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The Death Knight Tank and You: Gemming

December 20, 2009

We find our hero strolling the streets of Silvermoon City in the middle of the day. What a lovely scene…

Greetings pupils, what a wonderful day for your next lesson in the art of Death Knight Tanking! Today is a fairly simplistic lesson, it is how to gem correctly.

For a Tank, this is a fairly simple process, however, getting the most out of your gems is CRUCIAL if you wish to succeed.

Before we start this particular lesson, there is one simple evaluation you need to complete based on your performance. Be as critical as possible as you evaluate yourself, there is NOTHING to be ashamed of!

What is it that I am lacking as a Tank?

If we break up Tanking as a whole there are two main sections on which we gear for. The first is survivability, which comes in stats such as Armor, Hit Points, Avoidance stats, and Defense Rating. The second is TPS (threat per second), which is increased by stats like Strength, Agility, Attack Power, Hit Rating, and Expertise.

Do you have more trouble with staying alive, and/or are do you healers have a hard time keeping you alive? Then you will want to gem for survivability!

Do you have trouble sustaining a healthy amount of TPS and/or keeping mobs and bosses off of your fellow raid members? Then you will obviously wish to gem for TPS.

How poorly are you lacking in the specific area?

These are the questions that need to be asked and answered honestly before you start gemming!


Great, now that you have learned the major two parts to gemming as a Tank and what the basic stats are to improve upon them we can continue. Basically we need to evaluate your gear a tiny bit more.

Do you have 540 (or more) Defense?
Do you have at least 150 Hit Rating (bare minimum)?
Do you have 26-30 Expertise?

Basic caps such as these come in priority over most other gems (Defense cap, chiefly). For example, if you desperately need some more survivability and you are NOT Defense capped (540 for raids, 535 for Heroics) then that comes in priority over every other survivability gem.

That being said, let us delve deeper into the world of gems!


Survivability-based gemming is the simplest out of the two types of stats. First of all, you will want to reach the Dcap. As I said earlier this is 540 total Defense Skill, which is extremely simple to do.

Defense Gemming l’essential!
Gems that you will be picking from should be either Thick King’s Amber or Thick Autumn’s Glow. They give about 5-4 Defense respectfully, which is certainly a healthy amount. Remember, reaching the Dcap takes priority over EVERY OTHER stat in the game for a Tank. So long as you are at 540, just make sure you stay there. Understood?

Stam, the OTHER white meat!
Alright, once you have successfully reached the Dcap with however many gems you need (most likely you will not need to considering we get 25 free Defense from our Runes) you will be gemming for the best survivability stat in the game. No, we can not gem for Armor, so we just settle for stacking Stamina!

As Death Knights, each point of STAM counts as 10.6 HP with our Frost Presence activated (10.9 for Blood). That being said, we can easily calculate how much HP the two STAM gems give us. Solid Majestic Zircon and Solid Sky Sapphire give a flat-rate of 30 or 24 STAM respectfully.

Just Frost Pres.                              Vet. of the 3rd War + Frost Pres.

HP = 30 * 10.6                                 HP = 30* 10.9
HP= 318                                              HP = 327

Just Frost Pres                              Vet. of the 3rd War + Frost Pres.

HP= 24 * 10.6                                HP = 24 * 10.9
HP= 254.4                                       HP = 261.6

There you have it, basic math done out for you with exactly what your HP gain is based upon your spec. The first was obviously the Solid Magestic Zircon, and the second being the Solid Sky Sapphire. Look at the difference between the two gems, it is quite a significant amount of survivability!

Avoidance- the absolute no!
In addition to HP, most players believe that Avoidance is also included in survivability. Yes, it is, and you can gem for it! But if you do, I will personally have a squad of assassins waiting to kill.

If avoidance comes on your gear as a stat, love it, praise it, demand more of it! For [insert diety’s sakes] devour it and swear that you need a second helping, but do NOT willingly place an avoidance gem in your gear. No, I do not care if you are strapped to a chair and you will either gem for Avoidance or watch educational television. For the sake of your character do not do this!

“Fourth wall… they just… broke the… fourth wall, man…”
Munch, do not go into musical theater, that was horrible!
“Maybe if… your handwriting… was legible…”
You leave my mother out of this!
“Friggen… elves…”

The reason that we do NOT gem for Avoidance is that it diminishes. The more Dodge you have on you at this moment, the less the 20 Dodge gem will actually give to you.

