for each weapon will be roughly:

    Blood Fury = 652 dmg, 1.22 sec
    Stormpike Cleaver = 868 dmg, 2.11 sec
    Sharpened Obsidian Edge = 1252 dmg, 2.85 sec

    We’ll use three setups, (1) with two fast weapons, (2) with two slow weapons, and (3) with the 2-hander. Remember the off-hand weapon will do only 62.5% damage. The damage per strike will be listed with the two weapons combined where dual wielding:

    Melee auto-swings:
    (1) 652 + 375 = 1027 (per 1.22 sec = 842 dps)
    (2) 868 + 499 = 1367 (per 2.11 sec = 648 dps)
    (3) 1252 (per 2.85 sec = 440 dps)

    Rune Strike:
    (1) 1728 + 994 = 2722 dmg
    (2) 2052 + 1180 = 3232 dmg
    (3) 2628 dmg

    Obliterate (with 0 diseases on the target):
    (1) 989 + 569 = 1558 dmg
    (2) 1162 + 668 = 1830 dmg
    (3) 1469 dmg

    As you can see, faster weapons and dual wielding net a stronger melee auto-swing damage output, but the slower the weapon the heavier your specials will hit, and special attacks will come at a uniform rate, regardless of the speed of the weapon. It is also worth noting that auto-swings for a dual wielding tank will have a higher miss rate which will serve to regulate that damage unless the tank over-stacks hit rating (which a dual wielder can actually gain value out of).

    Beyond the weapon-based contributions on melee auto-swings, Obliterates, Rune Strikes, Blood Strikes, Frost Strikes, and Plague Strikes, you will see no difference between the contributions of Howling Blast, Icy Touch, diseases, Blood Boil, or Death and Decay for 2-handed styles or dual wielding.

    Frost Threat Styles

    Frost relies on a short list of heavy hitting tools to generate threat. Most notably, Obliterate and Howling Blast share the FU pair slot with heavy hits and slightly different purposes. Rather than Death Coil, which should only be used in a rare situation where you cannot enter melee range, Frost spec will burn its excess RP on Frost Strike. As opposed to Death Coil, Frost Strike is a heavy hitting attack. While it won’t compare with RS for the threat per RP ratio, it will still be well worth your while to fit it into rotation smartly. Because Frost uses double-rune abilities frequently, it will generate noticeably more rune blackouts than Blood would. Using the Blood of the North talent, Blood runes are converted using Blood Strike and Pestilence into Death Runes. These Death Runes allow the Frost tank to use additional Obliterates or Howling Blasts in every other rune set.

    There are two primary approaches to threat for either weapon style, and they involve the use of diseases. In order for the tank to get all the passive buffs from the Frost tree, she only needs to have Frost Fever on the target. The second disease will contribute damage itself, and will buff Obliterate and Blood Strike to their full values, but otherwise, there will be no difference. As such some Death Knights choose to use a “Single Disease” method only applying Frost Fever, while others use both diseases.

    In trying to decide which the right choice is for you, the answer is not clear cut, and will vary in aspect depending on weapon style. It will also alter the ease of play. I will discuss the latter point more in a later section. The primary consideration is usually based on the speed and convenience of a single disease rotation. With Glyph of Howling Blast it is entirely possible to use no spells but Howling Blast, Obliterate, Blood Strike/Blood Boil, Rune Strike, and Frost Strike. There is no need to use Icy Touch, Plague Strike, or Pestilence, all of which are generally weak on threat for their cost, as they’re balanced for use as a utility of disease setting and maintenance.

    A very important thing to understand is the relative damage value of Obliterate versus Howling Blast. This will vary slightly depending on weapon style and disease style, but the final idea remains the same. With our example tank above, regardless of which weapons are taken, Howling Blast will do approximately 2033 dmg on each target it hits. To compare, for a 2-handed Death Knight, Obliterate with 2 diseases up will hit for 1836 dmg (1653 with 1 disease). What is not showing here is that Obliterate will have roughly a 18% higher crit rate. With 3/3 in Guile of Gorefiend, if you include critical strikes in your average damage, Obliterate will gain about 26% more value with all else being equal, so Obliterate will edge out Howling Blast on single target threat, but only slightly. The same is true for dual wielding two fast weapons, though the margin is a little smaller. In order to understand what this means in the larger picture we need to now consider the other supporting talents in the Frost tree.

    The Frost tree is designed to use special talent procs to inform your choices about which moves you use in a given moment. The two important effects are Killing Machine and Rime. Killing Machine (KM) allows your melee strikes to proc a buff that will cause your next IT, FS, or HB to be a critical hit. In general, you can do just fine without paying close attention to this proc, but the more experienced, skilled Frost tanks will find the timing to weave those KM procs such that they never waste it on an IT, and ideally will use it on the ability that will get them the most value for the current situation (generally, FS on a single target and HB for group threat). Rime gives your Obliterate hits a chance to trigger the Freezing Fog buff. This will reset the cooldown on your Howling Blast and cause your next use of HB to not cost or consume runes. This effect is very important to the central style of Frost and your use of abilities. As of 3.3.3 dual wielding Obliterate no longer appears to get two rolls to proc Rime per use.

    Combining the relatively close damage values of HB and OB with the Rime effect makes for a very simple set of priorities for a Frost tank: Your best use of FU pairs is Obliterate if you are tanking a single target, or if Howling Blast is on cooldown. If you are tanking a group, or in need of multi-target threat, Howling Blast is easily the better choice and should be used whenever available. On a single target, Obliterate will get you more bang for your buck, but be sure to use Rime procs immediately unless you are trying to use a KM proc more strategically. Using your Rime proc before using Obliterate again ensures that you never waste a Rime proc by overwriting it. A Rime proc is, for all intents and purposes, free threat, and not a small amount of threat either.

    So, to pull these elements together, here are rough summaries for each of the sub-methods:
    2-handed Single/Double Disease: With a 2-handed weapon there is a very little difference between using a single disease rotation and a double disease rotation in the final tally of idealized damage. Because of that, a single disease rotation is popular and for good reason. This combines well, as mentioned above, with Glyph of Howling Blast, where you can simply rely on Rime procs to maintain Frost Fever, while spamming your heaviest hitting abilities. With a 2-handed, single disease method, you will want to favor Howling Blast whenever it is available, and Obliterate whenever it is not.

    Dual Wield, Survival-Oriented (fast tank weapons): Some Frost Knights like to take the opportunity to use the tanking weapons that are available for 1-handed weapons so that they can make the most of their survival stats. These weapons are usually quite fast (the one shining exception currently is Quel’serrar!), and so you need to prioritize based on understanding where that will shift your damage. Single Disease setups may be about as effective as Double Disease methods, as with 2-handers, but it is worth checking against your gear. If you choose a single disease method, as with 2-handers, you’ll want to prioritize HB if it is available. If you choose a double disease method, you’ll want to favor OB, but be sure to use your Rime procs before hitting OB again.

    Dual Wield, Threat-Oriented (slow DPS weapons): The most powerful threat you can produce from a Frost tanking build comes from dual wielding slow DPS 1-handed weapons with a 2-disease method. This will have powerful, hammering OB’s and the best net combination of elements to rack up big threat values. Still, it is perfectly reasonable to use a Single Disease method, particularly when you are learning to play a Death Knight tank at 80, as it is much easier to perform. Even with a Single Disease method, you may still strongly favor Obliterate, in this case, as it will hit quite hard, and always carry the potential for Rime procs.

    I will discuss the ins and outs of a Double Disease method in the Ease of Play section below.

    As a final item for threat consideration, I want to talk about the use of Death and Decay as Frost. Death and Decay appears very appealing to tanks in concept because the damage has a bonus threat multiplier. That said, Death and Decay is a poor fit, and not particularly needed for Frost tanks. The answer why is simply that Howling Blast really holds its own, especially when supported with Blood Boil. DnD further cramps a Frost style as it will consume 3 runes, which will interfere with your even pairings for FU abilities. There are places where the spell will be strategically convenient as a utility, but on the whole I do not recommend using it for general threat, and I don’t recommend going out of your way to buff it.

    Patch 3.3.3 and the new Icy Touch, aka "Icy Slam"
    In patch 3.3.3 Icy Touch has been given a new bonus threat modifier when used in Frost Presence. This bonus modifier is 7 times the threat. When combined with Frost Presence, Icy Touch does a total of roughly 14.5 times the damage in threat. Because of this Icy Touch becomes a very powerful threat tool. While Icy Slam will now be very useful, especially for opening threat, it is not generally worth using any more than you do already. It is possible to make a spec specifically designed to abuse IT, but it will play a lot like Blood without the interesting abilities tied to IT the way they are with HS. The main thing that this changes is that no DK tank should be shy about using IT, and only on rare occasion should you not open with it immediately. For Frost, it makes this a very nice way to spend odd runes that may be left out of the double rune spam, such as a second Death rune when one is used for Pestilence, or the extra Frost rune if you use glyph of HB to refresh FF and combine it with PS to refresh Blood Plague.

    Survival Styles

    Frost is the most stable of the Death Knight specs for survival tools, but it is also the weakest in terms of scaling and active defenses. The combined effect of Frigid Dreadplate (+1/2/3% chance to be missed) and Improved Frost Presence (Frost Presence now reduces all incoming damage by 9/10%) make the Frost tank the most solid Death Knight spec at the baseline. Blood is designed to counter this slightly squishier state with heals, while Unholy uses Bone Shield. Beyond that, however, Frost has only its primary defensive cooldown, Unbreakable Armor, and a 50% increase on the duration of Icebound Fortitude (total of 18 seconds with 3/3 in Guile of Gorefiend).

    Unbreakable Armor is the iconic cooldown for the tree. The ability increases your armor by 25% (30% when glyphed) and increases your Strength by 20% for 20 seconds. Each of these has a positive effect on survival. A 25% increase in armor will depend on how much armor you have to start for the value it gets you. For example, if you have 25k armor, a 25% increase (+6250) will increase your passive reduction from 60.05% to 65.26%, or a 5.21% net gain in physical damage reduction. If you have 30k armor, a 25% increase (+7500) will increase your passive reduction from 64.33% to 69.27% or a net gain of 4.94%. Bear in mind that the smaller increase in percent reduction from a higher baseline of total reduction is actually still a consistent increase. As percent reduction approaches 100% each equal size step becomes a larger effect on damage reduction. The 20% increase in Strength will be a generous threat buff, but will also increase parry by a small amount. If you have 1200 Strength and roughly 500 parry rating initially (rough approximation around 21% parry), Unbreakable Armor will give you about 1% more parry, which is not insignificant, though somewhat smaller than the armor value for survival. Using more gear with bonus armor (i.e. neck, rings, trinkets) will improve the value of Unbreakable Armor when it is used, but remember, the damage reduction cap is 75% for armor value, so you will not get additional value when your armor goes above the current cap at ~49,903. So, if you have glyphed Unbreakable Armor, any armor in excess of 38,387 (39,992 armor without glyph) will not benefit from Unbreakable Armor. Conveniently, that armor value is not easily reached in tier 9 or lower gear. The bonus armor available in Icecrown Citadel however, may make that possible. It is important to note that this cooldown will have no effect against the vast majority of magic damage sources.

    The Frost tree has one other prominent survival tool: Acclimation. Frost’s unique answer to magic damage is a special sort of buff. Acclimation gives you a 10/20/30% chance when hit by any sort of magic damage to receive a unique buff. This buff increases your resistance to the school of magic that caused the proc by 50 for 18 seconds. This buff can stack up to 3 times (150 total resistance) refreshing the duration on each additional stack, and the buffs against different schools of magic are independent, so in the rare occasion where you are taking multiple schools of damage at once (Twin Valkyr comes to mind), you will receive separate stacks for each school on their own timer. This resistance stacks with all currently available raid buffs. An important thing to know is that the resistance will apply to the spell damage that procs the buff, so at a bare minimum you will get the benefit of that 50 resistance.

    To understand how much protection that grants, you have to understand magic resistance. Resistance has two inherent mechanics: damage reduction (just like armor, but against that sort of magic damage and on a very different scale), and partial resists. Just like armor the passive damage reduction will depend on where you start. If we assume you have raid buffs and no racial benefit against the specific school, we’ll assume you have 130 resistance to the school in question (from a totem, Paladin aura, etc). 130 resistance is roughly 19% reduction to damage from that school of magic. The first stack of Acclimation will increase that to 25% reduction, the second will increase that to 30.1%, and the third will make it a grand total of roughly 34.6%.

    The partial resist mechanic gives you increasing chances to resist a portion of the buff in 10% steps (i.e. a 10% resist, 20% resist, 30% resist, up to 100%). The chance for each of these steps increases as your resistance increases, though it moves like a curve. At low resistances, you’ll have a high chance of small partial resists, at mid-range resistance values you’ll have a higher chance of mid-range resists and smaller chances of small or high percent resists. To use more specific numbers, at 130 total resistance, you’ll see primarily 20% resists, with some 10% and some 30% resists. At 240 resistance you’ll see primarily 30% resists, with some 20% and some 40% resists. At 540 resistance you’ll see typical partial resists around 50%, with some 40% and some 60% resists. This effect is not to be underestimated (nor is your use of resistance buffs in raids from the various sources). The quirk of the buff is that there is only a chance to stack with each portion of damage taken. That means that when damage is regular and consistent, the buff will become more powerful, but when it is more sporadic or few large hits with generous space between, the buff will not stack as well. Conveniently, when the ability does proc, it lasts for a generous 18 seconds which will work in your favor. In certain fights, this effect becomes very significant. Twin Valkyr again come to mind, as you will stack both Fire and Shadow resistance buffs and they will be maintained quite easily.

