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Lichborne: Gemming, reforging, and other gear tweaks for blood death knight tanks

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. In the post-Cataclysm era, death knights are no longer the new kids on the block. Let's show the other classes how a hero class gets things done.

Last week, we discussed the basics of death knight tanking, including finding your perfect spec and figuring out which stats to aim for. This week, we're taking it one step further. Once you're all geared up, you need to put the finishing touches on your gear. Today, we'll look at how you can use gems, reforging, and enchants to bump your tank gear up to the next level.

Gemming: Stamina vs. mastery

There is some debate over whether stamina or mastery takes priority in gemming. As we discussed a bit last week, stamina's not as powerful as it once was, thanks in part to the huge health pools of the Cataclysm era. Myself, I tend to fall on the side of gemming for mastery, except in cases where a slot bonus looks juicy enough to aim for. For the most part, I'd recommend against gemming for threat. You can take care of hit and expertise rating with reforging if you really need it.

Your gem choices are as follows:
For meta gems, you have a choice between the Austere Shadowspirit Diamond or the Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond. The requirements for either can be met with a couple of mastery gems, so which one you choose comes down to your gemming strategy. One thing to keep in mind is that the Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond's run speed bonus allows you more freedom in how you enchant your boots.

Enchants: The finishing touch

Enchantments are easy to overlook, but a well-enchanted gear set is one thing that separates the scrub tanks from the pro tanks. Of course, with the price of Maelstrom Crystals what they are, getting a full kit of enchantments can be fiscally prohibitive. In those cases, at least get a lower version of the enchantment while you save up for the mats (or get gear worthy of being enchanted with it). Here's a basic rundown of your best choices.
  • For the head, get revered with the Earthen Ring and grab the Arcanum of the Earthen Ring.
  • For your shoulders, get exalted with Therazane and grab the Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz.
  • For your cloak, just grab some Protection.
  • For your chest, go with Stamina or Greater Stamina.
  • The most straightforward option for your bracers is Dodge. However, you may also wish to consider Precision or Greater Expertise if you're trying to reach those soft caps. There's also a strong argument for reaching back an expansion and grabbing Major Stamina.
  • For your gloves, go with Greater Mastery or Mastery, as your budget allows.
  • While it's not technically an enchant, be sure to grab an Ebonsteel Belt Buckle for your belt.
  • For your legs, get some Charscale Leg Armor. Twilight Leg Armor is the blue option, but if you're raiding or getting ready to raid, you really want to spring for the Charscale.
  • For boots, Earthen Vitality is pretty much the default choice, since you do want run speed. If you have money to burn, you can also grab Lavawalker. If you chose the Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond for your metagem, though, you can just go ahead and grab Mastery here.
  • For your Runeforge, Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle may win out for heroic raiding, but there is currently a strong argument for taking Rune of Swordshattering. Again, this is because stamina's value has been deprecated enough by Cataclysm's huge health pools and new boss mechanics that you don't need to stack it to the detriment of other stats.
Reforging: Balancing and reaching soft caps

Reforging is the process by which you take one of a piece of armor's secondary stats and convert it to another secondary stat that is not already present on that item. It can be very useful in helping you balance stats or reach soft caps for certain stats. Blood tanks can definitely take advantage of this ability to apply some of the things we discussed in last week's column. You can find reforging NPCs in every major capital.

The first thing you'll probably want to do with reforging is even out your avoidance. If you have higher parry, reforge some of your parry rating to dodge rating. If you have a higher dodge rating, reforge some dodge rating to parry rating.

Once you've dealt with that, essentially, you'll want to reforge as much as you can into mastery. This is actually another way to deal with the avoidance imbalance. If you have higher parry rating, just reforge some parry rating into mastery, for example. You may also want to reforge any hit or expertise you can into mastery, especially if you have over 8% hit or over 26 expertise. Use your own judgment to decide if you need to hit those soft caps or not to be an effective tank. If you do decide you need to hit those caps, you can also reforge some avoidance (or even some mastery, though I'd reforge away avoidance first) into hit or expertise rating.

Essentially, consider reforging the cherry on the sundae. Once you're properly kitted out with enchantments and gems, reforging will help you maintain your stat balance and slough off any extra stats you don't need in exchange for ones you do.

Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.

Filed under: Death Knight, (Death Knight) Lichborne

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