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Lichborne: Pre-heroic gear for death knight tanks


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. Join World of Warcraft's first hero class as we head into a new expansion and shed the new kid on the block label.

So here it is. You're itching to get geared up, but you're looking at long dungeon queues and difficult dungeons that are much less forgiving to the type of zerging playstyle that marked the last few patches of the Wrath era. How do you get ahead and get geared? The temptation of tanking is strong. Your queue time drops to almost zero, and you have at least some amount of innate control over what happens in a dungeon, as most people expect the tank to give orders and set the pace when dungeon diving.

That said, it also has its trials. There will be DPSers who don't listen, refuse to cast crowd control, and refuse to attack your target, instead constantly pulling aggro. There will be healers who space out while you die or who just plain can't heal you in the first place. That said, if you feel like the benefits outweigh the prospective heartburn, you'll want to read today's Lichborne. This week, we're helping you get the gear you'll need to give yourself a leg up as you lead the way into the heroic dungeons of the Cataclysm era.

There are just a few quick notes before we start. First, you will notice that I have listed some items that are purchased with justice points, some items that are crafted, and some items that are BoE world drops. For these items, I have assumed that some of you have a stockpile of justice points left over from the Wrath era, and that some of you are richer than Bill Gates when it comes to WoW gold and have no trouble spending it. If you don't fall into one of those categories, don't sweat it. Just grab one of the other items on the list.

Also note that currently, stamina and mastery are king for lowbie death knight tanks. This is also more or less true at the raid level, although there are some complications we'll go into in future editions of Lichborne. For now, though, focus on getting stamina and mastery, but don't outright shun other stats either. Dodge and parry rating are still pretty useful. Hit rating and expertise aren't mandatory, but they can help if you're having trouble with threat. Just don't go above the usual soft caps of 8 percent hit or 23 expertise, as the two stats become much less worthwhile for tanks after that threshold. Also, don't be afraid to drop some hit rating and expertise for more defensive stats if you're having trouble surviving.

