Satorri's Big Build Shop: Blood Tanking!
<Here it is, the epic work is finished. Have fun, hopefully the nuggets you want to know are easy to find...>
So, I've been slow to post this after the patch as I've been growing it into a pretty serious endeavor. The more I read "guides" and listen to the conventional wisdom on DK tanking from people, the more I come to appreciate that there are rarely truly fair or descriptive breakdowns of how to spec a DK. Instead people give cookie cutter specs with stock rotations and people are left to take the person they trust, and say, "THAT is how you do it, your spec is wrong." In truth, while that is the easiest answer for many who don’t want to give it too much though, it leaves the Death Knight community weaker than it could be.
So, instead of just posting my spec here and explaining why I am using it (which I did anyway in the final appendix), instead I want to explain the elements of the Blood tree, and hopefully explain it in such a way that people understand how to weave a spec smartly to meet their own needs and desires.
This discussion will focus on a deep-Blood DK tank. This is not the only way to do things, nor is it necessarily the 'best' way. It is just one way, and the play style I've enjoyed the most.
Every talent, gear stat, and ability is connected to a string of other elements. These elements all interact and will improve each other, so that the sum of a selection of talents will actually change your priorities for what spell you use or what stat is of value to you. So how do we navigate this? Simple, we can't make universal statements about the value of X spell or X talent free of the rest of the picture.
Tenet #1: Death Knight's are built on synergy.
My first step to getting into this is to first identify the talents for their relative threat and survival values, and for their interactions.
A classic maxim, but if you cannot survive the hits you take you're equally as useless as a tank who cannot keep the mobs' attention. Every tank needs to first meet the minimum requirement of survival (you need to be able to take hits well enough that your healers can keep you alive long enough that the dps can kill the boss) and threat (keeping ahead of the most threatening non-tank in your group, size of margin after that is only for peace of mind). Once you have met the minimums, each tank will find their preferred levels of threat and survival, usually playing to one or the other, or a balance of the two that will not have dps close to pulling aggro, or have the healers stressed under the healing load.
Tenet #2: Every tank must find a balance between survival and threat.
As I’ve worked to explain the relative relationship, I’ve done a LOT of math to express the complex interactions in complex terms. That said, not everyone wants to read all that, so much as extract the nuggets. In this first, main body of the post I will share the extracts, the key points. Then in a series of linked posts below will be the extensive data that explains the values and sentiments presented here.
In the appendices you can find the following:
Appendix 1: Survival Talent/Glyph Descriptions/Reactions
Appendix 2: Threat Talent/Glyph Descriptions/Reactions
Appendix 3: Crit-Centric Physical Damage Loop Math
Appendix 4: Death Coil Hammer Loop Math
Appendix 5: Play Styling, Fundamental Changes for Sharper Play
Appendix 6: Osyras’ Current Spec Synopsis
The important points and values, will be presented right here, for summary sake.
Survival as a Blood Death Knight
As Blood Death Knights we rely on self-healing as our primary survival method. We will use the central passive tank abilities common to all DKs (5/5/5 or 5/8/5 the Holy Trinity of DK Tanking as I call it), and a pair of special-use tanking abilities, WotN and Spell Deflection, to provide an emergency save and a strong magic damage suppression ability, respectively. Our primary value, however, will be based on total health, heal-ability, and our heavy self-healing to appear as if we are taking less damage. The major players:
- Vamp Blood = the two-fold nature of this ability will double-buff most of your heals (the ones based on your total health for healing). It is a powerful survival tool for making the Blood tank incredibly easy to heal through any barrage.
- Death Strike = the heal from this ability will be your single largest healing value even if only used to exchange FU (Frost/Unholy) pairs for Death runes. It will also have a high overhealing value as it is frequently not used just to provide the heal.
- Rune Tap = this is a hard move to use well, but used frequently it can account for a decent amount of total healing. It can be a very important patch to save your life in a dangerous moment.
- Mark of Blood = harder still to use well, but used judiciously and strategically, this move can both improve the Blood tank’s burst heals, and/or ease healing on another tank or the raid.
To make best use of these abilities, it is in the Blood tank’s best interest to stack heavy amounts of health, though as with every tank, Blood still garners plenty of value from avoidance and armor. It is only the latter two, along with a carefully used IBF and AMS that will save the tank when facing down giant single hits.
Compared to Frost or Unholy tanks, the Blood tank will actually take the most damage in equal gear levels, but to healers it will not appear as such if self-heals are used liberally and smartly. There is no other tank that has the same level of interaction with their survival as the Blood Death Knight tank.
The value of Spell Deflection and WotN lie primarily in their potential for clinch saves. What this means is, rather than being a constant small passive value, they will be in frequent but pronounced effects. WotN is designed specifically to save your tail at the moment when you need it most. Spell Deflection is a bit less consistent for being used when you need it, but when it procs it will be a very noticeable effect.
Threat as a Blood Death Knight
Depending on the craft of the talent spec of a particular character, the focus and balance of where threat is generated may vary slightly; however, the major threat components are as follows:
- Heart Strike = this is the primary active ability of the tank, this will be the single best item for building and holding threat on 1-4 targets at a time.
- Death Strike = while the damage threat alone is not the most powerful tool, the combined threat of both damage and healing can be significant. This will usually appear in the top 4-5 major elements contributing to threat.
- Rune Strike = this semi-passive tool is a major threat player for all DK’s and very easy to use without requiring active attention. There is also no better use of Runic Power available for threat, so it is well worth it to macro this into your other primary abilities and make sure it is used at every available opportunity.
- Melee (Auto-)Attacks = automatic weapon swings will always be a major component of any tank’s threat. Blood is no exception and its buffs support that well.
- Death Coil = this is your sole Runic Power dump, and a valuable tool for filling rune blackouts (moments where all 6 runes are on cooldown). Blood can make additional use of this ability through the Sudden Doom talent.
- Death and Decay = the Blood tank will make smart use of this to shore up AoE threat. While it carries a heavy cost, it has solid threat and can be somewhat pre-set to collect targets and lay foundation threat.
- Blood Boil = the major tool for generating and maintaining threat on unlimited targets. It will not do as much damage on 1-2 targets as HS, but it will be invaluable when holding 4+ targets at once.
There is no longer good reason to spec into Annihilation in the Blood tree or to use Obliterate. Death Strike with the appropriate talents is close enough in damage value that the healing value carries it past Obliterate. The climb into Frost only servers to divide your talents into partial-use tools, as you will still want to use DS for frequent healing.
The major theme to Blood damage and threat, is heavy physical damage and generous passive critical chance buffs. All of these elements will work together to cross-buff and create a powerful final result. Removing any element from this synergy will do more than just remove the apparent buff from that single talent, it will reduce the effectiveness of each other talent in the web. The main non-spell talents for this are as follows:
- Might of Mograine
- Dark Conviction
- Bloody Vengeance
- Improved Death Strike
The glyphs for Rune Strike and Death Strike, along with Bloody Strikes and 2-hand Specialization, as well as the passive AP buffs from Bladed Armor, Vet of the 3rd War, Abom’s Might, and Ravenous Dead will frame this relationship to emphasize the main 4 threat tools: HS, DS, RS, and melee swings. The specific details of this loop and the synergy of these talents and skills are discussed in Appendix 3. In short, the fundamental chain is best supported by the following:
Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Where the points in Hysteria and Rune Tap can be swapped in similar level talents as desired.
Beyond the basic threat system, there are a few additional elements that can be mixed and matched, or focused on solely to improve threat performance and playability. These are discussed in Appendices 4 and 5. These include buffing the returns on Deathcoil to improve Runic Power spending, and using abilities like Glyph of Disease, Death Rune Mastery, and Epidemic to alter the play style and adjust pacing of abilities. These benefits will also have to be weighed against picking up more of the survival tools that may have been excluded in the Blood tree, such as fully improving Rune Tap, Mark of Blood, or taking/finishing Spell Deflection or Will of the Necropolis.
Among the additional threat tools, they can be roughly ranked as follows:
Necrosis > Sudden Doom > Abom’s Might*/Ravenous Dead > Black Ice
Though, some details may change depending on glyph choices and player methods. This is principally for single target threat, and assuming that the +10% AP buff from Abom's Might is not unique. If it is unique (i.e. no Trueshot Aura or Unleashed Rage from the raid) Abom's Might will be the #1 value on the list. Note that the AP increases from Abom's Might and Ravenous Dead, as well as Black Ice, will net a smaller total gain in threat than Sudden Doom or Necrosis, but they will buff tools that support multi-target threat, where the other two will not. Always check your own numbers generated to decide on your talent revisions.
You can find my personal spec and my reasoning’s, methods, and preferences in Appendix 6.
Appendix 1: Survival Talent/Glyph Descriptions
Major Survival Talents/Themes
*Vendetta has been omitted from this consideration as it can only proc when the target dies, and will only do so if the tank gets the killing blow, which becomes extremely rare in the raid environment, and the healing could only actually help in the case of trash, otherwise it is after the fight itself.