    One side topic I want to touch on is Lichborne. Fairly early in the tree, this talent allows you to become immune to fear, charm, and sleep for 10 seconds on a 2 minute cooldown. This will occasionally have its value as a raid tank, for example, it will give you at least one get-out-of-fear card to play against Onyxia in phase 3, or on Auriaya in Ulduar. However, the long cooldown will limit the frequency of use, and in general you will not see many fears as a tank. This talent is primarily aimed at PvP.

    Ease of Play

    The primary challenge for any Frost tank is in deciding whether to take a single or double disease methodology. As described above in threat styles, the Single Disease method is much simpler, but if you are dual wielding it may easily produce less threat in single target situations. The Single Disease method relies on only Frost Fever, and if you use Glyph of Howling Blast you will never need to use Icy Touch. You can simply apply FF with HB straight away, and then rely on nothing more than Rime procs and HB coming off cooldown to maintain the disease without thinking. If you choose a Double Disease method, you have a lot more to consider and juggle. That is what I will focus on for this section.

    Double Disease Methodology/Rotation
    I wanted to take time out to address this method specifically, as I think it is one of the bigger game play challenges for a Death Knight tank. It is easy to say, “two diseases with two slow weapons means your Obliterates will hit like a truck.” The challenge is when you start to try to maintain 2 diseases with a Frost build. Let me first illustrate the conundrum. The tools that we will rely on are:
    • Icy Touch/Plague Strike (F and U, respectively): to apply diseases
    • Pestilence (B): if you need to spread diseases
    • Blood Strike (B): for single target threat and conversion of Blood runes
    • Blood Boil (B): for multi-target threat, but use is a consideration that BB does not proc BotN Death runes
    • Obliterate (FU): your major FU pain-bringer, a serious threat tool on its own that also allows free and frequent use of HB for still more value
    • Howling Blast (FU): near unmatched for AoE threat, particularly for the tremendous multi-target burst value. When not against a group, it is still valuable, but reserved for free spending from Rime procs

    So, if we were to try and open on a Boss (starting with no runes spent, or BBFFUU), we would want to apply our diseases (BBFXUX), then Blood Strike twice to start Blade Barrier and convert the Blood runes (XXFXUX). This leaves us with the final FU pair for an Obliterate, maybe with a Rime proc. This is 5 casts, 4 single runes plus one FU pair, for 55 RP (60 with Chill of the Grave), and 7.5 seconds elapsed if you are sharp on the timing. That means you will still have 2.5 seconds until your first rune comes back. If you get a Rime proc, you’re lucky. If you’ve gotten and used an RS proc, you do not have the RP to use FS without potentially blocking your next RS. If you have SoB, CotG, have used Horn of Winter, and have glyphed FS, you may be able to get around this, but this leaves you with a space to do something or sit and wait. One easy method is to use Blood Tap and fire another Blood Strike, or if you’re trying to open big, you could go so far as to hit Empower Rune Weapon and start fresh.

    The challenge with the Double Disease rotation comes once we’ve passed the opening rune sets. When your runes start coming back, you can wait for the Unholy rune you spent on PS to come up then use the first FU pair for an Obliterate. If you didn’t use Blood Tap, your other Death rune will now come up in short order and you can fire another Obliterate, always here using Rime procs when you get them. As soon as that has fired your other FU pair will come up and there is another Obliterate.

    The second rune set was 3 casts from runes, and odds are at least one Rime proc. We’ll average it out and say that is 4 casts (6 seconds elapsed) and you will have the RP to fill the remaining 4 seconds until you have a rune again with a FS or two. If you do not have Epidemic, which is not uncommon for Frost Specs, you need to start finding a way to refresh your diseases now. On one side, that could easily be done by replacing the previous OB with IT/PS to be sure the diseases do not fall off. Alternately, you can squeeze out Obliterates but you will lose your diseases. Unless you saved Blood Tap for this moment, you will lose your Frost Fever and with it the full damage buffing to Frost Strike or whatever you use to fill the gap. If you choose to never let diseases fall off, you will lose that Obliterate, and the short duration on your diseases will mean you refresh them on your first and second, fourth and fifth, seventh and eighth, etc rune sets. This can be a bit confusing as it actually encourages what is essentially a 4 rune set cycle.

    Potential solutions to this problem are available, but they are each a tricky choice of their own:
    1. Epidemic: maybe the easiest choice, stretching the duration of your diseases allows you to switch into a simple back-and-forth, 2 rune set method. Apply diseases, convert Blood runes, and get one FU spend on the first set, spam FU pairs on the second set, rinse repeat. This may require points to be taken from other talents to get Epidemic and Frost is not short on good options.
    2. Glyph of Disease: by trading away one of your glyphs, you can rely on a single Blood rune to maintain your diseases rather than taking a full FU pair. This can be helpful, but it can also add its own form of complication. If you do not use Epidemic, your second rune set will have two Death runes, and using one for Pestilence will still prevent you from a third FU pair spend. If you want to make it work without using Epidemic, I have a solution, though it is not the cleanest. At the start of the fight, when reaching the end of your second rune set, you can pop Blood Tap quickly and Pestilence to refresh disease durations. The tricky thing is that in order to keep this running down the line, you will not be able to follow a fixed rotation. Rather you will need to use Pestilence when you are last able before your diseases run out. This will inhibit your FU uses throughout your fight. If you are not comfortable playing off the books like that, Glyph of Disease will not solve the problem for you. If you have Epidemic, instead the glyph will simply give you one vital change: You will trade one BS with an IT and PS, for a Pestilence and an Obliterate. IT and BS hit sufficiently hard for Frost and PS does hit, so this may not be a fantastic trade, though it does solve one small issue: it allows you to not use KM procs on IT ever, even by accident.
    3. Glyph of Howling Blast: this is something I label as an advanced solution. Glyph of Howling Blast will allow your HB usage, or more generally, your Rime procs to maintain your Frost Fever. As with a Single Disease method, the frequency with which you use Howling Blast (at least on the cooldown will not be prohibitive, but Rime procs will ensure it may be more often than 15 seconds apart). This solves the more important half of the disease application, in that Frost Fever will not fall off. Then your only concern becomes to make sure you reapply Blood Plague before you OB again, you can let Blood Plague fall off until you actually need it for OB/BS buffing. So to play out an idea of how that would work, you can start your pull like you would otherwise, using IT and PS for disease, BS for rune conversion, and OB for your first FU pair. Your second set, now, however should include HB if you do not get any Rime procs. If you do, you can just use OB three times again. And from here on, you’ll need to insert Plague Strikes when you need the disease buffing, and make sure that HB is used, by runes or by Rime, ideally before FF falls off. This can be a little tricky mid-rotation and have some 5 rune spending that leaves an awkward 6th rune lying around. This can be cleaned up by just inserting an extra IT, or by using Blood Tap to make an FU pair of one Blood rune and one Frost or Unholy rune. I consider this an ‘advanced’ method because it requires a non-rigid rotation, and the adaptation of the player to the constantly changing set of resources. I do not recommend this for new Death Knights, but advanced players may find that this works well for them. Used well, it can result in more total threat output than a rigid disease application method, but only once you’ve gotten behind the complicated resource management.

    Frost Tank Spec Construction and Glyphs

    The Frost spec talents that should be paid attention to, and are not generally worth avoiding without exceedingly good cause, are the central survival talents (Frigid Dread Plate, Improved Frost Presence), the proc-based threat/damage talents (Killing Machine, Rime), and the many passive buffs to your primary threat tools (Black Ice, Glacier Rot, Blood of the North, Rime, Guile of Gorefiend, Tundra Stalker). These central buffs combine with the play-style elements of Blood of the North, Annihilation, and the spells Howling Blast and Frost Strike, to make up the backbone of the Frost methodology.

    Before we get into the details of building a Frost spec there is one vital point to take into consideration: Improved Icy Talons. Prior to patch 3.3.3 this was a tricky talent and generally unappealing to tanks as A.) it only provided a 5% haste buff for 6 points if you have anyone else in the raid providing the 20% melee haste raid buff, B.) it is 6 points in an otherwise very crowded spec, and C.) faster swing speed has limited value for tanks as it will give a marginally more opportunities for RS and a small increase in melee damage/threat. As of patch 3.3.3 this moves to become a more serious value. Improved Icy Talons will provide the same exclusive raid buff as it did before along with 5% passive haste to the tank. However, the haste granted by Icy Talons itself is no longer exclusive with the raid-wide buff, meaning that any points spent in that talent will stack with the raid buff. So a DK with Improved Icy Talons will have 45% melee haste from the 6 points. This may still not be a commanding amount of threat for a tank, but it is far more valuable now. The talent will be easiest to take with 2-handed Frost and may well be worth it.

    I will create these core specs with the assumption that the buff is covered by your raid, but I will mention it as a second consideration as to where to take points from to get it, if you feel you need to bring that buff to your raid.

    There are many styles, but the core of the spec you will want for Frost(2-hander) looks like this:

    With 32 points in Frost, 33-35 are swing points. There are no clear cut choices if you aren’t taking Icy Talons, but Endless Winter is an easy one to take at +2% Str per point and the reduction/removal of the RP cost of Mind Freeze, Death Chill can be a powerful move for controlled bursts of threat, and Chill of the Grave can generate much welcomed extra bits of RP (bonus RP gained from CotG also generates a small increased margin of threat for the power gain). As of patch 3.3.3, having less than 5 points in Icy Talons can still be valuable as the haste stacks with raid buffs.

    I do not encourage Icy Reach as the value is usually lost once the fight starts, and I do not recommend Runic Power Mastery as, with good management of Rune Strikes and Frost Strikes, you should rarely if ever reach the 100 RP cap. Merciless Combat is a sticky item as well. As far as tank values go, it really doesn’t suit us well. It will represent a threat/damage increase in the last 35% of a target’s health. Against AoE packs, this won’t get much use as things will die very quickly in that window. Against Bosses, this will come very late in the fight. If you need the threat at that late stage, you have bigger problems, and this talent is not the way to fix them. The one value to get from this talent is an increase in raid DPS, as a tank, it won’t be a commanding increase, only a min/max squeezing out of damage. Chillblains is a great talent in concept, but in raids there are a disheartening amount of mobs that are immune to the chilling effect. Hungering Cold can be a great ability for an emergency save or a quick application of Frost Fever to targets, but in the current raid environment with the lack of crowd control and the healthy amount of splash damage, you’ll rarely see this effect last even a moment unless you take the time to train your team and create a way to warn them when you’re about to use it.

    I will fill in Chill of the Grave and Death Chill as I think those are the strongest choices and I need the points to continue filling out the skeleton tree, but the choice is to the user.

    Point #40 is another floating point. If you are a filling Icy Talons this could be your 4th point. Otherwise, any of the above options may be your choice, but this tier offers no new talents for a 2-hand wielder. For the sake of continuing the core of the build, I’ll place that point in Hungering Cold.

    Point #45 is once again a floating point. If you want or intend to take Acclimation, it is now available, as are any talents you did not take previously. I will place this point in Acclimation to climb to Tundra Stalker.

    Howling Blast is a no-brainer, so you will definitely spend at least 51 points in Frost. With our other standard tanking talents, we’re left with 5 points to place. If you are filling out Imp Icy Talons, you may have put point #45 in that. If so it will only take 1 of your remaining points. If you are not taking Imp Icy Talons, you have the following good options for your remaining points (besides any of the above talents not taken, though beyond Chill of the Grave, the talents in the other trees could easily be preferable):
    Scent of Blood: In the Blood tree. This will increase your income of Runic Power, and as a Frost tank, you will really enjoy the increased availability of Frost Strike.
    Subversion: In the Blood tree. For threat purposes this can be a fantastic choice. A 9% increase in BS and OB crit chance can be a HUGE threat buff, particularly for a Double Disease method. If you are using a Single Disease method with your 2-hander, this is probably not the best choice, though it is definitely still a strong choice.
    2-handed Specialization: In the Blood tree. Because you are using a 2-hander, this talent will be very worth your points as it will trickle down through several of your big threat tools in OB, BS, PS, RS, and your melee auto-swings.
    Epidemic: In the Unholy tree. As I discussed above in the Ease of Play section, I would recommend this for new Frost tanks and players learning the ropes, as it allows for an easier or static rotation while learning. It is generally valuable, but tanks with more improvisation skill may find they can do as well without it.
    Dark Conviction: In the Blood tree. This is not a bad talent as it will buff your overall threat. That said, as a 2-handed Frost tank, I would prioritize this below 2-hand Spec, and probably a bit above Subversion for a Single Disease method, or roughly on par with it for a Double Disease method.
    Rune Tap: In the Blood tree. There is nothing wrong with taking this spell as it will give you a 10% heal available once per minute (for a typical tank that’s on the order of a reusable potion on a pretty short cooldown). That said, because it costs a Blood rune, you may find it is harder to use easily, particularly if you are keeping a sharp rotation, and it may interfere with your FU pair spending.

    As a 2-handed Frost tank, I do not recommend the following talents, and here is why:
    Butchery: In the Blood tree. This talent will garner you very minor amounts of RP compared to Scent of Blood and Chill of the Grave. If you want to squeeze every ounce of RP you can out, this is your only remaining tool to do it, but it really isn’t worth the points in a net value comparison.
    Death Rune Mastery: In the Blood tree. This can be a very tempting ability to get as it can allow your Obliterates to cause your FU pairs to become Death runes. That can allow you to find more versatility in fitting your moves in at every opportunity. Combining DRM with BotN means all 6 runes can be spent in any fashion, frequently. This may work, but it can also be very under-utilized as most often you will be trying to spend FU pairs primarily, and this talent is very awkward if you don’t take the full 3 point investment.
    Morbidity: In the Unholy tree. This talent is tempting to some who see Death and Decay as a key threat ability. However, as I discussed above in Threat Styles, for Frost, there is little or no use for Death and Decay, despite the bonus threat it generates. As Frost, you also will rarely use Death Coil, so one or both portions of this talent can easily go unutilized, severely diminishing the value of your points spent here.

