In switching my main on day one of Wrath of the Lich King from my Paladin to my Death Knight and even up to now, I find that so many people misunderstand what Death Knights truly bring to the table. Many see us as just a “lol-tank”, being told once that I can’t tank because I don’t use a shield. These stereotypes may hold merit to those who don’t understand the true benefits of their Death Knight’s abilities, but knowing in detail what Death Knights can really do in a tanking role and what they bring to the table will make you and your group much stronger.
Currently there are 4 viable ways to tank for a DK. Blood, Frost 2H, Frost DW and Unholy. This is changing come Cataclysm where Blood will be the dedicated tanking tree.
Currently Blood tanking gives you the most effective health out of all the deep tree tanking builds. Blood also gives you Hysteria which is a great buff to a melee (feral cat is best for this). Though Blood currently does lack some of the proactive damage mitigation the other trees have (i.e. Bone Shield). Though Vampiric Blood does provide you a nice health and healing done to you increase. Also the self healing you gain through Death Strike is nice and many healers will thank you for the additional help this provides. Multi-target threat generation is also not up to par with the other trees, but pulls ahead for single target threat, this is not to say that with Death and Decay, pestilence and blood boil you won’t be able to multi-target tank, you can, just not as effectively as the other builds.
Frost is a well rounded tanking tree for both single and multiple target threat. Frost provides a ton of damage reduction talents in Frigid Deathplate, Unbreakable Armor, Guile of Gorefiend and improved Frost Presence. One can only hope that this will be moved to the blood tree for Cataclysm. The other huge perk is the ability to gain aggro quickly with Killing Machine – Howling Blast procs. The biggest downside of Frost tanking is there is no real raid utility unless you spec into Improved Icy Talons.
Dual Wield tends to be a bit more controversial than 2H due to the chance of increased parry chances by the boss, however parry haste is not in effect for any boss where this would be an issue. However that being said, 2 slow weapons produce the highest amount of threat, though slow tanking weapons just don’t exist. So it is recommended to use slow DPS main hand, slow DPS off-hand or mix with a slow DPS main hand and a fast tanking off hand. NEVER use 2 fast tanking weapons; you will wonder why your threat is constantly low if you do, and your group will be wondering as well.
Unholy tanking provides damage reduction through high avoidance and mitigation. Bone Shield is a staple ability of this spec that will absorb some damage coming in, though you will lose this after taking too many hits. Along with big time spell damage mitigation. The biggest benefit of Unholy Tanking lies in the raid buff of Ebon Plaguebringer. This buff is also the biggest benefit of bringing an Unholy DPS DK. Ebon Plaguebringer is similar to what Warlocks and Moonkin can provide in a magic damage debuff, but what DK’s can do that locks and boomkin can’t is the ability to quickly spread it to all nearby enemies. Also what this debuff does that the others don’t provide is an increase in disease damage as well, which make shadow priests scream with joy. The biggest drawbacks to Unholy is lower single target threat, also Bone Shield while tanking tends to fall off very quickly.
So now that you know what each type of DK tank can do, you can make (hopefully) more intelligent decisions regarding them. And hopefully we don’t see people spec’ing inappropriately and making the rest of us DKs look bad.
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