Blood Spec Death Knights make for fine tanks. Self-heals, nice defensive cooldowns, and decent damage and threat are all there. They do require more skill than other tanks, but that’s what makes them interesting.
Note that this page is for Blood PvE (tanking, instances, raids, etc.) see the links just below for leveling or PvP.
|This Blood Death Knight guide is primarily intended for use at the level cap. However, the principals will still apply during the leveling process. If you’re looking for advice on leveling your Death Knight, check out our Death Knight Leveling Guide.
If you want the same in-game step by step leveling guide that we use to get to the level cap as fast as possible, even in Shadowlands, take a look at our favorite in-game leveling guide.
Other DK Guides:
Talents for Blood Tanking
In Legion your talents can easily be changed IF you’re in a “rested XP” area, such as your garrison, an inn, or the big city. No reagents, trainers, or special rituals required. You can change your spec (go Frost or Unholy) any time you’re out of combat, but for the individual talents you need to get to the rested area. As with changing specs, no special items are required for changed talents.
If one talent doesn’t for your style, change it up.
Note that Death Strike costs Runic Power in Legion, not the runes that it previously has.
Our picks are green.
Tier 1, Level 56:
- Heartbreaker : Increases the runic power (RP) generation on Heart Strike by 2 for each target hit. This is generally the best talent of this group, especially if fighting groups.
- Blooddrinker : This is a 3 second channeled life-drain, but you can move and use defensive abilities while channeling. 30 second cooldown. Might be better than Heartbreaker for single targets, but for groups Heartbreak is better.
- Rune Strike: A strong hit, but that’s about it.
Tier 2, Level 57:
- Rapid Decomposition : Your Blood Plague and Death and Decay deal damage a little more often (15% more.) Not great.
- Hemostasis: Using your Blood Boil empowers your next Death Strike. This is the choice for most situations.
- Consumption: A strike that hits all of the enemies in front of you and heals you for the damage done. Hemostasis will be better in most situations.
Tier 3, level 58:
- Foul Bulwark : Is a fair talent. You get a 1% increase to max Health for each charge of your Bone shield.
- Ossuary : Reduces the cost of Death Strike by 5 Runic Power when at 5 or more Bone Shield charges, as well as increasing max runic power by 10. What’s not to like? With Marrowrend you will often be at 5+ Bone Shield charges.
- Tombstone : Is another talent that puts resource management in the player’s control. It allows you to consume Bone Shield charges to generate Runic Power and to put a shield on yourself. Ossuary is more generally effective and easier to manage.
Tier 4, Level 60:
- Will of the Necropolis: The damage you taken when you fall below 30% is reduced by 30%. Generally the most useful of these three. It’s passive and you don’t have to think about it.
- Anti-Magic Barrier: Improves you Anti-Magic Shell by reducing its cooldown by 15 seconds and increasing the amount of damage absorbed by 30%. Situational use. Will you need this more than the passive reduction of Will of the Necropolis?
- Rune Tap: 2 charges on a 25 seconds recharge, you get 30% damage reduction for 4 seconds at a cost of 1 rune. If you need to stack your damage reduction for those hits, then this is your pick. Generally the Necropolis pick will be more effective.
Tier 5, level 75:
- Grip of the Dead: Greatly slows the movement of enemies in your Death and Decay. If you need teh snare then this is your pick.
- Tightening Grasp : Decreases the cooldown on Gorefiend’s Grasp by 30 seconds. Do you need it more often?
- Wraith Walk: Breaks roots and you move at +70% speed for 4 seconds. While moving you cannot be snared. Extra movement is generally a good thing.
Tier 6, level 90:
- Voracious: Your Death Strike grants you a 15% leech effect for 6 seconds. Pretty wweak talent.
- Bloodworms : Your auto-attacks have a chance to summon up a bloodworm, which will do a bit of damage to the target(s) and then pop, giving you a minor (15%) heal. If you’re low (50% or less) they’ll immediately pop. Easily the most generally useful talent of this set.
