LF1M need Tank! Instead of looking for a tank, you can tank and still push high damage as an unholy death knight! Get in on heroic content and raids every day. The Ultimate Tank Leveling Guide, will show you how to get there incredibly fast so you too can be a level 80 tank and still have top DPS for soloing and PVP.
An Unholy DPS tank has unique mitigation talents, the highest area of effect damage and ebon plague which causes bosses and monsters to take extra damage from magic. With the Wandering Plague talent, each of your diseases has a chance equal to your critical strike chance to inflict 100% additional damage to the target and every on every mob in range, each time they tick. The benefit of being an AOE (area of effect) tank, is that you have an easier time keeping your threat high on multiple mobs and bosses and push more damage on all of the monsters, which allows your party or raid to move quickly through an instance. Note that other DK tanking builds such as blood may have more survivability.
The Death Knight Class Is Undergoing Major Changes in Patch 3.1, read the patchnotes, here.
Several nerfs to Death Knight Tanking are being tested on the Public Test Realm
The AOE Rotation:
Death and Decay, Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Blood Boil, Scourge Strike or Death Strike, Pestilence
Start with Death and Decay to immediately pull all monsters to you and to generate high threat. Next use Icy Touch on the monster that needs to die first, follow with Plague Strike immediately so that you cause blood plague. Follow with pestilence to cause all the other monsters to become infected with each of your diseases. Blood Boil, will cause your blood rune to go on cool down and trigger the +10% to parry from the Blade Barrier talent and damage all of your infected mobs. Use Scourge Strike for damage or Death Strike for an emergency healing. Follow with Pestilence again to maintain your diseases and then start the rotation over again. When you have excess runic power, use Death Coil.
The Build: The Harbinger of Blight (12/5/52)
Unholy: Vicious Strikes 2/2, Morbidity 3/3, Anticipation 5/5, Epidemic 2/2, Ravenous Dead 3/3, Outbreak 3/3, Corpse Explosion 1/1, Blood-Caked Blade 3/3, Shadow of Death 1/1, Summon Gargoyle 1/1, Impurity 5/5, Dirge 2/2, Master of Ghouls 1/1, Reaping 3/3, Desecration 2/5, Crypt Fever 3/3, Bone Shield 1/1, Wandering Plague 3/3, Ebon Plaguebringer 3/3, Scourgestrike 1/1, Rage of Rivendare 5/5, Unholy Blight 1/1
Frost: Toughness 5/5
Blood: Blade Barrier 5/5, Bladed Armor 5/5, Dark Conviction 2/5
This Unholy tanking build focuses on providing survivability through avoidance, mitigation and strong DPS. The build also includes a permanent ghoul pet which is useful both for soloing and while in groups. Bladed Armor and Dark Conviction from the Blood talent tree add both additional DPS and synergy with Unholy by increasing your chances for Wandering Plague to hit additional monsters.
How Specific Talents Help You:
Toughness: Increases your armor value from items by 15% and reduces the duration of all movement slowing effects by 30%. The extra armor is damage mitigation and increases the amount of attack power granted from Bladed Armor. You will also spend less time snared and slowed. To see the added effects you must wait 30 seconds when changing to frost presence, then check the tool tip and you will see that your attack power is increased.
Blade Barrier: Whenever your Blood Runes are on cooldown, your Parrychance increases by 10% for the next 10 sec. Parry is a vital ability for the Death Knight tank because it completely prevents an incoming attack. Blade Barrier and Anticipation together will help you not only avoid damage but also get more chances to use the Rune Strike spell: Strike the target for 150% weapon damage plus 0.15. Only usable after the Death Knight dodges or parries. Can’t be dodged, blocked, or parried. This attack causes a high amount of threat.
Anticipation: Increases your Dodge chance by 5%. Anticipation boosts your ability to completely avoid attacks and avoid damage, a must for tanking. Again, this talent also will give you more opportunities to use Rune Strike.
