Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Death Knight tanking

I wanted to test how good Death Knights are at tanking. Only problem: There are no other character classes than Death Knights in Hellfire Peninsula in the beta. But as my own Death Knight is a gnome, and thus Alliance, and all my level 70 characters are Horde, I had copied my level 60 human priest to the beta, loaded with herbs for the DK's Inscription. So I specced the priest holy, went to Hellfire Peninsula, and shouted for 4 Death Knights to come to Hellfire Ramparts with me.

I was quickly taken up on the offer, and we cleared out Ramparts, with only one wipe at Nazan. Due to their good starting gear, the DKs just crush the trash mobs. Healing them is challenging, but doable for a level 60 holy priest. By some fluke of fate we found, besides one staff for me, only weapons and armor Death Knights can use. And the good new for DKs is that the stuff was better than their starting gear. Hellreaver is a good upgrade to the runesword they have.

We killed the first and second boss by simply overwhelming him with damage. The third boss, Nazan, is a lot tougher, and there the tanking deficiencies of the Death Knight class became apparent. It's not that they can't withstand damage if properly geared. But holding aggro is a problem, they don't have much threat attraction abilities, and their taunts aren't good for main tanking. Death Grip has a 35 second cooldown and only works for 3 seconds. Blood Boil has a shorter cooldown, 15 seconds, also works for just 3 seconds, but only works on diseased targets.

I'd have no problems inviting one Death Knight into any group as off-tank. But once the Death Knights stop being overgeared in the mid 60's, using a DK as a main tank will be problematic. They *do* take more damage than a protection warrior, so need more heals, so the healer is more often getting aggro, and the Death Knight has problems managing that. Harder dungeons, and especially heroic dungeons, will need something else than a Death Knight to tank. As I said, protection warriors aren't obsolete. Too bad half of them will retire in frustration after playing a Death Knight for a while and exclaiming "why doesn't my warrior solo like that!". I don't think this attempt by Blizzard to solve the tank shortage will work. Improving the soloing power of protection warriors, or introducing the free talent swap, would have been a better plan.
Interesting read, but I have to wonder how good the designated DK tank actually was at tanking with a shiny new class. Did he have prior experience with another tanking class? Has he tanked with the DK before?

DK Talents are not yet finished, so it will take some time before people get DK tanking right.
Was the DK tank the right spec? Fury warriors aren't too hot a tank either, so if the DK wasn't Frost that could explain it also
Hmm....From the sound of it the death knight is very like LOTRO's Champion. A Heavy armour wearing melee class who can switch from tanking to damage dealer more or less at will and has a few self heals.

The Champion also has problems holding aggro and has less damage mitigation than a warrior. To the best of my knowledge no body uses a champion as main tank in raids or harder end game content.

The Champion is still needed Raids but not as a tank. The Champion is needed because there are some things he does better than any other class in the game: Best interrupter, Best aoe damage, highest melee damage.

I guess that every class needs to be "the best at something" or else they are just consigned to fighting for any unfilled raid slots. Is the Deathknight actually the best at anything?
Yeah my first couple of feelings towards your comments are along the lines of "Were they spec'd in any way, shape or form for tanking and threat generation and damage mitigation?" If anything I would assume the last boss in ramparts to be the EASIEST for a DK to tank due to the amount of spell dmg the guy deals (fire)

To say that they wont be good tanks based on your experiences of 4 random DKs spec'd who the fuck knows how, is kind of.. premature.
I wonder why you had to heal at all? We went into the Hellfire Ramparts with 5 death knights only, all specced differently and cleared it.

Of course at some bosses one DK died, but we went through it and aoe's most of it down.
The judgement isn't solely based on a random dungeon run with 4 random Death Knights. It is also based on the analysis of all the available taunts the class has over all talent trees.

My very first WoW dungeon experience was Ragefire Chasm in a group which consisted out of 5 shamans by coincidence. We cleared the place. That doesn't make 5 shamans a viable group to tackle heroic dungeons. For a post like this one, one needs to be able to extrapolate what one sees to what is known about the future.

I'm not saying "Death Knights can't tank" in some sort of absolute fashion. But I can say that a Death Knight will have less damage mitigation than a Warrior of the same level and same level gear, simply because the Warrior has a shield, and Death Knights can't use one. And I can see how many aggro management skills the Warrior has, and how many the Death Knight has, and conclude that Warriors will be better at holding aggro. And then I just need to add those together, plus add the known behavior of WoW players to never accept something that "will do" as long as something better is in the game.

