Friday, January 8, 2010

DK vs Druid tanking

(Note: I decided not to spend the time parsing all spell names to wowhead-links. If someone miss that, let me know in a comment, and I'll start doing it again.)

I decided to test out the new instances with my druid, Ayeba. She's geared enough for that place, but far from overgearing it. I tanked Forge of Souls heroic and healed Pit of Saron heroic. I might discuss the healing in another post, but for now I'll focus on the tanking side.

Okay... where to start...

Gathering the mobs

First, Death Knights have a HUGE advantage when attempting to gather mobs. Against "ordinary" melee mobs, I need to get close enough to hit them all with swipe at least once. I'm used to dropping a Death and Decay (which is really rather big) and it will tag almost all mobs so they'll run to me. Slightly irritating, but I can live with that.

Now, what about ranged mobs? Uh-oh... bad stuff. Druids have no way of moving them at all to where you want to tank them, apart from getting aggro and breaking Line of Sight on them. Bash? Stuns them, they just start casting from the exact same position when the stun fades. Feral Charge? Immobilizes them for exactly as long as the interrupt lasts.

In effect, any group with at least two spellcasters who aren't already grouped are a pain. Consider the third group in FoS (excluding the single skull): as a druid I have to run back and forth all the time to keep aggro on all. It is also possible to keep aggro on a single ranged by hitting him with Feral Faerie Fire every time it's off cooldown, but painful. While running, I risk putting my back towards the melee mobs, killing all the avoidance I have.

Death Knights have... Death Grip! Oh, how I love it. But also Mind Freeze, usually causing the spellcaster to follow for as long as the spell school is locked out, and Strangulate to silence at range, guaranteeing that they will come to you. And I don't even need to collect them all to keep aggro on them: If I target a mob in the middle, I can keep aggro in a 30 yards range. Pestilence has 15 yards ranged glyphed in every direction, and once I've got diseases ticking, I can usually hold threat on them.

Health and avoidance

My druid had 45k health during the run... but some 40% avoidance. My DK has only 34k health self-buffed, but almost 60% avoidance. I do notice the difference. Avoidance stacking is not recommended, but I don't recommend stamina stacking either. If damage taken is fairly low, though, Improved Leader of the Pack rocks with a high max-health.

Generally, it's a trade-off, with both having their advantages. However, the tank will require more healing over the course of a raid or instance the lower avoidance is.

Emergency buttons

Druids have 3 emergency buttons.

A bear-tree? Tree-bear?

Barkskin is solid, -20% damage from all sources, lasts 12 sec, only 1 min cooldown, and doesn't cost any resources at all. It (usually) lasts longer than Bone Shield, provides more damage reduction than Unbreakable Armor and works against magic as well. Bonus that it can be used while feared or stunned.


Frenzied Regeneration is a bit so-and-so in itself. It's very costly on rage, meaning that it's hard to get off any other rage attacks while it's on without hurting it, but glyphed it's pretty good. +20% healing taken compared to Vampiric Blood's +35% healing taken. Lasts fairly short, though, only 10 sec, compared to Vampiric Blood's 15 sec glyphed duration.

Must survive. Must survive.

Survival Instincts is rock solid. Increases current and max health by 45% (glyphed) of your total health for 20 sec. More than Vampiric Blood's 15%, and lasts longer.

Druid roundup

Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regeneration work extremely well together. God-like survivability. That's both an advantage and a disadvantage: Many times I feel I have to save both for the same time, because Frenzied Regeneration isn't too powerful on it's own. So, you get either a fairly good 1-min CD and a superb 3-min CD (combining both), or you get a fairly good 1-min CD, one decent 3-min CD and one good 3-min CD.

The same logic can be applied to any tanking class: of course you get a much better CD if you combine two at the same time. But all CDs should be powerful enough on their own to be worth using alone. I don't feel Frenzied Regeneration is, particularly not unglyphed.

The next sad thing is that you have to glyph two survivability cooldowns, leaving you only one for threat-generation or utility.

OMG Owerpowered magic-ignoring stuff

Now, DKs. They have Anti-magic shell, which has 3 simultaneous effects. First, it absorbs 75% of spell damage taken for it's duration. Second, it prevents the application of any negative stuff and suppresses debuff auras for its duration. Third, it converts spell damage absorbed into runic power. It also works on poisons, diseases and curses. It has low duration, 5 sec unglyphed (and no tanks I've ever seen choose to glyph it), but also a fairly short CD of 45 sec.

There are fights where AMS doesn't help at all. However, I think most boss fights feature something AMS shell works against.

I love AMS. It almost trivializes some fights, like Goarfrost where you can reset the debuff stack, and Falric, where it suppresses his -75% healing and damage done debuff for it's duration, allowing you to be healed fully up.

Chill out, dude

Icebound Fortitude is possibly the most powerful DK cooldown. In non-tanking gear, it reduces damage taken by 20%, equal to Barkskin or Bone Shield. At 540 defense (raid boss crit immunity) it reduces damage taken by 41%. At 600 defense it grants 50% damage reduction, same as Divine Protection. Most DKs have something in-between, meaning it mitigates between 41% and 50%. Quite solid. It also grants stun immunity, but this is very rarely important in PVE. It's a solid cooldown.

Rise and ... never mind, die again

Death Pact provides instantly 40% of total health back. Usually used with Raise Dead, but can also be used with Army of the Dead or Summon Gargoyle. The latter is a very rare talent in a tank build, though. I like it. Especially poweful when combined with Vampiric Blood, restoring 54% of your health. Less powerful in raids, but does have it's place to help the healers overcome a spike.

