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Death Knight Tanking Guide


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#1 Mekila

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 09:24 PM

I had my first experience tanking a 5man last night as this spec:

http://wotlk.wowhead...os0hGZxV00hZrzM

I noticed a few keys things on what worked and what didn't.

Tanking as a DK (of any spec) involves the following basic skills:


Death Grip: Ranged taunt, pulls target in melee range and forces them to attack you for 3s. 35s(25 talented) cooldown. Costs nothing to cast and generates 10 runic power. Nice for pulling ranged mobs to you so they don't aggro pats, etc.

Blood Boil: AOE taunt that only works on diseased targets in a 30 yard radius, consuming all diseases and doing damage based on the number of diseases consumed. 15s(11 talented) cooldown. Costs nothing and generates no runic power.

Pestilence: Spreads diseases on current target to two adjacent targets, dealing shadow damage. No cooldown, costs 1 Blood rune, generates 10 runic power. Does not hit targets behind you, and shares Cleave's frontal cone mechanics.

Plague Strike: Instant strike that deals weapon damage and diseases, doing X shadow dmg over 12s(18 talented). The disease portion ticks for about 200-300 and can be spread via Pestilence, which does bonus damage depending on how many targets are afflicted by Plague Strike.

Icy Touch: Deals frost damage and reduces attack/cast speed of target by 15%. 20 yard range and costs 1 Frost rune, 6s cooldown. Generates 10 runic power and the debuff does not stack with Thunderclap. Next patch it will be considered a disease and will help with tanking considerably while being CC-friendly, as it does not have a DOT effect and can quickly apply a disease from range for emergency taunts.

Icebound Fortitude: Reduces all damage taken by 50% and makes you immune to stun effects for 12s. Costs 20 runic power, 1min cooldown.

Frost Presence: Increases armor rating gained from items by 45%, resistances to all magic schools, and threat generated by 45%. No-brainer, defensive stance for DK's, you will want to be in this stance for tanking.

Blood Tap: Instant, takes a little less than 1k health and reactivates a Blood rune as a Death rune. Used in emergencies to disease a mob to taunt it with Blood Boil while Death Grip is on cooldown.

DK tanking requires you to manage your runes very well to hold threat while spreading disease with Plague Strike and Pestilence in case you need to taunt.

At first glance, having an AOE taunt every 11s makes things easy mode right? Wrong. The disease conditional makes it much more difficult - We don't have a ranged disease until the next build.
Death grip has a semi-long cooldown and can't be spammed. Using our abilities to set up an AOE taunt via Blood Boil uses up runes, which potentially reduces our threat generation on the mob being dps'd.

If you lose aggro on a mob without a disease on it and Death Grip happens to still be on cooldown, you have to:

  • Run in range of the mob
  • Disease it with Plague Strike/Degeneration
  • Cast Blood Boil, which consumes the disease and taunts for 3 seconds.

The whole sequence requires a few seconds to execute, and can be fatal if it takes too long to get into melee range. If you don't have an unholy or death rune available, your silly party member is most likely going to eat dirt.

As long as your party assists properly and watches their threat, you should be okay on most packs of mobs in 5-man instances. A common occurrence is the healer pulls an add off you from healing aggro. It is usually recommended to use Death Grip in this situation unless the mob is diseased. Icebound fortitude really helps here in keeping everything together, as you will take half damage and reduce the likelihood of your healer pulling aggro. With a dirt cheap 20 runic power cost to cast, and the same 1 minute cooldown as CloS, there is no reason to not use it when fighting 2-3 mobs.

What didn't work [DO NOT USE]:
  • Icy Touch
  • Degeneration <-- BAD DISEASE FOR THREAT
  • Pestilence
  • Obliterate
  • Death Strike

What seems to be a perfectly logical full rune rotation for tanking with Pestilence doesn't work because you will LOSE AGGRO on your secondary targets (probably to your healer) with just Degeneration ticking on them. Degeneration does about 30 damage per tick vs Plague Strike's 200+ per tick (Pestilence bonus dmg too) and is inadequate by itself for holding aggro on secondary targets.

Single/Multiple Target Tanking:

PART I
Single target: Just use your normal dps rotation! It doesn't matter which order you do it in as long as a disease is always up and you use all your runes immediately.
  • Icy Touch
  • Plague Strike
  • Degeneration
  • Obliterate

PART II
2-3 Elite mobs, all melee:
We mark one of the mobs (usually the one with the least HP) as 'skull' to dps. Here is where it starts to matter which order you do things and what runes you use and when.

  • Icy Touch to pull and gain initial aggro.
  • Plague Strike skull. (Degeneration+Pestilence is a more ideal rotation, but I've found it does not do enough damage to hold secondary aggro off your healer unless you Pestilence the Degeneration while your target has a HoT up)
  • Pestilence once you position the adds into cleave radius.
  • Blood Tap + Obliterate, activates blade barrier. (Next build you should not have to Blood tap here because Plague Strike will cost 1U rune to cast, and Obliterate will cost 1U 1F runes.)
  • Death Coil if everything is going well or hit Icebound Fortitude if you are taking too much damage.