- Mark of Blood : Allows you to mark an enemy, healing anyone they auto-attack by a puny 2%. The runic power is almost always better spent on Death Strike.
Tier 7, level 100:
All are solid, your pick depends on what you need. Are you mostly fighting groups? Singles? Need to dodge that big, tank-crushing damage?
- Purgatory : Will prevent you from dying once every 4 minutes, instead applying a healing absorb for the amount of damage taken. If you’re healed out of the absorb within 3 seconds, you will live, otherwise you will still die. Can you and/or your healers do enough healing in that 3 seconds? If so then this talent will probably prevent a lot of deaths, which is why it’s the pick. If you’re not in any real danger of dying then grab one of the others.
- Red Thirst : Is a very powerful talent that decreases the cooldown on Vampiric Blood by 1 second for every 10 Runic Power spent.
- Bonestorm : Consumes up to 100 Runic Power (minimum 10) when cast, giving an AoE effect around you for 1 second per 10 RP spent, up to 10 seconds. The damage it deals will also heal you. Longish cooldown, very nice healing when fighting large groups. It is the best option on this tier for AoE DPS.
Blood DK Glyphs
Legion did away with pretty much all glyphs. This that remain are entirely cosmetic. They also modify abilities directly, rather than residing in your Glyph window. You can change them with the appropriate reagent.
You now have:
- Glyph of Cracked Ice and Glyph of Dry Ice modify your Path of Frost appearance.
- Glyph of the Chilled Shell and Glyph of the Crimson Shell modify your Anti-Magic Shell appearance.
- Glyph of the Blood Wraith, Glyph of the Unholy Wraith, and Glyph of the Wraith Walker all modify your Wraith Walk appearance.
Nothing like a bloodier looking Anti-Magic shell and Wraith Walk to improve your tanking, right?
Blood Tanking Stat Priorities:
This puts survival more in your own hands, as opposed to random number generation. It evens out incoming damage helping to eliminate the big spikes. It also helps your DPS and threat, which is useful.
- Max. Survival Priority: Item level > Strength > Versatility > Haste > Crit > Mastery
Stamina helps you to survive, obviously, and higher item level berings more stam along with the Strength.
Stength increases your attack power, and your Parry, and that AP improves every damaging thing that you do.
Mastery puts up a physical shield effect every time you use your Death Strike. This shield is useless Vs magical damage. You can do a series of Death Strikes to build up your shield right before a big physical hit. It also increases your attack power.
Parry and Dodge help to avoid all that incoming damage. You do gain some base Parry from your Strength, but it is not found on either gear, enchants, or gems. You will also have a base Dodge, but will be unable to improve it.
Versatility provides three very useful boosts for tanks: a percentage increase to damage reduced, damage dealt, and healing done. The damage reduction is at half value.
Haste increases your attack speeds, lowers cooldowns, and increases Rune regeneration speed.
Crit isn’t bad it’s just that everything else is more useful to your #1 & 2 jobs: Survival and threat. Your Crit rating is added to your Parry Rating, so it’s certainly not useless.
Leech, Avoidance, Speed: These are all tertiary stats that appear infrequently on your gear. They seem to be restricted to Warlords gear.
Blood Tanking Rotation Guide
Scroll down for the rotation/priorities. Abilities and notes are covered first.
WoWhead has a tanking guide that you might find interesting, here. There’s another one in the Battlenet forums. It’s old, but much of the info is evergreen since it’s not talking so much about specific abilities.
Runes are no longer Blood, Unholy, and Frost, they’re just runes (like Death Runes, before Legion) and any ability that uses runes uses them.
As the tank it’s your job to maintain aggro on all appropriate enemies (an off-tank might be assigned to grabbing adds, for example.) When new mobs appear you should either grab their attention (threat) or someone else should be responsible for that task.
You will need to be very alert to everything that’s happening with regard to the boss or the trash/adds.
