Here's some abbreviations so that I can be lazy.
DND=Death and Decay
HoW=Horn of Winter
So why pick Frost tanking?
The advantage of picking frost as a DK tank is that it focuses on AoE threat and damage mitigation. You can generate large amounts of snap threat. You'll be tanking by reducing or avoiding damage altogether. It's also a dead spec in Cataclysm, so keeping it alive here is it's own reward. Most importantly it's FUN!
The downside? You don't offer much group or raid utility and while you can use death strike in a pinch to heal yourself, you do so at the cost of threat. However, unless your healer is asleep, self healing won't be a factor.
So what's the main goal of a tank?
A tank should only be interested in two things:
1) Staying alive
2) Making sure they are the only person in the party being attacked.
If you are caring about anything else, you're doing it wrong. In retail while raiding ICC, I did 4-5k dps, yet I was holding threat for people doing 15-25k dps. A tanks job is not, and will never be, maxing out the dps chart. Period.
What stats do you need?
Defense: One of the first things you want to gear for as a tank, no matter the class, is defense. A high enough defense will make you immune to critical strikes. Defense also increases your other defensive stats, parry and dodge. For tanking heriocs you want 535. raids 540. Getting totals higher than that is still useful since again, it adds parry and dodge. You want to be using Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle or Nerubian Carapace because they add 25 to defense.
Stamina: More health. Stack it. As much as you can.
Dodge and parry: Both are extremely important to a DK tank. Both allow you a chance not to be hit, and if you aren't getting hit, then you aren't being damaged. Remember that they only count if the mob is in front of you. Be aware that both are subject to diminishing returns, which means that with every swing something takes at you, the lower those stats drop. Focus on getting dodge over parry since forceful deflection gives you parry from strength.
Armor: Armor reduces all incoming physical damage. For obvious reasons, you'll want a ton of this. As a frost tank it becomes even more useful because of Unbreakable armor.
Hit and Expertise: You can't tank what you can't hit. You'll want to make sure you get 263 hit so that your abilities won't miss, but there's no need to go any higher. Even dual wielding (that's right, dual wield as a tank! more on this later) you don't want any more since almost all of your threat comes from your abilities. Expertise is also needed for the same reasons as hit, 26 is the cap. Do not sacrifice defensive stats for hit and expertise, just get as close as you can.
Strength: Increases your threat and parry rating. Don't go out of your way to get it, the strength you'll get from tanking gear will be more than enough.
As far as Gemming and Enchants go, gem up for stamina, especially if you plan on tanking ICC. Chill of the Throne knocks your dodge down by 20%, so you'll need all the health you can get. Otherwise, throw in a mix of stamina and the stats you are coming up short on. Enchants go like this:
Helm - Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector +37 Stamina +20 Defense Engineering Only: Mind Amplification Dish +45 Stamina
Pauldrons - Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle +20 Dodge +15 Defense, Greater Inscription of the Gladiator +30 Stamina +15 Resilience Inscription Only: Master's Inscription of the Pinnacle +60 Dodge +15 Defense
Cloak - Major Agility +22 Agility, Mighty Armor +225 Armor, Titanweave +16 Defense Engineering Only: Flexweave Underlay +23 Agility
Breastplate - Super Health +275 Health, Powerful Stats +10 All Stats, Greater Defense +22 Defense, Heavy Borean Armor Kit +18 Stamina
Bracers - Major Stamina +40 Stamina, Expertise +15 Expertise, Major Defense +12 Defense Leatherworking Only: Fur Lining - Stamina +102 Stamina
Gloves - Major Agility +20 Agility, Armsman +10 Parry +2% Threat, Heavy Borean Armor Kit +18 Stamina, Precision +20 Hit, Expertise +15 Expertise Engineering Only: Reticulated Armor Webbing +885 Armor
Belt - Eternal Belt Buckle +1 Socket
Legplates - Frosthide Leg Armor +55 Stamina +22 Agility
Boots - Tuskarr's Vitality +15 Stamina Minor Runspeed Increase, Greater Fortitude +22 Stamina
Rings - Enchanting Only: Enchant Ring - Stamina +30 Stamina
Weapon 2H - Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle +2% Stamina +25 Defense
Weapon 1H - Rune of the Nerubian Carapace +1% Stamina +13 Defense
Weapon choices: Two handed tanking and Dual Wielding.
