Holding the Line: DK Tanking for Newbs

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Sorry, for those of you looking for an in-depth guide to death knight tanking - this ain’t it. This is, however, maybe a short gathering spot for any tips and pointers I’ve picked up from across the web, and I’d appreciate it if others could contribute what they know. Because, yes, I’m going to be tanking… or at least off-tanking… pretty soon. The gear’s all organized, now I just need to learn the finer art of Making Things Hit Me In The Face Instead Of The Healersâ„¢.


  • The pic above demonstrates the foundation of every DK tank build I’ve seen so far: 5/5 Blade Barrier, 5/5 Toughness, and 5/5 Anticipation. You can go just about anywhere you like from here, but this gets you the lowest-level avoidance talents out of every tree.

  • Tankspot is home to the most civil, open-minded, straightforward discussion of tank specs and rotations that I’ve seen thus far (barring the guy on page two who comes in and says “ur unholy spec is fail lololol” [more or less]). There’s another discussion on Elitist Jerks (you knew there would be). Here’s a bit on dual-wielding tank builds, as well. (I, for one, am not a fan of the dual-wielding death knight - but I know a lot of you are, so there you go!)

  • Contrary to when DPSing, the gargoyle, ghoul, and dancing rune weapon are mostly unwelcome guests when tanking. Why? Because they don’t directly cause threat for you.

  • Frost is not “the tank tree.” Frost is the burst damage tree. Yes, Frost has a seemingly high amount of the mitigation talents, but Frost is not the only way to tank.

  • Unholy used to be “the other tank tree” but even with the nerfing of Bone Shield I’m not noticing any fewer Unholy tanks. (Unholy would feel a bit like tanking with a plate-wearing warlock, in my opinion.)

  • While it’s still sometimes pretty squishy, Blood can supposedly tank now due to the overhauled Vampiric Blood, the passive upgrades to Frost Presence, and apparently even the new Will of the Necropolis. Given my on-again/off-again love affair with Blood-spec I will probably be trying this one first for tanking. (I’m in it again for DPSing and have not noticed a drop in DPS from when I was unholy; yes, I’m managing to make up for myself and the now-absent ghoul. It’s a very gear-dependent spec, and mine’s just good enough again to make it worthwhile.)

  • Despite all the ways Blizzard tries to make Death Knights parry, dodge will still be better for a while, in my opinion, because it suffers less from diminishing returns per point than parry. (That is, you need fewer points of overall dodge rating as opposed to overall parry rating to get a higher percent of dodge.)

Alright gang - give me your tips for Intro to Tanking 101, whether it’s Death Knight-specific or not. Bonus points if it is, of course!


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