DK Tanking Guide (5.1)

Death Knight
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ATTENTION: Since writing this guide i've switched servers. Just so people don't click my name and find a "char not found" error, my new armory is

I'm trying to get a new version of the guide stickied (one that is posted from my new server/guild), so if you could please request that the sticky be swapped for this thread:

This guide will assume you know the basics of the class (basically anything you could get from a tool tip). It is written with lvl 90 tanking in mind and while the information could be useful at any level, it is not made with leveling in mind.

1) Talents
2) Glyphs
3) Stats (Gems, chants, ect.)
4) Playstyle ("rotation")
5) Advanced Playstyle
6) DK specific encounter guides

1) Talents

The new talent system for Mists is designed to be more fluid, but there are still better options both overall and for certain circumstances. I'll provide some standard spec builds, but keep in mind with this more fluid system you will find yourself tweaking a lot more often.

5 man spec:|
stable build that has a focus on trash pulls and aoe threat.

Challenge mode spec:\|f
Similar to the 5 man spec, but made for fast chain pulling through large groups of trash as well as some add control options.

Single Target raid spec:|
focuses on survivability. the basic "mechanic neutral" raid tanking spec.

AoE raid spec:
Focuses on add control with lots of weak adds in mind.

Because of the more fluid nature of talents in MoP there is a high chance that you will need to tweak any of the above specs to be 100% optimal for a specific situation. Because of this, I'll give a run down on each tier individually and how you would adjust the above specs in practice.
Tier 1
This tier focuses on managing diseases. Rolling Blood is best when having to put diseases on new adds frequently, such as chain trash pulls or staggered add spawn timers. Plague Leech give you about one death rune a minute when used right before reapplying diseases with Outbreak but has no real use for applying diseases, making it best for controlled single target situations without adds that need diseases. Unholy Blight is an AoE version of Outbreak which makes it useful for putting diseases on targets quickly and without using any runes. In AoE situations you will go with either Rolling Blood or Unholy Blight (depending on how frequently you will need to be applying diseases) and for single target fights you will go with Unholy Blight or plague leech. Plague Leech is "theoretically" superior due to the .5 DS/min it gives but in reality having a backup Outbreak is much more useful, even in raids where there may not be many AoE situations.

Tier 2
AMZ scales better for DPS, and they don't have as viable of options this tier. Because of this and the situational value of AMZ, this tier is a choice between Lichborne and Purgatory. Lichborne is a very powerful CD, and is best used with Vampiric Blood and when you have pooled a decent amount of runic power. Purgatory is best used on a pre-planned attack, as the way it works makes the next boss hit very dangerous. It will be used in any situation where the boss does a very large attack that either can't be avoided or would just be made easier with purgatory.

Purgatory is risky, and not usually recommended for normal raid tanking. It is much safer to use cooldowns like lichborne to prevent the death in the first place. In a true hardmode progression scenario full hits can wreck a tank, and if RNG puts a full hit like that next to another source of random damage it could easily be a death. This is what purgatory would be good for in progression. In order to pull this off you'll need to make sure your healers know what spells they'd use so that you as a team will have a better chance at surviving the melee hit directly after a purgatory proc. Your healers should pick the heal they can do the most with in ~1 gcd. There are things you can do to help them, such as using Vampiric Blood as SOON as you get purgatory proc and doing whatever you can do throw out a Death Strike, be it dumping your Blood Tap stacks, or hitting Empower Runic Weapon, anything. If you've got any cooldowns that aren't already being saved for another mechanic in the fight, this would be the time to use them.

Tier 3
Chilblains can be very beneficial in add control, Death's Advance can be very useful in dealing with positional mechanics, and asphyxiate is useful in handling interrupt mechanics. Unless you need the add control or the interrupt help, it's probably most useful to go with Death's Advance.

Tier 4
Death Pact is more powerful, but conversion coupled with Vampiric Blood can be very useful in dealing with a mechanic where a healer may not be able to heal you or when a mechanic is dealing sustained heavy damage. Siphon can be an option on magic heavy fights, provided you still can get a considerable amount of AP. If you picked Purgatory in T2 then it is highly recommended you also take Death Pact, as that greatly increases the value of purgatory.

Tier 5
In terms of survivability Blood Tap gives the best control, as you will be able to place regained Death Strikes where you need them most. Runic Empowerment will provide more runes but requires some focus to make it worth it. In order to be a DPS gain over RC, you have to allow some RE procs on B runes. They are theoretically equal with at least 19% of you RE procs hitting blood runes (that are then used for HS) and any more RE procs on B runes beyond that 19% would be dps gain, but you sacrifice control and predictability for your death strikes by taking this talent, so use this when dmg intake isn't an issue and you want to increase dps (or threat, in the case of 5 mans). Runic Corruption is similar to BT in terms of survivability benefits. They both serve to lessen gaps between death strikes, but they do it in different ways. BT has some build up, but if more potent when used. RC takes no build up, but doesn't give as much benefit. You are basically choosing control (BT) vs consistency (RC). Generally the control of BT will outweigh the consistency of RC but RC does do more dps, which makes it a very strong option for progression tanking.

