Category Archives: Death Knight

Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters

Psynister here with another potential, could-become-a series. Today we’re going to talk about the play style of the DK class. My guest post over at For the Lore prompted some discussion on Twitter about people brushing off their old Death Knights, or perhaps giving them another shot for those that had given up on DK’s as I had not too long ago.

One person in particular, Anexxia of Bible of Dreams, mentioned that they could barely manage to get a DK out of the starting area because she just doesn’t work well with melee classes. Me and Miss Nexxi go way back in blogging/twitter terms as she was one of the first to show interest in my blog, so I made a special effort to let her know I’d gladly help her not fail as a DK and that you don’t have to be entirely melee focused to succeed as a Death Knight.

The Situation
At that point another one of our twitter/blogging friends, Furiey of Troll Bouquet, stepped in and said that DK’s are melee, and don’t fit the bill for spellcasters. A discussion followed between the two of us, with a fair amount of misunderstanding in what I was trying to express (that you can be a DK and not be overwhelmed by melee combat) and what Furiey thought I was saying (that DK’s could be likened unto Warlocks, Mages, EleShamans, Priests, etc.).

What it came down to was a level 76 Frost Tank (me) and a level 80 Frost Tank (Furiey) both expressing different view points on how you can play the exact same class, and both of us getting the impression that the other thought we had no idea what we were talking about. That’s probably the one major drawback to using Twitter (140 character limit on messages); misunderstandings or misinterpretations due to not being able to express your full thought.

So let me state right off the bat here that in no way did I mean to offend Furiey, and this post is nothing more than expanding on the playstyle that I spoke of and how to use it effectively without feeling entirely like you’re playing a melee class all the time.

If you’re playing the class to maximize your DPS then you have to embrace the melee aspect of the class, that’s all there is to it. But if you’re not comfortable with melee and need to stay more caster-like in the method of playing the class, then this is the setup you want to go with. It’s not about maximizing your DPS potential, it’s about maximizing your own potential with your given skill set.

Death Knights ARE Melee
It’s a simple statement, and largely true. It’s hard to consider a class that wields a two handed weapon, wears plate armor, is known for its powerful melee properties, and only has only two spells that aren’t instant cast in their entire arsenal as a caster. I don’t argue those points in the least. That’s right, Death Knights are a melee class, and a dang good one at that.

But what else defines a class as being melee rather than something else? To me, being a melee class means being able to deal your damage while you’re on the move chasing mobs, it’s about moving into position so that you’re behind the mobs as much as possible, it’s having the best weapons you can find to continue dealing the most damage possible, and it’s having the majority (not necessarily all) of your attacks resulting in melee swings rather than other forms of attack.

Death Knights can certainly match all of those definitions, but there’s one of them that it doesn’t have to match, and that’s the last point of the majority of your attacks being melee swings. And within that exception there is only one spec that can actually fill that role and still be successful: Frost.

Death Knights ARE NOT Spellcasters
Yet another simple statement of (mostly) truth. Spellcasters are known for being “squishy” (except for Holy Paladins), they’re known for stacking stats such as Spell Power, Intellect, Spirit, or MP5. They’re known for their crowd control, for their high DPS numbers, for their single target DPS and often their AoE DPS as well, and for spamming spells over and over to burn down their targets.

Death Knights definitely do not fit most of those definitions. We aren’t squishy little cloth wearers, we couldn’t care less about Spell Power (if you do, I will break your freaking legs), or other “caster stats” as we prefer stacking things like Strength, Agility, and Crit. We have very little crowd control, and our spec strongly determines our AoE capabilities. On top of all of that, our unique resource system of Runes and Runic Power prevent us from spamming much of anything.

Spec Details: Psynister, Make Some Sense Already!
Alright, so let’s break this down and get to the point – using a caster-like play style to be a successful Death Knight. To do this, the first thing we need to talk about is our spec. Hands down, no questions asked, there is only one primary tree that you can do this in, and that is Frost. It can be further enhanced by the Unholy tree if you like, but that will be closer to level 80 and we’ll talk about that further down the post anyway. Unholy actually does the most Magic Damage of the three trees, but most of that damage is dealt via melee.

As I said, the spec is the key to being able to use this playstyle, so here are the specifics on the spec for levels 60, 70, and 80. The minimum is level 60 because until then you do not have the talents you need to make this happen, particularly Howling Blast, the level 60 talent at the bottom of the Frost tree.

Level 60 Level 70 Level 80
Especially Notable Talents
Level 60 Level 70 Level 80
Killing Machine
Hungering Cold
Howling Blast
Corpse Explosion

Normally I go into detail about all of the talents you take, what they do, and so on, but this time I’m going to skip most of that since you can just follow the links if you really need to know. I am going to cover the ones that are key to this style of play though.

I will break it down into each of the spec levels that I laid out up there so that you have some guidance in each level bracket rather than a simple, general overview of the whole thing. Information in the lower brackets also applies in the higher brackets unless otherwise specified.

Level 60 Spec
This spec looks pretty similar to your generic Frost Tank spec at level 60, except that we’re missing some of the more notable tanking talents and instead we’re going for things such as Runic Power Mastery to increase our maximum Runic Power supply, and Merciless Combat which increases our damage to targets with low health.

If you would rather have some of those tanking talents to increase your survivability, then by all means do so. The talents I listed in the table above are the ones that are the most important ones in the bunch, as they’ll be the ones allowing you to fulfill your Caster-like role.

The talents that we just cannot do without for this spec and style of play are Howling Blast which is our big AoE spell, Deathchill which makes our hardest hitting spells instant-crits, Killing Machine which can proc for the same effect as Deathchill, and Rime which gives us the chance during the few melee attacks that we are forced to take to remove the cooldown on Howling Blast.

Two other talents are listed up in the table, but they are for survivability and utility more so than they are crucial to the build. Those two talents I strongly recommend, but you are not required to take them: Lichborne which will allow you to dump your extra Runic Power into healing yourself since we are missing some of those tanking talents, and Hungering Cold which serves as a backup to instantly apply Frost Fever to all targets within range, while also giving you the time to either bandage yourself if needed, allow your Runes to cooldown to rush back into a big AoE assault, or to refresh your diseases on all targets.

Minimum Level 70 Spec
On the path to level 70 I suggest you branch off into the Unholy tree to get some utility talents and build towards our Runic Power AoE, Corpse Explosion. Since we’re doing DPS here Virulence gives us some extra Hit, Epidemic increases the duration of our diseases so that it’s easier to keep them up at all times, and Morbidity increases our RP Nuke, Death Coil, which can also be used to heal ourselves when used in conjunction with Lichborne, and it also reduces the cooldown of Death and Decay which we will not use often but the option is open to us.

Required Level 80 Spec
Ramping up to 80 the biggest addition actually comes at level 71 with Corpse Explosion, providing us with an AoE spell that requires Runic Power rather than Runes. From there we say goodbye to Unholy and jump over to the Blood tree for just a second to grab Butchery to keep our RP supply full for use of either Corpse Explosion for AoE purposes, or Death Coil which can be used either for DPS or for healing if you have Lichborne activated.

Butchery is not necessarily required, it’s just a great way to keep yourself topped off on RP so that you can use your abilities more often. In addition to that, it also helps you to have a large supply of RP moving into a new fight so that you can get straight to blasting away rather than having to wait to build your RP. If you want to replace it with something else, feel free. My suggestion for a replacement would be Blade Barrier, also in the Blood tree, and using the three points in Nerves of Cold Steel there as well.

Caster Knight Glyphs

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Icy Touch: Your Frost Fever disease deals 20% additional damage.
Glyph of Disease: Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Howling Blast: Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.

Alternate Majors
Glyph of Death and Decay: Damage of your Death and Decay spell increased by 20%.
Glyph of Hungering Cold: Reduces the cost of Hungering Cold by 40 Runic Power.

Your most important disease, the one that should never fall off of your targets, is Frost Fever. The Glyph of Icy Touch increases the damage of that disease by 20%, which is a solid increase in your DPS.