    For a dual wielding Frost tank, much of the same listed above is true. The two crucial differences are that you will no longer find value in 2-hand Specialization, and now will have 6 new attractive points in Frost spec. The core talent tree for a dual wield Frost tank should look as follows:

    You will find that for these point allocations there are no blatantly questionable choices, no particular swing points, and no half-utilized values. This core will leave you with 4 points remaining to apply to the other potential values. I would choose between:

    Epidemic: as referenced above, this may make your rotation easier and your method easier to play. That said it should not be seen as essential.

    Chill of the Grave/Scent of Blood: These two talents each serve the same purpose so it is worth measuring their individual, potential return. Chill of the Grave 2/2 will generate 5 additional RP per usage of Icy Touch, Howling Blast, and Obliterate (and Chains of Ice). Depending on how you play you may use these tools a lot, or almost exclusively. If you are playing a safe Double Disease, dual wield method, without Glyph of Howling Blast, you can expect to use these three tools roughly 5-7 times per two rune sets, depending on Rime procs and how you manage disease maintenance. If you only use them the bare minimum of 5 times, that is 25 RP per 20 seconds, or 75 RP per minute (average that down to 37.5 per point in the talent). Scent of Blood will depend more on your gear, your target, and your weapon choice. If we assume, for conservation sake, that the tank is using two slow weapons (2.6 speed, with raid-buffed haste will be roughly 59 swings per minute), and there is a single attacker with 30 proc-capable swings per minute (~2.0 second swing timer), then it is fairly reasonable to assume that the tank will get most of the proc’d charges for up to 2/3 points in the buff, and you will only start to see a little bit of lost swings with the third point. So it is reasonable to expect that the tank will get somewhere around 4.23 procs per minute, or 4.23 swings per point, to generate 10 RP each. That works out to be roughly 42 RP per minute per point in SoB. Based on this comparison the two are very similar. CotG should be more reliable, particularly if your method uses more than the bare minimum of OB/HB in rotation (i.e. smart Rime usage). Scent of Blood will also become slightly more profitable when you are taking on more than one target, or particularly fast-swinging targets. Additional RP will allow, essentially, for heavier use of Frost Strike. For this reason, combining one or both these talents with the Glyph of Frost Strike will allow you to fill rune blackouts very well.

    Subversion: For the fact that it buffs the critical chance of Obliterate alone, this talent may be worthy of your consideration. However, given the options, I would only take this if you were interested in a strong, non-playstyle buff. This will pair very well with the glyph for Obliterate.

    Acclimation: For the tank most concerned with survival, this really is a fantastic talent that you may find covers you in some serious damage situations throughout the current raid content. This should not be passed up, unless your primary concern at this point is to get threat from your talents.

    Frost Glyph Choices

    The glyphs for Frost are probably some of the harder choices for Death Knight tanks and answers will vary largely by player. There are several very sharp threat glyphs for the Frost spec so you would be wise to figure out which one suits your personal style best.

    Glyph of Unbreakable Armor: This glyph increases the amount of increased armor the Frost tank gets when using Unbreakable Armor by 20% (from 25% to 30%, *not* 25% to 45%). This is a valuable survival glyph, though it is an easy temptation to leave it off given the several powerful threat buffing glyphs.

    Glyph of Obliterate: This is an easy choice for most play styles. This will increase your Obliterate damage by 20%. For any build/style that makes heavy use of Obliterate this is a hard value to match, however, given the amount of passive buffing available for Obliterate in the talents, this will still be a large value even for 2-handed, 1-disease methodologies.

    Glyph of Frost Strike: Reduces the RP cost of FS to 32 RP (down from 40 RP). From one perspective this will be a 20% reduction in cost, which means you will be able to use it sooner, and more often as your critical threshold for application will change (now you can use it with 52 or more RP and not thwart your next RS proc). Combined with SoB and CotG, this can allow you very frequent access to FS without any repercussions.

    Glyph of Howling Blast: This will cause your HB to apply Frost Fever to every target it strikes. The disease is applied prior to the damage being calculated, so this will, functionally, assure your HB does full damage at all times. Because the only spells that require Blood Plague to do full damage are single target, this may replace the use of Pestilence. The value and applications of this glyph have been referenced several times above. The most notable reason to use it is to never worry about Frost Fever wearing off. This glyph shines in Single Disease methods.

    Glyph of Rune Strike: As for most tanks, this is a very pleasant buff to a very useful tank tool. You will find that while Frost does not have any particular benefit to the use of Rune Strike, it will still be a high-threat item on your list, and as such it is not a terrible idea to buff it. That said, given the significant game-play elements that help or hinder the Frost tree, I would highly encourage you to take some combination of the glyphs listed above before you take this glyph. The one resounding exception is if you play a heavily avoidance-centric Frost setup (creature of myth), in which case your RS will be the commanding threat tool.

    There are some easy and not unusual choices that I have seen, but do not recommend:

    Glyph of Death and Decay: As stated above, Death and Decay I find to be largely wasted as Frost, in all but a utility application. Improving its damage is an exercise in investing in a rare value. If you find a way to use Death and Decay very well with a Frost build, maybe this glyph will appeal to you, but unless you are doing so, I’d highly recommend steering away from it.

    Glyph of Disease: I explained above, but I will repeat here. For the typical Frost methodology, this glyph will not actually prove to help much. Ultimately it may be a strong choice for a beginning Frost tank if only to make life simpler, but it is really not hard to see that it can lack value for the Frost tank down the line.

    Glyph of Chains of Ice: There is a rationale where you *could* use this, in combination with Endless Winter, to have Chains of Ice replace Icy Touch in some places, particularly where you are kiting targets. That said, this is a strong strategy in PvP, but I find it is a bit too expensive and unnecessary in PvE. That is compounded with the aforementioned fact that many targets you face in raids will be immune to the slowing effect.
    Last edited by Satorri; 04-21-2010 at 05:55 AM.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
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    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Unholy Tanking: I have a bone to pick with you?

    The Unholy style of tanking is particularly unique, and one of the most complicated to play well. Unholy tanks rely very heavily on the use of a single tool, Bone Shield, for survival, and sport a very special tool that allows them to protect themselves and/or parts of their raid from magic damage (Anti-magic Zone). The threat styles used by Unholy are heavily magic damage-oriented, and Unholy itself offers a very useful version of the +13% spell damage raid buff (exclusive with Earth and Moon from Balance Druids and Improved Curse of Elements from Affliction Warlocks).

    General Unholy Style

    The Unholy style uses a single, special FU pair ability, with stacked DoT effects to maximize threat. These tools can require a lot of maintenance, but if well-managed it can deal commanding threat. Without careful management however, this spec/style can appear sub-standard.

    For survival, the tree relies heavily on Bone Shield as its iconic survival tool, and sole physical damage reduction from talents. The ability requires attention and maintenance to optimize its uptime. If handled well, the tank can be extraordinarily durable. If the buff is not well-managed, the tank appears with all the squishiness of a Blood tank but without the self-healing to mask it.

    For these two elements combined, I consider Unholy to be the spec most challenging to non-advanced users.

    Unholy Threat Styles

    There are two major paths that I have identified so far for threat styles, but these paths share all of their major tools in common, they just use them slightly differently. Whether you follow one of my styles, or one of your own, I highly recommend that you figure out which elements you want to use best, and really support them with glyphs and talents.

    The major tools in your arsenal are as follows:

    Scourge Strike: Regardless of how you spec, if you are digging deep into the Unholy tree, this will be your best choice for use of FU pairs beyond disease application. Scourge Strike deals a solid physical hit, but it really shines as it adds damage for each disease you have on the target as shadow damage. Each disease will add 25% of the base damage you deal as shadow damage. This means that increasing the physical damage underneath will in turn scale the shadow damage which will already ignore armor.

    Diseases: Unholy, more than either of the other two specs will command the largest value from their diseases. The Crypt Fever talent will boost that disease damage handsomely. If nothing else, the Unholy tank can set down respectable AoE threat just by spreading and maintaining those diseases.

    Death and Decay: Again, while this is a strong tool for Blood tanks, and a possible utility for Frost tanks, Death and Decay for an Unholy tank is a powerful threat ability. This can be used frequently to cement the AoE threat caused by diseases. That said there are implications to its use that do need to be considered. I will discuss this more below.

    Blood Strike/Blood Boil: Blood Strike will play a key role in the Unholy threat toolbox. Use of the Desolation talent will cause the regular use of BS to trigger a flat 5% increase in damage that will be valuable to maintain. It will last for 20 seconds though, so it is very easy to maintain with minimal attention. In addition, Blood Strike will deal increased damage for Unholy’s third disease making this a respectable use of Blood runes on single targets. When in need of AoE threat instead, Blood Boil is a powerful tool. While it does not benefit for any diseases beyond the first, it does get a very nice buff from Impurity and Ebon Plague, allowing it to provide heavy AoE support to match or surpass Blood’s use of it.

    Unholy Blight: In its current form, Unholy Blight will deal 10% of your Death Coil damage over 10 seconds following the hit. That may seem like a small amount until you realize that it has the ability to stack, like Deep Wounds for Warriors. This means that so long as you fire one Death Coil every 10 seconds you can continually stack up the damage this deals over the course of the fight. This may be a new challenging task and it will influence spec and glyph choices, but used well this can cause Unholy Blight to represent a 2-5% increase in total damage/threat for a single talent point spent, if used well with other moves. I will discuss this below as well.

    The basic methodology of an Unholy tank is to first and foremost always ensure that both diseases are on all targets, at all times. This will maintain the third disease, Crypt Fever/Ebon Plague, on its own. Once diseases are set, BS will be used at least once in every other rune set to maintain Desolation. For other Blood runes, if Reaping is used, Blood Strikes and Pestilence will be used to convert them to Death runes, and/or Blood Boil can be used to support AoE threat. For all FU or Death rune pairs, when diseases have sufficient duration remaining, Scourge Strike will be your powerful threat tool for supporting single target threat.

    The two major paths that I will discuss here for Unholy tanking revolve around the threat style of choice. Each path will help determine which talents and glyphs will support you best. These two styles are the Death Coil Hammer and the Scourge Strike Spammer.

    Scourge Strike Spammer

    This style is very easy and straight forward to use. Between the two options presented here, I would recommend this first to new Death Knight tanks before the Death Coil Hammer method. This style will rely heavily on Scourge Strike as the primary threat tool.

    This method will rely on Reaping, and may make use of Glyph of Scourge Strike to stretch out disease timelines. A popular alternative to Glyph of Scourge Strike, however, is Glyph of Disease as it will allow you to turn over Blood runes while maintaining diseases with a single use.

    The simple method will first apply diseases (Icy Touch and Plague Strike combined will hit harder with Unholy than any other spec), spread diseases if needed (Pestilence), Blood Strike to set Desolation, then Scourge Strike to finish off the set. This will leave the tank with two Death runes instead of Blood runes, and two FU pairs, which can all be used to spam Scourge Strike. If you are using the Glyph, each Scourge Strike (ScS) will add 3 seconds to the disease duration out to a maximum of 9 seconds, which will allow you to complete 3 rune sets before they need re-application. If you use this glyph, that means you can take your third rune set to ScS twice immediately, Blood Strike to refresh Desolation, and then BS again to make sure you have Death runes. The fourth set will use an FU pair to refresh diseases, then spam two more ScS’s, and the cycle will continue as such, with disease reapplication on every third set, BS and Pestilence to convert pairs, and ScS’s for every unused FU pair or Death rune pair. This works well, provided you can wrap your head around the idea of more than a two-phase rotation.

    Alternately, if you use Glyph of Disease, your rotation options will change after your first two opening rune sets. When you reach the third set, you will want to use Pestilence immediately to refresh diseases. This will also start that Blood rune rolling over, a Blood Strike and two Scourge Strikes would allow the Unholy tank to continue to spam Scourge Strike in the even rune phases.

    So to illustrate in short-hand:
    Opening Rune Sets:
    1: IT > PS > BS > BS/Pest > ScS
    2: ScS > ScS > ScS

    Cruising Rune Sets (Glyph of Scourge Strike):
    A: ScS > BS > ScS > BS
    B: IT > PS > ScS > ScS
    C: ScS > BS > ScS > BS
    D: ScS > ScS > ScS
    E: IT > PS > BS > BS > ScS
    F: ScS > ScS > ScS

    Cruising Rune Sets (Glyph of Disease):
    A: Pest > BS > ScS > ScS
    B: ScS > ScS > ScS

    The Glyph of Disease Method will be simpler, but the Scourge Strike glyph method will probably net a bit more threat in the end, in exchange for a more challenging rotation to follow.

    Death Coil Hammer

    <<Note: this play style has been nerfed in 3.3 reducing the scale of UB, and is difficult to use well in ICC in light of the fewer magic damage opportunities>>

    This methodology is one of my own design that I have not seen used anywhere else. I cannot guarantee that it will offer more threat than the simpler Scourge Strike-centric design, but I can say that in my tests in tier 9 content, it performed very powerfully. If Unholy is a more advanced-user style compared to Blood or Frost, this method is a more advanced-user style than the Scourge Strike-centric methods. This is largely because it adds a very important, but very tight timer to play within to maximize output. A missed step can cap your threat, but if you can maintain it, the threat can become phenomenal and get larger and larger as the fight continues.

    This method, as the name suggests, makes heavy use of Death Coil and Unholy Blight. Talents and glyphs will bolster the strength of both spells such that Unholy Blight will turn out its peak output per application. Death Coil must be used every 10 seconds, and smart use of AMS can support this continuation or simply boost the stack even further for the skilled user.

