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Category Archives: Death Knight

Death Knight Tanking: Frost (61-70)

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

Introduction
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

Psynister_Rapiers



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

Psynister_Axe



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 Wowhead.com)

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.

Glyphs
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.

Runes
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.

#showtooltip
/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

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

 

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Death Knight Tanking: Frost

[NOTE: This post is meant to cover you only up to level 60.]
[NOTE 2: I have updated the spec details and link for level 60 to help you in tanking Outlands instances. Removed Acclimation 1/3 with Lichborne 1/1. Details below.]

Psynister_DK_65



Introduction
As I write this article, my Frost DK is currently sitting at level 65. The image below will update itself as the Armory information is updated though, so you may see him at a higher level in that picture when you read this. The picture updates, but the Psynister I leveled for this series of posts made it to level 80 and then got deleted and replaced with a new one, which isn’t being leveled as Frost.



About a week or so ago I posted about A Death Knight Tank, one named Khanus in particular, and how how that DK inspired me to want to finally make a DK of my own and actually focus on leveling him as a tank to see for myself just how hard it would be to successfully fill that role with a DK.

I planned on leveling a DK sometime within the next couple of months or so, but circumstances changed a bit here and there and I decided to roll him early rather than waiting. I’m pretty well known for my patience outside of the game, but for some reason when I’m in a virtual world that aspect of my personality disappears and when I want something I want it now. I didn’t have a character named Psynister on this server just yet, so that’s how this fellow came to be.

I didn’t want to be just another Death Knoob out there, so when I got started with this guy I did my research first and smashed faces later. I did a lot of reading on different blogs and forums to get everyone’s general views of how to tank with a DK and I found a lot of really good information out there. I found a lot of bad/old information as well, but we don’t need to waste our time with that.

General Tanking Information
The first thing that I want to throw at you here, besides the unnecessarily long introduction up above, is that all three of a DK’s talent trees are capable of tanking. You can find that little tidbit of information just about anywhere you look for tanking info.

That being said, only Frost and Blood are really considered to be high end tanking specs at this time. Recent nerfs to Unholy have reduced their effectiveness. That doesn’t mean they can’t still do it, especially if an experienced player is behind the keyboard, but if you’re new to DK tanking then stick with Frost or Blood.



Tanking with a DK is different than tanking with other classes. You don’t really have a set rotation you’re going to go through (sorry, no 96969 business over here), and while you do have two taunts, one of them has a long cooldown and both of them are only single target. So you can’t slip into a single style of play and assume that it’s going to work for you all the time. You need to be flexible, and you need to be able to react to the situation as it changes.

Death Knights have a very unique system of resources as well, having to manage both a Runic Power pool and a Runic system as well. Managing those can be tricky at first, and using abilities without being aware of their Rune costs can completely kill your ability to act as a tank. Focusing too much on your Runes though makes you waste your Runic Power, which means you’re throwing away additional DPS which in turn is throwing away threat. It sounds pretty complicated, and when you’re new to it it certainly seems that way, but the longer you play with it the more natural it will become.

Frost Tanking Basics
I was misinformed from previous playing experience and discussions prior to the two or three most recent patches, that Unholy was the main spec for AoE tanking. However, the real king of AoE threat generation comes from the Frost tree.

Frost tanks have two primary styles of play: single disease, and dual disease. You also have the option of using either a two-handed weapon for big hits, or dual wielding weapons for additional stats and smaller, but faster attacks. My personal style of playing works better with dual diseases right now, and up to this point I have only tried two-handed tanking and so cannot comment on the dual wielding yet. [Dual Wielding is covered in the follow up post, however.]

Frost Tanking Spec
Alright, it’s time to get a little more specific about how to tank with the Frost DK, and the first order up on that list is what sort of spec you should be running. As I mentioned, I did a lot of research before I actually rolled this character, and the spec I am using is what I felt was the best route for me to take after that research.

DK_FrostTank_60b




Alternate (Recommended) Spec for Level 60
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.