1 min talent CDs

Each talent tree has a tanking cooldown: Vampiric Blood for ... guess what, Blood. Unbreakable Armor for Frost. Bone Shield for Unholy. Personally, I think Vampiric Blood is the best of these three cooldowns. The other two are fairly good too. Unbreakable Armor does nothing against magic damage, and Bone Shield is a bit unstable; it can fade in as fast as 6 seconds, or last for 5 min... though the latter is very unlikely. The nice thing about Bone Shield, though, is that you can pre-cast it and have it ready again when you enter combat, so you can "chain" it from the start of a fight, or have it up at the start and use it again before 1 min has passed. Bone Shield's duration can be extended by combining Bone Shield with an activated avoidance trinket, like Glyph of Indomitability.

The downside of all these three cooldowns is that they require a rune... which means you either must save one rune until you need it (loss of threat), wait until it comes off cooldown when you need it (risky) or combine it with Blood Tap which also has a 1 min cooldown. I have a macro which I press without modifiers to cast the CD, and press with shift to cast Blood Tap -> CD.

Wait wait, another talent CD

In addition to the 1-min CD, Blood and Unholy has another tanking CD you can spec into.

For 4 talent points in Blood you can have Improved Rune Tap, which restores 20% of your health on a 30 sec at the cost of a blood rune. Frost and Unholy tanks can get the 10% health on a 1 min cooldown without sacrificing much. However, only blood tanks can really use this talent well. To effectively use it, you need to save a blood rune for it (loss of threat, loss of blade barrier), wait until it's off cooldown (risky) or use it with Blood Tap (which means you can't use it with your 1-min CD) or with Empower Runic Weapon (5-min cooldown). I don't like it. Blood has much easier access to blood runes since you can turn both unholy and frost runes into death runes. The unimproved version isn't very powerful at all. The improved version is fairly good, especially combined with the rest of Blood's arsenal like Vampiric Blood, then it restores 27%.

Unholy tanks can spend 4 talents points as well to get Anti-Magic Zone. 3 of those points boost AMS to 100% and reduces spell damage taken by 6% at all times. Anti-magic Zone requires an Unholy rune, and thus is a bit unpractical. However, it can absorb a ton of magic damage, well worth spending Empower Runic Weapon on if you need. It lasts for 10 sec or until it's absorbed enough damage, then fades. Unfortunately it's extermely stationary. It's a very circuimstancal cooldown, and can really shine on some bosses. Since it also absorbs damage on your party, it has extra utility.

Frost doesn't have a second cooldown, but Icebound Fortitude lasts 16 sec for a frost tank, compared to 10 sec for everyone else.

My flesh was only getting in my way

Army of the Dead can be used in one of two ways. While channeling the army (4 sec), you take reduced damage equal to your parry + dodge chance, which means somewhere between 40% and 60% damage reduction. However, the duration is painfully short, and you can't avoid anything at the same time. Statistically you will take the same damage in the long term against dodge/parryable attacks. However, against attacks which are unparryable/undodgable, it will still reduce damage. It is very circumstantial to use the army this way.

The second way of using the army is that it will taunt anything lower level than a raid-boss. Each skeleton dies pretty fast, though, so it's only a temporary help. The main problem is that you can't taunt the boss of them again until they're gone, or they'll just retaunt. Their taunt seem to have a 1 sec cooldown EACH. That means you can't move the boss where you want him or her, and that can prove death for your group certain places. Against a raid boss, they will provide a bit extra damage and fodder for Death Pact, but nothing else.

Desperate measures

If all other cooldowns are on ... cooldown, it is possible to spam Death Strike like crazy. For a Blood or Unholy tank it restores 15% of your health for each DS that hits, and 10% for a frost tank. Combine it with Empower Runic Weapon and you can theoretically restore 60% of your health (without Vampiric Blood) over 4 GCDs.

DK roundup

DKs have a lot of cooldowns. The main difference between theirs and a druids' is that many of their cooldowns are very circuimstancal. I believe they're better if you can use them in the right circuimstances, but for general-purpose they're about equal.


Any properly equipped tank can hold aggro on a single target without any trouble at all, barring a string or dodges/parries from their target.

Well, not true. A druid must choose to spend his GCDs swiping (generating AoE threat) or Mangling/Lacerating/Fairie Firing (generating single target threat). Maul will usually be macroed to all those attacks, causing your auto-attacks to generate solid amounts of threat. Glyphed it will even hit two targets. However, I found that I was not always able to hold threat on my primary target while only swiping: I had to throw a mangle or something to stick an enemy to me.

Even spamming swipe, I felt that my AoE threat was only on par with a blood DK. That might be because my DK is better geared than my druid now, but it was very annoying still. Frost and Unholy seem able to put out much more AoE threat.

This is the part of druid tanking I hate the most, and the reason I switched to a DK in the first place; The endless, mindless spamming. Granted, a DK rotation can also be viewed as a bit spammy, but a 20 sec rotation is much more interesting than a 6 sec rotation. And AoE is much smoother as a DK. You drop Death and Decay and get some threat on all enemies, then you hit your primary target with Icy Touch and Plague Strike and then pestilence. The two single-target attacks on your primary target + auto-attacks provide enough threat to hold the primary target to you. Then you weave your abilities as you best see fit.

Conclusions, sort of

I hate swipe-spamming. Otherwise druids are okay. I'll definitely stick to my DK for now.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the article. Very timely for me as I have a DK tank I'm bringing up to be able to swap in and out for my Druid. I am, however, heavily invested in the druid and can point out a few (minor) things.

    On those double caster pulls in Forge, if you feral charge the far one and time your swipe to grab the close one up as you cut through the pack, you'll 'tag them' and give yourself a bit more time before the need to run back and forth.

    Secondly, LoS is the only real tool a druid tank has for moving that far caster mob. Its a pain, I know, but it can be useful IF the party obliges. (ok, big IF but there you have it...)