Tier 6
Remorseless winter is very handy in dealing with stunnable adds, but does not affect raid bosses. Gorefiend's grasp doesn't affect raid bosses either, but can still be handy since very few bosses are completely add-less, and you can use this on the other tank to help them gather adds since it doesn't taunt like Death Grip. Desecrated ground is pretty much useless unless there is a Mind Control mechanic you can neutralize.
2) Glyphs

Major Glyphs:
Glyph of Vampiric Blood
Glyph of Pestilence
Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon/Ice Bound Fortitude (only when needed, otherwise these are best left out. see below)

Other notes on glyphs:

  • Glyph of Vampiric Blood is a good glyph in general, but if you want to use as a pre-emptive EH boost, you need to unglyph it.
  • Glyph of AMS has potential situaitonal use, but due to the fact that it will generally reduce the duration without changing the overall dmg mitigated makes this situationally useful but overall less than desirable, much like DRW and IBF.
  • Glyph of DnD can be very useful in controlling adds, so it would definitely be recommended for any situation where you would have the AoE spec for add control.
  • Glyph of Icy Touch can be useful if a mechanic requires dispelling a helpful effect.
  • Glyph of Outbreak While it shouldn't be needed in a normal tanking situation (thanks to blood boil), but it can be very useful for challenge modes and 5 mans, since you will generally have plenty of RP after a set of trash and can quickly move on to the next pact with outbreak available.
  • Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon will give you more threat, but reduces your damage so it should only be used if you can't get initial aggro securely.
  • Glyph of Ice Bound Fortitude should only be used if you need the lowered CD to help with a mechanic, for example Impale on Madness. impale is one hit, so the reduced duration isn't a problem but with the reduced CD you could have an IBF for every impale as opposed to every other. Unless the reduced CD help with a mechanic do not use this glyph, as it reduces the overall dmg reduction from IBF by 50%.

  • Minor Glyphs:
    Most of these are cosmetic, but there are a few you may want to avoid as a tank though. Glyph of Army of the Dead removes the taunt from the ghouls you spawn, which ruins it's value as a way to recover a horrific add situation. Glyph of Tranquil Grip removes the taunt from Death Grip, which isn't something we want.
    3) Stats

    If ignoring hit/exp:
    Stam (until you have enough effective health)>Mastery>Parry=Dodge>Haste>Hit=Exp

    if hit/exp capping:
    Stam (until you have enough effective health)>Mastery>Hit (to 7.50%)=Exp (to 7.50%)>Parry=Dodge>Haste

    "Which priority do I follow?" - You

    Generally only aim for hit/exp if you can handle the slight increase in damage taken. Farmed content, easy content, and dps races (ultraxion style) are situations where you would probably choose to hit/exp cap.

    note that parry=dodge no longer means keeping their values equal. See below for how to optimize avoidance and diminishing returns.

    Balancing Avoidance and DR
    With the new DR mechanics We'll want to balance the % on our character screen according to this equation:

    Parry% = 2.598*dodge% - 5.797 (with Rune of Swordshattering)
    Parry% = 2.598*dodge% - 9.797 (without Rune of Swordshattering)

    So for example if you had 10% dodge on your character sheet and had Swordshattering on your weapon, you would want...
    2.598 x 10 - 5.797 = 20.18% parry rating.

    NOTE: Night Elves have a different base dodge, and should use:
    parry% = 2.598*dodge% - 10.992 (with Rune of Swordshattering)
    parry% = 2.598*dodge% - 14.992 (without Rune of Swordshattering)

    Or you can just use a macro that will do all the work for you.
    With Swordshattering:
    /run d=GetDodgeChance() n=3.22 b=5.01 if UnitRace("player")=="Gnome" then n=n-.01 end if UnitRace("player")=="Night Elf" then b=b+2 end p=235.5*d/90.6425-((235.5/90.6425)*b-n)+4 DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage("Ideal parry: "..string.format("%.2f",p))Without Swordshattering:/run d=GetDodgeChance() n=3.22 b=5.01 if UnitRace("player")=="Gnome" then n=n-.01 end if UnitRace("player")=="Night Elf" then b=b+2 end p=235.5*d/90.6425-((235.5/90.6425)*b-n) DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage("Ideal parry: "..string.format("%.2f",p))
    Hit and Expertise
    With more hit/exp you will have a chance at more SoB stacks, so in a way you're basically choosing between one RNG and another. in general the dmg reduction from hit/exp capping is around 2%. This makes hit/exp capping a net loss in dmg reduction after factoring in the loss of other stats. A good argument for hit/exp capping is DPS, as capping is a very significant dps increase. If your healers are not running into mana issues and you need more raid dps, definitely consider getting some hit/exp.

