My Death Knight is named Rhnea, but most people call me Ashes. I currently plan to reroll on Mal'ganis horde side as a Death Knight and continue there. I have played all the tanking classes in raiding environments when they were still cutting edge. So, my intention is to play Rhnea with the mindset that she will become another tank and hopefully a great one. This guide is a comprehensive on tanking and to that end, I have chosen to exclude extraneous information that pertains to DPS and utility. I will give some things mention, but for the most part in the sake of brevity, I will be focusing my energies on the Death Knight and its role as a Parry Caster Tank.
This being said as it has been pointed out; a death knight is a strong DPS sort of tank. We don't rely on "causes a high amount of threat" abilities to build aggro, instead, we rely on DPS'ing smart and holding up our tanking abilities at the same time. Right now as it stands, since we don't have the ability to equip a shield that does get rid of quite a bit of mitigation through both armor and shield block. This is easily made up in avoidance, but without the general standards on a shield getting a higher health pool will be harder, but not by much. One of the great things is when it's a controlled fight with predictable cooldown on mobs/boss abilities we can easily negate much of the damage through our various abilities (i.e. Icebound Fortitude, Lichborne and the like(.
DPS: Damage Per Second or Damage Dealing Class
Mitigation: Damage reduction (i.e. spell damage reduction and armor)
GCD: Global Cooldown
DoT: Damage Over Time
AoE: Area of Effect
HoT: Heal Over Time
RP: Runic Power
IT: Icy Touch
PS: Plague Strike
HS: Heart Strike
SS: Scourge Strike
BB: Blood Boil
HB: Howling Blast
HC: Hungering Cold
UB: Unholy Blite
DnD: Death and Decay
1.0 The Basics
As stated above in comparison Death Knights will have a little less health and a less armor than the other 3 tanking classes. However, we won't be too far behind druids in the armor situation as it stands. All things considered the gameplay of a death knight requires an intimate knowledge of your resources: cooldowns, trinkets, runes and runic power. With some practice and quite a bit of insight you can do some amazing things as a Death Knight tank. The crux of the Death Knight though is the constant need to pay attention to all your details in order to maximize your tanking ability.
1.1.1 The Rune System:
The Death Knight's ability system works off a combination of all 3 pools. The Death Knight in its current state has 6 runes: 2 Blood, 2 Frost, and 2 Unholy. Basic abilities use a rune or a combination of runes. Some, are free of cost, but most use runes. As you use runes, and with proper talents, you build runic power. If you spend all your runes you get 50 runic power. The first rune of each Blood, Frost, and Unholy recharges in 10 seconds, while the second is on an 8.5 second cooldown due to latency purposes. Sometimes, you can regen them faster depending on your talents. Once you have runic power you can then use other abilities such as Death Coil. These abilities are usually a plus and give you a chance to have a choice in fillers. Also, as you use abilities you will start to debuff the target with diseases. Which diseases and how many depends entirely upon your spec. The more diseases you keep up the more additive damage you will do with certain abilities i.e. death strike.
Runeforging is a pretty simple system. It's a cross between poisons and enchants. With runeforging you can enchant your weapon with a permanent weapon aura. This aura does not work with weapon enchants, however, it does work with temporary enchants such as oils and windfury. You can change your runeforge enchant at any runeforge, for your convenience, in Ebon Hold.
1 Blood Instant Cast
Causes all disease effects on targets within 30 yards to painfully erupt, consuming the diseases, dealing X to Y damage modified by attack power
This is a handy ability; not only does this cause AoE damage when you have pestilenced the whole group
X% health, Instant Cast, 1 Minute Cooldown
Immediately activates a Blood Rune and temporarily converts it into a Death Rune. This rune counts as a Blood, Unholy, or Frost Rune. Lasts 20 sec.
It's nice for those times when you're just short 1 rune for obliterate or Howling Blast. It gives you a quick opportunity to take advantage of the all out moments.
Melee Range, Instant Cast, 10 sec Cooldown
Commands the target to attack you, but has no affect if the target is already attacking you.
40 Runic Power, 30 yd, Instant Cast, 2 min cooldown
Sacrifices an undead minion, healing the Death Knight for 20% of your maximum health.
Nice ability to regain some health. Only thing is you need a humanoid corpse around or Corpse Dust to raise dead.
Forceful Deflection (Passive)
Increases your Parry Rating by 25% of your total Strength.
It makes our str (source of attack power) even more useful outside of dps.
1 Blood, Instant Cast, Melee Range
Causes X to Y Shadow damage to the target and up to 3 additional targets and spreads any diseases on the target to the additional targets.
