Specs, Glyphs, and Play Styles
Blood is now the dedicated tanking tree for Death Knights. That makes this section much simpler than it did in my previous edition. I will only discuss the mainstream tanking elements here, which is to say Blood-centric tanking. Please do not take that as a message that you cannot tank otherwise, always be creative if you have a mind to. Because of the dedicated tanking tree design, however, Frost and Unholy will not be able to support deep end-game tanking for a heavy lack of tools to contribute to survival.
The new 31 point talent trees simplify things, but they also have a nice degree of room for varying choices. These choices will specialize your skill set towards single-target threat, multi-target threat, or tanking utility. The defensive talents are powerful enough that you should consider carefully before not taking any them, none of them are truly sub-standard.
Congratulations, you have selected the Blood Tree, you now receive the following gifts:
Heart Strike = this will be your core Blood rune, threat ability. It hits for more than Blood Strike, and will cleave up to 2 additional targets (losing 25% on each additional jump, or 75% damage on the second target and 56.25% damage on the third). Note: each incidence of damage is based on the first but individually buffed by diseases, you do not get compounding value on each additional jump.
Veteran of the 3rd War = +9% Stamina and 6 Expertise (skill, not rating, and that is a good thing) are yours to keep.
Blood Rites (Death Rune Mastery) = when you use Obliterate or Death Strike the Frost/Unholy runes used for the ability will become Death runes (wild card runes that can be used as Blood, Frost, or Unholy). These runes will not last indefinitely, but they should last more than long enough to matter within any given encounter, and will often bridge to the next.
Vengeance = the new tank scaling ability that all tanks receive. When you take damage, 5% of that damage is added to your total attack power. The total benefit of Vengeance is capped at 10% of your maximum health. This allows tanks to add a scaling factor for longterm threat, based on their health (which will primarily scale with content/gear level).
Mastery = Blood Shield = When you use Death Strike you create an absorptive shield on yourself. The shield will absorb a static amount equal to 50% of the total heal value (*not* the effective heal value, so regardless of whether or not you need the healing, you will get the full shield size). That percentage is increased by 6.5% per point of Mastery skill, or ~179.5 Mastery rating. This shield does not stack with previous incidences of the buff. More on this below.
In addition to these core passive buffs, we have the optional investment of talents. The tree behaves the same way as older versions where it take 5 points to fill a tier and move to the next one. In addition, the new system will lock you into your tree until you have spent 31 points. These can be any 31 points and do not have to go to the bottom of the tree, but the 31 point talents in every class and spec's talents are worthy abilities, and Blood is no exception. This will leave 5 additional points to spend at level 80, and 10 additional points at 85.
I will discuss the specific value of each talent below, but as a general guideline:
When making a talent spec for any class, take only what you *need* to first. Make hard choices with the most desirable talents first, and fill in points in the other attractive talents when you have extra points or the talents passed up become more attractive than later tier talents. I will add editorial lines to each tier's decisions to illustrate this process.
Butchery = when you deal the a killing blow that yields experience or honor, you get 10/20 RP. You also generate 1/2 RP every 5 seconds while in combat. Do not expect to get killing blows often as a tank, that RP generation will be rare and unreliable. The passive generation will give you 12/24 RP per minute.
Blade Barrier = when both of your Blood runes are on cooldown, you get a 2/4/6% damage reduction buff for 10 seconds. It does not matter if the Blood runes are currently Death runes, those specific rune slots will be the deciding factor. This will frequently be refreshed as you will often have one rune on cooldown in the middle of combat, and using the other will refresh it.
Bladed Armor = this passive buff grants you 2/4/6 AP for every 180 Armor you have. This is applied to the final armor value provided by Blood Presence, and so, it scales very favorably for tanks.
Choosing in tier 1. Butchery is a weak value overall as a PvE-oriented tank. The passive generation is slight, and as tanks we rarely get killing blows, definitely not enough to get consistent generation. Bladed Armor and Blade Barrier are both exceptional, and you will likely fill them later, but you can put 2/3 in whichever category feels less pressing for you to start: threat (Bladed Armor) or survival (Blade Barrier).
Improved Blood Tap = Reduces the cooldown on Blood Tap by 15/30 sec.
Hand of Doom = Reduces the cooldown on Strangulate by 30/60 sec.
