Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Rant: DK tanks suck

*Warning: Incoming rant*

My druid is now level 63, and got from 60 to there without doing any quests, just queueing up as a healer in the Dungeon Finder. Overall that worked not so bad, because while we remember the terribad pickup groups more, and discuss them more, there are actually more than half of pickup groups which are competent enough for the content the Dungeon Finder assigns them to.

But in those pickup groups I've been in that went pear-shaped, the tank was invariably a death knight. Usually a death knight with absolutely no defense gear, low stamina, and in some cases even somebody who had to be reminded to switch to frost presence. In two groups yesterday the dps warrior of similar level had *more* health than the DK tank.

With low health, low defense, and no shield, a death knight tank can go from full health to dead while having a full set of heals over time on him in less than the time it takes to cast a healing touch. Even more annoyingly I experienced several wipes where the DK tank had overpulled, I barely managed to keep him alive at the cost of all my mana, and then we wiped because the tank had ignored my "out of mana" announcement and went and pulled another three packs of mobs. And then of course everybody blames the healer and leaves the group.

Dear Death Knight: At this level you inherently suck at tanking. You don't even *want* to tank, you just signed up as tank because it meant less waiting time in the Dungeon Finder queue. So please, could you at least pull carefully and watch the healer's mana between fights? Once the healer runs out of mana, you are dead.
DF rant incoming:

The Dungeon finder sucks 50% of the time and destroys communities 95% of the time. ;)
Don't get me started on 58-59 DKs in old-world dungeons. They learn Death and Decay, their primary AoE threat move, at 60, and yet they queue up intending to tank before that? That's like trying to tank as a warrior before you learn defensive stance.
First of all, there are a lot of competent DKs and they're a great class to play.

But I have also noticed quite a few terrible DK's while levelling my alt. At level 62 or so I entered a few instances where the DK didn't use frost presence. Yelling at him for 5 mins to use his "frost presence". No luck and when trying to kick him you get the "this player cannot be kicked for another 10 mins". Why the fuck did Blizzard add that to the game? Anyway, I took out my shield and tanked for 10 mins. And then kicked him. Problem solved.

Or you meet the DK who is in frost presence... but is signed up as DPS. Yelling at him for five minutes to use another stance does not help. And kicking him? You guess it: "you cannot kick this player"!

After level 64 I just took up dual spec and tanked everything after that myself with my cutesy warrior. You don't really need defense gear anyway to tank the lvl 65-70ish content.

And yes, it's probably partially for the very fast queue times you have as a tank (I rarely have to wait longer than 5 seconds on my warrior). But seriously, if you do not intend to tank do not sign up as one!

There is no reason a smart DK can't tank before they have D&D. They just have to do everything else right. Including ensuring a primary threat target is always marked (that doesnt mean aoe cant happen, just that people dont focus fire an offtarget).

Of course, there is every reason bad DKs cant tank - regardless of D&D.
Death Knight tanking requires more forethought than the class has appeal.

The class can tank fine, but players who just do some quests and then hit the dungeon button don't necessarily have any clue.

With the three other classes, the odds that someone has tanked with the class before are simply higher.

That is what is skewing your impression to the disfavour of deathnoobs. =]
This is the exact reason I gave up leveling my shaman at 74: I had dealt with horrid DK tanks up to that point.

My main has been a warrior since the MC days, so when I say so many people being bad at DK tanking I leveled one of my very own specifically to see the other side of the coin. Every instance I did was an effort to prove to my group mates that I knew wtf I was doing, and I always got so much joy out of showing them that DK's could 5-mans.

When the ICC 5 mans came out my DK was freshly 80, only just good enough to do them on heroic. By chance I ended up in a 5 man with 4 people from one of the top guilds on my server in Halls of Reflection. They demanded I leave the instance, as a DK could not possibly complete the instance successfully. They had a DK MT who apparently was very terrible at 5 mans. I assured them I knew I was doing, and soon thereafter I proved myself capable.

I love DK tanking 5 mans. Reminds me of the days I'd take my warrior into endless UBRS and Strat runs wearing DPS gear and a 2H weapon, holding aggro by virtue of damage. I must have run UBRS at least 200 times.

To be fair, though, DK tanking is unlike any other class. Once you get a system down, though, its pretty fire and forget. Step 1 is remembering Frost Presence and getting those diseases up and spread immediately. After that it depends on the group composition.
Playing a warrior that's been primarily leveling via tanking since level 40s - generally you get very competent players. Until 58.