Improved Icy Touch 3/3: Your Icy Touch does an additional 15% damage and your Frost Fever reduces melee and ranged attack speed by an additional 6%.

Toughness 5/5: Increases your armor value from items by 10% and reduces the duration of all movement slowing effects by 30%.

Black Ice 5/5: Increases your Frost and Shadow damage by 10%.

Annihilation 3/3: Increases the critical strike chance of your melee special abilities by 3%. In addition, there is a 100% chance that your Obliterate will do its damage without consuming diseases.

Killing Machine 5/5: Your melee attacks have a chance to make your next Icy Touch, Howling Blast or Frost Strike a critical strike. Effect occurs more often than Killing Machine (Rank 4).

Chill of the Grave 2/2: Your Chains of Ice, Howling Blast, Icy Touch and Obliterate generate 5 additional runic power.

Frigid Dreadplate 3/3: Reduces the chance melee attacks will hit you by 3%.

Glacier Rot 3/3: Diseased enemies take 20% more damage from your Icy Touch, Howling Blast and Frost Strike.

Deathchill 1/1: When activated, makes your next Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike or Obliterate a critical hit if used within 30 sec.

Rime 3/3: Increases the critical strike chance of your Icy Touch and Obliterate by 15% and casting Obliterate has a 15% chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and cause your next Howling Blast to consume no runes.

Hungering Cold 1/1: Purges the earth around the Death Knight of all heat. Enemies within 10 yards are trapped in ice, preventing them from performing any action for 10 sec and infecting them with Frost Fever. Enemies are considered Frozen, but any damage other than diseases will break the ice.

Improved Frost Presence 2/2: While in Blood Presence or Unholy Presence, you retain 6% stamina from Frost Presence, and damage done to you is decreased by an additional 2% in Frost Presence.

Blood of the North 3/3: Increases Blood Strike and Frost Strike damage by 10%. In addition, whenever you hit with Blood Strike or Pestilence there is a 100% chance that the Blood Rune will become a Death Rune when it activates. Death Runes count as a Blood, Frost or Unholy Rune.

Acclimation 1/3: When you are hit by a spell, you have a 10% chance to boost your resistance to that type of magic for 18 sec. Stacks up to 3 times. [Revision: Replaced by Lichborne]

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

Frost Strike 1/1: Instantly strike the enemy, causing 55% weapon damage plus 137.5 as Frost damage.

Guile of Gorefiend 3/3: Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Blood Strike, Frost Strike, Howling Blast and Obliterate abilities by 45%, and increases the duration of your Icebound Fortitude by 6 secs.

Tundra Stalker 5/5: Your spells and abilities deal 15% more damage to targets infected with Frost Fever. Also increases your expertise by 5.

Howling Blast 1/1: Blast the target with a frigid wind dealing 518 to 562 Frost damage to all enemies within 10 yards.

Glyphs
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.

I am currently using Disease over Howling Blast because I really enjoy AoE grinding while I quest, but as far as tanking goes Howling Blast is probably going to be better for you overall if you plan on sticking primarily to dungeons or questing with groups rather than solo questing and grinding. I am also using the Death Strike glyph in place of Frost Strike to test it, but I’m going to replace it tonight because I completely misread what it did and get very little benefit from it where reducing the runic cost of Frost Strike will grant me more threat generation during boss fights.

As for the minor glyphs, you want those two glyphs and you want them before any others. Pestilence is higher priority than Raise Dead, so if you are only able to get one of them for some reason, go for Pestilence.

Tanking Trash (Up to level 60)
Trash tanking is where all of your AoE spells really shine. The other members of your group dictate where your AoE spells get cast in your “rotation”, whether you need to front load the AoE threat or if you’ll have to time to start and spread your diseases first.

The research I did frequently pointed out that being able to react to your situation is the key to being a good DK tank, and I have found that to be entirely true. As such, I have developed my own rotation here for what works well for me, based solely on how I like to play. There may very well be a better rotation to use out there, but this is what works for me.

