1.2 Spells and Abilities
Often the purpose of abilities change subtly when moving from DPS to tanking, so the aim of this section is to give a brief description of how and when to use your DK's abilities while tanking
It's assumed you know the basics of what the abilities do. I will cover the basic spells like Dark Command, since, believe it or not, I did once talk to a DK that had forgotten the spell existed.
The below is much more than ability tooltips: it includes insight.
1 Blood, Instant Cast
Used in AOE tanking scenarios. When AOE tanking you're going to want to be using your blood runes to either Blood Boil, Death and Decay, or Pestilence. Blood Boil should be used when either of the other two options are not available or not required. Blood Tap
X% health, Instant Cast, 1 Minute Cooldown
Generally you want to use this ability to activate your tanking cooldowns. Example: if you're a Frost tank you're unlikely to ever have a Frost rune available to cast Unbreakable Armor, so what you do when wanting to case UA is Blood tap to get the death rune then use that death rune to activate UA. Dark Command
30 yd, Instant Cast, 8 sec Cooldown
Your basic single-target taunt. Death Pact
40 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 2 min cooldown
A good emergency health filler. Summon your ghoul, sac it straight away for a big heal. This does required 2 GCD's to get done so if I know I'm coming to a point where a boss will hit me hard I like to summon the ghoul in advance. Pestilence
1 Blood, Instant Cast, Melee Range
While tanking this ability is primarily used to spread frost fever, along with the attack speed debuff, to all the mobs hitting you. DK's are the best of the 4 tanking classes at providing this debuff to mobs in an area.Strangulate
1 Blood, 30 yd, Instant Cast, 2 min cooldown
A very useful ability that allows you to silence an enemy at range. This is great for getting casters to run into a death and decay or generally move closer to you when deathgrip either won't work or is on cooldown.
FrostEmpower Rune Weapon
Instant cast, 5 min Cooldown
Provides you with a nice RP boost, and bring all your runes off of CD, this is good in those emergency situations where you have to activate IBF but no RP is available to do so. Its also fantastic for allowing you to use DnD, BB, HB when that stupid hunter goes and pulls the next group while your runes are cooling down. Horn of Winter
Instant Cast, 20 sec cooldown
As with DPS if this spell is off of CD and you have a free GCD you use it. Icebound Fortitude
20 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 2 min cooldown
This ability scales with your defence skill, as a tank this is a very very powerful damage reduction and will keep you alive in situations where you really should be dead. In WotLK mobs and bosses are hitting incredibly hard, this means that often by the time you've realised your in trouble the killing blow may already be on the way, be proactive in the usage of this ability. By proactive I mean, if you see an extra pack running towards your raid, empower rune weapon, thrown down death and decay and activate this ability don't wait for them to start beating on you before you use it. Obliterate
1 Unholy 1 Frost, Melee range, Instant Cast, Requires Melee Weapon
This is the primary strike for frost builds. You use this when ever you don't have a Killing Machine'd Howling blast ready to go. Rune Strike
20 Runic Power, Next Melee, Requires Melee Weapon
This is going to be your primary threat generation ability in all single target scenarios. Making correct use of this ability is often the difference between producing good threat and being removed from groups. Many tanks macro this ability into all of their others to make sure its used every time its available. This macro is provided below. Howling Blast
1 Unholy, 1 Frost, Instant cast.
The usage of this ability as a tank varies quite a bit depending on whether or not you have applied the glyph to it. If you have glyphed it then you want to use it as your opener, every time you have a Rime and KM combined proc and every time you need to reapply frost fever. If not glyphed then you only really want to use it for AOE threat, or when you have a Rime and KM proc. I find that using this ability is greatly simplified if you use something like powa auras to display when you have proc'd KM and Rime.
