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