Disease Rotation: Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Howling Blast, Blood Boil
Heavy AoE Rotation: (Icy Touch), Blood Boil, Blood Boil, Howling Blast, Pestilence

I prefer using the disease rotation because it gives me the most control over threat during the fight and it gives me the chance to use my AoE spells on other groups of mobs that might get pulled in unintentionally for whatever reason. A lot of people like to power level through vanilla content and then start grouping in Outlands having no idea how to participate in a group.

I would like to say that most of my pulls go off smoothly without having to worry about patrolling mobs or accidental agro, but that’s not the case. I’ve found in my experiences in Outlands so far that it’s better for me to stick with the Disease Rotation up above so that I can hit the AoE spells for instant threat on bad pulls rather than blowing them all at the front of the fight with my intentional pull and then having to run around generating crazy threat on multiple mobs that are chasing my healer.

In the Heavy AoE Rotation I put Icy Touch in parenthesis because if you have the Glyph of Howling Blast then that spell will apply the disease for you which is the main reason I suggest casting it. If you don’t have the glyph then cast Icy Touch first to both establish a disease that can be spread immediately after the AoE as well as to build a solid level of threat on at least one of the mobs in case things don’t work as planned.

Howling Blast is going to deal AoE damage in a radius centered on the target you cast it on while Blood Boil is going to deal AoE damage centered on you. So when you cast Blood Boil, make sure you’re near the mobs that you need to generate the threat on or else you’re wasting the cast.

I most often use the AoE rotation when additional mobs get pulled that I was not intending to have to deal with, which is primarily a patrol in a dungeon I’m not especially familiar with and as such did not see. When a group of mobs comes in that I wasn’t expecting I move in the direction that the mobs are moving, and use my AoE spells on them.

I start off with the double-Blood Boil because when these pulls happen the mobs are almost always already mixed into the group and heading for the healer or whoever may have pulled them, and that usually means that the mobs are right next to me. If the mobs get pulled and are not already next to you then you can either use Howling Blast instead, you can run towards them and use Blood Boil, or you can wait for them to get closer to you and Blood Boil from where you are (if they have to get through you to get to whoever their target is). By default I will run towards the mobs to hit them with the AoE threat because that puts me right in the middle of them and better able to react to the situation in case my Blood Boil misses, it gets me closer to other mobs that might have been outside the range when I used the AoE, and if my AoE burst isn’t enough to put me at the top of the threat list then I’m close enough to throw another one at them immediately.

Tanking Bosses
Tanking bosses is a whole different ballgame all together. Since our strongest method of generating threat on trash mobs is AoE we have to completely switch our rotation to build and maintain maximum threat on a single target. This is where your other spells are going to come into play and where you’re going to refresh your diseases by casting the basic spells that apply them (Icy Touch and Plague Strike) rather than refreshing them by using the Glyph of Disease or using Howling Blast to reapply your Frost Fever.

I like to load a lot of DPS onto a boss at the beginning of the fight and then settle into a rotation.

Boss Rotation: Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Blood Strike, Blood Strike, Death Strike, Frost Strike

When you are about to pull a boss, you want to be sure to use your Deathchill buff which gives you a guaranteed crit with your next Icy Touch, and starting with a crit is great for building your initial threat. Deathchill’s crit boost also works for Howling Blast (if the boss has adds so you pull with AoE), Frost Strike (if you have runic power built up to use it right away), and Obliterate (level 61) spells if you decide to pull with those instead. I would personally use either Icy Touch of Howling Blast for the initial pull, and since IT requires only a single Frost Rune it gets my vote for being the spell of choice unless the boss has adds that will also be hit with Howling Blast.

Plague Strike is the second attack and requires you to be within melee range, but deals Shadow damage to the boss and applies your second disease, Blood Plague.

Blood Strike is a great way to boost your threat, and since we have both of our diseases applied it’s a perfect time to use it. Blood Strike deals an extra 12.5% damage for each disease you have on the target, so using it after IT and PS grants an extra 25% to the Blood Strike’s damage.