While you have, or will have, four different methods of applying Frost Fever to targets around you, your Blood Plague disease will only be applied via your Plague Strike melee attack. The Glyph of Disease causes your Pestilence spell to refresh the duration of all of your diseases as well as spreading them around, so by using it you are able to keep both diseases active for longer periods of time, without having to resort to melee attacks. Finally the Glyph of Howling Blast is recommended as an easy way to apply Frost Fever, and keep it applied to all targets without putting special effort into keeping it up. As long as you’re using your strong AoE spell, you’re keeping at least that one disease up at all times.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of Pestilence: Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Corpse Explosion: Increases the radius of effect on Corpse Explosion by 5 yards.

The Glyph of Pestilence is going to give you the most initial benefit by allowing you to spread your diseases around in a larger area. Next up is the Glyph of Raise Dead which allows us to summon our Ghoul without a reagent and without the required type of corpse lying around. You can use your Ghoul to increase your DPS, draw some aggro off of you, or to sacrifice to your Death Pact ability you get at level 66 to instantly heal 40% of your maximum health. Last on the list is the Glyph of Corpse Explosion for a larger radius of burst damage. You don’t need to bother with this glyph until your last slot opens up at level 70 since you won’t even get this spell until level 71.

For this build I wouldn’t suggest any of the other minor glyphs that exist right now.

How To: Caster-Style Death Knight
So we have our spec and we have a general idea of what we’re doing; now we just need to bring all of that together and make it happen. The first thing to point out is something I already touched on just a bit up above: Death Knights do not have cast times. So our caster style is made up entirely of instant-casts. We do have some occasional melee attacks thrown into the mix as well, but we’ll talk about those as they come up.

So which caster can you think of that doesn’t bother with cast times (for the most part) and still manages to slaughter everything around them?

That’s right, your caster role model is the Affliction Warlock with their instant-cast DoT spells. Rather than spamming the same spells with their cast times over and over like a Mage, Priest, Druid, or Shaman, you’re going to throw your DoTs onto your targets, spreading your diseases as you go, and then bring them all down with your AoE spells. Also like a Warlock, you have spells that can heal you or restore your resources. Where the Warlock regains mana by damaging themselves, Death Knights regain their “mana” (Runic Power) by dealing damage to others with your class abilities. If you’re familiar with Affliction Warlocks then you’ll see the similarities. If you’re not then…well, just trust me on this one, alright?

A Warlock is going to have to cast their DoTs on one target, then another, then another, and on down the line for each mob that they’re fighting. That’s not the case for the Death Knight. Instead you’re going to group the mobs up, DoT one of them, and then use Pestilence to spread the DoTs to every other mob within 10 yards (15 yards if you use the Glyph).

From there it’s just a matter of hitting your AoE attacks to burn them all down, using melee attacks only when you have to to reset your diseases or because other abilities are on cooldown and you don’t like sitting there doing nothing for four seconds.

Caster-like Nuke Spells
If you want to be a caster, then you need to be able to nuke things. And so, here is a list of our nukes:

Single Target Nukes

1. Icy Touch: Cost: 1 Frost Rune. Deals Frost damage to a target within 30 yards, infects them with the Frost Fever disease, and slows their melee and ranged attack speeds by 15% for 15 seconds.
2. Death Coil: Cost: 40 Runic Power. Deals Shadow damage to an enemy or healing damage from a friendly Undead target within 30 yards. Refunds 20 Runic Power when used to heal.

Now, that’s not a very big list for something we’re going to be playing like a caster, but realize that we’ll be casting a lot of AoE spells with this build rather than burning down single targets. Single targets will die faster by taking the melee route, though that doesn’t mean that you can’t still bring them down with AoE spells as well.

Icy Touch is the spell you will usually end up pulling with, both dealing damage and establishing one of your diseases. When you get into your rotation you will not cast it quite as often as most of your Frost Runes will be used to power either Howling Blast, Obliterate, or Death Strike. While it is acceptable to use your Killing Machine and Deathchill procs on Icy Touch, you’re better off saving them for a Howling Blast if you can.

Death Coil is how you’ll burn through your Runic Power most often. When Corpse Explosion is either on cooldown or you do not have any corpses to power it with, Death Coil is your replacement. You can also use this to heal your Ghoul if you feel so inclined, or to heal yourself if you first use Lichborne to become Undead for 20 seconds.

Area of Effect (AoE) Nukes

1. Howling Blast: Cost: 1 Frost and Unholy Rune. Deals Frost damage to the target and all enemies within 10 yards.
2. Blood Boil: Cost: 1 Blood Rune. Boils the blood of all enemies within 10 yards. Deals additional damage to targets infected with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.
3. Corpse Explosion: Cost: 40 Runic Power. Explodes a nearby corpse dealing Shadow damage to all enemies within 10 yards.
4. Death and Decay: Cost: 1 Blood, Frost, and Unholy Rune. Corrupts the ground, dealing Shadow damage every second to targets that remain in the area.

Howling Blast is the big dawg of our AoE, and the reason why we’re focused on the Frost tree. It’s a ranged AoE which makes it great for pulling groups, but it works just as well when cast on a mob standing right next to you. It’s also able to be buffed by our Deathchill talent which will cause our next Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike, or Obliterate to be a critical hit. We will also try to time all of our Killing Machine procs to be consumed with Howling Blast as well, which works the same as Deathchill except that it is not consumed by Obliterate. Most of our Frost and Unholy Runes will be spent on Howling Blasts, except for when it is on cooldown and we use Obliterate instead.

Blood Boil is our next largest AoE spell, costing only a single Blood Rune. The damage is increased when targets are diseased, so we want to be sure that we have applied at least one of our two diseases on a target and then used Pestilence to spread it around so that we get the most damage out of it that we can.

Corpse Explosion provides our Runic Power AoE to fill in the slow points where our Runes are on cooldown and corpses are available to be exploded. This build is designed to allow for a lot of Runic Power to be built and stored, so you should be able to make frequent use of the spell so long as there are corpses to target.

Death and Decay is the signature AoE spell of the Death Knights, but it’s getting the last slot for actually AoE nuke spells because of how it works. The damage on D&D is fairly low, but the threat rate on it is high. If you are using this build in a group setting then you are already going to generate excessive amounts of threat from using so many AoE spells all the time, so using D&D is often a bad idea in group settings. Also, this is the highest Rune-cost spell that we have, costing one of every type of rune to cast it. By using D&D we remove the ability to use other spells that may be more beneficial to use in the long run.

Melee Attacks You Do Need
There are three melee attacks that we’ll mention in particular here, because they’re the only ones that really matter for this build and playstyle.

1. Plague Strike: This is your second disease, and the only one applied from a melee attack outside of an Unholy build. You will generally use this at the start of a fight to establish a disease, and then rely on your Glyphs to keep it refreshed. If it ever falls off of your targets, go ahead and use it again.

2. Obliterate: This is your key to faster AoE kills, but not necessarily required. It’s also the reason why we’re going to Dual Wield with this build instead of using a two-handed weapon. Each time you attack and hit with it, you have a chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and also make it a Rune-free cast. When dual wielding each time you hit with Obliterate you have two 15% chances to proc Rime which is what makes HB free and resets its cooldown.

3. Death Strike: This is your easiest, most reliable method of healing yourself during combat. When you hit with it you heal yourself for 5% of your maximum health for each of your diseases on the target. With this build and its intended play style you should have two diseases up at all times, so each attack with DS will heal you for 10% of your maximum health.

Other than those the melee attacks you have available are not necessary. If you’re fighting single targets then you may prefer to use Blood Strike instead of Blood Boil since it will do more damage for a single target, but it is a melee attack rather than a spell.

Similarly, it’s better when fighting single targets to use Obliterate instead of Howling Blast from a pure DPS perspective, but again it’s a melee attack rather than a spell, so the choice is yours for which to use and which not.

If you want to maximize your DPS as a Death Knight then you do need to embrace your melee side, but this post isn’t about maximizing your DPS, it’s about playing a melee class from a caster’s perspective and trying to use the play style you’re used to for a class that you’re not.

Putting It Into Action
Time for some Rotations and a sampling of how this actually works.

