Frost tank spec in 3.3

Frost tanking has always been and will remain in 3.3 a very solid choice. You can tank with either dual-wield or a two-handed weapon and both are viable. DW is slightly higher threat at the moment yet is best suited to a character with 30+ expertise skill.

For dual-wield frost, I have a full post you should read.


For 3.3.3 highest-threat 2H spec, see this forum post here. It shows that whilst the Icy Touch buff, predictably makes [spell]black ice[/spell] talent more valuable than before, 5/5 Killing Machine is better plus that you should spec into IIT.

Original post continues:

Here I’ll talk about two-handed frost tanking.

Frost tank spec templates:

A very balanced tree. Has the best snap-agro for AOE, excellent single-target threat and a mix of damage reduction talents. Formidable in Heroics and can MT raids too with the same spec, so deserves to be a very popular tree.

  • Tank cooldown (Unbreakable Armour) is fixed in 3.22 to become useful. An average tank will take 13% less damage with UA up. Glyphed, they take 15% less (calculations).
    • Glyph: the new glyph is OK: not great (effectively it adds 5% of your armour, making UA a +30% armour talent), but nor is it a waste. I suggest to take it unless you need more threat, in which case you can happily drop it.
    • UA at 20s has a longer duration than Blood’s 15. Factor that into your thinking; five seconds more 13% damage reduction does make up for it not being as powerful say as Unholy’s 20% reduction.
  • Heavy tree means you have little flexiblity in talent choices.
  • Extra 3% miss-chance is valuable at even low avoidance levels in Icecrown raids because it reduces the chance of spikey melee damage
  • Also has flat 2% less damage and 6 second longer duration on IBF
  • Acclimation is actually quite good, but it’s just hard to get in a tank build, particularly useful in Twin Val’Kyrs and Lady Deathwhisper. Here’s how I’d spec into it. It’s a mitigation talent, so you should consider it. I left it out of the main linked spec because many people consider it for PvP only.
  • I found 2/2 epidemic is better threat for both single and AOE targets than 3/3 scent of blood.

Talent tweaks


Good, bad and situational talents for Frost

There are a few points you can move around to suit your own situation.

In terms of threat per point, Scent of Blood gives more threat than Subversion, and Subversion gives more than Dark Conviction.

With points you do have to move around, this diagram shows you the options (note the Merciless Combat is crossed out, but now I think it has some merit in raids with hard enrage timers like Festergut).

Within Frost tree itself, I personally like 1 [spell]Runic Power Mastery[/spell] as a quality-of-life talent, because it gives me more buffer above the 20 RP I keep for IBF. You don’t need 2 there, that’s a waste. Note that even 1 point of RPM gives you no more threat, it just makes it easier to maintain a 20 RP minimum.

I like [spell]icy reach[/spell] for improved range very much for pulling amd gaining agro on runners. The range on HB extends its targetting distance, but does not effects its radius of effect. It hits your target, and then does a 10 yard AOE around the target. In Icecrown, it is very useful for kiting or slowing with chains of ice and should be considered.

Jan 22, ’10: That said, for more threat in the base spec above I have just changed it to be higher threat, with [spell]Merciless Combat[/spell]  and [spell]Deathchill[/spell] now included. This is because Festergut and other Icecrown fights are tightly tuned, so it helps for the DK to generate more threat and damage. Deathchill is a tps boost too (use it on an Obliterate) but mostly it’s included for on-demand snap agro with howling blast.

Talents I flagged as situational talents are those which you could take depending on your role as a tank.


In order of priority:

  1. obliterate
  2. rune strike or frost strike
  3. frost strike, rune strike, unbreakable armour or howling blast.

Glyph of Disease is useless in this spec. Zero tps increase because blood strike and icy touch hit hard.

In Icecrown 3.3, glyphs of FS and RS give the same net threat (even when calculating the +17% threat boost on RS). Outside Icecrown, RS would give more threat because you get all your dodge. However, because RS is a passive threat boost unlike FS which actively requires you use GCDs, I would favour RS.