Because of the cooldown situation of our runes, the next spell on the list is going to be Death Strike which will damage as well as healing you for 5% of your maximum health for each disease on the target; Since we have two diseases applied, that means we’re healing ourselves for 10%. You may need the heal, you may not, but the attack is dealing damage regardless which will build threat and the heal is just an added bonus. If you started the fight off with some runic power already built up then you can skip this attack and move on to Frost Strike instead.

Frost Strike comes up next to make use of our Runic Power (RP). Assuming you hit with the previous spells you should have enough RP built up to use this when starting the fight with no RP at all, even if you are not using the glyph. This is a nice, hard hitting attack to use up your RP. Your only other option for using RP at this level is Death Coil, which is a decent attack that can be used at range, but I prefer sticking with Frost Strike unless something causes me to be distanced from the boss.

At level 60 you don’t have access to Obliterate just yet, so for now you are going to rotate between the spells already mentioned. When your diseases are getting ready to fall off, go ahead and reapply them with Icy Touch and Plague Strike (even if you have the Glyph of Disease), make use of Blood Strike whenever your blood runes are available, keep your RP down around 20-40 by making use of Frost Strike, and when you feel like you need a boost to your health go ahead and take advantage of Death Strike for the 10% heal.

If you are facing a boss that has an attack such as Fear, knock back, stun, or something that otherwise has a chance of putting distance between yourself and the boss, then you may want to make use of the time to get back to melee range of the boss by casting Death Coil. Your two ranged attacks right now are Icy Touch, Death Coil, and Howling Blast so if you get separated from the boss go ahead and make use of one of them while you move back in so that you continue to generate what threat you can while closing back in. I recommend Death Coil first, Icy Touch second, and Howling Blast third for the sake of making the best use of your resources.

If anyone manages to pull threat off of you then your only option for this level range to taunt them with is Death Grip. Since this is the only “taunt” we have right now I never use Death Grip for pulling a boss unless it’s absolutely necessary. If one of the dps pulls the boss off of me by jumping the gun then I will use it at that time, but using it to start the fight off seems like a bit of a waste to me, so I save it until it’s needed. For trash pulls, Death Grip is fine to use whenever needed, especially to get a caster within melee range, but for bosses I like to save it. There’s nothing wrong with casting Death Grip to start off a boss fight, but from my experience it’s unnecessary and better saved for a time when it’s actually needed.

Watch Your Buffs
I want to point out that the spec that I suggest above gives you a couple of buffs that you need to keep an eye out for.

Killing Machine: This talent gives your auto-attacks a chance to make your next Frost attack (Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike) an auto-crit.

Rime: This talent gives you the Freezing Fog buff which makes your next Howling Blast cost no runes to cast.

You don’t want to miss out on free critical hits, and you don’t want to miss out on free AoE damage. Better yet, you don’t want to miss out on free AoE damage that will automatically crit if you happen to have both of them proc at the same time.

Killing Machine is a PPM (Procs Per Minute) buff, meaning that it can only happen so many times each minute. Because of this you are going to have a higher chance of getting this buff by using a slow, two-handed weapon than you will from dual wielding and/or using fast weapons. Killing Machine isn’t taken quite so often by dual wielding Frost tanks, so if you are not using a big two-hander then you may want to consider spending those five talent points in Icy Talons instead to reduce your target’s attack speed while also increasing your own, and you may swap the one point in Acclimation to Improved Icy Talons to provide a melee haste buff to your party as well as a constant haste buff to yourself.

Because of the Death Knight’s unique resource system(s), you need to be able to manage both resources without digging yourself into a hole of inactivity where all of your runes are on cooldown and you have no runic power to use. Using your Runes too fast on low damage or low threat spells is not going to pay off for you in Runic Power. Similarly, though somewhat opposite, not using your Runic Power means that you’re wasting the resources generated by your Rune abilities. Use your Rune powers to deal the damage you need to supply your Runic Power, and then burn through your Runic Power while your Runes are cooling down. Keeping that cycle up is how you manage a constant stream of threat on your targets.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2010 in Death Knight, Guide, Leveling

 

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Real PUGs of Power: Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Win’s Guys

Over the weekend I decided to go ahead and roll that Death Knight Tank I had mentioned last week. I have a post in progress to discuss the details of tanking with a Frost DK that should be coming out sometime this week, but if you want details on him right now then you can check out his armory link: Psynister. I bet you didn’t see that name coming, did you?