If a mob, any mob, decides that you’re boring and would rather eat the healer then it’s your job to get it back. You need to both maintain and reacquire aggro on all mobs you’re responsible for. Whatever your team does to pull aggro it’s your job to counter it and grab it back. Note that you’re not responsible if someone goes wandering off and grabs aggro on his own.
As much as is possible, know the fights. Position the boss to minimize the impact of his abilities, try to move him is such a way that your group (especially) can maintain proper contact.
Gaining & Maintaining Aggro
All of your offensive abilities will generate significant threat. A ranged attack will work to get a mob’s attention if your taunt or grip is on cooldown. (These abilities are unchanged in Legion.)
As Blood you have the Veteran of the Third War ability up at all times, and it provides additional Stam and Armor.
- Dark Command is your taunt. It has an 8 second cooldown so isn’t quite spammable. Used for gaining the attention of an add or reacquiring it from a mob that’s paying too much attention to someone else (tanks being a jealous lot.) What it does is put you at the top of the mob’s threat list. It’s your job to stay there.
- Death Grip forces the target to attack you, in addition to bringing him close and, if he’s trash, interrupting any casting. Bosses are not usually interested in the movement part, though the threat part works just fine.
- Blood Boil can be used to grab a group, but it’s not a taunt. Your regular attacks do not necessarily move you to the top of the threat list. Keep working all the mobs you’re responsible for and they’ll stay stuck to you. Taunt those that need to come back to you.
Surviving the Onslaught
You have several damage mitigation abilities, most of which are fairly short in duration (3 to 8 seconds.) This means that you will have to have pretty good timing to get the most use from them, as they aren’t so useful after the damage spikes hit. The better you know the fight and the more alert you are to the current situation (incoming death, adds, etc.) the easier this will be.
- Anti-Magic Shell is a personal ability that reduces incoming magical damage by 75% for 5 seconds (absorbing up to 50% of your health.) Also prevents magic debuffs from being applied to you. Most of them, anyway.
- Death Strike heals you for a decent amount and also, with your mastery, adds a damage shield. Multiple Death Strikes over a short period of time can build up a pretty decent shield. The shield only applies to physical damage.
- Dancing Rune Weapon increases your Parry by 20% for 8 seconds (90 sec. cooldown.) Best used against melee and other physical attacks. It’s as useless against magical attacks as the anti-magic things are against physical attacks.
- Vampiric Blood is not a damage mitigation/avoidance ability, but rather a healing type of ability. It both increases your max health and any healing you receive for the next ten seconds.
You also have some Offensive Cooldowns
Your Tanking Rotation/Priorities
Note that moving out of damage and away from big strikes that you can see coming is often your #1 damage mitigation ability.
Outside of using cooldowns and such, the Blood tank “rotation” is fairly simple: Diseases, Death strike, Marrowrend, and Blood Boil.
- Apply diseases and keep them applied.
- Blood Boil applies blood plague and damage to all enemies within 10 yards.
- Death Strike now uses Runic Power (RP.) Death Strike is best used when you need at least some healing or need to build up a shield in anticipation of incoming damage. Save your RP for when you need the heal and absorption shield on Death Strike.
- Blood Boil
- Crimson Scourge procs should be used as they appear.
- Pretty much the same routine. Keep diseases running, Death Strike as necessary, and Blood Boil is your main attack. You will use Blood Boil to apply Blood Plague and Outbreak to apply Virulent Plague (which can then infect other targets.)
- Death and Decay.
Blood Death Knight Tanking Gems
Gemming is pretty much dead in Legion. The section below is retained for those doing lower level tanking.
And before the Legion came…
Mastery is your best tanking stat, so gem appropriately.
Warlords Gem Notes
- Gem sockets are actually few and far between. They have a (small) random chance to appear on Raid gear.
- There are no meta gems or sockets, there are no socket bonuses, and all sockets are “prismatic,” which means that they will take any available gem.
Gemming in Warlords is easy. Any time you find yourself with a socket you should put a Mastery gem into it. No exceptions. Easy peasy, yes?
