Blood Death Knight Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.2)

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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 6.2. 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 Aughyssul, a top Blood Death Knight who raids in WHATEVER WERE AWESOME, streams on Twitch, and whom you can follow on Twitter.

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 Defile Icon Defile on cooldown.
  3. Use your Frost, Unholy, and Death runes on Death Strike Icon Death Strike.
  4. 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).
  5. Use your runic power on Death Coil Icon Death Coil to generate threat and dump runic power.
  6. 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, and you should use Defile Icon Defile on cooldown.

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 100% (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 50% 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 Rune Tap Icon Rune 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 grants you 20% chance to parry for 8 seconds. As such, it should be used before you take a high amount of physical attacks (or hard-hitting ones). Additionally, the summoned weapon will copy your abilities, increasing your DPS for its duration, and allowing you to apply double debuffs (Outbreak Icon Outbreak and Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper will apply their effects twice). Because of these benefits, using Dancing Rune Weapon on cooldown is generally acceptable.

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.

Army of the Dead also deals some additional damage. You should always try to cast this ability 6 seconds before the pull (since it is channeled). It is only worth casting during a fight if you need the ghouls to taunt adds, but this will rarely prove to be of worth.

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.

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. In any case, you should never re-cast Bone Shield until all stacks from the previous have application have been used up.

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.

A more advanced technique allows you effectively save up an additional 5 Blood Charges (for a maximum of 17). You do this by using 5 Blood Charges when both of your Blood Runes are on cooldown, thus turning one of them into a Death Rune, which you then save. This Death Rune allows you to use Death Strike at a later time by using only 5 Blood Charges (instead of 10), and it is efficient because Blood Runes are of not use for your mitigation anyway.

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 cooldown, 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 only be taken if you are looking to maximise your damage output at the expense of survivability. If you are using this talent, then your entire goal in the encounter is to have as high an uptime as possible, even as high as 100%. This means, if necessary, spending Death Runes on abilities that are not Death Strike Icon Death Strike.

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. It is also interesting to note that the shield from your Mastery also counts as active mitigation, which is typically relevant for boss abilities that take this into account.

6.7.1. Advanced Death Strike Usage and Rune Management

The crux of Death Knight tanking is being able to properly time your Death Strike Icon Death Strikes, getting the most out of each one. This boils down to a few guidelines.

  • Minimise Death Strike overhealing by making sure not to use Death Strike when at or near full health. While using it at these times does still grant a shield, it effectively wastes half of the ability's effect.
  • While tanking, you do not want to ever have two runes of the same type available. If your Frost/Unholy pair is about to come off of cooldown, you should Death Strike, even if it is not an ideal time to do so. For Blood runes, you ideally want to use one for Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil, and save the other to Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap if needed (if you can predict periods of high damage, you can use both on Blood Boil, and synchronise the recharge time for when you need to Rune Tap).
  • Be smart about when you use Death Strike. It scales off of Resolve Icon Resolve, so you want to use it during periods of high damage intake, when you can benefit from the greatest possible heal.

7. Changelog↑top

  • 22 Jun. 2015: Updated the amount of magic damage absorbed by Anti-Magic Shell and added a mention that the shields from your Mastery count as active mitigation, to account for Patch 6.2 changes.
  • 22 Apr. 2015: Revamped various parts of the guide, most notably the Death Strike Icon Death Strike and Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap sections. Also fixed a few typos.
  • 26 Nov. 2014: Removed certain recommendations to use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay, given the weak current state of the ability.