- The Holy Trinity (HT) of DK Tanking, 5/5/5: Blade Barrier, Toughness, and Anticipation are the three fundamental tools of any tank. There is no good reason to forfeit any of these as they help set the passive baseline of your survival. Generally, if you want to shift points to pick up X talent, look to these last.
- Imp Icy Touch: Unless you have a designated person in your raid, such as a DPS DK/Cat, or another tank who will be applying the full de-haste debuff to the boss, this is a survival value to match the HT in point for point value. Beyond just the shear decrease in swings taken, it also spaces them out more allowing your healers more space to heal you between swings. It's not worth leaving off unless the debuff is covered elsewhere.
- Veteran of the 3rd War: This is Blood's tree-specific passive survival buff. It increases your stamina by 3%, which is its primary survival value. The 6% increase to strength, and the 6 expertise also each have a small contribution to passive survival as well.
- Vampiric Blood: This is Blood's tree-specific primary tanking cooldown. It provides a bump to your total health and a large buff to all incoming heals. For Blood's mechanics this is a double whammy on your own survival mechanics, more on this below.
- Rune Tap: This ability provides an instant burst of health. This scales from 10% on a 1 min CD (1 pt invested) to 20% on a 30 sec CD (4 pts invested). This repeatable health restoration plays into a major survival theme for Blood. Note: this ability is off the GCD.
- Mark of Blood: This spell places a debuff on the target with 20 charges. Every target that gets hit by the debuffed mob directly (passive auras or aoe effects do not trigger it) will heal the target for 4% of their total health immediately following the damage being dealt. This will continue for 20 sec or until all 20 charges have been expended, 1 charge per heal. This ability has a 3 min CD.
- Imp Blood Presence: This causes the tank/target to heal for 4% of their max health the moment the damage is caused. This creates a passive stream of incoming healing.
- Bloodworms: Melee hits have a 3/6/9% chance to spawn 2-4 worms that live for 20 sec healing the tank while doing some small damage. These are coded as 'guardians' not pets, so they do not pay attention to relative positioning to their target. As a tank that means they will just pop out next to you and attack the target.
- Imp Death Strike: Principally this ability increases the damage and crit chance of DS to make it more competitive with Obliterate for the rune cost. However, the 50% increase in the healing value of DS makes this talent a passive increase to a major survival tool of the DK.
- Will of the Necropolis: Any damage that reduces the tank below 35% health will be reduced by 5/10/15%. This has an internal CD of 15 sec between procs, but can only proc on damage greater than 5% of the tank's total health.
- Spell Deflection: This gives the tank a chance equal to her parry chance to reduce incoming direct spell damage (as opposed to periodic damage/DoTs) by 15/30/45%.
**% Strength bonuses from Abomination's Might and Ravenous Dead will provide a very small buff to parry rating, but this value is small enough that it is not focusing on as a tangible increase in survival value.
There is little in the way of survival glyphs for Blood, or for DK tanks, but the Vamp Blood glyph is a very valuable increase in duration amounting to a 50% increase in uptime. AMS remains very unpopular, and with the cap on total absorption it has become even harder to get real value out of. Glyph of Rune Tap is a complicated value to appreciate. On one side it increases the self-heal every so slightly, but it also provides big healing to the party (not raid). If you are with the tanks this can be a major assist value, but it adds a complication to the effective use of the skill. The tank can/must now pay attention to other health’s as well to get optimal use of the ability. So on one side, it can expand the value of Rune Tap, and make it more raid friendly, but at the same time that value can be hard to use effectively, and may even run the risk of detracting from your performance.
- Vamp Blood: Increases duration of Vamp Blood by 10 sec, or a 50% increase in uptime if used on CD.
- Rune Tap: Increases the healing done to the tank by 10% (so fully talented the heal is 22% of total health), and using Rune Tap heals everyone in the DK's party (not raid) for 10% of their total health.
- Anti-magic Shell: Increases duration of AMS by 2 sec.
Blood has a LOT of survival tools. That said there are two major distinguishable veins in which they operate: the classic mitigation or damage reduction talents, and the self-healing abilities. The passive mitigation values are fairly simple to illustrate and minimal for interaction with active abilities, so I will start with them.
This is the tree's magic mitigation mechanic. Warriors, Paladins, and Bears, as well as Unholy DKs all receive a 6% passive magic damage reduction buff, but Blood gets Spell Deflection. The distinction works out to be rather minor, but it can be a big deal in some situations. The typical Blood DK's parry will run between 16% and 25% depending on how they set up their gear. Average value will be around 20% in raid buffs. With 3 points invested, this talent will reduce the incoming spell damage of a non-DoT/non-periodic effect by 45%. 20% chance for a 45% reduction averages out to 9% average reduction, but in apparent application it will be much more pronounced. When it actually procs you will see a significantly reduced amount of damage. This makes the ability slightly more like block or avoidance for less consistent but more pronounced value. This ability only interacts with your parry value.
Will of the Necropolis
This is the first Ardent Defender (Paladin-Prot) clone ability that actually foreshadowed the redesign of AD itself. The way it works is simple; any damage that reduces the tank's health below 35% is reduced by a percentage. This isn't entirely clear so I'll use an illustration. If our tank has 45k health fully buffed, then the range of interest is when the tank has less than 15,750 health. If the tank has 25k health left, and takes a hit for 20k, without the talent the tank would be at 5k health remaining. With the talent however, the damage portion that brings the tank below 15,750 will be reduced by 15% (for a 3 pt investment). That means the first 9250 dmg will be applied, then the remaining 10,750 dmg will be reduced by 15%. Now it will only do 9138 dmg, so all combined the hit was reduced by 1613 dmg. Alternately, if the tank is at full health and takes a 40k hit (normally leaving him at 5k health), the first 29,250 dmg will be dealt as normal, and the last 10,750 will be reduced by 15%, or again, by 1613 damage and the total hit will only be 38.4k leaving the tank at 6613 health. Ideally, this should not be a constant survival value as the tank should not be hovering continually above and below 35% health, but when it procs, it could become a lifesaver. This has a high degree of positive interaction with high total health, as the higher the tank's total health the higher the range becomes in which the ability can be activated and therefore the larger the potential reduction can be. **This section is currently under investigation. The ability may work to reduce the full hit by 15%, but it has been challenging to get solid data to support that. Hopefully Blizz will start labeling absorbs with more description in the future.**
The other side of Blood tanking that has served to make it extremely popular in progression raiding, is the very interactive value of the tree's self-healing as a survival mechanic. I'll describe the breakdowns of each of the self-healing tools below.
The buff from this ability is very notable to high health tanks as it extends their total health by a health stretch (15% of 40k+ health is a pretty big chunk). The increase in all incoming heals, from both the DK and the healers in the raid, make this appear to be an effective increase in mitigation as the same heals go farther. In reality though, this is not a traditional survival CD like the other trees as it does nothing to reduce the incoming damage. This adds a flavor to the ability that is hard to really quantify. For the DK's own self-healing, this two-fold buff actually has a double and multiplicative buff. This should become clearer in each of the abilities below.
The often unsung hero of the Blood tree, this ability functions as a massive health prop. If it is used on CD, full talented, this ability would restore 20% of total health every 30 sec, or 0.67% per second, reduced, of course, by the need for healing. The major value of this ability is that it is off the GCD, so it can be used as needed when needed, so long as the DK has a Blood/Death rune available (DRM and Blood Tap make this substantially easier to use). The major detractor of this ability is that the deciding factor of how valuable it is is based solely on the ability of the tank to use it well, time it well, and use it often. Because it only works when activated, it can sit on your bars and provide no value. Similarly, if you are slow or do not recognize when it can be used most effectively, you can see very few uses or high overhealing resulting in a diminished value. This ability does very well with heavy health stacking as it is a percent of total health. Also, this ability gets a double whammy from Vamp Blood. First, the increase in total health also increases the value of the heal by 15%, then the +35% healing buff increases the heal further. As a quick illustration, if the tank has 45k health raid buffed their normal Rune Tap will hit for 9k. If the tank then uses Vamp Blood the Rune Tap will now jump up from the new total health of 51.75k (Rune Tap to 10,350), and then get multiplied by the healing buff to 13,973, or a little more than 55% increase. For a sense of scale, outside of Vamp Blood, if the tank has 45k health, and finds the timing to use the spell about once per minute, with only 10% overhealing, this will account for about 135 heals per sec. Alternately, if the same tank were to use it on CD, but average 40% overhealing, that would be about 180 hps. Used to its fullest on CD, the maximum benefit for the 45k health tank would be about 300 hps.
Mark of Blood
This is a move equally, if not more challenging to use than Rune Tap. While a straight self-heal is fairly easy to understand, Mark of Blood is rather less direct. Working in its favor, the heal it procs will trigger immediately after damage is dealt by the target. This makes it never overheal. Also, because it is a debuff to a target, it allows a dps DK or OT DK to buff another tank's performance by giving them an extra heal. In some situations it can also be used to soften a blow to the raid. A 3 min CD means this ability cannot be used constantly, and it is tempting to leave it in case of emergencies, which is equally confusing because the healing value does not feel huge at only 4% of total health. Finding a happy middle ground is vital to optimal use of this spell. Again, because it is based on total health, when used particularly to help the DK tank, stacking health benefits the ability, and the two bonuses of Vamp Blood will doubly buff the heals.
