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Guest Post: Nashiira Talks Frost Tanking

I was discussing Frost Tanking with a fellow DK, Nashiira. and she emailed me with some advice she gave to some upcoming DKs regarding Frost Tanking. I liked it so much that, with her permission, I’m posting it here:

First off, you are doing pretty well and appear to have a good grip on what talents to get. For some general advice, as soon as you are able I would switch the rune on your weapon to Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle. I believe it is a level 72 ability. The benefits of stamina outweigh trying to build up dodge or parry. Also, as tank gear starts gaining slots while you approach 80, just gem for straight stamina.
Make a set of macros for Obliterate, Howling Blast and Icy Touch that read like this:
#showtooltip Obliterate
/cast Rune Strike
/cast Obliterate
#showtooltip Howling Blast
/cast Rune Strike
/cast Howling Blast
#showtooltip Icy Touch
/cast Rune Strike
/cast Icy Touch
These macros will cast Rune Strike whenever you have the Runic Power to do so so that you do not have to babysit the Rune Strike button. Rune Strike is an awesome threat tool that helps you get aggro if you dodge, parry or are missed. Putting it to a macro with your abilities saves you one more button press. The side-effect however is that sometimes it may cause you to not have Runic Power to cast Anit-Magic Shield or Icebound Fortitude when you need it.
Everything is looking fairly good here. You went straight for Howling Blast which is our super awesome tanking ability in conjunction with Glyph of Howling Blast.  For your next four game levels I would point talent points into Bladed Armor (first talent in the second row of Blood). This is a nice threat boost!
In the drive to get down to Howling Blast we unfortunately have three talent points that feel “extra” if we go the two-handed route with Frost. You have them in Runic Power Master (top middle) and just below that Icy Reach.  You can place those just about anywhere really. My preference is Endless Winter (free Mind Freeze because DPS rarely want to interrupt any more) and Deathchill (that I always forget to use =) ). This isn’t saying where I suggest placing them, just stating what I do. I move them periodically.
Minor glyphs are good! We don’t have a lot of great choices there.  As for major glyphs I would consider changing Glyph of Rune Strike to Glyph of Frost Strike. When you hit 80 add Glyph of Obliterate.
Here’s what will make or break things. One thing I see a lot of practicing death knights do is to use Death and Decay on every pull they can. That’s great for pulls with multiple mobs but never use it on a single mob. It uses up too many runes and has such a long cooldown untalented. Hopefully you will reach a point where you feel comfortable enough to not use Death and Decay but only Howling Blast for multiple mob pulls. However even now I rarely do this with my gear level as pugs are just crazy and lazy.
Until patch 3.3.3, always open with Howling Blast whether it’s single target or multi-target. This applies Frost Fever which not only does a tiny amount of damage over time but makes your Obliterate more powerful.
After using Howling Blast, this next step is where I change things up depending on if it is a single pull or multiple mob pull. If it is a multiple mob pull I typically use Blood Boil twice. Not only does this get you some nice aoe threat (more since they have Frost Fever), it uses up your two blood runes to activate Blood Barrier (last talent in first row of Blood) to make you take 5% less damage.  If it is a single mob pull start smashing Obliterate. The idea behind hitting Obliterate is that using Obliterate while you have the Rime talent (which you do) has a chance to let you cast a free Howling Blast. Yay! If you ever get a Rime proc, always smash Howling Blast as quick as you can. It’s free, does nice aoe damage, and also refreshes Frost Fever. Continuing the single mob thing, I use Blood Strike to use up the blood runes for the 5% less damage. It is also great for your e-peen to see Howling Blast crit every mob around you! Timing the Killing Machine proc (talent that you have) with Howling Blast is a wonderful and glorious thing!
At this point you will likely have no runes up. This is when you use up your spare Runic Power and smash Frost Strike until you have no more Runic Power.
From here it’s all about Howling Blast -> Obliterate -> Frost Strike -> Blood Strike. Howling Blast has highest priority over anything followed by Obliterate. Hope to Elune graces you with Rime procs often for free Howling Blasts. I do flail a bit when it comes to using Blood Strike over Frost Strike. If I see my blood runes aren’t on cooldown (for the 5% damage reduction) I try to use that ability. If I have a full Runic Power bar I often smash that.
One thing you’ll notice is that I don’t use Plague Strike at all. With frost you there apparently is little need for a two-disease rotation. Since Howling Blast spreads Frost Fever we don’t need to use Pestilence… ever! Which made me just notice that I have the glyph for Pestilence! Must fix! I’ll probably choose Glyph of Raise Dead to replace it. We don’t have much when it comes to minor glyphs. (You also have Glyph of Pestilence.)
A few notes for the future of the frost tree. In patch 3.3.3 Blizzard is making Icy Touch cause a lot of threat when you have Frost Presence up. I’m not sure if this will change much for OUR rotations but may for Blood and Unholy tanks. May have to find out the verdict from the number crunchers after a time. It could turn out more useful than Howling Blast on single targets.
Another thing Blizzard is doing is trying to make the Frost tree completely dual wield. As others can tell you (Moody hasn’t heard the end of it) I hate dual wielding. Not because I don’t think it’s capable but believe it doesn’t fit death knights well and looks absolutely silly tanking that way. ANYWAY I won’t bore you with a larger rant on the issue but it in the future using a two-handed weapon as anything frost-based may wind up being a bad idea.

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3 Responses

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  1. Psynister says

    I fully agree that tanking while dual wielding looks sort of stupid. But, I do love getting to roll twice on each Obliterate attack to get Rime Procs, which is why I go ahead and Duel Wield when tanking more than one mob. I switch to a big two-hander when tanking bosses so that I get get as much threat as possible in a short amount of time, but the extra chance for Rime when DW against trash makes it totally worth it regardless of looks.

  2. Cynwise says

    This is really a great article. I think I’m still doing some things inefficiently from my 2H Frost PvP days — I use Pestilence to spread Frost Fever around when HB is on CD, which is just silly — but I’ve learned that Howling Blast > Death and Decay in almost every pull (I follow up with D&D if there are incoming mobs I missed.)

    I’m not looking forward to having to go DW to stay a Frost tank, but if I have to, I have to. I like my DK swinging a big honking axe — always have, always will. The HUGE Frost Strike crits warm my cold soul. Oh well.

    Bookmarked for great justice!

  3. Jeera says

    The macros including runestrike are slightly wrong. As written, if Rune Strike is currently toggled on and you hit the macro it will cancel the Rune Strike. You need a ! prefix to stop this happening. e.g.

    #showtooltip Obliterate
    /cast !Rune Strike
    /cast Obliterate

    Also your guest poster mentions she often forgets to use Death Chill. I just macro it into my Howling Blast ability.

    #showtooltip Howling Blast
    /cast Deathchill
    /cast Howling Blast

    Lots more ideas here

    [Moody] I saw that. I thought I’d read somewhere that the toggle was no longer necessary – but now I can’t find where I read that.

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