Monday, April 26, 2010

Death Knight Tanking: Frost Dual Wield Spec à la Raevn

(I'm aware that Blood is the main spec for raid tanking nowadays and will be the standard in the next expansion, however I'm doing this with the immediate future in mind)


A couple weeks ago I decided that my "alt" (Landriana, Elemental Shaman) had quite surpassed my main (Raevn, Frost Death Knight) to the point of humiliation and shame in regards to gear and instances completed. To where technically Raevn should have been considered as my alt.

I'll admit that it was easy to let myself slide. It's not that I didn't like tanking or my Death Knight, it was just that it's WAY easier to come along in instances as a DPS. When something goes wrong it's not the DPS that is blamed (rarely, even when it IS their fault) and I basically get to sit back, shut up and just follow along killing things. It's much more pleasant than running ahead marking mobs (which I'm really slow to do because of the drop down menu and my inability to move my mouse in a straight line, along with the fact that I keep forgetting to keybind the "skull" mark) while having some asshole keep yelling "Go! go!" at you.

So one day I decided to at least do my daily heroic to get some frost & triumph emblems, my gear wasn't (nor is it currently) the best, and didn't even include full tier 9. I felt pretty comfortable with tanking, the day I stopped playing my tank so much I was considered as "up there in gear"... however, the day I decided to resume gearing  I found out just how much I was in everyone's dust.

The Problem:

I signed up for random heroic and got Trial of the Champion, despite the possibly more difficult combination in the first boss fight an over all easy instance that I knew well. I noticed straight away how VERY well geared everyone was because of their GS. (Due to the fact that the majority of the people on my realm require gearscore to get into PuGs etc I have this installed despite how much I hate how people require it & forget that skill < all)  I figure this just meant that things should be a little easier/faster but I was wrong.

From the first pull I noticed I was STRUGGLING to maintain aggro. I'd end up with all my possible taunts on cooldown and unable to pull mobs off of people, we wiped. Someone was disgusted and left. We filled the spot I pulled again and had the same problem, someone shouted at me "HOLD AGGRO TANK" "L2 AoE" along with some insults about being a girl and sucking, etc. It hurt.. I WAS working my ass off but I just could NOT hold aggro. I got sick of the insults and left.

Out of the instance I just couldn't figure out what my problem was, I hadn't changed anything from what I was doing in the past other than using Frost Touch a bit more since it had been improved, but that shouldn't have hindered me.. it only should have helped. I decided to go ahead and look up 2 pretty decent Death Knight tanks I had recently grouped with on my Shaman in VoA, Gloom, EU Terenas & Xyntion, EU Terenas (who now appears to be blood spec, though at the time he wasn't) First thing I noticed was that they were both dual wielding. I myself was always a 2 handed tank with the thinking that 1 weapon makes less chances of a boss parrying/hasting me.

Possible Solution:

I went ahead and whispered Gloom one day when I saw him on to ask what he felt the threat benefits were from dual wielding. After speaking to him and thinking about all the trouble I had, I felt that the additional threat was something that was necessary for me. While I had been slacking and gearing up my alt I ended up getting behind most people on my server who now had VERY good gear and therefore higher DPS (in general, I still believe that skill > gear) and my current 2 hander spec was clearly not cutting it. I set out to acquire the best 1 handed tanking weapons that were within my reach: Rimefang's Claw x2.

Today I finally got my second sword and can now start on sorting a spec to match (my current talents/glyphs are a mess anyway at the moment to be honest). I've already runed both with Nerubian Carapace, which I actually had to learn from the trainer because I didn't have it already (and found out also, much to my worry, that I had a rank of Frost Horn I hadn't learned before).

I've been looking around at talents to get a general idea of what most people are using and to try to see their reasoning behind it. I've read fellow blogger/twitter friend Psynister's Notebook: Death Knight Tanking: Frost (71-80) and thought about some of the points he mentions.

I'm a firm believer though that your spec should ALWAYS match your play style. I don't believe in straight copying someone's spec and expecting it to work out for you. So I think I'm basically going to take some points in mind and modify it to the way I play and consider the issues I run into while tanking.

My biggest issue I run into while tanking is abilities being on cooldown. In general this is solved by working out a rotation, but that isn't really the problem I'm having. My problem is the cooldown of the ability itself. Death and Decay is the worst.
People are pushy in groups, they want to "Go! Go! Go!" and running into a pack of mobs that everyone wants to just max DPS AoE without Death and Decay (henceforth abbreviated as D&D) is just asking to have trouble. If I don't start such a fight with D&D, I'm not going to end up getting it back until too late in the fight because I will end up using howling blast and blood boil to compensate and that puts the runes I need on cooldown. So I'm pretty set in my mind that I will be using talent points to decrease that CD.

I know I should probably just go Blood and get it over with, but honestly I've always been happy as a Frost tank. I'm not in a raiding guild, my guild consists like 5 very casual players, (though 3 of us used to be extremely hardcore back in Vanilla WoW and TBC) the only Raids I will do in a PuG are VoA and maybe the weekly (depending on what it is). There's no real reason I am forced to go Blood for now and I will leave it for Cataclysm when and IF I get the expansion. (I still haven't decided yet).

The Spec, Thought Process:

From the Blood tree I'm going with full Blade Barrier and Bladed Armor. Blade Barrier is mainly to get down the tree while reducing damage at the same time. Bladed Armor for more AP and therefore (hopefully) more threat.

From Unholy full Anticipation is a must as far as I'm concerned. Morbidity is something I'd like to have as well to help with my  D&D problem and maybe Unholy Command if I have any points I can spare. Having one of your "taunts" come back faster can't hurt, though if things work out I shouldn't need it (in theory) so if I can't get it I won't cry.