And, by the way, the kind of fire damage Nazan deals is NOT technically a spell. A Death Knight walking into Nazans fire zones takes exactly as much damage as any other class, just like he wouldn't take any less damage when swimming in lava.
In all fairness, Ragefire Chasm isn't tooled to require much more than any five players; I don't think its necessarily the same as saying five DKs cleared Ramparts by themselves.

Blizz has been on record saying that the DK should be able to tank regardless of spec, just that the tanking machanism will be different for each tree. Unholy, for instance, sounds like it would tank more in an AOE fashion, like a paladin would. I wonder though, you had better be very good at positioning the mobs, since a DK doesn't use a shield and you can't parry behind you.

I've been waiting for a good analysis of their tanking style since the Beta opened. I don't think anyone expected them to be as good as a warrior, as that would (as you already imply) be the final nail in that class' coffin lid. Warriors will likely always be King Tank, and that's fine by me.

From someone who spends way too much time standing in the LFG channel waiting for a tank to show up, having another class capable of running 5-mans is very much appreciated. At least with a DK, you don't need to worry about sending the whisper and getting back a response of, 'Sorry, Fury spec.'
Would be interesting to know if the "assigned" DK-Tank did turn on his Frost Aura (called differently, but forgot it), and all other their Blood Aura.

Since what i've seen at my own DK ,is that with that Frost Aura, your Thread and Damage Reduction is alot higher. While in the Blood Aura, you get kinda healed a bit ,and your Damage output is higher.

So to do an Instance with a DK group, it would be logical that only one DK should have the Frost Aura, while the others should turn on Blood (Unholy?) Aura's to not steal the Thread.

There is an ability which consumes all debuffs, does damage and "Taunt" the mob, forgot the name ,blood look a blood-drop.

If i remember right ,this has not a long cooldown.
You took dps geared and probably dps spec'd DK's to tank an instance. You got the same results you would get if your took a fury warrior who just threw a shield in his offhand slot.
You can't block behind yourself either... all tanks have to move.
I just have to point out that almost all your observations of DKs vs. Warriors holds for Paladins vs. Warriors too...but to suggest that Paladins aren't massively better at tanking 5-mans and heroics than Warriors is absurd.

The one comparison you made that doesn't apply to Paladins is that Death Knights don't use a shield. Bears don't either, but I don't remember the last time I heard a prot warrior talk about how glad he was that he didn't have a bear's physical mitigation.
I don't think this attempt by Blizzard to solve the tank shortage will work. Improving the soloing power of protection warriors, or introducing the free talent swap, would have been a better plan.

According to this is exactly what blizz has planned. there are very likely considering swappable specs, and the 51 point prot talent is shock wave. many of the warriors prot talents now increases their ability to deal damage. Higher crit chances with Heroic strike, thunder clap etc, more damaged against disarmed targets with improved disarm. Better shield slam damage. Look at the new prot warrior talent tree its very nice.

As for me I think Prot/fury might finally be viable for non-raid tanking. so my 2 specs would be MS/PvP spec * Protection/Fury for soloing and instancing.
I absolutely can't believe Blizzard is breaking their promise of solving the tanking crisis! OMG they are such the liarz.
I expect DK's will be able to tank 5-mans, including heroics. If they can't now, then Blizzard will fix them until they can.

The days of subtle tweaks are gone, so it won't take much work to fix them. For instance...

Extra Cold Frost Presence
Your attacks cause 100% more threat, but do 50% damage. Lasts until cancelled.

One thing that's being overlooked regarding prot warrior damage is the huge change they're making to Strength and Block Value. In the live version of the game 20 Strength = 1 Block Value (forcing us to ignore Strength on our tanking gear), but in the current beta version that has been buffed to 2 Strength = 1 Block Value. What this means is now we can ignore Block Value as a separate stat and stack large amounts of Strength on our tanking gear. All this new Strength/AP on our tanking gear means much more significant white damage, bigger Heroic Strikes which will crit more often, bigger Devastates, and of course all the abilities that now scale with AP like Shockwave, Thunderclap, Concussion Blow, etc.

