UPDATED FOR 5.4
i'm now on twitter. @ReniatDK
What do I intend to do with it? Idk yet. You can definitely ask me stuff Q&A style there though. Of course you can still do that in this thread as well.
If you are looking for in depth DK tanking help, please have logs or a video of you in a boss fight at hand. I'll still try to assist without those, but I can give you a lot more effective advice if I have more info.
3) Stats (Gems, chants, ect.)
4) Playstyle ("rotation")
5) Advanced Playstyle
The new talent system for Mists is designed to be more fluid, but there are still better options both overall and for certain circumstances. I'll provide some standard spec builds, but keep in mind with this more fluid system you will find yourself tweaking a lot more often.
Pick your choice of RC or BT for t75
Pick your choice of RC or BT for t75
Because of the more fluid nature of talents in MoP there is a high chance that you will need to tweak any of the above specs to be 100% optimal for a specific situation. Because of this, I'll give a run down on each tier individually and how you would adjust the above specs in practice.
This tier revolves around diseases. For PvE purposes you pretty much choose between Roiling Blood and Plague Leech. You will use Roiling Blood 99% of the time, except for pure single target fights in which case you will use Plague Leech. It is currently not worth it to use glyph of outbreak with Plague Leech, and you should only use Plague Leech if you have outbreak off CD (so once every minute). Unholy Blight is viable, but doesn't really offer much to compete with the flexibility of Roiling Blood or the resource gain of PL.
For most raiding content you will use Purgatory. It is basically a free death, and that can be very useful in all current raiding content. Lichborne is viable, but it will cost resources to use which means not only do you have to consume resources (runic power and GCDs) to execute, but you also have to prepare for its used to make sure you have the resources to use in the first place. AMZ is good situational raid utility, but only take this if your raid needs it. Default to one of the other two unless you specifically need AMZ for a strategy.
Chilblains can be very beneficial in add control, Death's Advance can be very useful in dealing with positional mechanics, and asphyxiate is useful in handling interrupt mechanics.
Summary: Unless you need the add control or the interrupt help, it's probably most useful to go with Death's Advance.
Death Pact is more powerful, but conversion coupled with Vampiric Blood can be very useful in dealing with a mechanic where a healer may not be able to heal you or when a mechanic is dealing sustained heavy damage. Siphon can be an option on magic heavy fights, provided you still can get a considerable amount of AP. If you picked Purgatory in T2 then it is highly recommended you also take Death Pact, as that greatly increases the value of purgatory.
Summary: Take death pact unless you need the DPS from death siphon or using Conversion to conquer a specific mechanic.
In terms of control it is best to go with Blood Tap, as you will be able to place regained Death Strikes where you need them most. Runic Corruption is similar to BT in terms of survivability benefits, but instead of flexibility/control provides consistency. They both serve to lessen gaps between death strikes, but they do it in different ways. BT has some build up, but is more potent when used. RC takes no build up, but doesn't give as much benefit. You are basically choosing control (BT) vs consistency (RC). Generally the control of BT will outweigh the consistency of RC but RC does do more dps whenever you are not capping resources, which makes it a very strong option for progression tanking.
Summary: BT and RC are both "optimal". RC will yield a higher DPS, but BT can be used a bit more flexibly. It is important to note that in situations where have high rp gen (such as with a high avoidance build) using BT provides more damage output.
Remorseless winter is very handy in dealing with stunnable adds, but does not affect raid bosses. Gorefiend's grasp doesn't affect raid bosses either, but can still be handy since very few bosses are completely add-less. Many high end strategies revolve around Gorefiends (t15 Heroic Lei Shen comes to mind). Desecrated ground is pretty much useless unless there is a Mind Control mechanic you can neutralize.
Glyph of Vampiric Blood
Glyph of Pestilence
Glyph of Regenerative Magic
Glyph of Loud Horn
Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon/Ice Bound Fortitude (only when needed, otherwise these are best left out. see below)
Other notes on glyphs:
Glyph of Vampiric Blood is a good glyph in general, but if you want to use as a pre-emptive EH boost, you need to unglyph it.
