Blood Death Knight Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.0.3)

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Blood Death Knight Art Image
General Information

On this page, we list your Blood Death Knight core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft WoD 6.0.3. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing a Blood Death Knight.

The other pages of our Blood Death Knight guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Reniat, the author of Blood Death Knight guides and articles on the Official Forums and Sanguine Fortitude.

6.0.2 Transition Guide

If you want to read all about the Patch 6.0.2 changes and learn how they affect your character, make sure to read our Death Knight Transition Guide!

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

Generally speaking, your goal during each fight is to use your resources (runes and runic power) to generate threat and to stay alive. This is the recommended way to use your abilities:

  1. Apply and maintain your diseases on the target
    • Initially, apply them with Outbreak Icon Outbreak.
    • After that, always refresh them with Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil.
    • In case your diseases fall off, or if you have consumed them using Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech, re-apply them with Outbreak.
  2. Use your Frost, Unholy, and Death runes on Death Strike Icon Death Strike.
  3. Use your Blood runes on Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil. Never use Blood Boil if you have no Blood runes, as this will cause it to consume a Death rune, which should be saved for Death Strike.
    • When the target is at or below 35% health, you should use your Blood runes on Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper (the goal being to use Soul Reaper on cooldown during this period).
  4. Use your runic power on Death Coil Icon Death Coil to generate threat and dump runic power.
  5. Use your Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge procs on Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil.

If you have chosen the Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap talent as part of your tier 5 talent choice, you should read this section to see how to maximise the benefit of this talent.

As you can see, this rotation does not take into account the use of your many survival abilities. You will often find that you must mix these abilities with the above rotation in order to stay alive. Please refer to the sections below in order to better understand how to use all of your survival abilities.

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

When tanking multiple enemies, your go-to ability will be Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil.

You will, of course, still use Death Strike Icon Death Strike on any enemy, for the self-heal and Mastery: Blood Shield Icon Mastery: Blood Shield benefits that it provides. You will dump your runic power with Death Coil Icon Death Coil.

As in the case of the single target rotation, Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge procs should be used on Blood Boil.

3. Taunting↑top

Dark Command Icon Dark Command is your main taunting ability. It only works on a single target and has an 8-second cooldown.

Death Grip Icon Death Grip grabs your target and moves it to your location. It also has the effect of taunting the target and interrupting spellcasting. The movement effect does not work against most raid bosses.

4. Presence↑top

You should always be in Blood Presence Icon Blood Presence. There is no exception to this.

5. Survival Cooldowns↑top

As a tank, you have many survival cooldowns that you need to often insert into your rotation to survive the various abilities that your enemies will throw at you. There are 2 kinds of cooldowns: proactive cooldowns (to protect yourself before high damage spikes occur) and cooldowns that are both proactive and reactived (meaning that you can use them however you want).

Below, we present all the cooldowns at your disposal, with a short explanation of what they do. More information about each cooldown can be found in subsequent sections.

Proactive Cooldowns
Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap Uses a Blood rune to reduce the damage you take by 40% for 3 seconds. It has a maximum of 2 charges, and a 30-second recharge time. Dropping below 30% health will grant you a cost-free charge of Rune Tap, thanks to Will of the Necropolis Icon Will of the Necropolis, but this effect has a 30-second internal cooldown.
Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell
  • Reduces all magic damage taken by 75% (up to a maximum of 50% of your maximum health).
  • Prevents most magic debuffs from being applied on you.
Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude Grants you a 20% damage taken reduction.
Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon Grants +20% chance to parry (also increases threat generation with Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon).
Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead The ghouls created by this spell will attempt to taunt enemies (with the exception of raid bosses).
Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield
  • Reduces all damage taken by 20%.
  • Remains active until you receive 8 damaging attacks.
Mixed (Proactive or Reactive) Cooldowns
Death Strike Icon Death Strike
  • Heals you for for an amount based on your attack power.
  • Protects you with a damage absorption shield (thanks to Mastery: Blood Shield Icon Mastery: Blood Shield).
Vampiric Blood Icon Vampiric Blood
  • Grants you 15% additional health.
  • Increases the healing you receive.
  • With Glyph of Vampiric Blood Icon Glyph of Vampiric Blood, you gain no health but the healing you receive is increased by an additional 15%.
Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon Instantly regenerates all runes and grants 25 Runic Power (very useful for casting Death Strike Icon Death Strike or Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap).