Improved Blood Presence
Imp Blood Pres is generally a harder value to sell as a tank. Essentially, given a hard hit of 5k, the proc from this will heal the tank for only 200 health. It has no synchronization with damage dealt and so can and will overheal if the tank is full on health. The value of this talent is as a steady baseline buff to effective health. A tank doing 2500 dps will see about 100 hps as a steady in-flow from this ability so the tiny trickle will bump the tank's health. The better your damage the better the heal, so this is one of few healing tools that scale with the tank's damage potential, and so somewhat with their threat.
This has been a somewhat controversial ability that has become quickly dismissed by the tanking community. The advantages and disadvantages make this a hard value to pin down. The worms summoned are their own entities. As such they do not contribute to your threat with their damage or healing, and the heals they provide do count towards their healing not the tanks. These worms heal based on their damage, which in turn scales very lightly with the tanks AP. For a well-geared raid tank, with raid buffs, the worms will heal for around 200-250 every 2 sec, each. That means that the maximal value for each worm will be about 100-125 hps for their lifespan. On average you will see 3-4 worms at a time. The other side of the equation is two-fold. First, because of the way the worms are coded, they will simply attack the boss the most direct way they can, they will not position behind the boss. Because of this, and the fact that they can be parried (and they will they receive none of your hit/expertise buffs), they can generate parry-haste for the boss. Also, because they have so little health and no natural AoE avoidance like other pets, they will die very easily to any environmental or cleave damage. This combination of elements has made them very unpopular for tanks.
Though it is not a talent, I want to mention this here, because it is a very major player in the self-healing game. With the Imp DS talent, this will regenerate 7.5% of the DK's total health, per disease, on each use. This will quickly make up the bulk of the self-healing, even without additional use (i.e. using it only to convert FU pairs, more on this below), but will also have a higher overhealing in practice. This value, like the others, is double-buffed by Vamp Blood, and benefits greatly with increased total health. To give a sense of scale, if DS were used, only to benefit from DRM (i.e. twice per 2 rune sets, or twice per 20 sec), for the tank with 45k health, it would generate 675 hps, before factoring overhealing. If you had a (reasonable) 60% overhealing, that would still be 270 hps, and that value would increase when used additionally as needed for health (this increasing the number of heals and decreasing the typical overhealing percentage).
Combining the many self-healing elements allows the Blood DK tank to shore up their health tremendously. Based on some perceptual experiments I performed on my raid (switching specs without telling my healers what I did, and having sit-down discussions with them about what they noticed about the nature of my healing in familiar situations, Ulduar 25), the appearance to healers of the self-healing is simply that the tank is taking less damage. The counter-balancing element of this self-healing is that it is entirely dependent on the tank A.) using the self-heals, and B.) knowing how to use them well, timing is a major factor in efficiency.
Appendix 2: Threat Talent/Glyph Descriptions
Major Threat Talents/Themes
*Some talents have been left out, but they are hard to reach, and I'll explain some of the values that make them harder to justify below.
- Blood-gorged: Provides a permanent 2/4/6/8/10% armor ignore. So long as the tank's health is over 75%, increases all damage done by 2/4/6/8/10%.
- Heart Strike: Does more damage than Blood Strike, in the same fashion, and adds a cleave hitting the target closest to your main target for the half same potential damage (damage is calculated individually, as is crit chance).
- Might of Mograine: Increases crit damage bonus on Heart Strike (Blood Strike), Death Strike, and Blood Boil by 15/30/45% (so crits will do 245% dmg with 3 pts invested).
- Imp Death Strike: Increases the damage dealt by 30%, and the crit chance by 6%, of Death Strike, while also increasing the heal (as discussed above) by 50%.
- Sudden Doom: Gives your Heart (Blood) Strikes a 5/10/15% chance to proc a free, instant Death Coil on your target. This can proc on both the main target and the cleaved target.
- Hysteria: On-use ability that grants a target +20% physical damage dealt for 30 sec at the cost of 1% health per second. Has a 3 min CD, and can be cast on other players.
- Abomination's Might: Provides a matching, exclusive +10% AP buff to Unleashed Rage (Enh Shaman) and Trueshot Aura (Marks Hunter), that procs off of HS/BS (50% chance) or OB/DS (100% chance). Also adds a 2% passive Strength bonus to the tank.
- Dark Conviction: Increases the tank's crit chance with all moves by 1/2/3/4/5%.
- Bloody Vengeance: Every time the tank crits with any ability, she receives a 1/2/3% bonus to physical damage for 30 sec that stacks up to 3 times.
- Vet of the 3rd War: Increases Strength by 2/4/6%, Expertise by 2/4/6, and Stamina by 1/2/3%.
- Bloody Strikes: Increases BS damage by 5/10/15%, increases HS damage by 15/30/45%, and increases BB damage by 10/20/30%.
- 2-handed Weapon Spec: Increases damage done with 2-handed weapons by 2/4%.
- Bladed Armor: Gives the tank 1/2/3/4/5 AP per 180 points of total armor (buffed value, not just base or gear).
- Subversion: Increases the crit chance of HS (BS) and Obliterate by 3/6/9%. Also reduces threat generated in Blood/Unholy Presence.
- Morbidity: Increases damage dealt by Death Coil by 5/10/15%, and reduces the CD on DnD (from 35 sec) by 5/10/15 sec.
- Ravenous Dead: Increases Strength by 1/2/3%, and increases the Str/Stam your ghoul receives from you.
- Necrosis: Adds 4/8/12/16/20% to your auto-attack and Rune Strike damage as additional shadow damage.
- Black Ice: Increases Frost and Shadow damage dealt by 2/4/6/8/10%.
Some additional talents that do not buff damage directly but will alter your cast sequence, timing, and pacing of moves, as well as make moves more or less available:
So, in general, the theme of Blood damage, and so threat, revolve around two primary mechanics: crit-maintained buffed physical damage and heavy use of Death runes for single-rune ability spam. This is where the tree/style gets more interesting and more diverse in application. I want to discuss glyphs first, and touch on some important highlights for play style, and then I will get into a discussion of what I like to call the Threat Loops in the style.
- Scent of Blood: After getting hit, dodging, or parrying (any outcome but being missed, essentially) by a direct damage hit, you will generate 10 RP on your next 1/2/3 swings.
- Butchery: You gain a passive 1/2 RP generated per 5 sec, and when you deal the killing blow to a target that would give you experience, you gain 20 RP.
- Runic Power Mastery: Increases your maximum retainable RP by 15/30.
- Epidemic: Increases the duration of your diseases (from 15 sec) by 3/6 sec.
The values of the glyphs listed above are heavily dependent on play style and talent arrangement. As such I will discuss them in the breakdowns and interactions listed below.
- Rune Strike: Increases crit chance of RS by 10%.
- Death Strike: Increases DS damage by 1% per 1 RP up to 25%(RP).
- Dark Death: Increases DC damage by 15%.
- Death and Decay: Increases DnD damage by 20%.
- Dark Command: Increases Dark Command's chance to hit by 8% (technically not a threat value, but more appropriate here than survival)
- Disease: Casting Pestilence refreshes existing diseases on all targets hit to maximum duration. *This would properly be categorized as a play style altering glyph rather than a direct threat buff.
Heart Strike is picked up near the bottom of the tree and rapidly becomes one of your most important tools. It will do more damage than BS, it has a cleave to support stronger small group AoE threat, and it keys in to several other effects and buffs throughout the tree. To that end, this will essentially replace BS for Blood tanks. The only reason to use BS is if you are stuck in close quarters and need to only hit one target, but this can usually easily be adjusted for by smart tanking positioning.
General Blood Threat Technique:
The fundamental method, generally adopted by Blood tanks regardless of later talent tweaks works around using Death Rune Mastery with Death Strike and Heart Strike, primarily. When FU (Frost/Unholy) pairs are available, Death Strike (fully talented) is generally the best use of them, which will also start them rolling over into Death runes. Pound for pound, regardless of situation, Blood or Death runes can be used on HS to generate solid threat and keep most mechanics rolling. Conveniently this method allows any of the 6 runes, depending on current state, to be used on any of the effects you rely on, be it Rune Tap, Mark of Blood, Pestilence, BB (for AoEs), or DnD (often without having strictly a BFU set). This makes the Blood style very robust and versatile. Depending on glyph and talent choices different themes can be played up.
The two Threat Method Loops I want to talk about are the Crit-Dependent Physical Dmg Loop, and the Death Coil Hammer Loop. The former is an intrinsic element of the tree that can be played up, while the latter relies on some out-of-tree elements to support but can be good additional threat.
