World of Warcraft Death Knight Talent Builds: Blood Specialization

Tanking Talents

The Blood specialization for Death Knights in World of Warcraft is officially known as the tanking tree. It focuses on talents that improve the durability of your Death Knight, although there are numerous abilities that improve damage output as well.

Let's take a look at each individual talent. After this, we'll examine a few popular talent builds.

Butchery (4 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Butchery

    Effect: Whenever you kill an enemy that grants experience or honor, you generate up to 10/20 runic power. In addition, you generate 1/2 runic power per 5 sec while in combat.

  • Ranks: 2

Butchery gives you more runic power, which translates to more Death Coil attacks, which translates to more damage against enemies, which translates to killing enemies quicker, which translates to more experience.

This is a pretty good talent for solo leveling. It's less useful for group dungeons and raids, however, so a lot of end-game builds don't use it.

Blade Barrier (5 out of 5)

Death Knight Talent: Blade Barrier

  • Effect: Whenever your Blood Runes are on cooldown, you gain the Blade Barrier effect, which decreases damage taken by 2/4/6% for the next 10 sec.
  • Ranks: 3

This reduces your damage taken during most of the time you're in combat by 6%. You're a tank, so this is awesome. Consider this talent mandatory for all Blood-spec Death Knight talent builds.

Bladed Armor (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Bladed Armor

    Effect: Increases your attack power by 2/4/6 for every 180 armor value you have.

  • Ranks: 3

Another must-have low-teir talent, Bladed Armor is a straight damage enhancement. While damage-dealing isn't your primary role, it does improve your threat generation.

Improved Blood Tap (3 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Blood Tap

    Effect: Decreases the Cooldown of your Blood Tap ability by 15/30 seconds

  • Ranks: 2

Blood Tap instantly converts a Blood rune into a Death rune. Death runes can be used to substitute for any type of rune, so this is a very handy ability. With that said, though, this doesn't directly improve your ability to tank.

Scent of Blood (3 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talents: Scent of Blood

    Effect: You have a 15% chance after dodging, parrying or taking direct damage to gain the Scent of Blood effect, causing your next 1/2/3 melee hits to generate 10 runic power.

  • Ranks: 3

The low proc chance of this talent makes it hard to rely on, and more of a nice bonus rather than something you can really build a strategy around. Like Butchery, another talent related to runic power, Scent of Blood is best for solo leveling.

Scarlet Fever (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Scarlet Fever

    Effect: Gives your Blood Boil a 50/100% chance to inflict enemies with Scarlet Fever, reducing their physical damage done by 10% for 30 seconds.

  • Ranks: 2

As a tank, reducing the physical damage output of opponents by 10% increases your ability to take physical damage by 10%. This is a really good buff to an ability you'll be using a lot anyway.

Hand of Doom (2 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Hand of Doom

    Effect: Reduces the cooldown of your Strangulate ability by 30/60 Seconds

  • Ranks: 2

Strangulate isn't a bad ability against casters, but the PvE usefulness of this is pretty limited. There simply aren't enough situations where you will need to shut down a caster this hard (remember, bosses are generally going to have ways to side-step the effects of Strangulate).

Blood-Caked Strike (1 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Blood Caked Strike

    Effect: Your auto attacks have a 10/20/30% chance to cause a Blood-Caked Strike, which hits for 25% weapon damage plus 12.5% for each of your diseases on the target.

  • Ranks: 3

While the proc chance of this ability is fairly high at rank three, the damage done is not much to rave about. If you could obtain the full effect with one talent point, it might be worthwhile. As it stands, I think its simply too expensive for any build.

Bone Shield (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Bone Shield

    Effect: Surrounds you with a barrier of whirling bones. The shield begins with 3 charges, and each damaging attack consumes a charge. While at least 1 charge remains, you take 20% less damage from all sources and deal 2% more damage with all attacks, spells and abilities. Lasts 5 min.

  • Ranks: 1

20% damage reduction? Yes, please! This is on a one-minute cooldown timer as well. Because the shield only lasts for three charges, it'll go down in a blink against trash mobs. This is really meant for fights against heavy-hitting bosses.

Toughness (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Toughness

    Effect: Increases your armor value from items 3/6/10%

  • Ranks: 3

An obvious must-have talent. More armor means more damage reduction, and that's of critical importance as a tank.

Abomination’s Might (3 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Abomination's Might

    Effect: Increases the attack power by 5/10% of party and raid members within 100 yards. Also increases your total Strength by 1/2%.

  • Ranks: 2

This is a debatable talent. The attack power increase is useful, but it boosting attack power isn't a tank's most critical role. Personally, I think this is a talent that works well while leveling, but can be dropped once you're doing end-game raids and 5-man dungeons.

Sanguine Fortitude (5 out of 5)

Death Knight Talent: Sanguine Fortitude

  • Effect: While active, your Icebound Fortitude reduces damage taken by an additional 15/30% and costs 50/100% less runic power to activate.
  • Ranks: 2

Fully talented, this increases the damage reduction of Icebound Fortitude to 50%, making it an awesome ability during tough fights. This is an essential talent for end-game tanking.