A great little ability to help you spread diseases around. A nice perk is it places the diseases with full duration on them. So, you can theoretically work your way around the group with this ability and use it as a disease refresher. However, it does not refresh it on the direct target.
1 Blood, 30 yd, Instant Cast, 2 min cooldown
Strangulates an enemy, silencing them for a maximum of 5 sec and deals up to X shadow damage modified by attack power at the end of the effect.
One of many abilities you can use to silence an enemy; however, this is one of the only few that can be performed at range. It also has the nice added effect of shadow damage when the silence is done.
Empower Rune Weapon
Instant cast, 5 min Cooldown
Empower your rune weapon, immediately activating all your runes and generating 25 runic power.
Basically it's the prep button for when your group is going to pop all their cooldowns.
1 Frost Rune, Instant Cast
The Death Knight takes on the presence of frost, increasing armor contribution form items by 45%, magic resistance by X, and threat generated by 45%. Only one presence may be active at a time.
The tanking presence. It increases mitigation to magic and physical damage. It also raises your threat. From what it looks, it seems the magic resistance contribution goes up with level.
20 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 1 min cooldown
The Death Knight freezes her blood to become immune to Stun effects and reduce all damage taken by 50% for 18 sec. Does not remove existing Stun effects.
Useful to preempt any stuns from mobs, but without a reliable mob timer/ui you can't use it to its full advantage. The damage reduction is nice though.
1 Unholy 1 Frost, Melee range, Instant Cast, Requires Melee Weapon
A brutal instant attack that deals 100% of weapon damage plus X and 50% additional damage for each of the death knight's diseases on the target, but consumes the disease.
Basically the Rune sink of your abilities. With many abilities up this can do quite a bit of damage and gain quite a bit of threat. Notice it says your diseases meaning you have to monitor your own diseases, and not another death knight's.
20 Runic Power, Melee Range, Instant Cast, 5 Sec Cooldown, Requires Melee Weapon
Instantly strikes the target for 200% weapon damage modified by attack power. Only useable after the Death Knight attack is dodge, blocked, or parried
An ok filler, but apparently still affected by Global Cooldowns making it just that less useful in the repertoire.
20 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 1 min cooldown
Surrounds the Death Knight in an Anti-Magic Shell, absorbing 75% of the spell damage dealt by harmful spells. Damage absorbed by Anti-Magic Shell energizes the Death Knight with additional runic power. Lasts 5 sec.
One of the most amazing abilities death knights have against casters. Imagine never needing an interrupt for Kael's stupid pyroblast and all his damage going into your runic power bar. *Drool*
Death and Decay
1 Blood 1 Frost 1 Unholy, 30 yd Range, Instant Cast, 30 sec cooldown
Corrupts the ground targeted by the death kngiht, causing X damage every sec that targets remain in the area for 10 sec. This ability produces a high amount of threat.
A great AoE tanking ability. The fact that you can cast it at range makes it a great AoE for those times when your mages want to go crazy and you just can't get in range quick enough.
40 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 30 yd range
Fire a blast of unholy energy, causing X Shadow damage to an enemy target or healing X damage from a friendly Undead target.
A great ability to use as a filler to give yourself a little more threat. The wording on the heal portion of it makes it confusing, but it seems to be a nice way to heal yourself if your ghoul is out.
30 yd range, Instant Cast, 35 sec cooldown
Harness the unholy energy that surrounds and binds all matter drawing the target toward the death Knight and forcing the enemy to attack the Death Knight for 3 sec.
One of the abilities you can have fun with. It's our single target taunt and it is literal our pull mechanism. You pull the target smack in front of you, and if you're smart you'll cast icy touch or death coil on it as it's coming down.
1 Unholy 1 Frost, Melee Range, Instant Cast, Requires Melee Weapon
A deadly attack that deals 60% weapon damage plus X and heals the death knight for 100% of the weapon damage for each of her diseases on the target.
A great ability to give yourself a small heal. Depending on your spec you can get quite a bit out of this spell as far as self heals go.
1.3 Death Knight Talents:
These are the talents that I have found more focused on tanking. The other talents tend to give you more dps which is more threat, but I don't think they need to be discussed within this thread since this is quite a bit to digest in the first place.
Blade Barrier x/5
Whenever your Blood Runes are on cooldown, your Parry chance increases by 2/4/6/8/10% for the next 10 sec.
Great ability and if you're smart you should be able to keep this up most of the time.