Scent of Blood = Gives a 15% chance when you Dodge, Parry, or take direct damage to generate 10 RP on your next 1/2/3 auto-swing(s). Dodge, Parry, and taking damage covers the majority of the outcomes you could have. The only exception to that is miss which should be about 5% or less. Essentially, you have a 14-15% chance every time someone attacks you to proc this buff. If you are being attacked by one enemy every 2 seconds, that will be roughly 4.5 procs per minute (on a large average) for 45/90/135 RP per minute generated. If those procs are perfectly spaced they would be 15 sec apart, and you would have plenty of time to get 1/2/3 swings off before the next proc (with a ~3 sec swing timer that is a 9-11 sec window for 3/3). In reality the procs can come closer together. The more points you place in the talent, the higher the likelihood is you will clip that. Conveniently, however, the additional procs will stack up to a maximum of 3, so you have some protection. 2/3 is often a safe spending to rarely waste procs *but* you will still generate more RP if you take 3/3, just not necessarily the full point's worth compared to the first 2 points.
Scarlet Fever = Grants your Blood Boil a 50/100% chance to apply Scarlet Fever on all opponents it hits. Scarlet Fever will reduce physical damage dealt by 10% for 30 sec.
Scarlet Fever is the easy take here unless you are totally confident that you will have another group member providing that debuff. This is a significant survival value to leave off entirely. Scent of Blood is a very important value now to support the use of RP abilities in the symbiotic loop between RP and Runes. 2/3 is an optimal investment, though 3/3 will generate more RP. Improved Blood Tap is a prime value for a tank in terms of reliability; this is a talent to take to make sure you can far more frequently free up a rune when you need it. The free Death rune is also ideal for reapplying Bone Shield or using Rune Tap quickly. Hand of Doom is a strong utility, but is best left as a talent to come back to if you have some swing points. It is most ideal for reining in casters. I would recommend filling Scarlet Fever first, unless your raid is handling it elsewhere, followed by 2/3 in SoB, followed by 2/2 in Blood Tap. I would finish Bladed Armor or Scent of Blood if you do not take Scarlet Fever.
Blood-Caked Blade = Your auto-attacks have a 10/20/30% chance to generate a bonus strike. This strike will deal 25% weapon damage, plus 12.5% for each of your diseases on the target. This strike will have no effect on your auto-swings or special abilities and will not consume a SoB charge. Assuming 100% uptime on diseases this represents a 5% increase in auto-swing damage per point.
Bone Shield = at the cost of 1 Unholy rune you get a shield similar to a Shaman's shield with three Bone charges. So long as at least one charge remains, you take 20% less damage from all sources and deal 2% more damage. The shield will last 5 min if the charges are not consumed and the ability has a 1 min cooldown. Charges will be consumed when you take damage, but they have a ~2.5 sec internal cooldown for charge consumption. For that reason this is far more effective against multiple simultaneous damage sources and stacked damage components (for example, a melee strike that also does spell damage on hit, each individual damage component will be reduced).
Toughness = increases non-bonus armor by 3/7/10%. Bonus armor is any armor value on necks, rings, weapons, or trinkets, and any armor on gear that appears green (you can find the base and bonus by subtracting the green value from a piece for the same slot with the same item level and armor weight). This ability does stack multiplicatively with Blood Presence's armor buff, and the buff from the Stoneskin Gargoyle weapon rune.
Abomination's Might = all raid members within 100 yards receive +10% AP, and increases the Death Knight's Strength by 1/2%. This is the same buff provided by Marksman Hunters, Enhancement Shamans, and Blessing of Might from Paladins. These buffs are exclusive and do not stack.
Bone Shield is a useful and powerful cooldown, and at one point it is a very easy investment. Toughness is also a key passive buff for tanks and should not be left out, unless you are actively sabotaging your survival value to accomplish something. Abom's Might is a very available raid buff. The passive Strength buff is not sufficient to make this a decisive value on its own, it is only a bonus value if you take this to benefit your group. Blood-Caked Blade is a strong single-target threat value, but with the copious other values available on this tier, it is easy for it to take last priority. Bladed Armor will be better, point for point, than Blood-Caked Blade, so be sure that is maxed out before you put any points in BCB.