    In order to maintain a high amount of Death Coil casts, where one per 10 seconds is a very high RP cost, we need to use every tool available to us to maintain heavy amounts of RP coming in. The primary tools for this are Scent of Blood (as listed above will be roughly 42.3 RP per minute per point, given average boss swing timers and 2-handed weapon swings for the tank), Dirge, and AMS. Scent of Blood will create a fairly steady income of bonus RP coming in, and Dirge will improve the payoff of using ScS and PS. As opposed to the Scourge Strike style, this method will *not* use any special glyphs to handle disease refreshing. Instead you will want to use PS and IT for refreshing to make use of the improved RP generation of single-rune spell casts. In the same vein, you will want to carefully consider when and how you use DnD with this build as it will consume 3 runes for the smallest possible RP generated.

    When I performed these tests in average t9 level gear, Death Coil was hitting for 3k damage or more, and fairly regularly critting for well over 6k. This is a formidable amount of ranged threat when you are doling them out at least once every 10 seconds.

    The rotation for this build will be very non-standardized and will rely more heavily on priorities to make sure Death Coil is used frequently enough. This is the only Death Knight build, ever, where I will advocate using Death Coil before any spell costing available runes in certain situations. This method will apply diseases once every other rune set with IT/PS. It will also use ScS on FU pairs that are not used for IT/PS as this is still a powerful threat tool, and will still generate 20 RP (as opposed to 25 from IT/PS). Blood Runes will always be used freely for BS, BB, and Pestilence. As opposed to the Scourge Strike method where you are concerned with generating Death rune pairs for more Scourge Strikes, this build will not use Reaping, and as such there is no penalty for using Blood Boil, so long as you are sure to BS at least once every 20 seconds.

    The use of AMS becomes a key threat element with this method. Magic damage absorbed by the spell will generate additional RP, and that RP can be a necessary input to be sure you get Death Coil in at the right time. In addition, once you’ve gotten used to maintaining Unholy Blight, you can use AMS and any raid encounter provided fire patch, breath, or other magic damage to fuel 2-4 chained casts of Death Coil to provide a great boost to your rolling Unholy Blight ticks. To give a more solid example of numbers, if your Death Coil hits for 3k, a one hit application that falls off will tick for 30 per second (60 per second when I developed this). On multiple fights from tier 9 content (Ony, Twins, Jarraxus, Anub, and Beasts in particular) I was able to get that to tick for 2-3k damage per second by the end of the fight. It is a very challenging balancing act to keep the stack from falling off, but doing so successfully has no ceiling beyond how much you can do in the fight duration.

    As opposed to the Scourge Strike method, this method will not suffer the same with using a dual wield arrangement, and in fact that may strengthen the RP generating efficiency of Scent of Blood. However, I do not recommend dual wielding unless you are specifically talented to do so with Frost, unless you are very familiar with the class and sporting carefully chosen gear to support the style.

    There is an important point to make on the use of pets while tanking. Unholy sports both a powerful ghoul and a talented Gargoyle pet. These pets can be very powerful for increasing your DPS, but they are weak for tanks because your pets are considered entities all their own. Neither your ghoul nor your gargoyle will ever generate threat for you, in any way. Because of this, no tank builds represented here will feature talents for either pet. These can be used to increase the total DPS generated by your raid, but the cost is significant to you as a tank, when there are so many strong talents that you will already not be able to take. If you choose to take these talents, do so carefully, and mindfully of what you are giving up to take them.

    There is a special note with this method regarding Rune Strike. Rune Strike will always be your best way to spend RP for threat in that it is the best threat per RP efficiency. However, care may be warranted with its use and this spec, and this spec may benefit from less passive use of the spell (by creating macro’s for all your spells with RS casts included), lest you have insufficient RP at the wrong time and drop your Unholy Blight stack. This will be touched on a bit more in the Survival Styles section.

    Unholy Survival Style

    Unholy Spec uses very few special tools, but that means that each tool becomes very important. Conveniently for me, that means I can spend my time speaking in depth about each item.

    The primary tool for Unholy’s survival is the use of Bone Shield. Bone Shield will function as a Shaman shield does. The spell will set a number of charges (3 at the base, 4 with glyph) and so long as one charge remains, the Unholy tank will take 20% less damage. Every incident of damage will remove a bone, but the shield cannot shed more than one bone every 2 seconds or so. That means that even in a constant stream of damage the shield cannot be stripped faster than 8 seconds with the glyph, though practically it is usually at least 10-12 seconds.

    So long as Bone Shield is up, the Unholy tank will take noticeably less damage than either of the other two trees, so Bone Shield maintenance and optimization will be key aspects to being the most sturdy tank you can. I will explain more about stats in general for the different specs in a later section, but I want to discuss the merit of avoidance versus health for the smart use of Bone Shield. This may be the one spell in the game that can flip the common wisdom of “Health > Avoidance” on its head, and it may be one of the reasons that Unholy is not a common spec you will find tanks in.

    In order to compare, I will set a baseline situation by which we can measure. A boss hits the tank for 80k damage every 2.0 seconds prior to mitigation. For the sake of simplicity we’ll assume the de-haste buff has already been applied. The tank, again for simplicity, will have the 8% damage reduction from Frost Presence, 5% from Blade Barrier (assuming 100% uptime), and will have 65% damage reduction from armor. That means that the functional total damage reduction on boss swings, before Bone Shield or other cooldowns, will be 69.41%. In other words, each swing after passive mitigation will hit for 24.5k damage.

    I will compare two extreme cases that should be roughly achievable in t9 level gear, but these are extreme cases and not meant to be representative of common tanks. Tank A will have a high-health, low-avoidance setup (the sort you would see from putting pure stamina in every socket, and two stamina trinkets in trinket slots with all health/Stamina enchants). Tank A has 52k health and 52% total avoidance. Tank B has a high-avoidance, low-health setup (socket most every slot for dodge rating or stamina/dodge, using two avoidance trinkets, and rune of Swordshattering). Tank B has 40k health and 68% avoidance. These numbers are roughly rounded off from tests I did on the PTR. They are not absolute, but the proportion should be roughly accurate.

    At the baseline the boss will swing 30 times per minute.
    • Tank A will take 14.4 hits per minute
    • Tank B will take 9.6 hits per minute
    If we average the frequency of the hits so that they come in regularly, that means Tank A will take a hit once every 4.17 seconds, while Tank B will take a hit once every 6.25 seconds. With the same armor, that means tank A will take 5,869 dps and Tank B will take 3,916 dps, before Bone Shield. However, the value of maximum health is that it allows the tank to take more abuse before dying, and the appearance of the health bar’s shift can influence the stress state of the tank and the healers. The tank with high avoidance and low health will take less total damage, but every hit will shift the tank’s health by about 61%. The tank with high health and low avoidance will take more damage, but his health will only shift by 47% with every hit. That means that the high-health tank should survive two hits in a row (without other damage sources), while the high-avoidance tank will not. Bear in mind this is all prior to the use of Bone Shield.

    Now, we will use Bone Shield. With hits evenly distributed it will skew the value slightly, as one of the strongest aspects of Bone Shield is that it is very powerful against damage sources taken close together. That said, if Tank A takes a hit every 4.17 seconds, it will take an average of 16.68 seconds to remove 4 charges. That means the shield will have roughly a 27.8% uptime (without a t9 set bonus). Tank B on the other hand will have an expected duration of roughly 25 seconds or a 41.7% uptime. Both tanks will only soak 4 hits with Bone Shield, but Tank A will take more hits without the benefit of the shield. That means that the final values will have Tank A take four 19.6k hits and 10.4 hits for 24.5k, for a total of 5,547 dps. Tank B will take four 19.6k hits and 5.6 hits for 24.5k damage, or a total of 3,589 dps. To compare as before, relative to total health, the four hits under Bone Shield will now only amount to 48.9% of Tank B’s total health, so those hits can be survived two in a row without heals, but also recognize that the number of hits taken without the armor have dropped in half.

    The total reduction in damage is largely due to avoidance as you can see the same damage reduction from Bone Shield, because of the highly standardized concept of hits here. However, if you consider that any other sources of damage that happen during that time will also be reduced by 20%, the value becomes much larger, and the additional amount of coverage becomes an important buff.

    Intelligent play can improve the uptime and the coverage of Bone Shield, and it is not terribly uncommon for a tank with high avoidance to see Bone Shield last the full length of the cooldown. Tactics to help improve this include pre-buffing prior to a fight. As of 3.3 this tactic can again be used as the duration has been re-extended to 5 minutes if the charges are not consumed. To do this, simply apply Bone Shield at least 30 seconds prior to starting the pull, if possible. This gets a head start on the cooldown and may allow you to reapply it as soon as it falls off, or shortly afterwards.

    Another tactic that will improve your heartiness as a tank is to use other abilities in Bone Shield blackouts, periods where you cannot yet reapply, but your shield has come off. Using IBF and trinkets in these spaces will make your damage intake much more consistent. Using IBF while Bone Shield is up can work and make you exceedingly durable while both are active, but the effect will be more valuable when used between Bone Shield applications for the sake of consistency in damage taken.

    There are two other survival abilities in the Unholy arsenal, but both are aimed at magic damage survival. First, 3/3 Magic Suppression will reduce all magic damage taken by 6% (to match Warrior, Paladin, and Bear Druid talents). It will also cause your AMS to absorb 100% of the magic damage taken, instead of 75%. Currently, as AMS is capped for how much it will absorb at 50% of your total health, this increase will not help you against a shot large enough to eat your entire shell in one hit. It will allow your bubble to remove your incoming damage if you’re taking multiple sources or many small hits for the duration. This also improves your income of RP ever so slightly, in the latter case.

    Anti-magic Zone is a valuable, but often mis-used or under-used tanking tool. AMZ allows you to create a bubble roughly 20 yards across that will protect everyone inside. The bubble will act like an AMS for anyone standing inside of it, absorbing 75% of their magic damage taken, until it reaches a total absorbed amount of 10k plus double your current AP total. This has some interesting quirks. The first challenge to its use is that it is auto-cast centering on the Death Knight. If you want to place it anywhere other than where you are, you will have to move there. This is awkward as a tank as you may frequently be trying to avoid pointing your target towards your group for cleaves and breaths. On the other hand, it has a very interesting perk in that, if there is a single shot large enough to use the shield’s entire absorb value on any one player, it will apply the same buff equally to all group members inside the bubble simultaneously. For example, if there is a flash that will cause 20k magic damage to everyone it hits, and your bubble is only supposed to soak 20k total, when 10 people stand under the bubble they will each only take 5k (75% reduced), even though that means the total absorbed was 150k. In short, the AMZ does not choose randomly or otherwise who receives the damage and who does not. It simply acts simultaneously for everyone. So, while the ability is hard to use, it can add up very quickly to much more than the apparent value if you use it smartly. As always it can be used as an AMS for the tank that just does not grant RP, and for many smaller targets, it will be large enough to cover the melee dps at the same time.

    As stated, I will discuss the value of the different tank stats in another section. However, it is important to note here that the high avoidance value will have a different feedback mechanism on the two different threat styles. Specifically, while high avoidance will work generously with Bone Shield, it may cause problems with the Death Coil Hammer method, as your increased avoidance will increase Rune Strike procs noticeably, and reduce your available RP for Death Coils.

    Ease of Play

    Much of this section has been discussed above. One important element that influences Ease of Play for Unholy tanks is your method for tracking your buffs. This will have a lot to do with your UI modifications, but to that end I like to use Power Auras to create special and easily watchable indicators to track both the Bone Shield duration and charges, along with the state of the cooldown. That way I can see how much time I can be prepared to cover the gaps between its uptime. I also use a tracker for Unholy Blight to watch the duration. This is vitally important for the Death Coil Hammer method to be sure you never let it drop off.

    Unholy Talent Specs

    The core of an Unholy build will remain roughly the same for anyone, but I will sketch it out to show where points can be moved differently for each of the two threat methods listed above. All Unholy tanks will want to reach Rage of Rivendare as the flat damage buffing is vital to your threat. Some users in the past of opted to go into Unholy without reaching this talent, but I would not recommend it unless you have a very specific plan to counter the loss, and even then, I would not recommend it.

    The core of the tree should look like this:

    There are not necessarily any swing values here, though some users may find they want to shift certain points. While there are other options, these are generally the safest and strongest buffs for an Unholy build. For the Scourge Strike Spam Style, I recommend putting the remaining 3 points in Reaping, and removing the 2 points from Dirge for 2-handed Specialization. For the Death Coil Hammer Style, I recommend the 3 points go in Scent of Blood.

    There are some strong appearing talents that can be explained here as to why I do not prioritize them high enough to drop anything else present:

    Virulence: For the Death Coil Hammer Style, this makes sense as it will ensure you do not miss any DC applications, however, it is not strong enough to warrant taking over the other talents presented. Even with the focus on Death Coil, Outbreak is the most obvious choice, but the total buffing to PS and ScS is very strong still.

    Ravenous Dead: While it is very tempting to take this talent while climbing, the Strength buff is a bit weak, point for point, for your threat improvement. The core reason here is that the other half of the talent’s itemization goes to buffing your ghoul pet. As mentioned above, while ghouls are valuable for raid dps, they will not help your threat at all, and so ghoul talents will generally be excluded from my tank-centric builds.

    Blood-caked Blade: This talent is a strong increase in damage/threat dealt. However, the additional strikes generated by this talent are subject to standard boss avoidance, and as such will offer additional threat value relative to your hit and expertise. In general, the total value gained from this talent is not much superior to any of the other buffs, and so this balancing act puts it slightly lower than other options on the priority list. This talent will be more desirable in a DPS build, or if you attempt to dual wield.

