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Lichborne: More blood tanking questions answered

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.

With the new patch 4.1 Call to Arms feature likely to be stuck near permanently on tanking, death knights are going to find themselves with a pretty nice little incentive to stay in their blood spec a bit more often. With that in mind, it's pretty lucky that we just finished going over the basics of blood tanking and gear tweaks for blood tanks. Considering that's still the hot topic, though, and that we're likely to see a surge in death knight tanks looking for that Call to Arms bonus in patch 4.1, I want to take one more week to keep on this whole tank thing and answer some of the questions I've seen floating around, both here and elsewhere.

Agility gear is not for you

A lot of people pointed out that I did not list agility as a desirable tank stat in my Blood Tanking 101 article. To be blunt, this is because it isn't. Now, to be fair, agility isn't completely worthless, as it does give a small bit of dodge. That said, it isn't enough to be useful.

First of all, there's not going to be much agility on plate gear anymore these days, and certainly not on top-tier tanking pieces. Second of all, while agility offers dodge, strength offers parry and attack power, which essentially means you're not gaining as much avoidance as you think you are when you choose an agility item, and you are giving up potential threat and DPS.

Now, the question here is what about jewelry or weapons that have agility on them, and, say, mastery and expertise or hit rating as secondary stats? Are they passable for death knight tanking? In theory, yes, none of those stats are 100% useless for a death knight tank. The issue is, though, that the alternatives that have strength on them are better and won't get a hunter or feral druid mad at you for stealing them. Agility items should only be taken if they are many ilevels higher than what you currently have equipped and it is understood that you will be replacing them with strength-bearing items as soon as possible.

In other words, no, you do not want to waste your Tol Barad Commendations on the Spear of Trailing Shadows.

Hit and Expertise: How much is enough?

While I did talk a bit about these two threat stats in the Blood Tanking 101 guide, there is still some confusion among some people as to how much you should take. The answer is, as with many tanking questions, a little flexible, but here's the gist of it: Take as much as you need, but never more than 8% hit and 26 expertise.

If that's not enough for you, here's the common wisdom for the current blood tank raider: Don't worry about it. Essentially, these stats do two things for you: They help you keep threat, and they can help your mitigation by making sure you don't miss a Death Strike. This brings up two questions. Can you keep threat without these stats, and will you die if you miss a Death Strike? For most raiding tanks, the answers, in order, are yes and no.

Threat is not a horrible problem after you've gotten to the epic gear level. There's still a chance that someone can steal it, don't get me wrong, but as long as your DPS is being smart and you're being smart, it probably won't happen that much. If you miss a Death Strike, you will be able to try it again in 1.5 seconds, and you won't consume any runes from the failed try. This means that as long as you can stay alive for those 1.5 seconds, you probably won't lose too much from missing that Death Strike.

In short, if you want to run with the big boys, feel free to mostly ignore hit rating and expertise. As long as you can keep threat and stay alive, it's a perfectly valid way to gear.

Glyphing for Death Strike

A few people noticed that I didn't include Glyph of Death Strike as a recommended or alternate glyph on my recommended blood tank build. At first, that may seem like a bit of an oversight. After all, Death Strike is one of our most important strikes, and making it damage for more seems like a good idea, right? There are a few problems with the actual function of the glyph that make it undesirable for tanking, though.

The first issue is that it only increases the damage done by Death Strike. The damage Death Strike does is no longer connected to its healing factor. Instead, it heals you for a fraction of the damage dealt to you. Therefore, making Death Strike hit harder doesn't do much for your actual survivability.

Now, of course, a harder-hitting Death Strike does help a bit in that you get better threat, but the method the glyph uses makes even that threat gain a wash at best. It increases damage based on how much runic power you have, but you should be spending your runic power. With Rune Strike freely usable in Blood Presence and Sanguine Fortitude making Icebound Fortitude free, you should essentially be dumping your runic power into Rune Strikes (or Death Coils for Lichborne) as fast you get it. In short, if you're playing your rotation as tightly as you should be, Glyph of Death Strike doesn't offer as significant enough threat buff to be worth using over the other prime glyphs we mentioned two weeks ago.

Dual wielding is dead

There have been a few questions from people about dual wield tanking, and since I didn't really explicitly state anything about it in the past two columns, I thought I should take this time to say it here: Dual wield tanking is dead. It's not worth it.

While you can easily purchase Nerves of Cold Steel, the threat and DPS drop from the lack of Threat of Thassarian is incredibly noticeable given relatively equal stat and gear levels. In return for that threat drop, you are getting only about the same levels of survivability, or at the least, a statistically insignificant boost from dual wielding. Do not underestimate the loss of DPS and threat potential for a tank, especially at higher level raiding, where every bit of damage counts.

I know it's difficult to accept for a lot of people, but dual wield tanking is dead. Even if you or a person you know has "made it work," be assured that it is only making you and your raid group work harder than they need to.

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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