Death knight tanking and spanking

5th February 2009 – 4.00 pm

The interesting part of my two recent instance runs is how adaptable the death knight is to the two rôles of tanking and spanking. Simply by changing presences the death knight is viable in both rôles, although holding two sets of suitable equipment is necessary to be effective. However, switching between tank and DPS isn't just a matter of changing between frost and blood presences. The death knight spell rotations need to be modified to focus on the desired generated output.

An important part of tanking effectively is to generate more threat than anyone else, particularly the healer, who generates threat against all mobs in combat with each healing spell. To achieve this with the death knight I make good use of area-of-effect (AoE) abilities. I first hit the main target with icy touch and plague strike—so that the initial burst of damage from the DPS characters won't pull the mob off me early on in the fight—following up with pestilence to spread the diseases to all the mobs in combat, and then use the high-threat death and decay AoE.

Having frost talents also gives me access to the howling blast AoE spell, which I can enhance every two minutes with deathchill to guarantee it a critical hit. This general rotation gets me damaging and causing high threat to all mobs in combat. High-damage spells like obliterate can be safely ignored when in a tanking rôle, as it is someone else's responsibility to deal plenty of DPS. The death knight's runes can be better used in generating threat.

Whereas tanking has a multi-mob view of combat a DPS rôle focusses on single-target damage. There is little need for pestilence, death and decay, or howling blast as a DPS death knight, as they use runes and global cool-down inefficiently for the purpose of dealing damage to a single target. Instead, a standard rotation would be to use icy touch, plague strike, blood strike, blood strike, obliterate. Runic power can be spent on rune strike whenever it procs and talent-gained spells, like frost strike, as required, preferably when obliterate isn't available and the death knight's diseases are still ticking away on the target.

Even though obliterate does more damage than blood strike I include the blood strikes first because of the blood of the north talent. This talent converts blood runes to death runes, where a death rune can be activated in place of a blood, frost or unholy rune. Using blood strikes first in the rotation thus allows for more flexibility, giving the opportunity for two consecutive obliterates in later rotations and increasing overall DPS.

Using Recount, my damage meter, I get a report of my DPS from the run through Utgarde Keep. After testing my damage output in different presences on target dummies I am quite interested to see what sort of DPS I achieve under combat conditions. In solo PvE the mobs are generally defeated too quickly to get a good representation of my damage output, but facing multiple elite mobs simultaneously in an instance offers an excellent opportunity to measure sustainable DPS.

Equipped with quest reward greens and crafted items I maintain 1,300 DPS during the instance run, which I consider quite respectable for my level. My DPS will only increase as I gain levels and better equipment, as well as a better feel for adapting rotations to make best use of the runes available.

It is great to be able to tank in one instance group and only have to switch presences and equipment to spank in another, which amounts to a whole lot of fun with a death knight.

  1. One Response to “Death knight tanking and spanking”

  2. Nice report!

    By Luke on Feb 5, 2009

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.