Rune Tap x/1
1 Blood Rune, Instant Cast, 1 minute cool down.
Converts 1 Blood Rune into 10% of our maximum health.
Great little self heal ability,it's similar to the warrior's last stand, and it's a self heal every minute or 30 sec depending on your talents.
Improved Rune Tap x/3
Increases the health provided by Rune Tap by 33/66/100% and lowers it's cooldown by 10/20/30 secs.
Spell Deflection x/3
You have a chance equal to your Parry chance of taking 10/20/30% less damage form a direct damage spell.
Another source of spell damage mitigations making us even better at being caster tanks.
Veteran of the Third War x/3
Increases your Strength and stamina by 2/4/6% and your expertise by 2/4/6
Buff to stam and str and adds a little to expertise.
Mark of Blood x/1
1 Blood, 30 yd, Instant Cast, 3 min cooldown
Place a Mark of Blood on an enemy whenever the marked enemy deals damage to a target, that target is healed for 4% of its maximum health. Lasts for 30 seconds.
Nice little ability to help you get topped off can be useful to help out when you're not Main Tanking something.
Your weapon hits have a 3/6/9% chance to cause the target to spawn 2-4 Bloodworms. Bloodworms attack your enemies, healing you as they do damage for 20 sec or until killed.
This has proven to be more gimmicky, but it does heal you for a little bit.
Vampiric Blood x/1
1 Blood, Instant Cast, 1 min cooldown
Increase the amount of health generated through spells and effects by 50% for 20 sec.
Not the best ability for tanking, but it does give you a little bit more healing if you like to push this sort of thing.
Will of the Necropolis x/3
Reduces the cooldown of your anti-magic shell by 4/8/12 sec. When you have less than 35% health, your total armor increases by 10/20/30%
Expertise I think will be one of our more wanted stats since we're parry tanks; plus, it adds more mitigation when you're low.
Heart Strike x/1
1 Blood, Melee Range, Instant Cast
Instantly strike the enemy , causing 50% weapon damage plus X, and an additional x bonus damage per disease. Prevents the target from using haste effects for 10 sec.
More of a DPS ability, but the fact that you can negate haste effects makes it sort of desirable; it should be noted that it "prevents" and does not dispel haste effects.
Improved Icy Touch x/3
Your Icy Touch does an additional 10/20/30% damage and your Frost Fever reduces melee and ranged attack speed by an additional 2/4/6%.
Reduces melee and ranged attack speed meaning you won't be hit as often.
Increases your armor value from items by 3/6/9/12/15% and reduces the duration of all movement slowing effects by 6/12/18/24/30%.
Basic tank increases armor talent with the bonus of decreasing movement impairment.
Nerves of Cold Steel x/3
Increases your chance ot hit with one-handed melee weapons by 1/2/3% and increases the damage done by your offhand weapon by 5/10/15%
+hit and + damage = threat generation. It's a decent talent and for 3 points not too bad. Note: this depends on whether you believe in the whole DW Tanking.
Instant cast, 3 minute cooldown
Draw upon unholy energy to become undead for 15 sec. While undead, you are immune to Charm, Fear and Sleep effects, and your horrifying visage causes melee attacks to have an additional 25% chance to miss you.
It's a neat ability to break fear and a few other CC abilities some mobs have. Plus, it gives you a 25% chance you'll be missed so sort of a lucky pocket watch effect.
Increases the critical strike chance of your melee special abilities by 1/2/3%. In addition, there is a 33/66/100% chance that your Obliterate will do its damage without consuming diseases.
Gives you more freedom to use other abilities since you won't have to refresh your diseases, but definitely not needed.
Runic Power Mastery x/3
Increases your maximum Runic Power by 10/20/30.
Gives you a little more to work with in the way you sink your Runic Power not exactly bad, but a little debatable on how great it is.
Frigid Dreadplate x/3
Enemies who hit you in melee have a 100% chance to become unsettled, decreasing their chance to hit you in melee by 1/2/3%
A reactive chance to cause mobs to miss you. Not a bad talent to keep mobs off your back. It'll be particularly useful against AoE pulls.
Merciless Combat x/2
Your Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Obliterate and Frost Strike do an additional 6/12% damage when striking targets with less than 35% health.
Just a nice little umph for when warriors and such are execute spamming.
Frost Aura x/2
While in Frost Presence, all party members within 45 yards gain (.5/1 per death knight level) spell resistance.
Extra mitigation for you and others when you're taking magic damage.
Unbreakable Armor x/1
1 Frost, Instant Cast, ` minute cooldown
Increases your armor by 25% and your total Strength by 10% and Parry chance by 5% for 20 sec.
