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Blood Death Knight Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (MoP 5.4)

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 MoP 5.4. 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.

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
  2. Use your Frost, Unholy, and Death runes on Death Strike Icon Death Strike.
  3. Use your Blood runes on Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike. Never use Heart Strike if you have no Blood runes, as this will cause Heart Strike 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 Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike to generate threat and dump runic power.
  5. Use Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter when nothing else is available, in order to generate runic power.
  6. Use your Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge procs (free Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil or Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay) as follows.
    1. Use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay if available and if the target will remain in the area of Death and Decay for the whole duration.
    2. If Death and Decay is on cooldown or the target is likely to move, use 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 2 or 3 enemies, your go-to ability will be Heart Strike Icon Heart Strike. Against 4 or more enemies, you will want to switch to Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil. Keep in mind that Blood Boil scales much better with your gear and stats than Heart Strike, so you should check the damage of these abilities to see which one is best to use in your particular case.

Additionally, you will want to use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay on cooldown, placing it under the targets you are tanking.

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 Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike.

As in the case of the single target rotation, Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge procs should be used firstly on Death and Decay, if available, and after that 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 3 kinds of cooldowns: proactive cooldowns (to protect yourself before high damage spikes occur), reactive cooldowns (to heal yourself after taking damage), and cooldowns that are both proactive or reactive (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
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 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
  • While this ability is being channeled (4 seconds), all damage taken is reduced by the sum of your dodge and parry chances (for example, if you have a 15% chance to dodge and a 16% chance to parry, all damage taken will be reduced by 31%)
  • 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 6 damaging attacks.
Reactive cooldowns
Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap Converts a Blood rune into 10% of your health (remember that the 30-second cooldown of Rune Tap is sometimes reset by Will of the Necropolis Icon Will of the Necropolis when your health drops below 30%)
Mixed (Proactive or Reactive) Cooldowns
Death Strike Icon Death Strike
  • Heals you for 20% of the damage you have sustained in the previous 5 seconds (a minimum of 7% of your maximum health)
  • 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. Vengeance

Vengeance Icon Vengeance is a passive ability which you receive for choosing the Blood specialisation. Essentially, it increases your attack power for 1.5% of the unmitigated damage you receive. It takes the form of a 20-second buff, which you should have no problem maintaining 100% uptime on.

Vengeance also has diminishing returns, in that each additional target attacking you generates less Vengeance than the previous one.

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. 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.

6.5. Detailed Cooldown Usage

6.5.1. 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.

6.5.2. 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 50% for 12 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.

6.5.3. 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 12 seconds. It is, therefore, excellent against melee attacks and thus physical damage.

6.5.4. Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead has two survival benefits. As we will see, it is more potent when you are trying to reduce magic damage, but it works well against Physical damage as well.

The first benefit is the damage reduction that it provides. While the spell is being channeled, your damage taken is reduced by the sum of your dodge and parry chances. As such, this cooldown provides a sizable damage reduction for a short amount of time. Note, however, that while you are channeling, you cannot dodge or parry, so you will be hit by every attack made against you, which works to counter the damage reduction that you gain, to some extent. So, when used against Physical damage, it is best to use it when unavoidable abilities are cast at you, but at any rate, it remains beneficial to use against practically anything.

The second benefit is that the ghouls 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.

6.5.5. 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 25%. 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 40%. 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.

6.5.6. 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.

6.5.7. Bone Shield

Bone Shield Icon Bone Shield offers you 20% damage reduction for however long the buff persists on you. The buff has 6 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.

6.5.8. Rune Tap

Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap is on a 30-second cooldown and it heals you for 10% of your maximum health. It costs 1 Blood rune to cast. Basically, you want to use this ability more or less on cooldown, as long as it does not overheal you. In case you know for certain that a big amount of damage is incoming, you should save it for this time.

Also, you should not try to save this ability specifically for when you drop to a low health percentage. This is because each time you drop below 30% health (not more often than once every 45 seconds, however), Will of the Necropolis Icon Will of the Necropolis will reset the cooldown of Rune Tap and make it free of cost. Additionally, each time Will of the Necropolis procs, you will gain a 25% damage reduction for 8 seconds.

If you are in the process of taking a lot of damage, you should try to use Rune Tap normally, before you drop below 30% health, so that you can then use it again.

Note that the Tier 15 Set 2-piece Bonus provides a 10-second reduction to the cooldown of Rune Tap, and makes it free of cost.

6.5.9. 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.

Roiling Blood Icon Roiling Blood should be used to simply spread your diseases to any new targets that have entered the fight. Just use Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil whenever you want to spread the disease, but try to only do so when you have Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge procs in order to avoid spending runes.

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).

