3.3 Death Knight dual-wield tanking

March 23 2010: checked for 3.3.3.

Can and should a DK dual-wield as a tank? Patch 3.22 made it possible, with rune strike now being effected by Threat of Thassarian. Patch 3.3 now lets you DW tank with DPS weapons. DW for DPSers in Frost is very strong.

Sure a tank can do it too, but is it wise? What should the lead tank say about it to their corps?

No parry-haste, Feb 9 2010, almost none of the Icecrown bosses have parry-haste turned on. Therefore, parrygib is irrelevant on most bosses. Therefore, don’t worry about expertise anymore!


For the highest threat dual-wield frost spec in 3.3.3, see this forum post. I do not recommend Icy Touch spam builds.

Original post continues:

The questions relate to survival and threat. To work it threat, I used my simulator.


  • impressively, the threat on dual-wield (“DW”) tanking is the same or slightly higher than a two-hander, based on a like-for-like simulation I did.
  • for the stat values for threat (to help choose gear or weapons), I provide a complete equivalence table here.

Survival: incoming damage

  • if a DK tank has two fast tank weapons and 30+ expertise skill, they will receive about as many parry-hasted attacks as a warrior with one fast weapon and 26 expertise
    • this is because warrior’s attacks can nearly all be parried, but some of a DK’s cannot (icy touch and howling blast)
  • because of their itemisation (dodge/parry/defence), you should end up with up to 2% higher avoidance from two tanking weapons; a lot relatively if you’re already around 60%
  • note you no longer lose the 2% stamina from Gargoyle runeforge, but gain net 1% avoidance from swordshattering runeforge, because of the new 3.3 runeforge.

Gear and expertise stats

  • ideally you would get two slow tank weapons, but they don’t exist except for the now old Broken Promise. With two slow weapons you only need 21+ expertise skill, 26 is preferred.
  • you could get two Peacekeepers, for example
  • try to get Quel’Serrar from Onyxia, it’s lovely
  • in the new 3.3 content, tank one-handers are Bonebreaker Scepter, Rimefang’s Claw, and Lucky Old Sun. The latter two from 5-mans.
  • now in patch 3.3, you can dual-wield two slow DPS weapons (as opposed to tank-itemised one handers) and runeforge them with the new one-handed version of Gargoyle, called Nerubian
    • slow one-handers give significantly more threat, and lower parrygib risk, so I’d suggest that’s a good path to go
  • expertise: you should bias your gear selection towards expertise
    • you could use two expertise/stam gems, I’d say (that’s not scientific, but based on a notion of minimal compromise on the primary tank stat). Otherwise, like in any tank spec, gems should tend to be all-stamina.
    • if you need more than two gems to reach this expertise target, you should consider not DW tanking at all. Go get a two-hander instead.
  • your gear is going to still need 540 defence with the Nerubian runeforge’s 25 included towards that total.

To help choose betweeen weapons, read my longer post on survival vs threat.

[slider title="More about expertise and hit"]

Expertise reduces the chance the boss can parry you.
Bosses have a 14.25% parry chance and reducing that to 1% would take 467 expertise rating (= 57 expertise). That’s massive and it’s not sensible to even try to achieve that when stacking stamina would be more effective instead.

For level 83 the soft cap is 6.5% dodge or 26 expertise (214 rating), and the hard cap is 14.25% parry or 57 expertise (468 rating). Source.

Expertise rating:skill conversions:
*  1 Expertise Skill reduces the chance your attacks will be dodged/parried by 0.25%
* 32.79 Rating is equal to 1% less chance your attacks will be dodged/parried.
* 8.20 Rating is equal to 0.25% less chance your attacks will be dodged/parried and thus is equal to 1 Expertise Skill.


Spell Hit and Melee Hit scale differently with Hit Rating. You need 26.2 hit rating for 1% chance to hit with spells and 32.7 hit rating for 1% hit to melee attacks.

Dual-wielding, the offhand has a 24% chance to miss rather than the usual 8% for two-handed weapons. Note, your special attacks (eg. frost strike) disregard the offhand miss rate, your special melee attacks are 8% and spells are 17% even if you are DW tanking. To-hit does not effect your survivability, just your TPS.



