Lissy’s Death Knight Tanking Guide (4.2 Rage of the Firelands)
- July 15th, 2011
- By Lissy
As some of you may know I’m an avid World of Warcraft addict, and I really haven’t spent a lot of time working on any articles with regards to the game, so I decided to make a guide detailing my opinions and thoughts on Death Knight tanking and how to play it effectively. My character’s name is Loveless and I play on the the Korialstrasz server. It’s been about three weeks since the Rage of the Firelands Patch 4.2 dropped, and I have to say that the new raid instance is extremely satisfying! I’m having a lot of fun progressing through it and I’m looking forward to the next few months and the adventures this new raid will bring my guild and I, especially when we finally delve into heroic content.
Where Are We At?
Death Knight tanking is more or less in the same position it was in since the Cataclysm expansion dropped, there are certain fights that we definitely excel at tanking over Warriors and Paladins, but there are others where, we really have to struggle to keep up with our counterparts. In general, from the feedback I’ve heard from the community, many players feel that Death Knights are still an under-tuned class and are desperately in need of help. In some respects, especially in terms of our damage output I can agree, but for the most part I find myself very satisfied with the current state of DK tanking. Being a Death Knight that tanked throughout Wrath, I feel that the state of Death Knight’s role as a tank has been in no better place than it is now.
Blood Shield: It’s What Makes Us Awesome
Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you guys how you should be gearing your own Death Knights or even how to play them, but I am going to tell you what seems to be working for myself. Gear wise, I’ve completely stepped away from merely gearing towards Stamina stacking. It’s bad, and makes for squishy tanks. While straight-up mitigation, in general, seems to be the best choice much of the time, I’ve geared myself completely towards maximizing my mastery while balancing out my threat and mitigation stats. Mastery for Death Knights is super important, it makes our Death Strikes worth a little more than a simple heal. It actually gives us a physical shield which temporarily increases our effective health. This effect can be stacked and if played right you can mitigate a lot of incoming physical damage. Basically, our mastery works like this, you Death Strike, it heals you, and then based upon how much it healed you our Mastery, depending on how much of it you have puts out a shield for a percentage of that heal. For example, if your Death Strike heals you for 12828 damage and you have a Mastery rating of 24.18 you’ll have a shield that will go up for 151% of that heal, meaning a shield that will mitigate about 19.4k incoming physical damage that can be stacked up per Death Strike. Add-ons like the fabulous Blood-Shield Tracker take the guess work out of this.
To Threat or Not to Threat: My Opinion
To me, capping expertise to 26 or its soft cap, and getting my hit to as close as I can to cap is something that I feel helps exploit our Death Strikes in the best possible way. A lot of DK tanks will probably disagree with me with regards to this, but the less I actually miss my Death Strikes the less I’ll actually have to be hitting that button over and over again trying to get a shield up when I could’ve been doing other things like making effective use of all my cool downs! The best way I’ve found to soften the blow of reforging out of mitigation for threat stats is to use the Rune of Swordshattering which gives us a huge amount of parry, 4%. So in case you’re wondering why I choose not to use Stoneskin Gargoyle, there ya go!
Keep Them Diseases Up!
Tanking without keeping your diseases up is kinda like not wearing a condom for anal. It’s nasty and probably not a good idea! Besides we have incentive to use our diseases with the Scarlet Fever talent and the speed reduction Frost Fever provides us on incoming melee hits. My opinion? Playing without diseases up isn’t really the best course of action.
A Word About Runic Empowerment
The passive class specific ability Runic Empowerment is something I also like to keep in mind during my rotation, which is more or less a priority based rotation than an actual rotation. To increase my odds of procing Runic Empowerment I try as often as I can to sit on one of my Blood Runes in order to get additional Death Strikes out on my target. More healing and more shields adds for additional survivability and makes for a happy raid!
How to Glyph
Glyph wise, I tend to use Heart Strike, Rune Strike, and Death Coil for my prime glyphs, swapping Death Coil out of the Death Strike glyph on encounters I need to be doing more damage, like on Alysrazor’s hatchlings. For my major glyphs I use Anti-Magic Shell, Rune Tap, and Glyph of Vampiric Blood. I will swap out the AMS glyph for the Dancing Rune Weapon glyph where appropriate, the Lord Rhyolith encounter and picking up the Fragment adds comes into mind with respect to that. Now you might be wondering about some of my choices, mainly Vampiric Blood and Death Coil. Picking up the Lichborne talent gives us another survivability cool down making it possible for us to heal ourselves with our own Death Coils for 10 seconds. Glyphing for Death Coil makes that CD much more effective and more practical to use it. With regards to the Vampiric Blood glyph, it seems bad on paper, but it really provides healers with additional fire power when you really need it. Sure the extra health Vampiric Blood normally gives is great, but more often than not players healing you don’t need that extra health. Thus an increase to the percent you’re healed by all sources, including your own, makes this glyph very attractive to me. Passive glyphs really don’t matter but the general consensus is to definitely use Horn of Winter and Blood Tap with the third slot as whatever your preference happens to be.
For raiding I tend to stick with 32/6/3 spec. Which can be seen on my character sheet or here.
As a personal preference I decided to pick up 3 points in Epidemic over putting two in Abomination’s Might or Blood-Caked Blade in order to maximize my runes while keeping my diseases up at all times. This spec is pretty basic, it’s tried and true and I don’t see it changing all that much. Learn it. Live it. Love it. Learn to apply it!
Stats: Favor Mastery
Like I mentioned before I find that Stamina stacking is a thing of the past. I favor Mastery > Threat > Avoidance > Stamina. Our Mastery is a controllable mitigation source unlike avoidance which is purely rng-based at the end of the day. In general, avoidance is better, however, I can control my survivability more when I stack Mastery. Gem for Mastery. Enchant for Mastery. Pine for gear with Mastery on it!
While our class/spec isn’t a healing class we can hang with the best of them if played correctly. Generally throughout Firelands, I’ve been able to sustain in between 4k-7k HPS on most encounters, with the Lord Rhyolith and the Baleroc encounter being the exceptions. With a combination of Rune Tap, Blood Strikes, Death Pact, Lichborne, and Vampiric Blood, we have plenty of abilities at our disposal which we should be using periodically to help the lovely individuals healing our asses to keep us alive.
Anti-Magic Shell: It’s what Separates Us–from Them
There’s their way. And then there’s our way. AMS is the cool down the other guys don’t have. It’s what makes us special. It’s what gives us an edge on those fights with predictable magic damage, like Nefarian in Blackwing Descent, over the other tanks. Being on a generous 45 second cool down it’s a very convenient “oh shit” button as well for fights like Alysrazor or Ragnaros where you might find yourself running into fire by accident from time to time. Let’s face it, humans aren’t perfect, and Death Knights, well they aren’t the perfect class, but we all make mistakes and sometimes having an extra cool down to separate us from the other guys will make our lives during certain encounters a tad easier.