Bone Shield: The Death Knight is surrounded by 4 whirling bones. While at least 1 bone remains, he/she takes 20% less damage from all sources and deals 2% more damage with all attacks, spells and abilities. Each damaging attack that lands consumes 1 bone. Lasts 5 min. You deal more damage and take less damage, great talent!
Shadow of Death: Increases your total Strength and Stamina by 2%. In addition, when you die, you return to keep fighting as a Ghoul for 25 sec. 15 minute cooldown. Anything that increases your strength and stamina will help you be a better tank and returning as a ghoul can be a lifesaver for the party in a close fight.
Wandering Plague: When your diseases damage an enemy, there is a chance equal to your melee critical strike chance that they will cause 100% additional damage to the target and all enemies within 8 yards. Ignores any target under the effect of a spell that is cancelled by taking damage. Wandering Plague, helps you keep threat and damage constant on nearby enemies and helps to keep the other DPS in your party from accidentally pulling mobs off of you. Unlike a clumsy paladin tank or warrior, you won’t break crowd control effects with Wandering Plague which will frequently go off on all it’s own while you go through your regular rotation.
Summon Gargoyle: A Gargoyle flies into the area and bombards the target with Nature damage modified by the Death Knight’s attack power. Persists for 10 sec plus 1 sec per 8 runic power up to 30 sec.
The gargoyle will constantly attack monsters in the area with the gargoyle strike ability as long as it is up. The Summon Gargoyle spell is situational during tanking, use with caution. In instances, the gargoyle generates its own threat, sometimes pulls new mobs and will drain your runic power. Why use it at all? It is a great source of extra damage for some boss encounters if used wisely.
Glyphs: Pick and choose what works best for your gear and tanking style but all glyphs are not created equal.
Glyph of Scourge Strike Your Scourge Strike has a 25% chance to cause Blood Plague and Frost Fever. This may be useful, when used with Pestilence to help keep your diseases fresh on all targets. You shouldn’t need this glyph too much if you are following the rotation.
Glyph of Dark CommandIncreases the chance for your Dark Command ability to work successfully by 8% A failed taunt is the bane of every tank, this glyph could help you if your gear doesn’t have enough +hit.
Glyph of Bone Shield Adds 2 additional charges to your Bone Shield. This glyph will help you keep your bone shield up longer, when your bone shield up, you will take 20% less damage.
Glyph of Death and Decay Your Death and Decay deals 20% more damage. The higher your damage the more threat you generate and the faster the mobs die. What is not to love?
Glyph of Death StrikeYour Death Strike’s damage and healing increase by 2% for every 5 runic power you currently have. The runic power is not consumed by this effect. With this glyph, your runic power will enhance your Death Strike, causing it to heal you more and do more damage. You may or may not have runic power to spare but I have found that the extra healing can provide an emergency burst of healing during a difficult fight, then you can dump your runic power with Death Coil. Because Unholy doesn’t have the strong healing talents that blood does, this glyph can be especially useful.
Glyph of the Ghoul Your Ghoul receives an additional 40% of your Strength and 40% of your Stamina. Your tanking gear will have tons of Strength and Stamina on it, with this glyph your ghoul becomes quite powerful indeed.
Glyph of Corpse Explosion Any target killed by your Corpse Explosion will also explode. This effect cannot happen more than once every 6 seconds. This glyph is amazing and helps you mow down entire groups of mobs even faster.
Glyph of Horn of WinterHorn of Winter lasts 60 seconds longer. Although you will quickly get into the habit of refreshing your Horn of Winter for every pull because having the buff is essential, having this glyph makes it less tedious and makes refreshing the horn less of a priority during long fights.
Glyph of Raise Dead Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent. This minor glyph is great for any Unholy death knight, you will save hundreds if not thousands of gold over time on reagents.