    Corpse Explosion: While I have long been a big fan of this spell, it has fallen on hard times thanks to the nature of the Wrath of the Lich King raids. While in heroics or Naxxramas, it can be used as an alternative to Death Coil (assuming you are not using the Death Coil Hammer method), in any situation where there are multiple targets. It will easily do a larger total damage as it splashes everything in range. In Ulduar it is plagued with two major problems: 1.) much of the trash that comes between encounters is either mechanical or elemental and as such cannot be exploded. 2.) In the encounters where you might find the most use of this, namely Razorscale and Thorim, the adds are designed to disappear very rapidly so as not to slow down the players' clients (drawing more than they have to). In order to use CE well here you basically have to be waiting for the target to die and use it immediately afterwards. Needless to say that is not very helpful for a tank’s attention. In Trial of the Crusader, there is no trash, and the only adds are on Anub’rhekan, and they too are designed to despawn quickly after death. Icecrown may offer more trash to explode, but the already limited opportunity makes this not a great investment if you’re running a range of content. Otherwise, this talent will simply reign as the second coolest tool a Death Knight can have (next to Death Grip). Never underestimate the joy of flying corpse bits.

    Wandering Plague: This talent is a strong value, particularly for AoE tanking, however, it is also a harder value to fully realize as a tank. Essentially, this talent gives your disease ticks a chance to crit, and when it crits, it will hit any other targets (that are not crowd controlled) in close range. This is a powerful increase in AoE threat, and even a nice value in single target threat, as a well-geared 25-man raid tank will have around 20% crit chance. However, the problem with the talent is its placement in the tree. In order to get it you will either have to give up Scent of Blood and/or part of Dirge (DCH method), or some combination of Reaping and 2-hand Specialization (ScSSp Method). These buffs are very strong to the central style, so it is not usually worth trading these quality scaling factors for Wandering Plague. Alternately, if you want to get the best possible AoE threat you can, I would recommend modifying the Scourge Strike Spam method slightly to allow you to use this, particularly by dropping points from Reaping and relying on Blood Strike more..

    Black Ice: There is nothing about this talent that isn’t good for Unholy, however, it suffers being in a bad location. If you use Imp Icy Touch, and take 5/5 in Bladed Armor and Rage of Rivendare, both of which are superior values, you cannot get more than 3 points in Black Ice, and as listed above, Reaping, Scent of Blood, Dirge, and 2-handed Spec are all more valuable directly to the threat play styles listed above. If you are able to get the other talents you need and somehow shed some extra points (for example, if someone else is covering the full de-haste buff) this is the last place I would go to round out and maximize your threat.

    Unholy Glyphs:

    Bone Shield: This glyph increases the number of charges on your Bone Shield to 4, from 3. This may seem like a small change, but it is terribly valuable as Bone Shield is your single major survival tool as Unholy. Increasing the uptime is in your best interest. Unless you are absolutely unconcerned with survival, and even then, I would highly recommend using this glyph.

    Glyph of Scourge Strike: As described above in Threat Styles, this glyph works well with the Scourge Strike Spam method, but it lends itself to a slightly more complicated rotation than Glyph of Disease would, in exchange for a little more threat.

    Glyph of Disease: Again, as described above, this glyph can allow for a simple rotation, though it is only an ideal match for the Scourge Strike Spam method.

    Glyph of Dark Death: This glyph is a must for the Death Coil Hammer method. As Unholy with 5/5 in Impurity, 3/3 in Morbidity, and the assorted buffs to AP and spell damage, this glyph will help Death Coil truly hit like a truck.

    Glyph of Unholy Blight: This glyph is a little less clear in value. Given the current state of Unholy Blight this glyph will do less than it used to, and the only way I would recommend it is for use with the Death Coil Hammer method. If you are very comfortable with Unholy Blight Stacking this glyph can earn its value, otherwise it is easily an inferior use of the slot.

    Glyph of Rune Strike: I want to make two notes on the value of this glyph here. For an Unholy tank who makes heavy use of avoidance, this glyph can really provide good buffing. That said, if you are using a Death Coil Hammer method and are trying to not over-spend RP, this may not be your best choice for glyphs.

    Glyph of Death and Decay: If there is a good use for this glyph, an Unholy build will definitely be it. While I don't tend to favor glyphing DnD as I do not use it for single targets, Unholy's DnD will invariably hit the hardest. That said, as stated above, if you use the Scourge Strike Spam method, you will find too frequent use of DnD to be inconvenient and a bit prohibitive, and so this glyph will be slightly diminished in value.

    Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell: In general, I don't find this glyph particularly helpful since the absorbed amount has been capped based on health. That said, a savvy user could combine this with the Death Coil Hammer method to generate still more RP. This would not top my list of best choices, but I think it could be used well, if used conscientiously.
    Last edited by Satorri; 01-27-2010 at 07:38 AM.
    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
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Under-utilized Death Knight Tools for Tanking

    Relative to some, the Death Knight class has a great many spells and utilities. Of these many are used by both tanks and damage dealers in a variety of situations, but there are a handful of spells that are frequently under-used or under-valued.

    I want to take some time to highlight these spells, their functions, and ways to improve your own usage of them.

    Blood Tap

    Blood Tap is a very handy move, and I’m generally hoping that people know of it and use it with some regularity. I have spoken with more than a few who were either unfamiliar or did not use it.

    Blood Tap is an instant cast ability, off the global cooldown (i.e. can be used simultaneously with other moves), and has a 1 minute cooldown. When used, Blood Tap converts one of your Blood runes into a Death rune and instantly finishes its cooldown (currently it does not appear to have “smart” scripting so it will just refresh the first of the two runes as they list from left to right).

    This spell has two major values:
    1. It allows you to refresh a rune for immediate use regardless of their cooldowns.
    2. It allows you to get access to one rune of any sort on demand (either for a single-rune ability or to pair with another rune for a FU pair).

    The best use I have found for this ability is to help reduce rune blackouts while still using rune cost abilities. In other words, if you use a method that involves a lot of double-rune cost abilities, you will have more GCDs to fill. Being able to hit Blood Tap and use another spell in that rotation can be very useful.

    I’ve also found that this can be handy for maneuvering runes with a Frost double-disease method. If for some reason you find yourself with an awkward setup for runes that won’t allow clean double rune spending, make sure you’ve used your Blood runes, then you can use Blood Tap to generate another FU move with only one Unholy/Frost rune available.

    I’ve found this ability is least often used with Blood in rotation, as the high amount of single-rune abilities will generate very few rune blackouts, however, should you find one, Blood can make the best use of this spell. An extra HS is not insignificant, and it can also be very handy for ensuring you can use Rune Tap the moment you want it.

    Empower Rune Weapon

    Empower Rune Weapon (ERW) is instant cast and off the GCD. ERW will instantly restore all your runes and grant you 25 RP. This ability has a 5 minute cooldown.

    This is a very powerful ability that is easily overlooked by Death Knights. Why? At a 5 minute cooldown you don’t want to waste it at the wrong time as that will work out to be roughly once per encounter, unless you use it very early. If you combine this desire for caution with a conservative tank, you will find the ability is forgotten for lack of use.

    What is the optimal use for this ability? There are two major scenarios that I think merit its use.

    While tanking, one of the major vulnerabilities of a Death Knight is our dependency on runes for some key abilities. We have no AoE taunt, so in order to engage multiple targets well we need to use multiple spells, or high rune-cost spells. This is also the case of an emergency where an enemy is pulled off of you when you are stuck on a rune blackout. At this time, the ability to refresh all your runes is the ability to reclaim your control quickly. However, this needs to be an isolated situation or even ERW will not save you with its long cooldown.

    The second and generally more advisable use of ERW is to generate a strong burst of threat when you really need it. In general, it is a smart move to have prepared tactics involved for a fight, rather than to run in and wing it every time. These tactics involve preparing snippets like a rotation to insert into your tanking maneuvers. ERW is a move that can allow very specific tactical moves. I will give examples for each tree. The common element is that to make the best use of the spell, you’ll want all your runes on cooldown.

    As Blood you can use one of two quality uses for this refresh. The first will be for some emergency damage control. At any time regardless of the state of your Death runes generated by DRM, you can pop ERW and fire 2 rapid Death Strikes. Provided your diseases are up and rolling, this will quickly return 30% of your health. If you also throw in a Rune Tap, you can restore 50% of your health in less than 2 seconds. If you use this with Vamp Blood this is an enormous amount of healing, completely by you. The alternate use can be to generate a very high amount of threat in a relatively shorter timeline. I recommend doing this after your opener, or an appropriately similar position in your cruising rotation. The goal is to find a place where you use two Death Strikes together to convert both FU pairs and create a rune blackout. Immediately following your second Death Strike you can hit ERW and refresh all your runes, which will give you 6 runes free for Blood rune spending. 6 Heart Strikes or Blood Boils can get a very useful bit of threat in any situation. This can further be combined with other damage increasing cooldowns like Heroism/Bloodlust, Hysteria, or Tricks of the Trade to cement your threat lead or power through a period where a boss will take extra damage/threat from the raid, or the damage dealers will be trying to burn the target down extra hard. If well-played it is not uncommon to see your average threat per second jump by 30-50% for a half-dozen GCDs.

    Frost’s uses of ERW will vary a bit with your choice of weapons, specs, and styles. However, one of the best uses of this spell for threat will be following any rune set where you can fire off three double-rune abilities in a row as this will generate the longest blackout on your runes. Using ERW at this time can allow you to quickly get the Blood runes converting again, and fire off two more FU abilities in short order. This will increase Frost’s already commanding burst threat. ERW can also be used to manage some awkward situations with rune spending if you’re using a double-disease rotation. If you find yourself with an awkward place on disease durations and runes available, this can be used to open up your options to get a clean start on your runes.

    Unholy will use this ability usually much the way Frost will. The ability to refresh your runes and fire a few quick Scourge Strikes and Blood Strikes will be a very useful ability for threat. In addition to that, the bonus RP can be very advantageous to support or maintain your Unholy Blight. If you are using the Death Coil Hammer method, you can create a sequence early in the fight to generate a heavy stack for Unholy Blight which can give you an early bump to your baseline threat. If you know you will be able to use AMS well early in the fight, you can perform a quick opening set to get diseases set and refreshed, and use AMS to spam some Death Coils. Once you do this, you can re-spend your runes to get them quickly on cooldown and your Blood runes converted, and you can then pop ERW, use Scourge Strike a few more times, then monopolize on the long rune blackout to spam a few more Death Coils. This combination will allow you to get your Unholy Blight to a high level earlier on. If you are adept at maintaining the Unholy Blight duration, this can really add up over time.

    Death Pact

    This is an ability I myself am guilty of under-using. Death Pact allows you to sacrifice your summoned ghoul to instantly restore 40% of your total health with a 40 RP cost and a 2 minute cooldown. There are several limiting factors on your ability to use this spell as a tank, but they are not entirely prohibitive.

    The requirement of a ghoul makes things slightly complicated. As, generally, no tank will have a permanent ghoul pet, it is rare that a raised ghoul will actually survive very well if it is summoned in advance in many raid situations. Furthermore, to make use of this when it matters most, you will need to purchase Corpse Dust or a Glyph of Raise Dead. The summoned ghoul will, without talents from Unholy, only last 1 minute with a 3 minute cooldown, which means that the most a Blood or Frost tank can use this will be once every 3 minutes. Most Unholy tanks will not take points in Night of the Dead, so they will have the same restriction. An Unholy tank who does invest in this talent can have a ghoul available every 1.5 minutes, or slightly more often than the cooldown on Death Pact, and this talent will also grant the standard passive magic damage protection that other pets get. This means you will be able to summon your ghoul more preemptively. This does not seem like a great reason to invest in this talent, personally, but some may find they like this as a tool for tanking.

    Many players swear by a macro to summon their ghoul and instantly sacrifice it for health, though I have had issues where I have to spam the button a couple times to get it to fire both effects as the ghoul takes a bit of time to claw his way out of the ground and be accessible. Because of this, I simply roll one binding to the next.

    This heal should not be forgotten, as there are no other Death Knight tools that can return as much health as quickly.

    Raise Dead/Ally

    Beyond just the use for sacrificing your ghoul for health, having a ghoul and/or risen ally can be a handy little bump to your raid dps. If you are aiming to save this for Death Pact then you can only consider this in terms of Raise Ally.

    Raise Dead, without talents, has a 3 minute cooldown and a 1 minute ghoul duration. Be wary of fights where there is much non-directed AoE damage as your ghoul may die very quickly and waste the summoning. Your ghoul will manage its abilities on its own without talents to make it a permanent pet, so all you need to do is summon it, and it will attack whatever you do.

    Raise Ally has a 10 minute cooldown, but it will allow one of your friends to come back as a ghoul for up to 5 minutes. Presumably, the player will be able to survive a bit longer than a computer-scripted ghoul as it can dodge raid hazards. If you have a raider who is down and cannot/will not be Rebirthed/Reincarnated/Soul Stoned, this can let that player still contribute to the raid a while longer.

    Using these spells at all will generate more total effect than they will when never used, regardless of effectiveness. Keep that in mind and pay close attention to when and where you can use ghoul support best.

    Army of the Dead

    Thanks to the damage dealers’ community wisdom, many Death Knights have learned that Army of the Dead can be a powerful tool for bumping raid DPS. However, there are some other aspects that may be missed by Death Knight tanks.

    When cast Army of the Dead needs to be channeled for 4 seconds and a ghoul will be raised every half second (for 8 ghouls total). The spell has a 10 minute cooldown. While channeling the Death Knight will take a percent less damage equal to the sum of their dodge and parry chance.