    Stamina vs Mastery

    Another point of contention in the DK tank community in how they prioritize stats is Stamina vs mastery, which can be boiled down to Effective Health vs Mitigation. This is a HIGHLY subjective topic, and what may work for one tank may not work for the next. This is due to different playstyles from both the tanks involved as well as their healers' playstyles.

    Beyond making it so you can survive the highest single amount of damage in an encounter, EH works to reduce spike damage. lets say you define "spiky" as going from full to below 50% of your health in one shot. if your health was x, a hit worth x/2 would be "spiky" dmg. If you were to increase your health to say 1.25x, the 1/2x hit would only be 40% of your health instead of 50%. you made the relative dmg less by increasing your health. As DKs our spike damage primarily comes from hits that aren't Dodged/parried/absorbed, which we call a Full hit.

    Since it's impossible to maintain a blood shield 100% of the times (assuming tank&spank rules in progression content) you will get hit with full hits throughout the fight. Reducing the spike threat from these full hits could make you subjectively easier to heal, despite a slight increase of Damage taken. Where the controversy comes into play is when you incorporate your healer's mana. More damage, relatively a reduction or not, still needs to be healed back. In other words, more dmg = more mana spent. Generally a healer's mana takes priority over reducing the spike damage they have to deal with, so it's generally better to try to minimize overall damage but that doesn't mean you should totally ignore the spike dmg part of it. This is why it is 100% subjective, and there is no "right" amount of EH as long as you are not dying in 2 hits. Everything beyond that is between you and your healer.
    the 2 best professions from a stats point of view are Blacksmithing (2 gems each valued at 320 of any stat) and Leatherworking (750 stamina at the cost of 170 mastery)

    Other professions bonuses:
    Jewelcrafting - 480 stamina or 320 mastery
    Engineering - 1920 dodge on-use glove enchant with a 1 min CD
    inscription - 450 stamina
    mining - 480 stamina
    Enchanting - 480 stamina
    Alchemy - 480 stamina or 240 mastery and 720 armor

    All other professions do not provide any bonuses for tanking.

    Since stamina's value from gems is now equal to secondary stats (an epic non-JC gem is 320 mastery or 320 stamina) gems are no longer a fantastic way to adjust EH balance (add/detract stamina) since it's a 1 to 1 exchange, whearas using a stam trinket in place of a mastery trinket would provide more stamina per mastery. This means that unless you really need more EH and already have used the other options you will want to follow the same standard model from Cataclysm

    Yellow slot: fractured gem (mastery)
    Blue slot: Puissant gem (mastery/stamina)
    Red slot: fine gem (mastery/parry) or Keen gem (mastery/exp) if you are going for hit/exp caps.
    Prismatic slots: fractured gem (mastery)

    If you want more stamina from gems to increase EH, put some Mastery/Stam hybrids in yellow slots until you are at a more comfortable EH level for the content you are attempting.

    As i mentioned, how you incorporate hit/exp is entirely subjective. Since the right amount of those stats for you personally varies from capped to 0, there is no way to put it into a reforging "priority system". If you wish to add to hit or exp, I would recommend taking it out of dodge or parry, whichever needs lowered to meet DR goals until you reach your hit/exp goal.

    If you're ignoring hit/exp, the basic idea of reforging is to first maximize mastery, then balance dodge/parry to miminize the affects of diminishing returns. If a piece of gear does not have mastery on it, take either dodge or parry (depending on which needs to be adjusted for DR) and put it into mastery. If a piece of gear does have mastery, make sure the 2nd stat has either dodge or parry, depending on which you need to minimize diminishing returns.

    (will replace with actual links once the live database is updated to allow linking mop items in forums)
    Shoulder - Greater Ox Horn Inscription/Secret Ox Horn Inscription(inscription only) (300 stamina 150 dodge/750 stamina 150 dodge)
    Chest - Superior stamina (300 stamina)
    Wrist - mastery/Fur lining - Stamina (Leatherworking only) (mastery dodge/750 stamina)
    Gloves - Superior Mastery (170 mastery)
    Legs - Ironscale Leg Armor (430 stamina and 165 dodge)
    Feet - Pandaren's Step (140 mastery and movement speed boost)
    Ring - Greater Stamina (Enchanting only) (160 Stamina)
    Back - Greater Protection (300 stamina)
    weapon - Rune of Swordshattering (Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle is also viable, though does not result in as much overall dmg reduction.)

