Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Frost DK Tanking Methodology

J essabelle over at Miss Medicina wrote an article a few days ago that provides a great lead-in to my thoughts on this topic. Part 2 can be found here, but part 1 really lays out a basis for my thoughts on a tanking "rotation".  You see, I believe that, when it comes to spell usage in WoW, there are two polar opposite approaches.  There is the rotation approach and the reflexive approach.

The Rotation Approach
This is where affliction warlocks will start nodding their head in deep suppressed glee.  We live and die by the rotation.  There is a certain set of spells that, when executed perfectly, will result in the highest amount of deeps. This is fact, and this is really the definitive example of a rotation approach.  Very little of what we do is dependent on an outside stimulus.  The majority of our effort is spent minimizing the wonky abilities of each boss so as to be able to execute our rotation nearest to perfection as possible.  A small slip here or there will show up in our numbers, while we are (mostly) rewarded for perfection by topping the charts.  This is one kind of challenge.

The Reflexive Approach
If you ever take any psychology courses, you'll probably talk about "shades of gray".  Basically, the mantra here is that, while there are extremes of nearly every type of personality, most of us fall somewhere in between.  The easiest way to visualize this is to think of a grayscale slider with white and black on either end and every possible shade in between.  Somewhere there's a 50/50 mark, and most people will fall closer to this than they will to the extremes.

So if warlockery is one extreme, then I think perhaps tanking is the other extreme.  As far as I know, there is only one real rotation in the tank world, and that is the paladin "696" thing.  I really don't know what it is, other then that it classifies as a rotation.  Every other class in WoW, I would argue, falls somewhere in between on this slider.  Some DPS classes rely more heavily on rotational approaches, some on reflexive.  Same with healing.  Same with tanking.  I think tanking in general falls closer to the reflexive end, with DPS hanging out near the rotational end.  Healing is probably closer to the 50/50 mark depending on the class.

Which is more challenging?
In any case, the real reason this is relevant is because Fuu always asks me, now that I'm tanking, which is harder.  Which do I find more challenging.  I have to say, honestly, after doing a good amount of both... neither.  They both represent unique challenges.  It's the old apples to oranges thing.  What's challenging in one spec isn't nearly as challenging in the other.  DK's are a great example of this because while you're in your DPS spec, you definitely can and should have a rotational approach.  There is some reaction involved, but it's been said that it's sort of like a plate-wearing warlock.  There's a reason for that.  Then when you're tanking, it's the opposite.  Your rotation really goes out the window as things become highly situational.

So, if not a rotation, what do you do, Ful?
I'm glad you asked, bold-self.  Just because tanking is more reflexive doesn't mean that we shouldn't go in without a plan.  As usual, our plan must be two fold: one for AoE situations and one for single targets.

Single Target
The very first thing I try to do here is put on diseases.  After that, I'll Obliterate and Frost Strike as I can, keeping the diseases up. I don't want to FS too much so as to leave myself with enough RP to hit Rune Strike whenever the button lights up.  Remember, Rune Strike is proc dependent (on a Parry), which we should be doing a lot of as DW tanks.  Also, it's one of our best threat attacks. You really should be doing a lot of rune strikes, basically hitting it whenever that button lights up.  Since RS is not attached to your GCD and doesn't really have a cooldown, it shouldn't really effect your tanking "rotation".  Just hit it and go about your business.

Since I have the glyph of Disease on my tank but not the Howling Blast glyph, I do have to pay attention to my Icy Talons buff to try to keep that refreshed for the good of the raid.  This isn't so bad as you may not want to AoE in single target situations anyways.  Thus, keeping the diseases up manually provides you a greater control on your damage and threat.  Still, it's nice to know if I need to keep a few adds locked on that aren't being AoE'ed, I can just keep the diseases up on them and not have to worry about much else.

Multiple Targets
For multiple target situations where you have to hold aggro over AoE attacks and for other reasons, different skills will come into play.  It will also make a rotational approach more cumbersome, as you'll run into some cool down issues and such.  I welcome suggestions on how to weave this stuff together better, but I think it's just how it goes when you're trying for high AoE threat.

A bit part of any AoE trash-zerg is going to be the initial burst threat.  With the ease of trash and threat generation in this expansion, DPS have been taught to be impatient on pulls and just open up right away.  As a tank, you'll need to be prepared for this and front load your approach accordingly.  Thus, I lead off with a DnD immediately followed by a Howling Blast.  These spells represent a good combo of both burst and non-burst threat generation, giving you a great set up that usually keeps trash locked on you until death with little or not more threat needed.

However, if it's going to be a longer fight, then I'll try to put up diseases and use Pest to spread them. Usually it becomes a bit awkward with runes at this point, but I usually have enough of a lead that I can use some of my RP dumps to pump up threat on a single target.  I might even jump around with a tab target to spread out some FS's.  After that I just try to keep up diseases and throw in a HB whenever I can not really returning to a DnD cast unless there is a fresh wave of mobs joining in.  DnD is a great spell, it just takes a lot of runes away.

Speaking of waves (thing Gothik in Naxx), the approach there has to be a bit different as well.  When I know I'm going to be getting waves, I'll just save enough runes to try and keep up my DnD/HB combo with each waves, just mixing RP dumps in between or auto-attacking.  Waves usually die fast enough that the initial aggro is enough, but it can be tricky.

 In all situations you'll want to spread out your cool-downs as well.  As frost DK's, we have three we want to be aware of: Anit-Magic Shield, Unbreakable Armor, and Icebound Fortitude.  The Anti-Magic shield is great for when your group is getting AoE'ed or attacked by, you guessed it, magic.  The last two are going to decrease incoming damage in general, so are great to stagger to give you healers a break.  They have pretty short cool-downs, so should be used more often than you'd think.  Still, knowing the tough part on fights is key as a tank, and saving these abilities accordingly can be the difference between success and failure.  Know what they do, and try to figure out when to use them.   Communicate with your healers.

Other than that, it's mostly a priority system more than a rotation: just try to use the right skills at the right time. It's been my experience that a tanking "rotation" is better off being flexible since you have to react a lot more but is also more forgiving since you don't have to be perfect to generate good threat. You just have to do the right things at the right time and stay alive.  

Like I said above, both DPS and tanking are challenging, just different challenges and purely rotational thinking doesn't always tell the whole tanking story.  Hopefully you can get a good picture of what I'm doing and see if it helps you.  So far, this approach has worked really well for me, allowing me to generate respectable threat and keeping me alive in some tough situations.  As always, though, I'm certainly open to suggestions.

(Side Note: I tried to clean up the linked DK Tanking post on the left, and also put two links to this post in there to sort of tie it all together in a one-stop tank-shop.  Let me know if I missed anything.  Also, Ful wrote this, Fuu just deleted it on accident and had to fix it... that's why it says she posted it.  She doesn't DK tank though!)


  1. ... Wow. You read my treatise on rotation and reflex? I didn't think anyone actually read that. I thought it was a little too... abstract for anyone to bother with it.

    *tear* I'm so pleased. See, there's a reason you read healer blogs ;)

  2. lol inorite? I actually had this half written on like Monday, then you posted your series and I was like... perfect. Great minds and all that jazz. So it was funny when you called me out yesterday because I was planning this for today anyways with linkage :-)

  3. Oh, and I like calling it a treatise. We sound so sophistamicated. Like philosaphizers or something.

  4. Awesome stuff, I must say you are too the point and spot on. I will be moving to dw tanking soon, just waiting a new weapon.