First Example: Ranged Pull

First Rune Set: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Howling Blast (FU), Blood Boil (B), Runic Powers
Second Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast* (FU), Pestilence (B), Runic Powers

With this rotation we’re going to start off with a ranged Icy Touch to pull our target and establish our first disease. We follow that up with a Plague Strike to establish the second disease, and then Pestilence to spread them around. We finish the first Rune Set with a pair of AoE spells; Howling Blast and Blood Boil. Your first Runic Power dump is probably going to be a Death Coil as you’ll likely not have a corpse to use for an Explosion, if you do have a corpse handy go ahead and Explode it instead.

In the second set we try to use as much AoE as we can muster while also keeping our runes up. Depending on your timing and how often you hit/miss with your attacks, you might need to swap the Pestilence and Blood Boil in the second set, or you may need to replace the second Howling Blast with Icy Touch/Plague Strike instead to reestablish your diseases.

* = If at any point you see “Howling Blast” but your HB is on cooldown, simply replace it with either an Obliterate (FU) or an Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U) combo. If your diseases are about to wear off and Pestilence is not available to get them refreshed, go ahead and replace HB with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead so that your diseases are up and running at all times.

Second Example: Melee Pull

First Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Blood Tap (N/A), Blood Boil (B), Runic Powers
Second Rune Set: Howling Blast* (FU), Runic Power (rp), Blood Boil (B), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast* (FU), Runic Powers

This rotation is meant to burn the mobs down quickly with burst damage from your AoE spells. I suggest you use this one only after you have the Glyph of Howling Blast so that it applies Frost Fever for you or else you rob yourself of some damage during the Blood Boils.

Since we use Blood Tap in the first set to reset a Blood Rune cooldown and proc it as a Death Rune instead, we’re not going to have a Blood Rune available right away in the second set. To make up for that we’ll make use of a Runic Power ability there (Corpse Explosion if we can, Death Coil if not), and then make use of our Blood Runes as they come back up.

* = If at any point you see “Howling Blast” but your HB is on cooldown, simply replace it with either an Obliterate (FU) or an Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U) combo. If your diseases are about to wear off and Pestilence is not available to get them refreshed, go ahead and replace HB with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead so that your diseases are up and running at all times.


Psynister: Level 80 Death Knight

First thing’s first:


Now that my Death Knight has reached level 80 I will begin work on the final installment of the Frost Tanking guides. I will also include a bit about Unholy DPS since that is my dual spec, but that will likely be a separate guide unto itself. I did run a few randoms during level 78 and 79 as DPS so that I could get a feel for it before heroics, and since I was doing more DPS than pure DPS classes while still in my tanking gear, I’d say I have it down pretty good.

I’ve got my own army now, Arthas. Let us dance, you and I.


Conversations With the Masters: Satorri

In my guest post on upcoming changes to Death Knight Tanks in Cataclysm over at ForTheLore, I turned to who I personally consider to be the best source of DK Tanking information on the web, Satorri from

Since my guest post was directed at upcoming changes and a lot of what I talked about Satorri had to deal with our current stat situation, I wanted to make all of the information available but not have it all clustered up on Roger’s blog.

The “conversation” I had with Satorri came in the form of private messages on the TankSpot website, so it was a rather informal Q&A session of sorts with me sending questions and Satorri replying with answers.

You will find our conversation below, with my messages in green and Satorri’s responses in blue text and in blockquotes:


First I really must thank you for your amazing Book on Death Knight Tanking. I had completely written off the class as a possible tank after seeing so many fail at it. I have a blog about leveling and helping people understand and use their class in a given role so I decided to take on DK Tanking for myself to blog about it and your Book is by far the most detailed and informational source I found anywhere.

One of my fellow bloggers asked me to guest post on his blog about DK Tanking in relation to the upcoming stat changes in Cataclysm, and I wanted to talk to someone that’s more experienced than I am since I haven’t even reached the level cap on my DK yet. I thought for sure someone would have covered it here by now even if it were only in passing, but after going through 5 pages of search results I didn’t find anything.

For that matter it’s hard enough finding two people who actually agree on the priority of stats for DK Tanks. I know Strength is our threat stat, which also gives us some Parry, and that Armor and Stam are of obvious importance, but things get a bit fuzzy from there. For instance, some people seem to rank Parry high, where it’s pretty low on your list. With Parry switching from Avoidance on one hit to Mitigation on two hits, does it move up in priority or down? Does Dodge go up because of that, making Agility more appealing? Those are the kinds of questions I find hard to answer.

We don’t have the specifics of the stat changes yet, so I’m not looking for a real in depth analysis so much as your general thoughts on them. Any help you’re willing to give is appreciated.

Thank you for your time, and thank you again for your excellent contributions here at TankSpot.



Well, you did hit the nail on the head on one point: We don’t know how stats will work *exactly* or finally in Cataclysm so it is hard to discuss that now. I got the impression from the first half of your message that that was what you were interested in?

If you want to talk about stats now, maybe I can clear some things up. The first thing to be sure on is that it is much harder than some would lead you to believe to evaluate and compare stats, especially for tanking. Few stats are actually directly comparable since they will work through different methods or will dip their toes in multiple pools (for example, Agility gives you armor, dodge, and crit chance, and armor in turn can become AP). The value you get from different stats will often vary with many factors including what your current stats are, talents, and what you are facing.

If you are a tank, you have 2 responsibilities (things you *must* offer as opposed to what you could): threat and survival. You need to stick mobs to you, and you need to take the beating they give you. If you are interested in survival, there are 3 main features that you can group the stats into: avoidance, mitigation, and health.

Health is easy and obvious. When your health hits zero, you’re dead and no longer tanking. Stamina is the one way we change our health through stats.

Mitigation is tools that reduce the damage you take. This is armor, resistance (armor vs spells), and block/absorb mechanics. We don’t generally see the third, and resistances are usually a rare tool only used for specific fights since at any given time at least 70-80% of the damage we take is raw physical damage. Before t10 and the non-set gear, there was very little opportunity to get extra armor outside of the occasional piece of jewelry, cloak, or the odd trinket. Mitigation is generally a popular value with tanks because it just plain reduces damage taken. It’s always on and always active. We get this mainly from armor and bonus armor on gear, but also through agility-granted armor in smaller measure.

Avoidance is the tools that give you a chance to just plain not take damage. This is represented by things that increase your chance to be missed, dodge, and parry (defense rating, dodge rating, parry rating, and agility). Avoidance is much maligned, especially more as this expansion has gone on.The main reason for this is that the state of the healer balance and the damage taken by tanks is such that:
A.) Healers do not have easily reached mana concerns. It it possible to be run out of mana, but there are many tools to prevent that.
B.) Tank damage has been balanced to the point that healers are rarely encouraged to be tactical and generally can be more effective if they just pour healing on the group. Because of A this is reasonable to do, and as such it *appears* less important that tanks take less damage and more important that they can’t be bursted into the ground faster than heals can land.
The two combined mean that most tanks believe it is smarter to have 80k health than to take 30% damage (exaggerated for emphasis =D). The value of Avoidance, however, is that it interrupts the damage stream. It may be nice to some healers if the tank is just constantly being hit so they *know* what is coming and can spam heals in response, but for the sake of survival and all the times where healers are distracted or unavailable, avoidance allows you to just plain not take damage.

Because you asked specifically, there is one specific point to touch on: the reason parry is never smart to gem for as a DK is because of the passive spell effect “Forceful Deflection,” the one that turns Strength into Parry. Dodge and Parry rating both contribute essentially to the same thing, 1% Parry is the same as 1% Dodge for all intents and purposes (technically Parry will give us more threat but it is pretty small in scale). Because the two matching ratings also have the same exchange rate, the only thing that determines the difference in value of the ratings is that they have different caps they diminish to. Because of these caps there is an ideal line that will tell you when which stat is better (basically when your diminishing dodge is greater than 1.8x the size of your diminishing parry, parry rating is giving you more raw % avoidance). The catch with Forceful Deflection is that it keeps us so flooded with Parry rating that we have a hard time actually reaching a level of Dodge rating where Parry rating will actually be better again, and you certainly won’t unless you are actually stacking avoidance ratings (which next to no one does). For that reason, it’s pretty much never smart to gem for parry rating. It’s still a fine stat to have, and itemization is such that you will rarely lose total avoidance because you took the piece with parry instead of the one with dodge.

