Monday, September 24, 2012

Bloody Tanking (Mists of Pandaria)

Blood tanking in Mists is a fight for survival.

It's certainly not for the faint-of-heart. From the moment the boss is pulled until that boss is nothing more than loot-laden carcass decaying on the ground, a Blood Death Knight must carefully time every button press, be mindful of every fight mechanic, and quickly analyze and react to any situation. This expansion is not going to be any easier than Cataclysm, and will severely punish any Death Knight tanking carelessly.

However, if you are a capable of playing a Blood Death Knight well, you will be an almost unstoppable force, more powerful than we were even in Dragon Soul.
The biggest changes to Blood tanks in Mists of Pandaria-

  • All Death Knights now have a 1.0 second global cooldown with any presence.
  • All Death Knights now have an execute ability.
  • Vengeance changes.
  • All Death Knights can take any one of the three rune regeneration abilities.
  • Many other changes to talents/abilities in general.

The global cooldown (GCD) change

With the GCD lowered for Blood DKs, if you attempt to spam your Death Strike, you  will almost perpetually be out of resources. This feels bad, and many players are unhappy with the change. However, if you time your Death Strikes to coincide with spikes of incoming damage, this change is actually an enormous survivability buff.

This is due to the fact that Death Strike's heal and shield scale with damage taken over the last few seconds, meaning that using a Death Strike with little/no damage recently taken is a huge waste of resources. If instead you time your Death Strikes to follow spikes in damage taken, your heals and shields will be much larger, and with the change to the GCD, you'll be able to use more Death Strikes in a tighter time-frame to get larger heals and shields when you need them most.

Take note! Don't be a spammer!

The execute

Death Knights now get an ability named "Soul Reaper". I've beaten this dead horse before, but this is a guide so I won't assume my readers have read any of my other articles. Soul Reaper is a purely damaging ability that hits initially rather weakly, but puts a debuff on your target if the target is below 35% health. When the debuff falls off naturally, a huge portion of shadow damage is dealt. If the debuff doesn't fall off by the time the target dies, the Death Knight gains 50% extra haste for 10 seconds. 

While this is not strictly a survival ability, it does allow Blood DKs to reach higher threat levels sub 35%, and a target that dies faster does less damage, so it's significant. Also, because it only costs a Blood rune, it doesn't compete for Death Strikes.


Oh, the new Vengeance system makes me smile. Realistically, I don't see this staying in it's current form for more than a month or two. Tanks simply are able to do too much damage with it scaling quickly and without cap. Death Knights are especially prone to the heightened vengeance levels because we must hit with highly scaling attack power abilities to better survive. Expect a hard (or soft) cap patched in soon, but enjoy out-performing many DPS classes while it lasts!

The three rune regeneration abilities

Ever wish that you didn't have to be subject to so much RNG when tanking as Blood? Ever wonder how much better life would be if you didn't have to play rune tetris constantly to not die in progression? Well, wonder and wish no more, because it's here. 

Runic Corruption
This option will give us more consistent mitigation, and will also allow us to sit on a stored Death Strike. The downside is that it generates the fewest runes per minute.

Runic Empowerment
Choosing this will give you the most runes per minute, but storing a Death Strike in anticipation is a huge loss of efficiency, and it must be gamed to be effective.

Blood Tap
This is the oddball. Blood Tap will store a "Blood Charge" for every proc, storing up to twelve in a bank. When you use Blood Tap (it's an ability), it deducts 5 Blood Charges from your bank to turn a fully depleted rune into a Death Rune. Using Blood Tap also allows a Death Knight to store a full Death Strike, and has the second best number of runes per minute. The downside is that you have to manage yet another resource, and keeping a full Death Strike in your runes is a loss of efficiency again.

It should be noted that none of these are "better" than both others in every scenario. Strangely enough, current theorycrafting suggests that Runic Corruption or Blood Tap are your best choices unless you are overly worried about DPS. Choose what feels best to you, all it costs to change between them is downtime between combat and some vendor available dust.

Significant Talent Changes

I highly recommend you visit Tyvi's guide on Elitist Jerks (linked below) for more information on the new talent tree and changes to old talents. Needless to say there are huge, sweeping changes that every tank should take careful note of.

The big debates are centered around Plague Leech and Death Siphon.

Plague Leach is a button that converts your diseases on target into a Death Rune, so in essence it is the reincarnation of Blood Tap, but with a cost. Because it doesn't remove the "Weakened Blows" debuff from the boss, so it should be safe to use on demand for Blood, so long as you aren't too worried about DPS. So far I'm using Roiling Blood instead, but that may change once progression starts.

Death Siphon is a very different kind of animal. It costs a Death Rune, and heals the castor for 100% of the damage dealt. This damage scales with AP, so in effect as Vengeance stacks higher and higher, Death Siphon becomes more and more effective, becoming our most effective DPS/rune ability around 60k AP. However, Death Siphon's healing essentially will never overtake that of a Death Strike, so from a survival standpoint it's less attractive than the extremely effective Death Pact.

Obligatory Elitist Jerks link

Tyvi doing what Tyvi does best!