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Blood Death Knight Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.3.5)

Last updated on Nov 28, 2017 at 08:51 by Vlad 262 comments

Table of Contents

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 Legion 7.3.5. 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 Volstatsz, a Blood Death Knight theorycrafter and moderator for the Acherus Death Knight community. You can follow him on Twitter.

1. Rotation for Blood Death Knights

Generally speaking, your goal during each fight is to use your resources (Runes and Runic Power) to generate threat and to stay alive. The rotation for single target and AoE is extremely similar, so we have grouped them together. The recommended playstyle is based on the following priority of abilities.

  1. Use Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend if your Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield is close to expiring (3 seconds or less), or if you will not be in range of a target before your Bone Shield will expire.
  2. Use Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil if any nearby enemies do not have your Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague disease.
  3. Use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay
  4. Use Death Strike Icon Death Strike to avoid capping Runic Power.
  5. Use Blooddrinker Icon Blooddrinker, if you are using this talent.
  6. Use Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend if you have 6 or fewer stacks of Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield.
  7. Use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay
    • Against a single target, use it if you have 3 or more runes and you are using the Rapid Decomposition Icon Rapid Decomposition talent.
    • Against multiple targets, use it if you are facing at least 3 enemies.
  8. Use Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike if you have 3 or more Runes, or if you need to quickly build Runic Power for Death Strike Icon Death Strike.
    • Always make sure you do not leave yourself unable to use Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend to keep Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield from falling off (or falling below 5 stacks with the Ossuary Icon Ossuary talent).
  9. Use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay against a single target if you have a Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge proc (and you are not using the Rapid Decomposition Icon Rapid Decomposition talent).
  10. Use Consumption Icon Consumption.
  11. Use Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil.

Generally, you will weave Death Strike Icon Death Strikes into the rotation as necessary. Aim to maximise your healing from Death Strike; use an addon to track how much a Death Strike will heal you for to optimise your Death Strike usage.

Both Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend and Death Strike Icon Death Strike apply the Recently Used Death Strike buff for 3 seconds, which is the Death Knight active mitigation check. Make sure you have Runes or Runic Power available on fights with active mitigation checks to use these abilities.

2. Taunting

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.

3. Survival Cooldowns for Blood Death Knights

Below, we present the cooldowns at your disposal and quickly go over how they should be used. More information about each cooldown can be found in subsequent sections.

  • Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell absorbs up to 30% of your maximum health in magic damage over 5 seconds, and should be used to mitigate magic damage and generate Runic Power.
  • Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon is generally used as a DPS cooldown (especially if you have the  Icon Mouth of Hell Artifact trait).
  • Vampiric Blood Icon Vampiric Blood increases your maximum health and the amount of healing you receive by 30% for 10 seconds. It should be used either proactively in anticipation for high amounts of damage, or reactively when low on health and in danger of dying.
  • Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude reduces all damage taken by 20% for 8 seconds. It should mostly be used proactively when you anticipate taking high damage, such as from specific boss abilities.

4. Optional Read: Mastering Your Blood Death Knight

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.

4.1. Runes and Runic Power

Death Knights use a dual resource system of runes and Runic Power. While it is quite straightforward in how it works, we will explain it here for the sake of completion.

4.1.1. Runes

You have a total of 6 Runes, which are available by default. Some of your abilities have Rune costs, and whenever you use an ability that consumes one or more Runes, those Runes will immediately begin recharging. The exact amount of time it takes a Rune to recharge depends on how much Haste you have.

Whenever a Rune is consumed, you gain 10 Runic Power (more on that below).

At most, 3 of your runes can be charging up at the same time. It is therefore optimal to keep at least 3 runes on cooldown in order to maximise the recharge rate over the course of the fight.

4.1.2. Runic Power

Runic Power is a resource that resembles Rage, in the sense that it decays when out of combat, but does not decay during combat. As mentioned above, consuming Runes generates 10 Runic Power per Rune spent, and this is the primary means of generating Runic Power, although some abilities also help with this. You can have a maximum of 115 Runic Power.

4.2. Artifact Ability for Blood Death Knights

 Icon Consumption is your Artifact ability. It has a 45-second cooldown and it deals damage to all enemies in front of you, healing you for the same amount. Despite the fact that it heals you, this ability should not normally be saved for its defensive purposes. Against a single target, its healing is quite low. Even against multiple targets, the healing is typically not impactful enough to warrant saving the ability, so you should simply use it on cooldown. The only exception is if you will have to deal with a particularly dangerous moment when you want to have all the healing possible.

4.3. Detailed Cooldown Usage

4.3.1. 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.

Moreover, if you are using the Anti-Magic Barrier Icon Anti-Magic Barrier tier 3 talent, you can use the ability to react to high amounts of damage, not necessarily magic damage, which can threaten to kill you.

4.3.2. Dancing Rune Weapon

Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon grants you 40% chance to parry for 8 seconds. Moreover, for the duration, there are several other benefits that you gain.

  • Uses of Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike will cause your rune weapon to strike and grant 5 additional Runic Power.
  • Uses of Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend will cause your rune weapon to stack Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield exactly like using your own Marrowrend, making Marrowrend during Dancing Rune Weapon yield 6-10 stacks of Bone Shield, depending on Artifact traits.
  • Uses of Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil will leave additional Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague debuffs on your target. Your rune weapon's Blood Plague debuffs are not attributed directly to you, and do not heal you. During Dancing Rune Weapon, casting Blood Boil gives you 3 stacks of Haemostasis Icon Haemostasis, the buff from Skullflower's Haemostasis Icon Skullflower's Haemostasis. Because of this, it is important to try not to use two Blood Boils in a row, so you do not waste Haemostasis stacks.