Blood Parasite (4 out of 5)

  • Blood Parasite

    Effect: Your melee attacks have a 5/10% chance to spawn a Bloodworm. The Bloodworm attacks your enemies, gorging itself with blood until it bursts to heal nearby allies. Last 20 seconds.

  • Ranks: 2

I like this talent a lot. The random healing helps reduce the load on healers. In low-level grouping this isn't often necessary, since healers rarely run out of mana. However, early indications are that Cataclysm end-game play will be must tougher on healer mana pools, so little boosts like this will become more important.

Improved Blood Presence (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Improved Blood Presence

    Effect: Increases your rune regeneration by 10/20% and reduces the chance that you will be critically hit by melee attacks while in Blood Presence by 3/6%. In addition, while in Frost Presence or Unholy Presence, you retain 2/4% damage reduction from Blood Presence.

  • Ranks: 2

There isn't anything to not like about this talent. The increase in rune regeneration will let you make more attacks, and reducing the chance of receiving a critical hit will reduce the burst damage that you take from foes. This a must-have for all Blood-spec Death Knights.

Rune Tap (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Rune Tap

    Effect: Converts 1 Blood run into 10% of your maximum health.

  • Ranks: 1

This is a straight, small self-heal ability. It isn't incredible, and it is one a 30 second cooldown. However, you only need to spend on talent point for it and is a gateway to a great talent, Will of the Necropolis.

Will of the Necropolis (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Will of the Necropolis

    Effect: When a damaging attack brings you below 30% of your maximum health, you generate a Blood Rune and the cooldown on your Rune Tap ability is refreshed, and all damage taken is reduced by 8/16/25% for 8 sec. This effect cannot occur more than once every 45 seconds.

  • Ranks: 3

This talent gives you an instant healing option and damage reduction whenever you need it the most. It's an amazing tanking talent, and will save both you and your group on numerous occasions. This is a must-have for all Blood-spec Death Knights.

Vampiric Blood (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Vampiric Blood

    Effect: Temporarily grants the Death Knight 15% of maximum health and increases the amount of health generated through spells and effects by 25% for 10 seconds. After the effect expires, the health is lost.

  • Ranks: 1

Yet another oh-crap button, Vampiric Blood is placed on a 1 minute cooldown. As you might expect, this talent is incredibly good for tanking and will help save you from situations in which you'd otherwise die. It's pretty good for solo play, as well, since it lets you kill with less downtime.

Improved Death Strike (5 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Improved Death Strike

    Effect: Increases the damage and healing done by your Death Strike by 15/30/45%, increases its critical strike chance by 3/6/9%.

  • Ranks: 3

Death Strike is a critical ability for Death Knights, and this makes it way better. Although the small increase in offensive power is nice, the improvement in Death Strike's self-healing ability is the real draw. This will reduce the demand on your healer. The improved self-healing also makes soloing much more efficient.

Crimson Scourge (2 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Crimson Scourge

    Effect: Increases the damage dealt by your Blood Boil by 20/40%, and when you Plague Strike a target that is already infected with your Blood Plague, there is a 50/100% chance that your next Blood Boil will consume no runes.

  • Ranks: 2

This talent would be great if Blood Boil was followed up with something besides Plague Strike. Plague Strike really isn't a great ability for Blood-spec Death Knights, and it consumes runes better consumed by Death Strike. I recommend skipping this one.

Dancing Rune Weapon (4 out of 5)

  • Death Knight Talent: Dancing Rune Blade

    Effect: Summons a second rune weapon that fights on its own for 12 sec, doing the same attacks as the Death Knight but for 50% reduced damage. The rune weapon also assists in defense of its master, granting an additional 20% parry chance while active.

  • Ranks: 1

I don't think this top-tier talent is as good as the top-tier talents in a lot of other class specializations. However, it's still good, and worth a single talent point. The main benefit is the 20% extra parry chance. That's a big bonus, and it can mean the difference between life and death during a boss fight.

The Best End-Game Talent Specs

In my opinion, there are two major specs that you'll work towards throughout the game.

The 31/6/2 build is focused on tanking. It doesn't tank solo-friendly talents like Butchery. The excess points that go in to Frost and Unholy are, to be frank, of only marginal added utility. The most important thing is to pick up all the major tanking abilities as soon as possible.

The 31/2/8 build picks up most of the tanking talents, but also picks up damage-dealing talents, including the Death Coil damage buff from the Unholy talent tree. This build is more for solo-play, and but it can tank just fine in most 5-man dungeons.

Of course, you don't have to choose either build. This guide's individual rankings of talents should give you a good idea of what each talent does and how useful it is. Feel free to mix-and-match as you desire.

This post is part of the series: Death Knight Blood Spec Guide

Want to play a Blood-spec Death Knight in World of Warcraft? This guide provides you with the info you need to know to get started.
  1. World of Warcraft Death Knight Blood Spec Guide Part 1: Basics
  2. World of Warcraft Death Knight Blood Spec Guide Part 2: Talents
  3. World of Warcraft Death Knight Blood Spec Guide Part 3: Abilities and Rotations
  4. World of Warcraft Death Knight Blood Spec Guide Part 4: Gear
  5. The Death Knight – One Fun Class
  6. WoW Patch 3.1 Proposed Class Changes – Death Knight
  7. The Definitive Guide to the Post 3.1 DPS Death Knight