Holy crap, these DKs out of the woodwork are like guys back in level 10. Some dps in frost presence, and opens with icy touch T_T

Almost all of them ignores the Skull marker I set.

Death Grip? Never on that pesky ranged caster. No, they have to death grip a tanked melee npc away from the tank, to them and next to the healer. I'm really not sure why they do this.

Their only saving grace is that the healer is bored from healing a well geared tank and has plenty of spare mana to keep the DK up, and DK's plate starting gear gives them quite a bit of survivability.

Oh ya, rolling need on tanking gear on top :-(

My temper gets really short whenever I see DK dps... :-(
You sure need lots defensive gear and Death and Decay to tank ramparts. Oh wait.

Seriously, even a freshly minted 58 DK in their started blues can tank early BC without breaking a sweat, and also do some very respectable damage in the process.

It's not a class design problem, you just go unlucky getting matched with retards via LFD, move on.
I never had problems tanking as a DK. I don't know what to say about terribad DKs. I have no concept of how they are as bad as they are. Furthermore, there is no excuse now, DKs have been around long enough.
Never had any problem with my DK too, normal instances don't even need full def gear. Don't confuse with clueless green geared dps DK that noticed they got shorter queues if they "sign up as tank, lol"
I've started, rather than asking for a mana break, to just say "taking a mana break after this fight" in PUGs. Seems to work pretty well - the implication, of course, is if the tank pulls whilst you're drinking, it's clearly their fault if you wipe.
hehehehehe I wrote about this last month:

I wrote this because my 60+ shaman healer was having the same flippin issues. HAHAHA awesome :)
Hehe Franco, that's exactly the reason I levelled my DK as a (frost-spec) tank: to prove to some lucky people that when the person playing the DK has a brain, they can actually tank quite well.

I stuck with it, too, an now he's one of my main characters, next to my shaman.
I have played the game since launch, and I have a DK tank. I'd call you out, but I know what you've said is probably true - and it all boils down to the player's skill on this one.

Most of these folks are probably just out of the DK starting zone, and are likely just starting to get familiar with all their abilities. What makes this worse is that DK tanking requires a lot of precision and attention - much more so than, lets say... the two-button druid tank. You've got to manage your runic power, get used to a complicated rotation involving keeping a variety of debuff's up, and at this level, the +hit just isn't there, so its extra nasty because you've got to account for when something mid-rotation doesn't hit (or the rest of your rotation is borked).

On top of all of that, you're right about the hit points and such not quite being there yet. To mitigate this, and be successful, its important that the DK is spec'd properly, and has the proper +defense rune on his sword. Even more important is that the DK tank use his cooldowns liberally, and generally at the start of a pull.

I recall when I first started DK tanking, my attention was so focused on managing my cooldowns and abilities, I had very little mental capacity left for situational awareness - like a mob getting loose! This gets better with a lot of practice with the rotations and cooldown. (also, keeping your death grip in reserve instead of blowing it at the start of the pull helps when someone in the party gets aggro).

Now, when you add to all of this the fact that most of the DPS in these groups are probably alts of people used to running heroics in double the required ilvl gear, and you've got a recipe for disaster. Few people will slow down in these non-heroics.. but that's a problem every sub-80 tank faces, not just DK's.

And sorry you got blamed, but if it makes you feel better, as a DK tank, I know it was their fault. It takes much more work and effort to achieve an acceptable level of tanking with a DK. Actually, I'd suggest you try it for a challenge!
Most of these folks are probably just out of the DK starting zone, and are likely just starting to get familiar with all their abilities. What makes this worse is that DK tanking requires a lot of precision and attention - much more so than, lets say... the two-button druid tank. You've got to manage your runic power, get used to a complicated rotation involving keeping a variety of debuff's up, and at this level, the +hit just isn't there, so its extra nasty because you've got to account for when something mid-rotation doesn't hitThat's another thing I'd forgotten about - the game doesn't really do a good job of explaining how the runes and runic power work together, and the starting quests are rather too focused on having fun killing stuff than teaching. Even though it seems glaringly obvious to me now, I remember the feelings of confusion I had at the beginning trying to work out what all my abilities did, what order I should use them in, what ones weren't worth bothering with, that sort of thing.

In fact it's enough to make me want to write a Beginner's Guide to DKing.
The problem is that every other class can aoe (even warriors with thunderclap) whereas the dk's can't until level 60. There is no primary threat target when your whole group is randomly popping targets left and right.