20 Runic Power, Instant Cast, 45 sec cooldown
The best bit about this as a tank is that it prevents application of harmful magical effects. What this means is that you can skip some of the more annoying mechanics in the game, like stacking auras by activating AMS and allowing the stacks to fall off of you. The RP that is generated from absorbing damage is also quite nice. All in all this is one of the most powerful and most underrated abilities that DK tanks have. It is useful in many situations and has saved me more time than I can count. Death and Decay
1 Blood 1 Frost 1 Unholy, 30 yd Range, Instant Cast, 30 sec cooldown
An awesome AOE tanking ability, make sure you are prepared to reapply this mid-fight in long aoe encounters such as the trash in ICC. A good tip with death and decay is to position it under the majority of the melee in your pull, then use Death Grip to pull the casters into the DnD. This can all be done while still running into position. Death Grip
30 yd range, Instant Cast, 35 sec cooldown
As you might suspect you use this spell to pull targets into your death and decay.Death Strike
1 Unholy 1 Frost, Melee Range, Instant Cast, Requires Melee Weapon
This ability provides a respectable heal that can be timed to provide quite a nice boost just after a boss hits you. The self heal of this ability is often overlooked as a tanking mechanic for DK's of all
trees, remember that the self heal no longer scales with the damage done so the amount you get is the same if you are in blood or frost spec's. DK tank's should be using this to help their healers out when necessary. Army of the Dead
A very useful tanking cooldown in many situations, often forgotten by new tanks. Ensure that you do not use this while there are ads in the fight being controlled by other tanks as the ghouls will taunt them and make them uncontrollable.
1.3 Tanking Talents
This section covers the talents from each tree that you would generally select when tanking with that tree as your primary. It also covers some of the incorrect talents that I see beginner tanks taking a lot for one reason or another. Make sure you read the descriptions to see which ones you should be taking and which you shouldn't….and why.
BloodImproved Rune Tap
- A 20% self-heal is nothing to scoff at, it can be a lifesaver, if used at the right time. Requires good timing and good awareness of incoming heals to use correctly. Spell Deflection
- Talent will
(post #1569) proc on Dots, direct spell damage and AoE's, pretty much the only thing it is not confirmed
to proc on is auras. With a 20% parry chance this works out to about 3% spell damage reduction per point over a suitably long period of time. As its a proc it may not go off when you really need it. This will not proc from strikes with elemental damage (frost strike, frozen blows, fusion punch). If you are looking at this ability for a given fight it is generally a good idea to see if someone has tested it yet, as it does not work as you might expect it to.
Read more on spell deflection in our dedicated thread.Veteran of the Third War
- A simple, yet powerful, stat increase. Even after the nerfs there is no reason to not take this talent. Mark of Blood
- Generally however this is considered to be a PvP talent, looking at the trees there are generally better ways you can spend this point.
Read more on mark of blood in our dedicated thread.Vampiric Blood
- The clickie tanking ability. A very strong ability and one that every blood DK must take or be laughed at. Will of the Necropolis
- This has been changed to become a large damage reducer akin to but not quite as good as Ardent Defender talent for Prot Pallies, no raid tanking build should be without it. This talent is not required for 5-mans. Heart Strike
- Not necessarily a tanking talent, but mandatory for threat generation in a blood build. This will replace Blood Strike in your rotations. Does a crapload of damage and hits 2 targets which as a blood tank makes it a much need source of multi-target damage. Bloodworms
- I see a lot of beginner tanks take this talent. DON'T, it does not heal you for much, the worms don't do much damage and die instantly to AOE. There is also a lot of conjecture that they soak up aoe healing that would otherwise hit your raid. Improved Blood Presence
- Another talent I see a lot of beginner blood tanks take.... again don't!!!! It doesn't heal you for very much and the increased incoming healing only applies to when your in blood presence. This is at best a PVP talent. Hysteria
- A valid way to spend a point, can be a great buff during a burn phase on a boss for one of the dps in your raid, rogues love you for it and its a good way to give back to them for all the tricks of the trade they use on you. You'll want to macro it to cast on a raid member. Scent of Blood
- Generates a significant amount of Runic Power while tanking. Is currently not required in a blood build due to the tight rotations and already excessive RP being generated.