For those with gear under ilevel 600…
That is, you’re leveling or hanging around at a lower level.
“Perfect” gems are worth looking at. They have the same stats as the “regular” gems, but might be priced very differently. If you are feeling too broke for the gems & enchants check out our gold guide or look at Hayden’s guide.
- Meta: Austere Primal Diamond until you can get the legendary Indomitable Primal Diamond
- Red: Sovereign Imperial Amethyst or Skillful Vermilion Onyx
- Yellow: Fractured Sun’s Radiance or Puissant Wild Jade
- Blue: Solid River’s Heart or Puissant Wild Jade
- Belt buckle and Blacksmithign slots: Puissant Wild Jade
In Warlords gem for Mastery, period. Assuming sockets are available. The 35 point gem is a lot cheaper than the 50 point gem.
|Mists of Pandaria Gems, for gear under ilevel 600.|
|Meta||Reverberating Primal Diamond: +14 Str & Increased Crit Effect
Indomitable Primal Diamond: +20 Stamina and chance on being hit to gain 20% reduction to physical damage taken
|Red||Bold Primordial Ruby: +10 Str|
|Yellow||Fractured Sun’s Radiance: +20 Mastery|
|Orange||Skillful Vermilion Onyx: +5 Str and +10 Mastery
Fine Vermilion Onyx: +10 Parry and +10 Mastery
|Blue||Solid River’s Heart: +15 Stam|
|Green||Puissant Wild Jade: +10 Mastery and +8 Stam|
|Purple||Defender’s Imperial Amethyst: +10 Parry and +8 Stam
Sovereign Imperial Amethyst: +5 Str and +8 Stam
|Cogwheel||Requires an engie helm, such as this.
Quick Tinker’s Gear: +38 Haste
Fractured Tinker’s Gear: +38 Mastery
Death Knight Tanking Enchants
Enchants, like gems and glyphs, are pretty much gone in Legion. Your Legion enchants only work on gear up to ilevel 749, which you should hit fairly soon if you’re leveling to 110.
The section below is for people with gear of lower level than 749.
Before the Legion came…
Warlords Notes: There are no head enchants, all shoulder enchants come from the Inscription profession and are only for items under item level 600. There are new enchants for Neck, Cloak, Weapons, and your Rings. Not for any other pieces. (Not yet, anyway.)
Can’t afford enchants and such? You should go here.
|Other enchants, for gear under item level 600.|
|Shoulders||Greater Tiger Fang Inscription: +15 Str and +5 Crit
Greater Ox Horn Inscription: 18 Stam, 15 Dodge
|Chest||Enchant Chest – Glorious Stats: +9 to all Stats|
|Bracers||Enchant Bracer – Exceptional Strength: +15 Str
Enchant Bracer – Major Dodge: +14 Dodge
Enchant Bracer – Mastery: +25 Mastery
|Gloves||Enchant Gloves – Super Strength: +25 Str
Enchant Gloves – Superior Mastery: +25 Mastery
|Belt||Livingsteel Belt Buckle: Sockets your belt, pop in the best gem.|
|Leggings||Angerhide Leg Armor: +19 Str & 11 Crit rating|
|Boots||Enchant Boots – Pandaren’s Step: +10 Mastery and Slight run speed increase.|
DK Tanking Consumables
Note that Pandarens get twice the food buff. All food buffs last one hour and provide only one stat.
Warlords note: There are no new DPS Elixirs, but there are for Potions and Flasks. There are no Str foods, either.
- Sleeper Sushi: +125 Mastery
- Sleeper Surprise: 100 Mastery
- Braised Riverbeast or Fat Sleeper Cakes: 75 Mastery
- Savage Feast: feeds 30, 100 in Highest secondary stat, this is produced by your barn’s work orders, not Cooking.