Snap aggro is also not always available as a dk in comparison to warriors who have more snap aggro stuff than anyone else.
Hey, just for fun, I started a horde dk and did a couple of levels.

You're facing 2 problems when dealing with low level dk tank.

1. The tank is another alt, who's probably NEVER tank before.

2. Not all of the tools are available yet.

Just for fun, a couple of weeks back, I started a Blood Elf DK to experience the starting quest of that race. And I queue up random dungeon as tank in between quests. Before level 60, the DK's ONLY AoE threat ability is Blood Boil, and that need to be stress to the raid as they becomes AoE happy.

In terms of having no tanking experience, I have no problem holding aggro, but I have 3 years of experience tanking both as Paladin and as DK. Your problem is probably more having to deal with noob tanks.
The primary DK threat move is NOT D&D, it's icy touch and runestrike. They are learned at 55 and 67 respectively.

Both of these tools are single target, and groups should respect that.

I tanked my way up the levels using the lfg system. I did it in tank gear. Feel free to boot terribads that think they can tank in dps gear. But respect a DK tank that knows how to gear and spec for thier role.
The class is fine but the game funnels newbies towards it which is the problem.

If you're new the best way to level is to get to 55 with something else then switch to DK. You get rid of quest greens and replace them with blues that are better than Molten Core epics.

DK is probably the fastest levelling character with high damage, high survivability and self-healing.

The hero class designator still confuses people into thinking it's intended to be a stronger class that a vanilla fighter or mage.

So most people starting WoW are going to want to try DK as one of their first two characters.

Another point is that at 58 a DK is new to his character, in fact he's made less levels on his DK than a level 13 Warrior doing Ragefire Chasm.

For you Tobold I suggest you sign up for groups as dps then heal anyway. A sucky tank, 2 dps and 2 healers will get through most dungeons. Alternatively tank them yourself until you get over the new DK spike.

By Northrend most DKs should have figured out their character a bit better.

To the Death Knight tanks two tips - 1) don't waste Death Grip, it's your emergency taunt
- 2) start a pull with Pestilence for AOE threat.
The problem is with poor players being drawn to the DK class, not an inherent problem with DKs. DKs have plenty of tools to make them highly effective tanks in every situation, but in the hands of an unskilled player, it doesn't really matter what class the person is. The issue you are running into is expected given your level and the fact that DKs start at 55 and show up in BC right at 58. But please don't confuse bad players with a bad class design.
One reason for DKs was to add tanks to WoW. But, as usual, Blizzard didn't spend much ressources on the leveling: Tanking as a new DK is actually HARDER than as a 80 DK.

This is typical for Blizzard: The one team spends thousands of man-hours into designing the 3D-world, but the game design team doesn't care much about the leveling process and just concentrates on endgame. In fact, the leveling seems to be nothing else than a nuisance for them.

Problems occur when there is an interaction between endgame and leveling game; like number of new players that like to tank with the DK at 80.
Those new players who failed at it in the typical LFD-PUGs will have lost all faith in tanking ever again.
Not this bs again: Dear ranter, it is not my class that is at fault. It was not a death knight tanking, it was *your* class on an alt.

DK's being terrible tanks while leveling, sadly, is the rule more than the exception - so everyone who wants to say "You can't blame my class" can take a backseat. It's more like - blaming people who insist on playing a class they aren't committed to learning to play well.

Captn got it pretty much spot on: The class lures in people who don't/won't put the thought into how to tank a class that requires a lot of forethought.

Most of the tanking gear available to a leveling DK is pretty much crap. It's not designed for them. If it doesn't have Shield Block (useless), it has Intellect (useless). (I actually scolded a group of guildies for picking on a leveling DK who was wearing the paladin Defense gear from Outland dungeons - it has int on many pieces. But he had gemmed correctly for his class and turned out to be a thoughtful, smart tank.)

HOWEVER! This does not excuse bad tanking. Period. And what this rant is really about, when you read it thoroughly, is ANOTHER bad DK tank.

DK tanks are squishy, no matter what way you paint it, and if they are going to pull like they are playing their Paladin, or with the lack of knowledge of having NEVER played a tank - they are fully at fault. And I'm 100% onboard with Tobold.

(Also, I don't know how you survived. I tried to level a shaman from the start by queue'ing as a healer. Out of a total of roughy 15 runs, I had ONE acceptable run - and even it had two total jerks in it (who I basically put on ignore). That character got deleted. I'll try again another day when my will to level a healer returns.)
Of COURSE there are more DK noobs. A level 62 Deathknight is actually a level 7 character. And with some BoA gear, that takes about 10 hours to accomplish.