6. Optional Read: Mastering Your Blood Death Knight↑top

While the information we gave in the previous sections will yield very good results, there are many things you should be aware of, in order to play your Blood Death Knight to its full potential. In particular, we explain in great detail how to properly use your various survival cooldowns.

6.1. Resolve

Resolve Icon Resolve is a passive ability which you receive for choosing the Blood specialisation. Essentially, it increases your self-healing and your own absorption effects based on the amount of unmitigated damage you have taken in the last 10 seconds, including contributions from avoided melee attacks. Its value fluctuates with your damage intake during an encounter, and decays away over about 10 seconds if you stop taking damage. It has a built-in diminishing returns effect which limits the increase to 240% of the base healing or absorption value. In other words, at maximum Resolve your heals do 340% the amount they would do with zero Resolve.

6.2. Soul Reaper

Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper is a damaging, execute-like ability that should be used when the target is below 35% health.

6.3. Dark Simulacrum

Dark Simulacrum Icon Dark Simulacrum is a very special ability. It places a debuff on the target, which causes you to mimic their next spell cast that costs Mana to use. This grants you the ability (it will replace Dark Simulacrum on your bars) for a short amount of time. Using this mimicked ability can be very beneficial (even exploitative) on some encounters.

Note that Dark Simulacrum does not work, most times, in PvE.

6.4. Shadow of Death

When you cast Death Coil Icon Death Coil, you gain the Shadow of Death buff, which increases your maximum health by 3% for 30 seconds. Whenever the buff is refreshed (by a new Death Coil), the new health increase is added to the old one.

However, the timer of each health increase is tracked independently (hidden from you), so that when 30 seconds have passed from you gaining an increase, that increase will then fade from the total increase that the buff offers. The result of this is that while you can (and will, in practically every circumstance) have the buff up for the entire duration of the fight, the maximum health increase you gain from it will be capped by how much runic power you can spend on Death Coils (typically, at most you will have around 20-25% increased health).

6.5. Generalities On Survival Cooldown Usage

Blood Death Knights take damage in a far more unpredictable manner, compared to the other tanking classes. This is due to the fact that the other tanking classes have passive abilities (block chance, in the case of Paladins and Warriors) that handle the mitigation of damage automatically.

Blood Death Knights, however, only have their dodge and parry chances. This causes them to take fully unmitigated attacks far more often. To compensate for this, Death Knights have, as we have seen above, a very large number of survival cooldowns. In order to function properly during raids, Death Knight tanks will have to make extensive use of these cooldowns. Doing so well can have tremendously good results, while doing so poorly can make it seem like other tanks are far easier to heal.

There is no set order in which you should use your abilities. Rather, you should use some cooldowns (proactive ones) in anticipation for an event in the encounter, in order to be better prepared for when it occurs. Other cooldowns (reactive ones) should be used to better recover from an unfavourable situation. Finally, there are a number of cooldowns that can be used both reactively and proactively, depending on the situation.

In the following sections, we go through all your survival cooldowns and explain how and when to use them.

6.6. Detailed Cooldown Usage

6.6.1. Anti-Magic Shell

Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell should be used whenever there is magic damage to mitigate (such as breath attacks, for example). The mitigation that it offers is very high. It has a short duration (5 seconds) so you will need to be quite accurate in timing it.

It also has the benefit of preventing the application of magical debuffs on you while it is active, and it can be used for this purpose, as well, depending on the encounter mechanics.

6.6.2. Icebound Fortitude

Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude is only truly useful if it is used before you take a high amount of damage. It reduces all damage you take by 20% for 8 seconds, and it should always be used when you anticipate that you will take a lot of damage or that your healers will be unable to heal you.