Mitigation and avoidance bump for 20 seconds. If you're this far down it'll be pretty easy to work into a rotation with the other skills such as lichborne. Another thing to note is, since it adds strength you actually get more than 5% parry
When you are hit by a spell, you have a 10/20/30% chance to boost your resistance to that type of magic for 18 sec. Stacks up to 3 times.
Another magic mitigation of sorts. It's reactive, but 3 out of 10 chance it'll proc, not too bad.
Guile of Gorefiend x/3
Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Blood Strike, Obliterate, Rune Strike, and Frost Strike abilities by 15/30/45% and increases the duration of your Icebound Fortitude by 2/4/6 sec.
Basically this will allow you to keep icebound fortitude up most of the time. Oh and more damage aka threat, whee.
Hungering Cold x/1
60 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 1 min cooldown
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.
It infects all the mobs within 10 yards with frost fever giving your Howling Blast a nice boost to up your AoE tanking in instances plus it gives you a semblance of CC when the mobs are freezable.
Increases your chance ot dodge by 1/2/3/4/5%
Basic tank +dodge talent.
Increases the duration of Blood and Frost Fever by 3/6 sec.
It gives you the opportunity to use a couple more damaging attacks (i.e. Scourge Strike/Blood Strike) Before you have to refresh your diseases.
Unholy Command x/2
Reduces the cooldown of your Death Grip ability by 5/10 sec.
Lowers your cooldown on your death grip and who doesn't like to pull people around.
On a Pale Horse x/2
You become as hard ot stop as death itself. The duration of all Stun and Fear effects against you is reduced by 10/20% and your mounted speed is increased by 10/20%. his does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.
Reduction of fear and stun effects as a passive ability. When coupled with Icebound and Lichborne you can keep the time you're CC'd or stunned to a relative low.
Shadow of Death x/1
Increases your total Strength and Stamina by 2%. In addition, whenever you die, you return to keep fighting as a Ghoul for 45 sec.
Stam and Str bonus.
Magic Suppression x/5
You take 1/2/3/4/5% less damage from all magic. In addition, your Anti- Magic Shell absorbs an additional 5/10/15/20/25% of spell damage.
Decreases your spell damage intake. It has proven extremely useful in fights where you are fighting an elemental since all their damage is magical damage.
Anti-Magic Zone x/1
1 Unholy, Instant Cast, 2 minute cooldown
Places a large, stationary Anti-Magic Zone that reduces spell damage done to party members inside it by 75%. The Anti-Magic Zone lasts for 30 sec or until it absorbs 111,376 spell damage.
An AoE cover for you and your friends. It's centered around you. It'll be nice for fights where there's plenty of AoE damage and all around spell Chaos. This can be helpful even when you aren't tanking. You can toss this down to help mitigate damage against anyone who stands in this zone.
Bone Shield x/1
1 Unholy, Instant Cast, 1 min cooldown
The Death Knight is surrounded by 4 whirling bones. While at least 1 bone remains, you take 40% less damage from all sources and deal 2% more damage with all attacks, spells, and abilities. Each spell or attack that lands consumes 1 bone. Lasts 5 minutes.
Damage mitigation and extra damage. Only good/bad thing is each bone is consumed with each successful attack on you. It's been theorized you can keep this up for an entire minute if you have a high enough avoidance. AoE's do not consume bones
Wandering Plague x/3
When your diseases damage an enemy, there is a chance equal to your melee critical strike chance that they will cause 33/66/100% additional damage to the target and all enemies within 8 yards. Ignores any target under the effect of a spell that is canceled by taking damage.
It basically gives your DoT ticks a chance to do some extra tick damage helping you to mindlessly keep extra aggro on your adds. It might not be completely worth it considering it is based of Crit chance, but if you switch out gear for different instances this may prove slightly useful
Unholy Blight x/1
60 Runic Power, Instant Cast
A vile swarm of unholy insects surround the Death Knight for a 10 yd radius. Enemies caught in the area take X shadow damage per sec. Lasts 20 sec.
Not as impressive as in its beta days. The lack of an extra disease diminishes this. However, it does provide another source of AoE damage.
Keep in mind that blizzard has emphatically expressed that their full intention is to make all of our trees will be tank viable. It's just a matter of how much you're willing to sacrifice and how well you play your class and spec.
On a note of sarcasm: Go figure you have to know how to play to be able to main tank.
1.4 Spec Suggestions:
As I get more ideas from scouring forums and such I will put in more specs. Hopefully I will have a good comprehensive list of talents.