    Choosing between Swordshattering and Stoneskin Gargoyole:
    It depends entirely on what content you are running. For low damage intake situations Swordshattering is obviously the way to go, as it provides ~3 times more overall dmg reduction when compared to Stoneskin. Where it turns into a grey area is when you incorporate burst damage intake, such as what you'd find in progression raiding. the more "progression" you get (harder content/lower gear) the more SSG gains value. not because it does more dmg reduction, but because further down that path you go the more threatening burst damage is. By the time you reach 25H hardcore progression raiding the burst damage is almost the only thing that matters, and SSG does more (albeit not a lot) for spike damage, even though it does less overall mitigation.

    So which is right? It depends on you. In a perfect world you would pick SS for the overall dmg reduction, but it all depends on what kind of burst damage you are taking and what your healers prefer. If you're not sure, lean towards the side of SS.
    4) Playstyle
    Single Target:
    Use FU runes (including combos of F U and D runes) on Death strike, dump Runic Power with Rune Strike, make sure you always have diseases on targets you are tanking, and dump blood runes with heart strike (above 35%) Soul Reaper (below 35%) and make sure you are keeping diseases up through Blood Boils from Crimson Scourge to maintain diseases.

    very similar to the Single Target, except you may have to use D runes on Blood Boil (4 or more targets) or Heart Strike (3 targets or less), as well as D or U runes and/or crimson scourge procs on Death and Decay. Try to balance survivability with AoE threat, since D and U runes spent on non death strike abilities means less death strikes. It's better to err on the side of survivability, since a dead tank doesn't hold aggro well.

    While the above info will get you through most content, in order to be an effective tank you should read the info below, as it will make a significant difference compared to a DK tank who just takes 5 seconds to read the basics above and then starts tanking.

    Death Strike basics
    Death strike takes the dmg you took in the last 5 seconds and converts into a heal and subsequent shield via our mastery. An optimally timed Death Strike is one that has the large about of damage in that 5 second window. Maximizing DS throughput on the other hand, is about using your runes to maximize the number of death strikes throughout the fight. Balancing these 2 ends up being a matter of making sure you always have an FU pair cycling while still waiting until you have a good amount of damage in your 5 seconds window. The easiest way to do this is use an addon like BloodShieldTracker to track your damage window, and only DS when you have a good chunk of healing from the shield or if you are about to get another FU pair back. This will ensure you are getting decent Death Strikes without losing too much throughput. For a more advanced how-to on Death Strike, see the Advanced section below

    Scent of Blood and Death Strike
    Many people have come to the conclusion that you should wait until you have high stacks of SoB before using Death Strike. This is simply not true, and your current stacks of SoB should have no affect on how you use Death Strike.

    The last and probably most important thing is the cooldowns we have at our disposal. One of the DKs strengths is our CDs, and using them efficiently helps separate the boys (paladins) from the men (dks).

    Cooldowns are always best used when planned ahead of time, to maximize effectiveness. Knowing exactly when you are going to use each cooldown throughout a fight is much better than simply using them to react to emergencies that could have been prevented with better CD management.

  • Ice Bound Fortitude - This is our biggest dmg reduction cooldown, and should be used to manage harder hitting infrequent abilities
  • Dancing Rune Weapon - If you need it for threat you will glyph it and use it very early, otherwise use it as an avoidance increase (for mechanics with a stacking debuff that is applied physically) or to boost personal dps (during a mechanic like Hagara's Feedback for example).
  • Anti-Magic Shield - This is one of the most useful cooldowns we have. As the name suggests, use this one on any fight with a significant amount of magic damage. In some cases, it can prevent certain DoTs from being applied, allowing you to drop the stacks and start at 0 again which can be invaluable.
  • Bone Shield - With 20% reduced dmg taken for its duration, maximizing the uptime on this cooldown is important. It is important to realize that it has an internal cooldown preventing it from losing stacks too fast. With 6 stacks you have a guaranteed duration of 12 seconds. Use this on cooldown unless you are saving it for something (like impale from the Madness encounter)
  • Vampiric Blood - When glyphed this is a reactive cooldown, as you lose the EH bonus. Use it when your survival is dependent on being topped off very quickly (period of large damage or mechanics like Baleroc's Decimation blade). Unglyphed this can be a nice EH boost to help handle large spike dmg.
  • Empower Runic Weapon - This returns all your runes to you, so use it when as many runes as possible are on CD.
  • Army of the Dead - while casting AoTD your dodge/parry chances are added up and turned into raw dmg reduction. 15% dodge and 15% parry would make AoTD give 30% reduced damage taken while being casted. Because it's based on your avoidance, it's best to use this in cunjunction with DRW (which raises your parry) for an extra 20% dmg reduction. you DO have to actively casting it while taking the damage for it to be in affect, so make sure you time it with whatever ability you are trying to reduce the threat of. (prepositions aren't words to end sentences with)
  • 5) Advanced Playstyle
    This section revolves around DK tanking in hardmode progression content or any content where burst damage is a concern. It may not apply if you are overgeared or not running heroic content, and is not intended to be correct for 5 man tanking/old content tanking, though you may find some of the information useful regardless and I highly encourage reading it through if you want to really improve as a DK tank.