(Had to break here because of character limit, so Satorri sent a second reply)

Going into Clysm they’re talking about changing what it means to parry, which *could* make it a special sort of semi-mitigation ability, but I expect we’ll see a LOT of changes as the development cycle revs up as they figure out how to balance that best. It’s pretty premature to discuss anything now, unless it’s theoretical explorations of what you think would be a good idea for Blizz to do.

When it comes to threat and threat stats, as a DK tank I am generally of a mind for one simple method: Design your spec for threat concerns, don’t rely on stacking “threat stats” to support a spec that doesn’t support threat well. To understand the value of threat stats though you want to understand what you want from threat.

First off, we’ll assume you are not gemming, enchanting, or taking gear for threat with haste, crit, or armor pen. We will get them on weapons but that is rarely a consideration for what weapon we will choose, especially since the DPS on a weapon will always outweigh the stats. By the same measure I don’t expect it is worth adding Strength to your gear. It won’t hurt you, but if you are having trouble with threat that is probably not the way to solve it. There are 3 stats however that have significance to threat that will warrant consideration: agility, hit, and expertise.

Agility is an easy one to label but hard to place a value on because it is a very compound stat value. In short it is a delicious survival tool that gives you mitigation, avoidance, and adds a little bit of threat in the form of crit chance and a small amount of AP.

It may seem odd to put Hit and Expertise as values worth having when I say don’t bother with crit or haste, but let me explain. What do we need from threat? We need magnitude but with a smart spec and any set of tank gear appropriate to the level of content you’re running you will have fine Str/AP to support your threat. To that end we can expect a good player (read: smart spec and good play skills) can hold threat without an issue on the long run. However, the one thing that the best spec and skill cannot grant is reliability. To generate threat you have to hit the target, plain and simple. If you don’t hit you don’t generate threat and your group will have to compensate. If you are trying to make tight time tables the way most encounters are balanced, it will be hard for your damage dealers to respond well if your threat isn’t there when you expect it to be. Hit and Expertise are the answers to that.

So, to be clear, I don’t think either stat is required for your best overall threat, but I think they are very valuable for being able to apply threat the moment you need it, where you need it. The value from there is simply a variable based on how many spells you use vs melee swings, and what you want/need to rely on most. I prefer to stay as close to the hit and expertise soft cap as I can, though if I go over on expertise I’m not terribly worried as it is still a fine value, especially for me as Blood.

So, what exactly is it you were looking for, now that I’ve blathered on for a couple pages? =)


Thank you for the excellent reply, that helped me with some of what I’m dealing with right now (no idea how I missed Forceful Deflection’s existence) as well as where I’m going with this particular post.

The post is about how the proposed (as of right now) stat changes Cataclysm are going to impact DK Tanks. So I’m taking what we stack now vs. what we will want to stack in Cat according to the information we have right now.

In looking at what all we’re supposed to be stacking now I found you had a list:
– Armor
– Strength
– Stamina
– Defense Rating
– Dodge Rating
– Parry Rating
– Hit Rating
– Expertise Rating

You have them listed in that order, but I don’t know if that’s the order they actually belong in from a priority perspective. So for example, priority-wise do we stop stacking Strength because Parry becomes Mitigation and instead stack Agility because Dodge becomes the only Avoidance stat?

You mentioned the importance of Hit and Expertise. The notes we have on Cat right now mention that reaching those caps are going to be “much harder”, though they go on to say similar to the difference in hitting a level 83 mobs versus a level 80 mob which implies that it will be the exact same setup we have now only higher totals because of higher boss/mob levels (88 and 85).

Cataclysm notes also mention that Frost DK’s are going to get Haste and increased Runic Power Generation for their Mastery bonus, and they said we’re trying to loosen up the Rune system a bit so we’re not so strongly tied into a GCD system of burning runes, spending excess RP, burning runes, spending RP, etc. It’s hard to speculate with so little detail given, but we might see Haste becoming more important if they want us using RP more for tanking.

I guess in essence what I’m really after is which stats do we stack now versus which stats we should stack in Cataclysm based on the information we have right now. Do you feel we will ignore stats that we currently focus on (other than Defense Rating which is going away)? Will there be stats we “ignore” now that we may begin to stack come Cataclysm?

The list I posted isn’t a priority list, only a list of stats that we will see and care about on tanking gear.

Priority is a bit tricky since the values will vary as you get more of anything, as your gear changes, and depending on what you’re facing.

I have avoided touching anything on stats or proposed changes yet because I can promise you that everything you’re reading now is general enough and will change pretty seriously before the game goes live. I think it is a safe assumption that they are going to rebalance stats and their values. The specifics will take months to develop, and really I wouldn’t bother posting about it until the beta is actually underway.

From Blizzards posted stances though, I think it is safe to assume that:
A.) Health and Armor will always be desirable, that won’t change, they will always be central values.

B.) They want avoidance (and block) to be more attractive tools for tanks, particularly to the end of taking less damage. In BC it was a bad thing to be a mana sponge, if you needed constant healing it was predictable but you would also run your healers straight out of mana. They want that to be the case again, so it will be worthwhile to take less damage and take less consistent damage.

C.) They are adding the elements of Mastery that will go a long way to affect how different trees play, and probably what kind of benefits each spec of tank will be most keen on.

If they have been general about anything, they have been completely excluding DK info. They’ve made a point of saying they’re restructuring the way the class mechanics work particularly with the interests of smoothing out the kinks. They have not told us anything, but hinted that the changes will be significant, so there is another reason that it is very premature to talk about Cataclysm changes for DKs.


And there you have it.

Satorri is a very active member of the TankSpot community with over 3,000 Posts, and hosts a blog on TankSpot as well, Satorri’s Blog.

And here is a link to the Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking if you would like to find out more about Death Knight tanking in all three trees.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 17, 2010 in Death Knight



AoE Grinding: Frost Death Knight Edition

I have covered the greatness of Paladin AoE Guides. I have revealed unto you the incredible power of Frost Mage AoE Grinding. And now I must bring forth, Frost Knight AoE Grinding!

You can't see my sparklies very well in that picture, but that's 12 mobs piled up there.

You can use the general information from this post in conjunction with the Death Knight Tanking Guides for AoE rotations I use for questing. I use pretty well the same exact concepts and rotations when doing AoE Tanking on my Death Knight when the situation calls for me to focus on AoE to grab and maintain agro in an instant so that I can then settle into a tanking rotation.

For the purposes of this article when you see any form of “(BFU)” it is an expression of the ability’s Rune Cost, where “(##)” will show the amount of Runic Power that is required for abilities with RP costs rather than Rune costs. When using our Death Runes they will be noted as “(DD)”.

This guide also contains only information up to level 70, so spells obtained only at higher levels will not appear in this guide.

Death Knight Specs: Quick Overview
Any Death Knight spec can do AoE grinding to at least some degree. Frost and Unholy are much better off than Blood is in the AoE category (though perhaps not so much in the survivability area), but any spec can technically do it. Some just need to branch out a little bit more than others.

All DK’s have access to Death and Decay which is a solid AoE ability though it does come with a heavy Rune cost.

Spending 11 points in the Unholy tree grants you access to Corpse Explosion which serves as a Runic Power version of AoE damage to be used when you are in a Rune Blackout (all runes used and on cooldown). Corpse Explosion does require a non-elemental, non-mechanical corpse in order to be used, but it is another option for AoE damage once you’ve laid down the hate and started piling up the corpses. But any corpse will do, including a fallen comrade.

With 8 points in the Blood tree you can have Scent of Blood 3/3 which gives you a 15% chance after a dodge or parry to have each of your next three auto-attacks generate 10 Runic Power which could be taken in addition to Corpse Explosion to help fuel its repeated use. I don’t know that it’s a great option, but there it is if you happen to be a CE freak (like me).

You can spend 14 points in the Blood tree to get both Rune Tap (B) which will restore 10% of your health when used, as well as Death Rune Mastery which will cause the runes used for Obliterate and Death Strike to regenerate as Death Runes. Having both Death Rune Mastery and Blood of the North maxed will give you four different attacks that will grant Death Runes to help fuel whatever ability you might want to use.