Sanguine Fortitude = increases the damage reduction of Icebound Fortitude by an additional 10/20%, and reduces the cost by 50/100%. This converts the base ability with 30% reduction and a 20 RP cost, to a powerhouse 50% reduction for no cost.
Improved Blood Presence = Reduces your chance to be critically hit by 3/6%, and you retain 2/4% of the damage reduction from Blood Presence while in Frost/Unholy Presence. Each point will also increase your rune regeneration rate by 10% for a total of 20% for 2 points spent.
Blood Parasites = your melee strikes have a 5/10% chance to spawn a Bloodworm. The worm will have roughly 25% of your maximum health, and will behave like a smart guardian (you will not be able to control them but they will position behind the enemy). The worms will attack the enemy, gorging themselves, until they explode. Their explosion will heal any nearby party/raid members for 10% of the worm's health per stack (2.5% of your maximum health). The worms can last up to 20 sec and multiple worms can be spawned at a time.
Improved Blood Presence is non-negotiable for any endgame tank as being able to be critically hit is extremely dangerous and hard on your healers, and the rune haste will likely make it a non-choice for anyone spec'd into Blood. Sanguine Fortitude is likewise a huge value as it turns your IBF into a serious tanking tool. Blood Parasites in its new incarnation is a great raid value, and even a nice hedging value for you as a tank. That said, it will have to take a third priority to the other two talents on this tier. It is an excellent filler value to come back to with spare points, however.
Vampiric Blood = Grants the Death Knight 15% additional maximum health and increases all healing taken by 25% for 10 sec, on a 1 min cooldown. At the end of the duration the bonus health is lost.
Rune Tap = for one Blood rune you regenerate 10% of your maximum health. This ability has a 30 sec cooldown and does not use a GCD. This is required to take Will of the Necropolis.
Will of the Necropolis = When a damaging attack brings you below 30% of your maximum health you receive a buff which reduces all damage taken by 8/16/25% for 8 sec. Your Rune Tap cooldown will also be finished and Blood rune will be refreshed. This cannot occur more than once every 45 sec.
This tier is packed to the gills with fantastic tank value. Vamp Blood is the DK's equivalent to Survival Instincts or Last Stand, with the key exception that the DK gets less health increase but receives an improvement to healing taken. This two-fold buff actually double-buffs the DK's own self-healing tools which are all based on his total health. Rune Tap is a strong ability on its own, but it is also required to take WotN which is also a very useful tool. WotN plays an essential role in Blood's design. Blood tanks are balanced to take slightly more damage, but counter that with self-healing. WotN acts as a safety net when the tank drops too low to make them easier to pick up and harder to kill.
Improved Death Strike = increases the damage and healing from Death Strike by 15/30/45%, and increases the ability's chance to critically hit by 3/6/9%.
Crimson Scourge = increases the damage dealt by Blood Boil by 20/40%. When you use Plague Strike on a target already infected with Blood Plague, your next Blood Boil cast will have a 50/100% chance to not cost runes.
Tier 7 - the 31 pt Talent
Improved Death Strike is an easy take and a no brainer as it buffs both your threat and your survival (Blood Shield/Self-heal). Crimson Scourge will be a more negotiable value. The damage bonus to Blood Boil is strong, but with Heart Strike hitting 3 targets and the new climate focusing less on tanks taking large groups, that will be a less essential value. The secondary effect will allow you to keep Scarlet Fever up for free on longer fights, provided you take Scarlet Fever and reapply diseases manually. If you do not take Scarlet Fever the only value from this is primarily a buff to large group tanking.
Dancing Rune Weapon = this ability has been given both damage and survival value. For 60 RP you receive a cloned copy of your weapon that follows you around for 12 sec on a 1 min cooldown. This weapon will mirror your auto and special attacks but will only do 50% damage with its versions. The weapon's damage does not count as your own threat, but when glyphed the ability will grant a threat bonus to the tank. The ability will also increase your parry chance by 20% while active.
Additional Talents from Frost and Unholy
DRW is a worthwhile threat *and* survival tool, and is certainly worth taking. The only drawback to the ability is the RP cost which will inhibit RS usage and the Runic Empowerment cycle. This is a very good reason to make the most of Scent of Blood for RP gain.
Unholy Command = reduces the cooldown of Death Grip to 25/20 sec and gives a 50/100% chance to refresh the cooldown when you deal a killing blow that yields experience or honor.