** Death Grip if you lose aggro on one mob, Blood boil if you lose aggro on more than one. Quickly reapply Plague strike and Pestilence in case you need to taunt again!

PART III
2-3 Elite Mobs, one ranged caster
We mark the caster as our main dps target 'skull'

  • Strangulate skull to silence and pull.
  • Icy Touch skull when its in range.
  • Plague Strike skull.
  • Blood tap + Pestilence skull once melee mobs are positioned in cleave range.
  • Anti-magic Shell to absorb some magic damage, cast Mind Freeze if he starts casting at your party.
  • Icy Touch skull, activates blade barrier.
  • Icebound Fortitude if you are taking too much damage, or else Death Coil.
  • Once caster is dead, refer to PART II for tanking 2 melee mobs.

PART IV
2-3 Elite mobs, including 1 ranged physical dps mob
Mark the hunter-type mob as skull

  • Icy Touch skull.
  • Death Grip skull when melee mobs are about halfway to you.
  • Plague Strike skull.
  • Pestilence skull once the melee mobs get in cleave radius.
  • Blood Tap Obliterate skull
  • Death Coil or Icebound Fortitude
  • Once hunter is dead, refer to Part II for tanking 2 melee.

Part V
elite mob and 5+ non-elite mobs AOE pull.
The elite mob is marked 'skull'

  • Death grip skull to you, it should pull the non-elites.
  • Death & Decay in front of you so it hits all the incoming mobs
  • Obliterate skull and have casters start AOE.
  • Blood Boil to AOE taunt as you start seeing them AOE.
  • Obliterate skull to activate Blade Barrier
  • Icebound Fortitude to reduce incoming damage.
  • Blood Tap + Pestilence to make D&D disease last a little longer
  • Blood Boil again if non-elites aren't dead and clean up.


Tanking would be tremendously easier if they changed Pestilence to spread diseases to anything adjacent of you, including behind you (like it says on the tooltip). Having its target mechanics to be similar to Blade Flurry instead of Cleave would greatly relieve the big headache it can be to get diseases spread to generate secondary threat.


Beneficial changes to abilities:
  • Plague Strike costing only 1U.
  • Icy Touch applying a disease from range that doesn't break CC.
  • Obliterate costing 1U1F instead of 1B1F runes.
  • Death Strike costing 1U1F and 50% dmg healed per disease.
  • Death Strike and Obliterate both able to complete a full rune cycle that incorporates Pestilence without having to Blood tap.

In the next Beta Build you can...

  • Icy Touch BBFUU
  • Plague/Scourge Strike BBFU
  • Pestilence BFU
  • Blood/Heart Strike FU
  • Obliterate/Death Strike
  • Runic Power finisher
  • Repeat for profit

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#2 Mekila

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 03:57 PM

New beta patch made tanking easier with the Tempered Saronite set becoming craftable, as smelt saronite became trainable.

After getting the full set made I tanked every instance as Blood spec and was thinking I could probably have tanked a few of them without a healer.

The only challenging instance was Halls of Stone because the construct trash mobs like to randomly charge (instagib cloth) and are immune to disease, so they can't be taunted with Blood Boil.

We virtually didn't have to use any CC. I pulled with Death and Decay and Icy touch, Plague Strike, Heart Strike. This activates Blade barrier and gives you extra parry (I spec'd 4/5 for 8%) on top of the base 15% dodge, 3% miss, 19% parry, and 19k armor. Icebound fortitude as soon as you get to half HP and then Death Strike should be able to heal you back up to full.

Save Death Grip in case someone pulls aggro on a secondary target, your main target should have diseases on it so you can Blood Boil if necessary.

Tanking is actually fun with this class folks :)
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#3 Exiledshmoo

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 07:32 PM

Very sweet. My DK hit 70 and I want to get in on the tanking. Do you recommend doing some starting quests, then going and tanking runs at 70, or do I need to get some tanking gear first?

What level did you tank said instances at? I assume 77.

Have you tanked with other specs yet?
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#4 Mekila

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 10:38 PM

Very sweet. My DK hit 70 and I want to get in on the tanking. Do you recommend doing some starting quests, then going and tanking runs at 70, or do I need to get some tanking gear first?

What level did you tank said instances at? I assume 77.

Have you tanked with other specs yet?


The lvl 70 blacksmith crafted cobalt set should be good for tanking Utgarde/Nexus. I started tanking at 76 after I got a few pieces of Tempered Saronite. I find it more fun than dps atm.
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#5 Mekila

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 12:07 AM

Now that pestilence is fixed and easier to use (hits more targets, wider radius) and disease generating abilities only cost 1 rune, its pretty easy to figure out the standard tanking rotation they want us to use.

Tanking Rotation for Initial Aggro
Start in Frost Presence

T(s) Ability or Spell - RP - Runes

00.0 Death & Decay - 10 - BFU
01.5 Icy Touch - 20 - BU
03.0 Plague Strike - 30 - B
04.5 Pestilence - 40 -
06.0 Icebound Fortitude - 20 -
--.- Blood Boil - 20 -
07.5 Death Grip - 20 - (if any undiseased mobs got loose)
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