Glyph of AMS has potential situaitonal use, but due to the fact that it will generally reduce the duration without changing the overall dmg mitigated makes this situationally useful but overall less than desirable, much like DRW and IBF.
Glyph of DnD can be very useful in controlling adds, so it would definitely be recommended for any situation where you would have the AoE spec for add control.
Glyph of Icy Touch can be useful if a mechanic requires dispelling a helpful effect.
Glyph of Outbreak While it shouldn't be needed in a normal tanking situation (thanks to blood boil), but it can be very useful for challenge modes and 5 mans, since you will generally have plenty of RP after a set of trash and can quickly move on to the next pact with outbreak available.
Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon will give you more threat, but reduces your damage so it should only be used if you can't get initial aggro securely.
Glyph of Ice Bound Fortitude should only be used if you need the lowered CD to help with a mechanic, for example Impale on Madness. impale is one hit, so the reduced duration isn't a problem but with the reduced CD you could have an IBF for every impale as opposed to every other. Unless the reduced CD help with a mechanic do not use this glyph, as it reduces the overall dmg reduction from IBF by 50%.
Glyph of Regenerative Magic is a good standard glyph to have. It will let you use AMS more often, which will let you generate RP more often.
Glyph of Festering Blood is a very situational glyph. Basically use this when you need good burst aoe on adds that won't live long enough to be worth spreading diseases onto.
Most of these are cosmetic, but there are a few you may want to avoid as a tank though. Glyph of Army of the Dead removes the taunt from the ghouls you spawn, which ruins it's value as a way to recover a horrific add situation, but could be useful if you want the damage of army without worrying about the ghouls taunting something they shouldn't. Glyph of Tranquil Grip removes the taunt from Death Grip, which isn't something we want.
survivability oriented priority: mastery>hit/exp to 7.5%>parry>dodge
damage oriented priority: hit/exp to 7.5%>parry>dodge>mastery
Alternate damage oriented priority (10m focus) hit/exp to 7.5%>haste(to GCD cap)>parry>dodge
There is no "correct" or "incorrect" priority out of these (unless you are consistently dying and are using a damage oriented priority, in which case you picked wrong) and the right one for you will depend a lot on your raid, your healers, how well you use CDs/Death Strike, so on so forth. Be careful with the damage oriented playstyles, and be ready to go back if your healers are having trouble with it. You want to maximize damage, but that is not your TOP priority. Surviving is still #1.
Balancing Avoidance and DR
Due to Parry double dipping with SoB stacks, there is no real reason not to prefer it to dodge. The resources you gain with parryhaste (your melee speed increased after a parry) outweighs the resources lost with properly balancing DR.
Stamina vs Mastery
Another point of contention in the DK tank community in how they prioritize stats is Stamina vs mastery, which can be boiled down to Effective Health vs Mitigation. This is a HIGHLY subjective topic, and what may work for one tank may not work for the next. This is due to different playstyles from both the tanks involved as well as their healers' playstyles.
Beyond making it so you can survive the highest single amount of damage in an encounter, EH works to reduce spike damage. lets say you define "spiky" as going from full to below 50% of your health in one shot. if your health was x, a hit worth x/2 would be "spiky" dmg. If you were to increase your health to say 1.25x, the 1/2x hit would only be 40% of your health instead of 50%. you made the relative dmg less by increasing your health. As DKs our spike damage primarily comes from hits that aren't Dodged/parried/absorbed, which we call a Full hit.
Since it's impossible to maintain a blood shield 100% of the times (assuming tank&spank rules in progression content) you will get hit with full hits throughout the fight. Reducing the spike threat from these full hits could make you subjectively easier to heal, despite a slight increase of Damage taken. Where the controversy comes into play is when you incorporate your healer's mana. More damage, relatively a reduction or not, still needs to be healed back. In other words, more dmg = more mana spent. Generally a healer's mana takes priority over reducing the spike damage they have to deal with, so it's generally better to try to minimize overall damage but that doesn't mean you should totally ignore the spike dmg part of it. This is why it is 100% subjective, and there is no "right" amount of EH as long as you are not dying in 2 hits. Everything beyond that is between you and your healer.
the 2 best professions from a stats point of view are Blacksmithing (2 gems each valued at 320 of any stat) and Leatherworking (750 stamina at the cost of 170 mastery)
Other professions bonuses:
Enchanting - 480 stamina
Jewelcrafting - 480 stamina or 320 mastery (2 JC gems at +160 normal gem value)
Engineering - 1920 dodge on-use glove enchant with a 1 min CD
inscription - 450 stamina
mining - 480 stamina
Alchemy - 480 stamina or 240 mastery and 720 armor
All other professions do not provide any bonuses for tanking.