Note: the current Frost Talents in Tier 1 are lackluster at best for tanks. Runic Power Mastery should never be used as you should be using RP long before you reach the cap. Icy Reach will allow you to IT from a longer range, but that is a barely noticeable value in most situations for a PvE tank. Blood will perform very subpar while dual wielding, so most Blood Tanks will not do so, making Nerves of Cold Steel a non-value. Increasing the damage of Obliterate with Annihilation could/should be unused as Death Strike with talents will hit very hard and provide the added healing and protection value. The status protection of On a Pale Horse fits far better in PvP than PvE, and while it may not be totally without value, it is expensive to get. Endless Winter provides a nice resource cost reduction, but as with the previous two, it is very expensive to reach through unattractive talents.
Virulence = reduces your chance to miss with spells (i.e. any ability that isn't -strike or done with a weapon) by 2/4/6%.
Epidemic = increases the duration of your diseases to 25/29/33 sec.
Morbidity = increases the damage/healing of Death Coil by 5/10/15% and the damage of Death and Decay by 10/20/30%.
Epidemic is an easy choice as it allows you to stretch out your disease duration an insert more abilities into the space before you have to refresh them. 2/3 will almost sync the duration with Scarlet Fever if you have it, but there is no reason not to take 3/3. Virulence is nice but we do not rely heavily on spell damage for threat, only IT and DC will be particularly noticeably affected by this talent. Unholy Command is a worthwhile filler should you choose to try to reach Tier 2 in Unholy. You should not expect to get killing blows often, but having a taunt more frequently available is not bad. Note: Death Grip currently has a minimum range, meaning that you can only use it to pull back things at range, or you need to be tricky and step out of melee range to grab something you are attacking.
Desecration = Plague Strike will create a melee range patch within which enemies movement speeds are slowed by 25/50% for 20 sec.
Resilient Infection = if your diseases are dispelled you have a 50/100% chance to regenerate a rune appropriate to re-apply the disease was removed. In other words, if both diseases are dispelled, you instantly refresh a Frost and Unholy rune. Note: this does not apply to diseases that are "removed" from a target that becomes immune (such as through Hand of Protection or Cloak of Shadows), only ones that are dispelled.
There is a special spec that is being tested for value right now. This spec takes Lichborne in Frost tier 2 to create a sort of indirect survival tool. While under the effects of Lichborne you are classified as Undead. Because of this you can target yourself (and other DKs can target you) with Death Coil to deliver a heal. In order to get full value, there are a lot of things that need to happen: the tank and/or other DKs in the group need to save up RP, and everyone needs to be ready to hit the tank with DC when she uses the ability. Lichborne has a 10 sec duration and a 2 min CD. The more you use DC, the more value you get, but note that saving up for this can inhibit your RunEmp cycle before hand (and provide proc potential, but at a reduced rate because of DC's higher cost). This saving actually gives value to Runic Power Mastery where there would not have been much before. RPM will allow you to save up for a full 3 DCs instead of just 2. The conditional nature of this spec may make it less appealing to people who do not have a well-coordinated group with at least a couple DKs including the tank.
Resilient Infection will be generally wasted in PvE as there are very rare mobs that dispel diseases. Desecration can make a nice utility should you choose to reach for it, but there are more central values that *might* be more appealing. Morbidity is appealing, but only a half-used talent as the new system allows you to use RS at all times, leaving DC only a utility for ranged damage/threat. As such, Morbidity will be a surplus multi-target threat buff of moderate value.
So, based on the above, I would recommend this as a core skeleton:
Where Scarlet Fever or Abom's Might are interchangeable (points are in Scarlet Fever in the link), or if you have both covered by others, you can place the points in Blood-Caked Blade for threat or Hand of Doom for utility. At least one of the two points will have to be put on the first 3 tiers.
I would recommend placing the remaining 10 points in:
- (3) Epidemic for baseline play support.
- (2) Unholy Command if you want to build to Unholy tier 2.
- (3) Morbidity followed by Crimson Scourge for the sake of multi-target threat.
- (2) Crimson Scourge to support Scarlet Fever for raiding.
- (2) Scarlet Fever and/or Abom's Might to add insurance to your raids buffs if needed (10-mans particularly)
- (3) Blood-Caked Blade to support single-target threat.