Since I’m focusing on Frost here, I will point out that I suggest you get all the way through the Frost tree (level 60 minimum) before you branch off into the other trees. As for the rest of the spec, I suggest you follow the guide I offer in my DK Tanking: Frost Edition guides.

Frost AoE: General Information
You can use either a single disease or a double disease method for this, though my personal suggestion is that you go with a double disease, dual wielding Frost build.

Howling Blast (FU) is your largest source of AoE damage, and using things like your Killing Machine procs and your Deathchill ability to maximize your damage by providing auto-crits go a long way towards burning down the largest group of mobs in the shortest amount of time. Rime procs will give you free uses of Howling Blast as well as resetting its cooldown, so keep a keen eye out for those as well. You may want to consider using an addon such as PowerAuras Classic to help you keep track of your procs if you have trouble with them.

With Frost you are going to make frequent use of Howling Blast for AoE damage and applying the Frost Fever disease, Obliterate (FU) to generate Rime procs for free Howling Blasts, Blood Boil (B) for DK-centered AoE damage, Pestilence (B) for disease spreading, and potentially Death & Decay (BFU) as well. If you branched out into Unholy for Corpse Explosion (40) then you have a Runic Power AoE as well, which is centered on the corpse that it’s used on.


As a Death Knight you have several tools to use for pulling mobs. The most obvious of these is Scorpion’s famous move, Death Grip, which will pull the targeted mob to you and “force” them to attack you for three seconds. Some mobs are immune to the physical pull, but they will still agro you and chase you down after you use it. Death Grip has a pretty big cooldown all things considered, but it does not require any runes or runic power to use.

You also have two sources of ranged AoE pulling, in the form of Howling Blast (FU) and Death and Decay (BFU), which can both be used to pull a group of mobs instead of just one. Howling Blast is a bit better if you are pulling the group and moving on to pull others as well, where Death and Decay is probably better off cast as you near the end of your pull so that you can make use of its DoT (Damage of Time) AoE effect.

You also have two forms of single-target ranged pulls in Icy Touch (F) and Death Coil (40). Death Coil requires RP to cast, so it’s not the greatest spell for pulling, but when you find yourself high on RP and nothing else to spend it on just yet you might as well get some use out of it.

If you don’t have much, or any, Runic Power built up during a pull, feel free to use your melee abilities rather than simply body pulling. Primarily you want to use Plague Strike (B) for this in order to establish a disease, or Blood Strike (B) to get your Blood Runes converted to Death Runes for use in the next round.

There is one other spell I want to mention here for pulling, but it will actually be more useful after the next step happens to help get stray casters to come to your centralized area. The spell is called Strangulate (B) which is a single target, 30 yard ranged Silence spell that lasts for 5 seconds. When you use that on a caster they will rush towards melee range as long as they are silenced, and 5 seconds should be more than enough for you to get them within range of your AoE spells.

And of course you do still have the old fashioned, tried and true body pull which can be done either mounted or on foot, which simply requires that you get within agro range of the mobs. Some locations allow for or maybe even require that you use Line of Sight (LoS) techniques to agro the mobs and then move to a location that they cannot attack you from so that they must run around it to engage you; running to the other side of a wall is a perfect example of this as they will run around the wall as well and then stand there clustered together to help with your AoE.

In my other AoE Grinding guides I mentioned a step here that I called “Corral”, which is basically just gathering all the mobs up into a central area so that you can AoE them down from there. You want to do that with a Frost DK as well, but it’s not quite so big a deal as it is with a Mage; instead it’s more like grinding with a Paladin where as long as they are within your AoE range you really don’t care how close they are to one another.

To be technical on the subject, you do want the mobs to be within 10 yard of each other so that you are able to hit them all, but with the exception of casters they should all be ganged up around you to begin with. Again, using the various spells mentioned in the Pulling section above and things like LoS are key to getting the mobs centralized and ready to burn them down.

Where a mage wants to put some distance between himself and the mobs, a Death Knight just wants everyone to look straight into his scourgefire eye sockets and see their own deaths rushing forth to meet them. As a DK you need to embrace your tanking habits and be sure to get as many mobs as you possibly can to be in front of you so that you can make use of all of your avoidance on them. You do this by repositioning yourself which usually consists of just backing up while facing them so that they get in front of you.

Some mobs just move in odd patterns and constantly seem to move behind you no matter what you do. In those cases you can either plant your back against a wall, or just ignore that one mob until you’ve taken out the others. Another option that is open to you is to use your Hungering Cold (F) ability to freeze everything in place, reposition yourself where you want to be (with all the mobs in front of you), and then either wait for the spell to wear off or hit them with a ranged AoE like Howling Blast to break them all out again.

Strategic use of Hungering Cold can make the difference between a successful AoE grinder and an exceptional AoE grinder. Use it to freeze the mobs in place, use Pestilence to spread your diseases (which does not break the ice), and then use a bandage on yourself if needed to restore your health and also allow your other runes the time they need to cooldown. Once you’re ready (or the 10 second timer is up) spread your diseases again with Pestilence and then go back into your rotation. If you do not have the Glyph of Disease to refresh your diseases for you then you will need to reapply them via Icy Touch > Plague Strike > Pestilence. If you do have the glyph then as long as the diseases are still on your current target it will refresh them and spread them around once again.

Important Note: Because our survival talent from the Blood tree, Blade Barrier, doesn’t come into effect until our Blood Runes are on cooldown, I suggest you go ahead and use up any remaining Blood Runes during this step. If you haven’t spread your diseases yet or you did spread them but they’re wearing off, then use Pestilence, otherwise go for Blood Boil if there are two or mobs near you or Blood Strike if there is only one.

Death to the Living!
Once you’ve gathered up the mobs and got them in place it’s time to burn those suckers down. Each DK has their own personal play style, so if you have another way you prefer to do this then by all means go with your own if you prefer, and of course feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, or criticisms you might have.

1st Rune Set: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Blood Boil (B), Howling Blast (FU), RP Dump
2nd Rune Set: Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast (Free)], Howling Blast (DD), Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast (Free)], RP Dump

Technically our first rune set will actually be a sporadic mishmash of whatever you happened to use to pull all of the mobs to you, but we’re talking about the rotation here.

The first rune set establishes your diseases, spreads them around, and then hits with two AoE spells. Your Runic Power Dump for the first set is probably going to be Frost Strike (40). If you have enough points in Unholy then it can be used for Corpse Explosion (40) instead if you want more AoE.

Frost Strike hits hard and it’s great for chopping down your groups faster which will lead to better survivability overall, but CE will help bring down the group as a whole so use whichever serves best in your situation. If you’re taking quite a bit of damage then it’s better to increase your single target DPS with FS to kill some of them off, unless the mobs are already low enough on health that CE might finish one or more of them off for you. If you’re doing fine on your health then stick to AoE spells as much as you can so that you get the most damage on the most targets for the resources you spend.

In the second rune set we focus more on AoE damage to bring down the mobs as one. With the initial Obliterate we are hoping for a Rime proc to use Howling Blast, but if we don’t get one then we’re moving right along to a regular Howling Blast and getting those Blood Runes (Death Runes in this case) back on cooldown to proc our Parry buff again. Whenever Rime procs go ahead and use your Howling Blast; if that screws up your rotation because HB is on cooldown then simply replace the HB with Obliterate instead and try for another Rime proc.

Remember though that we aren’t trying to tank an instance with this, so we aren’t so much worried about maintaining threat as we are simply killing everything around us. If Howling Blast is available and you still have multiple mobs on you it’s perfectly acceptable to use HB instead of Obliterate for the AoE damage. Rime is more likely to proc when using two weapons instead of one, so it’s especially acceptable for a 2H build to use HB over Obliterate since the chance to proc Rime is lower.

Settle down now, you’re a DK…you’re already dead. Before we get on into the next section, let us take a break and talk about what to do when things go wrong and suddenly you’re in trouble.

The first choice you have is something I already mentioned up above, which is using Hungering Cold to freeze everything within 10 yards of you for 10 seconds. This gives you time to either use a bandage or put your running shoes on and get the heck out of there (only a coward runs from combat, but only a “moron” throws his gold away on unnecessary repair bills).

