The Blood Tank - A discussion of my Experiences
I wrote this guide and posted it over on WorldofDeathKnightCraft.com originally. Figured it would be good to post it here for benefit to the community at Tankspot as well. The original guide can be viewed at this location (WorldofDeathKnightCraft.com Forums • View topic - Guide: The Blood Tank).
Guide: The Blood Tank
Author: Nathan "Eint" McIntyre
Last Updated: 11.23.2009
Updated to: Patch 3.2.2
Fair Use Policy:
This guide is written specifically for WorldofDeathKnightCraft.com. The author, Nathan "Eint" McIntyre, hereby authorizes this guide to be re-posted and redistributed to other guild forums, sites, or any other location seen fit by the reader so long as the original work remains unchanged and this notice is also posted with it. Thank you for your support and I hope it is of benefit tot he Death Knight community.
Personally the Blood Death Knight Tank is my favorite play style. Not only is the Blood Death Knight very resilient against both magic and physical damage, but it also brings a number of helpful raid buffs to the raid in the form of Hysteria and Abomination's Might. One of the downsides of the Blood Tank is due to it's expectation on solid gearing. This also just happens to be why it excels, since the abilities scale very well with your gear upgrades. Due to this, it is probably a better idea to stick with a Frost Tank build while gearing up in heroics and eventually transition toward the Blood Tank build once your gear is better.
This guide is intended to be an introduction and overview of the current most effective Blood Death Knight tank builds. In general, this guide assumes at least a basic understanding of tanking mechanics and is not intended to be a "How to Tank as a Death Knight" guide. For general tanking information please refer to a myriad of other guides and sites to familiarize yourself with the core mechanics. With this in mind, this guide also intentionally does not discuss specific gearing strategies. Once again, there are a ton of resources for finding what is the best gear to tank with. If in doubt, remember that it is always best to gear for Stamina as a tank while also maintaining a good balance between Hit Rating and Expertise to ensure a high amount of threat.
Acronyms & Definitions:
TPS: Threat Per Second
DPS: Damage Per Second
Build / Spec: Shorthand for describing a given selection of talents and glyphs as a set.
Talents & Glyphs:
Option 1: http://www.wowhead.com/?talent#jMEGV...xZ0gh0L:GdiVmM
Option 2: http://www.wowhead.com/?talent#j0EGV...xhxZ0gh:GdiVmM
While both talent builds are definitely viable, I personally prefer to use Option 1 since it is designed to maximize threat generation while still maintaining a high general survivability. As with all classes, there are a few core talents that are required but either of these builds are very viable.
Weapon Enchantment: Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle
Even if you don't need the raw 25 Defense the 2% bonus to total Stamina still makes this enchantment wildly better than anything else available. This probably also goes without saying, but as a Blood Tank you will ALWAYS be using a big slow two-handed weapon. If you have the desire to dual-wield tank, then you shouldn't be reading this guide and instead be looking into a Frost Tank build.
1st Rotation = Icy Touch > Plague Strike > Heart Strike > Heart Strike > Death Strike > Dump Runic Power (Death Coil)
2nd Rotation = Death Strike > Heart Strike > Heart Strike > Heart Strike > Heart Strike > Dump Runic Power (Death Coil)
1st Rotation = Death and Decay > Icy Touch > Plague Strike > Pestilence > Dump Runic Power (Death Coil)
2nd Rotation = Blood Boil > Death Strike > Blood Boil > Death Strike > Dump Runic Power (Death Coil)
Notes: Further Rotations: For the most part, I have found that no AoE pull ever survives long enough to warrant running this rotation more than for just the first set. Once AoE is not necessary I tend to go back to my Single Target Rotation and improvise with a few Blood Boils or a Death and Decay if needed. Generally speaking, after the first set of this AoE rotation simply use your head and you will find a good transition that works for you.
Overall, it is best to only use these rune rotations as a model for what you should do in an ideal situation. As we are all aware, ideal situations are not where we always find ourselves and thus the ability to think quick on our feet is always advised over sticking to a set rotation. I often find myself sometimes using two Death Runes for an extra Death Strike to help out with heals if my health is sitting at a point lower than I am comfortable with.
One of the real ways to separate yourself from other Death Knight tanks and really stand out is to make sure that you are always managing your Runic Power intelligently and with good flexibility. This means that you should make sure that you are maximizing the use of your runic power while also ensuring that you have enough runic power at any given time to use Rune Strike, Anti-Magic Shell, and Icebound Fortitude whenever they are available. The strategy that I have found to work out well is to maintain about 20 runic power at all times to ensure that I never miss an opportunity to use Rune Strike. This is a great way to maximize your TPS and make sure that as your DPS is getting new gear and thus dealing more damage, they aren't at risk for pulling threat. One of the core goals of a tank is to make it so the DPS never have to worry about pulling threat which allows for faster kills and thus also makes it easier on your healers since they don't have to worry about conserving mana. Generally speaking, it's always good when you can kill a boss faster.