The only real problem with this is that it won't really be noticeable when the expansion first hits because of the current itemization on gear. They may convert Block Value to Strength on our current Tier sets and badge gear, but I'm not counting on it. If they don't, then this change will only really become noticeable once we've replaced all of our current tanking gear in Northrend, which as you can see from the leaked screenshots has very large amounts of Strength to go along with the Stam and Defense. So the buff to prot warrior dps isn't really coming in the form of some new uber talent that will put out extreme damage, but instead is coming from slightly raising the damage of ALL of our abilities through itemization while not costing us anything in survivability.

As for Death Knights, I can guarantee that before the beta is over, if they are using Frost Presence and their highest threat abilities, they will be able to produce threat that is comparable to any other tanking class. There is no way that Blizzard would develop a tanking class that can't generate sufficient threat, and that classes Taunt abilities will have nothing to do with it. If both the tank and the dps/healing classes are playing correctly then a Taunt ability should never be needed. They have nothing to do with generating threat.

The Death Knight will take more physical damage, and be slightly harder to heal because of it, but that's their niche. If spec'd properly the increased physical damage won't be that noticeable, and will be offset by the decreased spell damage that they take. Once Blizzard is done tweaking them and people learn how to tank with them then they'll be perfectly viable tanks. The question is will people then be willing to spec and gear them towards tanking? That's doubtful, so unless they do implement 2 talents specs then the tank shortage for small groups will continue.
You guys do know that a fury warrior (even with regular green/blue quest gear) can tank any normal instance in the game right? Stop claiming that a fury warrior is just as gimp a tank as a DK ... it's not true.
Do you guys also realise that this is BETA and hence feedback to Blizzard would help them flesh out the class more. If you find issues raise it with Bliz! Make them aware of it.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobold, I think you can replace the death knight tank in your post with any other tank type doing their first tanking in the ramparts in between leveling bouts.

Gearing for the wrong stats, using the wrong abilities, having the wrong spec and plain being unexperienced are a much larger factor in this experiment than the actual class. Add to the mix that your experience in tanking is second hand, so you do not know what the tank exactly did, and you have a shaky base to extrapolate.
[q]Blizz has been on record saying that the DK should be able to tank regardless of spec, just that the tanking machanism will be different for each tree.[/q]

Just because Blizzard has created another tanking class doesn't mean long time dpser's are going to start playing DK tanks.

From what I've observed, the tanking talents are spread over the 3 trees. Making for a pretty medicore tank.

Most dps players will skip over the tank talents and go for the straight dps/pvp talents.

The only player will try to make a DK tank are other Protection Warriors, Feral Druid and Protection Pallidans [b]because tanking takes a certain type of player who wants to tank[/b], the rest of us will continue pew pew.
Dyslexic, you said that "long time dpsers" won't tank with their DK.. and that only other tanks will actually tank with their dk.

Tbh i don't agree at all.. i have 3 70s right now.. all dps, lock, rogue, hunter and i can't wait to start tanking with a DK :P.

On the dmg mitigation matter, now i haven't played in the beta.. but don't DKs have large amounts of armor, and an almost constant 50-60% chance to parry?

They also have like.. 10-15% dodge, and that without gear (? my 63 fury war has 10% dodge chance, no dodge on gear or from talents, he has agility though, which obviously gives him dodge) so i'm not really concerned with dmg mitigation, although i don't have any tanking experience past ZF (lol).

Wall of Text crits you for 27392.
yeah, sorry, tried to keep it in small chunks lol :D
I have a level 80 death knight who is now a tank.

What did I play before?

Ret pally and frost mage.

DK's can take aggro from a warrior maybe after a few good hits. What I use for my tanking is unholy/frost spec. I'll also be going into the blood spec for the parry rating you get in the first tier when your blood runes are on cooldown.

Death and Decay and Unholy Blight pretty much seal the deal on aggro for me. As long as I keep those up, I keep the aggro. Unless somebody is attacking a different mob than I designate. Then I SOMETIMES lose aggro but not often.

I am 3 points away from 540 defense which is considered "uncrittable" for raiding and such. But I still take a mess of damage sometimes and it proves to be difficult. I'm messing around with all sorts of specs at the moment, in search of what is going to get me the best Dodge and parry rating that I can get. In this search I intend to keep three of my skills. Lichborne, unholy blight, and scourge strike.

Since I want to hold UB I will of course, have to get scourge strike anyways to advance in the tier(or try and find something more useful in the tree.)

I've already tanked a few heroics (Halls of Lightning being the only one I failed on because of the Loken fight and because our druids could not keep me alive with just HoTs. I say a pally or priest healer is best on DK's)
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