With all that out of the way, let's look at the gear you should be looking for.
  • If you get to revered with the Dragonmaw or Wildhammer clans, you can grab the Crown of Wings or the Grinning Fang Helm. Dodge and expertise and high stamina all combine to make this one of the best pre-raid tank helms in game. It's a good idea to work on this reputation.
  • You can spend the justice points to get Helm of the Proud, and it does have a good amount of parry and dodge, but for the most part, I'd recommend saving the points for other slots and just grinding the reputation for the helm above.
  • If you're looking for a quick normal dungeon drop, you can get the Helm of Setesh from Setesh in Halls of Origination.
  • For a quest option, grab the Gatekeeper's Helm or the Helm of Durable Hatred from the quest Precious Goods in Twilight Highlands.
If you're revered with the Earth Ring, you can buy the Arcanum of the Earthen Ring for a bit more tanking power. Neck
  • The justice point necklace, The Lustrous Eye, is nearly perfectly itemized for the death knight tank, complete with mastery.
  • If you have money to spare or access to a jewelcrafter, you can grab an Elementium Guardian. It has no mastery, but it does have a blue socket that promises more stamina than even the JP necklace if you gem it.
  • If you don't have justice points or money, your best bet is to get honored with the Guardians of Hyjal (a simple task if you just quest in Hyjal) and pick up a Mountain's Mouth. It's only slightly worse than The Lustrous Eye and still has plenty of mastery. This necklace will serve you just fine going into heroic dungeon tanking.
  • If you can't be bothered to get the reputation, you can grab the Darkhowl Amulet from Temple Guardian Anhur in the Halls of Origination.
  • The Carrier Wave Pendant from Ascendant Lord Obsidius in Blackrock Caverns is well itemized for death knight tanks, but it is also getting a bit low on the item level scale. Still, it'll do until you get that Guardians of Hyjal reputation.
  • The Pauldrons of Edward the Odd are about the best pre-raid death knight shoulders you could ask for, and they're a BoE world drop. Of course, you may want to take into account that will cost a lot of gold, but if that prospect doesn't faze you, it may be very much worth it to keep these if they drop for you or buy them if they show up on your AH. It's hard to go wrong with mastery gear for death knight tanks.
  • The Sunburnt Pauldrons are your justice point option. They have no mastery, but they do have lots of stamina and a blue gem slot for even more stamina.
  • Your best all-around, non-expensive option here is probably the Earthshape Pauldrons from Drahga Shadowburner in Grim Batol. They have the mastery you crave.
  • Pharaoh's Burial Spaulders are an almost-as-good option from questing in Uldum. If all else fails, quest for these.
If you're honored with Therazane, you can buy a Lesser Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz to give you some more tanking power. You can get the greater version of the same enchantment at exalted. Back
  • If you can, just get exalted with the Guardians of Hyjal and grab a Wrap of the Great Turtle. It has mastery, dodge, and tons of stamina, and you won't really find much better pre-raid.
  • The Twilight Dragonscale Cloak is a leatherworking crafted option that you can pursue. It probably doesn't quite leapfrog the wrap, but it does have mastery rating and a blue gem slot to bring it pretty close, if you can't be bothered to grind the reputation.
  • The Cloak of War is another leatherworking option and one well suited for tank death knights, with plenty of all-important mastery.
  • As far as dungeon offerings, the Billowing Cape from Asaad in The Vortex Pinnacle provides a quick option; while on the low end of the ilevel scale, it is still pretty useful for a death knight tank, thanks to mastery.
For extra tanking power, you can get the Protection enchant, which provides an extra 250 armor. Chest
  • The Icebone Hauberk is your world drop option here. It has no mastery, but it is hard to argue with that much stamina, and hit rating and parry are still more than useful. Again, the question is whether you want the monster stats or the gold you'd be giving it up by buying it and/or not selling it instead. It's worth noting that it's more or less equivalent to tier 11, but our tier 11 breastplate is slightly better itemized for us.
  • If you've stockpiled justice points, you may consider grabbing the Chestplate of the Steadfast. It's well itemized for death knights.
  • If you head through Grim Batol and do the quests there, you'll eventually be awarded a Chestplate of the Witness. It has a nice balanced amount of parry and dodge, so it's nothing to sneeze at.
  • The Gateshattering Hauberk from the Deepholm quest The Wrong Sequence is only green, but with mastery, parry rating, and a decent chunk of stamina, it'll probably suffice until you can get through a Grim Batol run.
Depending on the power level of the chest and your budget, you can get Stamina or Greater Stamina enchanted on your chest. Wrist
  • If you can get exalted with Ramkahen, the Sandguard Bracers have a lot of great tanking stats. There's no mastery, but the stamina alone means it still outpaces most other options.
  • While Terborus's Rotating Bands were probably meant to be DPS bracers, the fact that mastery's such a great tank stat and that stamina is now more or less the same on tank and DPS gear means they work very well as tank gear. Of course, you do have to either camp a rare spawn in Deepholm or the AH to get them.
  • The Alpha Bracers off of Anraphet in the Halls of Origination are a slightly lower-level version of Terborus's Rotating Bands, but they should do you just find until you exalted with Ramkahen.
  • Another boss in Halls of Origination, Isiset, drops a more traditionally itemized set of tank bracers, the Armguards of Unearthly Light, which should suffice if the Alpha Bracers won't drop.
Depending on your stat needs, you may wish to consider enchanting your bracers with Precision, Dodge, or Greater Expertise. Of course, if you have a stockpile of Wrath-era enchanting reagents, Major Stamina still might be competitive. Hands
  • Your justice point option here is the Numbing Handguards. With mastery and a gem slot, they're a pretty smart buy, assuming you have the points stockpiled.
  • From among dungeon drops, the Fingers of Light from Rajh in the Halls of Origination are another great idea, with parry and mastery.
  • The Gloves of Gnomebliteration aren't as well itemized as the above, but since they come from the Uldum quest Gnomebliteration, they are a sure thing to obtain.
  • For another quick questing option, get Klem's Rusted Gauntlets from Distract Them For Me in Twilight Highlands. They are green, but they also have mastery.