- Feast of Blood: 75 in highest secondary stat, feeds up to 30
- Feast of the Waters: 75 in highest secondary stat, feeds up to 10
- Draenic Strength Potion: +1,000 Str for 25 seconds
- Oralius’ Whispering Crystal: +100 to all stats for 1 hour
- Potion of Mogu Power: 456 Str for 25 Seconds
- Draenic Rejuvenation Potion: Heals ~68k HP
- Draenic Swiftness Potion: +70% movement or +200% swim speed for 8 seconds.
- Stout Augment Rune: +50 Str for one hour. Occasionally drops from WoD bosses (in Raid Finder mode) and is also rarely found as mission rewards from your Garrison. Stacks with flasks and other buffs.
- Oralius’ Whispering Crystal: +100 to all stats.
- Tents: (click the link to see all tent, these are not usable in raids or arenas) These account bound items are available through your leatherworking hut, from the follower that you assigned to that hut. All the tents do the same thing, which is to add 10% to all stats for an hour. Very nice if you’re doing anything outside of the raid.
Death Knight Tanking Professions
In Legion… ?
In Warlords there are no professions bonuses. No special stat boosts that characters without the profession cannot get. The only profession that provides a stat buff, to yourself or anyone else, is cooking.
Professions now are for the gear and/or the gold. Most have something that can be used as starting raid/pvp gear or sold, such as ilevel 640 armor pieces or 630 weapons. In patch 6.2 this gear can be improved to item level 715 (705 for weapons,) but it’s rather expensive to do so. You can also make (inexpensive) items to reroll the stats on crafted weapons and armor.
Leveling a profession can be done quickly and relatively easily once you get the Draenor version.
Some of the professions, eg: Engineering, have really useful items for leveling and world events. They’re not usable in raids, however (sigh.. no nice tents and no firing rockets at the boss…)
|Blacksmithing||Mail and Plate armor and weapons.|
|Engineering||will let you create a number of useful items, such as rockets, shields, a stealth device, etc. These cannot be used in rated PvP, but that can be used elsewhere, such as World PvP or in Highmaul Coliseum.|
|Jewelcrafting||Useful (ilevel 640) rings and neck items, pretty gems, gemmed mounts.|
|Inscription||Glyphs, some trinkets, caster weapons, fortune & Darkmoon cards, and more.|
|Alchemy||Chemistry is fun, unfortunately you can’t make acids or bombs. You can make flasks and potions to boost stats and cause other interesting effects. You can also make a very nice DPS trinket: Draenic Philosopher’s Stone, requires Alchemy 500. This item is upgradable in 6.1.|
|Enchanting||Enchant all those items and cast illusionary enchants.|
|Tailoring||Cloth armor, flying carpet, murlock chew toy and allows you to make nets (Embersilk Net) and battle standards (such as: Fearsome Battle Standard)|
|Leatherworking||You can also make Drums of Fury for a Heroism type buff (25% Haste for 40 sec.) Through the Leatherworking hut in your Garrison you can make single use tents that will increase your agility by 10% for an hour.|
|Archeology||Not much here for you.|
|Skinning||For gold gathering and for leatherworking|
|Herbalism||For Inscription, Alchemy, and gold gathering|
|Mining||Making gold and powering Blacksmithing and some engineering.|
Death Knight Race Choice
None of the racials are very important to tanking ability save perhaps the Night Elf 2% dodge increase or the Orc Blood Fury cooldown. All races can become Death Knights.
Alliance Death Knights
- Night Elf – 2% extra dodge is a nice ability. Shadowmeld is useless for tanks. +1% crit by day becomes +1% Haste at night.
- Draenei – Heal over time, Bonus to Str.
- Human – Escape ability can break some raid mechanics, 2% bonus to secondary stats.
- Worgen – 1% extra crit, sprint ability
- Dwarf – Stoneskin sheds some effects and reduces damage. +2% critical effect.
- Gnome – 5% Extra Runic Power, escape from slows and such.
