Offtank specs for the Lich King

Every attempt I did on the Lich King fight I played as offtank. This was my choice because I wanted to be really good at that role, and in reverse for the other two tanks in our corp to be really good MTs. By focusing on a role, I didn’t have to learn a different tanking rhythm or positioning. If I was rostered off on a night, then obviously one of the other tanks (Garant warrior or Ishkar DK) would need to play offtank, but I’m fairly sure it was always Ishkar OT and Garant MT.

I have absolutely no ego issue about whether I am tanking the named boss, or if I’m handling the off-tank duties. I am man enough to know I matter, whether I was MT or OT.

Anyhow, the point is not which class is optimal (since a DK has an easier time as MT with both [spell]anti-magic shell[/spell] and [spell]will of the necropolis[/spell], optimal would be a DK MT) but that I have had enough experience as OT to write about how to spec for that role. Secondly, with the 20% buff, “optimal” on non-heroic is not a logical concept, since a warrior’s health pool is so huge plus he can use his glyphed cooldowns to solo-tank 3/4 soul reapers anyhow, then just call out for an external cooldown on the fourth. It’s not that hard. Garant used a single-target warrior spec I mentioned the other day.

Bear in mind, this is all from the perspective of a 10-man raider. I’ve not seen him on 25-man, so you might need to make some consideration for that.

Main tank spec

The MT DK spec for LK is a simple single-target oriented MT raid build, use my single-target spec listed on the Blood matrix. (The [spell]mark of blood[/spell] is for soul reaper).

Single-tanking Lich King and healing

Originally, we were doing two tanks, with the OT taunting for Soul Reaper, but in the end stuck with a single-tank on Lich King because:

  • it was so much easier for the healers
  • the offtank could really excel at the utility function.

Thus in this scenario, the OT role is a more involved spec decision. I recommend single-tanking LK.

Healing: having our priest re-spec into Discipline was a mandatory success criteria. The bubbles eliminated Infest as a game mechanic. It is so important, I’d say that normal 10-man LK version has a mini-hard-mode which is to attempt it without a discipline priest.

Offtank specs for Lich King

When we first started learning this fight, I tried both Frost and Blood off-tank specs. If Ishkar was MT, he’d be blood of course, and I’d go Frost. If Garant was MT, I’d go Blood. In the end, I settled on Unholy of all things, for just a few important reasons. I’ll outline each below. I recommend Frost or Unholy.

You should have a specific spec for the LK. Do not use a generalised raid tank spec.

If you only have one tank spec (and second spec is dps), and do not want to respec before the fight (I wouldn’t want to), then simply make this Frost off-tank spec the day-to-day spec; it’ll work fine in dailies and other ICC bosses. The specs are not so whacky that you are nerfing yourself. That is, if you have only one tank spec, make it Frost.

If you have two specs, then Blood will be one, and your off-tank spec can be either Frost or Unholy depending on your raid comp. Read below for advice.


This tree is the least appropriate choice for an offtank on LK, because you have no enhanced slowing effect for Valkyrs (who pick up team mates and throw them off the side) and no useful soaking talents for vile spirits (they’re the floating spirits who chase people and explode). Blood does bring great buffs for melee dps.

I’ve provide a few specs.

Baseline Ranged Utility
This spec has the [item]glyph of Rune Tap[/item], which can help with Infest. If you have a discipline priest, replace that with [item]glyph of Death Strike[/item] or [item]glyph of Death and Decay[/item].

The spec does not give you much functionality to handle Valkyr or Vile Spirits. You’ll use [spell]chains of ice[/spell] (but the spec has no extended range). You’d use [spell]anti-magic shell[/spell]  on Viles and any other talent you have available.

The single point in [spell]Morbidity[/spell] is deliberate because the Ghouls on phase one come every 30s, so your 25s cooldown makes them a reliable pickup. You should tank them all.

This spec drops [spell]will of the necropolis[/spell] and gains range on chains of ice (Valkyrs) plus a slightly shorter CD on death grip (vile spirits). This is an all-out OT oriented spec.

You have the shortest possible death grip cooldown, plus ranged on chains of ice, plus mark of blood (which you cast on the MT during a soul reaper).

Those few remaining points in Rune Tap are optional so if your Discipline priest has Infest under control, you should move them into [spell]Sudden Doom[/spell], [spell]Black Ice[/spell] or [spell]Scent of Blood[/spell].


I really liked Frost for off-tanking because of slows for Valkyrs, howling blast for ghouls, great melee damage mitigation and enhanced IBF. Its [spell]improved icy talons[/spell] buff only boosts melee damage though (windfury has the same limit); so hunters gain nothing.

I made my decision on Frost vs Unholy on the basis of the raid buff and Unholy’s superior soaking on Vile Spirits.

Dual-wield Two-handed
[spell]Chilblains[/spell], so your frost fever has a full slow effect on it. If you have a reliable mage doing slow on the Valkyr, this talent becomes less valuable, but I always spec’d into it in case the mage had been picked up by a Valkyr or couldn’t cast it for some other reason.

Increased range for the same purpose.

One point in Morbidity for the ghouls.

Imp Icy Talons to help the raid’s dps.

Basically the same spec as for dual-wield.

I used this spec, because it suits my weapons. I have put points into [spell]Merciless Combat[/spell] for extra burst on the Valkyrs. If you think that to be unnecessary (because your team always gets them killed well before the edge), then these two points could be put into [spell]Black Ice[/spell] or [spell]killing machine[/spell].


I found Unholy to suit my raid comp more often, because we’d usually have more magic dps: one rogue and two mages plus caster shaman. We never had a warlock (who could replace my [spell]ebon plaguebringer[/spell]). Unholy has the best slowing if you need it, but our mages were on the ball with Slow.

Unholy has the best Vile Spirit soaking (AMS, AMZ, Bone Shield and Magic Supression), and since you’re not main-tanking the Lich King it doesn’t matter that it would be a weaker spec for that purpose.

Desecration Ghoul
[spell]Desecration[/spell] is a great slow for 10-man ICC Valkyrs, since you can put its long-duration slow onto them fairly easily. It requires melee range, though, so you should cast chains of ice while running into range. I’m not sure this would be as effective in a 25-man.
When soaking the Vile Spirits, you can get their agro from [spell]death coil[/spell], taunt, [spell]death grip[/spell], death and decay (once they’re moving, they get agro from ground-based AOE) plus body-pulling. To take the damage, you can use [spell]anti-magic shell[/spell], [spell]anti-magic zone[/spell] (which is ideal if you are needing to protect a healer, drop it on top of them and run off) plus bone shield.

The spec has improved range for chains of ice and reduced cooldown on death grip.

Longer disease duration is for [spell]Ebon Plaguebringer[/spell]. Keep it up on the Lich King. I would try to whack him with plague strike every chance I could.

Basically the same spec but has a ghoul.

The permanent ghoul has a stun. If your raid comp does not have a reliable stun from rogue, bear, warrior or paladin, then your little ghoul can rip his own arm off and stun the Valkyr. You should have it bound to a convenient key. Their leap can be helpful here too, bind it.

Stuns and slows are crucial on the Valks. If you only have one stunner, then you having a ghoul is a great idea since the other stunner could be the one who’s picked up.

I never needed this spec, because our pally healer and rogue handled stuns.


I’ll focus discussion about this topic in the forums.

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