Since stamina's value from gems is now less than for secondary stats (an epic non-JC gem is 320 mastery or 240 stamina) gems are no longer a fantastic way to adjust EH balance (add/detract stamina) since it's a 1 to 1 exchange, whearas using a stam trinket in place of a mastery trinket would provide more stamina per mastery. This means that unless you really need more EH and already have used the other options you will want to follow the same standard model from Cataclysm
Gemming for defense:
Yellow slot: Fractured gem (mastery)
Blue slot: Puissant gem (mastery/stamina)
Red slot: fine gem (mastery/parry) or Keen gem (mastery/exp) if you are going for hit/exp caps.
Prismatic slots: fractured gem (mastery)
If you want more stamina from gems to increase EH, put some Mastery/Stam hybrids in yellow slots until you are at a more comfortable EH level for the content you are attempting.
Gemming for Offense:
Yellow slot: Quick gem (haste)
Blue slot: Lightning gem (hit/haste) or Forceful gem (haste/stam) if you are above hit cap
Red slot: Wicked gem (exp/haste) or Fierce gem (haste/str) if you are above 7.5% exp cap
Prismatic slots: Quick gem (haste)
(will replace with actual links once the live database is updated to allow linking mop items in forums)
Shoulder - Greater Ox Horn Inscription/Secret Ox Horn Inscription(inscription only) (300 stamina 150 dodge/750 stamina 150 dodge)
Chest - Superior stamina (300 stamina)
Wrist - Mastery/Fur lining - Stamina (Leatherworking only) (170 mastery/750 stamina)
Gloves - Superior Mastery (170 mastery)
Legs - Ironscale Leg Armor (430 stamina and 165 dodge)
Feet - Pandaren's Step (140 mastery and movement speed boost)
Ring - Greater Stamina (Enchanting only) (160 Stamina)
Back - Greater Protection (300 stamina)
weapon - Rune of Swordshattering (Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle is also viable, though does not result in as much overall dmg reduction.)
Choosing between Swordshattering and Stoneskin Gargoyole:
It depends entirely on what content you are running. For low damage intake situations Swordshattering is obviously the way to go, as it provides ~3 times more overall dmg reduction when compared to Stoneskin. Where it turns into a grey area is when you incorporate burst damage intake, such as what you'd find in progression raiding. the more "progression" you get (harder content/lower gear) the more SSG gains value. not because it does more dmg reduction, but because further down that path you go the more threatening burst damage is. By the time you reach 25H hardcore progression raiding the burst damage is almost the only thing that matters, and SSG does more (albeit not a lot) for spike damage, even though it does less overall mitigation.
So which is right? It depends on you. In a perfect world you would pick SS for the overall dmg reduction, but it all depends on what kind of burst damage you are taking and what your healers prefer. If you're not sure, lean towards the side of Swordshattering.
Use FU runes (including combos of F U and D runes) on Death strike, dump Runic Power with Rune Strike, make sure you always have diseases on targets you are tanking, and dump blood runes with heart strike (above 35%) Soul Reaper (below 35%) and make sure you are keeping diseases up through Blood Boils from Crimson Scourge to refresh them. If you are left with an open GCD, use Horn of Winter. It's free Runic Power and should be used anytime you don't have something else to use.
very similar to the Single Target, except you may have to use D runes on Blood Boil (4 or more targets) or Heart Strike (3 targets or less), as well as D or U runes on Death and Decay. Try to balance survivability with AoE threat, since D and U runes spent on non death strike abilities means less death strikes. It's better to err on the side of survivability, since a dead tank doesn't hold aggro well.