Leveling as an Unholy Tank:
Death knights are a great class for leveling, you will start at level 55 with rare gear and an epic mount. To make a Death Knight you must have one character that is level 55 to start. You can begin tanking right away in level 60 instances such as Scholomance, Stratholme or Hellfire Ramparts to see what your new Death Knight can do. Because Death Knights are tough and can push incredible amounts of DPS and AOE, leveling is not much of an issue, you will progress rapidly and be able to solo most group quests. Some Death Knights prefer to specialize in blood for leveling because of the self-healing but most agree that Unholy and Blood are fairly equal for DPS for leveling.
Add Ons for Leveling:
Add Ons for Leveling:
The Best addons for this method of leveling is Carbonite. Carbonite keeps track of all of your quests and shows you where to go in order to complete them in game. This addons is now free, perfectly legal to use in World of Warcraft and not to be confused with 3rd party autobot programs. When an addon is just modifying your interface or providing information and not automating the game, generally it is safe to use it with World of Warcraft. If you have any doubts about this there is an official Blizzard forum just for addons and macros that you can go to and ask questions and you can also ask a gamemaster ingame if you have any lingering doubts.
Cartographer and and MobMap are available on Curse.com MobMap is available through the developer’s website at MobMap.de Both of these programs are good alternatives for Carbonite. Questhelper was once the add on of choice but was discontinued after Blizzard announced changes to it’s policies about how developers can request donations.
Questing will take you a bit longer than being run through instances but will also yield nice gear and achievements for your new characters. I love Jame’s guides because he tells you in a logical way how to plan what your doing in each zone to minimize the time you have to spend leveling and what items to pick up before you leave town. Jame keeps his guides updated and I have used his website for years.
Jame even has a new addon that you can use in game. Jame’s guide is free, has a community that tests and supports it and has detailed information on how to complete the harder quests. I am so crazy about Jame’s guides that I will not attempt to reinvent the wheel, just use his site if you need help with questing. Ten Ton Hammer has an excellent guide for the Death Knight starting area, if you would like an overview.
List of Zones
55-58 The Scarlet Enclave/Acherus
58-60 Plague Lands
60-62 Hellfire Pennisula
68-71 Blade’s Edge or Shadowmoon Valley or Netherstorm
71-72 Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord
72-74 Dragonblight/Grizzly Hills
76-78 Scholazar Basin
78-80 Ice Crown
You will want faction gear, be sure to earn Reputation with the Argent Crusade, Oracles or Frenzyhearts and Knights of the Ebon Blade
Gearing up your Death Knight
Death Knights begin with rare gear which is hard to improve on until you are in Northend. Gear becomes more of an issue as you begin to tank in Northend’s dungeons. Kaliban’s Class Loot List has a complete list of all Death Knight gear available from quests and dungeons.
Gear Pre-Level 80: Regular Dungeons
At level 70 you can get a complete set of Cobalt Armor from a blacksmith which will be suitable for Utgarde Keep and the Nexus. You can immediately get four tanking upgrades if you complete the following Dungeon quests:
Disarmament: Woven Steel Necklace
Ingvar’s Monolithic Cleaver is also a good choice for new tanks
Have They No Shame: Tundra Pauldrons
Postponing the Inevitable: Gauntlets of the Disturbed Giant
The Quickening: Boots of the Unbowed Protector
Don’t Forget the Eggs!: Expelling Guantlets
The Signet of Arachnathid Command is another upgrade you can get in Azjol-Nerub.
To tank for Heroics and Raids you will need 540 Defense and 25,000 Hit Points. This is the generally accepted benchmark, some parties will kick you out if you don’t meet this standard. It is also desirable to have 2,500-3000 attack power, and +hit and crit as high as you can get it without sacrificing defense.
Fortunately almost all tanking armor has strength; strength contributes 2 attack power per point of strenth which makes having high attack power possible. Getting the right mix of defense and stats is a long term project, for a list of all the options, visit Loot Rank.com and Tank Spot. Congratulations on reaching level 80, see you in Naxxramas!