To summarize, always use your head when you are tanking and keep track of what is going on and adjust your rune rotations accordingly. If you happen to get into an off rotation due to encounter mechanics or a poorly timed stun, a handy trick that can be employed is to spam all your abilities until all runes (or nearly all) are on cooldown and then use Empowered Rune Weapon. At this point you will have dumped a good deal of DPS on the boss and now have a fresh slate to restart your rotation.
Frost Presence: This is the ONLY presence that you should ever use as a Death Knight tank period! Not only will it be impossible to keep aggro in Blood or Unholy presences, but you will also lose out on the impressive 6% free stamina, 8% damage reduction and 60% bonus contribution to armor.
Rune Strike: I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that you are using this ability EVERY time it is available. With the benefit that it receives from Glyph of Rune Strike as well as the 20% bonus from Necrosis (assuming you use Option 1 talent build), Rune Strike provides a massive amount of threat. Contrary to what you may have heard, Necrosis DOES provide benefit to Rune Strike.
Anti-Magic Shell: Perhaps one of the most under used abilities by both Tank and DPS Death Knights, Anti-Magic Shell is amazing at mitigation incoming magic damage and can also be used as an excellent source of free runic power. With a super low 20 Runic Power cost and a short 45-second cooldown, this ability should be worked into your ability rotation as often as it is available with the exception of specific encounters where you might want to save it, such as Emalon in VoA.
Death and Decay: With out a doubt, Death and Decay should almost always be dropped at the start of every boss encounter before you pull. As a general strategy you should try to make sure that you start your pulls by placing Death and Decay and then letting your runes start their cooldown before using Death Grip to begin the encounter. This way you get the benefit of the massive threat generated by Death and Decay for building aggro at the beginning of the fight as well as making it so that your rune cooldowns will have already started, allowing you to start your rotation earlier.
Vampiric Blood: Serving as the unique talent for Blood Tanks, Vampiric Blood should be used early and used often. By often I mean that the only reason not to use Vampiric Blood right when it is up, would be if you are fighting an encounter or boss that has a known ability which you are saving it for. The extra 15% hit points and 35% healing, coupled by the extended duration due to Glyph of Vampiric Blood makes this perhaps the most impressive ability available to the Blood Tank.
Death Grip: Not only is Death Grip a class defining ability with it's super cool graphic, it also happens to be the ONLY ability you should ever use when pulling mobs and bosses. This is not only due to the fact that it pulls your target directly to you (bosses and some mobs excluded), but guarantees that the target will attack you for 3-seconds making it impossible for silly DPS to pull aggro while you are getting the boss into position. Start EVERY fight with this ability to generate initial aggro.
Tips and Tricks:
Raise Dead: With the minor Glyph of Raise Dead and a relatively short cooldown of 3-minutes, the smart Death Knight will make sure to use this ability often. Not only will your ghoul minion add to the overall DPS of the raid, but with a 1-minute maximum up-time, a Death Knight tank can make use of Death Pact as an extra cooldown to get out of sticky situations when your hit points are lower than desired.
Anti-Magic Shell: By now you should already know that Anti-Magic Shell is a handy method for mitigating spell damage as a Death Knight tank, but you might not be familiar with it's use as an early fight threat generation ability. One of the areas where Death Knights can run into trouble is if your attacks and Rune Strikes miss a lot early in the fight due to the nature of random numbers. This is why Anti-Magic Shell should always be used at the start of the fight as well since it also grants free runic power based on damage taken. In a boss encounter, this roughly equates to a free bar of runic power per hit allowing you to spam Death Coil in-between rune abilities and thus generating extra threat at the start of the fight to lock aggro against your DPS raid members.
Hysteria: One of the benefits of using a Blood Death Knight Tank comes in the DPS bonus' that are provided to melee DPS. One of the key abilities is Hysteria which will increase all physical damage by 20% for 30-seconds. As a Blood Death Knight you should take note of your top raid melee DPS and expect cast Hysteria on them at key points where they can maximize the DPS benefit. Often I try to make sure that my use of Hysteria can coincide with abilities like Bloodlust, Icehowl's massive crash stun, or Valkyr's empowerment for some examples.
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11.23.2009 - Modified talent builds and minor changes to wording of the guide plus Tip's and Tricks for Hysteria.