Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Death Knight tanking

I wanted to test how good Death Knights are at tanking. Only problem: There are no other character classes than Death Knights in Hellfire Peninsula in the beta. But as my own Death Knight is a gnome, and thus Alliance, and all my level 70 characters are Horde, I had copied my level 60 human priest to the beta, loaded with herbs for the DK's Inscription. So I specced the priest holy, went to Hellfire Peninsula, and shouted for 4 Death Knights to come to Hellfire Ramparts with me.

I was quickly taken up on the offer, and we cleared out Ramparts, with only one wipe at Nazan. Due to their good starting gear, the DKs just crush the trash mobs. Healing them is challenging, but doable for a level 60 holy priest. By some fluke of fate we found, besides one staff for me, only weapons and armor Death Knights can use. And the good new for DKs is that the stuff was better than their starting gear. Hellreaver is a good upgrade to the runesword they have.

We killed the first and second boss by simply overwhelming him with damage. The third boss, Nazan, is a lot tougher, and there the tanking deficiencies of the Death Knight class became apparent. It's not that they can't withstand damage if properly geared. But holding aggro is a problem, they don't have much threat attraction abilities, and their taunts aren't good for main tanking. Death Grip has a 35 second cooldown and only works for 3 seconds. Blood Boil has a shorter cooldown, 15 seconds, also works for just 3 seconds, but only works on diseased targets.

I'd have no problems inviting one Death Knight into any group as off-tank. But once the Death Knights stop being overgeared in the mid 60's, using a DK as a main tank will be problematic. They *do* take more damage than a protection warrior, so need more heals, so the healer is more often getting aggro, and the Death Knight has problems managing that. Harder dungeons, and especially heroic dungeons, will need something else than a Death Knight to tank. As I said, protection warriors aren't obsolete. Too bad half of them will retire in frustration after playing a Death Knight for a while and exclaiming "why doesn't my warrior solo like that!". I don't think this attempt by Blizzard to solve the tank shortage will work. Improving the soloing power of protection warriors, or introducing the free talent swap, would have been a better plan.

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