For your gloves, you'll probably want to enchant them with Mastery or Greater Mastery. Armsman is also still an option if you have the reagents lying around and feel like you need a bit of extra threat potential. Waist
  • If you don't mind laying out some cash, consider getting a Hardened Elementium Girdle. It's a relatively expensive blacksmithing recipe -- but again, it has mastery, that holy grail of secondary stats, in addition to the oodles of stamina, and it will last you until at least your first raid.
  • The Girdle of the Mountains is your JP option here. It has parry and dodge and a gem slot, but no mastery.
  • The Sand Dune Belt comes from Lockmaw in the Lost City of the Tol'vir.
  • If you want a quick questing option, The Root of The Corruption in Uldum will get you Hevna's Eye Socket, a nice mastery bearing tanking belt.
  • If all else fails, you can get a Redsteel Belt from blacksmithing. Again, it doesn't have the traditional tanking stats, but it has plenty of mastery and stamina, which means it should work well enough for a newbie tank death knight.
  • If you have JP stockpiled, you pick yourself up some Greaves of Splendor.
  • If you're honored with the Earthen Ring (as you may very well be if you leveled in Deepholm or Vashj'ir), you can go grab the Stone-Wrapped Greaves. Their lack of mastery is made up for by a bunch of other great tank stats and two gem slots.
  • The Greaves of Orsis are a quest reward from the quest Vengeance for Orsis from The Vortex Pinnacle. They certainly offer more than enough tanking power until you can get honored with the Earthen Ring.
  • Another Orsis-flavored option are the Sunwatcher's Legplates, from the Uldum quest The Specter of Orsis. Despite being green, they are pretty well itemized for a death knight tank thanks to mastery and hit rating.
You can grab Twilight Leg Armor for extra survivability. I'd probably save the Charscale Leg Armor for tier 11. Feet
  • Your best bet for your feet is to get exalted with either the Dragonmaw or Wildhammer clan, depending on your faction. With mastery and a gem slot, Gryphon Rider's Boots (or Boots of Sullen Rock) should last you all the way to first tier raid content.
  • The Ramkahen Front Boots are a solid pair of tanking boots from the quest The Source of Their Power in The Lost City of the Tol'vir.
  • Commander's Stompers, with parry and mastery rating, are a pretty good pair of tanking boots for a green. You can get them from the Twilight Highlands quest Pressing Forward. The Horde version, from a similar quest of the same name, are Gate-breaker Treads.
  • Darksky Treads are a zone drop in the Vortex Pinnacle and are well itemized for death knights. They should serve you well until you can get better.
Mastery or Lavawalker are your boots enchantment options. While Mastery gives you more mastery, never underestimate the value of the extra movement speed provided by Lavawalker. The faster you can position mobs or run down stray mobs, the more likely the group doesn't wipe. Finger
  • At revered with Therazane (which you may already have if you quested through Deepholm), you'll be able to buy Felsen's Ring of Resolve, which has more than enough mastery, stamina, and resolve to make it one of the best pre-raid tank rings you can get your hands on.
  • At revered with Ramkahen, you'll be able to pick up the Red Rock Band, which has stamina, mastery, and hit rating, making it passable for survival and keeping threat alike.
  • The Elementium Moebius Band, from jewelcrafting, takes a hit on mastery, but it does have a gem slot that you can use to push it higher in stamina than the two options above.
  • Siamat in The Lost City of the Tol'vir will drop the Ring of Three Lights, which provides mastery and stamina enough to make it competitive with the Red Rock Band, at the least, especially if you don't need the expertise on said reputation ring.
  • The Temple Band is a zone drop in the Halls of Origination and mirrors the Ring of Three Lights, swapping parry rating for dodge rating.
  • The Umbriss Band, which drops from General Umbriss in Grim Batol, is another threat option with hit rating and mastery.
  • If you need a quest option, try the Band of the Dead End from the Vortex Pinnacle Quest A Long Way From Home.
  • The Notched Jawbone from inscription may be a little expensive, but it has enough stamina and mastery to make it a strong choice for your tanking relic, if you don't mind dropping the gold.
  • The Halted Clock is a world drop relic with a good amount of dodge and some decent stamina, if you don't mind dropping the gold (or refraining from selling it if it drops for you).
  • If you're desperate for a good relic, consider a couple rounds of PvP. The Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Relic of Conquest does have a bunch of stats that are more or less useless to a PvE tank, but 151 stamina is nothing to sneeze at.
  • You can get the Shore-Cleansing Standard or the Blackblood Freedom Standard from Alliance or Horde quests in Twilight Highlands. The mastery and expertise mean it does do some good for a tank, and it'll at least hold you over until you can get better.
  • The Stalagmite Dragon drops from Slabhide in Stonecore and certainly has a pretty solid outlay of tanking stats, including mastery.
  • If you can, get exalted with your faction's Tol Barad reputation. You can buy the Impatience of Youth, which has a huge chunk of mastery and a burst of resistance that you may be able to use to weather some hairy encounters with spellcasting mobs.
  • Leaden Despair drops from High Priestess Azil in the Stonecore and provides a good bit of stamina along with a triggered burst of armor when your health drops too low.
  • The Heart of Thunder from Asaad in the Vortex Pinnacle provides a nice chunk of armor and a decent panic button use effect.
  • Impetuous Query is a zone drop in the Lost City of the Tol'vir and provides a good amount of mastery and a more avoidance-oriented defensive use cooldown.
  • At honored with your Tol Barad faction, you get another mastery trinket, the Baradin Footman's Tags or the Baradin Grunt's Talisman, although the use on this one is a bit more useless, so you may just want to save up your currency until you hit exalted.
  • The Porcelain Crab drops from Mindbender Ghur'sha in Throne of the Tides; it's low ilevel but worth mentioning, since it provides a bit of dodge and a mastery proc when you attack.

You can use any of the 2H weapons listed in last week's DPS guide. Just enchant it with Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle and you'll be ready to go

Follow our road map to leveling your DK from 80 to 85, and then learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Gear up with pre-heroic gear for DPS DKs and keep track of what's happening on your hotbars with our guide to DK spell alerts.

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