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Lichborne: Glyphs, gems and enchants for the blood tank

Lichborne: Glyphs, gems and enchants for the blood tank
Daniel Whitcomb
Daniel Whitcomb|May 4, 2010 9:00 AM
Welcome to Lichborne, your weekly peek into the latest news, tips and strategies for the death knight class.

Last week, we went into the basic outlines of what makes a blood tank: your talent choices, your gearing choices, your threat rotations and things such as that. Once you've got all that down, though, the next thing you can do to take your tanking to the next level is to get some decent gems, glyphs and enchantments. They'll separate an adequate 5-man tank from a tank who's ready to step on and start taking on the game in earnest.

If you want a quick and dirty recommendation of which glyphs to take, I'd suggest the following setup:
Minor Glyphs:
Glyph of Vampiric Blood is a no-brainer, of course. The more up time on your main tanking cooldown, the more damage you can take. Glyph of Rune Strike and Glyph of Death Strike are in there because they're very solid threat glyphs. You should be using Rune Strike every time it's available, and that 10% extra critical strike chance translates into lots of threat. Similarly, Death Strike is already a pretty heavy-hitting ability to begin with, and adding some more damage on top of that can't hurt. If you use Death Strike more than the minimum in order to take advantage of the extra healing, that's even more threat.

Some blood tanks will swap in Glyph of Disease for Glyph of Death Strike. It can be useful in that it allows you to use one more Blood Boil or Heart Strike instead of throwing out a Plague Strike and Icy Touch to refresh diseases. That said, I personally wouldn't bother with it. Icy Touch is very solid threat generator since the buff to it last patch, and you'll probably find that you get better overall threat on single targets by refreshing your diseases the old-fashioned way.

You may also be tempted to take Glyph of Rune Tap for the extra health and the group heal. For the most part, this one is very hard to use effectively. For full effect, you'll want to activate it when most of your group is hurting. Of course, not only does that rarely happen in basic 5-man play, but you also may be tempted to pass on using Rune Tap for yourself because you're trying to save the group heal for when it matters most. This is a tempting glyph to take, but there's too many roadblocks to effective use for my taste. I'd suggest steering clear of it.


We could be here all day debating whether to gem for avoidance or effective health, and when to go for a socket bonus or not, but since this meant to be a simple 101 guide, we'll go ahead and set a few basic ground rules: We're going to focus on gemming for stamina and only go for socket bonuses when said bonus is at least +6 stamina.

That basically means we're going to be going Solid Majestic Zircons in every gem slot. If a socket bonus is worth going after, you're probably going to want to use Regal Dreadstones for the red slots, and Enduring Eye of Zul for the yellow slots.
For your meta gem slot, use the Austere Earthsiege Diamond, and make sure to fit a Regal Dreadstone into one of your slots to activate it.

All this said, if you feel like you need a bit more threat output than you currently have, gems are an excellent place to strive for the hit and expertise caps. You can start putting Vivid Eyes of Zul in your yellow slots until you hit the 8% special attack cap and Guardian's Dreadstones in your red slots until you reach the 26 expertise dodge cap. As a warning, this can drop your effective health dangerously low, so make sure you and your healers can stand the extra damage before you replace all your gems wholesale; even then, consider only gemming for threat when the socket bonus hits the +6 stamina mark.


It should be noted in this section that I'll go over the stuff everyone can get. Feel free to replace any of these with your proper tradeskill enhancement, if you have it.
  • Head Go for the Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector from revered Argent Crusade faction.
  • Shoulders The Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle from exalted Sons of Hodir is your best bet here.
  • Cloak If you're still working on hitting the defense cap, go for Titanweave. If not, you may want to consider Mighty Armor.
  • Bracer Major Defense can help you hit the cap, but if you're already there, you'll probably want Major Stamina.
  • Chest Greater Defense is another great way to hit the defense cap, but if you already have it, Powerful Stats provides a nice balance of threat and defensive stats.
  • Gloves Go for Armsman here, for both threat and defense.
  • Waist It's not an enchant per se, but don't forget to grab an Eternal Belt Buckle and stick an extra Solid Majestic Zircon in it.
  • Legs Frosthide Leg Armor will provide you with both health and avoidance.
  • Boots Tuskarr's Vitality is the obvious choice here. The extra run speed will allow you to position mobs and turn them away from the DPS and healers that much faster.
  • Weapon Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle not only gives you 25 defense skill, which will be a major chunk of the 540 you need to be crit immune against raid bosses, but it will also grant 2% more Stamina, raising your effective health even higher. Because of this, it's arguably worth it just to keep this enchant on at all times, even if you're having no trouble hitting 540 defense.
  • That said, there's just as compelling an argument for using Rune of Swordshattering. The 4% parry chance it provides not only completely ignores diminishing returns on the stat, it actually indirectly provides more threat for you by providing more chances to Rune Strike. Thus, if you're having threat problems, it becomes a good idea for you to use this enchantment. Overall, with sword rune you use may come down to personal preference or threat needs.

Welcome to Lichborne, the weekly class column on the newest WoW class, the death knight, where we discuss PUG etiquette and Emblem of Triumph gear for the death knight, 5-man Icecrown dungeon gear and basic death knight statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our death knight category.
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