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An ex-raid leader, gamer extraordinaire.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Return of the DK Tank in Cataclysm?

Death Knight tanks went through an interesting ordeal in WotLK. In the beginning, they were often deemed unworthy for progression fights with the spiky damage they took. Later on, their numerous Cooldowns were [ab]used to push many guilds to their first Hardmode kills, from Sartharion 3D to Ulduar.

Looking at the DK talents for Cataclysm now both intrigues me and scares me. The changes make them just far, far good.

Current state of DK tanks is that, they go down a path of their choice and end up with two cooldowns to blow: Icebound Fortitude for all specs, and Vampiric Embrace / Unbreakable Armor / Bone Shield for Blood / Frost / Unholy respectively [There's Mark of Blood but for most fights, it's really awful]. Looking at the Cataclysm talents, we see DK Tanks gaining this:

  • Icebound Fortitude [2M]: %50-70 Damage Reduction for 12 seconds. The talent that boosts it boosts it by %30, and with the current glyph it can go up from 20% to %40. 
  • Bone Shield [1M]: %20 Damage Reduction, 3.4 charges. Interesting this with this ability is, it's not removed with things like Mimiron's Blast, AoE or Dots. 
  • Vampiric Embrace [1M]: 15% Health, %35 Increased Healing taken for 10/15 seconds.
  • Dancing Rune Weapon [1.5M]: %20 Parry for 12/17 seconds 
  • Rune Tap [60/30S]: %20 Self-heal.
  • Death Strike: %17.5 health gain per strike and creates a shields that absorbs the same amount.
  • Will of the Necropolis [15S]: Below 30%, Blood Rune/Rune Tap is refreshed and DK takes %8 less damage for 8 seconds.
There are pseudo-synergies here worth mentioning.

DRW/Bone Shield when spammed together will highly increase the DK's avoidance and thus make each Bone Shield charges a lot more worthwhile.

IBF/VE combo will allow DK to have a lot more health, to receive a lot less, and be healed as if the healers had gear one tier higher.

Of course, when spamming all at once, you'd become as good as immortal, and if it's way into the fight with no problems of threat, but just a "GOGOGO DPS KILL IT NOW" scenario, you can save all your Blood runes for self-heal, DS for heal and shield, and pop Empower Rune Weapon for even more DSes. I can easily see a DK tank surviving a good 20-25 seconds even under current raid-scheme where damage is high and imminent, without a healer.

Of course, we don't know much about the raiding scheme in Cataclysm, but a nice comparison is other tanks. We currently have access to Druid and Warrior talents, and from what I've checked, neither classes pack the amount of CDs the DK has.

But that's not the only selling point of DKs. DK tanks have traditionally been the highest-DPSers in a raid setting, simply because all of their threat (Aside from Icy Touch for the moment) come from their DPS abilities. They're the only class whose Tank and DPS abilities do not change at all. This might come to change as a matter of fact, with Heart Strike being a tank-only spam now, as well as possibly Death Strike, these abilities might [and should] lose in their high damage output punch to stay balanced with rest of the tanks.

Furthermore, I sincerely hope Death Strike's unbuffed healing is no longer %5 per disease. That's just way too much. As you can see, 2 diseases bump this to %10, talents bring it to %17,5 and then the same talents give DS an absorb shield for the same amount. That's just.... overpowered. For comparison again, look at the Rune Tap talent. For a Blood rune, it gives %20 health, 30s cooldown. Death Strike costs Unholy/Frost (so 10 seconds cooldown for all it matters), gives %35 health, half of it being absorption. And any tank worth its salt can tell you %17.5 healing/%17.5 absorption is better than straight up %35 healing, because you can only heal up to full, but absorption will also increase your health effectively by %17.5 past %100 health.

Are DK damage mitigation going to be completely balanced around the fact that Blood Tanks will be vampire-like, so even with all these self heals, they're only going to be having their health globes up like a Warrior's? In other words, will the inherit damage reduction be lower compared to other classes so that healers have to heal the DK for the same amounts? I really think this is a slippery slope.

Personally? I'm in all likelihood going to be a tank in Cataclysm again. Currently, I'm browsing over Warrior and DK talents and abilities to see what will be the best. Now that Warriors are losing their monopoly on both of their shouts (Their Commanding Shout will be the same as Priest Fortitude, and Battle Shout will be the Agility/Strength of DKs and Shamans), I see few reasons to roll a Warrior but many reasons to keep it on with my DK.