Beyond knowing the basics of DK tank gameplay, there are certain things that can help separate an good DK tank from a great one.
Death strike takes the dmg you took in the last 5 seconds and converts into a heal and subsequent shield via our mastery. An optimally timed Death Strike is one that has the largest about of damage in that 5 second window. Maximizing DS throughput on the other hand, is about using your runes to maximize the number of death strikes throughout the fight. Balancing these 2 ends up being a matter of making sure you always have an FU pair cycling while still waiting until you have a good amount of damage in your 5 seconds window. The easiest way to do this is use an addon like BloodShieldTracker to track your damage window, and only DS when you have a good chunk of healing from the shield or you are about to get another FU pair back. Keep in mind having a DS when you need it is always more important than your overall DS/min.
Scent of Blood and Death Strike
Many people have come to the conclusion that you should wait until you have high stacks of SoB before using Death Strike. This is simply not true, and your current stacks of SoB should have no affect on how you use Death Strike.
We dump RP by using Rune Strike, but we need to be using Rune Strike efficienly for the maximum number of RE procs. This is done by only using rune strike when you have both your F or U runes on CD (fully depleted) so you don't waste RP on a rune strike that can't proc RE, as well as making sure you never cap your RE which is also wasted rp. When looking at rune striking you also have to consider Plague Leech if you took that talent. you can think of Plague Leech as a guaranteed RE proc, since the return is the same. This means that ch rune cycling to get the most benefit from RC procs, which you should be doing anyway.you may want to wait to dump RP on rune strike if you are about to use Leech if you only have 1 pair fully depleted, since Leeching will leave you with no fully depleted pairs.
The last and probably most important thing is the cooldowns we have at our disposal. One of the DKs strengths is our CDs, and using them efficiently helps separate the boys (paladins) from the men (dks).
Cooldowns are always best used when planned ahead of time, to maximize effectiveness. Knowing exactly when you are going to use each cooldown throughout a fight is much better than simply using them to react to emergencies that could have been prevented with better CD management.
Ice Bound Fortitude - This is our biggest dmg reduction cooldown, and should be used to manage harder hitting infrequent abilities
Dancing Rune Weapon- If you need it for threat you will glyph it and use it very early, otherwise use it as an avoidance increase (for mechanics with a stacking debuff that is applied physically) or to boost personal dps (during a mechanic like Hagara's Feedback for example).
Anti-Magic Shield - This is one of the most useful cooldowns we have. As the name suggests, use this one on any fight with a significant amount of magic damage. In some cases, it can prevent certain DoTs from being applied, allowing you to drop the stacks and start at 0 again which can be invaluable.
Bone Shield - With 20% reduced dmg taken for its duration, maximizing the uptime on this cooldown is important. It is important to realize that it has an internal cooldown preventing it from losing stacks too fast. With 6 stacks you have a guaranteed duration of 12 seconds. Use this on cooldown unless you are saving it for something (like impale from the Madness encounter)
Vampiric Blood - When glyphed this is a reactive cooldown, as you lose the EH bonus. Use it when your survival is dependent on being topped off very quickly (period of large damage or mechanics like Baleroc's Decimation blade). Unglyphed this can be a nice EH boost to help handle large spike dmg.
Empower Runic Weapon - This returns all your runes to you, so use it when as many runes as possible are on CD.
Army of the Dead - while casting AoTD your dodge/parry chances are added up and turned into raw dmg reduction. 15% dodge and 15% parry would make AoTD give 30% reduced damage taken while being casted. Because it's based on your avoidance, it's best to use this in cunjunction with DRW (which raises your parry) for an extra 20% dmg reduction. you DO have to actively casting it while taking the damage for it to be in affect, so make sure you time it with whatever ability you are trying to reduce the threat of. (prepositions aren't words to end sentences with)
This section revolves around DK tanking in hardmode progression content or any content where burst damage is a concern. It may not apply if you are overgeared or not running heroic content, and is not intended to be correct for 5 man tanking/old content tanking, though you may find some of the information useful regardless and I highly encourage reading it through if you want to really improve as a DK tank.