Another option that we have open to us is Death Pact (40 RP, requires level 66) which requires you to sacrifice your ghoul in exchange for 40% of your health to instantly be healed. It’s a big heal and it comes in very handy. For this reason I save my ghoul for when I need heals rather than using him for extra dps, pulling, or whatever. The one thing you need to watch out for is the runic cost of Death Pact. If you are taking a beating, be sure to build up your RP but try not to use it unless you have more than 30-40% so that you can DP when needed.

You also have the use of Icebound Fortitude (20) after level 62 which will give you 12 seconds of damage reduction to lessen those blows.

You can also make an adjustment to your attack rotations, replacing Obliterates and/or Howling Blasts with Death Strike (FU) instead, to heal yourself for 5% of your maximum health for each disease you have on the target.

If things are really getting hot, you’ve already used everything available to you that we’ve talked about here, then the only other option you have left to you (besides potions and such which you should already be well aware of) is to make an emergency switch over to Blood Presence (B) which increases your damage by 15% and heals you for 4% of the damage you deal. By default you should be grinding in Frost Presence (F) which increases your Stamina by 6%, your armor from gear by 60% and reduces damage you take by 8%. Losing Frost Presence can be a very dangerous thing when you’re already getting beat on hard enough to be worried, but if you can dish out enough damage in a short enough amount of time then Blood Presence can potentially save your life by switching to it, landing a big attack for the heal (Death Strike is optimal for this), and then switching back to Frost Presence for your damage reduction.

All Your Sparklies Are Belong To Me
And now that they’re all dead it’s just a matter of collecting loot and moving right along to the next group. A lot of your damage is going to be dealt over time rather than in bursts. So when you do get procs like Rime and Killing Machine, it’s a good idea to move right into your next pull to take advantage of those if you aren’t in need of healing. Timing your Rime/KM procs so that they’re used together is an excellent way to bring down a lot of mobs in a short amount of time.

What Spells Do I Use Again?

Howling Blast Blood Boil
Corpse Explosion Death and Decay

Posted by on March 3, 2010 in Death Knight, Guide, Leveling


Tags: , , , , ,

Death Knight Tanking: Frost (61-70)

Death Knight Tanking: Frost – Last week’s post getting you up to level 60.

As I write this article, my Frost DK is currently sitting at level 71. The image below will update itself as the Armory information is updated though, so you may see him at a higher level in this picture when you read this.

Last week’s post discussed getting up to level 60, your base spec as a Frost Tank, and the general tactics and rotations used for tanking. This time around we’re going up to level 70 and will get a bit more focused on the actual tanking practice, and discuss branching out into the other trees to finish off our primary tanking requirements.

I mentioned last time that I’ve been using a two-hander while I tank, and people on Twitter requested information about Dual Wielding instead, so that too will be included.

General Tanking Information: Weapons
When I mentioned on Twitter that I was posting about tanking with a Frost DK I had a lot of people ask about dual wielding. At the time I had only tried two-handed tanking and was doing well with it. As I know it’s a question that needs answering though, I went ahead and took a shot at it to see what kind of results I got.

Dual Wield Tanking


I did a lot of searching for decent weapons that I could dual wield that would prove more beneficial than the sword that you leave the DK starting area with (and for the record, I do urge you to take the Sword rather than the Axe if you plan on tanking). The best I could find were ones that were rather easy to obtain, Adamantite Rapier (+15 Stamina, +16 Dodge Rating). They are crafted weapons from a Blacksmith, and my Death Knight is a blacksmith himself so he crafted his own. They require 12 Adamantite Bars (which is 24 Adamantite Ore) if you want to get some crafted for yourself.

The Rapiers require level 66 to use, so you have a few levels to gain before you can switch to them, but your DK sword or a solid two-hand drop from an instance should work just fine until then. The Rapiers aren’t all that great from a damage perspective, but they provide a nice boost to avoidance/mitigation that will help with your survival.

After crafting the rapiers I opened a Death Gate to Ebon Hold so that I could make use of my Runeforging skill to apply the Rune of Swordbreaking to them:

Rune of Swordbreaking Affixes your one-handed rune weapon with a rune that increases Parry chance by 2% and reduces the duration of Disarm effects by 50%. The Parry chance stacks on the two weapons giving +4% overall, but the disarm reduction does not stack with itself.

Two Handed Tanking


I replaced the DK starting sword with the Shaarde the Greater which drops off of Tavarok in the Auchindoun: Mana Tombs instance. I did just fine using Shaarde, but I didn’t especially notice any great increase in my tanking ability while using it over the DK sword. If it happens to drop for you then grats on a new sword, and if it doesn’t then don’t sweat it.

At level 68 I left Outlands and hit up Borean Tundra in Northrend where I replaced Shaarde with the Axe of Frozen Death (+37 Strength, +54 Stamina, +28 Hit, +43 Crit), which is pictured above (at an odd angle). I now use this axe for when I’m tanking small groups or bosses that are not heavily melee focused, and for when I am questing. I am also trying out the Rune of the Fallen Crusader rather than Swordshattering (4% Parry, -50% disarm duration).

Rune of the Fallen Crusader Affixes your rune weapon with a rune that has a chance to heal you for 3% and increase total Strength by 15% for 15 sec.

Axe of Frozen Death is a reward for a three person group quest in Borean Tundra. The quest chain leading up to it isn’t very long, so you can get it pretty soon after arriving in Northrend, but the quest was beyond my capability to solo as Frost. I managed to get the guy down to 20% health twice, but after he killed me for the sixth time I enlisted the help of another DK in the area and we took him down after two tries.

(My thanks to @Tarinae, @Shawndra, @schwarzwald, @OreoNation, @TheAllianceGuy, @MvPruett, @mageic, @adlib421, @VariantAvatar, @krizhek, and @Nochecazador on Twitter for helping me get the link to Shaarde the Greater since I put this part in blog while I was at work where I cannot access

Dual Wielding vs. Two Handed
As far as holding threat goes, I didn’t notice a significant difference between the two styles. DW was a bit better on groups of trash while 2H was a bit better on bosses. I did have a little trouble tanking one boss as DW, but at that time I was still getting used to managing my procs and kept forgetting to add Obliterate to my rotation. In that fight I switched over to Shaarde after losing threat a second time and had no problems the rest of that encounter. I think this was probably a situation of Tank failure more so than a difference in the actual weapons though.

The more comfortable I get with tanking as a DK and the more I get used to my abilities, the more I begin to lean towards DW instead of 2H. With limited weapon choices in Outlands I believe that you’re best bet is to do what I did and stick to dual wielding during trash pulls and using a heavy 2H for bosses. Progressing into Northrend though, finding a pair for slow weapons to DW will give you the highest damage and most threat.

While the damage from Howling Blast is not impacted by your weapon choices, your damage and threat are tied into your weapons. The Threat of Thassarian talent causes Obliterate (and other attacks) to attack with both weapons when you use it, and the Rime talent gives your Obliterate a 15% chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and make it rune free for your next cast. The somewhat hidden benefit when those two are mixed together is that both of your weapons used during Obliterate have individual chances to proc Rime, so you get two rolls for that 15% chance each time you use Obliterate when dual wielding.

Since my choice of good one-handed weapons right now is fairly limited I will continue switching between the two styles, but as I find better options I’m almost positive at this point that I will end up dual wielding at level 80, and quite possibly sooner than that if I can find some weapons that don’t suck.

In the end Frost Tanks can do just fine whether they’re using 2H, DW-Fast, or DW-Slow. If you like to use dual diseases then you’ll be stronger if you decide on dual wielding slow weapons, while using the single disease method will work better with 2H or DW-fast.

If you are going to do a single disease style, then you’ll probably be a little bit better off either doing 2H or DW with fast weapons. If you want two diseases then you’ll want either DW with slow weapons, or 2H. DW with fast or slow weapons work in either case, but fast shines more in single disease where slow shines more in two diseases.

Frost Tanking Spec

Frost Death Knight Tanking Spec, Level 70

I’m going to point out one change I made to the spec from last week’s post, and that is replacing Acclimation 1/3 with Lichborne 1/1. That may get changed as I get into Northrend dungeons, but for Outlands, especially in the upper 60’s you need all the fear removal you can get. Even with the Human racial and the PvP trinket you get from the DK starting area, you still don’t have enough fear removal to take care of every encounter.

