Blood Spec Death Knights make for fine tanks. Self-heals, nice defensive cooldowns, and decent damage and threat are all there. Maybe they require a bit 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
Need to change up a bit? Your talents can easily be changed IF you’re in a “rested XP” area, such as your garrison, an inn, or the big city. 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. no special items are required for changing either spec or talents.
If you are in the raid/dungeon, or out in the world, and need to change talents before the next fight? From 51 to 60 you can buy or make (with Inscription) a stack of Tome of the Still Mind. Not yet 51? Use a Tome of the Quiet Mind. Either will give you one minute to switch up.
Our picks are checked:
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. Better than Heartbreaker for single targets, but you have to manage it properly, and for groups Heartbreak is better.
- Rune Strike: A strong hit, but that’s about it. Heartbreaker will be more useful pretty much all the time.
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, with both damage and healing. It can stack up to 5 times for a 40% buff. 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? More Death Strikes and 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 Will of the Necropolis will be more useful.
Tier 5, level 75:
The choice here really depends on the fights you are setting up.
- Grip of the Dead: Greatly slows the movement of enemies in your Death and Decay. If you need the snare then this is your pick. Recommended for some Mythic+ fights as it gives you a couple of seconds to kite the enemy. Just drop it in front of them, back off, get healed.
- Tightening Grasp : Decreases the cooldown on Gorefiend’s Grasp by 30 seconds (to 90 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, have any use for it?
Tier 6, level 90:
- Voracious: Your Death Strike grants you a 15% leech effect for 6 seconds. Pretty weak 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. And it’s passive, which is pretty nice.
- 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. If you’re not in any real danger of dying then grab one of the others.
- Red Thirst : Is a fine 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 area effect damage field around you for 1 second per 10 RP spent, up to 10 seconds. The damage it deals will also heal you. 1 min. cooldown, very nice healing when fighting groups of up to 5. It is the best option on this tier for AoE DPS and Mythic+.
Blood DK Glyphs
Once upon a time the Glyphs were required, but then Legion did away with pretty much all useful glyphs. Those that remain are entirely cosmetic.
You now have:
- Glyph of Cracked Ice modifies 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 Geist and Glyph of the Skeleton modify the look of your undead pal.
- Glyph of Foul Menagerie causes your Army of the Dead to summon an assortment of undead associates.
Nothing like a bloodier looking Anti-Magic shell 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.
An Item level upgrade (with Str and Stam) will generally be superior, regardless of stats, especially if it is 10+ levels better.
Diminishing returns: Let’s say you want to stack a ton of Versatility. Keep in mind that past a certain point each additional point of the stat will be worth a bit less that at lower values.
For example, as you get over 30% in one stat any additional points will be worth 10% less. When you pass 66% they’ll be worth 50% less.
Stat Priority: Item level > Strength > Versatility > Haste > Crit > Mastery
- Stamina helps you to survive, obviously, and higher item level beings more stam along with the Strength.
- Stength increases your attack power, and your Parry, and that AP improves every damaging thing that you do.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 far from useless.
Keep in mind that stat values are actually pretty close.
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 and Enchants
Socketed gear pieces are not common, but they do occasionally appear. Drop a Strength gem into the first and Versatility gems into all the rest. Not yet max level? Get similar gems at lower levels. If the Str gem is not “unique” then go all Str gems.
These are a lot easier than they used to be. In BFA you can only enchant your weapons and your rings. These are Shadowlands numbers.
Not yet max level? Here is a list of enchants you can use for lower level work.
Gotta eat right? Might as well get some stats, too. The seconds # is for Shadowlands.
Can’t afford enchants and such? You should go here.
Flasks and Potions
In order of preference. 1st number is for BFA, the 2nd for Shadowlands. Flasks last an hour and also last through through death. Potions are good for 25 seconds.
Death Knight Tanking Professions
Professions now are for the gear and/or the gold. Most have something that can be used as starting raid/pvp gear or sold.
If you’re leveling? Get Herbalism and mining for the XP.
|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 rings and neck items, pretty gems (for stats,) 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, such as Draenic Philosopher’s Stone and better.|
|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
You’re already at max level, so yeah, this is for your next alt.
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. You can see more race detail on our Death Knight Overview page.
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 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.