- Lightforged Draenei – You have two area effect attacks, Light’s Judgment and Light’s Reckoning . The former lets you call down a strike onto enemies close to you, with a three second delay. Reckoning causes you to unleash the Light upon dying, damaging enemies within 8 yards and healing any allies for the same amount.
- Dark Iron Dwarf – your Fireblood removes all poison, disease, curse, magic, and bleed effects, just like your Dwarven “brethren,” but your ability increases your primary stat (Strength) by 600(!) (scales with level) +200 for for each additional effect removed. Lasts 8 sec. with a 2 min cooldown.
- Mechagnome – Hyper Organic Light Originator summons a couple of images of you to provide added damage or use it to give yourself a moment to set something up. Also you gather and analyze combat data every 5 sec, increasing your Strength by 25, stacking up to 10 times. The data decays while out of combat. And if you fall below 20% health your will heal for 15% of your maximum health. This effect cannot occur more than once every 2.5 min.
- Kul-Tiran – has the Haymaker, which stun for 3 seconds and knocks them back.
- Void Elf has a chance to empower you with the essence of the Void, which increases your damage by 5% for 12 sec. It has a 33% proc chance with 60 seconds internal cooldown. Nothing like a bit of Void energy added to your attacks, right? Also you can tear open a Spatial Rift, which might not have much use when tanking, but might be useful elsewhere.
Horde Death Knights
- Orc – Blood Fury for more damage, minor stun resistance.
- Tauren – Increased Stam, War Stomp stuns nearby opponents. +2% critical effect.
- Blood Elf – Arcane Torrent restores some Runic Power and removes a beneficial effect (buff) from enemies withing 8 yards.
- Troll – Increased attack speed as a cooldown.
- Undead – Wash away fear, sleep, charm; drain life and restore some health from it.
- Goblin – Rocket Jump can be a useful movement ability, 1% Haste isn’t so hot for you.
- Highmountain Tauren – have a Bull Rush which knocks down any enemies in your path. It’s a fast move and a decently long charge. Can be used as a burst movement. And you’re versatile so get +1% Versatility and you also take a bit less damage.
- Zandalari Troll – Pick a Loa to be associated with and gain benefits. Bwonsamdi and Krag’wa are good for you.
- Nightbourne – can do an Arcane Pulse , which damages all nearby enemies and reduces their speed for 12 seconds.
- Mag’har Orc – Your Ancestral Call will boost a random secondary stat (crit, haste, versatility) for 12 seconds on a 2 minute cooldown. Also, you get a reduced duration of curses, poisons, and diseases (by 10%.)
- Vulpera – You have a Bag of Tricks and you can use a trick on an enemy to damage them or on an ally to heal them. Also you take a bit less damage from the first strike an enemy inflicts on you.
Blood Tanking Macros
How to Get your DK to the Level Cap, ASAP
Death Knight leveling is easy. All specs work well, pick your favorite, regardless of which spec you choose you will find leveling to be easy. Even Blood. Not so much damage, but rounding up a large group and burning them down to walk away with full health has its points.
Still, there are thousands of quests from 55 onward and a bazillion mobs to kill (not to mention other players, but they don’t count here.) Sorting out which quests are best and which series of quests will get you to the cap the fastest is another game, which is why we highly recommend Zygor’s Guide.
Zygor’s is an in-game guide and it nearly automates the whole leveling process: you just pick your starting point, at any level, and the guide tracks which quest you’re on, tracks the quest objectives, and automatically advances and updates as you complete your tasks and quests.
In addition, a waypoint arrow is set automatically, so you never have to wonder where to go. All of the important quest info is included in the guide so you never have to wonder what to do. You’ll find that it’s vastly superior to the in-game questing help.
Playing with Heirlooms and/or Recruit a friend? Gaining a few levels in the dungeons or in PvP? Zygor’s Guide has your back. The guide knows what level you are and will correctly suggest where to go next and will let you dump all of your obsolete quests. You will probably never need to look at your quest log again.
Grab your copy here and get to the cap as fast as possible, even in Shadowlands.