Techniques and Methods
“Gear: Check. Spec: Check: Glyphs/Enchants/Gems: Check. OK, I am ready to tank. Erm, how do I go about doing that? What do I need to know?”
That is precisely what knowledge this section will try to enlighten you with. I will cover the essentials for tanking as Blood. I will primarily concentrate on the maneuvers and spells of DK tanks and particularly, Blood DKs. Giving the nature of tanking there will be some general knowledge that would apply to all tanks, but if you are looking for a “How do I tank?” guide, you would best be served elsewhere.
Presence, or “What's my stance?”
Like the Warrior or Paladin, we have a stance/aura system. Unlike either of them, we do not get as much utility in our presences. For the most of the time as a tank you will want to be in Frost Presence. If I had to give a percentage of this time in Frost Presence, it would be 99.99%. There are, however, a few situations that you might need or want to be in another.
Note: Any time you switch presences it costs one rune of the same flavor as the presence you are switching to. You also burn a GCD. Be aware that the cost of switching out of Frost into another and back may far outweigh any possible benefits.
Lets list the presences, as it is a short list I think we can waist some space.
Frost Presence: “The death knight takes on the presence of frost, increasing Stamina by 6%, armor contribution from cloth, leather, mail and plate items by 60%, and reducing damage taken by 8%. Increases threat generated. Only one Presence may be active at a time.” As stated above, this is what you will be using 99.99% of the time. The reasons are, hopefully, obvious.
Blood Presence: “Strengthens the Death Knight with the presence of blood, increasing damage by 15% and healing the Death Knight by 4% of damage dealt. Only one Presence may be active at a time.” This as a tank has one use, To drop threat. You will want to use this any time you need to hit a mob as an off tank and are getting to close to the tank. You will lose a Blood Rune and Frost Rune as you toggle between Frost and Blood, but if you are getting too close to pulling off a main tank before a planned switch, this can help. Generally, I try to just not go over the main or other tanks threat until we need to switch.
Unholy Presence: “Infuses the death knight with unholy fury, increasing attack speed by 15%, movement speed by 15% and reducing the global cooldown on all abilities by 0.5 sec. Only one Presence may be active at a time.” About the only time you will use this as a tank is when you need to go catch a mob. Personally if I have Death grip up I prefer to grab the stray mob that way. Less running and looks kind of cool. If you find you need to get somewhere faster try swapping to this.
Spells and Hits or, “What do I use when?”
The Blood tank shares a few spells with all specs. We do, however, have a few of our own spells and hits to ourselves. What you have to use will depend on how you talent into the Blood tree. Unlike some DPS and like most modern tanks we do not have a set rotation. Instead, we have a priority list. The flow of what's more important changes with how many mobs or even the situation. I am not going to list all of our spells and hits. Hopefully at 80 you should know what you have access to. If not, open up your spell book and start reading. It is also worth noting that even though the priorities I will be listing are, for the most part, widely accepted they are not the only way for every situation. Again the biggest challenge to any tanking class, and I would argue that DKs have it the hardest, is deciding what is best in any situation. Sometimes you have little to no time to decide this. Also note that this section assumes dungeon or raid content with mobs that are not going to die in very few hits.
Single target (and it's Probably a Boss)
Pull. (We will discuss various options on how to do this later.) As you are positioning after the pull, get both of your diseases up. Icy Touch and Plague strike to apply the diseases. By this time your DPS is probably going at it. If they are not and give you longer than a fast count to five pleases do send them my way. (I want them.) Now start your death rune conversion by dropping a hit of Death Strike, then on to the bread and butter hit of a Blood DK, Heart Strike. By the time you have off a few hits of Heart Strike you should have a few Death Runes to hit a few more times with it. If at any time your RP is too high, dump it with a Death Coil or two. Do be aware that it is a good idea to keep enough RP around to have for your Rune Strikes to hit when they proc. It is also a good idea to have enough RP to use Icebound Fortitude or Mind Freeze, etc, if you need them. If you find yourself out of runes and or RP that us a great time to refresh your Horn of Winter. So for those who like a list.
- Icy Touch
- Plague Strike
- Death Strike
- Heart Strike 1 to 4 times (back to 1 if your diseases are wearing off)
- Rune Strike whenever it is up and you have enough RP to use it.
- RP dump via Death Coil (unless you need the RP for something else)
- back to 1
A nice flow chart would be better. But that is the basic priority rotation. Keep in mind I said basic, because when the situation gets hairy your rotation is all out the window and you will need to adjust priorities as needed. Example: a DPS pulls off of you. What are you doing? Well, you're probably using a Global Cooldown for a taunt, then you need to rebuild that threat gap fast, so you might hit the Death Strike and just spam Heart Strike for a bit. Perhaps you had some RP to waste, so you might fire off a Death Coil as the mob is running back to you. Essentially, you will need to keep yourself fluid and be ready to adapt to any situation.