Today I want to tell you about an especially great group that I found myself in over the weekend. Generally when I queue for a random I run the dungeon and then regardless of how good/bad we did I go ahead and leave group and go find fresh group all together. That seems to be the norm from how quickly most people drop group after the final boss is down.

There was something different about this group though, so I went ahead and stuck with them. I think three of us asked at about the same time after the first run if everyone was up for another. With some amount of surprise from me everyone said yes. The second dungeon went down and we queued up as a group again. I think all together we did three dungeons, but there may have been a fourth in there as well.

I think as a group we functioned extremely well in the dungeons that we ran, and it was interesting to see that even though both the warrior and myself were queued for both Tank and DPS, the role of Tanking was mine every time we queued. I’ve seen the LFG tool swap people’s positions before so I know it can change, but every time it came up as mine.

Generally I like to keep my Real PUGs of Power posts to a single person, but this group worked so well together that I’m throwing them all in there together. Deciding on the title was a bit of a challenge this time since it’s about four people instead of only one, but it works for me even if it is a bit awkward. With four people deserving some praise, I initially was just going to write a regular post about it, but I think something like this shows a bit more sincerity when I say thank you.

Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Win’s Guys
Bethannie, Druid Heals
Nikedawg, Warrior DPS
Aldy, Mage DPS
Adolat, Priest DPS

Psynister’s Notebook presents: Real PUGs of Power

(Real PUGs of Poweeeer)

Today we salute you Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Win’s Guys.

(Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Wiiiinn’s Guys!)

You’ve shown us how a real group clears an instance.
With DoT’s, HoT’s, AoE’s, and Whirlwinds.

(I think we could one-shot Arthas!)

Taking down bosses and trash mobs with ease,
And acknowledging the strengths of every member.

(Great job with the heals!)

Pathing mobs get pulled, no problem.
Mage’s pet was set to aggressive, who cares?
The tank got mind controlled? Lets bring him down!

(Dang it, I wanted to kill him!)

So crack open an ice cold Frost Tank’s heart, you group full of epic win.
There’s no such thing as an unbeatable instance, when the five of you group together.

(Mr. I Had A Group Full of Wiiiinn’s Guys!)

PuG_of_Power_DK1

In case you’re wondering, yes the warrior did really try to kill me when I got mind controlled just before the boss in that screen shot went down. We were both trying to fill that tank spot each time we queued, and he never got it. I planned to give him the chance regardless in the next run since I have yet to be chosen as DPS, but the group needed to split right after that boss, so I never got the chance. It was all in good fun (at least, I think it was…) and I think we all had a great time and enjoyed the group.

Hopefully luck will be on my side and I’ll find myself queued up with them another time in the future.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2010 in Death Knight, Leveling, Real PUGs of Power

 

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A Death Knight Tank

After fourteen months of waiting, I have finally stumbled onto a Death Knight tank that doesn’t suck. Actually, we have a couple of DK tanks in my new guild that are actually very good as well, but this post isn’t about my guild, it’s about a Death Knight I found in a random heroic PuG. I’m not in much of a creative mood today with work going crazy, so I won’t be putting this successful PuG story into a Real PuG’s of Power format, but I want to share it anyway.

Where Does Psynister Stand On Death Knights?
In my experience, DK’s have always been strong on the DPS front, and I never minded having them fill that role. Doing stupid crap like Death Gripping the tank’s target off of him was sort of the norm, though exceptions to that were apparent enough that you just knew from that point that it was a Death Knoob. On the tanking front though, I found nothing but failure. I’ve said it before here on the blog, I’ve said it in game, I’ve said it on Twitter, and I’ve said it in comments on other people’s blogs as well – “Death Knights suck at tanking”.