Appendix 3: Crit-Centric Physical Damage Loop Math
Crit-Centric Physical Damage Loop Math
The concept here is easily missed but very important. Every talent in the central Blood talents plays a role in buffing the tanks threat/damage, however, each talent also serves to buff the other talents the same. Let’s look at the 4 sorts of talents:
- Passive Weapon(and spell) Damage Increases
- Increases in Strength (Abom’s Might, Ravenous Dead, Vet of the 3rd War)
- Increases in AP (Bladed Armor, Abom’s Proc)
- Direct Increase in Weapon Damage (2-h Spec)
- Universal Physical Damage and Specific Move Damage Increases
- Bloody Vengeance (All Physical Damage)
- Bloody Strikes (HS Damage)
- Imp Death Strike (DS Damage)
- Blood-Gorged (All Physical, 2 compounding elements)
- Necrosis (functionally melee and RS damage)
- Critical Chance Increases
- Dark Conviction (All Crit)
- Subversion (HS Crit)
- Imp Death Strike (DS Crit)
- Critical Damage Increases
- Might of Mograine (HS, DS crit dmg)
So, to fully appreciate how all of these many many elements inter-play, let’s look at the formula that will allow us to consider them all. I use a method I call Crit-Adjusted Average. Basically, this treats your average damage per strike over all of your regular and critical hits. I will evolve the formula to make it easier to follow. (I am aware that my weapon damage formula is slightly simplified.)
We’ll call Weapon DPS = X, leave AP as is, and call average weapon damage W(strike). Normalized Weapon Speed = 3.5 for 2-handers, which will be our assumed format for this comparison. For Heart Strike (the only move depending on diseases for damage), we’ll call the disease count D#, after I show it’s location, I’m going to assume our DK is sharp enough to have both diseases always active for further calculations. So the formula we care about primarily are:
Avg Weapon Dmg = (Weapon DPS + AP/14) * Normalized Weapon Speed
We’ll call Crit Chance = C%, and Crit Dmg Modifier = Cmod
- W(melee) = (X + AP/14) * 3.5 = 3.5X + 0.25AP
- W(RS) = 1.5 * (3.5X + 0.25AP) + 0.15 * AP = 5.25X + 0.525 AP
- W(HS) = [0.5 * (3.5X + 0.25AP) + 368] * (1 + 0.1 * D#) = 2.1X + 0.15AP + 441.6
- W(DS) = 0.75 * (3.5X + 0.25AP) + 222.75 = 2.625X + 0.1875AP + 222.75
Crit-Adj Avg Dmg = [(1 – Crit Chance) * W] + [(Crit Chance * Crit Dmg Modifier * W]
So, here are the formula we’re interested in:
CAdjAvg Dmg = [(1 – C%) * W] + [C% * Cmod * W] = W * [1 + C%(Cmod – 1)]
For comparing talents and their interactions, it is the CAA value that we’ll use.
CAA Dmg = W(strike) * [1 + C% * (Cmod – 1)]
W(mel) = 3.5*X + 0.25*AP
W(RS) = 5.25*X + 0.525*AP
W(HS) = 2.1*X + 0.15*AP + 441.6
W(DS) = 2.625*X + 0.1875*AP + 222.75
- X = Weapon DPS only dictated by base weapon average damage ([(max-min)/2 + min]) and hasted weapon speed.
- AP = final AP value
- C% = final crit chance for the strike in question
- Cmod = crit damage multiplier for strike in question (base is 2)
For comparison we’ll start with a Death Knight tank with no haste, no crit rating, no additional Agi, and no AP on her gear. We’ll give the tank a weapon with 232 base DPS, 28,000 armor, and 1000 strength. Base crit chance is roughly 5% reduced based on target level and increased for base agility.
Without talents, that means the tank will have AP = 2000, X = 232, C% = 5%, and Cmod = 2.0. So the final CAA values will be:
To build from here, let’s look at the talents that are hard not to take, and the talents that are optional. Since this is focused on being a deep Blood build, we’ll say the minimum acceptable depth is to reach Heart Strike (41 pts minimum), and we’ll assume the HT (5/5/5) is a baseline. In reaching that, the following talents are central and hard not to take: Subversion, Bladed Armor, 2-hand Spec, Dark Conviction, Death Rune Mastery, Bloody Strikes, Veteran of the 3rd War, Bloody Vengeance. These will take you 32 points into the tree, to gain the next 3 points Rune Tap/Imp Rune Tap, Spell Deflection, Mark of Blood, Abomination’s Might, and Hysteria are common choices. Butchery, Vendetta, Blood Worms, and Imp Blood Presence are not common, and have their own issues. These issues were discussed above. Imp Death Strike and Vamp Blood are central abilities here, but the 2 points to get to 40 total can be taken from the above listed, and/or Sudden Doom. Point 41 is spent on HS. That makes the following talents as follows:
Originally Posted by Base 1, Untalented
- Base Talents: Subversion, Bladed Armor, 2-hand Spec, Dark Conviction, Bloody Strikes, Vet of the 3rd War, Bloody Vengeance, Imp Death Strike, and Heart Strike.
- Optional Talents: Abomination’s Might, Might of Mograine, Blood-Gorged, Ravenous Dead, Necrosis
First, I want to show the improvement from being untalented, to having the full ‘base’ talent set. To illustrate the values of synergy I will then show the value of adding some of the ‘optional’ talents, and show how that affects the value gained from the other talents in the spec.
So, first, we’ll apply the passive AP/dmg buffs. Bladed Armor converts armor into AP, 5/5 means 5 AP per 180 armor, so our tank gains 778 AP (156 AP per pt). Vot3W provides 6% more Strength, or 60 more strength, or 120 more AP (40 AP per pt). The new total AP is 2898. Note that none of these buffs are interactive with each other, but will serve to increase the baseline. 2-hand Spec will increase the base weapon damage by 4% (the base melee formula prior to strike-specific variables) which will increase the value of AP and weapon damage. The new strike damage formulae are:
Second, we’ll apply strike damage increases. Since all 4 strikes are physical damage, they will all be increased by 1% per point, per stack, by Bloody Vengeance. We’ll look at the full cruising value of 3 stacks. Bloody Strikes will increase the damage dealt by Heart Strike by 45% (15% per pt), and Imp DS will increase the damage of Death Strike by 30% (15% per pt).
W(mel) = 3.64*X + 0.26*AP
W(RS) = 5.46*X + 0.54*AP
W(HS) = 2.184*X + 0.156*AP + 441.6
W(DS) = 2.73*X + 0.195*AP + 222.75
Third, we will adjust crit chances. Dark Conviction increases all crit chances by 5% (1% per pt). Subversion will increase the crit chance of HS by 9% (3% per pt), and Imp DS will increase DS’ crit chance by 6% (3% per pt).
W(mel) = 3.9676*X + 0.2834*AP
W(RS) = 5.9514*X + 0.5886*AP
W(HS) = 3.451812*X + 0.246558*AP + 697.9488
W(DS) = 3.86841*X + 0.276315*AP + 315.63675
The final new CAA values will be:
So, obviously the core talents go a very long way in bringing up your damage for each move, and for the relative significance in threat, remember that because each move is simply modified by a static multiplier, the percent buffs to damage are equal percent buffs to threat, with one exception: Rune Strike. RS has its own built in +50% threat modifier, so +42.6% to damage is actually a +63.8% threat buff.
Originally Posted by Base 2, Core Talented
So, now let’s look at some of the other ‘optional buff set, and see how they affect the other values as well as adding their own buff.
Might of Mograine = this ability increases Cmod by 0.15 per point to a maximum of 2.45 total. Cmod increases total damage by increasing the value gained from C%, so where before each 1% crit represented a 1% increase in the crit factor of the damage, each 1% crit will represent 1.15% in the crit factor. Increasing the value of crit in the formula makes the base damage that much more valuable as we’re factoring essentially a larger % increase on that base damage. With 3/3 in MoM, the new CAA values will now be:
Now consider if you removed your 3 points from Subversion prior to adding MoM, reducing HS’s crit chance by 9%. First we’ll calculate the resulting HS CAA:
Originally Posted by Core Talented + MoM
CAA(HS) = 2046 (-9% from Base 2, -3%/pt)
Now add MoM back in:
CAA(HS) = 2129 (+1.36%/pt from adj)
So notice that removing the talent points from Subversion deflated part of the value from Might of Mograine, specifically a full 1.03% off your HS threat per point of MoM, so if flipped the viewpoint and you kept MoM, and were removing points from Subversion, instead of losing 3% threat per point, you’d instead be losing 3.80% HS threat per point.
Blood-Gorged requires some special attention to understand as well. The ability has two portions one of which is always active while the other is conditional. Always active, the ability reduces the targets effective armor by 2%/pt for all of your moves. This is essentially an indirect physical damage buff. Based on the standardized boss armor (~10.6k), and assuming there is a full stack of Sunder (or similar buff amounting 20% armor reduction), and Faerie Fire (or similar buff adding 5% compounding armor reduction) this talent is worth ~0.70% increased physical damage per point. The other half works on the condition that the tank’s health is above 75%, and provides +2% to all damage per point. These buffs compound on their own, of course, so the net value would be 2.71% when the tank is above 75% health, and 0.7% when the tank is below. If you want to take an average typical value for how much this talent gives you, simply decide how often you would expect to be above 75% health. Personally, I think it’s a fair assumption to say 75% of the time you will be above, but a more conservative estimate on a very hard hitting boss or complicated raid maneuver may be 50% (assuming the buff updates as fast as your health fluctuates). If you are below 75% health more than half the time, I would contend you are either in a very high-damage situation where threat will be of secondary importance, or you are about to die from insufficient healing, and in either case, picking points here or not is not your solution. So, here are a small range of values, you can use the value you find most appropriate for your situation to value B-G:
Physical damage buffs are applied directly to the damage, and so are fairly easy to read. 1% increased physical damage to all physical damage, or a specific strike will result in a 1% increase in total damage done with that move, and a 1% increase in threat (1.5% increase for RS).