- Reduces the cooldown of DnD, well worth taking for aoe tanking, also buffs your deathcoil, so its a win win in my book. Commonly taken in blood builds as well to add some aoe flavour to them. Epidemic
-A great talent that allows you more time between reapplying diseases. Some frost builds don't need any points here but you want to take this as Blood or Unholy.On a Pale Horse
- Though not the best talent, the stun reduction is still useful, but generally better ways can be found to spend these points. Magic Suppression
- It will buff you to full magic immunity in your AMS and provides access to the anti-magic zone talent. Anti-Magic Zone
- A very situational spell, great if your tanking a magic heavy encounter, useless the rest of the time. Bone Shield
- Bone Shield protects against auras, dots, and bleeds without losing charges, and can be cast long before a pull so it can refresh mid-battle due to it's 5 minute duration. Always glyph this to get the extra charges.Scourge Strike
- A hard hitting single target strike, if you are this deep in unholy take this strike as it will make up the bulk of your threat single target. Has issues when tanking as it relies heavily on armour penetration in 3.3 which tanks just don't have. Unholy Blight
- Beefs up your Deathcoils to cause them to apply a 'bleed' like dot. Not nearly as good as the old version, but worth taking none the less.
Ghouls - As cool as a ghoul is, its not really a tanking thing. I've seen DK tanks who take it for the extra raid dps and the constant option to sac the ghoul, which is all well and good, but for a true tank there are better ways you can and should spend your points.
FrostImproved Icy Touch
- The only reason not to take 3 points in this is if you always always have someone else applying the talented version of it on bosses for you, which you almost never do…. so take the points. As a DK you are also by far the most equipped to spread this debuff to all mobs in an area. Lichborne
- This is a pvp talent, don't take it. Annihilation
- Any frost spec will use Obliterate at some point, so this is a must.Killing Machine
- A great threat talent, every frost build will take this. Frigid Dreadplate
- 3% chance to be missed, every tank should take it. Rime
- Your already going to be spamming OB on bosses to generate threat, why not proc a free HB while you do it...take this. The proc here is called 'freezing fog' if you want to use power auras. Unbreakable Armor
- A solid physical mitigation clickie, its biggest weakness is that it does nothing against casters. All frost tanks should be taking this. Acclimation
- Resistance is a nifty stat to have, as it effects dots, auras and AoE spells. However dots and auras don't apply stacks of this. Generally this considered a pvp talent, there are much better ways to spend your points, don't take this unless your very sure you know it works in the encounter your taking it for.
Read more about acclimation in our dedicated thread.Frost Strike
- This replaces Death Coil as your runic power dump in frost. Killing machine affects this spell however the procs are better off used on Howling Blast if possible.Guile of Gorefiend
- 6 seconds bonus duration on IBF and more threat, there is no reason not to spec into this. Hungering Cold
- Pure pvp talent, impractical to use properly while tanking as to be really useful you need to glyph it and frost is already hard pressed for glyph spaces. Some tanks take this talent for the ability to apply frost fever, personally I have only ever spec'd it for the faction champions fight in ToC. Howling Blast
- High damage AOE attack, if you glyph the spell it infects everyone with frost fever as well. This spell is 100% mandatory in any frost tanking build that you intend to show in public. Improved Frost Presence
- 2% less damage from all sources..... take this talent. Icy Talons
/ Improved Icy Talons
- Only worth taking if your raid has no shaman or frost dps dk. Does not provide a TPS boost that is as good as the talents you are giving up to take this so beware that you are gimping yourself a bit. Under no circumstances should you take icy talons without taking imp icy talons. Threat of Thassarian
and Nerves of Cold Steel
- Mandatory talents if you intend to DW tank. Chill of the Grave
- Generates a significant amount of RP in a frost build, generally means that you can get away with only 1/3 Scent of Blood.