People kept telling me of how many good DK tanks they knew, how they themselves were good at tanking, how their raiding guild’s lead tank was a DK and so on, but despite all of the stories I never saw them for myself. A lot of people agreed with me too, that DK’s sucked at tanking. There were several testimonies in favor of them, but those in opposition were just too many to ignore. And regardless of what other people told me, every single DK I saw sucked at tanking.

I stood by that statement for a long time, never seeing even the slightest indication that I needed to eat those words. But, after running with Khanus from the Elune-US server, I had to do just that. My mage, Belsynis, is currently running an Arcane spec and he packs a pretty decent punch for having reached level 80 just a few weeks ago. He’s got a high crit rate, a fair amount of DPS, and he’s been known to pull agro off of every tanking class he’s ran with up to this point.

What Changed Your Mind?
When I ported into the random, the first thing I noticed (from the loading screen) was that it was one of the new dungeons, which I enjoy quite a bit. The second thing I noticed was that the tank was a DK, and thirdly that his health was at 25k. Now, I’m not one to judge a tank based on their health, but it is a good indicator of what kind of gear the person has or how they gem/enchant it. As long as the tank has more health than me, then I don’t have a problem giving them a shot. I certainly don’t assume failure if the tank doesn’t have 40-50k health like other’s I’ve seen.

In my experience with DK tanks though, I knew I wanted to take it a bit easy starting out and get a feel for how he pulled and how well he generated threat. The first couple of groups went down just fine, so I decided to step it up a notch. Again we had no problems, so I kicked it up into normal mode for heroics and went ahead and just let the mobs have it. We got through the first boss and all the trash leading up to the second boss with no threat issues, so I decided to go all out on Ick.

I popped my cooldowns at the beginning of the fight and pulled out all the stops, intentionally trying to pull threat off of him, knowing that I could use Invisibility to immediately dump it if necessary and then I could back off and just fill my role. I unloaded some serious hate on Ick, but Khanus just kept right on trucking, and while I did steal agro for about half a second, he was immediately right back on the DK. From there I just nodded my head and went all out on everything. Each time I managed to steal agro, whether it was on single target dps or during AoE pulls, it took Khanus less than a second to pull the threat right back to himself.

It was truly an amazing display of tanking from a class that I have written off for a very long time as a fail tank.

DK_Tank_Great

What Else Is Going On?
I have been putting some thought into rolling my own DK tank for a while now for the sake of blogging about it and trying to express to people how it’s done similar to how I’ve handled the Paladin series here. After seeing failed tank after failed tank I felt it was sort of my duty to go out and find out how to do it so that I could tell other people how it was done as well, but I’ve always managed to talk myself out of it.

Right now I am focusing on leveling a Resto Druid and an Affliction Warlock. I have several other toons in the works of course (as always), but those are the two I’m focusing on lately. After seeing Khanus as well as a couple of the Death Knights in my new guild, I’m growing ever more tempted to go ahead and roll a Death Knight and actually get him leveled up all the way to 80. Our strongest DPS in the guild right now is a Death Knight that consistently pulls over 7,000 DPS (did I mention we’re a casual guild?), and one of our primary tanks is a Death Knight as well.

I have a leveling post near completion on the Warlock’s leveling, and one started on the Druid’s leveling, but don’t be too surprised if within the next month or so you see a post about leveling a Death Knight.

Helpful Links From Others
Since I have such large group of WoW friends that I communicate with online I asked them to share with me whatever online sources they felt were helpful in relation to Death Knight tanking. The following is a list of all the sites that I have been linked to:

pwnwear.com
pwnwear.com Frost Tank 3.3
Aurdon’s Death Knight Outland Gear guide
2fps.com
Kurandir’s Kompendium
Plagued Candles – DK Tanking and You
Chill of the Grave
Tankspot.com – Comprehensive Guide to DK Tanking

 
12 Comments

Posted by on February 3, 2010 in Death Knight, Real PUGs of Power

 
 
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