% Time >75% Health % physical dmg incr
To really appreciate what that means for your overall threat however, you have to consider how much threat you actually do with a given move relative to your total. A convenient way to do this is to simply use a parse that analyzes your data and breaks it into a chart with a % breakdown and totals. To find out how much of an overall threat increase a given buff would represent, take the move(s) it will buff, and increase that damage total by that percentage. To translate that into a usable threat comparison, simple multiply the Rune Strike value by 1.5, and the Death and Decay value by 1.9. Add up these with all the other components, and divide your increase by that total. That will give you your total damage-threat increase.
Appendix 4: Death Coil Hammer Loop Math
Death Coil Hammer Loop Math
The concept of Death Coil use is actually a variable in the Blood play style. The base elements of the tree, as I outlined them above, are based on physical damage buffing, and buffing the crit chance of your standard strikes. Within that framework Death Coil is largely a lost value, as it is shadow damage and not subject to improvements by the armor ignoring part of Blood-gorged, the stacking buff of Bloody Vengeance, nor any of the damage/crit buffs from the other standard talents in the tree, save for Dark Conviction. However, this does represent a secondary threat tool that can be played up, though admittedly, potentially, to the detraction of either the survival value from the Blood tree, or the primary threat loop. I want to look at the elements of that here.
The talents that benefit this loop:
- Sudden Doom
- Black Ice
- Scent of Blood
- Glyph of Dark Death
I used the same sort of terminology as I did with the central mechanic loop, but in truth it doesn’t quite apply the same way here. Instead this is simply a means of embellishment on normal Blood methods that will enhance the overall performance.
Core Utility: Death Coil
At its root, Death Coil is simply a basic tool for converting Runic Power build up into damage/threat. We generate RP through use of runes which is how we use our core threat abilities, and how we used our primary tree-based tank CD. RP has 3 uses: Interrupt (Mind Freeze), DK general survival CD (Icebound Fortitude), and Damage (Threat). All tanks get RS, and that is the single most efficient exchange of RP into threat. While Frost gets Frost Strike, Blood and Unholy DPS get their special pet (Dancing Rune Weapon and Gargoyle respectively) but only for dps, and Unholy gets an AoE use for RP dumping, Blood has only one threat tool to use for the overflow: Death Coil. To value Death Coil, let’s look at the numbers. Death Coil’s damage formula is as follows:
And, Death Coil’s base crit chance is 0%. Remember that Agility only increases physical crit chances, and has no effect on spell crit chance. The only buffs that a Blood DK tank will get for crit chance is Dark Conviction, and raid buffs (notably Boomkin Aura or Elemental Oath, and Totem of Wrath or Master Poisoner or Heart of the Crusader, and Focus Magic). Typically, your Death Coil crit chance will be rather low compared to your others, but sharp raid buffing can improve this. Also note that Death Coil, and Death Knights in general, receive zero benefit from spell power, so no such buffs will improve this damage, however, the +13% spell damage buff (Ebon Plague, Earth and Moon, or Imp Curse of Elements) will improve the damage done. There are 3 ways to buff the damage of Death Coil from your own setup: Morbidity, Black Ice, and Glyph of Dark Death. Morbidity is easy to pick up and popular for Blood Knights as it also improves the availability of DnD to buff multi-target threat and utility, this talent improves the damage by 5% per pt up to 15%. Black Ice is very hard to get as it will usually require removing points from Unholy (Morbidity/Epidemic) to fill, but should you take it, it will improve DC damage by 2/4/6/8/10%. Glyph of Dark Death will improve DC damage by 15%.
DC dmg = 443 + 0.15 * AP
So how do we use DC and where is it worth buffing. First off, given the many other buffs available for HS and DS, the two primary active abilities used by Blood, DC cannot catch up for damage done, and so it cannot catch up on threat. Because of this, the standard order of priority will preclude using Death Coil unless you have no available runes for a GCD. This sets the standard use of Death Coil as filler, simply a way to use excess RP to generate more total threat, and to make sure no GCD goes wasted. In a given rotation, there will be rune blackouts, even with a single-rune ability-heavy method. 6 single runes used one per GCD is 6 GCD’s or 9 seconds, which leaves a 1 second hole for every rune set. On top of that, the Blood methodology uses DRM to exchange FU pairs so that we can actually do this 6 single runes. So, if DS is only used as needed, that is on average 10 casts per 2 rune sets (20 seconds), so we will have 5 seconds of unused GCD’s (slightly less than 4 full GCD’s) per 20 seconds of action. It is these GCD’s that will benefit most from buffing Death Coil. Another way this can come into play is by using Sudden Doom. Sudden Doom uses the HS hits, of which there will be many, to proc a free, instant DC fired at the tank’s target. This DC does not require a GCD to use, and will be purely free, single-target, threat. Sudden Doom has a 5/10/15% chance to proc, and this will bear meaning relative to the number of HS’s used.
If you accept that Blood-gorged is a very serious threat buff that plays well with the rest of the Blood tree, then we’ve set a designated 50 points must go into Blood. So long as we hold to the base Holy Trinity as well, that consumes another 10 pts. This leave 11 points to distribute, and the following talents to pick between outside of the Blood tree: Imp Icy Touch, Epidemic, Morbidity, Ravenous Dead, Black Ice, Necrosis, and Virulence. Imp Icy Touch is easily one of the powerful passive survival buffs, but it is possible that your team may include this from a different raider. Epidemic makes the Blood style easier to play and allows more abilities to be inserted between disease refreshes (see next section). Morbidity increases the availability of Death and Decay, and provides a nice buff to Death Coil which is valuable so long as you use DC at all. If you were to take all three of those, that is 8 points, and leaves only 3 points to decide between Virulence, Black Ice, Ravenous Dead, and Necrosis. Virulence is generally appealing for Death Coil, as it uses the spell hit chance, however, it will only buff that and Icy Touch in a very visible way, and those components may or may not be as valuable to not miss on. The value will depend on your hit rating, your raid buffs, and your Death Coil damage and usage. Black Ice will provide a 2% increase in DC and IT per point, as well as DnD and BB, so that may actually be more valuable point for point than Virulence. Ravenous Dead will give more AP (relative to how much Strength you have), which will also trickle down into all of your spells. And Necrosis will functionally buff your damage contribution from melee swings and RS’s, which will be major players either way. So your decision is tricky to gauge. Let’s look at some of the options. Here is what we’ll take as the core of the spec, working on the assumption that B-G and the central methodology are your best tools for threat. That will require that we climb 50 pts into Blood. Based on that I made some personal choices with 5 points inside to fill certain levels, I’ve outlined those optional moments above. Here is the spec: Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
From that, we have 11 points to play with. While it’s hard to demonstrate, let’s say Epidemic and Morbidity are central play style elements, and set those points in place as well, leaving us 6 points to decide on. To aid in the decision, here are the expected crit-adjusted damage-threat values for our above spec’d Blood tank wielding Worldcarver, and sporting 5k AP, and full raid buffs (parenthetical values are threat with glyphs):
If we take, from there, points in Black Ice, it will buff DC up by 2% per pt, or to a new total of 4,595 if we both glyph DC and take 5/5 in Black Ice. Each point in Necrosis will add additional (but separate) damage onto melee and RS strikes (worth noting that it is separate because it will increase RS damage, but not get RS’s built-in threat buff). The new total threat gained from Necrosis on these values will be 7,597 from melee strikes, and 21,711 from RS strikes (with RS glyph, 20,014 without). That represents a 20% increase in melee threat and a 13.3% increase in RS threat, or 4% and 2.67% per pt. Seeing as how each of these will be a larger portion of your total threat regardless of how you spec and glyph, Necrosis will always pass Black Ice in point for point threat value. Ravenous Dead will represent a 1/2/3% increase in Strength to trickle down through AP to increase damage effects. If our 5k AP tank has roughly 1.3k raid buffed Strength (reasonable expectation), then 1% more Strength is +13 Str, +26 AP which multiplied by raid buffs will actually be +29 AP per pt. Adding 29 AP will increase the above listed abilities as follows:
Damage-Threat CAA per Strike:
Melee = 6,331
RS = 17,660 (19,156)
HS = 8788
DS = 8056 (10,069)
DC = 3632 (4,177)
So we can now see that Ravenous Dead will generate a smaller total threat value than Necrosis (also noting that here the damage increase is direct to RS so it will receive the bonus threat multiplier). The only way to accurately compare the different buffs is to look in terms of a total breakdown. To take a rough ballpark example, if they tank's threat breakdown is roughly:
Damage-Threat CAA per Strike:
Melee = 6,353 = +0.35%
RS = 17,730 (19,232) = +0.39%
HS = 8,810 = +0.27%
DS = 8,080 (10,100) = +0.30%
DC = 3646 (4,193) = +0.36%
So, judging by the margin it will be very hard for Ravenous Dead to catch up to Necrosis for single target passive threat buffing. Black Ice will fall still farther behind on total threat buffing, especially in setups using glyph of Disease and as such using far fewer IT's.