For example (these are not actual numbers, mind you): You have 500 Dodge rating right now, and have about 28% Dodge. Now, you put a 20 Dodge gem into your shoulders and you now have 28.05% Dodge. Your best friend just hit 80, and has absolutely no Dodge, he put the same 20 Dodge gem into his shoulder and receives 5% dodge.

The worth of Dodge and Parry diminishes depending upon the amount you have, unlike Stam/HP which is a static amount gained no matter what the circumstances are.

Jewelcrafters and their damn Hope Diamonds

Threat Generation

Lacking in TPS (threat per second) is a very serious problem. Sure, you could be rocking 40K HP and not take damage at all, but if you can not hold aggro then what the hell was the point of stacking all of that Stamina? There WASN’T, it was a waste!

Death Knight Tanks have a few strict guidelines to follow to ensure basic-hardcore awesome TPS.

  1. 150 Hit Rating (minimum). This is the ability Hit Cap, meaning that your abilities will successfully hit the target. We do like to have the melee Hit Cap of 8% total, but this is suitable for decent TPS.
  2. 26-30 Expertise. 26 Expertise ensures that Bosses/Mobs will not be able to Dodge your attacks, and 30 Expertise is generally what you will wish to aim for as a DW Tank. The more attacks that are not avoided = more attacks that hit, which in turn = more TPS.

Notice how I excluded AP/STR/Agi. Such as Avoidance, you have enough of these stats through buffs, consumables, talents, and gear alone. That being said, it is not as important for a Death Knight Tank to gem for STR than say Hit.

Hit Rating- Nature’s Pinata
The gift that keeps on giving until you hit 8% Melee Hit? Damn straight! Arguably, best way to increase your TPS is to get at LEAST 150 HR. The more successful attacks that land, the more Threat is generated, which directly increases your TPS. This means success, and of course cake!

However, like all good things, this gift of HR can become a curse. If you are over 8% Melee Hit there are two problems. The first being that, being over the Hit Cap is a bad thing. The second is that, because of you exceeding the HC, another one of your crucial stats are probably lacking. Balance is power!

Rigid King’s Amber and Rigid Autumn’s Glow are most certainly your friends. Just remember, like all friends you only want to hang around them a decent amount. If you spend every second of your lives together, Survivability will get pissed and leave you!

Expertise- the cool guy in High School that would hang out with you sometimes.
Expertise, although you can gem for it, I would honestly consider only doing so if completely necessary. Now, a great way to suit both your Hit Rating and Expertise needs is to combine the both of them into a super gem. Most people would call this an orange gem.

Accurate Ametrine or Accurate Monarch Topaz are their names, and they give 10 Exp/HR and 8 Exp/HR respectively. As far as Expertise goes, it takes roughly 8 Expertise Rating to receive 1 Expertise, so each of these gives about 1 Expertise per. The full Expertise gives 16, which is about 2 Expertise.

Why would I want to get Hit/Expertise instead of just Expertise? T9 (and the bit of T10 out now) is chalk-full of Expertise, for Tanking. It does however, lack a LOT of HR. This being said, if you are lacking in Expertise, you are in fact most likely either lacking, or not close to the HC, so why not kill 2 birds with 1 gem?

Other Essential Gemming Thoughts-

Awhile ago, I wrote a “The Death Knight Tank and You:” post about the red socket, explaining what the best gem is to activate your meta is. You may want to give this a read through to learn more about the meta gem for Tanking, as well as how to activate it.

Another thing- generally you will want to focus a bit more on the survivability aspect of gemming. The reason being is that you generally will NOT have that much trouble with TPS. Survivability always needs to be approved upon, however. If you do have a bit of a TPS problem, I would suggest only using about 1-2 gems max towards this. Trial and error, if you only need the 1 gem slot for a TPS gain, you don’t need to “waste” more!

As far as when to put an Epic Gem (+30 STAM, ect., ect.) in a piece of equipment is generally when you get an item that you will not be replacing for a good amount of time. These gems can be quite expensive, so unless you are planning on keeping that ilvl 200 blue chest for a long time, just throw a blue gem in it!


Hey, I told you it was simple, there is just a LOT of balancing and self-evaluation to be done in spite of this. Trust me, the time you spend gemming will make it worth it in the end, because let’s face it, there are a lot more stressful and less rewarding things to manage as a Tank than gemming.

Keep your cool rocket, just keep your cool!

Happy WoWing!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    December 21, 2009 8:29 AM

    I thought I already mind-tattooed it into you that the reason you don’t gem for avoidance is because stam is more valuable – stam is useful all the time, and avoidance is only useful some of the time.


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