First thing’s first – Holy crap! It’s been two months since my last Death Knight Tanking post. Wow. Uh, whoops? Sorry about that, guys. We also know now that Blood is going to become the tanking tree when Cataclysm hits, so I should have gotten this done a couple of months ago for sure.
Here are the links to the previous guides if you’d like to go have a look at them.
Death Knight Tanking: Frost (55-60)
Death Knight Tanking: Frost (61-70)
AoE Grinding: Frost Death Knight Edition (70)
Play Styles: Death Knights for Spellcasters
Psynister has been sitting at level 80 now for a while. I haven’t done a whole lot with him since then, save for running a few heroics here and there. Surprisingly enough I get chosen for DPS most of the time in randoms, which doesn’t bother me much to be honest since I actually enjoy my DPS spec and playing as Unholy DPS is a blast.
Last time we talked about getting you up to level 70, some of the differences between Two-Handed tanking versus Dual Wielding, how the Rune and Runic Power system works, and the different rotations between trash packs and bosses. This time we’re going to focus more on finishing off our spec to level 80, getting geared up to tank heroics, and some updates we need to make in reaction to the changes that came in our most recent patch, 3.3.3.
Frost Tanking Spec
Endless Winter 2/2: Your strength is increased by 4% and your Mind Freeze no longer costs runic power.
Threat of Thassarian 3/3: When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Rune Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a 100% chance to also deal damage with your offhand weapon.
Bladed Armor 5/5: Increases your attack power by 5 for every 180 armor value you have.
With the recent patch, Endless Winter became a very strong addition to our tanking toolbox with a solid boost to our Strength. Threat of Thassarian provides us with a welcome increase to damage which in turn of course is an increase in threat generation. Bladed Armor finishes off our tanking tools by adding even more attack power as a good deal of our threat against bosses is going to come from our attacks more so than our diseases.
NOTICE: The spec I’m suggesting here is what you should use for leveling. It’s not a raiding spec. If you are going to continue on into heroics and raids as a Frost Tank then you’ll want to use one of the following: Dual Wield Tanking or Two-Handed Tanking. For Heroics you’re better off using the DW build for extra threat, but for raiding you’ll want the 2H build instead. Welcome to patches changing how things work.
Also, Blizz has revealed to us that Blood is the tanking tree going into Cataclysm, so the work that’s been put into these guides is going to become completely nullified in a matter of months when the expansion hits. Nothing like wasting several hours of research and writing only to have it nullified. Thanks Blizz, screw you too…
Glyph of Howling Blast: [Major] Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.
Glyph of Disease: [Major] Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.
Glyph of Icy Touch: [Major] Your Frost Fever disease deals 20% additional damage.
Glyph of Obliterate: [Major] Increased the damage of your Obliterate ability by 20%.
Glyph of Frost Strike: [Major] Reduces the cost of your Frost Strike by 8 Runic Power.
Glyph of Unbreakable Armor: [Major] Increases the total armor granted by Unbreakable Armor to 30%.
Those are my major glyph suggestions in the order that I would suggest them.
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.
As for minor glyphs, those are the ones you tank with as Frost, plain and simple. Raise Dead is the one you can change if you feel so inclined.
New Spells: 71-80
Raise Ally: Raises the corpse of a raid or party member to fight by your side. The player will have control over the Ghoul for 5 minutes.
Empower Rune Weapon: Empower your rune weapon, immediately activating all your runes and generating 25 runic power.
Army of the Dead: Summons and entire legion of Ghouls to fight for youl. The Ghouls will swarm the area, taunting and fighting anything they can. While channelling AotD, the DK takes less damage equal to their Dodge plus Parry chance.
Ok, so Raise Ally is one of my favorite spells of all time. When I first found out this ability existed after Wrath launched and that someone in my guild had it, I intentionally got myself killed just so I could run around as a ghoul. As far as using it yourself, you’ll probably only use it on rare occasions. Pull it out in a raid when all the druids have already used their combat rez or in dungeons when your healer’s not a druid, your dps are being stupid, or whatever. It’s a fun spell but it’s not especially useful.
The Empowered Rune Weapon spell is great for tanking and DPS alike, immediately resetting all of your runes. If you know you need to front load some serious threat on thing right from the beginning it’s not a bad idea to switch your rotation to something like HB > BB > PS > D&D > ERW > BB > BB > Pest > Obl/HB > PS > FS. It’s great for throwing down everything you’ve got and then resetting your runes and jumping into your rotation as normal. It’s basically a free ticket to the Open a Can show.