6.6.3. Dancing Rune Weapon

Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon should be used before you take a high amount of physical attacks. It grants you 20% chance to parry for 8 seconds. It is, therefore, excellent against melee attacks and thus physical damage.

6.6.4. Army of the Dead

The ghouls from Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead will taunt any mobs that they can, with the exception of raid bosses. This allows you some time to breathe and recover, while the ghouls are dying. Note that this effect can cause problems if the adds require some specific placement or handling, though.

6.6.5. Vampiric Blood

Vampiric Blood Icon Vampiric Blood is one of your most powerful cooldowns. If unglyphed, it will grant you 15% extra health for 10 seconds, and increase your healing received (from all sources, including self-heals) by 15%. It can be used both reactively and in ancitipation.

For most encounters, we recommend that you use the Glyph of Vampiric Blood Icon Glyph of Vampiric Blood. This will cause the ability to not grant you any health, but increase all healing received by 25%. This makes it an amazingly potent cooldown for when you expect to require a lot of healing or that you will be taking a lot of damage. It can also be used reactively, if you couple it with some of your self-heals to raise your health up in a very short amount of time.

6.6.6. Empower Rune Weapon

Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon does not provide any survival effects on its own. It instantly activates all of your runes and grants you 25 runic power. It is very useful for providing you with extra resources when you need to use your survival abilities that have rune or runic power costs.

Its cooldown is quite long, so make sure to use it wisely.

6.6.7. Bone Shield

Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield offers you 20% damage reduction for however long the buff persists on you. The buff has 8 charges and each time you receive a damaging attack, a charge is lost. Damaging attacks cover both physical attacks as well as magic attacks. Damage from DoTs and ground based AoE abilities consumes a charge, although this is not always the case and it seems to depend from encounter to encounter.

Because this spell has a 1 minute cooldown and 5 minute duration (unless all charges are spent before that time), it is ideal to cast it on yourself before combat, so that it has time to cool down. This way, you can chain the effect twice as soon as you engage the boss.

6.6.8. Rune Tap

Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap is essentially a mini Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude. It costs 1 Blood rune and reduces damage taken by 40% for 3 seconds. You should use this whenever you anticipate that you will take damage, or simply often enough to keep its charges rolling.

6.6.9. Tier 1 Talents

Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight is an excellent way to apply diseases to newly-spawned adds. You can simply turn it on and run through/into the adds. Alternatively, you can turn it on and apply diseases to a newly spawned single target.

Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech should be used on cooldown. Make sure that both your Frost and Unholy rune pairs are depleted, and use Plague Leech to gain a Frost rune and an Unholy rune. Then, you can simply re-apply your diseases with Outbreak Icon Outbreak (using Glyph of Outbreak Icon Glyph of Outbreak, which removes the cooldown of the ability).

6.6.10. Tier 2 Talents

Lichborne Icon Lichborne passively increases your leech by 10%, so there is not much you should do to take advantage of the effect.

Anti-Magic Zone Icon Anti-Magic Zone is a raid cooldown, and you should consult with your raid leader and the healers in order to determine the best time to use it.

Purgatory Icon Purgatory will act passively, saving your life. You should try to use as many self-healing abilities as you can, as soon as Purgatory procs, so that you can get rid of the healing absorption effect that it applies before it wears off, as this causes you to die. Remember that you can (at least in theory) use Purgatory to bypass otherwise deadly encounter mechanics.

6.6.11. Tier 4 Talents

If you have chosen Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap, you should use it with the following guidelines in mind.

  • Never cap your Blood Charge Icon Blood Charges. You can have a maximum of 12 charges, so you should make sure not to cap your charges and waste additional ones (unless you really need to have 12 charges stored up for a very damaging burst of damage that is coming up).
  • Store up Blood Charges in preparation for damage spikes against which you wish to use multiple Death Strikes.
  • Remember that you need 5 Blood Charges to use Blood Tap once (which will grant you one Death rune), and that you need 2 Death runes to use a Death Strike.
  • Blood Tap only refreshes fully depleted runes. So, in order to get two Death runes, you will have to first use up your current Death runes.