Note as well that if you have the  Icon Mouth of Hell Artifact trait, a second rune weapon will be present, doubling the above benefits.

Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon should typically be used for the extra DPS it provides, although it can also be used defensively (mostly proactively, before you take a high amount of physical attacks.

The Tier 21 Set Bonuses improve this ability, decreasing its cooldown and providing a short boost to Rune regeneration when it expires. With the Set Bonuses, there are some additional considerations when optimising your use of Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon:

  • With the 2-piece bonus, it is generally worth delaying your use of Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon until the next time you are actively tanking — the 40% parry can help smooth tank transitions a great deal.
  • With the 4-piece bonus, it becomes more important to effectively use resources during Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon, so as to not overcap runes or runic power during the 10-second rune regeneration bonus. Do not be afraid to go lower than usual on runes in order to maximise your use of Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike and Death Strike Icon Death Strike during Dancing Rune Weapon.

4.3.3. Vampiric Blood

Vampiric Blood Icon Vampiric Blood is your most powerful cooldown. If grants you 30% extra health for 10 seconds, and increases your healing received (from all sources, including self-heals) by 30%. It can be used both reactively and in anticipation.

Red Thirst Icon Red Thirst and the Service of Gorefiend Icon Service of Gorefiend legendary both reduce the already-short cooldown of Vampiric Blood Icon Vampiric Blood. The use of these pushes Vampiric Blood even further to the fore — Blood Death Knight cooldown usage is gauged more by effectiveness and frequency of Vampiric Blood than anything else.

4.3.4. Icebound Fortitude

Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude is a straightforward damage-reduction cooldown that lasts for 8 seconds, reducing all damage taken by 20%. Generally, you should use this when you are about to take high damage from pre-determined boss abilities, or when you are otherwise vulnerable (because the healers cannot reach you or because your other cooldowns are unavailable).

It is worth mentioning that the Heart of Ice Icon Heart of Ice Tier 2 talent causes your Death Strike Icon Death Strikes to increase the duration of your current Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude by 2 seconds.

Note that Blood Death Knights deal very poorly with abilities that take into account damage amounts before absorbs and self heals (given their low number of damage reduction abilities). One such example is Elerethe Renferal's Web of Pain Icon Web of Pain; in cases such as these, Icebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude is an essential tool in reducing damage taken, which can have a significant effect afterwards.

4.3.5. Tier 6 Talents

Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap works as a damage reduction cooldown, and you should use it often to mitigate the damage of hard-hitting abilities that happen in roughly the space of the 3-second duration of Rune Tap.

4.4. 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. Be smart about when you are using Death Strike. As it depends on your damage taken in the previous 5 seconds, it should be used after taking high damage. Of course, capping your Runic Power while not using Death Strike should also be avoided.

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.

You should minimise Death Strike Icon 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 extra health from Souldrinker Icon Souldrinker and a shield from your Mastery, it effectively wastes 40-50% of the ability's effect.

4.5. Bone Shield

Your Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend ability applies 3 stacks of Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield each time you use it, up to a maximum of 10 stacks. As long as you have at least 1 Bone Shield stack active, your damage taken is reduced by 16%, and your Haste is increased by 10%. Each melee attack made against you consumes a Bone Shield charge. Bone Shield also has a duration of 30 seconds, at which time the stacks would simply drop off you (although this is unlikely to ever occur during a boss encounter).

There is an internal cooldown of 2 seconds for Bone Shield charges being consumed.

Keeping Bone Shield up is pivotal to playing Blood properly. The Haste increase is essential for Rune regeneration and the damage reduction is essential for survivability. Moreover, if you have taken the Ossuary Icon Ossuary talent, then with 5 or more stacks of Bone Shield, the cost of Death Strike Icon Death Strike is reduced by 5 Runic Power, which allows you to use it more frequently.

Effectively, you will always want to prioritise maintaining high amounts of Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield stacks; you should use Marrowrend Icon Marrowrend when you have 6 or fewer stacks of Bone Shield, unless you really need the additional Runic Power to use Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike x2, and even then you should immediately try to re-stack Bone Shield.

5. ChangeLog

  • 28 Nov. 2017: Added a mention of how the Tier 21 Set Bonuses impact the usage of Dancing Rune Weapon.
  • 15 Oct. 2017: Added a mention of using Blooddrinker in the rotation.
  • 13 Jun. 2017: Added a mention of Skullflower's Haemostasis to the Dancing Rune Weapon section.
  • 12 Jun. 2017: Updated rotation slightly, and made a few more minor edits (including adding a mention of the new Heart of Ice talent).
  • 27 Mar. 2017: Added a small mention of how to use the Souldrinker Artifact trait.
  • 09 Jan. 2017: Updated the description of how Bone Shield works to account for Patch 7.1.5.
  • 14 Nov. 2016: Further edited the Icebound Fortitude section to mention its usefulness in dealing with certain abilities like Elerethe Renferal's Web of Pain.
  • 10 Nov. 2016: Made a small tweak to the Icebound Fortitude recommendation.
  • 25 Oct. 2016: Added Icebound Fortitude to the guide since it was re-added in patch 7.1
  • 04 Oct. 2016: Massively reworked rotation, as well as improved and updated various other sections.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 21 Aug. 2016: Updated the damage reduction granted by Bone Shield to account for a recent hotfix.
  • 21 Jul. 2016: Slightly updated the single target and AoE rotations to give Blood Boil more importance. Also clarified that Death Strike should not simply be used on cooldown, since it is part of your active mitigation.
  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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