Death Knights: Tank or Spank?

With another tanking (able) class out there, some people think Death Knights (DKs) should put in our time and do the “grunt work” of tanking. Pay our dues, so to speak, before we change things up and take someone’s spot as a damage dealer (DPS). On our server, there are constantly groups in the Looking For Group channel trying to find a tank so, many see this as an opportunity for DKs to step in and fill a role they (the people that are asking) don’t want to or just plain can’t fill. So… what do we do? Fulfill their needs or ours? Hopefully, both.

To Tank?
I wish I could say that tanking as a DK is easy, but it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong… we wear plate, we have a presence that gives us extra threat and extra armor and we have ways to mitigate the incoming damage beyond the protection offered by armor. Death Knights are definitely a class that CAN tank. But should we? That’s a decision you will have to make for yourself.

I know the difficulties of tanking, having done it on both a warrior and a druid at 70. It’s a role I enjoyed, but one I stressed over quite a bit. The idea of tanking on my death knight is a little daunting given that there are new things to consider with the mechanics of the runic power and runes that DKs use, it will take some experience before I am as comfortable tanking with my DK as I was with my other tanking toons.

Experience aside, there is also the gear to consider. If a tank is under geared a group will very likely struggle or just completely fail. They may be taking too much damage or not putting out enough threat and then mobs will start eating the faces of the rest of the group. Having 535 defense or more is the only way to become immune to critical hits from bosses in Heroic dungeons at level 80 and it takes 540 to become immune for the level 80 raids. Given that there are no talents to increase the defense of a DK like their are for Druids (Survival of the Fittest) or paladins (Combat Expertise) and we don’t wear shields like warriors, our gearing options are greatly limited. There are no 2-handed weapons currently that offer any defense other than green “…of the Champion” items so that limits us further to generally only dual wielding (DW) as a tank, or taking our chances with eating crits. DW can cause some threat issues, especially if you don’t have a “perfect” spec, so tanking is nothing that a DK should just run into without any preparation beyond just leveling.

Or to Spank?
As a DPSer, being productive was just a matter of learning the right order to mash my buttons and where to stand. A DPSers job is rarely complicated by the group they’re in, whereas a tank’s group can make things very difficult on them.

Gear-wise, it is less detrimental for a damage dealing class to enter an instance with a spec or gear that is not in sync with their role. In the gear that I got from quests as I leveled and some craftables I was able to hold up my end of a group, dps-wise, very comfortably.

I like playing a class that, in a pinch, can take a couple of shots from a boss if something goes horribly wrong and still be a productive DPSer. As a death knight specced Unholy, I can do a good amount of area of effect (AoE) damage, still do decent single target damage and between Bone Shield, Icebound Fortitude and Frost Presence, stand toe to toe (if only for the few seconds my cool downs last, :P ) with many bosses hopefully, to give a few more seconds for the DPS to kill them!

All in Good Time
I say, “Play how you want to play.” For me, that means doing what I can in a DPS role while I pick up tanking hand me downs along the way. Once I am comfortable with my gear, I will try to get comfortable with tanking. Until then… I shall spank!

  • Scourge

    There are a lot of gear options to obtain uncritable status between crafting, non heroic dungeons, and chain quests.

    There are also lots of enchant and gem options to maintain the defense cap as you upgrade your gear and start to lose defense on primary pieces.

    The point is, you can tank very effectively with a big ole honking two-hander that is itemized for laying the smack down.

  • Hafrot

    Thanks for the lists, Scourge, I’m sure people will find them useful.

    Hopefully they’re luckier on finding Oculus groups and getting drops than I am. :)

  • Jaramon

    I *know* I am not tank material. I just really don’t have the skill set or play style for it.

  • Hafrot

    Tanking isn’t for everybody, Jaramon. Some people don’t have the interest, the gear, the slot or whatever. Thankfully, DKs do quite nicely as dps too.

    Do what you do!