First lets lets look at what death knight tanking "is" as well as what defines a good DK tank. We are the "self heal" tank, which makes us very mana efficient. We generally take far less external heals than other tanks, at the cost of taking slightly more damage compared to a warrior or paladin tank.
Where it becomes complicated is that due to our reactive healing style of tanking we have to take damage before we can heal ourselves, as well as the fact that we will naturally take more damage due to less armor and raw dmg reduction (10% vs 15% for pallys and 25% for warriors for example). This means that while our dmg taken will be only slightly more than other tanks, the shape of the damage will be very different and much burstier, with periods of very light damage followed by very large damage. You may have heard the common complaint from healers that DKs are "spiky", and this is where that comes from.
So how important is the shape of our damage? As long as the damage we are taking is roughly equal to the other tanks at the end of the day, does it really matter? It depends on the content you are running, but generally yes. It matters very much. Because of this spiky nature, we have to really step back and think "how do I go about being the 'best' DK tank? Should I focus on raw dmg taken or should I concentrate on minimizing bursts? which one is more threatening to me as a tank?"
For most content you will find that how you handle those bursts is what will make you a mediocre or fantastic tank. Tank healing is already pretty mana efficient compared to raid healing, so focusing on increasing our already fantastic self heals is generally not going to do as much for you compared to focusing on minimizing the threat from the bursts. That's not to say you should ignore overall damage taken, but it shouldn't be your #1 concern unless your burst damage is small enough that it is no longer is a threat at all. When this moment occurs will depend on the content you are running, your gear level, and if the content is nerfed or not.
Advanced Death Strike
Now that we've come to the conclusion that generally (heavy emphasis on generally) focusing on minimizing the burst damage vs the overall damage taken is going to result in better tanking and happier healers, we can apply this ideology to find that death strike should be used in a way that will not just result in the most healing/dmg reduction, but that will help reduce the threat from burst damage.
If you were to time death strikes for maximum healing/absorption, you would wait until you had plenty of damage in your 5 second window. This would likely mean waiting ~4 seconds after a large burst (depending on what kind of damage you took before the burst) to allow for the most possible damage in your window with an extra bonus of having more SoB stacks on top of that.
If you were to time death strikes for the purpose of recovering from burst damage, you would death strike immediately following a large burst, using the heal from DS to put you back into comfortable range and using the shield to give your healer some more time to get you back to full before the next hit. In this case you didn't wait for any extra damage to increase your heal/shield, but you did make sure that the burst damage you took was taken care of as best you could and minimized it's impact.
These are two extremes (waiting for all dmg in 5 seconds and waiting for none), and the "correct" usage will usually be between the two, depending on how much damage you are taking and how bursty it is. for example if you had only gone from 100% to 70%, then it would probably be safe to allow for more damage and in that window, but if you burst from 100% to 35%, you will want to help get yourself back to a comfortable level by death striking right away. For example if you go from 100% to 70%, then get healed to 80% off some HoTs and then get full hit to 30%, you would likely have waited to use it on the drop to 70% and would have used it immediately after the burst to 30%.
In other words, if you are not taking much burst damage (100% to 70%) then consider waiting a bit longer (unless you already have a lot of damage in the last 5 seconds) and if you burst then it is better to react to that burst to recover from it quickly.
Beyond that is maximizing throughput without sacrificing optimal Death Strikes, which is simply trying to keep at least one F U pair cycling at all times without ending up without a pair when you need it. An example of how you can put yourself in a bad position by using Death Strike too much is if you use a pair for the sake of throughput and then get bursted, you will have to use your remaining F U pair to recover, leaving a large gap between that Death Strike and the next one. If this does occur, pop a defensive cooldown as this is the most threatening position to be in (not counting any mechanics). If you have to pick, always choose for well timed death strikes over raw DS/min, since it is much better to have a death strike and not need it than to need one and not have it. You will generally lose overall mitigation by sitting on runes too much, but remember we are more concerned with burst damage than just the numbers of overall damage taken.