There are three levels of glyphs: Prime, Major, and Minor. Prime Glyphs are unequivocal buffs to your major abilities. Major buffs may enhance the way you use abilities or adjust their niche slightly. Minor glyphs have small effects that just make your life easier. For Blood Tanks, the following glyphs are best suited to help.
Death Strike = increases the damage dealt by DS by 2% per 5 RP (up to a maximum of 40%). That means at 5 RP you'll get 2% bonus damage and at 100 RP you'll get 40% bonus damage. With this full scale, it is not really reasonable to try and leave your RP maxed out to get the full buff. It may make it worth while to use DS *before* you RS, however, just to get the optimal value available at the time. It is not worth delaying or avoiding using RS to increase your DS damage however. This does *not* buff the heal, only the damage.
Heart Strike = increases HS damage by 30%.
Rune Strike = increases your critical strike chance with RS by 10%.
Death and Decay = increases the duration of DnD by 50% (to 15 sec on a 30 sec cooldown).
Rune Strike and Heart Strike are major values, and easy to take. HS will be powerful for single- and multi-target threat, while RS will be a central ability for single-target threat. DS will come in third in value as it only buffs single-target and not quite as reliably as RS, but it should not be under-valued. If you want to support more multi-target threat, you can glyph DnD in place of DS for more diverse value. Expect DS to outpace DnD on single targets every time however.
Dancing Rune Weapon = increases threat generation by 50% while DRW is active.
Vampiric Blood = increases the healing received by 15% (to 40%), but Vamp Blood no longer increases your maximum health.
Rune Tap = Rune Tap also heals your party for 5% of their maximum health.
Bone Shield = increases your movement speed by 15% when Bone Shield is active. Does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.
Blood Boil, Pestilence, Death Grip = increases the range/radius of the ability by 5 yards.
Anti-Magic Shell = increases the duration of the shell by 2 sec (to 7 sec total).
Strangulate = increases the silence duration by 2 sec if used on a target casting a spell.
Dancing Rune Weapon is a very nice value, particularly if you are using DRW with some regularity/comfort. Rune Tap can be nice for a group buffing value, particularly if you are in the same raid party as the other tank(s). Note: it is only party-wide, not raid wide. In the new health/healing climate, that healing could be valuable and welcome. Bone Shield is a red herring for tanks, as it is very easy to get either a Mastery or Stamina buff with a run speed increase for enchantments to your boots. Anti-Magic Shell may be a decent value if you are not strong with timing, or are soaking less than what will consume your cap from a damaging over time. The Vamp Blood glyph will change the nature of the buff and should be taken with careful consideration. Some situations will be benefited more by an increase in maximum health and the unglyphed state will benefit your self-healing more as it will apply the two factors multiplicatively (for a 43.75% increase. However, in a raid situation you will receive a greater portion of healing from your healers, and a 40% buff will create a greater buff for them. The trade off should consider whether the health margin is helping you in a meaningful enough way to keep it Beyond these considerations you can get some small range/coverage benefits.
Blood Tap = removes the damage cost of using Blood Tap.
Resilient Grip = if you Death Grip something that is immune, it resets the cooldown (meaning you cannot waste your cooldown on something that cannot be pulled).
Raise Ally = increases the health of your Risen Ally by 25% and its run speed by 15%.
Horn of Winter = increases the duration of HoW by 1 min (to 3 min).
Path of Frost = allows you to fall from a slightly greater distance without suffering damage.
Note: You can now learn glyphs and carry the capacity always. You only need Vanishing Powder at level 80 and Dust of Disappearance at level 81-85 to remove the old glyph and place a new one. These materials can be made with Inscription and carried with you, and the glyphs can be applied anywhere out of combat and arenas/battlegrounds.
Blood Tap is an easy strong choice as, particularly with Imp Blood Tap, we will use this ability often. The health cost is not significant, but every little bit helps. Resilient Grip is a nice utility for preserving the cooldown, but naturally not a big deal. Raise Ally can be a nice value if you use it, as can Path of Frost. Horn of Winter's RP generation is helpful enough that you may find yourself refreshing it more often than 2 min, but the longer duration can help in any situation where you are not regularly on top of people you are trying to buff. There aren't really any poor choices for minor glyphs, though you may find Death's Embrace unattractive, since you won't want to spend RP to keep a ghoul alive.