Two to Three mobs
With the introduction of more than one mob, things get a little complicated. We will assume that the mobs in question are your standard elites and not two or more boss types. (Although there are a few encounters when you can and will be tanking two bosses. The twins come to mind.) Firstly, it is important that your DPS'ers understand that starting up with AoE is often a bad idea. Stress that although you could hold threat on all mobs at once, it is a good idea to let you get a little bit of a threat lead before they let out their E-Peeen, er I mean DPS Godliness. Besides, AoE at two mobs is not much of a DPS gain over focused fire kills.
To start you will still want to get your diseases up as soon as possible and spread to all the mobs in question. Personally, if I have two or three mobs the rotation is fairly simple.
Do realize that the above rotation assumes no more than three mobs and that you could also, at three mobs, start with a Death and Decay. (I often do, in fact, if all the mobs are close together) Changes will need to be made in the case of casters in the group you are pulling. You might have to alter the tab rotation to silence one or more of the casters. In a raid, do not be afraid to have Hunters use Misdirect and or Rogues use Tricks of the Trade. (The main Hunter and Rogue I have with me in my 10 and 25 mans are both DPS gods, and have no problem sacrificing some of that initial DPS to get me bumped up on threat fast.)
- Icy Touch first mob. Either as the pull or just after.
- Plague Strike the first mob. Now your diseases are ready.
- Hit that mob with Pestilence. This spreads your diseases.
- Now comes the choice at two mobs I switch targets and hit second mob with a Heart Strike. This will hit the second mob, and if your position is correct, the first mob also.
- However, at three mobs I recommend a Blood Boil or two
- With two or three mobs, at this point you can use Death Strike if it is ready to convert your Frost Unholy Runes then start tab spamming Heart Strike.
- Throughout, weave in your Rune Strikes whenever they proc and you have the RP.
Four or more mobs
(Many whelps! HANDLE IT!)
When you are tanking groups of many, the strategy changes. If the mobs are all hard-hitting high health elites, you might want to use more than one tank and or use crowd control. If they are small, not so hard-hitting, lower health elites (like the Onyxia whelps) then proceed in your single tank pull. There are a few options for a many mobs situation. Most all will include Death and Decay. The various techniques generally differ in when DnD is dropped: Before the pull by a few seconds, or as the pull. Both methods have merit. With DnD as the pull you get massive snap aggro and all of the ticks and therefore threat from DnD, however you are quickly at a Rune blackout as it takes one of each type to drop DnD. Dropping your DnD before the pull, away from the mobs, allows for your Runes to be back sooner. This, however, does lose the initial snap aggro and lessens the overall threat and damage of the DnD as it will have wasted a few ticks. It is important to note that DnD is like a DOT in that it ticks on application, then every second thereafter. It is possible to have a mob run through DnD after dropping it an not get hit. With either method be prepared to grab the runners if your DPS pulls them off of you.
The DnD for the pull method
- Drop and pull with DnD. It is important to position the mobs so all of them are in the DnD.
- If they are all fast-dying/low health mobs then Blood Boil.
- If they are not fast-dying then get diseases up and spread them around.
- If you are talented into Morbidity, drop a new DnD as soon as it is ready, assuming the mobs are still alive enough to worry about them. Repeat as needed.
- Between diseases and refreshes on DnD, tab target around a bit to hit the mobs with your auto hits, Heart Strike and Death Strike.
DnD and wait method
- Drop DnD, but outside of the mob aggro range.
- Wait a few seconds so your runes will be ready shortly after you pull.
- Pull into the DnD.
- If they are all fast-dying mobs, Blood Boil a time or two.
- If they are not fast-dying mobs, get your diseases up.
- Even without being talented into Morbidity you might be able to drop a new DnD at this point if needed.
- If they are still alive, tab target around to auto hit and use Heart Strike and Death Strike.
- Repeat as needed.
There are, I am sure, other ways of pulling and keeping big packs of mobs on you. These two are the basic methods I have used and seen posted around the forums. Do modify as needed for your situation and needs.
“What? Wait? I do not have a gun, how do I pull?”
That's right kiddos. No ranged weapon slot. Hey, chins up, I do believe we have a few more tools than druids to pull with. Let's look at a list of what we have, what they do, and how each one is usable.
1) Icy Touch, 20 Yard range: “Chills the target for 227 to 245 Frost damage and infects them with Frost Fever, a disease that deals periodic damage and reduces melee and ranged attack speed by 14% for 15 sec.” This spell is available more often than any other. Probably the one to use in most situations as you will want your diseases up anyway.
2) Death Coil, 30 yard range: “Fire a blast of unholy energy, causing 381 Shadow damage to an enemy target or healing 571.5 damage from a friendly Undead target.” If your RP is still up from your last pull, you can fire off a blast of this to engage the next mob, follow up with Icy Touch and you have a small start on threat before the mob is even close to you.
