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Five Things your PUG Death Knight wants you to know

Been seeing these on Twitter and around the WoW blogs, so I thought I’d throw my five copper pieces worth in.

There is a lot of hate on Death Knights out there. And frankly, a lot of us deserve it. Some of that hate, however, is because a lot of you don’t really seem to understand how we roll.

So, whether we’re tanking or DPSing, here’s some things we’d like for you to know.

1. Am I tanking? Don’t go all AoE-happy as soon as I drop Death and Decay.

This is the thing that pisses me off the most about tanking as a DK. Whether I’m pulling with Death Grip, Icy Touch, or my lovely if slightly necrotic face, as soon as I drop Death and Decay the mages and hunters open up with Volley and Blizzard on it, the mobs run right through the DnD without breaking stride and gang up on and kill the healer. Then everyone calls me a failtank.

I’m not a warrior or bear. I need time to build threat. A good rule of thumb for a DK is to count five from the pull. Not the DnD, the pull – I may decide to drop DnD first, depending on how my runes are doing. Counting five gives me time to have DnD down, Icy Touch and Plague Strike the poor bastard I pulled, and Pestilence those onto his buddies. One more tick of Death and Decay, and I have threat. Pestilence looks kinda like a bunch of thick black ropes – *that’s* your Go! signal.

Hunters, you could, you know, misdirect before opening up on those mobs. If you can nail the guy I pulled to me or, better yet, the mobs that only have a couple of ticks of Death and Decay between staying put and beheading the healer, I would be ever so grateful. Beats flowers, let me tell you.

2.  Am I DPS? Need me to AoE? Gotta Death and Decay.

Go ahead and take a look at the Elitist Jerks howtos for Frost, Blood, and Unholy DPS. Scroll down to the AoE rotations, or priorities for those poor Frost bastards.

What do you see?

Death and Decay.

If there’s a couple of them, Blood DPS can Heart Strike. Frost tanks have Howling Blast. But if there’s a screaming bunch of mobs, like Onyxia whelps, we’re gonna be busting out DnD. For Unholy, if you’re telling us to hit more than one target at once you’re explicitly telling us to Pestilence and DnD them. They need to be within thirty yards. One of them has to live long enough for Icy Touch, Plague Strike, and Pestilence. Then we’ll keep throwing Pestilence, Blood Boil, and DnD and they will all die.

That is how we do it. Especially Unholy, but if there’s an ass-ton of them (Blood) or if they’re tough or frost-resistant (Frost) expect those red circles of I’m-pulling-aggro and deal accordingly.

And yes, this means we need a little time to get AoE rolling. We’re not mages and hunters.

In short, we’re trying to burn the mobs down. We aren’t trying to tank or piss you off.

3. Repeat after me: “There is no Death Knight tanking tree”.

All three of the trees can tank, we just do it differently.

Blood tanks are single-target tanks. Give them a little help with Sunder Armor or something and they’ll keep that boss all day. Their enormous HP totals and mitigation (as well as their FU strike being a self-heal) allow them to keep aggro on a boss and keep standing for a long, long time. Healers love Blood tanks.

Unholy tanks are AoE and utility tanks. Unholy builds, both DPS and tank, bring Ebon Plague to the table – which makes the victims take more disease damage and more magic damage. Wonder why your mage’s DPS went up by 13%? You’re welcome. Plus, Unholy tanks are good for keeping the attention of a bunch of mobs.  Mages, locks, boomkin, and shadow priests love Unholy tanks.

Frost tanks are in-between – without the HP pools and mitigation of Blood or the utility of Unholy, but still good single-target and AoE tanks. They’re a little spiky, but they’re the ones most likely to pull out a burst of threat when a mob gets pulled off them.  Frost, sadly, can’t bring the love to the raid – but make excellent general-purpose tanks.

4. Sometimes, we pop Army for a reason.

The thing I see the most complaints about, after Death and Decay, is Army of the Dead. Somewhat nerfed in 3.3, it allows us to summon ten ghouls that taunt and aggro every damn thing in the area. But, believe it or not, the proper time to do this in Heroics is not “never”.

Fighting the Black Knight? Sure would be nice to keep his ghouls off the healers, wouldn’t it? Oh, if only someone could summon up ten disposable meatshields to keep them busy.

That blueberry in Violet Hold? Want him to go down fast without having to fart around with those little portals he summons too much? Well, guess what – there’s a trick to that, and it involves an “Army” of “Dead” people.

That awful faction champions fight in ToC? Fun times is yanking their shaman into a welcoming mob of Army of the Dead ghouls and then Chains of Ice to keep him there.

A good DK DPS will wait for you to call for Army. A good DK tank knows when to use it. If your DK is using it on trash, and he’s not desperately trying to keep someone with combat rez alive when the tank goes down, kick him.