%Total RD per pt Nec per pt BI per pt
28% = Heart Strike +0.08% +0.00% +0.00%
28% = Rune Strike +0.11% +0.75% +0.00%
20% = Melee +0.07% +0.80% +0.00%
18% = Death Strike +0.05% +0.00% +0.00%
8% = Death Coil +0.03% +0.00% +0.16%
Total +0.34% +1.55% +0.16%
For passive threat buffing, for a roughly Ulduar-geared Blood tank, following the above prescribed base tree, the following value can be applied to these talents: Necrosis > Ravenous Dead > Black Ice. Note: this has not taken DnD into consideration which would increase the value of Black Ice, but only relative to how it is used.
Our main focus here, however was buffing total threat through improving the use of Death Coil. The first talent to gauge will be Sudden Doom. I am going to make some assumptions that may not be 100% true-to-life accurate, but they should be a rough ballpark to help gauge the relative improvement granted by the talent. Using our tank with 5k AP, and the core talents as above, with no glyph for DC, it will do ~3,632 threat per shot. At the same time HS will do 8,788 threat per hit. If we factor the DC damage as as if it were a critical effect of HS (with an unalterable 5% chance per pt in Sudden Doom), then the SD+HS would do 12,411 threat when it hit. If we use our crit-adjusting formula, that would make SD offer a 2.06% increase in HS threat per point. This would put the value in the neighborhood of Necrosis, as it would only affect HS but with a smaller increase. Depending on the relative threat value in the breakdown for HS compared to RS and melee swings, Sudden Doom will likely waver between Necrosis and Ravenous Dead. If we factor in Glyph of Dark Death, the aggregate damage is now 12,965 (4,177 DC dmg), and the value would be 2.38% per pt. This is a small increase and still falls behind the other values.
To find the value of these buffs for you, you can apply the same method I did above, and use the percent increase to that particular threat contribution to calculate the net increase in total threat for you.
Appendix 5: Play Styling, Fundamental Changes
Play Styles, Changing Fundamentals to Sharpen Play
Many talents are easy to read because they simply apply a flat buff or critical buff, or other similar effect to increase your damage/threat output. Other talents and glyphs are harder to read because rather than increasing your abilities directly, they change the way you can play the spec. These particular talents and glyphs are as follows:
- Death Rune Mastery
- Glyph of Disease
- Scent of Blood
These abilities will change something about the availability of your various abilities or the pace at which you can use them.
Generally speaking, I consider Death Rune Mastery to be a fundamental tool of the tree, and not to be left out. Let’s actually look at why that is though. Dealing with rough ideals, the typical Blood method will use a bi-phasic rune set use. In other words, you’ll setup in one set, then spend the second set differently, then start at the top. If you do not include DRM (or Glyph of Disease), that spend will look a bit like this: IT, PS, HS, DS, HS / DS, HS, HS, DS, then repeat. That means you will fire 3 DS’s, 4 HS’s, and IT/PS every 20 sec, and in that span there will be 5 unused GCD’s for DC dumping, and a 3.4 sec speed 2-hander will hit ~5.88 times. Using an otherwise core spec without particular threat glyphs, that will generate 95 RP. If we assume that in 20 sec (~8-10 incoming swings) you will get 2 usable RS procs, that much RP would allow you to use only one of the available GCD’s on a DC. So, the following threat breakdown could be expected (again our DK tank with 5k AP in raid buffs):
I’ve included Epidemic in this consideration so as not to try and juggle IT/PS more often than once every other rune set. I’ll discuss this more below, though.We’ll use this as our basis for comparing the relative and approximate affects of the above changes. To see how this would truly affect you, find your own relative proportions and follow the same methods (remember though, if you already have other buffs they may change this, reverse calculations are slightly more complicated to juggle, but too numerous for me to explore here).
Ability = Total Threat = % of Total Threat
Melee (x3.88) = 24,564 = 17.96%
Rune Strike (x2) = 35,320 = 25.83%
Heart Strike (x4) = 35,152 = 25.71%
Death Strike (x3) = 24,168* = 17.67%
Death Coil (x1) = 3,632 = 2.66%
IT + PS (x1) = 5,161 = 3.77%
Blood Plague + Frost Fever (6.67 ticks each) = 8,747 = 6.40%
Total Threat = 136,744 = 100%
(*not counting DS healing threat)
Incorporating Death Rune Mastery will allow the method to shift. Now, instead of simply DS’ing every FU pair that does not require an IT/PS use, you can now HS the Death Runes created. This will allow a bi-phase that looks like this in sum: IT, PS, DS, HS, HS / DS, HS, HS, HS, HS. Or, 6 HS’s, 2 DC’s, and IT/PS every 20 sec, and 3 unused GCD’s to dump RP into DC’s. With this rotation you will generate 110 RP, and assuming the same melee-to-RS turnover, you will now be able to use 1.5 of them reasonably for DC’s (on a running average). The new breakdown will look like this, keeping all other considerations consistent:
So a seemingly small change of allowing you to shift your rotation theoretically amounts to a nearly 10% increase in damage for a 3 pt investment, but at the same time, it does not require it. The change allows for the option of how you play, pushing more damage (with more HS’s) or more healing (with more DS’s).
Ability = Total Threat = % of Total Threat
Melee (x3.88) = 24,564 = 16.39%
Rune Strike (x2) = 35,320 = 23.56%
Heart Strike (x6) = 52,728 = 35.18%
Death Strike (x2) = 16,112* = 10.75%
Death Coil (x1.5) = 5,448 7,264 = 4.85%
IT + PS (x1) = 5,161 = 3.44%
Blood Plague + Frost Fever (6.67 ticks each) = 8,747 = 5.84%
Total Threat = 148,080 = 100% (+8.29% more dmg from above)
(*not counting DS healing threat)
Now, if we consider Epidemic, things get a little hard to spell out. With only 15 sec on the disease durations, and the patent understanding that they are a valuable component of threat (each disease missing is a 10% reduction in HS damage, one of the two largest components, in addition to the disease damage itself), we want to have the diseases up 100% of the time. To do this we’ll take a step back from the initial example; the rotation now requires a 3-phase consideration where diseases are applied on two of every 3 rune sets. If you set at the beginning of the first set, you’ll have to refresh in the middle of the second, but then not again until the start of the third. The phases will look like this: IT, PS, DS, HS, HS / DS, IT, PS, HS, HS / DS, DS, HS, HS. In this 3 sets (30 sec) you’ll see 6 HS’s, 4 DS’s, 2 IT/PS’s, and 6 GCD’s free. The rotation will generate 160 RP, so using our above metric with 8.82 swings and 3 RS procs used, 2 DC’s will be conceivable. We’ll compare the numbers as above, but with 1.5 times the base example’s values (since this more complicated rotation requires a 3 phase rotation):
The interesting thing here is that total threat stays almost the same but in order to keep that up the method of application is a lot more complicated and requires much more attention to diseases.
Ability = Total Threat = % of Total Threat
Melee (x5.82) = 36,846 = 17.93%
Rune Strike (x3) = 52,980 = 25.78%
Heart Strike (x6) = 52,728 = 25.66%
Death Strike (x4) = 32,224* = 15.68%
Death Coil (x2) = 7,264 = 3.54%
IT + PS (x2) = 10,322 = 5.02%
Blood Plague + Frost Fever (10 ticks each) = 13,120 = 6.38%
Total Threat = 205,484 = 100%
(*not counting DS healing threat)
Now let’s look at the effects of Glyph of Disease. The glyph allows you to refresh all diseases on every target it hits to full duration. Because of that, you do not need to recast IT/PS after the first application. So, the Glyph of Disease rotation becomes very simple, the first set of the fight will look the normal: IT, PS, HS, DS, HS. However, the standard cruising rotation, when paired with Epidemic and DRM, becomes: Pest, DS, HS, DS / HS, HS, HS, HS, HS, HS. Roughly speaking, though one of the DS’s may move between the trees, and DS may be used in place of a couple HS’s to heal, though when you factor the full healing value of DS on a single target, the threat can surpass two HS’s. For simplicity sake, we’ll say every 20 sec increment will have 7 HS’s, 2 DS’s, and 1 Pest. 10 casts will leave 3 GCD’s unused, and this rotation will generate 110 RP. Our standard 5.88 swings, two of which converted to RS’s, will allow for 1 DC, reasonably, though very close to a second (we’ll say 1.5 since we’re averaging a running increment). The breakdown looks as follows:
Here, in theory, the glyph allows you to shift slightly more towards pure HS/DS spam. The effect is a fairly small improvement in total threat (remember we also included DRM which previously represented about 8.3% of the improvement, leaving only 2.6% to the glyph), but a still more simplified rotation that can also benefit still more from Sudden Doom, as well as all of the other benefits to HS.
