Warriors from the swiss army, DKs from lego

I like warrior tanks, they have so many abilities really they deserve to be called the swiss army knife of tanks. Warriors can intercept and charge, interrupt/silence many ways, cancel fear, actively protect raid members, and more. That left me wondering, what’s the analogy for a DK? We’re pretty flexible too.



the Death Knight tank

We can build up a DK tank to suit a variety of tank scenarios, but unlike the swiss army knife which can use its variety of tools any old time, the DK needs to be rebuilt from lego into different shapes.

Death Knight tanks are like lego.

You can spec into three different tank types, and within each tree there’s a further bit of construction.

Tank leaders or officers should be aware of the various construction their lego tanks can take. A good DK tank should be humble and flexible enough to do what’s best for the raid, too.

I’ll chat a bit about the tree trees.

Blood tanks

This wonderful tanking tree lets you spec for yourself across the spectrums of single-target, AOE and self-healing.

I have three such examples on my blood tank page and even did a diagram showing where you can move some points from a balanced MT spec.

Personally I like to spec into a heavy survival blood spec, if I can afford the loss of threat and if there’s an enhancement shammy for 10% AP buff and if AOE tanking can be handled by someone else. If I can’t, then I rebuild the lego tank differently by moving points back to where they’re needed.

Blood can bring a nice raid buffs too: 10% AP, Hysteria (put this on your top rogue or dps warrior with a named macro or focus-target macro) and Mark of Blood (can be cast on a fellow tank too, it’s behaviour is like a shield block).

You could spec into those raid buffs too.

Blood tanks are well suited to be off-tanks (as long as there isn’t too much regular spawning of adds to AOE) because we need less healing (self-healing) and don’t need any rage (warrior) or healing (pally) to keep up threat. Blood also make a great main tank because of strong single-target threat and self-healing.

If even more AOE is needed (like in a 10-man raid), then you’d go with frost or unholy.


A very solid tank tree with ridiculously good snap AOE, plus an extra 3% to-miss and 2% less damage taken. However, within the tree it doesn’t have as much flexibility as blood.

Can optionally spec into raid-haste if you’ve no enh shammy but doesn’t bring other unique buffs.

Frost tanks are a general-purpose tank, no bias one way or another, just superb all-round.


The weakest tank in terms of threat (sadly) and in 3.3 Icecrown will be the weakest tank spec, because their bone shield scales positively with high avoidance and does less threat. A lot of fun though, for sustained aoe is unbeatable.

Unholy are the only tank who can enter a fight with a -20% damage reduction cooldown spinning around them to make the pull easier for healers.

Their diseases hit very hard and in 3.22 is quite viable with the no-reaping spec.

Why use one? If you do have an unholy dps DK nor a Warlock, you might want an unholy tank for the ebon plague and crypt fever debuffs to help the raid. The net benefit to raid dps is probably a good compromise. Remember those debuffs will be easily spread to AOE targets. If you’ve a good shadow priest, they’ll particularly gain from crypt fever.

These tanks can spec to take less magic damage too (at a cost of some TPS) which might be their saving grace if 3.3 Icecrown has some ugly magic encounters.

Which tree?

Generally go for blood or frost, but don’t think “unholy is fail” because it’s good in 3.22 and there are raid make-ups in which you’d want one even in 3.3.

The lead tank or other officer should be sure their DK tank has picked the right spec/s for your particular raid comp.

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18 comments to Warriors from the swiss army, DKs from lego

  • honorshammer
    Twitter: honorshammer

    You should extend this to Paladins and Druids as well.

  • typhoonandrew
    Twitter: typhoonandrew

    Nice article. I saw the words lego and DK and thought you’d created mini-dk lego models. Darn eh.
    .-= typhoonandrew´s last blog ..NameScore mod =-.

  • It’s a nice analogy… I agree any single DK tank spec doesn’t do it all like the prot trees, but that’s part of the design of allowing DKs to tank using all three trees.

    A dedicated tank can indeed have two tank specs on tap specifically for different types of situations, along with varying ‘threat’ vs ‘survival’ gear, making them very flexible as well.

    I also agree, it looks like in 3.3 that unholy will once again be the most sensitive to scaling. At the start, blood will probably be best for single target, frost for aoe that doesn’t lose threat or survivability. But as we get more T10, I suspect unholy may emerge as very good again, particularly if we can push the 60% avoidance barrier taking Icecrown Radiance into consideration.
    .-= Hinenuitepo´s last blog ..Anub’arak: A dps DK perspective =-.

  • Forming an analogy for a paladin would be pretty tough, because most of the uniqueness of being a prot paladin stems from all the things you can do while tanking that have nothing to do with tanking. A bear however, I kinda see a feral druid as a brick. Tough, nigh unbreakable, however, when a bear is tanking, it doesn’t really do much else. It has neither the tactical versatility of a warrior, nor the strategic versatility of a death knight, and most of it’s non tanking utility is only usuable in caster form, which is suicidal to use while actively tanking.