    Some terminology to know:
    "Full hit" - a completely unmitigated hit.
    "Burst Damage" - Any large amount of damage in a very short time. Not necessarily a single large hit.
    "SoB" - Scent of Blood.
    "mitigation" - in this context includes both absorbed and avoided damage. (any damage that you didn't take that you otherwise would have)

    First lets look at what death knight tanking "is" as well as what defines a good DK tank. We are the "self heal" tank, which makes us very mana efficient. We generally take far less external heals than other tanks, at the cost of taking slightly more damage compared to a warrior or paladin tank.

    Where it becomes complicated is that due to our reactive healing style of tanking we have to take damage before we can heal ourselves, as well as the fact that we will naturally take more damage due to less armor and raw dmg reduction (10% vs 15% for pallys and 25% for warriors for example). This means that while our dmg taken will be only slightly more than other tanks, the shape of the damage will be very different and much burstier, with periods of very light damage followed by very large damage. You may have heard the common complaint from healers that DKs are "spiky", and this is where that comes from.

    So how important is the shape of our damage? As long as the damage we are taking is roughly equal to the other tanks at the end of the day, does it really matter? It depends on the content you are running, but generally yes. It matters very much. Because of this spiky nature, we have to really step back and think "how do I go about being the 'best' DK tank? Should I focus on raw dmg taken or should I concentrate on minimizing bursts? which one is more threatening to me as a tank?"

    For most content you will find that how you handle those bursts is what will make you a mediocre or fantastic tank. Tank healing is already pretty mana efficient compared to raid healing, so focusing on increasing our already fantastic self heals is generally not going to do as much for you compared to focusing on minimizing the threat from the bursts. That's not to say you should ignore overall damage taken, but it shouldn't be your #1 concern unless your burst damage is small enough that it is no longer is a threat at all. When this moment occurs will depend on the content you are running, your gear level, and if the content is nerfed or not.

    Advanced Death Strike

    Now that we've come to the conclusion that generally (heavy emphasis on generally) focusing on minimizing the burst damage vs the overall damage taken is going to result in better tanking and happier healers, we can apply this ideology to find that death strike should be used in a way that will not just result in the most healing/dmg reduction, but that will help reduce the threat from burst damage.

    If you were to time death strikes for maximum healing/absorption, you would wait until you had plenty of damage in your 5 second window. This would likely mean waiting ~4 seconds after a large burst (depending on what kind of damage you took before the burst) to allow for the most possible damage in your window with an extra bonus of having more SoB stacks on top of that.

    If you were to time death strikes for the purpose of recovering from burst damage, you would death strike immediately following a large burst, using the heal from DS to put you back into comfortable range and using the shield to give your healer some more time to get you back to full before the next hit. In this case you didn't wait for any extra damage to increase your heal/shield, but you did make sure that the burst damage you took was taken care of as best you could and minimized it's impact.

    These are two extremes (waiting for all dmg in 5 seconds and waiting for none), and the "correct" usage will usually be between the two, depending on how much damage you are taking and how bursty it is. for example if you had only gone from 100% to 70%, then it would probably be safe to allow for more damage and in that window, but if you burst from 100% to 35%, you will want to help get yourself back to a comfortable level by death striking right away. For example if you go from 100% to 70%, then get healed to 80% off some HoTs and then get full hit to 30%, you would likely have waited to use it on the drop to 70% and would have used it immediately after the burst to 30%.

    In other words, if you are not taking much burst damage (100% to 70%) then consider waiting a bit longer (unless you already have a lot of damage in the last 5 seconds) and if you burst then it is better to react to that burst to recover from it quickly.

    Beyond that is maximizing throughput without sacrificing optimal Death Strikes, which is simply trying to keep at least one F U pair cycling at all times without ending up without a pair when you need it. for example if you use a pair then get bursted, you will have to use your remaining F U pair to recover, leaving a large gap between that Death Strike and the next one. If this does occur, pop a defensive cooldown as this is the most threatening position to be in (not counting any mechanics). If you have to pick, always choose for well timed death strikes over raw DS/min, since it is much better to have a death strike and not need it than to need one and not have it. You will generally lose overall mitigation by sitting on runes too much, but remember we are more concerned with burst damage than just the numbers of overall damage taken.