Minors are the same for all DK tanks: pestilence, raise dead and blood tap.

Dreadplate blood

The hybrid spec (21/41/5) doesn’t generate enough threat to be viable. I checked it.

Howling Blast, single disease

If you glyph for HB and use a single-disease priority (you never use plague strike), you can still deliver solid TPS. My calculations are you would do about 5% more threat in a two-disease spec than in a glyphed-HB-spec, so if you have threat problems, don’t go this way.

Whilst Obliterate hits for 10% less (my sim showed 3360 damage vs 3751 with two diseases), you will do more of them, and each Oblit gives you a chance to proc Rime, which is a free HB.

To play Frost well, whether HB spec or not, you need to watch your Rime procs. It’s more so with this HB spec, because you have less tps in the first place, so you want to take advantage of each proc you get. You must think in terms of priority and not rotation.

In the spec, you do not need epidemic because you will most likely have frost fever up reapplied often from howling blasts. That frees 2 points.

Overall, it’s a valid alternative to two-diseases and worth trying.

Spec: Howling blast spec, having moved 1 point into scent of blood and 1 into rune tap. Other choices are improved death grip (handy for trash), acclimation, endless winter (if you’re doing a lot of interrupting casters), hungering cold (faction champions or if you undergear Heroic 5-mans), and so on. See my diagram above.

Dual-wielders can use an HB spec too, just take the appropriate DW talents.


See my rotation and priority post for specifics.

Stat weightings for threat

The EP values for stats for tank threat, based on Bluedragon stats, for Frost tank in 3.3.

[slider title="See table"]

ExpertiseRating (before cap) | 2.83
Hit rating (BeforeMeleeHitCap 8%) | 2.34
Strength | 2.34
ExpertiseRating (After Dodge Cap) | 1.52
CritRating | 1.45
ArmorPenetrationRating | 1.31
Agility | 1.1
AttackPower | 1
SpellHitRating | 0.4
HasteRating | 0.34 [/slider]

To comment

this post’s discussion is now in the forums.

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62 comments to Frost tank spec in 3.3

  • Arencey

    Finally someone with some sense that realises morbidy is bad for frost.

  • Cmish

    I’m currently 2hd frost because my 2hd weapon, Bryntroll, is way better than my 1hd’s, a pair of Grinders. I liked the grinders a lot for dw tanking since it has big threat as dps weapons, but has a blue gem slot to make up for the loss of stam on a dps weapon.

    I was thinking I really liked the playstyle of the 1 disease + howling blast glyph, but I wanted a slightly bigger punch with obliterate, so I swapped icy touch for plague strike in the rotation. Too bad I lose the 5 rp from icy touch in chill of the grave.

    It would go something like plague strike, howling blast, obliterate, blood strike, etc…

    I’ve had decent results with it so far. I like the howling blast crits with KM and the automatic aoe for minor adds. I get about 7-8k tps in 10man icc.

    What do others think about this variant?

    • Draxar

      Not sure I follow exactly what you mean… If you’re using the 1 Disease rotation with HB Glyph then IT shouldn’t be in your rotation to replace with PS.

      But in the rotation you’ve posted, (plague strike, howling blast, obliterate, blood strike) you’ll run into a problem with runes.

      BBFFUU PS -> BBFFXU HB -> BBFXXX so in order to get the Obliterate you need to use blood tap, which is a waste imo. You’d be better off using your first FU runes on IT + PS.

      The idea behind the single disease rotation using glyhed HB is you don’t use PS and hit with more (but weaker) Obliterates, which also gives you more chance to proc rime thus keeping FF refreshed.

      Personally I didn’t like this rotation. While it was easier, I often wouldn’t get enough rimes to keep FF up 100% of the time so had to burn runes on HB which is less threat than the traditional 2 disease rotation.

