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.