    This move can easily be a double-edged sword for you and any DPS Death Knights in your raid. Used at the wrong time, these ghouls can wreak havoc on your encounter. The ghouls will attempt to taunt and tank targets they attack, though it appears their “taunt” only serves to catch up to the threat leaders on the target but their personal threat will not be strong against a tank. If this is used at an awkward time or the beginning of a fight, however, beware. The ghouls can and will pull attention from the tank, and when they do, they tend to dance awkwardly along with their target as they try to settle into a stable position. This means the tank could have a lot of trouble controlling the position, direction, and threat of the boss. While the ghouls are up they will do a fairly generous amount of damage.

    There are 3 main places and applications I have found for this spell.

    First, you can use the spell like a DPS Death Knight would, simply summoning an army of ghouls to boost your raid DPS for a time.

    Second, this ability can be fantastic for covering a tank’s death or when reaching an enrage timer on a raid boss. The ghouls will usually have to be targeted one by one and killed by the boss before he will start to ravage your raid. This can by you a vital window to resurrect a tank, or kill the boss before everyone in the raid is dead.

    The third and least appreciated element of this spell, is the damage reduction. I have not yet tested to see if this works on the reduced avoidance value or the actual avoidance value in Icecrown Citadel yet. However, this spell will grant the tank 4 seconds of upwards of 40-55% damage reduction. This may be useful just to cover you while summoning your army, but this may also be a key value if you are expecting to have to take an unusual big chunk of damage. The window is short, but using it well may swing the tide of a fight on that rare occasion when you have a hole in your other defensive cooldowns.

    If you are curious about how Army of the Dead will affect different fights, you can usually find a listing in any resource available to DPS Death Knights.
    Last edited by Satorri; 02-24-2010 at 07:03 AM.
    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?!?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Tanking Stats and Weapon Runes

    While talents, glyphs, and spells make the major distinction of being a Death Knight as opposed to any other sort of tank, each class/spec will have its own values and priorities when it comes to gear. Usually this will take effect in your selection of enchants and gems. Rather than just telling you what enchants and gems I think are best, I want to first illustrate the different tank stats, explain their use, and then give my preferences as far as gems and enchants go.

    The stats you will see and want most on your gear as a Death Knight tank are:
    Defense Rating
    Dodge Rating
    Parry Rating
    Hit Rating
    Expertise Rating

    For all intents and purposes these are the only stats you will need or get much use out of. You will not find raw Attack Power, Haste rating, Critical Strike rating, or Armor Penetration rating (there is one random, and odd exception to this in Ulduar10) on Plate tanking gear. That said, as we will often use DPS weapons to tank, we will find some of these stats in relatively small quantities, so I will also touch on their value.

    The primary value of armor is as a passive physical damage reduction. Armor will be converted into a percent value. This percent value is designed to be gained in smaller increments per equal amount of armored gained as your total armor increases (diminishing returns). Contrary to how this may appear, this is done so that each step of armor will give you roughly linear improvements in survival. This is a side effect of working with percentages. The level of the attacker will determine in a small part, the protection your armor grants. For a level 80 Death Knight tank, the formula to calculate damage reduction is:
    1. Target is level 80, % Damage Reduction = (Armor / (Armor + 15232.5)) * 100
    2. Target is level 83(raid boss), % Damage Reduction = (Armor / (Armor + 16635)) * 100
    Damage reduction from armor is capped at 75%, and can never be increased from that by any means. That means that against a raid boss at level 80, you cannot receive benefit from armor above 49,905. Against a target at level 80, the maximum value is 45,698.

    Armor comes in three forms:
    • Base Armor from armor pieces (head, cloak, chest, wrists, gloves, belt, pants, boots)
    • Bonus Armor from jewelry, trinkets, weapons, and bonus armor on gear (any armor where the number appears green)
    • Agility grants additional armor, 2 Armor points per 1 Agility point

    To find bonus armor on gear simply subtract the green value from any other piece with the same item level and armor weight. Type 1 armor is buffed by the Toughness talent, the Austere Earthsiege Diamond Meta gem, and the use of Frost Presence. Armor types 2 and 3 are not increased by talents or stance, but will be increased by the use of Unbreakable Armor for Frost tanks. Armor gained from type 3, Agility, also benefits from percent gains in your core stats (i.e. Kings and Improved Gift of the Wild).

    Bladed Armor increases your AP by 1 point per 180 points of your total armor (types 1, 2, and 3 included), per point invested in the talent. As such this talent will allow armor to act in part as a threat stat as well as a survival stat.

    Armor has no effect on magic damage itself. There are some situations where magic damage is related to a reducible physical damage, armor may affect it indirectly, but this is an unusual case.

    Currently you will find a healthy helping of Strength on any level 80 plate gear. This is a major part of how tank threat is buffed and scaled for elevating levels of content.

    Strength will grant 2 Attack Power for every 1 point of Strength. There are talents throughout the trees that can augment the value of each point of Strength, and as such effectively get us more AP per point of Strength on gear. These talents are Veteran of the Third War (Blood), Abomination’s Might (Blood), and Ravenous Dead (Unholy).

    All Death Knights also have a passive spell called Forceful Deflection. This spell will convert 25% of our Strength into Parry rating. This rating will be added to any that you receive from gear, and will be affected by diminishing returns. I will discuss this further in the section on Parry.

    Strength is above all else a threat value, but through Forceful Deflection it will also grant some small survival ability to Death Knight tanks.

    Stamina is the stat that will directly increase your health. For all intents and purposes, any Stamina you add through gear will offer 10 health per 1 point of Stamina. However, like Strength there are a variety of talents and effects that can increase the amount of Stamina you actually get from each point on gear. Veteran of the Third War is the only talent that will increase your total Stamina. Frost Presence will offer another 6% Stamina to the tank, and the Runes of Stoneskin Gargoyle or Nerubian Carapace will add another scaling effect. These percent Stamina increases are applied to your total Stamina and so will increase each other (combine multiplicatively), along with Blessing of Kings/Sanctuary.

    For example, if a Blood Tank with 3/3 in Vot3W (+3%), is in Frost Presence (+6%), using Rune of Stoneskin Gargoyle (+2%), and is buffed with Blessing of Kings (+10%):
    Total +% Stamina = (103%)(106%)(102%)(110%) = +22.50% Stamina

    That means that 1 point of Stamina on gear will effectively be 1.25 points of Stamina for the Death Knight, or 12.5 health per point.

    Health value is a very big deal for Blood tanks, but it is still a very important element for all tanks. The critical need of Health is based on the size of the hits the tank takes, which is in turn a product of the various mitigation effects available to the tank. Generally speaking, a good goal for your health is that you can survive at least 2 hits in sequence without healing and without dying. That is not always possible depending on what content you are in, and in an ideal balance, you should be able to survive 3-4 or more hits without dying or being healed, but that will also depend on the variables of attack speed and multiple damage sources.

    Defense Rating:
    Defense rating will be available in some scale on almost every piece of tank gear you acquire, aside from Trinkets, and the odd piece of Jewelry.

    The first thing that you need to understand is the difference between Defense rating and Defense skill. Defense rating is received as a stat on gear, while Defense skill is the final value that appears on your character sheet. Defense skill will be used to compare to your opponent’s level (via their weapon skill which is their level times 5). Note: the Runes of Stoneskin Gargoyle and Nerubian Carapace grant you Defense skill which is added directly to your character sheet total.

    Defense rating plays two key roles. First it will affect your chance to be critically hit by computer controlled opponents. The chance to be hit with a critical strike is 5% plus 0.2% per level difference above you the opponent is, so a raid boss (essentially level 83), will have a 5.6% chance to hit you with a critical strike. To determine the opponent’s chance to critically strike you, subtract the difference between your Defense skill and your opponent’s weapon skill (level times 5), divide that value by 25, and subtract it from 5. Or as follows:

    % Chance to be critically hit = 5 – [(Tank’s Defense skill – (Target’s Level x 5)) / 25]

    So, if your target is level 83 (Weapon Skill = 415), and you have 530 Defense skill, you will have a 0.4% chance to be critically hit.

    A critical strike from a computer opponent will do double its normal damage. This can represent a very significant increase in damage taken when it happens, so your general goal will be to make sure you are never critically hit.

    The second value you gain from Defense rating is in the form of increases in your chance to be missed, your chance to dodge, and your chance to parry (this would also apply to Block chance, but we do not use shields). Every 1 point of Defense skill will grant the Death Knight 0.04% chance to dodge/parry or be missed, prior to diminishing returns. Defense rating converts to Defense skill at a rate of 4.918 Defense rating per 1 Defense skill. So, 24.59 Defense rating will grant 0.2% miss, dodge, and parry chance before diminishing returns.

    While the value of this avoidance should not be underestimated, Defense rating will not provide the same total avoidance value as pure Dodge or Parry rating.

    Dodge Rating
    Your chance to dodge is determined, after the Anticipation talent and a base 5%, by Dodge rating, Defense rating, and Agility. These three factors combine and are applied with a diminishing curve so that each incremental increase in Dodge chance is a little more expensive to get. Like with armor this allows Dodge to scale linearly with a consistent gains in the ratings, rather than having each equal increment give you more value than the last.

    Of the three tools for increasing Dodge chance, Dodge rating will provide the largest increase per point. Prior to diminishing returns, Dodge rating will grant 1% Dodge per 45.25 points of Dodge rating. The cap to which the curve diminishes for Dodge rating is approximately 88%, so Dodge rating also sports the highest potential for total avoidance.

    Dodge is an avoidance ability. That means that a successful dodge will result in no damage being taken. Only physical swings can be dodged, this survival tool will have no effect on damage sources that cannot be avoided such as most magic attacks (note: some are attached to a physical strike which can be avoided) and many special attacks in general.

    Parry Rating
    Your chance to parry an attack is determined by your Parry rating and your Defense rating. As with Dodge, these factors are subject to diminishing returns that will inform your decision on which avoidance stat will give you the best total avoidance.

    Parry behaves like Dodge in that when you parry an attack you will take no damage from that attack. The difference in effect, however, is that every time you parry an attack you can be “parry hasted.” Parry haste will have a varying effect depending on where you are in your swing timer. A successful parry will reduce your current swing time by up to 40%, but it cannot reduce it to less than 20% of the timer remaining. That means that you can short hand this into three possible behaviors:

    >60% of your swing time remaining = reduces your swing time by 40%
    21% – 59% of your swing time remaining = reduces your swing timer to 20% remaining
    <20% of your swing time remaining = has no effect on your swing.

    In other words, if you have a 3.5 second swing timer (so parry cannot reduce that below 0.7 seconds remaining), and you have 3.2 seconds remaining until you swing again, a successful parry will instantly reduce you to 1.8 seconds remaining until your next swing. This effect will average a small increase in haste for your melee auto-swings which will in turn increase your auto-attack damage, and give you more frequent swings to utilize Rune Strike procs. The haste effect is relatively somewhat small compared to other threat increasing stats, but it is not completely negligible.

    Parry rating is diminished on a curve towards roughly 47%, and otherwise gains the same value per point as Dodge rating at 45.25 Parry rating per 1% Parry before diminishing returns. Because of this Parry will grant less total avoidance per point than Dodge below a certain threshold. This threshold can be found by subtracting your contributions that are not subject to diminishing returns (from base avoidance, talents, and weapon runes) from your current totals, and comparing that Dodge% to the Parry%. If the Dodge% is more than 1.88 times the size of the Parry%, then Parry rating will give you more avoidance. The equations are:

    Diminishable Dodge = (Current Dodge on character sheet) – (5% for base) – (1% per point in Anticipation) – (1% if you are using Rune of Stoneskin Gargoyle)

    Diminishable Parry = (Current Parry on character sheet) – (5% for base) – (1% if you are using Rune of Stoneskin Gargoyle) – (4% if you are using Rune of Swordshattering)

    If: (Diminishable Dodge) > (Diminishable Parry) x 1.88
    Then: Parry rating will give more avoidance point for point
    Otherwise: Dodge rating will give more avoidance point for point

    This should not influence your choice of gear based solely on whether or not the gear has Parry rating. It should only affect your choice of gems if you choose to gem for Avoidance.

    In general, this will not affect Death Knight tanks unless you are deliberately stacking large amounts of Avoidance ratings, and this is all because of Forceful Deflection. The Strength on all tanking gear will provide heavy amounts of Parry rating that will make it very hard to overcome that ratio with Dodge rating on gear.

    Hit and Expertise Rating
    These two stats will be found occasionally on tanking gear, and for this we should be grateful. These two stats will combine to determine whether or not we will hit our targets with any of the moves we use. Some of these numbers are listed above, but I will reproduce them here. The chances against targets are as follows, all assuming a level 80 Death Knight as the attacker:

    Chance to be dodged, parried, or miss:
    • Level 83 (Raid Boss)
      1. 8% chance to miss with all special melee attacks, 2-handed melee auto-swings
      2. 27% chance to miss with 1-handed auto-swings while dual wielding
      3. 17% chance to miss with certain spells (Dark Command, Icy Touch, Death Coil, Howling Blast, Blood Boil)*
      4. 5.6% chance for all melee attacks to be dodged
      5. ~14% chance for all melee attacks to be parried
    • Level 82 (Heroic Boss)
      1. 7% chance to miss with all special melee attacks, 2-handed melee auto-swings
      2. 26% chance to miss with 1-handed auto-swings while dual wielding
      3. 6% chance to miss with certain spells (Dark Command, IT, DC, HB, BB)*
      4. 5.4% chance for all melee attacks to be dodged
      5. 5.4% chance for all melee attacks to be parried
    • Level 81
      1. 6% chance to miss with all special melee attacks, 2-handed melee auto-swings
      2. 25% chance to miss with 1-handed auto-swings while dual wielding
      3. 5% chance to miss with certain spells (Dark Command, IT, DC, HB, BB)*
      4. 5.2% chance for all melee attacks to be dodged
      5. 5.2% chance for all melee attacks to be parried
    • Level 80
      1. 5% chance to miss with all special melee attacks, 2-handed melee auto-swings
      2. 24% chance to miss with 1-handed auto-swings while dual wielding
      3. 4% chance to miss with certain spells (Dark Command, IT, DC, HB, BB)*
      4. 5.0% chance for all melee attacks to be dodged
      5. 5.0% chance for all melee attacks to be parried
    *Note: Death and Decay does not appear to follow the standard spell hit chance, this may have to do with the once per second tick.