This spec takes all the mitigation and healing abilities of the blood tree and tries to integrate them into your tank tree. Only problem with this is it doesn't put out a huge output of dps.
This build takes deep frost and combines it with a lowered DnD cooldown. This combo can definitely do a good amount of AoE damage while having all the perks in deep frost for mitigation.
This by far is my favorite spec to run around with. It has all the perks of Unholy, but I give up wandering plague and gargoyle/ghoul so I can pick up some extra strength in the blood tree. So far, it has proven to be quite an effective spec.
I haven't been able to do the number crunching but for the most part the opener for most tanking situations will be...
IT---> PS ---> Pestilence ----> DnD
Unfortunately, we don't have a great way to frontload an insane amount of aggro like Pally tanks. One of the big reasons why I like to start out with this combo is because it allows you to put up Blade Barrier almost as soon as the fight starts. So, this rotation can be cut down if it's a single target mob to just something that does a decent amount of damage on a single target.
IT --> PS ---> OB//HB/SS
Generally, I wouldn't interrupt this rotation with rune strike until I have that snap aggro. Rune strike isn't required to be against the target you crit so you can use it like warriors do when they tab target sunder. You can just tab through and rune strike when it's up. A big priority for death knights is to keep up your diseases; not only does it provide a nice DoT on the mobs but it amplifies most of your abilities. So, once you have your disease application down just work through a solid DPS rotation tossing in Bone Armor/Unbreakable Armor/Icebound Fortitude whenever it feels like a good time.
Unholy DPS Rotation:
SS---> SS --> BS ---> BS ---> UB/repeat previous
You can generally get UB up earlier, but I do like to provide an Oh Shit cushion with a little extra RP. By the point you finish your first rotation you should have enough RP to also toss up one of your defensive abilities.
Frost DPS Rotation:
HB---> BS ---> BS ---> Ob----> Frost Strike ---> Repeat
Some people will like to toss hungering cold in there, but when it's single target it's not a big deal to keep it up, nor is it an effective use of your runic power IMO. You could just as easily rotate pestilence through targets to spread your Frost Fever and hit them with Howling Blast.
Blood DPS Rotation:
Ob--> HS --> Ob --> HS ---> Death Coil
Here it's a pretty simple rotation. You can generally through different things in for the Death Coil like Mark of Blood or Vampiric Blood to change it up, but generally you do get some freedom with it.
2. Advanced Training
4. Stat Priorities
The first and major priority for tanks is the defense cap. This should be your first and primary goal. For level 80 you need 540 defense (that's 688 defense rating) total at all times when tanking level 83/boss mobs. If you have anything less than this there is a good chance you will be crit by the boss's physical attacks. In fights where it is all spell damage this can go out the window.
After this it can be taken down this path or something similar to:
Stam/Str are a bigger priority than the rest. You need a nice little cushion for the incoming damage that will be coming in. And though this may not be the best argument, but healers tend to see a decent amount of health so that they don't lose faith in their tank's ability to handle the situation. Strength will give you more threat, but with our forceful deflection we will be able to parry more so this proves to be even more useful. So this is why Str is so far ahead of AP on the priority list.
Hit/Expertise are great tools to help you push that DPS out to get more threat, but your main priority is tanking, and although being a threat rocket is great if you can't survive the fight and give healers something to work with the fight will not go well. I do like these stats don't get me wrong, but in the grand schema of things it isn't as big priority. Plus, you seem to get these as time moves on pretty easily. The same goes for Crit/Agi/AP
2.2 Dungeons & Raids
3. FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. What spec is best for tanking?
As far as normal and even heroic dungeons go, any spec should be fine. Death Knights by design have been given the ability to tank in any of their trees so long as they have a good knowledge of their skills, and can play their class. As for raiding it is highly recommended to get the bottom 3 mitigation/avoidance talents maxed out before you plan your raiding spec. Each tree has its quirks and can all tank in raid situations. The gear is just what will really make or break you at that point.
2. Do we need to have 102.4% Avoidance to prevent Crushing Blows?
No you don't need to get high avoidance to avoid crushing blows anymore. They have been taken out for mobs 3 levels higher than you; however, it still exists for mobs 4+ levels higher than you to prevent you from taking on anything out of your league.
3. Do Death Knights compare well/scale well compared to the other tanking classes?
In reality at the moment until more and more testing is done it is not for certain, but as it has been pointed out by numerous blue posts all tanks should be equal. Some may be slightly better than another in different fights, but none should be incapable of tanking if they have the proper gear requirement.
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