    Advanced Cooldown placement

    Beyond timing death strike better you can work to minimize the burst in the first place with proper cooldown usage. A BIG part of death knight tanking is making sure we are using our cooldowns optimally in addition to just our death strikes, and when done right the two will work together. Using a cooldown like IBF or VB when you know you won't have an F U pair in a while can prevent getting too much burst damage when you don't have the runes to recover with Death Strike. If you have a Death Strike in your back pocket either through 10 or more stacks of BT or just an FU pair handy, save your cooldowns for later when you know you won't have a DS ready for several seconds. Cooldowns used in this manner should be used preemptively, not after bursts. This means knowing when you are going to be Death Strike starved for the next several seconds and using the cooldowns before you take any burst damage. They all have 10 or more second durations, so you can easily fill a DS gap with any one of them.

    Obviously if a cooldown is required for a mechanic, save it for that. It's better to survive a mechanic than to minimize the burst damage, since you can recover from normal burst damage more easily than you can recover from tanking a mechanic with your face. "Because the guide told me to use all my cooldowns in coordination with my death strike" is not a good enough excuse for dying to a burst damage mechanic over and over again.
    Maximizing Tank DPS

    On top of optimal survivability, a hardcore progression tank will be required to focus on personal DPS as well. With vengeance the way it is, tank dps is much more impactful on the raid than in previous expansions and increasing tank DPS can be an effective way of beating an enrage timer as well as just making the encounter easier through some extra deeps.

    Most of these tradeoffs require a potentially steep survivability cost, and trading survivability cost for DPS should always be done very carefully. There are some tradeoffs that have less impact on your survival, and should be done first with the more "dangerous" options being done if more dps is required beyond the first changes.

    The "light" options would be:
    Hit/exp capping (less mitigation stats)
    Using DRW off CD (less likely to have it when you need it)
    Death Siphon with careful use (less Death Strikes)

    and the heavier options would be:
    reforging for haste/crit (less mitigation stats)
    picking up RE and gaming for B runes. (significant loss in Death Strikes)
    Death Siphon with heavy use (resulting in a significant amount of lost Death Strikes)

    While Tank DPS is important, surviving is always #1 and being an unstable tank is a hefty price to pay for extra dps. If you aren't stable there had better be a good reason for that extra dps, or you are just making it harder on your healers for no reason, which is obviously not good. If you are trying to rank, make sure your healers are on board first.

    Stat Adjustments

    The first step in increasing your DPS as a DK tank would be to prioritize hit/exp. soft capping both with result in a ~12% dps increase over no hit/exp without any playstyle changes.

    Secondary stats:
    If survivability is not a concern, trading mastery/avoidance for secondary stats can be a DPS gain. I would not recommend this for normal progression tanking, but if you are trying to rank or if a fight has very little tank dmg and a very tight enrage timer than consider trading survival stats for secondary stats. The actual DPS per point between haste/crit is negligibly close, so you can consider them equal in terms of overall damage. However, haste will help with survivability (faster rune regen is great for Death Strike) while crit will not. Therefore the priority for secondary stats is haste>=crit.

    There are only 2 talent options that will really increase DPS, those being talents in t75 and t60. Plague Leech from t15 is theoretically a DPS increase in a patchwerk fight, but with very few actual patchwerk fights this tier the utility from Rolling Blood and Unholy Blight are generally safer choices unless you find yourself only attacking one target for a considerable amount of time.

    The 2 main choices are Death Siphon in t60 and Runic Empowerment in t75.

    Death Siphon:
    Death Siphon scales very well with our vengeance. after the recent nerf it requires 75,868.6 attack power to equal Heart Strikes damage and is more powerful at any AP value above that, which means you will need to watch your attack power to maximize your dps. It is very important to keep in mind that Death Siphon costs a D rune, which means using one Death Siphon will result in a significant delay in your next Death Strike. Use with caution.

    Runic Empowerment:
    This will provide a significant increase in DPS, but at a significant survivability cost. The reason RE is generally a bad choice for survivability is that it provides the least consistent return of Death Strikes. It still provides the highest overall rune return though, and can be gamed to return the most B runes, which can would be used for heart strike.

    RE gaming:
    RE procs return a fully depleted rune, which means both runes are on CD. If your runes looked like this: xxxxUx (BBFFUU) and you procced RE you would get a B or a F rune, since you have 1 U rune available, meaning your unholy runes aren't fully depleted. When gaming RE for survival you try to proc RE on F and U runes (for death strikes) by using rune strike only when you have xBxxxx (F and U are fully depleted), however you can game for B runes by only using Rune Strike when you have xxFxUx, which will guarantee a B rune on an RE proc, which will lead to more Heart Strikes (more DPS) and fewer Death Strikes (significantly less survivability).