Now, I'm not calling for "LOLNERF" here but this feels like 3.1 all over again when DK tanks reigned supreme and anything else wasn't really viable for Hardmodes. End result was, between minor patches and 3.2, DK tanks going from Uber to Lol and not being viable for... anything, really. Sure, they were tank when, for example, a Rogue was not. But most guilds didn't support a DK tank to ICC 25M Hardmodes, let alone TotC where Warrior/Paladin block reigned supreme.

I would just hate it if Blizzard wanted to give a lot of toys to Blood DKs to win their heart for killing two other tank specs (as well as Blood DPS spec) only after all this ordeal, realizing the error in their ways to nerf them again to the ground. Note that I'm not saying they're erroneous, but the possibility is high from what I can see, and if these changes make it to live, I hope, hope we'll stick to them until the end of the expansion.

Edit: I forgot to mention, I thought it was on talent build. DS's Absorption comes from our 3rd Mastery stat.


  1. I can't confirm this, but I have read that the debuff added to Blood Boil (Hemo Fever) is currently a disease. So death strike would heal for 15% base, 26.25% talented.

    Also it has already been announced that all glyphs are being reviewed, I would expect few/none to remain the same as they are now.

    That being said, I think Blood DK will be the tank with the biggest swings based on player skill, a poor player will find DK's hard and clunky, where as top-notch players will find a DK to be more or less immortal when we can use all our tricks properly.

    Something I think many people are overlooking, DRW + Spell deflection = another really good spell CD, for most classes a 20% parry boost would lower physical damage, DK's can use it to lower spell damage as well.

    Personally I'm very excited about these talents, but you may be right, if properly played it might just be TOO powerful to stay this way.

  2. Another thing to consider, Parry is being changed to -50% dmg from 2 attacks, so using DRW and Bone Shield together may not end up as powerful as you might think. Since we would still take 50% dmg, they could very well count as damage taken and thus use a bone up.

    The parry change is something that I am really curious into fleshing out in beta, it has dramatic consequences for all tanks but bears.
    IE: Can you block a parried attack?
    How does 2 actual parries in a row a work? Not the 2nd attack -50% "buff" but actually rolling parry on the attack table twice in a row.

  3. cant see the absorb part of death strike in any talent in the calculator you linked.

  4. The absorb from DS is Blood DK's final / 3rd tier Mastery.

  5. I vaguely remember the parry change, but had completely forgotten about it at the time I was writing this post.

    Seriously, I'm having a hard time understanding how it's all going to work. Are they removing it 'cause it's just too similar to Dodge? Anyway.

    And if Hemo Fever is indeed a disease... It's %52.5 healing overall. I know we can't say "never", but almost assuredly, that sounds... broken.

    Honestly, I'm feeling blizzard did a napkin math like this: Currently, 2x UF (10 seconds) gives %30 healing. How to make it so new DS heals just as good as the old? %15 healing AND absorption. And to "buff" it up a bit, 2.5/2.5 more to each side as a toy to us. But honestly, I like it better this way, since it also opens up ERW as a new kind of *defensive* cooldown.

  6. It's funny - I had this exact discussion with a fellow officer last night. He's been a DK all of WotLK and while he's been dps for the most part we have had to ask him to be OT on occasion.

    Moving all of the tanking talents from all the trees into one just seems to make DKs really powerful tanks. That can still (I imagine) pull good dps. But I guess we have to wait and see how it pans out, but the way it looks - I don't quite see how the other tank classes will be able to keep up.

    While I really do enjoy my Warrior I sometimes wonder if I got the wrong end of the stick ;)

  7. They are changing parry in order to make healing not be as "spikey" the way it is now, you end up with either a string of misses, or a huge hit that has to be healed immediately. With the new method, parry reduces the damage you take on the next two, so you don't have this spikey miss.

    And I don't think you can block a parried attack. The way it seems to work is "parry" is on the same result table as "block", but I think it would change so if you roll "parry" it would apply to the next two boss swings.

    I don't know that they would have rune strike work the same as it does. Either it would work so that you only have enough runes to rune strike 2x if you pop empower rune weapon, or there's a cooldown on the number of times you can get healing from deathstrike. Or else, they could just make it so the 3rd disease doesn't count so you only get 35% healing from two instead of 50%.

    In any case, I haven't seen an official release, so they still have alot of tweaking they will do for DKs.

  8. Epic necro inc. Scarlet fever was changed to a non-disease, and DS no longer heals based on how many diseases are on the target, but on a percentage of your health, or 25% of the damage you have taken in the last 5 seconds, whichever would be higher. This way, our mastery is far from overpowered.