3) Death and Decay, 30 yard range: “Corrupts the ground targeted by the Death Knight, causing 62 Shadow damage every sec that targets remain in the area for 10 sec.” This ability produces a high amount of threat. Used in some cases for your group pulls. This is not recommended for single target pulls.
4) Chains of Ice, 20 yard range: “Shackles the target with frozen chains, reducing their movement by 95%. The target regains 10% of their movement each second for 10 sec.” This is useful as a pull if you need a mob or two to get to you a little slower than the others. As this will use up a Frost Rune, your diseases will be a little slower in getting up on your primary target.
5) In a group, five man or raid, you will or most likely will have others that can assist on the pulls, primarily a hunter with misdirect. Do not be shy in having them help you out.
6) Death Grip and Dark Command: Both are ranged and both can be used to pull, however they should in most cases be used to get mobs back or in the case of Death Grip, to control casters.
Other Tools and their use
You might be asking yourself, “If there are only about six hits/spells in the tanking rotation, then why do I have so many other things in my spell book?” Let's now explore some of the other tools we have at our disposal.
Mind Freeze: “Smash the target's mind with cold, interrupting spellcasting and preventing any spell in that school from being cast for 4 sec.” Our go-to caster interrupt. In situations where you will be using this, it is important to remember to keep your Runic Power above 20.
Strangulate: “Strangulates an enemy, silencing them for 5 sec.” This is very useful for getting those pesky casters over to you.
Anti-Magic Shell: “Surrounds the Death Knight in an Anti-Magic Shell, absorbing 75% of the damage dealt by harmful spells (up to a maximum of 50% of the Death Knight's health) and preventing application of harmful magical effects. Damage absorbed by Anti-Magic Shell energizes the Death Knight with additional runic power. Lasts 5 sec.” Five seconds of protection against heavy AoE damage, incoming boss magics, and you will get back some of the RP you used to cast it.
Death Pact: “Sacrifices an undead minion, healing the Death Knight for 40% of his/her maximum health. This heal cannot be a critical.” Used in conjunction with Raise Dead, you have a very handy heal every 3 minutes. This should be on your bars and used as it can save your healers some panic on those heavy damage portions of a boss fight.
Raise Dead: “Raises a Ghoul to fight by your side. If no humanoid corpse that yields experience or honor is available, you must supply Corpse Dust to complete the spell. You can have a maximum of one Ghoul at a time. Lasts 1 min.” This little bugger does not hit very hard. He is, however, very useful per Death Pact. In fights that you know you will need the health boost, he probably should be saved for such.
Raise Ally: “Raises the corpse of a raid or party member to fight by your side. The player will have control over the Ghoul for 5 min.” Out of Battle rezes? Need some more DPS? This is the spell for you. As a tank it can be awkward to get to the party member, target them, etc, but worth it in some cases. I usually find that if you have another DK in your group, they know how to control themselves as a ghoul.
Army of the Dead: “Summons an entire legion of Ghouls to fight for the Death Knight. The Ghouls will swarm the area, taunting and fighting anything they can. While channeling Army of the Dead, the Death Knight takes less damage equal to his/her Dodge plus Parry chance.” It's extra little DOTs on your target, and the damage reduction can help in some situations.
Empower Rune Weapon: “Empower your rune weapon, immediately activating all your runes and generating 25 runic power.” For use in situations when all your runes are on cooldown and you need them now. The RP is also a nice bonus.
It should be apparent now that DKs, in general, are a very versatile class. With all three trees able to DPS or tank, the play styles are numerable. Blood as a tanking tree has dual ability to concentrate on survivability, TPS, or a balance of both. This is important to remember when considering your spec and play style.
When looking at guides, such as this one, or posts about specs, etc, be sure to study the context of the information. As a Blood DK you have a lot of options, including other trees. Do not be discouraged by the overload of information and decisions you will have to make about your spec and gear. It is important to also remember that with all the options, you might find people who have truly unique specs. Instead of passing them off as nonsensical or wrong, I would recommend attempting to see how the spec could work or in what situations you could use the same synergies they have come up with. This is not to say that every spec you see is valid. Like all classes, it is possible to have talents that are totally worthless.
Absolutes are a finicky thing in any DK spec. Anybody claiming that there is only one way to do anything within the DK tanking community should be questioned. I mention this simply as a warning to be sure of your sources.
I will once again reiterate that the information presented in these pages is not the end-all of Blood tanking. Almost everything discussed will most likely have other ways that work. Some of those ways may not be the best, and there are perhaps better methods and ideas than I have presented. I do hope that the following discussion is one that breeds more ideas and tips, etc.
Resources and citations
I have not provided any number crunching anywhere in this guide. I do not do so as there are others who have already. I thank them. I have used many resources on Tankspot and other sites. If your work is listed, then I thank you for its creation and your work in getting the numbers, whether through testing or research.