Death Knight tanking weapons

If you’re handling loot, you should know what kinds of weapons a DK tank will want. If you’re giving loot priority to tanks this should also mean DK tanks get first dibs on some 2H weapons which otherwise you’d give to a DPS.

Fist I’ll outline the basics you need to know about, and then list out some of the better 3.2 DK tank weapons.

I have an ordered list of 3.3 Icecrown weapons.

Dual-wield tanking is a topic for another day, but in terms of one-handed tank weapon drops you should always give first rights to shield-tanks. If it’s an upgrade for a shield-tank, it will be better for them than for a DK tank who’s dual-wielding.

In contrast, if a two-handed weapon drops which is an upgrade for the DK tank, they (ideally) should get priority over DPSer. But what is an upgrade?


Tanks should gear and spec for these priorities, in this order:

(1) Survival

(2) Threat.

The only time you consider threat more important is when (a) you have become a glass-ceiling for threat on your DPSers and (b) yet you are not dying nor coming close to it during the fight. Until then, DK tanks should focus on survival and don’t worry abour their damage contribution.

In terms of threat, higher iLevel weapons with their bigger maximum damage generally give the most threat boost to a DK tank. Depending on your level of progression, this may actually be a concern (ie. hard-mode tanks need to work on their threat more than casual tanks do). So an iLevel upgraded weapon (not just one with more strength on it) will give them a huge TPS boost.

What stats matter to a DK tank

If you are comparing items of the same iLevel, the stats a DK tank should focus on:

  1. Stamina (survival)
  2. Agility (survival from avoidance)
  3. Expertise (slight survival from reduced chance of boss parry and increases threat)
  4. Weapon slowness and damage (threat)
  5. To-hit and strength (threat, taunt and bit of avoidance from strength)
  6. DPS stats like armour pen, haste and critical strike (threat)

For example, here is a perfectly itemised tank weapon, the i213 Inevitable Defeat from Naxx-25. (I’m using it in the site banner image. When it dropped I had a nerdgasm on Teamspeak.)

I have analysed the stat breakdowns of which provide the most threat, if you do need to focus on that.

Example weapon decisions

It gets a bit more complicated if you’re comparing across iLevels. Check my 3.3 Icecrown weapon list too. Some examples:

  • the Ironsoul, from Ulduar-10 is i219 but is worse for a tank than the Inevitable Defeat “ID”. Not enough gain in stam to offset the loss of expertise and dodge (ie. agility).
  • the Marrowstrike is about the same as the ID even though it i219
  • Aesir’s Edge is beautiful at i232, stick 2x 30 stam gems in that. Best PVE item at this level. 10-man hard-mode XT-002.
    • The Furious arena weapons are better, but requires the PvP path. Loads of stamina.
  • in Coliseum 10-man normal, you can get Reckoning/Edge of Agony or Fordragon Blades/Anguish, all i232. Which is better? Use the priority table above to decide.
  • at i245 you get some awesome choices like Justicebringer from 25-man Faction Champions.

For convenient drooling, here is the complete wowhead loot list of 3.2 weapons.

Onyxia in 3.22 brought us some new choices, Quel’Serrar for dual-wield, Thunderstrike (although it’s a bit fast) and OEB.

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10 comments to Death Knight tanking weapons

  • I can vouch for the fact Grav had the nerdgasm when Inevitable Defeat dropped, it was rather amusing and disturbing at the same time. Currently leveling my alliance DK again grav! I shall be looking into tanking so this post is a goodun :-)

  • Sweet

    Just wondering if the Dwarven mace racial would make the Ironsoul about equal to Marrowstrike/ID?

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Hiya Diggs, you are the most chronic altoholic :) . Yah that nerdgasm was involuntary too, if I recall, since I was tanking trash there and talking when it dropped, so I just moaned with pleasure. haha.
    You should stick to the hunter mate, you love that class.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    hi Sweet, the 5 expertise from Dwarf is 1.25% reduction of parry/dodge, which is great firstly for threat and secondly (minor) for damage reduction. Not as good as agility though, the Marrowstrike gives pre-DR of 1.26%. Ironsoul’s strength gives pre-DR 0.58% parry.

    Boss-parry isn’t an instant-doom issue like the old days, so whilst my instinct is I’d still favour Marrowstrike for survival… you have made me curious to see if I can find any solid maths on avoidance:expertise equivalence in terms of damage reduction. Perhaps I should weight expertise even higher.

    For example here or this old thread I was involved in.

  • Sweet

    Thanks a bunch, Gravity :)

  • Hinenuitepo

    I dpsd for a long time with ID, but when BOH was finally mine, I switched permanently to ID for tanking throughout Ulduar. In toc, I have fordragon blades, but am currently dpsing as DW frost (or DW unholy), so do you think I should use my FB now over the ID? Also, should I put stoneskin gargoyle on the weap and gem for stam, or should I put fallen crusader on the weap and gem for def? (not capped without it when gemming fully for stam).

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    I only ever recommend Stoneskin Gargoyle, because of the 2% stam. For gemming, always gem stamina unless you have a good reason (eg. need a different gem colour for great socket bonus or metagem). FBlade (with 30 stam gem) is a strong tanking weapon too, so overall, looks like that’s the tank weapon for you. It’s higher strike damage will be lovely for your threat.

  • Hinenuitepo

    Thanks gravity.
    I switched to tanking with my FB and it’s going well. Unfortunately, I have a str gem in my FB because it’s also my dps weapon and my main role is dps in 25-mans. I do MT at 10-man coliseum team (normal and heroic), but that one gem isn’t making or breaking me. I like having crusader on the weap, tho! The extra threat is very noticeable, and actually the health recovery isn’t insignificant either – I notice my health bar creeping up there when it procs.

  • shax

    hi there,
    got a question considering “Example weapon decisions”, totc 10. from your priority system Fordragon Blades/Anguish is the better choice than Reckoning/Edge of Agony.
    But I am human, so i get extra exp from swords – is that enough to compensate the lack of 40 stamina?

    Note: I am still using Inevitable Defeat… no tank priority in my raid :(

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Good question, one I’ve had trouble answering myself until just recently thanks to this maths I mentioned the other day, about the avoidance value of expertise.

    Let’s go with 1 expertise rating = 0.7 dodge rating.

    So your human sword racial is 3 expertise skill, which is 24.6 rating, so ~17.2 dodge = ~0.38% dodge before DR. The extra agility also gives 0.1% dodge for a DK, more for a pally, plus tiny bit of armor, totalling 0.48%. (You could go with Theckhd who also says agi and dodge are roughly analogous in terms of damage reduction, meaning the 8 agi ~= 8 dodge, so 25.2 dodge rating would be 0.55% dodge).

    So your human trade off is losing 45 stamina to gain between 0.48%  and 0.55% dodge before DR. (Also a threat gain from strike damage compared to your ID.)

    I hope that helps you make the decision? It’s not black and white.

    (Fixed the ‘add link’ button in the comments field, it was broken and annoyed me.)

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