And last but not least, Army of the Dead; the sole reason I ever wanted to have a Death Knight in the first place. I’ve said it before, but I’ll bring it up again here, I’m a Necromancer at heart and this spell is the only thing that fits that makes my shriveled black heart have a happy beat. For tanking you want to pull this out before you pull to begin with and then lay into whatever it is you’re fighting with as much hate as you can. The Army is going to taunt things off of you left and right which sucks, so you need to keep an eye on their timer and be ready to establish threat once they’re gone. It’s a lot easier to do on a boss than on a pack of mobs, but if you use it at all then that’s how/when to do it. Be prepared to use your taunt, Death Grip, or 2-3 Icy Touches to reestablish agro once they’re done.
I’m going to list two different Rune Sets here, one for when you’re running with your guild and they understand that giving you a few seconds to build threat is beneficial to them, and one for when you’re in a PUG and need to front load the AoE threat as much as possible because you know the people in your group are going to AoE the second you start moving.
Just to reiterate, I tank as Frost while Dual Wielding slow, one handed weapons.
The First Rune Set establishes our diseases on all of the mobs within the area, burns our Blood Runes to proc our blood tree’s defensive talent, and then hits with our AoE to get a solid start on our threat. The Second Rune Set is there to establish as much AoE threat as we can using our big damaging spells.
When you’re cycling through the Obliterates looking for a Rime proc you might want to cycle through your targets as you do so that if Rime does not proc then at the very least you get to spread your threat throughout the mobs by not hitting just a single target. When Rime does proc, use your Howling Blast right away. If you find that Howling Blast is off cooldown when an Obliterate shows up in the rotation, go ahead and cast HB instead if you’re fighting more than two mobs. Similarly, if the rotation says to use HB but it’s on cooldown, use Obliterate instead.
Nothing really changed here as far as rotations and general play style went. The one big change that should be brought to your attention is that Icy Touch now generates a truckload of threat when you’re in Frost Presence. If your taunt/DG either miss or are on cooldown, just target the mob and Icy Touch them instead. It now generates 14 times its damage as threat which is huge.
Now that we have our hard hitting abilities, it’s time to change up the boss rotation as well.
This is your rotation for fighting bosses. Establish your diseases, and then take advantage of the hardest hitting spells you have every time they come up. If the boss has adds then you might need to use regular Howling Blasts in place of some of those Obliterates, and you’ll want to drop the first Blood Strike for a Pestilence instead so that you get your diseases spread around nicely. Other than that it’s all about bashing the boss in the face as hard as you can each GCD.
With the changes in 3.3.3 Icy Touch deals 14x its damage as threat (in Frost Presence) which is pretty huge. If you lose threat on something then you either need to taunt it with Dark Command, Death Grip it to force focus on you, or use Icy Touch for burst threat. If you’re having particular trouble holding a mob then taunt it with Dark Command to bring your threat up to the level of whoever has it right now, and follow it up with Icy Touch to get a strong lead on them.
If you’re having problems with agro on the boss then drop some of those Obliterates and replace them with Icy Touch and Plague Strike instead. You’ll lose a bit of damage, but you’ll gain threat from Icy Touch instead.
Preparing for Heroics
I’m not going to make a gear guide here because that’s not what I do here. This blog is dedicated to getting you leveled up, not getting you maxed out once you’re there. It’s not hard to do a search online for gearing guides for heroics though so you shouldn’t have much trouble.
I will give you some basic guidelines though. First off you need to get your Defense raised to 535-540 so that you can avoid being critically hit. The cap for Heroic instances is 535, and 540 for Raids. Get your Defense up first off and then switch to your Stamina. You’re looking for 20,000 HP while self buffed starting off, and as long as you’re close to that you should be alright. You’ll have the dicks out there that insist you have 28k+, but as long as you’re somewhere close to the 20k, say +/- 2,000, then you’re good. If you can get up to 28k or more then all the better, but it’s not a requirement.
An easy way to buff up your health a bit is to have the Mining profession, though there’s not much you can do besides gear, gems, and enchants for the Defense issue. If you’re looking for maximum benefit from professions then you want Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting, or Blacksmithing and Engineering. Other professions can provide tanking benefits as well (Enchanting and Inscription come next on my personal list), but those will be your best bet.
If you’re going to PUG a lot, then be prepared to do a lot of your pulls with the AoE heavy rotation I mentioned up above, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing a lot of single disease with just Frost Fever because you’re burning too many runes to bother with Plague Strike and Pestilence. If you’re holding threat then you’re doing just fine.
And remember, it’s better to piss off a bunch of random people you’ll never see again by fail tanking in a PUG than it is to let your own guild down in a raid. I’m not telling you to go intentionally piss people off, I’m telling you to suck it up and go run some PUGs where things are going to go wrong, threat issues will happen, and frustration will occur, so that you can learn from it and grow stronger. Nobody gets better from being on easy mode all the time. Go introduce a little chaos into your life and force personal growth, that’s how you’re really going to learn to handle situations that get out of hand rather than getting a blank stare as you watch your raid wipe.