    To counter these values you have Hit rating and Expertise rating. Each will reduce the chance of misses, dodges, and parries, using the following exchanges:

    32.79 Hit rating = will remove 1% chance to miss with melee swings of any sort
    26.23 Hit rating = will remove 1% chance to miss with spells of any sort
    32.79 Expertise rating* = will remove 1% chance to be dodged and 1% chance to be parried

    *Note: every ~8.20 Expertise rating will equal 1 Expertise skill point that appears on your character sheet. You will want 26 Expertise skill to remove any chance to be dodged by any target in the game currently.

    In addition to these values, in various buffs you can receive 3% reduced miss chance on your spells from Misery applied by Shadow Priests or Improved Faerie Fire applied by a Balance Druid. Misery is a universal talent taken by all Shadow Priests and is applied automatically when they use their key spells. Not all Moonkin will have Improved Faerie Fire, and may not maintain it as well, as it is applied through an individual spell cast. A Draenei of any class in your party (not raid-wide) will grant you a 1% reduction to miss chance with both spells and melee attacks.

    As a Death Knight tank, while not necessary, it is very valuable to try to reach the “soft hit cap” or the point at which you will never miss your special melee hits. This will allow smooth rotations and predictable outcomes. While the runes will regenerate faster if a hit fails to land, a hit that misses will cause zero threat and possibly delay other factors like the application of diseases and debuffs.

    Similarly it can be very advantageous to have at least the “soft cap” of Expertise as well, or 26 Expertise on your sheet where you can be sure to never be dodged by your targets. Until you reach 26 Expertise, every point of Expertise rating will reduce your chance not to hit by double the amount that Hit rating will, in regards to melee attacks. Because of this, you will find Expertise a very valuable investment for threat until that point, particularly as Blood spec and dual wield Frost.

    As a side note, while not every opponent can do it, the parry haste mechanism described above can also be used by certain raid bosses. As such, reducing your chance to be parried can sometimes also provide some small survival value by reducing the number of swings you take. This is not a major value in most cases, but it is still worth noting. Contrary to popular concerns, there is no immediate danger of dual wielding causing extremely rapid death for Frost dual wielding tanks provided typical Expertise values. However, in the cases where parry haste is possible, using slow weapons and being at or above the soft expertise cap will virtually eliminate noticeable effects of any additional parries you may generate.

    Additional ‘Threat’ Stats
    As mentioned, because we often use DPS-itemized weapons to tank, we will occasionally get DPS stats.

    **The first and most important thing to understand is that the weapon DPS will always outweigh the benefit gained from any stats on the weapon for threat output. That said, you may value Hit or Expertise rating for matters of convenience and reliability rather than raw total threat output.

    To understand the other stats you may get:
    Haste Rating: will increase your auto-swings with your weapon. This will increase your auto-attack damage, and increase your opportunities to use Rune Strike. For a Death Knight this will have no effect on your Global Cooldown, and so otherwise is not a terrific stat.

    Critical Strike Rating: will increase your chance to crit with both melee and spell abilities. This can be very valuable for threat.

    Armor Penetration Rating: will effectively reduce your target’s armor against your attacks that would otherwise be mitigated by armor (i.e. physical damage). The effect of this rating will be slightly diminished by the presence of other armor reducing debuffs such as Sunder Armor and Faerie Fire, though it is still a nice buff for certain abilities. Blood tanks will see the most benefit here, followed by Frost and Unholy who use much more non-physical damage.

    Agility: will grant a few small bonuses. It will give the wielder increased chance to dodge, increased armor, and increased chance to hit with melee critical strikes. It will grant less avoidance than Dodge rating, and less critical chance than Crit rating (and only melee critical chance, not spell), but it is the only way to add armor via sockets, and will offer a strong net value.

    In general, I would not recommend socketing anything from the “Additional Threat Stat” list, however, Agility may be a worthwhile investment as it is the only stat you can gem for, other than Stamina, that will increase your Effective Health. If you are trying to maximize your Avoidance, however, Dodge rating will always be preferable.

    On Gems and Enchants
    There are a great many options available, but given the above information, I recommend the following guidelines:
    • When picking gems, you can follow one of two paths: Maximize a single stat –or– Get the best net value out of your gems.
      1. Maximize One Stat: put the same stat in every slot, regardless of socket colors and bonuses, and only use other color gems if needed for your meta gem bonus.
      2. Best Net Value: find the best gem to match each Red, Yellow, and Blue sockets to always make socket bonuses. You may not get as much of the single stat, but you will get the largest net benefit to your survival/threat. Generally, it is worthwhile to invest in your health, so you may use Purple, Green, and Blue gems to get Stamina in every socket. Popular Purple gems would be Regal (Dodge/Stam), Shifting (Agi/Stam), and Guardian (Expertise/Stam). Popular Green gems would be Enduring (Def/Stam) and Vivid (Hit/Stam).
    • There are prime tanking enchants for every slot, but for some slots there are more than one. Do not under-estimate the value of:
      1. Hit rating to gloves, this can be very valuable particularly while gearing up.
      2. PvP Head/Shoulder enchants to get more Stamina at the expense of Defense/Dodge. Resilience will contribute to your reduction in chance to be critically hit, and can reduce your need for Defense rating early on. Note: if your defense is sufficient to remove your chance to be crit, Resilience will offer no value whatsoever in PvE.
      3. Trading a small amount of Stamina on your boots to increase your run speed. “Tuskarr’s Vitality” will grant 7 less Stamina but increase your run speed slightly.
      4. Heavy Borean Armor patches are available to grant 18 Stamina to Head/Shoulder/Chest/Gloves/Legs/Feet, however, this is inferior to other Stamina enchants available for the Head, Shoulder, Chest, Legs, and Feet slots. For a Death Knight, this is only a strong alternative for the Glove slot.
    • Taking a profession can give you strong options to improve your passive stats:
      1. Engineering will offer a +885 Armor to glove enchant, a 45 Stamina head enchant (Mind Control does not work well while tanking), a Cloak enchant that offers slightly more Agility than the pure Agility enchant and will give you a parachute, and a belt enchant that will dispense bombs on cooldown. Engineering can also make separate bombs, though they will share the same cooldown, the belt cannot be consumed, and is not exclusive with the belt socket added by Blacksmithing attachment.
      2. Blacksmithing offers two additional Prismatic sockets, one for Bracers and one for Gloves. These additional sockets can offer whatever value you get from the gems you use. The sockets do not affect socket bonuses at all, but they will contribute towards meta gem requirements.
      3. Jewel Crafting grants access to special “Jeweler’s Gems.” You can have 3 of these in your equipped gear at a time and they will offer additional amounts of the normal stat, but only offer a single stat, never split values.
      4. Enchanting offers ring enchants. For a tank you can add 30 Stamina to each of your rings.
      5. Alchemy offers a passive buff to increase the effect and duration of any flask, elixir, or potion you use.
      6. Leatherworking offers a self-only Bracer enchant, which for tanks can be +102 Stamina.
      7. Inscription offers a self-only Shoulder enchant at 60 Dodge Rating and 15 Defense rating.
      8. Tailoring offers a self-only Cloak enchant that will occasionally give the user additional AP.
      9. Each of the gathering professions also grants a buff. Mining will increase the user’s stamina, Skinning will increase Crit rating, and Herbalism will grant a special heal.
    *Note: each of the buffs that can grant you a passive increase to Stamina are all balanced to match each other in total scale.
    • Highest Item Level is not always the best piece of gear for you at any given time. Choose your upgrades carefully, and match your enchants and gems to suit the needs of the gear you equip. That said, do not pass up the opportunity at tank gear when it doesn't seem like a good upgrade currently, as you may get more value out of it at a later time, or value from it in a secondary special tank set.
    Death Knight Weapon Runes
    Death Knights are given access to a special tool. They can apply unique enchants to their weapons in place of a permanent enchant granted by Enchanters. These enchants are usually better than anything else available, though that is not universally true. Some dual wield Frost tanks have found great success using Blade Ward on one or both weapons. Blood Draining seems like a good value for a Blood tank, however, I suspect the tanking Runes will grant better overall survival value.

    The Death Knight runes that will be most significant to a Death Knight tank are as follows:
    • Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle (SSG) = this Rune will increase your Defense skill by 25 and grant 2% more Stamina. The 1-hand version (Nerubian Carapace) will grant 13 Defense skill and 1% additional Stamina to each weapon it is placed on.
    • Rune of Swordshattering (SS) = this Rune will increase your Parry chance by 4%. The 1-hand version (Swordbreaking) will grant 2% Parry chance on each weapon. This Parry chance will not be affected by, or contribute to the diminishing returns on Parry rating. These Runes also grant a non-stacking 50% reduction in the duration of Disarm effects, but these are currently non-existent in raids, and nearly so in 5-mans.
    • Rune of Spellshattering = this Rune will reduce all magic damage taken by 4%. The 1-hand version reduces magic damage taken by 2% per weapon. Both versions reduce silence durations by 50%, again non-stacking.
    • Rune of the Fallen Crusdaer = this Rune will sometimes heal the Death Knight for 3% of her total health and grant 15% bonus Strength for 15 seconds.

    There are a couple other damage-oriented weapon enchants, but they are less ideal for a tank. SSG will be a very valuable tool for new tanks trying to remove the chance of being critically hit. After that point is reached from gear alone, the Rune will grant less avoidance than SS, but the bonus health can be particularly valuable depending on what content you are running and what spec you are. Specifically, Rune of SSG will grant you 1% miss, dodge, and parry each, along with the 2% stamina buff, while Rune of SS will grant you 4% parry (note: only 2% of the 3% on SSG can proc RS). SS will be your single best Rune for combining survival (through avoidance) and threat (through Rune Strike use).

    Spellshattering/breaking is generally dismissed as a tanking rune. That said, it can be a very valuable tool in certain encounters. The major problem is that you cannot swap Runes mid-instance, so this is usually only worth carrying along if you have an additional weapon that you can put this on and keep in your bags for the times it will be valuable. In general the avoidance and health from SS and SSG will grant more total survival value against the predominantly physical raid environment.

    Rune of the Fallen Crusader is primarily a DPS Rune. That said, the heal can be particularly powerful for a Blood tank, or any tank who has a generous amount of health, and the increase in Strength also grants some small avoidance in addition to the powerful threat buff. I do not recommend this over the net value of the other runes, but it may sometimes be worth carrying for threat.
    Last edited by Satorri; 02-04-2010 at 06:45 AM.
    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?!?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    UI Modifications and Macros

    There are extensive discussions elsewhere on the topic of UI design, and I will not get very deeply into that here. However, I am a firm believer that the current default UI design for displaying Death Knight runes is actually inconvenient to the point of obstructing smart play rather than being a non-factor.

    Using your runes smartly and quickly will frequently place the user in a constantly shifting flux of availability and cooldowns. To make the absolute most of your resources it is in your best interest to have those resources very visible. To that end, I highly recommend that all Death Knights, regardless of whether or not you use many addons, should get a UI Mod that will track rune cooldowns, if nothing else. Many of these addons will also offer Disease duration trackers, RP gauges, and the like.

    My personal favorite for rune tracking is RuneWatch. This has been around since the WotLK beta, and is a solid little addon. It can be set to “compact mode” and placed anywhere on your screen. I prefer it be set at the bottom middle, but that may vary for you based on where your unit frames are placed. Rune Watch will show you a central orb that displays your current RP, each of the 6 runes will be displayed around that and you can customize the order and appearance of them, and on one side of the orb (customized through settings), it will display the current duration on your Horn of Winter, along with the duration left of each of your diseases on your current target.

    One alternative that I have tried is’s “DKi Runes.” This addon is far more customizable, but may require a bit more tinkering with before you feel like it is behaving the way you want. One of the very nice features of this rune tracker allows you to show runes sliding towards the frame rather than giving you a numerical timer. Some people do better with numbers while some people understand graphical representations better at a glance. It is smart to figure out which works better for you and stick with it.

    As a tank it is essential for us to be able to pay attention to what is going on, so it is in your best interest to make your runes very visible and readable at a glance so they do not distract you from what you are doing.

    The last UI modification I want to plug is the use of Power Auras Classic. Power Auras will allow you to create visible glow effects that will appear or disappear on your UI when the right conditions are met. These glow effects can be fantastic for tracking the availability of special moves, the duration of current buffs and debuffs, and for watching special talent procs. Smart use of these auras can further support your ability to focus on the physical environment by providing very noticeable but not obstructing indicators. For the many things a Death Knight will want and need to track, this is a great tool.

    In addition to “3rd Party” modifications, there are several helpful tools that the game offers to make your character easy to play. One of the major ones is macros. Macros allow you to create simple or complex commands and place them in a single button. This could include a conditional button that does one thing in one situation and something else in another, or it could simply perform multiple actions at once.

    One very important macro is the ability to add Rune Strike to other moves. This may allow you to use it more frequently without having to push an additional button. The macro would look like this:

    #showtooltip <Original Spell>
    /cast <Original Spell>
    /cast Rune Strike

    This would create a button that looked like whatever the spell you were adding RS to and even show the tooltip if you mouse-over it. There is a common misconception that the Rune Strike line requires an “!” before Rune Strike to keep the button from toggling the ability back off if pressed again, but that is actually no longer the case. It simply won’t do anything if it is in your macro.