Ability = Total Threat = % of Total Threat
Melee (x3.88) = 24,564 = 16.19%
Rune Strike (x2) = 35,320 = 23.28%
Heart Strike (x7) = 61,516 = 40.55%
Death Strike (x2) = 16,112* = 10.62%
Death Coil (x1.5) = 5,448 = 3.59%
IT + PS (x0) = 0 = 0%
Blood Plague + Frost Fever (6.67 ticks each) = 8,747 = 5.77%
Total Threat = 151,707= 100% (+10.94% gained)
(*not counting DS healing threat)
The effect of Scent of Blood is a fairly simple one to gauge. Every incoming swing that does not miss, has a 15% chance to give the DK 10 RP on her next 1/2/3 melee swings. As above we’re assuming in the 20 sec window that 8-10 swings come in, which would average to 1.35 procs per period at 10 RP per proc per pt (though there is a small chance that it will proc twice before the swings are spent that can lose some of the effect with higher points invested, but we’ll leave that out of the consideration here as it should be a relatively small effect. 1.35 procs will generate 13.5 RP per point. If we consider from the above situations, having Epidemic without GoDisease or DRM, there were 4 GCD’s that went to waste (if not filled with survival CD’s or Blood Taps), and 15 RP to spare. With Epidemic and DRM, it was 1.5 GCD’s with 10 RP to spare. And with all three buffs, there were 1.5 GCD’s with 10 RP to spare. So the latter two cases are the same, while the first has a little more room for improvement. Scent of Blood, in our 20 sec window, will pick up 13.5 RP per pt, or, in average terms, 1/3 of a DC per pt. That means that for 3 pts you’d be able to add one more DC into those empty GCD’s per cycle, amounting to a 2.58% increase (0.86% per pt) in the first scenario, a 2.39% increase (0.80% per pt) in the second scenario, and a 2.34% increase (0.78% per pt) in the third. This may be more or less valuable to the DK depending on whether or not they chose to buff Death Coil with glyphs or additional talents, but overall it seems like one of the weaker talents for flat damage increase. That said, as is the theme of this section, it will create a very useful bump in total RP generated by the tank which will insure an RS never goes starved (provided smart play of RP), and that there is always resources to use Mind Freeze and IBF while dumping more Death Coils.
**Disclaimor: Take all of the above idealized rotations and the numbers generated from them with a grain of salt. Reality does not directly mirror ideal rotations due to needs of movement and tank’s attention, latency and server delay, as well as the frequent use of survival CD’s and possibly other encounter related mechanics. Also, in comparing these numbers to my own breakdowns, I suspect I’ve under-played the actual sum of melee damage and RS as raid buffs will provide a health amount of haste to emphasize those effects. That said, the above general breakdowns will not be exact to the percentage, but they will be roughly indicative of the relative scale and direction of improvement as well as the effect that the different talents and glyphs have on play style.
Appendix 6: Osyras’ Current Spec Synopsis
Osyras’ Spec and Methodology
From here on out is significantly my personal choices and choice of style. Not all of my choices are aimed at 100% maximum efficiency in threat or survival, but rather the balance I’ve come to enjoy most, and use to best effect while tanking on my DK. I want to include this section specifically to show the path of rationale thought that I take in creating this balance. My sincere hope is that those who look to me for advice on how to play their Death Knight can take the spirit of the work, and create a balance that feels right to them, in a more intelligent and informed fashion than they might have, had they not read this. You are not truly a good tank until you have found your own style, your own heart in the character, only once you’ve really played it can you be the best tank you can for your raid team.
Finding your balance is important. My feelings are simple, the right amount of threat is a margin large enough above the output of the dps that they will not pull in the window between 5 and 15 seconds into the fight. Provided I can pass that window, I can maintain a solid threat lead going forward that will have such a commanding lead that by the time they hit encounter buffs or the “kill zone” (>20% health), they will not over take me. I also have a strong working relationship with my support team. My rogues have a TotT rotation for me for the beginnings of fights or any situation where agro resets or may be strained. It is the same with my hunters and Misdirection.
Osyrian Maxim #1: The easier you are to keep alive, the more your healers will LOVE you and the less stressed raids will make them.
Having met that needed threat level, my focus here on is my survival tools and methods. Most tanks accomplish survival with two techniques: gear optimization for survival stats (best return from dodge/parry/defense gems, trinkets and enchants, stack health to beat the band, class-specific tools), and tactically applied survival CDs. The CD’s will allow for moderate uptime of extended mitigation or avoidance. In other words, 20-30% of the fight, they will activate a passive buff that will make them take less damage. In many encounters, particularly in later raids, those times are dictated, but a smart tank will know that when there isn’t a set time to use it, the best way to use it is to find the pacing in damage and use it when you are most vulnerable; In other words, when you are moving, when the healers are moving, when the healers have to focus on someone or something else, when a healer dies, etc.
As Blood Death Knights, we have the most active tools for survival available to a tank in the game. While we have IBF as a standard mitigation tool, and trinket uses to boost mitigation or avoidance, and Vamp Blood for exceptional heal-ability, we have a short list of skills that offer constant health regeneration and about 40-50% of that potential value depends on the proper use of the player. Let me explain. I’ve discussed above, the typical method, the method I employ, for threat generation as a Blood DK with DRM will use DS about twice per pair of rune sets to convert FU pairs for heavy use of HS. This works quite well. Those two needed DS’s will rarely be used strategically for healing, if you were to you’d shave time out of your rotation and lose valuable CDs. That portion of your healing will be somewhat passive, and potentially carry a heavy amount of overhealing (~50-80% by my reckoning depending on the encounter and your gear). However, there are 3 major tools that can contribute to your healing and DS is one of them. The other two, of course, are Rune Tap, and Mark of Blood. DS is easy and intuitive to use in rotation as described above, but for damage and the heal we take as an added benefit when it lands. That said, there are ample opportunities for those with a strong sense of timing, to use additional DS’s to heal yourself. These moments are quick and pass in a heartbeat. You will not find them if you are not following the pace of the incoming damage, but when you are used to that pace, it becomes easier and easier. Using a DS with Death runes is never a bad thing when you can get most of the healing value, as the strike will at best surpass the threat you would’ve gotten from the pair of HS’s, and at worst will only fall slightly behind if your heal is mistimed or overheals greatly. The runes will roll over death runes once again, and you can use them for the best choice again on the next round.
Rune Tap and Mark of Blood are much maligned and easily dismissed. It is easy to miss the value simply for lack of use. There is nothing intuitive in their use to a tank, particularly not someone experienced in tanking with a different class. These abilities can scale to a very large value if used to their highest potential, but the single largest mitigating factor in how much actual value you see from them is based on how well and how often you use them. Admittedly, understanding an encounter and when the best use of the item will be makes a HUGE difference, but they can still be used to cover yourself handsomely when going in blind, as everyone else, healers included may be straining to keep up with the unexpected. So, enough pontificating, when is the best time to use them?
- OFTEN. I can’t undersell this. Rune Tap is on a 30 sec CD. 20% of your total health every 30 sec is 0.67% of your total health per second. If you have 47k raid buffed health, that is 313 hps. Every delay you have between uses will diminish that, but so will overhealing. Timing wins out.
- Try it out and see! Mark of Blood can be supremely helpful for yourself at certain moments. For example, Steelbreaker, when he Fusion Punches, and Hodir during Frozen Blows, will do multiple hits overlapping, both physical and spell. Mark of Blood procs on each piece of damage taken so each swing will double proc immediately restoring 8% of your total health faster than any player can react (healing is applied directly after damage but in a smaller time frame than actually shows up on your health bar functionally mitigating that much damage). So, if the Frozen Blow hits for 16k physical damage and 25k Frost damage, and is immediately accompanied by an 4% heal each, on that 47k health tank, the apparent damage is only 14k and 23k or a 10% reduction in total damage. This value is double-buffed if combined with Vamp Blood, and is still quite strong when combined with Guardian Spirit (if you have a Holy Priest, get them the glyph, hug them frequently, and communicate well!).
- When in doubt, use it anyway! Unless you are in a truly intense do-or-die hard mode attempt where your threat and damage must be sharp as a razor, use your Rune Tap/Mark of Blood when it feels good. If it overheals, it’s not the end of the world, but if it hits full on, it will make you appear to be taking a lot less damage.
The absolute best time I’ve found for using Rune Tap specifically, is the health drop moments. Every now and then, healers will fall in pace with heals, they have to move, they’ll switch focus for a moment, or any number of other mechanics will set in and stack up, and your health will drop low (I like low health warnings, 30% is usually soon enough to trigger my reflex heal). In that moment a quick Blood Tap if needed, Rune Tap, and a same time or soon following Death Strike can actually keep you alive for that moment when the healers catch up. There are few things worse, as a tank, to watch your health dip, and realize the heals won’t quite get their in time, and all for some silly confluence of events.