I STRONGLY recommend dual wielding as a frost tank.
Can you choose a two handed weapon? Sure, but you lower your threat in the process. One of the main advantages of frost is Killing Machine. It forces Icy Touch, Frost strike and Howling Blast (your strongest attacks) to be a crit and it procs off of your auto attack hits. A two-hander with an attack speed of over 3.0 attack speed is just not going to proc KM as much as two one -handers. That all being said, if you really want to tank with a Two handed weapon I've included a spec.
So what kind of weapons are you looking for as a dual wielder? Slow one handed DPS weapons. Do NOT, and I can't stress this enough, pick up fast tanking weapons. The reason for this is because all of your strikes are based off of weapon damage, not it's averaged DPS on the tooltip. Fast weapons have lower weapon damage. You may run into people claiming you need to max out your hit at 700-something or other... ignore them. You only need to make sure your abilities won't miss, which is at 263. At that amount your auto-attacks will still hit around 74% of the time, and since it's bottom of the damage totem pole even for frost dps, it's not a big deal. The ONLY thing you need auto-attacks for is proc'ing KM.
Talent Specs and glyphs
This spec aims for reducing damage and increasing strength.
Lower threat, but some prefer it.
As far as Major glyphs go I take:
Frost Strike- lowers it's RP cost
Disease- Lets me refresh diseases converting a blood rune into a much more useful Death rune, leaving my Frost and unholy runes to be used for Obliterates. Some prefer to re-apply diseases manually. In that case replace with glyph of Rune Strike.
Obliterate- Increases the damage of obliterate.
Minor glyphs are:
Horn of Winter-increases HoW's duration by a minute.
Raise Dead- No longer need a body or regent to summon a ghoul. Combine that with Death Pact and you've got a nice self heal.
Pestilence-increases the radius of Pestilence by 5 yards.
Tanking abilities and what your opening moves should be
First things first, be in Frost Presence. If you aren't you won't be generating much threat and/or die. Frost Presence comes with some perks as well, it increases your stamina by 8%, your armor by 60% and reduces damage taken by 8%. In a Frost DK's case, 10%.
Always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS pull with IT for single targets or DND for groups. I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT PULL WITH DEATH GRIP. EVER! To a tank, death grip is a taunt or a way to move an errant mob in range of your abilities. Opening with it is a waste of a perfectly good "oops" button. Both IT and DnD are ranged abilities anyway.
The way a Frost DK tanks is through obliterates and forced IT, FS and HB crits. It is very important you get used to the procs and what they do. The two main procs are called Killing Machine and Frozen Fog and come from the Killing Machine and Rime procs respectively. Killing Machine procs off of your auto attacks and forces crits as mentioned above. Rime gives you a free HB and procs off of obliterates. Do not squander these or your threat will suffer.
As for a rotation, there isn't one. DK's run off a priority system. If you've ever played as frost DPS, then this should be very familiar.
Single target: IT-PS-OB-BS-BS-BS-OB spam. For a single target Obliterate is an incredible threat builder. The idea behind frost is that you want to spam OB. A lot. If you have blood runes up, get rid of them as soon as you can so you can OB again. Frost strike when your runes are on CD and when you have KM proc. Don't forget to get your free HB's through your Rime procs.
Multi-target will look something like this: DnD-IT-PS-PT-HB-BB(if your AoE threat needs a boost, if not I just BS to get a death rune) If you need a large amount of instant threat, you can do DnD-HB-BB-IT-PS-PT. Most of the time spreading your diseases first will be fine as DnD generates a lot of threat. When you place DnD, put it right on the edge of the nearest mob in the group and then stand in the cloud. In instances, groups are linked so if you pull one, all of them will come.
