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I just hit 82 on my Death Knight and am tanking normal 5-man dungeons at the moment, with intent to move on to heroics in a few weeks.

My question is which rune is best on my weapon: Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle, Rune of SwordShattering, or something else.

Stoneskin Gargoyle looks awfully deceptive. 4% armor and 2% stamina sounds great when you hear it, but if I think about it for 2 seconds I realize that armor isn't all that wonderful when you already have a lot of armor. I checked my stats page and that armor boost only ups my total damage reduction by an additional 1%. Stamina is nice, but I'm not hurting for it and would much rather reduce incoming damage to keep healing consistent.

SwordShattering seems a little weird with that Disarm preventing, but the 4% Parry chance appears to be fantastic. Looking at the character sheet, I can see it simply ups my total Parry chance by an additional 4%. This seems like it would reduce incoming damage far more than the 1% boost in damage reduction from the Stoneskin Gargoyle armor increase.

So generally speaking, which is better? Are there other runes I should be considering instead?

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Just to clear up a misconception about armor -- it doesn't actually have diminishing returns. That +4% armor means a straight up 4% increase in effective health from armor (approximately). WoW uses the same principles of Armor Reduction that League of Legends does, as detailed here: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/10244/… –  Raven Dreamer Mar 25 '11 at 15:29
    
@Raven If that were true, it seems the armor increase of 4% would be equivalent to the 4% parry chance increase, with the Stamina bonus being icing. I don't understand how that can be the case. Also, the character sheet told me my damage reduction went from about 50% to 51%, NOT to 54% - so what's missing with the math here? –  Mag Roader Mar 25 '11 at 16:15
    
did you look at the question I linked? Looking at the change in %damage reduction is a misleading way to look at it. You need to consider how long you live at the given reductions. Basically, adding a flat amount of armor increases life expectancy by a static amount, given a constant incoming DPS. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 25 '11 at 17:36
    
@Raven I looked at the answer linked but it doesn't perfectly apply; they're talking about flat armor values (50, 100). Stoneskin Gargoyle is not flat, it's a percentage. After some thought, I think I get it! Stoneskin Gargoyle will give a 4% increase in "effective health" (as you put it) from armor. But it doesn't decrease total incoming damage by 4% by any means; rather, the amount of damage reduction is totally dependent on how much armor you have. With tons and tons of armor, that 4% could be tremendous amounts of damage reduction. If you have almost no armor, it's not helping at all! –  Mag Roader Mar 25 '11 at 18:51
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Correct. If it helps, don't think of it as 4% - convert that 4% to its actual value. So think of it as +2000 armor. Then, when you have more gear, it becomes +2500 armor. etc. The 4% will continue to scale as you pick up new pieces. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 25 '11 at 20:01
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2 Answers

It seems to me like you've come to the right conclusion already. The Blood DK thread on the Elitist Jerks forums offers this advice:

Runeforge: [Use] Swordshattering rather than Gargoyle. In hard-mode progression raiding, Gargoyle could be better, but in levels of effort below [that], use Swordshattering.

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Swordshattering is "better" overall. Over the course of a fight you'll take less damage.

The real answer though is to use what's best for you and the healers you normally play with. Pre-85 it won't make much of a difference, but once you start getting into content that's a bit harder and that you don't outgear, you'll need to consider a few scenarios:

  1. Your healer does his or her best to keep you topped off at all times. Go for the parry. This leads to a more binary damage intake. Your healer will only heal you if you take enough damage to warrant the mana cost, and with the extra parry that will be less often.

  2. Your healer keeps your health around half. Go for the armor. You'll get hit more often but the damage is more predictable and regular, so the healer will be able to use constant efficient heals rather than reacting to damage spikes.

  3. Soloing. Go for the armor. Your constant self-healing works better when your damage intake is regular rather than spiky.

These are obviously generalizations that aren't too visible on a small scale. But when you apply the concepts to your gemming, enchanting, reforging and gearing choices as well there is a noticeable difference.

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One way to think about it is why would the designers create two tanking runes if one was always better than the other? –  dpatchery Mar 25 '11 at 16:43
    
Does the 4% parry given by the rune count towards diminishing returns? That's be a pretty incentive to prioritize gargoyle over swordshatter. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 25 '11 at 17:37
    
@Raven I can't cite a source but I see no reason to believe that diminishing returns is dependent on the source of the parry. –  dpatchery Mar 25 '11 at 17:57
    
@dpatch - so it does contribute to diminishing returns? –  Raven Dreamer Mar 25 '11 at 18:03
    
@Raven yes, to the best of my knowledge all parry is subject to diminishing returns. –  dpatchery Mar 25 '11 at 18:04
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