The Blood Death Knight is unique among tanks in that it is a plate-wearer that eschews shields for massive two-hand weapons. Accordingly, its playstyle is reliant on self-healing and avoidance instead of pure damage mitigation. In this Blood Death Knight guide, we’ll show you how to optimize your character for both level progression and end-game content.
Due to the increased focus on with handling damage after the fact, rather than mitigating it as it arrives, the Blood Death Knight tank is very challenging to play, and has had a declining reputation as a reliable tank over the past few patches. However, we still believe that it is possible to be an excellent tank while playing this class and specialisation, and we’ll show you how.
To do this, we’ll start by recommending talents that will fit both the levelling process and the endgame, although we recommend that you level this spec in dungeons rather than open-world questing. For pure questing, check out our Unholy Death Knight guide instead.
Alternatively, if you really want to quest, you should endeavour to pull or tag as many enemies as possible - you are certain to survive - and then unleash the full brunt of your Area-of-Effect abilities upon them. Realistically, the speed at which you will complete quests will simply depend on how efficiently you can find clusters of targets: if your quest requires you to kill enemies that can easily be clumped up, you might very well be more effective as Blood than with a different spec!
After our talent recommendations, we’ll outline a rotation that combines ease-of-use with the greatest possible uptime for your defensive buffs, while making sure to maximize the potential for self-healing at any moment it is needed.
In the near future, we’ll update this guide to include a section on how to level up your Artifact Weapon, and another that will focus on your optimal stats, and how to gear towards them.
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Blood Death Knight talent build
With this talent choice, you’ll be able to tackle every kind of progression and end-game content, apart from possibly Mythic raiding and 10+ Mythic Dungeons (we couldn’t test Mythic+ dungeons that high, but let us know if you manage it). The focus here is on maximum survivability and ease-of-use.
|Level||Talent Option||Reason for Choice|
|56||Heartbreaker - Heart Strike generates 3 additional Runic Power per target hit.||Your self-healing relies heavily on the expenditure of Runic Power, and this is the best way to increase its generation.|
|57||Rapid Decomposition - Your Death and Decay deals damage 50% more often, and while in your Death and Decay you generate 15% more Runic Power.||A dual benefit here: the same as above, plus extra threat generation that will allow you to keep enemy groups from attacking the rest of your party.|
|58||Ossuary - While you have at least 5 Bone Shield charges, the cost of Death Strike is reduced by 5 Runic Power. Additionally, your maximum Runic Power is increased by 10.||As you can see, the pattern of our talent choices is clear: maximising our resources in order to use Death Strike for healing and mitigation as often as possible.|
|60||Red Thirst - Spending Runic Power will decrease the remaining cooldown on Vampiric Blood by 1 sec per 6 Runic Power.||Vampiric Blood is a phenomenal defensive cooldown (more on it in the appropriate section below) and this will allow you to use it more often.|
|75||Tightening Grasp - Reduces the cooldown on Gorefiend's Grasp by 60 sec, and your Death and Decay also reduces the movement speed of enemies within its radius by 70%.||This will allow you to deal with groups of enemies much more easily, clustering them in front of you for a deadly strike.|
|90||Foul Bulwark - Each charge of Bone Shield increases your maximum health by 2%.||Using our recommended playstyle, you’ll prioritise the generation of Bone Shield charges, making this talent benefit you constantly.|
|100||Purgatory - An unholy pact that prevents fatal damage, instead absorbing incoming healing equal to the damage prevented, lasting 3 sec. If any healing absorption remains when this effect expires, you will die. This effect may only occur every 3 min.||This is a safety net that effectively delays your death by 3 seconds - if you can make up for the damage avoided with healing during that strict window, you get away with your life. So needless to say, you should use all your self-healing abilities after this is triggered.|
Blood Death Knight rotations and cooldowns
As a Blood Death Knight, getting the priorities of your rotation straight is more important than it is for most tanks, and almost as if you were playing a damage-dealing class. A Blood Death Knight, after all, survives by healing him or herself, and achieves this by dealing damage. Nevertheless, it is still crucial to have a good level of knowledge on each fight’s mechanics, and good positioning in relation to the enemies and your own party.
Finally, while the Death Knight doesn’t have as many defensive cooldowns as the other tanking classes, those that it does possess are very powerful and can be deployed much more often - and you should learn exactly when to do so.
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The main purpose of this rotation is to keep as many charges of Bone Shield up as possible - ideally 5 or more at a time - while pooling enough Runic Power to constantly self-heal through Death Strike.
There is one single alteration to this rotation when fighting multiple targets, which you will find noted in the right column.
|Action||Condition / Further Instructions|
|1||Marrowrend||If Bone Shield is absent or about to expire (under 5 seconds)|
|2||Blood Boil||If there is one or more enemies not affected by your Blood Plague debuff|
|3||Death and Decay||If you have the Crimson Scourge buff up (gained randomly from auto-attacks)|
|4||Death Strike||IF you are under 75% health or over 80% Runic Power (to avoid capping Runic Power)|
|5||Marrowrend||If you have 6 or less stacks of Bone Shield.|
|6||Death and Decay||If you have 3 or more Runes or facing 3+ enemies.|
|7||Heart Strike||If you have 3 or more Runes or are under 45 Runic Power and have 5 or more stacks of Bone Shield.|
|8||Consumption (Artifact ability acquired at lvl 100)|
|10||Go back to Step 1.|
Blood Death Knight defensive cooldowns are a bit more specific than those of other classes - a bit more “niche” if you will - but you still need to know when to effectively deploy them either in a panic (low HP) scenario, or before a highly damaging attack.
Here’s our take on how to to use them best.
|Anti-Magic Shell||This is an excellent defensive ability that you should use proactively before a large attack - and you will be able to do so every minute. The catch is that it only works on “magical” damage - that is, any damage that is not “white” or physical - so it is crucial to have knowledge of each fight and of the abilities of the enemy you are tanking.|
|Vampiric Blood||One of the best tanking cooldowns in the game, this is usable several times through each fight and you should activate it as much as possible before attacks that deal high damage - but don’t be afraid to use it if you drop low on health, as it is your most effective panic button.|
|Icebound Fortitude||A big damage shield with no catch, but on a 3-minute timer. You can only realistically expect to use it twice in most fights, so save it to mitigate the most powerful enemy attacks.|
|Dancing Rune Weapon||This is your least useful cooldown, as it is mostly a damage increase. You should, however, trigger it defensively if you expect to be the target of several parryable (physical) attacks in the next 8 seconds (as an example, upon pulling a particularly nasty group of trash mobs).|
And that wraps up this first version of our Blood Death Knight guide. In our next update, we’ll include an Artifact upgrade section, as well as a section on the Blood Death Knight primary and secondary stats, so you can optimize your gear selection.
Have we missed something? Please visit the comments section below and give us your feedback!