If HB is on cooldown and you can obliterate, do it. You never know, Frozen Fog may proc and you get a free HB out of it. Do not stand around and wait for HB to finish it's cooldown unless there's a second or two on it. Like single targeting, use frost strike if all of your runes are on cooldown.
Whatever you do, DO NOT macro your cast sequence. It may be tempting, but as a tank, you need to be flexible and adapt to what's going on around you. Unless you are extremely overgeared for what you're doing, do not try to phone it in with tanking.
As a plate wearer, your Achilles heel is magic damage. Dk's do get a few tricks to lower magic damage taken, but it's still best to target them first.
Frost Fever tanking vs. All diseases
Some people swear by a frost fever disease rotation and throwing plague strike out of your rotation altogether. The problem with this approach is that you lose out on a large amount of threat on your OB's. If you need a quick snap to your threat (i.e. your dps is impatient/stupid) you can OB right after IT or HB right away, but in the long run, missing out on the threat from two diseases is very painful and you may not be able to keep up with the DPS in a long fight.
Death knights tank by chaining cooldowns together, especially the harder fights. If you see a death knight repeatedly dropping like a stone, he's probably forgetting his cooldowns.
Anti-Magic Shell: A great way to reduce magic damage. If there are casters and you are taking more damage than you can handle, use it. Lasts 5 secons, has a 45 second cooldown and costs 20 runic power, so easy to use.
Unbreakable Armor: Same as above, but for physical damage. Also increases strength by 20%, so it's also great when you need a burst of threat. Last 20 seconds, has a 1 minute cooldown, but costs a frost rune, so watch your rotation, unless you macro it with Blood Tap. The macro is in the next section.
Icebound fortitude: Reduces ALL damage taken by 30% plus an amount based on your defense stat. Your best damage reducer. I don't feel like doing the math on how much the defense stat adds to the damage reduction, but it doesn't matter anyway. You know you'd use it even if it was just a 10% reduction. Also makes you immune to stuns, but will not remove them. Lasts 18 seconds, has a 2 min cooldown and costs 20 runic power, so again, easy to use.
Army of the Dead: A tank's worst nightmare when the dps uses it. Also bad when you do too, but can be handy when you're in trouble. Do you see that part where you take less damage equal to your parry and dodge? Guess what you have a lot of. So, when all else has failed, your other tank cooldowns are used, and you're going to die if you don't do something desperate, use it. The channeling cannot be pushed back. I don't remember off the top of my head but it may be interruptable. Feel free to let me know if you've had it interrupted in the comments below.
Empower Rune Weapon: This refreshes all of your runes and throws 25 runic power your way. I like to save this for those moments where someone doesn't pay attention to where they are standing and aggros a patrolling mob(s). In my experience, this usually happens when I'm out of runes, so this is handy to have around. My point is, save it for an emergency, not a 1 second gap between abilities.
Useful tips, tricks and macros
First macros you want to write is this:
/cast (deathknight attack)
/cast Rune strike.
Every single attack you have, macro that in. Rune strike is an ability that adds some damage and large amounts of threat to your next auto-attack.
Death knights have many tricks up their sleeves.
Say something really bad happens to your group, but there's only 5-10% health left on the boss. Crazy things happen after all. Here's a macro that will save you:
- /cast Blood Tap
/cast Icebound Fortitude
/cast Anti-magic shell
/cast Unbreakable Armor
Also, as promised, the UB/blood tap macro:
- #showtooltip Unbreakable Armor
/cast Blood Tap
/cast Unbreakable Armor.
- /cast Raise Dead
/cast Death Pact
Fun with Army of Darkness... er, dead:
/cast Army of the Dead
/script local c="Army of the Dead";if GetSpellCooldown(c)0 then PlaySoundFile("Sound\\Creature\\HeadlessHorseman\\Horseman_Special_01.wav") end;
If you are a blood elf, you can macro Arcane torrent in with an aoe, like blood boil. The downside to blood boil is people can't see it (something bliz fixed in cata, and it looks cool) so arcane torrent could now have a more visible animation.
/cast Blood boil
/cast Arcane Torrent