  • Callmeatwat

    can someone plz explain to me why morbity is bad to spec in?? from my point of view its great for picking the masses, such as in ony25,or keeping a constant supply of aggro to waves of enemys such as the gunshipbattle in icc

    • Melder
      Twitter: Cimegs5088

      It’s just more beneficial of getting other talents thats it.

      it’s not BAD, but it’s not as worthy. That’s all.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      Generally, the three points are hard to find (a frost build is so full of nice places to use the points). I understand why some people want to go into Morbidity, it’s a great opener, placeable and it lays continuous threat so you can pick-up new adds and surprises easily. The solution though, is to use blood boil to pick up new adds (or melee, icy touch, whatever) until your howling blast is ready again (or use blood tap to get the rune you’re missing), and HB will pwn them.

      If you are struggling to handle AOE with frost, it’s a matter of skill, to be frank. Unholy is a good 5-man heroic alternative, since its AOE is so delightfully easy (the disease ticks and D&D alone will hold agro).

  • Instructions
    Twitter: awfullyquiet

    I took the leap into SD-Frost not too long ago just for fun after a long run of either Blood/Blood or Blood/Unholy… Really, to be honest, my first extended foray into Frost Tanking and I’ve been absolutely enamoured with its ease of use in 5 mans, especially in HHoR…

    The threat is actually pretty decent if, like me, you’re finger is mashing the HB button, which conveniently macro’d to RS… and you smack it on every possible chance… the one problem I’ve been having since my fun transition is keeping up Blade Barrier is so much more difficult in Frost than in Unholy or Blood from my rather brief experiences… but overall the general ease of usage makes SD-Frost absolutely brilliant for early morning tanking experiences…

  • Melder
    Twitter: Cimegs5088

    I think there’s a misconception (at least for me), that UH could hold aoe aggro very well, BUT, do keep in mind that it’s not snap aggro, if 1 of your dps decide to go gung ho as u engage, it will still make an Unholy knight’s life bitter.

    I learnt it the hard way, haha.

    Me: Hey guys check out my new spec i’m gonna be a beast in aoe tanking, ezmode yo!

    *sounds of all cooldowns of mages,hunter,lust*
    *mobs running everywhere*

    Me: …….


  • Instructions
    Twitter: awfullyquiet

    OKAY. Week 4 in Frost Land.

    I went from Blood/UH to Blood Frost a few weeks back, and I’ve determined something, just through some experience…

    I’ve been using Ramaladni’s Blade of Culling in Frost… thinking, OKAY.. I have 2 232 1h weapons just lying around…

    Might as well give the DW a try.

    One is a tanking weapon (Ardent Guard), fast… the other is a DPS axe (Frostblade Hatchet) not exactly the BEST weapons you’re looking at, but I wanted to give it a whack, see what it felt like, what I could expect, what I could do, threat and personal DPS wise… (i roll NC/FC on them as i would have gone to probably 570 defense if i went NC/NC, which, to me was MEH).

    And lo. Single Disease frost (and I assume Frost in General) thrive on DW. Ho boy.

    Clear reason: Double obliterate hits/PPM = Rime’s every 13 seconds or so.

    I think I failed to read this nugget from gravity:

    “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).”

    Well, at least the last line.

    The thing is, is frost feels so much more natural when rime procs every 13-15 seconds or so… just in time to refresh FF through HB. Which leads to two things: 1, more OB’s (and thus, more single target TPS), and more HB’s on AOE threat. I cannot stress enough, regardless of your weapons, find 2 232 1h’ers… and have at it… 232 weapons are rather easy to come by now (*cough* black icicle… rimefang’s claw, quel’serrar (10ony)…) and if you’re still using a 2H, and doing SD, i’d suggest dropping it.

    Is this useful in ICC? Definitely. Is it useful in ToC? No way. I guess that’s the real reason why I never went frost… UH was just legit in Naxx and Ulduar… and Blood came on strong late as single target threat was very very useful in ToC (DUH, no trash) and really crafted its niche… and now, again, UH isn’t as strong as it was (see Gravity’s tweet on AE threat (from Ghostcrawler)) because of the increase of aoe dps and our AOE threat hasn’t kept up with it perfectly… so.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      Good feedback. I agree DW single-disease Frost is fun, and largely because HB refreshes your disease so regularly and easily.

