Protection warrior versus death knight tanks

17th February 2009 – 10.27 am

Spinks brings up an interesting point about different tanks in World of Warcraft, where a protection warrior will output less damage per second (DPS) than, for example, a death knight when both classes are in a tanking rôle. If a different class does more DPS whilst tanking there is a perceived advantage to choosing one class of tank over another. As someone with both a protection warrior and frosty death knight I find it interesting to note what difference could be made in bringing one or the other to an instance group. I will base my numbers on my own experience, with both characters being 73rd level, although I expect it to scale appropriately.

When tanking, my protection warrior outputs about 650 DPS and my death knight 1,000 DPS. That's an astonishing 54% increase in damage that my death knight achieves when tanking, which seems like an excellent reason to bring the death knight along instead of the warrior. However, it's not as simple as considering the tank in isolation.

The archetypical five-man group composition has one tank, one healer and three DPS. When in a DPS rôle my death knight can generate around 1,300 DPS, which I will consider to be reasonable for 73rd level DPS. For our five-man group that gives us three characters outputting a combined 3,900 DPS. Assuming the healer is only healing and not contributing to damage we get a total group DPS output of 4,550 DPS with the warrior tank and 4,900 DPS with the death knight tank. That is only around an 8% difference in damage output, which isn't quite as dramatic.

An 8% increase in DPS is still an advantage, though. It will mean combat finishes more quickly and the amount of healing required will be less. To counter this it can be noted that a warrior in defensive stance gets an automatic 10% reduction applied to all damage taken, which must make a healer's life easier. A warrior's damage reduction can be increased further in two ways. First, demoralising shout reduces the attack power of all enemies in range. Second, the warrior carries a shield. Although a death knight in frost presence gets a boost to armour similar to carrying a shield, granting both classes an equivalent overall armour value, the warrior gets the ability to block attacks, another damage reduction effect.

There are other abilities that both classes bring to the group. Warriors and death knights both can debuff the targets' attack speeds, with thunder clap or icy touch, and both get to buff the party, with battle or commanding shout for the warrior and horn of winter for the death knight. It is interesting to note that the death knight's horn of winter is a better buff for a warrior and vice versa. Horn of winter buffs strength, increasing not just attack power but also the amount of damage blocked with a shield, whereas the warrior's battle shout grants extra attack power only, which is just dandy for the death knight.

Of course, this analysis does not apply for raid encounters that are considered 'DPS races', where the boss needs to be defeated as quickly as possible before special abilities become overwhelming and impossible to overcome. Total DPS then becomes more important than party resilience. But simple five-man encounters don't seem to be unbalanced towards the choice of warrior or death knight tank. Although a group with a tanking death knight will have slightly increased DPS the warrior's group has a more resilient tank.

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