6.5.10. Tier 2 Talents

Lichborne Icon Lichborne should be used whenever you are low on health, or you just want to supplement the healing that your healers are doing. Simply cast Lichborne and then spam Death Coil Icon Death Coil on yourself. You will find this macro useful.

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.

6.5.11. Tier 4 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 Pact requires that you have an active ghoul to sacrifice, either from Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead or from Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead. Undead minions controlled through Control Undead Icon Control Undead do not count.

We recommend this macro to summon a ghoul and use Death Pact at the same time.

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.

6.5.12. Tier 5 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.

Even though there are suggestions of using a macro to automatically cast Blood Tap (it is off the global cooldown), such as macroing Blood Tap together with Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike, we do not advise using these, as they take away all the control that makes Blood Tap so great.

There is one macro, however, 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. 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.

There are three main things to keep in mind when using Death Strike.

  • One way of using Death Strike is to use it after you have received one or more damaging attacks in a short space of time (5 seconds). This is because Death Strike's self-healing component is based on how much damage you have taken in the 5 seconds prior to using it. As such, the more damage you have taken just before using Death Strike, the bigger the self-heal and the resulting Blood Shield will be. Additionally, this ensures that the self-heal will not overheal you, as you have just taken damage.
  • Another way of using Death Strike is to use it several times right before you receive a large amount of damage, since this will stack your Blood Shield up and cause you to take less damage.
  • Finally, if you are not the main tank, and you are preparing to taunt the boss or to pick up a newly spawned add, you should try to stack as high a Blood Shield as you can (note that Blood Shield's value is limited to your maximum health) by using Death Strike repeatedly on the boss prior to taunting it.

For tracking the amount of damage you have taken in the last 5 seconds, and thus the potential efficiency of your Death Strike's self-heal and of your Blood Shield, we recommend the Blood Shield Tracker add-on.

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

6.6.1. 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.

6.6.2. Scent of Blood Procs

Each time you perform a successful melee attack, dodge an attack, or parry an attack, you gain a stack of Scent of Blood Icon Scent of Blood, up to a maximum of 5. Each stack increases the healing and minimum healing of your next Death Strike Icon Death Strike by 20%. Additionally, each time the effect procs, you gain 10 runic power.

Clearly, the more stacks you have of Scent of Blood, the more powerful your Death Strike's healing will be. In normal fight conditions, there is little to gain from monitoring the stacks closely, and you can use Death Strike quite loosely.

6.6.3. Riposte

Riposte Icon Riposte is a passive ability that procs when you dodge or parry an attack, increasing your Critical Strike chance by 75% of your total avoidance (your chance to dodge and parry combined), for 20 seconds.

In most cases, this just means that you will have a near-permanent buff to your Critical Strike chance while you are tanking a boss, and it does not require any management from your part.

If you are not tanking any mobs, then you will not have a chance to proc Riposte. There is a trick that you may be able to use in certain situations, however, in order to maintain a high uptime on Riposte. Namely, you can taunt the boss (or other target) off of the current tank and wait until you parry or dodge an attack before having them taunt it back. By doing this every 20 seconds, you could maintain relatively high uptime on Riposte, gaining a sizeable damage boost. Note that if you are attempting this trick, you must be very careful for your taunting not to interfere with any tank-switching mechanics in the fight. Given the fact that most encounters have such tank-switching mechanics, we imagine the usefulness of this strategy to be quite limited.

7. Changelog↑top

  • 16 Dec. 2013: Added a mention of using Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper in the single target rotation.
  • 10 Sep. 2013: Patch 5.4 update.
    • Edited the disease sections, and the Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech section to reflect the new recommended usage of the ability.
    • Added mention that Scent of Blood Icon Scent of Blood now also procs from dodging and parrying attacks.
    • Removed the mention about Dancing Rune Weapon Icon Dancing Rune Weapon's runic power cost, since it is now free.
    • Added a section for Riposte Icon Riposte, a new passive ability.
    • Updated the Vengeance Icon Vengeance section to account for the minor changes that this mechanic underwent.
  • 20 May 2013: Patch 5.3 update: nothing to change.
  • 31 Mar. 2013: Performed several updates to the page.
    • Added mention of using Unholy Blight Icon Unholy Blight to apply diseases to a single target if Outbreak Icon Outbreak is unavailable.
    • Added mention of using Crimson Scourge Icon Crimson Scourge procs primarily on Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay, even against a single target.
    • Improved the explanation of Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead.
    • Added mention of the benefits of the Tier 15 Set 2-piece Bonus to Rune Tap Icon Rune Tap.
    • Updated the Tier 1 and Tier 5 talent sections to reflect the altered priority of these talents, based on the changes we operated on the Talents page of this guide.
    • Added advanced usage tactics for Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap, as well as a useful Blood Tap macro.
    • Removed a paragraph that recommended saving Scent of Blood Icon Scent of Blood stacks in preparation for taking damage.

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