There is one macro that is very useful for Blood Tap, and we talk about it on the macros page.

So, by just using Blood Tap based on the above suggestions, you will get a pretty solid benefit from it. However, there is a more advanced way of using it, which will yield better results. Since this is directly tied to Death Strike Icon Death Strike usage, we explain it in the next section.

If you chose Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption, you do not have much to worry about, since its effect is passive.

Finally, if you chose Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment, the best way to get as many Death Strike Icon Death Strikes as possible is to always keep a Blood rune active at all times, so that Runic Empowerment always refreshes a Frost or an Unholy rune.

6.6.12. Tier 5 Talents

Death Pact Icon Death Pact heals you for 50% of your maximum health, on a 2 minute cooldown. This is a very powerful heal, so make sure that it does not end up overhealing you.

Death Siphon Icon Death Siphon and Conversion Icon Conversion are currently so undesirable for a Blood Death Knight, that we do not believe you should ever take them.

6.6.13. Tier 7 Talents

Defile Icon Defile should be used on cooldowns, whenever the enemy or enemies you are fighting will be located in the area for any reasonable length of time. The important aspect here is the reduced damage dealt by targets in the Defile. We do not advise you to use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay in any of your rotations, because it is very weak, but Defile (which replaces Death and Decay) should indeed be included in both the single target and AoE rotations.

Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa should be cast against enemies that will deal considerable amounts of magic damage, and saved specifically for such situations (in fact, if such situations do not occur at all during an encounter, you should not be using this talent). This will cause you to be healed for 10% of that amount. Its usage is highly situational.

Necrotic Plague Icon Necrotic Plague works passively, so there is nothing to say.

6.7. Death Strike and Blood Shield

Death Strike Icon Death Strike is your most important self-healing ability. It is also part of your regular ability rotation during combat. In order to make the most out of Death Strike and of your Mastery (Mastery: Blood Shield Icon Mastery: Blood Shield), you cannot simply use Death Strike whenever it is available.

The most immediately apparent effect of Death Strike is that it heals you, so it is always well used after you have taken damage to heal yourself back up a bit and help the healers.

You can also use it in preparation for taking damage, both by topping yourself up, and also by stacking your Blood Shield to mitigate more damage.

Regarding your Mastery, it is important to remember that the shields provided by Death Strike only protect against Physical damage.

6.7.1. Advanced Death Strike and Blood Tap Usage

As we mentioned above, there is a way to get more out of your Death Strike Icon Death Strike usage, if you have the Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap talent. Note that this is an advanced (and rather cumbersome) technique, and you need to have a very solid grasp on your gameplay to be able to apply it.

Let us first consider a few things.

  • Whether you are using Death Strike Icon Death Strike to heal yourself after having taken damage, or using it to shield yourself before taking damage, you always want to be ready for using Death Strike at a moment's notice.
  • You should never have two runes of one type active, because if you are doing this, then they are not recharging and you are wasting their cooldowns.
  • You should never have a Blood rune active, unless you are saving it to use Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil soon for AoE threat reasons, since Blood runes cannot be used on Death Strike.

The result of this is that your ideal stance while tanking should be one of the following two options.

  • One Frost rune and one Unholy rune active, and all other runes depleted.
  • One Death rune (in the place of a Blood rune), one Frost rune, and one Unholy rune active, and all other runes depleted.

In the first scenario, using Death Strike will consume your current Frost/Unholy pair, leaving you with no runes active, and a double Blood Tap will give you another Death Strike, with more runes coming off cooldown soon. In the second scenario, it will leave you with one Death rune active, and one Blood Tap will allow you to use Death Strike again, leaving you with more Blood Tap charges (assuming you had pooled them), and with more runes coming off cooldown soon.

7. Changelog↑top

  • 26 Nov. 2014: Removed certain recommendations to use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay, given the weak current state of the ability.