  • there is not much variation, this is the main spec.
  • alternatively, for 1.5% more single-target threat you can move 2 points from KM into [spell]scent of blood[/spell] for this spec but note the KM procs are useful in AOE situations for howling blast, so you lose that edge
  • for [spell]improved icy talons[/spell], it is more difficult to spec well, best to read my full discussion with specs
    • 3.33 changed the stacking for IIT, my full analysis is here.

You cannot DW tank as Unholy or Blood, not enough threat. Frost is it.

Rotation / priority

Read the full post here.


I have run several tests at i213, i219, i226 and i245 gear levels. I’ve compared DW to 2H, and cross-compared Frost DW to Blood and Unholy. The general theme of results is this: dual-wield frost generates slightly more threat than 2H, and more of it is physical (less frost), with a much higher proportion of damage from Howling Blast (because it procs Rime on offhand).

Patch 3.3: Two fast tank weapons -vs- two slow DPS weapons: two slow weapons are notably more threat and less parry-haste risk. Read my complete analysis of threat from weapon speed.

So, should I do it?

Remember most ICC bosses basically don’t have parry-haste turned on!  This post was written before that was known.If you’re in Trial of the Crusader raids, then only spec dual-wield tanking if there is a benefit. Some people like the animation (I have to admit, looking like a rogue in plate, and tanking, is pretty wicked). Some of the bosses there parry-haste. ICC doesn’t, largely.

Don’t spec into it if you’re going to lose large amounts of HP.

Use the table below to determine your safe expertise level for ToC.

If you’re raid tanking, I would not do it unless you have the requisite expertise skill. For heroics, meh, do whatever.

Example scenario of why you would do it: some tanks get two one-hander tank weapons of a higher iLevel before they are lucky enough to get a new two-hander; so in this case, if the tank also has 540 def and 30 expertise skill, without much loss of HP, they could go DW tanking for the threat gain.

Maths on parry-gibs

Expertise is the antidote to a boss getting parry-hasted.

Jan 13th 2010: I have analysed again the relationship between weapon speed, expertise and parry-haste. The summary of that is this:

per min Parries
Tank Attacks zero exp 26 exp 30 exp
Warrior 72.5 10.33 5.61
DK slow/fast 76.0 10.83 5.89
DK fast/fast 103.0 14.67 7.77 6.95
DK two-handed 47.1 6.71 3.65

If you take a slow/fast combination, you will have basically as much parry-haste risk as a warrior with the same level of expertise. Fast/fast increases that risk by about 1.4 parries per minute.

Further geeky reading

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104 comments to 3.3 Death Knight dual-wield tanking

  • Sam

    Aa Gloom said. you need 8% , but you dun need the full 8% you will be doing just fine 7.5%-8% …remember to test you gemming with you expected or current parts on wowhead.com to save your self the hustle of messing around and regemming alot. although sometimes  you might need to to regem to maintian  your caps.

  • Rest

    Hey newbie here!
    Iam interested in making a dw frost tank and  came upon this thread.
    I wanted to ask if i can steal one point from chill of the grave and put it in rune tap.
    I thought of that cause i understood,maybe iam wrong,that there is a survivability issue and not a threat issue with this spec.
    Also i understand this spec needs RP so what iam asking is if it’s beneficial to have rune tap over 1 point in chill of the grave.

    Tbh i don’t if and how much that will help…

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      In a Frost build, I’d sometimes get rune tap too. It doesn’t give you a big heal, but it is better than having no options sometimes. Chill of the Grave is a very strong threat talent though, so bear that in mind. Better off losing one from killing machine.

  • I DW Frost tank, and I pull threat off tanks with much higher gearscores than me, peaking at 16k tps on some fights (~4800gs for me) Being well over defense cap, I won T10 DPS gloves in VoA10, equipping them not only gave me more health, but now I have higher crits so on AoE pulls, Howling Blast makes mobs stay on me like glue. (Previously had T8 gloves for tanking).

  • Shakababy

    DW frost tanking is completely viable, the only issue is getting as much expertise as possible. With ICC gear it’s easily done.

    One major thing I’d like to point out about this article however. As a DK NEVER get fast weapons. EVER. The reason for this is your strikes all work off of weapon DAMAGE, not its dps. This means as a DW tank you’ll be picking up DPS weapons and that’s completely OK, both str and agility will increase your avoidance (str gives parry, agi dodge) AND threat str gives AP, agi gives crit).

    I suggest anyone wanting to tank as a DK should check out Ensidia’s Death Knight Tanking guide.

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