I always enjoyed tanking as a DK in Wrath – you had a few different specs to play with, each of which was more or less viable – and you pulled pretty awesome threat with some excellent survival cooldowns. You could tank as Blood and get Vampiric Blood for boosted healing (and back then it increased Death Strike healing so it was amazing), Frost for Lichborne to heal yourself with Death Coil, or Unholy for Bone Shield and Anti-Magic Zone so you could get Realm-First 3-Drake Sartharion. It was great to have different options, but more importantly they were all fun to play.
Then Cataclysm showed up and fucked everything up.
I had been really excited when Blizzard had initially announced that Blood was to become a dedicated tanking tree for DKs in Cata. While the three trees offered some fun options in WotLK, DKs were missing some valuable tank benefits. We had no way reduce a mobs attack speed and you ultimately couldn’t get all the tanking cooldowns collectively, you more or less had to pick one. “Fuck yes,” I thought, “DKs are finally going to be fun AND fully viable as tanks!”
Due to the fact that we tried to raid as a 10-man guild at launch of Cata, I was called upon to fill a more or less full-time tanking role in the guild. I was happy to do so because I had liked tanking so much in Wrath and I was excited to check out how a full-blown tanking spec would perform in Cata. I quickly realized, however, that there were a few problems:
I had shit for avoidance, I sat around forever waiting for runes to be off cooldown, and Blood Shield was a steaming piece of shit
So let’s pick these apart from least-shitty to most-shitty.
Shit for Avoidance
When we started working on 10-man content (which was generally regarded as being way overtuned for the first tier when compared to 25-mans), I would frequently get face-fucked by bosses that our Warrior tank would handle with ease. There was a running gag in the guild that I might finally have over 15% dodge by the time we killed Sinestra.
I remember working on Heroic Halfus shortly before our guild fell apart and remarking that I had 9% dodge and 11% parry, which our warrior had something like 12% to each in comparable gear and something like a 45% chance to block from his mastery. Dude just straight up took a lot less damage than I did. Yes, I realize Blood Shield is meant to serve as my version of a shield block, but more on that later.
Runes on Cooldown, Thumb up my Ass.
The most concerning change for me in Cata was how the DK rune system worked. Rather than each rune having an independant 10-second cooldown, each PAIR of runes would now share that cooldown. This meant that any one type of run would not begin cooling-down until both runes of that type had been expended. Blood DKs get a talent that increases their run regeneration rate to make up for not gearing Haste, but things are still dreadfully slow. Having never seriously tanked on my Warrior (or a Druid for that matter) in Cataclysm, I can’t say for certain if rage users have this same problem of resource availability, but from my experience tanking as a Warrior in Wrath I was never short on rage.
What it ended up doing to me was making tanking boring. The Blood spec in Cata is designed to queue up a lot of death runes, so you can choose between spamming Heart Strike
or Death Strike
as the situation requires – more threat or more survivability. The problem was that I was getting raped so hard in early content that I was pretty much solely using Death Strike (except when I HAD to use blood runes), leaving me with more open GCDs than any other class or spec I have tried to date. You also face the problem of having to time your rune usage around the enemy attacks – using Death Strike after taking a hit is better than using it before – so you’re just sitting there waiting. I realize other tanks must plan when to use things like Shield Block, and now Holy Shield, but they also have other buttons to hit in the meantime rather than just watching autoattack.
You’re left filling time with Rune Strike
because you have to wait for that big hit to blow Death Strike, which in turn means you’re wasting the potential of Runic Empowerment
while your runes are sitting there already full, waiting to be used.
Blood Shield Sucks. It Sucks Hard.
This is the biggest one for me, and in a way it kind of feeds the other two complaints above as well. Blood Shield
from a design standpoint is a lot more unforgiving than the avoidance mechanics of other tanks. Even Savage Defense
, which bear tanks complain isn’t good enough, at least has the benefit of being a passive damage mitigation proc you gain just from doing your thing. Warriors and Paladins also have the luxury of a passive avoidance in the form of blocking with a shield. The discussion of Paladin mastery taking it in the ass compared to warrior mastery is one we’ll save for another day, but both are light years ahead of druids and especially DKs.
There is actually a lot of good information here from the blues, but some of the things they say just really piss me off as someone who loves this class so much. Namely, in a day and age where Blizzard has gone out of their way to make every aspect of the game more accessible to every walk of life, why do they think its fine for Blood mastery to be such a punishing mechanic? I’m not bad at WoW, but I also probably couldn’t hack it in a guild like Ensidia. Regardless, everybody makes mistakes and its something you have to accept in a raiding atmosphere. I know the attitude of many guilds where I know people is that they won’t use DK tanks if they don’t have to because the playstyle opens the door to a greater detriment when a mistake is made. A Warrior, Paladin, or Druid have passive avoidance built into their mastery, while DK avoidance is reactive.
Even if I’m the best player in the world, a single momentary lapse in judgment can mean the different between a wipe and a kill – but only if I’m a DK. Why leave room for potential error when there are less risky alternatives? I guess maybe if your raid is really dying for another battle-rez, but that’s about it.
Adjusting Blood Shield to be something more passive rather than based upon damage previously taken wouldn’t be a game-breaking change and it would put DKs back on an even playing field with the other autopilot tanks you’d rather bring today.
Having to sit on runes to use at the right time for Death Strike also can cause issues with disease applications at inopportune times. Our diseases are directly tied to both of our standard tanking debuffs – damage reduction (scarlet fever) and attach speed reduction (frost fever). The blue speaks to disease uptime and treats it as a decision you have to make between threat or survival – I call bullshit. If you don’t put those diseases up again for 5-10 seconds, you’re taking 10% more damage from each swing and the swings are coming 20% faster. Diseases are part of our survivability – not to mention the damage on their is laughable so claiming they are for threat is ridiculous. You’ll never hear a Warrior, Druid, or Paladin cry mid-fight that they didnt have resources available to reapply their debuffs. Bring back glyph of disease or give Blood a talent deep in the tree to lower the cooldown on Outbreak.
The whole thing really bums me out. I truly love my DK – the skills, the talents, the lore, pretty much everything down to his silly modulated evil voice. I wish tanking wasn’t so much of a waiting game though, and more importantly I wish DK tanks weren’t considered liabilities in progression just for the sake of giving them a unique Mastery.
What do you think? Maybe I just suck at my DK…