    For some reason, I keep coming back to vehicles.
    Druid: F1 racer, It goes fast on a limited track, that’s it.
    Warrior: Jeep, it goes anywhere you want whenever you need it.
    Death Knight: SUV, it can go fast, it can go off road, it can carry the whole family, just don’t try doing them all at once.
    Paladin: Ambulance? Go from point a to point b while receiving unrelated medical care?
    .-= The Renaissance Man´s last blog ..The 8 words any paladin in tier 10 must know. =-.

  • yeah

    but this is the explanation

    I think its a Fair analogy as dks can change into diffrent roles easier with just a respec, Where as paladins are set in stone to what that are good/bad at.

    I know you can only stretch a metaphor to a limited degree, but seems fitting as you basically always want a big mean tank with a huge cannon and 12 inch armor in todays wow. The small tanks gets to drive around in the forests and once in a while shoot their cannon, but the big one is what wins the battles.

  • I hate to resurrect an old post, but this seemed like the most related post topic to my question. Last night while cruising trade chat for a last chance monday night ICC10 run, I was turned down a tanking roll due to being a DK. The question from the raid leader was “why bring a DK tank when any other tank can do as good, and usually better, in every roll?” It kind of bummed me out, because when I sit down and think about it, I actually have a tough time answering this question. We don’t have the best AoE threat, or single target threat. We’re also not the least squishy, and our raid buffs are easily duplicated by other raid members. At least that’s how I feel right now. Please point out the error in my mindset here, and tell me “what does a DK tank bring that other tanks can’t?”
    .-= Lasciell´s last blog ..Back on track =-.

    • That’s kind of the point of Blizzard’s whole “bring the player not the class” agenda. Their goal is to make no class a requirement of a successful raid and while we might not positively outshine everyone in one particular category, we definitely are the jack of all trades.

    • noob

      “bring the player not the class” is the key ;) . I have played a warrior tank in Sunwell and now Death Knight tank in Icecrown. I have not seen a significant difference as a death knight tank. In fact it is with a death knight multiple abilities that I have improved so much of the game.

      Many people have probably forgotten who was the one tanking Heroic GV hardmode when the guild is stuck in progression. Its funny while so many range tank fail at Keleseth, I step up and we one shotted Blood prince council. And this is just an example, there are so many encounters where dk are good at. :p

  • Super Noob

    Compleately agree, Though some people fail to relize that some things that they “Know” (think really) lowers their DPS or whatever dont relize that it may only lower their DPS by 20 or so where as raising the entire Raid/Groups by 300-400. Just saying cause i have ran personally with Rouges who are so against Exposeing armor even though they have plenting of time to do it, cause “it will lower my DPS too much”… where as when im on my rogue i can expose armor and still end in 2nd or 1st DPS (with my Crud gear) Everything the Group does should really be situational depending on what else is in the group and what fight you are on. at least thats my opinion.

    • xorellion

      So many people are caught up with counting their DPS, not realizing that there’s other models that make downing a boss easier. Like sunder armor, etc… Making something MORE vulnerable to an attack benefits the overall goal of the group (killing the boss). I spend my time thinking of logical approaches to winning, rather than watching some damn counter. “dude, your DPS is low”… I’m sorry it’s not 50,000 DPS.. There’s a lot more calculations than just DPS, that affect damage, etc. I have a warlock, I like curse of the elements. Sure, I could have casted another curse to benefit only my DPS, but then again… I take in to consideration the player classes around me…

  • xorellion

    Nothing stings worse than a healer saying “Great.. A DK tank” and leaving the instance. Funny thing is, dude leaves and I tank through HoR effortlessly. I win, and he will forever be remembered as a tool. Death Knights are not synonymous with “paper tanks”… and when I tell people I am a blood tank, they get all emo on me. “Frost is THE tanking spec”… Seriously? I hold aggro, I don’t take too much damage and I do more DPS while tanking than some of the bozos who end up in my group. I hold anger towards Blizzard for creating a hero class, and under-selling it, by making paladins and warriors have more survivability. If I get told, one more time that a paladin is the best tank, I will scream. It’s not about the class you chose as much as it is about knowing how to play “the class you chose”…. I’m bitter. I know. Not because I’m a Death Knight; Because I am a Death Knight surrounded by tools.

  • Adrian

    I used unholy for leveling my dk and tanking. i usually got comments from people saying i kept aggro better than any dk they have seen.

  • Semicharmed

    for a bear tank analogy
    bears are bricks. They can’t do a whole lot, but good luck breaking it.

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