    Dancing Rune Weapon:
    While DRW is a great tank cd, it is also a decent DPS cd. There is a trick that will increase it's value beyond it's face value though. DRW copies your abilities and deals them as it's own attack at slightly reduced power, and this includes Outbreak, Icy Touch, Plague Strike, and Pestilence. This means you can have 2 sets of diseases rolling simultaneously, and can spread them both through pestilence. Like any DPS CD, try to time it with any buffs/procs to increase it's value.
    There a couple ways to optimize it's use, depending on how many targets there are:

    Single Target
    Apply double diseases by using Icy Touch and Plague Strike immediately after using DRW, and reapply with outbreak right before DRW falls off. This will give you ~10 seconds of extra double diseases uptime at the cost of 1 death strike (F and U runes) or two Death Siphons (2 D runes) which is a net gain either way, though it is best to avoid using D runes to apply diseases for DRW since it's more of a DPS increase to trade a death strike instead of 2 death siphons.

    2 Targets or more
    Apply double diseases with Outbreak immediately after using DRW, and use pestilence to spread both sets to all targets.
    Reapply all sets with another pestilence before DRW falls off.
    6) DK specific encounter guide

    Stone Guard:
    This fight is fairly straight forward. There is no burst damage (assuming you don't hit a cobalt mine), so there is no reason to sit on cooldowns. Your blood shield doesn't do a lot here, as ~75% of the dog's damage is in the form of a shieldable DoT, so consider running with 2 stamina trinkets for this fight. I recommended glyphing AMS since you can mitigate the cobalt mine damage with AMS should you absolutely need to hit a mine without Cobalt petrification. Lastly if you are the one tanking two dogs, I highly recommend speccing into Rolling Blood so you can always apply diseases on every dog swap, and if you are having threat issues on both dogs at the beginning of the fight consider glyphing DRW. There are no preferred t75 options for this fight, so pick the rune regen talent you prefer.

    Heroic Stone Guard:
    no DK specific changes from normal mode. just more damage.

    Feng the Accursed:
    Assuming you are tank swapping at 2 stacks of the DoT, you should be placing CDs when you have 1 stack of each phases DoT since you won't be actively tanking with 2 stacks. I wouldn't recommend glyphing AMS, as each tick is going to be less than half your HP (so you mitigate more hits for less as opposed to less hits for more. More hits for less mitigation is preferred here.) There are no preferred t75 options for this fight, so pick the rune regen talent you prefer.

    Heroic Feng the Accursed:
    You should spec into Gorefiend's Grasp for the heroic only phase (the shadow/shield phase), as being able to grip the adds together for more efficient AoE is very valuble and is a utility that can only be brought by DKs.

    Gara'jal the Spiritbinder:
    This is a very.....touchy fight for DK tanks. This fight revolves around raid members taking damage equal to the damage we take, which is a problem since DK tanks naturally take more damage than any other class, and the method we use to overcome this (self heals) don't
    get sent to the voodoo doll damage. What results is a lot more damage going out on the raid through us than any other tanking class. That said, this shouldn't be too much of an issue in normal mode.

    You can still mitigate the normal melee attacks from Gara'jal, but you cannot absorb his Shadowy Attacks. Because of this, try to place your death strikes before and after each shadowy attack so that you don't get a melee attack on the raid immediately before or after a shadowy attack, which could be fatal. Also, effective health means very little on this fight as it doesn't help the voodoo dolls in any way, so avoid stam trinkets here. I recommend Blood Tap here so you can better place Death Strike around shadowy attacks.

    Heroic Gara'jal the Spiritbinder:
    No changes from normal mode, except the voodoo doll damage is a lot more of an issue. So much so that it could get in the way of progression. You may want to consider going with a warrior/monk/pally alt tank if you can, or just going DPS for this fight. The DK is just not built for this encounter.

    Spirit Kings:
    The only time that absolutely requires cooldowns is when Meng reaches high insanity during Crazed and does considerably more damage. Make sure you have some form of cooldown active from about 70% insanity until he transitions to Cowardice, and consider stacking multiple CDs when he reaches 90+ insanity. Make sure you are not spreading diseases in any way during Maddening shout, as your raid WILL be affected by your Weakened Blows. This includes Rolling Blood. I recommend not using RB for this fight for that reason. On the same token, consider grabbing Gorefiend's Grasp so you can grab all your teammates together for AoE for that mechanic. There are no preferred t75 options for this fight, so pick the rune regen talent you prefer.

    Heroic Spirit Kings:
    No changes from normal mode except more damage. Cooldown use becomes more important around Meng's high insanity damage. In heroic mode you will have to active bosses at one time, so if you are solo tanking and are having threat issues consider using glyphing DRW for burst threat right before each new king becomes active.

    You take more damage with higher stacks of Overcharged, so save cooldowns for high stacks. AMS should be used on breaths you take at higher stacks as well. Pick up glyph of pestilence here, as it will make it easier to apply diseases on all targets during phase 2. Finally add control abilities such as Remorseless Winter are really useful for the beginning of each phase 1 repeat for stunning the adds while they are AoEd down, as they do a lot of melee damage and tanking them all of them at once isn't recommended. There are no preferred t75 options for this fight, so pick the rune regen talent you prefer.