Frost is clearly where I'm going to spend the majority  of my points. Making sure to include/add the dual wield related talents.
Toughness, Improved Icy Touch and Nerves of cold steel will be full. I DO intend to acquire Improved Icy Talons because I believe they will be an asset to dual wielding and threat.
I've always taken full Black ice as well in the past but I think that this time around I can maybe spend less points on it or leave it out all together. Since killing machine has been modified I can maybe afford to use less points in there as well.
Annihilation I am taking full points in along with Chill of the Grave.
Frigid Deathplate is a necessity for frost tanking , and glacier rot should be useful as these are some of the abilities I use the most.
Full Rime is important to me as I use howling blast quite a lot in AoE encounters (which is most pulls nowadays) Improved Frost Presence is also a requirement as a Frost tank.

In order to progress further in the frost tree I have to spend some more points somewhere. Usually these would come from Killing Machine and Black Ice. 2 points is enough to get further down and I think putting them in Killing Machine over Black Ice seems reasonable. The increase from Black Ice seems small and considering I don't use shadow spells too often Killing Machine might be a better investment overall.

Unbreakable Armor, Full Threat of Thassarian (as this is a DW spec) and full Blood of the North for Death Runes (very handy). Frost Strike, full Guile of Gorefiend, full Tundra Stalker and of course Howling Blast (which I honestly use A LOT).

That leaves 4 points that I can spend how I please. The question now is should I go with full Morbidity or use a point to fill Killing Machine a bit more, maybe stick one in Unholy Command or go ahead and get some Black Ice anyway?

D&D has a 30 second cooldown, which in the world of WoW fights is pretty long. Even longer in between pulls (which is why using it at the start is great for allowing it to come back from CD). To start to feel any real difference in the CD I'm guessing you'll need at least a 10 sec reduction on it, 15 sec would be great but I think 10 is enough.

Deathgrip has a 35 second cooldown. I currently have the glyph that refreshes that cooldown whenever I get a killing blow (which honestly isn't all that often). I'm not sure I like spending a glyph on it, but it's true that in the new ICC 5 man instances there are often packs with 2 casters on OPPOSITE ends of a pack. The best way I have found for handling these is to rush straight to a caster and DG the other over to me (am I the only one who misses the days of strategic fights where we employed crowd control rather than just rushing in and hitting everything without thinking about it?). I'm going to go ahead and use 2 points in Unholy Command because (as with D&D) with such a long cooldown 10 seconds is going to make the most difference.


So basically this is what I'm looking at going with: Frost Dual Wield Spec à la Raevn, hopefully it will help me.. there's really only one way to know. My next problem is going to be glyphs but those are generally pretty easy to fix.

If you got any suggestions, recommendations or reasons why I should or shouldn't take some ability over another please leave me a comment. I'm open to opinions, and just want to improve my situation so I'm not afraid of LFGing with my tank like I currently am.


  1. I hear you on the cooldowns issue, Anex, it really sucks sometimes.

    The suggestion I would make is to drop D&D out of your rotation to be quite honest. Frost has all the AoE threat it needs in Howling Blast casts and Rime Procs. D&D is how Blood and Unholy make up for their lack of AoE threat where for Frost it's just throwing away your runes.

    Give it a shot and see how it works. I know D&D is what you're used to but you'll get better threat and better use of your runes if you forget D&D all together. If you need to front load your AoE threat try Howling Blast > Blood Boil > Blood Boil > Obliterate > Frost Strike.

    You should have no problems with threat from there. If someone does peel one off then you have DC, DG, or Icy Touch now to pull them back over to you.

    If you really feel that D&D is essential to your play then use it on the second set of runes after the initial set has been used. D&D > BB > IT > PS > Blood Tap > Pest > Frost Strike x2

    At level 74 you'll also get Empowered Rune Weapon which instantly resets all of your runes for you. It has a cooldown, but it helps if you want to make use of D&D. D&D > HB > BB > ERW > rotation as normal.

    Hopefully some of that helps or at least prompts some thought.

  2. Hmm drop D&D all together?

    I've never even considered it.. I mean it's such an easy AoE threat ability. If I take that away all I'm left with is blood boil, howling blast and pestilence which I must say I haven't had anything make me want to keep using pestilence (it hasn't impressed me).

    But I will consider it, it's so foreign to my way of thinking I have to at least try it to see what happens :)

  3. Howling Blast kicks D&D in the teeth for AoE threat. The only reason non-Frost tanks use D&D is because they don't have Howling Blast. Time for a 180, sister, if you take away HB/BB/Pest, then all you're left with is D&D, not the other way around.

    Your diseases are the key to your threat. Get the glyph of HB so it applies Frost Fever for you and you've instantly got a DoT on everything in the area. If you don't like Pest then stick to a single disease style and forget about using Plague Strike, burn all your Frost & Unholy runes on Howling Blasts and Obliterates, and all of your Blood runes on Blood Boil for AoE or Blood Strike for single target.

    If you really feel like you're lacking in AoE then make Unholy your secondary tree and pick up Corpse Explosion so you have an AoE to dump your RP into as well. The damage on it isn't great, but it's an AoE that doesn't burn your primary resource.

  4. Hmm drop D&D all together?

    I've never even considered it.. I
    mean it's such an easy AoE threat ability. If I take that away all I'm
    left with is blood boil, howling blast and pestilence which I must say I
    haven't had anything make me want to keep using pestilence (it hasn't
    impressed me).

    But I will consider it, it's so foreign to my way of thinking I have to at least try it to see what happens :)


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