    Some people choose to add this macro to every spell they use to make sure that no matter what they press they will always use Rune Strike when it is available. There is no good reason not to do this, as Rune Strike is invariably your best threat generated from RP. However, in the Death Coil Hammer method for Unholy tanks, you may not always want to use RS the moment it is available to ensure your Unholy Blight pacing is maintained. Furthermore, personally, I find that once you reach a high familiarity level with the class, it can be helpful to notice each of your RS procs for efficacy. If you know you hit one target with an RS, and you are trying to spread threat around, you may know you can jump to the next target immediately as RS is a powerful chunk of threat. If nothing else I do not recommend adding this macro to abilities that cost RP. That ensures that you don’t accidentally bump RS with another spell that uses the needed RP. Smart use of this macro can reduce the buttons you need to press slightly even while using it consciously, and as such can make it easier to play your Death Knight.

    The Death Pact macro previously mentioned is scripted as follows:

    #showtooltip Death Pact
    /cast [target=pet, exists, nodead] Death Pact; Raise Dead

    This single button will now summon a ghoul if you do not have one, and if you have one available, will use Death Pact. Also as mentioned, I’m not a big fan of this macro as it will require a bit of spam clicking to get it to work and I find casting each spell in sequence I can generally get it to work more efficiently. Otherwise this macro will not save you buttons, unless you do not otherwise summon ghouls, which I do not recommend.

    I like using macros for some other key tasks, but as a tank the last major value I get from them is in letting your team know what you are doing. For example, as a Blood tank, I like to use the following macro:

    “Grant Hysteria”
    #showtooltip Hysteria
    /cast [target=CharacterName] Hysteria
    /w CharacterName You have Hysteria, smoosh eet!!
    /raid CharacterName has Hysteria, he could use a HoT!

    This macro will give your chosen teammate Hysteria, whisper them to let them know they have the buff, and announce to the raid (or healer channel if you have one) that the character will need a little extra healing.

    I also have my Vampiric Blood set to announce to the healers that I will be receiving additional healing for a time. Putting these into macros allows me to avoid adding clutter to Vent during a raid encounter when someone else may need to be announcing or directing something. In general, I would recommend being wary about announcing just any cooldowns this way as it may be spammy (especially if you have a tendency to hit a button 4 or 5 times when you’re trying to use it quickly) and that may be more harm than good if no one else really needs to know about it.

    There are many good resources you can find online for macros other people find helpful, along with resources on learning how to write macros.
    Last edited by Satorri; 12-14-2009 at 04:39 PM.
    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?!?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    I’ve prepared this section to address many of the questions that are very frequently asked. Ideally, rather than re-answering these questions, I will simply be able to link here and people can find the answers through this listing and its links into the guide above. This list will grow with time.

    Q. I’m a DK tank and I want to know how my gear/spec looks!

    A. There is a separate forum where people will be ready and willing to give you feedback on your gear. I do recommend that you read this guide first and decide for yourself.

    If you have a new idea for how to play a Death Knight tank, it may warrant a new post here, but please prepare your material first and support your ideas with figures, talent trees, and test data if available.

    Q. I am not quite at the uncrittable cap even with my gear set up, am I going to die a horrible death??

    A. Not necessarily. The ideal situation will not have critical hits even as a remote possibility. That said I have tanked all the content through Ulduar25 in gear that left me around 538-539. The chance is there but I never once saw a critical hit. It was luck, plain and simple. If you test that far enough you will lose an attempt somewhere against a boss who will hurt you badly.

    Q. What are good values of Hit and Expertise to have?

    A. The value of each and your relative values are listed HERE in the above guide. You do not need to be hit or expertise soft capped, but it is advisable. It is not advisable to go out of your way to reach the hard caps (dual wield melee swings never miss, spells never miss) as it will be a very heavy investment for less benefit than other possible buffs.

    Q. Which is the MOST POWERFUL Death Knight tanking spec?!

    A. None of them are, on their own, the best spec for tanking. Each spec has its own strengths, weaknesses, and applications. Any spec can be used for any situation without issue, but each spec will shine in some areas. You can find a short guide to finding your ideal spec HERE.

    Q. Each tree has an iconic cooldown, Vamp Blood, Unbreakable Armor, Bone Shield, but people keep telling me that X is the best! Which one is the best, shouldn't I pick my tank tree based on that?

    The short and sweet answer is that each tree is balanced as a whole, not against the single cooldown that has become iconic to that tree. Each tree has a cooldown to support its style. What does that mean?

    Vampiric Blood is often heralded as the most powerful DK tanking cooldown, and not without reason. The ability increases your health by a nice step (more buffer space to blows you take not to kill you) and increases all healing on you by a pretty high measure. Both of these also double buff most of your strongest self-heals, and buff the general survival strategy of Blood that uses big health totals. However, you must note that this does nothing to effect the incoming damage you take, so it has drawbacks in the face of damage that is too large in scale, and places the stress on the healers while making their job easier. If you have no heals you still won't survive much better.

    Unbreakable Armor is a relatively smaller survival buff as it represents in most gear only a 3-5% reduction in only physical damage, and a ~0.5% increase in parry. However, Frost also gets a 50% longer IBF duration, as well as the strongest passive survival tools in the tree already.

    Bone Shield is a heavy static reduction at 20%, but it is restricted by charges. It can surpass UA in terms of raw mitigation as it also applies to magic, but the variable uptime may make it less reliable or scale unfavorably. It is strongest against multi-source burst damage (i.e. multiple damage sources that hit at the same time creating an apparent damage spike). Some tanks feel that the only thing that can *really* kill a good tank with strong healers is large spikes of damage in short time spans, and compared to that Bone Shield would be the best survival you could hope for.

    Rather than pontificating, though, let's take a quick look at the relative value of each tree-specific cooldown in action. First let's note that UA for Frost is exclusively an anti-physical damage ability and will have no effect on magic damage. To be fair though, at least 70% of most raid encounter tank damage is physical. So, we'll use a simple test. A raid boss hitting the tank once every 2 sec for 67k damage before armor and stance/buff reductions. We'll assume we have healing effective to match the damage. We'll assume each tank has roughly 48k health raid buffed, 65% damage reduction from armor, and 60% avoidance before talents. Blood and Unholy will have 12.6% dmg reduction from Frost Pres and Blade Barrier, Frost will have 14.5%.

    First, for Blood, you will have no special mitigation factors, but you can expect to have ~6% more stamina which we'll just simplify to ~6% more health. So the Blood tank has 50.9k health, 60% avoidance, and 69.4% total damage reduction. This is 20.5k per hit, and 4.1k dps. If that is matched the norm will be 4.1k hps to keep the tank alive.
    When Vamp Blood is used, the tank will now have 58.5k health, and receive 35% more healing from all effects. That means that while the incoming damage is the same at 4.1k dps, the healing required to counter it will only be 3037 hps, instead of 4.1k. Assuming the health total is enough to absorb the damage allowing sufficient time for healing (each hit will take roughly 35% of the tank's total health), this will functionally reduce the load on healers by 35% or in this example 1063 hps. The assumptions here are important, but hard to quantify cleanly, as the tank will still take the full brunt of whatever damage is coming. If it is glyphed, this is 15 sec up per minute (25% uptime), or 15.95k healing need removed.

    The Frost tank will have increased reduction thanks to Imp Frost Pres, and 3% more avoidance from Frigid Dreadplate, giving 48k health, 63% avoidance, and 70.1% total damage reduction. This is 20.0k dmg per hit, 3.7k dps incoming, which we'll match with 3.7k hps to keep the tank alive.
    When glyphed Unbreakable Armor is applied the armor reduction will increase by ~5.7% for a total reduction from armor and stance of 75.9%, and total avoidance will be increased by roughly 0.5% to 63.5%. Now the tank will take 16.8k per hit (~35% of total health), and 3061 dps. Reduced from the 3.7k hps before that is 639 hps reduction in healing needed, or ~17%. So, for a guaranteed uptime of 20 sec per minute (33% uptime), that is a total of 12.78k less healing required.

    The Unholy tank has no bonus health, avoidance, or mitigation built into the spec, instead it relies on Bone Shield to be the work horse. That means the Unholy tank will have 48k health, 60% avoidance, and 69.4% total damage reduction, for 20.5k dmg per hit, and 4.1k incoming dps.
    Bone Shield when glyphed has 4 bones, and a 1 min cooldown between applications. If we disregard pre-buffing and take only the middle portion of a fight as our window, that means Bone Shield has a minimum of 10 sec uptime (we'll call the bone consumption cooldown 2.5 sec even). With 60% avoidance, we'll assume for simplicity that hits are evenly spaced and it will take 10 swings by the boss to get 4 hits, sufficiently spaced between to consume 1 bone each time. That means with a 2.0 sec swing timer Bone Shield will last for 20 seconds (33% uptime) and reduce the 4 swings by 20%. So, per minute the Unholy DK will take 4 swings for 16.4k each, and 8 swings at 20.5k each, for a total average incoming dps of 3827. That is a 273 hps less required to keep the tank alive overall. With a 20 sec uptime that becomes 5.47k less total healing required.

    However, note that this example specifically circumvents Bone Shields greatest strength: stacked damage elements. There is also a key variable where uptime is concerned. As avoidance increases, and where you take multiple hits in sequence rather than them being perfectly staggered, suddenly Bone Shield uptime increases noticeably as does damage taken. Let's say, for illustration purposes, that hits come in a different sequence of 2 hits 3 avoids, 2 hits, 3 avoids (notice 60% total avoidance). Now with a 2.0 sec swing time that would cause the Bone Shield to absorb both hits at the cost of only 1 bone, and it would take 20 swings to remove all 4. That is a 40 second duration on the Bone Shield (67%). Now the tank will take 8 hits at 16.4k, and 4 swings at 20.5k, for a total of 3553 dps taken. That is a 547 reduction in hps required or a total of 21.9k healing not required.

    In my practical experience the reality is usually somewhere in between these two, but it often skews towards the latter and is capable of going higher still. This variability makes it very hard to quantify in ideal theorycrafting.

    Q. t10 has a cool 2 piece set bonus, it makes DnD 20% bigger!! Does that mean I should use DnD all the time?

    Not really. If you combine the glyph with the bonus it will be a solid piece of threat on any target, however it is still less competitive than the alternatives for Blood and Frost on a single target. It does make it a very powerful AoE threat tool, however, that may even appeal to Frost for multi-target threat. See more math and considerations here:

    Q. My friends keep telling me Unholy is awful now (post 3.3), what's the real scoop?

    Currently in general, Unholy tanks have been seeing a slightly lower margin on their threat when they are Unholy compared to Blood and Frost. It is not enough to make you unable to tank, but it is enough to register on comparative testing. This should not stop you from tanking as Unholy if you enjoy it.

    The second issue is the value of Bone Shield in ICC. This is not a surprise, but it takes some explaining to clarify. Bone Shield will, generally, only last for 4 absorbs. Any damage sources that stack close enough in sequence will allow your shield to absorb more (there is a time restriction/cooldown making it so you can only drain one charge per ~2-3 seconds). Avoidance normally helps you stretch that out, if you don't get hit, you don't lose charges. A 20% drop in avoidance then does not help and in general you will see a lower total uptime. That said, it is not as game-breaking as you might think. Normally it is actually the avoidance that is reducing your total damage taken and it is that loss that *would* increase your damage taken. Bone Shield's reduced uptime will result in more exposure and make Unholy feel less appealing, but in practical application it is not quite as bad as you might think on first inspection.

    Q. Patch 3.3.3 says IT does massive bonus threat, is it true? What does it mean, should I just use it all the time?

    A. In patch 3.3.3 an additional bonus of 7x threat has been applied to IT when used in Frost Presence. To that end most anyone's IT will now be doing threat comparable to RS on a per-hit basis. That said, it's not in anyone's interest to be spamming IT all the time. If you go about your business as if nothing has changed you will just notice that you never have a slow start on single targets. Generally speaking, I would not recommend changing anything you do, unless you avoid using IT (like through the use of Glyph of Disease). I have played with a spec designed to abuse IT and spam it heavily (BotN and DRM to use all 6 runes for IT), and while it can do pretty silly bursts of threat (15k tps peak with no buffs at all, with very underwhelming dps), it is not particularly interesting to play. I won't be advocating it as a go-to spec any time soon.

    Q. I need personal guidance! Can you please teach me, show me, check my gear, check my spec, etc?

    A. I do try to field requests for personal help when I can, but I only have so much time in the week. I usually answer all of my PM’s through TankSpot, but sometimes it can take some time to catch up. I generally do not prefer that people try to find me online. If I am playing the game, I’m relaxing and having fun.

    == more to come ==
    Last edited by Satorri; 03-23-2010 at 08:32 AM.
    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?!?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Up-to-date for Patch 3.3.3 (3/23/2010)
    *Updated on 1/26/10* = fixed links for new forum structure, added FAQ entries including tree-specific cooldown changes
    *Updated on 3/23/10* = changes for 3.3.3 and the new significance of IT and WotN

    Elements Under Construction:
    FAQ entries
    Adding WoWhead tooltip links
    Last edited by Satorri; 03-23-2010 at 08:34 AM.
    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?!?

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    minnesota aka southern canada
    Holy effing shit.
    There goes my night lol, I bow to the master
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostcrawler View Post
    I'm on a shark

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    That Place Above the USA
    Quote Originally Posted by Swam View Post
    Holy effing shit.
    There goes my night lol, I bow to the master
    Um yeah. That's why he's the DK guru around here. I think Satorri is one of the best damn authors anywhere, not just TS. He really knows how to cover topics well.

    Keep up the good work!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    minnesota aka southern canada
    Also wtb stikie
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostcrawler View Post
    I'm on a shark

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    I will now take my little guide and go home... j/k

    Very well done sir, well done indeed.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    I also wtb sticky

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

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