In building my talents, I hold a few priorities:
Osyrian Maxim #2: Ease and Versatility are hard to quantify, but hugely valuable tools for any tank.
- Heals and Healing Buffs are fantastic. I’ve spent a long time honing the skill of using Rune Tap and Mark of Blood, and while I’m still not doing it as well as I could, they’ve become increasingly valuable each week. Vamp Blood is silly to miss.
- Baseline, easily attainable tanking buffs are silly to go without. Blade Barrier is, for all intents and purposes 100% uptime. Anticipation is flat undiminished avoidance. Toughness ramps up the value of every piece of armor, and trickles down to your AP through Blade Barrier. Imp IT is a no-brainer. No one can set and maintain the de-haste debuff as easily or broadly as I can. I will never not want Frost Fever on the target, and Pestilence makes it a breeze to spread to as many targets as are present and maintain them with no effort. Each of these talents provides a solid reduction in damage with no drawback. They require no investment to reach, and so they are silly not to take.
- Blade Barrier. Combining this talent with Toughness and Frost Presence trickles down to make Frost Presence give you roughly the same percent damage increase that Blood Presence does. Only recently as my raid buffed strength climbs over 1.2-1.3k, do the % strength buff talents actually surpass this for AP gains per point.
- The crit-centric loop above makes the picture fairly clear. Load in those passive crit buffs from talents, and buff HS/DS from every angle and watch your numbers roll up. The tree has very intelligent interplay of talents, it is not a bad idea to use it.
- Epidemic + DRM + Glyph of Disease makes for a very simple methodology for moves used. It is easy to maintain diseases as it takes only a single button press to refresh them all and they last a very long time. Ease is the key, and the simplicity allows more room for adaptation and improvisation in unpredictable situations.
Based on that, I’ve resolved a spec that is both easy to use, sports heavy amounts of threat, and can turn out a handsome level of apparent durability. This is my spec:
Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
You’ll notice there is one point missing. This point was removed from Corpse Explosion. CE is a fantastic talent in Naxx, and like Rune Tap, if used well it can do a LOT of damage, and a strong buff to AoE threat for a Blood Knight. Once you are in Ulduar there are two major elements working against you: there are a very high amount of mechanical and elemental mobs in areas where there are trash packs, and in the few areas where there are swarms of explode-able mobs, they despawn VERY quickly so getting a detonation off requires you to be waiting for them to die to hit the key that moment. The fact that there is no trash in the Coliseum has led me to drop the spell for the time being. It may make a reappearance in Icecrown Citadel, if there is sufficient trash of explode-able bodies. In the meantime I am currently using that point to test some of my models on how Sudden Doom works, though currently, for flat threat increase, I’m of the belief that Necrosis would be a better investment.
My Methods and Tricks of the Trade:
Time and experience will bring tools, reflexes, and honed use of your abilities. Here are some of the little tricks I’ve developed that I can actually explain (i.e. are not purely reflex triggers of normal techniques).
Blood Tap and Empower Rune Weapon: These abilities are generally poorly used and quickly forgotten. Use them well and you can dial up your threat and remove gaps. That said, as Blood using so many single rune casts, you will rather infrequently have spare GCD’s between threat moves, survival moves, and other tools you may employ. The best use I’ve found for Empower Rune Weapon is to match/support dps bursts. As examples, Razorscale downs during phase 1, Heart phases on XT, getting the Storm buff while tanking Hodir, Mimi downs in phase 3 (head), Yogg brain room in phase 2 (that’s right, I go in!), etc. Here I will setup diseases quickly (or cheat, like using Pummelers to juggle diseases to the heart on XT) set 4 Death runes with all 6 runes over 4-5 sec left on the CD, then pop ERW, and drill 6 HS’s down the pipe. This usually has at least half of them critting (not sure why crits seem to come in 2’s and 3’s), and will unload a significant amount of damage and threat to match the DPS’s popped trinkets and CDs. Blood Tap is also significantly valuable to slip in a Rune Tap the moment you need it. You can macro them together, but I just have them on side-by-side keybinds so I can hit them in a flash of reaction.
Rhythm and timing: Death Strike and Rune Tap heals. In most high-end encounters the pace of boom and bust is pretty scary. You’ll take hits for 40-60% of your health at a consistent interval and your healers will be rolling hots, refreshing bubbles, and chaining heals on you to keep you up through the damage. That said, in order to contribute best you simply need to find the rhythm of the damage. Seeing as how you are responsible for the start of the fight, and the movement during the fight, you usually will start the beat, and the boss will keep the pace. Create a prominent display for your health, I prefer bars with numbers as the bars are easy to read out without focusing on it, and numbers will give you an absolute scale when you do focus on them. Get used to watching the bar bounce up and down and you can start to feel the times to slip in heals. If you do this well (and I’m still practicing) you can greatly increase the healing efficiency of Rune Tap, and potentially entrain your use of DS in sequence to the dips in your health and reduce the overhealing percentage there. This is easy to say and hard to do. You cannot math this out, you can only find it on feeling. Find the beat, here the music, and play your part. This will be easier for some than others.
I also want to touch on Hysteria. I’ve seen many Blood Tanks take this, but I’m fairly certain many of them use this for their own threat. Beware. While the cost may disappear amid the flurry of healing, it is a high price to pay for a threat boost you may not need. Personally, I keep it to buff my raid and use it on CD. I have a Feral Kitty dpser who consistently puts out ~5.5-6k dps. Consider for a moment what will be the better raid buff, 20% of my damage/threat improved (doing 2.2-3k dps), or a 20% increase of his 6k dps? I have the move macro’d to cast on him so I can simply press the button without switching targets (I have macro’s for other raiders as well). The macro also announces in the healers’ channel who has the buff and that they will need an extra HoT to counter the damage, and whispers that person so they know they can pop CD’s to further compound the value.
A particular choice that tanks seem to pick up on and question for me, is glyphed DS over glyphing RS. The choice is that way originally because I had glyphed it to buff the damage and healing. Since the healing became disconnected from the damage, I kept the glyph since my math pointed that it was offering roughly the same value as RS. When I finally got the 2-piece t8 tanking set bonus (+10% RS damage), I went back to gauge the relative values, only to be stunned to see that the DS glyph still gives me more improvement!! Here’s the math pulled from my actual numbers:
Total RS damage = 20%
Total DS damage = 18%
Total RS threat = 27%
Total DS threat = 16%
Based on that, a 10% increase in RS damage (15% increase in threat) is only a 2.7% increase in overall threat, while a 25% increase in DS threat is a 4% increase overall. The major reason I think this breaks down this way is two-fold. First, I always maintain over 20 RP to make sure I always have enough for RS, but I usually keep it above 25 to be sure I never lose this buff. I only dump DC’s above 65% as a result. The other side is that I use DS frequently to buff up healing, more often than is required to keep spamming HS. The result is that I may use DS more than other Blood tanks. All in all, I was surprised in the breakdown, but pleased with the outcome. RS is my one big glyph I’d love to include but I enjoy the other 3 I use slightly more.
Look beyond what the class gives you. Remember your racial abilities, profession buffs, and the various toys provided by professions that don’t require the profession to use. I am a Draenei and an Engineer. As a Draenei I have another heal available to me that I try to pop frequently. It ticks slowly but for a nice amount so the healing gained is all benefit. As an engineer there are too many toys to count, but many are actually very useful. The biggest element for a Blood DK, is the potential buff to AoE threat. Having a bomb to throw in can both spike AoE threat (and at range), or interrupt incoming damage for a moment (belt buckle that dispenses stunning bombs fuh tuh wuh!). I do not use Wrist Rockets in favor of other desirable enchants, but they can easily now pass the damage of a Death Coil! There are many encounters where a parachute cloak can be valuable, or a sudden dash of speed can be great for mobility, but I do not use those enchants, again, in favor of bigger passive survival buffs. Finally, potions! As Blood you have so many heals available on demand, and Rune Tap heals for so much more than a potion, that I never seem to find a good time to make good use of healing potions. That means that once per fight you can be buffing something else. Specifically you can get a giant armor boost for 2 min (that’s a HUGE portion of a fight!), or a massive buff to your threat output (and a little to your avoidance). Think about what you can get, get it, and use it well. Fish Feasts are nice and cheap and easy, but you can also find and make the food that matches your stats from gearing best. Running a little below hit cap, have some Worg Tartare. Want to find a nice balance of survival and threat, Agility food will buff your armor, dodge, and crit, all by generous amounts. Strength food will give you a strong margin more AP than a Fish Feast thanks to all the passive Str % buffing, but it will also get you a small measure of parry. If nothing else feels right, Expertise food will go a long way to push parries off the tables for 3 of your 4 strongest threat tools (for all intents and purposes it picks up where hit leaves off!), this value cannot be overstated.
If you have any questions or feedback, I will happily discuss them here. I also do my best to answer my PMs frequently if you’re shy to ask questions publicly.
We’re all students, we’re all learning and striving to be better at what we do. There is no place better than this community to come together and discuss these things to become better tanks for our teams.