Rather than paying for a respec I just added a point into Lichborne and was at only 4/5 Anticipation when I actually hit level 70. But if you haven’t started your DK yet then I would suggest you go with this build instead of what I had before. If you have already followed the previous article’s advice, then don’t worry about it too much as it worked out just fine for me.

For the best survival at end game you will end up having points in Acclimation anyway, so it’s not bad to leave it the way it is if you have already spent your points as I suggested in the previous post. Acclimation is not going to help in every encounter or even every dungeon/raid, but there are certain encounters (Twink Valks anyone?) where the resistance offered can be significant. Of course, at end game you probably will not be using Lichborne since it’s more geared towards PvP, so the choice is yours whether you want more survivability leveling up with a respect at end game, or if you just want to deal with trouble now to save that shiny gold coin later down the road.

Lichborne 1/1: Draw upon unholy energy to become undead for 10 sec. While undead, you are immune to Charm, Fear and Sleep effects.

Blade Barrier 5/5: Whenever your Blood Runes are on cooldown, you gain the Blade Barrier effect, which decreases damage taken by 5% for the next 10 sec.

Anticipation 5/5: Increases your Dodge chance by 5%.

Pay special attention to that conditional statement at the beginning of Blade Barrier’s effect. Both of your Blood Runes need to be on cooldown before its effect happens, so be sure to use those runes when they’re available so that you don’t short yourself on one of your primary defenses.

Glyph of Obliterate: [Major] Increased the damage of your Obliterate ability by 20%.
Glyph of Unbreakable Armor: [Major] Increases the total armor granted by Unbreakable Armor to 30%.
Glyph of Howling Blast: [Major] Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.
Glyph of Frost Strike: [Major] Reduces the cost of your Frost Strike by 8 Runic Power.
Glyph of Disease: [Major] Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.

Glyph of Pestilence: [Minor] Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: [Minor] Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Blood Tap: [Minor] Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you.

I switched my glyphs up a bit from last time so that I’m now using Howling Blast and Disease. I still like the use of Disease for leveling/questing purposes since I do so in an AoE grinding style, but Disease is not so much a need as it is a convenience. For pure tanking purposes, Disease is actually a fairly poor choice.

Since I prefer the Two Disease approach to tanking, Obliterate becomes more and more useful to me. Howling Blast is a big contribution to both damage and threat, and it shines really more in a single disease build than a dual disease, though it is still useful for either one.

My current plan is to replace Disease with Obliterate, and hang on to Howling Blast for the time being. I am trying to decide whether I will be better of with Frost Strike or Unbreakable Armor for level 80, and there’s a fair chance I might take both of them and drop Howling Blast when I get there. I’ll certainly keep you informed on that part as I go along.

New Spells: 61-70
We get some new spells/abilities in the level range that are key to our tanking abilities (hello Taunt). We also get some that are just plain useful (Path of Frost).

At level 61 we get one of our big attacks, Obliterate. This spell does good damage and its damage is increased when its target is diseased. Normally using this spell consumes the diseases you have on the target, but thanks to our Annihilation talent that is no longer the case. In addition, our Rime talent gives Obliterate a 15% chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and cause our next Howling Blast to consume no runes.

You also get Path of Frost at 61 which allows you and your group to walk on water. Any damage at all breaks the effect, but you can instantly cast it again as long as you have a Frost Rune available. A special note on this one, it essentially makes water into solid ground, so unless you want people to hate you it’s not a good idea to cast this when you know your group is jumping down into a body of water expecting to live and then they end up dead instead.

At level 62 we get one of our signature tanking skills, Icebound Fortitude which makes you immune to stuns and reduces damage taken for 12 seconds.

At 64 we receive Blood Tap which damages us for 6% of our health (so the more you have the more it hurts) in exchange for converting a Blood Rune into a Death Rune (which can be used as any type) and ending its cooldown. It’s great for when your runes are on cooldown and you need some emergency threat or damage. Most often I find myself using this ability either for a Blood Boil or Death Strike, though I have used it for a necessary Pestilence, Hungering Cold, Obliterate, and Howling Blast as well. Be sure to use it when at least one of your Blood Runes is used, preferably both, and then use it as needed.

When we reach 65 we finally get our actual taunt, Dark Command. It’s a single target taunt with an 8 second cooldown, but since our only other taunt has a ridiculous cooldown on it, we’ll take this one gladly.

Also at 65 we get our first real party buff in Horn of Winter. It increases Strength and Agility for your group for two minutes. It has no cost, so you might as well keep it active at all times as long as you’re somewhere that fighting can take place.

At 66 we get our first “oh crap” button in the form of Death Pact. This spell allows you to sacrifice your Ghoul which instantly heals you for 40% of your health. At this point I usually don’t bother bringing out the ghoul unless I intend to sac him in the first place and instead just have him reserved for boss fights or emergency heals. If you use it like I do then be sure to remember that the GCD is in effect after summoning the ghoul, so you have 1.5 seconds between the summon and the heal, so don’t wait until the last second to use it.

At 67 we get a nice threat booster from Rune Strike. It’s a bit of an odd attack as it can only be used after you dodge or parry an attack, but on your next attack after using it you hit the target with a high threat attack instead of a normal auto-attack. The best way I’ve found to use this one is to just macro it to my attack keys and spam them in between attacks to use them whenever they’re available. Of course if you use this method of macro then you want to either be spamming the next attack you plan on making or one that you know the required runes are on cooldown.

Moving on up to level 68 we find Anti-Magic Shell. It costs 20 RP to cast it, but you’ll receive 75% damage reduction from spells in return, and the damage absorbed will grant you RP as well. It has a short duration and a long cooldown, so make sure you use it wisely.

We finally finish up our Presences at level 70 with Unholy Presence. Your movement speed gets increased by 15%, as does your melee haste. I primarily use this one for the increased movement while I’m questing and such, but the melee haste is a big deal too and it’s definitely noticeable at this level. If you fight in Unholy Presence you’ll find your runes going on cooldown a lot faster than usual, which means you’ll wait longer in between special attacks each time you burn through your runes and have to wait for them to cool down.

Learning the Rune and Runic Power System
This section probably should have been brought up in the first post, but I didn’t think about it when I was writing it, so you’ll have to settle for this post instead.

Knowing how your Runes and Runic Power work is going to be the overall deciding factor on whether you can fill your role or have your name listed amongst the thousands of Death Knoobs that plague the servers today. Do you want to have a clue as to what you doing, how you’re doing it, and why? If so, then continue on. If not, then turn around and bend over, and I’ll show you what right where you can stick your rune blade.

All DKs have six runes, two of each type (Blood, Frost, Unholy), and they provide us with our primary resource for using our abilities. There is a fourth Rune type called the Death Rune which can be used as any type of rune you want it to be. The Frost and Unholy trees both have talents that allow you to convert your Blood Runes into Death Runes, and the Blood tree has a talent that converts your Frost and Unholy Runes into Death Runes.

For describing the use of runes I’m going to use just the first letter of the tree to describe them, so we all have: BB FF UU

As a Frost Tank we’re going to use our Blood Runes (B) individually, and for the most part our Frost and Unholy Runes will be used in pairs (FU). The paired FU runes may be in a single ability such as Obliterate and Howling Blast, or individually by use of Icy Touch (F) and Plague Strike (U). Our Death Runes will be used for whatever spell happens to be the most important at the time, which we’ll get into details on a bit later.

Frost generates Death Runes from the Blood of the North talent, which makes your Blood Strike and Pestilence spells cause your next Blood Rune to proc as a Death Rune instead.

To borrow a term from the Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking (best DK Tank resource I found), a “Rune Blackout” occurs when all six of your runes have been used and are on cooldown. During these blackouts is when you want to use your Runic Power so that you can fill in the gap before your runes come back up and you can get back to business.

When you have a large pool of RP you want to spend it on Frost Strike to pump out additional damage and threat on a single target, but you want to reserve 20 RP at all times so that you can use Rune Strike, which is a big buff to your threat.