Advanced Cooldown placement
Beyond timing death strike better you can work to minimize the burst in the first place with proper cooldown usage. A BIG part of death knight tanking is making sure we are using our cooldowns optimally in addition to just our death strikes, and when done right the two will work together. Using a cooldown like IBF or VB when you know you won't have an F U pair in a while can prevent getting too much burst damage when you don't have the runes to recover with Death Strike. If you have a Death Strike in your back pocket either through 10 or more stacks of BT or just an FU pair handy, save your cooldowns for later when you know you won't have a DS ready for several seconds. Cooldowns used in this manner should be used preemptively, not after bursts. This means knowing when you are going to be Death Strike starved for the next several seconds and using the cooldowns before you take any burst damage. They all have 10 or more second durations, so you can easily fill a DS gap with any one of them.
Obviously if a cooldown is required for a mechanic, save it for that. It's better to survive a mechanic than to minimize the burst damage, since you can recover from normal burst damage more easily than you can recover from tanking a mechanic with your face. "Because the guide told me to use all my cooldowns in coordination with my death strike" is not a good enough excuse for dying to a burst damage mechanic over and over again.
Maximizing Tank DPS
On top of optimal survivability, a hardcore progression tank will be required to focus on personal DPS as well. With vengeance the way it is, tank dps is much more impactful on the raid than in previous expansions and increasing tank DPS can be an effective way of beating an enrage timer as well as just making the encounter easier through some extra deeps.
Most of these tradeoffs require a potentially steep survivability cost, and trading survivability cost for DPS should always be done very carefully. There are some tradeoffs that have less impact on your survival, and should be done first with the more "dangerous" options being done if more dps is required beyond the first changes.
While Tank DPS is important, surviving is always #1 and being an unstable tank is a hefty price to pay for extra dps. If you aren't stable there had better be a good reason for that extra dps, or you are just making it harder on your healers for no reason, which is obviously not good. If you are trying to rank, make sure your healers are on board first.
Riposte only increases our dps while it is active, which means we want to maximize uptime where we can. there are mechanics that prevent us from getting great uptime, for example you don't want to keep taunting off the other tank for riposte if that means you never drop your tank debuff stacks. However if you can, try to grab dodges/parries where you can when not tanking. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO COMMUNICATE THIS TO YOUR OTHER TANK. Do NOT just taunt the boss for vengeance/riposte without saying you are doing so.
If survivability is not a concern, trading mastery/avoidance for secondary stats can be a DPS gain. I would not recommend this for normal progression tanking, but if you are trying to rank or if a fight has very little tank dmg and a very tight enrage timer than consider trading survival stats for secondary stats. The actual DPS per point between haste/crit is negligibly close, so you can consider them equal in terms of overall damage. However, haste will help with survivability (faster rune regen is great for Death Strike) while crit will not. Therefore the priority for secondary stats is haste>=crit.
Death Siphon (tier 4) scales very well with our vengeance. it requires anywhere from 101k to 155k depending on weapon ilvl (101k for ilvl 549 weapon and 155k for 580) total attack power for 2x Death Siphons to equal Death Strikes damage, which means you will need to watch your attack power to maximize your dps. It is very important to keep in mind that Death Siphon costs a D rune, which means using one Death Siphon will result in a significant delay in your next Death Strike. Use with caution.
Dancing Rune Weapon:
While DRW is a great tank cd, it is also a decent DPS cd. There is a trick that will increase it's value beyond it's face value though. DRW copies your abilities and deals them as it's own attack at slightly reduced power, and this includes Outbreak, Icy Touch, Plague Strike, and Pestilence. This means you can have 2 sets of diseases rolling simultaneously, and can spread them both through pestilence. Like any DPS CD, try to time it with any buffs/procs to increase it's value.
There a couple ways to optimize it's use, depending on how many targets there are:
Apply double diseases by using Icy Touch and Plague Strike immediately after using DRW, and reapply with outbreak right before DRW falls off. This will give you ~10 seconds of extra double diseases uptime at the cost of 1 death strike (F and U runes) or two Death Siphons (2 D runes) which is a net gain either way, though it is best to avoid using D runes to apply diseases for DRW since it's more of a DPS increase to trade a death strike instead of 2 death siphons.
2 Targets or more
Apply double diseases with Outbreak immediately after using DRW, and use pestilence to spread both sets to all targets.
Reapply all sets with another pestilence before DRW falls off.