  • ColdSake

    My question is, if I’m doing DW frost SD rotation, applying only FF with HB to an aoe, do i still need glyph of pest, since i already aoe apply the disease? also why is Imp icy touch so helpful, since I will hardly ever be casting IT.

  • Wastewalker

    Why in ur optimal frost tank spec this DIDNT you put anything into Nerves of Cold Steel? it adds 3% hit with 1h weapons and increases Offhand dmg by 15%. if you DW tank of course.

  • Vanyana

    Can’t seem to find much info on this but I am main spec dpswiyh a off spec 2H frost tank spec (HB glyphed single disease although I use 2 diseases on bosses) which I am using more and more, I like frost for being the middle man allowing me to aoe and single target tank while keeping a dps spec (the other dk tank in guild has two tank specs – unholy and blood) but I find that the dps I put out is really quite low (ok I know as long as I keep aggro, and I do, I should be happy), I’m not expecting to keep up with a pally tank in icc where the mobs are undead (our main pally tank puts out 5/6k) but putting out 2k dps on a boss fight just seems low to me – am I wrong or do I just need to loose my dps mentality. Are there ways to increase my damage by swapping talents etc (I am hit capped etc with mainly 251 ilvl gear).

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      DPS is about right for that level, I think, because it is threat that matters more. Do you have more threat than your deeps, or are you a glass ceiling for them? I did 1.8K dps on Saurfang last week. Runestrikes and Frost Presence generate a lot of threat.

    • Instructions
      Twitter: awfullyquiet

      You might also want to make sure you’re pressing the RIGHT attack at the RIGHT point. I.E. If you are Single Disease, really really really really really try to get as may oblits out as possible between refreshing HB.

      Single Disease on Saurfang seems to be a bit of a gimp, as the strength of SD is aoe threat. If you are doing 2H, as I pointed out above, you’re not going to see the same amount of procs on Rime, so, make your damage do as much as possible… Add PS to your rotation, and then use the extra frost rune ever so often to Unbreakable Armor or Chains of Ice the Blood Beast, or… as i guess is more likely, reapply FF through IT over HB. You don’t ‘HAVE’ to follow the SD rotation with GoHB… because, most of the time, you replace GoHB with UA… which, doesn’t significantly change the rotation.

      Next time you’re in the situation, try doing the 2 Disease rotation… focus on only using HB when Rime procs, and every other time you have an FU pair up, oblit… and when rime procs save it for a moment you have to use CoI or UA (as you get like 30 seconds to use it up), and then use CoI/UA + PS for another FU pair that saves you 2 runes.

  • Vanyana

    Thanks for the reply, I don’t really have a problem with threat so I guess I should just be happy with my 2k ;) .
    Yes awfully as I said I use 2 diseases on boss fights and have found power auras very useful in keeping track of the rime and killing machine procs – I have certainly been using obliterate as much as possible to trigger rime procs so looks like I just have to accept I’m not a pally tank that can put out ridiculous damage while tanking – at least dk tanks rule on rotface (I love that you can HB while running away from the slimes here)

    • Instructions
      Twitter: awfullyquiet

      I missed that part! I’m sorry!
      I think we can totally conclude the following: Paladin tanks are OP and should be nerfed to the ground. (okay, find, paladins are OP in general and should be nerfed to the ground… better?!) Not only are their cooldowns generally awesome, their passives are great, their threat generation is second to none, ARDENT DEFENDER LAWLMYGOD. I feel that people look to paladins, generally as the ‘end all be all tanking class’… even if it’s not true. My guild employs 2 (one being the GM…) a warrior and a druid… I only really tank 10 mans, generally… and, for some reason, as a paladin, the GM has an attitude that they’re, hands down the best? Why get a DK tank when you can get another paladin? Why get a druid tank if you can get another paladin? At least a warrior would help with sunders!

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      yah, never compare your threat to that of a pally. They own threat.

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