Tanking Trash

You might notice that I’ve made an adjustment to the rotation here, switching Blood Boil and Howling Blast. The reason for that is because now that we have the Blade Barrier talent from the Blood tree, we need to get rid of those Blood Runes early on to activate the talent.

I also removed the AoE rotation as I’ve decided I’ll have another post dedicated to DK AoE that will cover that. With this post we’re sticking strictly to tanking and since you never know what crazy things might happen in a dungeon you’ll need to get used to thinking on your feet in those situation anyway rather than trying to rely on remembering some random rotation you read on my blog.

I have also broken the rotation down into two “sets”. Each set is a cooldown of your runes, so each set rotates through the use of all of your runes.

First Rune Set: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Pestilence (B), Blood Strike (B), Howling Blast (FU), Frost Strike (60+ RP only)

Second Rune Set: Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (Death Runes), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], (decision time)

The First Rune Set establishes your diseases, spreads them around, and then hits with an AoE to solidify threat on the group. It also uses both Pestilence and Blood Strike to convert our Blood Runes into Death Runes to allow for more Obliterates and Howling Blasts in the second set. Frost Strike will use up extra RP if you have 60 or more, otherwise it should be ignored in favor of using Rune Strike.

You have the option of using Obliterate instead of Howling Blast at the end of the first set in hope of a Rime proc, but with AoE being the staple that most of your DPS are likely to use you probably want to get some more AoE threat than just your diseases. If you’re in a guild run where you know people will work with you then go for Obliterate, but if you’re in a PUG then just play it safe and Howling Blast for now.

The Second Rune Set is where we dish out our serious damage and also where our Rotation becomes our “Rotation”. Obliterate will hit our primary target and has a chance (two chances if dual wielding) of a Rime proc if it hits. Those Rime procs are what we’re hoping for each time we use Obliterate. If you get a Rime proc, then fire off a Howling Blast. If you don’t, then use another Obliterate, and so on. If Obliterate hits, then both weapons hit and you get two rolls for a Rime proc. If Obliterate misses, then both weapons miss so no Rime procs for you.

We also have “(decision time)” in that second set, where you need to make the call on what to do next. You can either use your remaining FU runes for another Obliterate, or you can use Icy Touch/Plague Strike and then use your Blood Tap ability to refresh a Blood Rune as a Death Rune and use it for Pestilence. If you go for Obliterate then you risk having both of your diseases fall off. If you go for the IT/PS then you’re only using two Obliterates, and if neither of those gave you a Rime proc then you’re low on AoE damage/threat and are going to have to make up for that in the third set by using Blood Boil as either one or both of your Blood Runes which means they will not become Death Runes in your fourth set, which means you’re rotation just went out the window.

You also have the option of using a straight Howling Blast in place of one or the other of those Obliterates, relying on straight ability uses rather than procs. A proc is always a gamble, but if you’re dual wielding then you have a higher chance of getting those procs. If you take the chance on the Obliterates, then chances are you’re going to get at least one Rime proc out of the deal and you should easily maintain threat. If you don’t take the chance on the Obliterates, then you’ll probably still hold your threat, but you won’t be tapping your potential at all.

Tanking Bosses
Now that we have our hard hitting abilities, it’s time to change up the boss rotation as well.

Boss Set One: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Blood Strike (B), Blood Strike (B), Obliterate (FU), Frost Strike (60+ RP only)

Boss Set Two: Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Frost Strike, Frost Strike

I like to establish a nice burst of crit when I open on a boss, and the best way to do that is to us your Deathchill buff which gives you a guaranteed crit with your next Icy Touch or Howling Blast. Deathchill requires a Frost Rune to cast it, but the buff lasts for 30 seconds. So use it and then wait for your Frost Rune to cooldown before moving in to attack. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but I wouldn’t want to blow a Frost Rune in the middle of combat, so I use it here instead.

If you are using the Glyph of Howling Blast, and the boss has adds, then open up with it and replace the first Blood Strike with Pestilence. Otherwise open with Icy Touch instead and follow the rotation above.

Blood Strike hits pretty hard, gaining an extra 25% damage from both diseases being applied, but the big reason why we’re using it is to convert those Blood Runes into Death Runes for round two where we can lay down some serious Obliteratious Hate. (Yes, I just made up the word “Obliteratious”.)

If you have over 60 RP, then go ahead and hit the boss with a Frost Strike as well. If you don’t, then ignore it for now and save your RP for Rune Strikes to generate extra threat on the boss each time you Dodge or Parry his attacks.

When your diseases are getting ready to fall off, go ahead and reapply them, make use of Blood Strike whenever your Blood Runes are available to convert them into Death Runes for the next set, keep your RP down around 20-40 by making use of Frost Strike, take advantage of Rune Strike every chance you get, and don’t forget your other buffs (Unbreakable Armor, Icebound Fortitude) as well.

After level 65 we finally get our Taunt, Dark Command, which should be able to handle any threat situations that arise, and Death Grip is a good backup if by some poor roll of the dice it actually misses.

I already mentioned it in the New Spells section above, but I’ll list it here just to bring it back to mind. At level 66 you get access to the most potent heal in the DK arsenal – Death Pact. It requires you to sacrifice your ghoul to cast it, but it restores 40% of your total hit points when you use it. It’s one of the best heals in the game overall, surpassed only by the Paladin’s Lay on Hands spell.

Addons and Macros
You may want to get an addon to keep track of your procs, especially Rime (or Freezing Fog, as the proc’s buff is called).

The addon that I use for my scrolling combat text, Parrot, is able to set sound notifications to specific triggers, one of which is Freezing Fog (Rime). If that’s something you’re interested in then you may want to give it a shot.

For those that need a visible queue you’ll want to use something more like Power Auras Classic, which I have installed and uninstalled a few times now. I love the concept, but don’t care so much for the follow through on the addon, but I’m finding that the audio isn’t quite good enough for me since I like to have other sounds on at the same time as well as audio warnings from Deadly Boss Mods, so I’ve installed PAC once again and will see how I like it with the DK.

There are also a number of addons that you can use to monitor your Rune cooldowns as well as your Runic Power. I can think of five of them right off the top of my head, but which one you use is a matter of preference so you’ll have to decide which one for yourself. There are similar addons that monitor the DoT timers of your diseases if you’d care to use one of those. I’m not so big on that myself, so I don’t use one, but they are available if you wish to make use of them.

The only Macro that I’d like to bring to your attention right now is the one that you’ll use for your Rune Strike ability, which you can tie into as many macros as you want.

/cast Blood Strike
/cast Rune Strike

It’s that simple. Just replace Blood Strike with whatever other spell(s) you have on your action bar and you can spam all you want in between attacks.

Some of the addons I’ve already mentioned are also capable of notifying you of when you have dodged or parried an attack, and they can help save your fingers some effort if you would rather use Rune Strike with an addon than simply spamming buttons.

Alternate (Recommended) Spec for Level 60
I have updated last week’s post to include this as well, but just in case you aren’t in the habit of checking my old posts, here it is anyway. This is a revised spec for level 60. After spending five days doing almost nothing but running random dungeons and leveling my professions I needed to make a change.

The change isn’t huge but it is significant, especially for the mid-to-upper sixties. I removed the single point in Acclimation and replaced it with Lichborne, which makes you immune to Charm, Fear, and Sleep effects for 10 seconds. When you run randoms in your 60s you are going to run into a LOT of Fear effects. Enough so that my human racial and my PvP trinket were not enough to take off all of the fear at times.

The magic-based damage reduction from Acclimation isn’t bad, it just didn’t provide enough benefit (especially with only one of the three possible points spent in it) for me to take it over Lichborne given how often I had to deal with fear and how seldom I had to deal with spell casters.

That being said, when you get to level 80 you’ll find Lichborne to be almost worthless as its main purpose for end game is PvP rather than heroics or raiding. If you don’t mind dealing with the fear while you’re leveling then you can save yourself a respec and just go with Acclimation.

Frost Death Knight Tanking Spec, Level 60-Alternate


Posted by on February 16, 2010 in Death Knight, Guide, Leveling, World of Warcraft


Tags: , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,150 other followers

%d bloggers like this: