A Death Knight Tank

03 Feb

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.


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: Frost Tank 3.3
Aurdon’s Death Knight Outland Gear guide
Kurandir’s Kompendium
Plagued Candles – DK Tanking and You
Chill of the Grave – Comprehensive Guide to DK Tanking


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


12 responses to “A Death Knight Tank

  1. Matojo

    February 3, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    I’m glad it finally happened, haha. Good! I’m looking forward to those up-and-coming leveling posts, too – and your DK Tales. ;)

    • Psynister

      February 3, 2010 at 2:03 PM

      I’ll certainly be sharing them all.

      Almost all of the DK’s I’ve rolled have been Unholy, or a combination of Unholy and Blood. I’m going to have to figure out which way I want to go for tanking though, whether I try it as one of those or step into the unknown (to me) world of Frost as I probably should.

      I’ll DPS through the starting zone of course, but as soon as I get out I want to be switched over to the tanking spec I plan on using for the rest of his career. I’ve got some research to do, and researching DK’s is a bit harder than some of the other classes because of how many different views people have of how to play them. Hopefully I can come up with something good though.

      • Matojo

        February 4, 2010 at 9:18 AM

        The Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking from TankSpot is the best overall guide I’ve looked at, it’s very thorough and shares several tanking methods – it’s what I’ve been using for my Dual Wield tank. I highly recommend it.

        All three specs are fully capable of tanking. Blood is high survivability, with several health-regenerating options (Death Strike is part of your rotation there, for example). Unholy is high in disease damage, it used to be the top AoE spec and still seems strong in that area, but not as much as it used to be. Frost is very solid AoE and mitigation.

        I suggest trying a Dual Wield build just once, because it’s an interesting way of playing, but I’m also a little enamored with it at the moment, haha.

        • Psynister

          February 4, 2010 at 9:33 AM

          A guide with some serious details in it? Now we’re talking!

          I’m a big fan of detailed information. Excellent link, man.


  2. Aoirselvar

    February 3, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Oh, yes please do roll a DK tank and let us know what you think. I’ve only been doing dps with my deathknight and I’ve been nervous about trying tanking for the very reasons you’ve mentioned above. I didn’t want to be a DK tank noob idiot. So, I would love to see your insight on the subject.

    • Psynister

      February 3, 2010 at 2:25 PM

      I’m planning on it…mostly.

      I feel the need to do a lot of research first to really get an idea of what I’m doing before I just jump in there and do it. I know as soon as I do that I’ll develop my own style regardless of the research, but I hate going in blind, and I’m DEFINITELY not going to wait to try tanking until I hit level 80. I’m a strong believer of leveling in whatever spec you plan on using at end game.

      Since I now have an 80 on the server that can provide heirlooms, I’ll probably hold off on leveling him until I can at least give him some shoulders and a chest. It shouldn’t take me too long to get him rolled, I’ll just need a little time to get used to playing him and not just facerolling my way through quests.

      • Aoirselvar

        February 3, 2010 at 3:33 PM

        I should do some research myself, but I’m very hands on, I need to get in there and try it out then research a little, cause then it’ll make more sense. Of course I wouldn’t be trying this out in a PUG, it would be with some guildies or something. But its not the highest thing on my priority list I suppose.

  3. DarthRegis

    February 3, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    You know, DPS stealing aggro isn’t always a sign of a bad tank. It can be a sign of bad DPS. ;) I’m not saying that’s what YOU do, but having seen bad DPS (and even been the bad DPS’er), it’s probably more common than people like to admit. And when I say “bad”, I don’t mean low DPS. I mean bad technique, targetting, etc.

    But I’m glad you found a good DK tank. I’ve only ran with one or two and they were fine.

  4. Psynister

    February 4, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    Just in case anyone has notifications from comments turned on, I have added a list of the links that people have referred me to for information in case anyone else wants to take a look as well.


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