5. If I’m not doing something you want when you want it, I’m not trying to piss you off.

Let’s explore something I said earlier – see that passing reference to runes, above?

How our abilities work is, most of our abilities require a blood, frost, or unholy rune. Many require more than one. We only have six of them, and they’re on a ten-second cooldown.

If I’m in the middle of my DPS rotation, and you want a Death and Decay *right now* well, guess what? I may not have the runes for it. I have one ability that will refresh all my runes in an emergency: Empower Rune Weapon. Which has a five minute cooldown. And because I didn’t use all my runes at once, it’s hard to get good utility out of it – it’s probably macroed to my “Oh, shit!” button along with Icebound Fortitude and whatever other emergency abilities I have. And odds are, in the GCD or two it takes me to hit it, my runes for DnD or whatever you need are back.

So I may not throw something exactly when you want it. I’m not lagging or dragging my feet to piss you off, I’m dancing with my rune cooldowns.

And, either way, you’ve arsed my rotations, so whatever you want had better be Arthas-damn important.

Thank you for reading, and I welcome your commentary. I may follow this up with a “Five things your Death Knight needs to know” post. But, hopefully this gives you a better idea of how we work, so you can sift out the good tanks and dps from the failknights who should be playing rogues or warlocks or Bejeweled.

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8 Responses

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  1. Elnoriah says

    Very well put. When I’m playing my Tank it annoys the hell out of me that people don’t have the decency to WAIT a couple of seconds for me to execute a decent pull.

    I couldn’t have worded it better myself!

  2. Millea says

    Thank you for this insightful post. I generally avoid running with DKs because so many of them are deathtards. I do know that there are some fantastic DKs out there and you just got added to that list.

    As a healer this is very helpful for me. Thank you again!

  3. Jeff says

    I just rolled a cute girly dwarf Death Knight with intent to tank. I have sufficient tanking experience as a bear not to be a total newb. I’ve started with a Frost spec (altho reading this, I may switch to Unholy). But… at level 58, with no DnD and no Dark Command, could there truly be any point to my stepping into an instance and claiming to be a tank? I may just perpetuate the deathtard stereotype and we wouldn’t want that…

  4. MoodylonerDK says

    You have a point, Jeff.

    At 58 you should be deep enough into Frost to get Howling Blast. Glyph it, and use it as your opener.

    Frost has reasonably good threat generation, even at lower levels. With that and Frost Presence, that’s about the best you can do till level 65 and Dark command; and level 67 and Rune Strike. And you’re not that far off till Death and Decay at 60.

    Even at mid-levels, tanking and dps are pretty similar. You can drop into Frost Presence and tank by generating threat through dps.

    How successful this will be for you, I’m uncertain. But I’ll guarantee you that, leveling up through instances as a tank, you’ll be very familiar with DK tanking tools and threat generation by 80.

  5. Jeff says

    Thanks for the advice! I will take your suggestion about glyphing Howling Blast, and hold off on the tanking until 60. Much appreciated.

  6. Dooby says

    I have an 80 tank dk. Currently geared I had trouble keeping threat before but now I just need to not get hit so hard. My def is at 566, do I need to stack parry and dodge because we dk’s have no shield?

    [Moody] Going to jump in while I’m rescuing it from the spam bucket. After Defense, you want to get your hit to the soft cap, then start working on your avoidance and gemming for Stamina.

    Unless you need to gem to get def capped, gem for Stamina. You can try stacking avoidance – anything to help your healers – but also remember the Frozen Throne debuff in ICC will hose your dodge.

    A lot of that depends on your tree. Blood you want Stamina and a monstrous health pool to make your self heals better. Unholy you want to stack avoidance to make Bone Shield last longer. Frost, try for a blend, or whatever helps your healers to keep you standing.

  7. Paladin Tank says

    I would like to kindly disagree with using Army of Dead on the Black Knight in Phase 2.

    Your paladin tank has ample tools to lock down a large number of ghouls, but once Army is out, not only is it impossible to round them all up, but our threat starts going down as the Knight is no longer hitting us and running around all over the place.

    On top of all of that, you make it a lot more difficult for other DPS to stay on the Knight and for them to be able to tell if they are going to be near a Ghoul explosion or not. Sure, they can try to see if the graphic is growing, but they are probably watching cooldowns or grid, etc. It greatly confuses the encounter.

    Nothing makes me happier then when I am doing my daily H ToC than to not see a Death Knight, specifically because of Army of Dead.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. 5 Things Your Pug Healer Wants You To Know « I Like Bubbles linked to this post on December 22, 2009

    [...] 22, 2009 /wave to Altadin for the tank version. There’s also a general DPS, mage, and DK version.  I copied first though, damn [...]



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