    Heroic Elegon:
    On heroic mode you can't interact with anything on the other side of the inner circle (out or in), and raid members need to soak Total Annihilation (like Ultraxion). AMZ is a great raid CD here, and should be used after the add starts casting Total Annihilation (so he doesn't break AMZ with a pulse) and before you go back into the inner ring (since you can't place it outside if you're inside).

    Will of the Emperor:
    This fight is really simple for tanks. Simply take normal boss swings and then dodge his devastating arc mechanics. The bosses don't do any damage to you while they're doing their large arc mechanics (unless you get hit), so don't use any cooldowns while they're in that phase. Save them for when they are actually doing damage. They do have quite a large swing range and can be a bit bursty, so consider 2 stam trinkets if you are under geared for this fight as well as leaving Vampiric Blood unlgyphed for the effective health. There are no preferred t75 options for this fight, so pick the rune regen talent you prefer.

    Heroic Will of the Emperor:
    Nothing new except they makes you dodge their arcs for twice as long, as well as increased damage all around. This is a blessing in disguise, as them doing their dance longer means they also spending less time actually hitting you. Try to build up a max blood shield while dodging, and then chain CDs when the shield wears off. It shouldn't be long after the shield wears off that they start dancing again, and you can start over.
    I like it, although I'm taking a break from tanking for a while come mop, I'm sure many will find this useful.

    Sticky requested.
    Requsted sticky, thanks for the guide.
    Thanks for the guide going to be helpful :)
    I find it funny that your 5 man build is almost entirely different than what I had planned.

    That's what I'm planning on. I want short cooldowns because I'm going to be bouncing from trash pack to trash pack, so I want my abilities up as often as possible.
    I like it, sticky request.
    08/01/2012 01:42 AMPosted by Reniat
    @Euliat if you've got a guide in the oven then just let me know and i'll pull the plug on this project.

    I had something in mind but I'm not going to ask you to just throw away all the time you've put into this so far.

    Doing all this beta stuff for DPS DKs has stopped me from looking at the Blood DK tanking sim seriously for a few months. Fortunately, the rotation hasn't really changed any, but I haven't done any gear/talent analyses recently, and am still messing around with where to place the new Blood Boil in the priority (location and time).

    I also might be quitting WoW in a month or two, so writing a sticky and then (potentially) immediately quitting is a jerk move in my opinion. Won't know more about that until another month, though.

    Also will be a few days before I can get around to reading this post.
    I find it funny that your 5 man build is almost entirely different than what I had planned.

    The new talent system makes it hard to define 1 spec for any role, be it 5 man tanking, add tanking or solo tanking. This is why i took the time to outline every talent and when you'd want to use it, so that people can learn to fluently swap talents for any given situation.

    Your spec would certainly work for 5 mans, with RC instead of RE for more aoe dps (more blood runes) as well as rolling blood for free pestilence instead of blight which would only be useful every 1.5 minutes, which is a long time for chain pulling trash. I am curious why you chose Anti magic zone, though, and i'd probably go with lichborne if im going to be pushing the healer to chain pull (assuming you've got a pug healer).

    I'm not sold on Plague Leach. It seems worthless without a RE proc to activate your other depleted rune.

    It's not something that leaps out at you in terms of value, since it only ends up being about 1 Death runes per minute. As far as how it works with RE procs, you can think of it as a guaranteed RE proc, since the result will be the same. This means that you may not want to dump RP on rune strike for an RE proc if you are about to use Leech if you only have 1 pair fully depleted. Of course this will change depending on if you are close to RP capping, but that's how it will work in general.

    Also keep in mind, there really aren't any better options. One is a free pestilence, the other is an extra aoe outbreak, neither of which are of any use in a single target situation and since you can keep up diseases with blood boil you don't even want blight as an extra outbreak anymore.
    08/01/2012 02:46 PMPosted by Reniat
    I am curious why you chose Anti magic zone, though, and i'd probably go with lichborne if im going to be pushing the healer to chain pull (assuming you've got a pug healer).

    It's a good question. I've used Lichborne when tanking for a long time, but the number of times it's really saved my !@# have been few and far between. I'm a big fan of cooldowns that don't just benefit me, but the group as a whole. If AMZ is buffed to soak up a goodly chunk of damage, I think it will be worth it for a lot of pulls/bosses. But there's no way to tell this early.
    08/01/2012 02:49 PMPosted by Gruklaar
    If AMZ is buffed to soak up a goodly chunk of damage, I think it will be worth it for a lot of pulls/bosses.

    Meh. I don't recall there ever being enough raid wide burst magic dmg in 5 mans to justify it. I'd still take Lichborne.

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