Mine is sitting at level 62 somewhere, but most of what I read indicates this is a pretty complex class. And the talent lines are not all that distinct.

Complex class, most difficult group function, least amount of play time, and we're all shocked that they suck?

I think Blizzard over-built the DK a bit. I think they thought it might solve the tank shortage problem, but then they called the tanking stance "Frost presence"?

Why Frost for tanking? Call it Ice-Protection, or Frostshield, or something we would associate with tanking so people don't have to read EJ to know what presence is appropriate for tanking.

Agree with Nils. Class is well-designed and fun, but not ncecessarily for what it was intended to do.

We in the Government have a motto...Ready, Fire! Aim.
I feel for ya Tobold. I was leveling a Horde Druid a few weeks back. As I heal all the time on my Alliance Druid I did plenty of it on my Horde one. I ran into exactly the same problems. They can be very squishy but it's the player that is the real issue.
What's wrong with Icy Touch>Plague Strike>Pestilence for pre-60 tanking?

I never used D&D because it messed up my rotation and I never had a problem tanking.

One of the biggest issues with DKs is that you use your Cooldowns, and I think many people aren't used to using their cooldowns. They like to "save them". Its a similar issue when people switch from playing an RPG to playing a Roguelike game where you should use what you get.
A level 63 DK in slave pens is not the same thing as a level 63 warrior, its more like a level 16 warrior in dead mines. They dont get D&D to 60, they cant get howling blast till 60. They can hold aoe aggro, Icy touch, dot, pestilence, blood boil, will hold fine against healing threat and cleaves. Not a chance if one dps decides to attack a mob on the left and the other a mob on the right.

Lack of defence gear is not a problem. They have to go out of their way to get +defence and the instances are designed around tanks not having +defence. Now 70+ is totally different but thats what the cobalt gear is for.

But in general the scaling is not quite right. Modern DK's are designed around 80 raids in epic gear. That leaves them a little short in normal dungeons.

Add in that the DK could have been sitting on the shelf for a few months and their general introduction to dk is probably been watching icc geared DK's bounce around random heroics and its not unexpected they have issues,
wait you're using healing touch? Even pre-WotLK, I would use other heals.

sucky tanks abound, and many are DKs, esp. at the leveling area. They don't understand that you can't just DPS and qualify as a "tank"
wait you're using healing touch? Even pre-WotLK, I would use other heals.

Of course you use healing touch, but you use it LAST, after rejuvenation, regrowth, wild growth, and swiftmend. The first three of these are heals over time, and reapplying them while they are still on doesn't have much of an effect. Healing touch is also *the* spell to use with nature's swiftness.
To those saying DK tanks have no AOE right out of the box, they in fact have two:

Blood Boil

I am not a tank. I do not enjoy tanking, I do not have much experience tanking. I can tank Ramps just fine on my pre-60 DKs as long as I explain to the group that I'm a touch new and I need them to go easy on AOE and let me get a threat lead. And by far the majority of groups will listen.

I have also leveled a healer to 70 exclusively through the dungeon finder (Zimzi on Kel'Thuzad, resto shaman) and I never had any more of a problem with DK tanks than any other class... in fact, probably the most problematic were pallies with their never-buffing lol-ez-mode facepulling ways.

A rant is a rant, and I have them too, but I'm beginning to really HATE seeing people being tarred with the all DKs are idiots brush, and I don't even play one!
DK tanks at that level also have one taunt (death grip) and very few of the abilities that make them some of the best tanks end-game. Combine that with the relative newness of the character (they only started at lvl 55 anyway) and you have a bad situation...

that said, I've tanked a DK from 58 to 80, so it's doable, you just have to understand the class and have half a brain.
Well said!
IMO Sara has the right answer to DK aoe threat. Even after they get Death and Decay the diseases, Pestilence and Blood boil should be used by death-knights to maintain threat.

Although I've seen most bad behaviors by death-knights I had a new one, to me, the other night. A frost spec'd DK tanking with a one-handed weapon. Yes, just the one one-hander, nothing in his off-hand.

His excuse was that he hadn't picked up a decent off-hand weapon yet.
I tend to find that 58-62 is especially brutal, and then again at 68-72. It seems that the deathtards (and general tards of all kinds) get stuck at these points. So I always take these levels with a grain of salt and I'm not afraid to boot or leave group and go quest for a 1/2 hour if it's really bad.
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