On reaching several levels, you will open new Talent tiers. In each tier, you can choose one Talent at a time. Talents can affect your abilities in different ways: add new ones, replace old ones, passively modify various effects and spells. You can change Talents while you’re in Sanctums or in rest areas, but if there are no such places nearby, you can use Tome of the Quiet Mind, which allows you to change Talents within a minute. Note that Talents can’t be changed in combat. Also, if a Talent selected in a certain tier is on cooldown, you’ll have to wait for it to recharge in order to change it.
Tier 1 — 15 lvl. Survivability
- Heartbreaker — Heart Strike generates 2 additional Runic Power per target hit.
- Blooddrinker — active ability, costs 1 Rune, CD 30 sec. Drains 9 health from the target over 3 sec. You can move, parry, dodge, and use defensive abilities while channeling this ability.
- Tombstone — active ability, CD 1 min, no GCD. Consumes up to 5 Bone Shield charges. For each charge consumed, you gain 6 Runic Power and absorb damage equal to 6% of your maximum health for 8 sec.
Heartbreaker — default choice in any situation with cleave and AoE. Additional Runic Power allows you to heal with Death Strike more often.
Blooddrinker — strictly for single target combat.
Currently, there are no situations where Tombstone would come in handy, as this talent is weaker than the others in this tier.
Tier 2 — 25 lvl. Healing
Hemostasis is the only choice in this tier, other talents are much weaker in damage and healing.
Tier 3 — 30 lvl. Survivability
The choice in this tier depends on your playstyle and type of content.
Pick Foul Bulwark for high M+ keys to gain additional health.
Relish in Blood — default choice for any type of content, aside from moments where you need extra health.
Choose Blood Tap if you want to control everything yourself. This talent can be more useful than Relish in Blood, but requires an additional bind.
Tier 4 — 35 lvl. Survivability
- Will of the Necropolis — damage taken below 30% Health is reduced by 30%.
- Anti-Magic Barrier — reduces the cooldown of Anti-Magic Shell by 20 sec and increases its duration and amount absorbed by 40%.
- Mark of Blood — active ability, 6 sec cooldown. Marks an enemy for 15 sec. The enemy’s damaging auto attacks will heal their victim for 3% of the victim’s maximum health.
Will of the Necropolis — default choice. If you need to use Anti-Magic Shell more often (for example when you want to prevent a certain debuff, but the base cooldown is too long) — pick Anti-Magic Barrier.
Mark of Blood is situational. For now there are no situations where this talent could come in handy, at least in Shadowlands raids.
Tier 5 — 40 lvl. Control/Mobility
This tier is entirely situational.
Grip of the Dead — default choice for M+, you can kite mobs without damage.
Pick Tightening Grasp if the base cooldown is too long for certain fights or M+ dungeons.
Wraith Walk can be chosen when you don’t need additional control.
Tier 6 — 45 lvl. Healing
- Voracious — Death Strike healing is increased by 20% and grants you 15% Leech for 8 sec.
- Death Pact — active ability, 2 min cooldown. Heals you for 50% of your max health, but absorbs incoming healing equal to 30% of your max health for 15 sec.
- Bloodworms — your auto attacks have a chance to summon a Bloodworm. Bloodworms deal minor damage to your target for 15 sec and then burst, healing you for 15% of your missing health. If you drop below 50% health, your Bloodworms will immediately burst and heal you.
Voracious — default choice for high M+ keys and moments when you need a constant and consistent heal.
Bloodworms — pick for other situations, including raids.
Death Pact is not used.
Tier 7 — 50 lvl. Survivability
- Purgatory — prevents fatal damage once every 4 min, instead absorbing incoming healing equal to the damage prevented, lasting 3 sec. If any healing absorption remains when this effect expires, you will die. Basically a Cheat Death effect.
- Red Thirst — reduces the cooldown on Vampiric Blood by 1.5 sec per 10 Runic Power spent.
- Bonestorm — active ability, 1 min cooldown. Costs 10-100 Runic Power. Hits up to 8 nearby enemies, dealing damage and healing you for 3% of your max health every time it deals damage (up to 15%). Lasts 1 sec per 10 Runic Power spent.
Purgatory can be used to learn raid bosses, preventing sudden death.
Otherwise, pick Red Thirst for raids — it increases the uptime of your main defensive ability Vampiric Blood.
For Mythic+ and AoE raid fights pick Bonestorm.
Here are your common builds:
For raid single-target encounters:
- Relish in Blood
- Will of the Necropolis
- Wraith Walk
- Red Thirst (Purgatory if you need to cheat death)
For high M+ keys:
- Foul Bulwark
- Will of the Necropolis
- Grip of the Dead
For raid AoE encounters and medium M+ keys:
- Relish in Blood
- Will of the Necropolis
- Grip of the Dead / Tightening Grasp
Covenant system — one of the main additions in Shadowlands. As you level up, you’ll get to know all 4 Covenants. Each Covenant occupies its own area in Shadowlands. We advise you to take a closer look at each of the Covenants, because at level 60 you’ll have to decide which one to join.
Kyrian reside in Bastion, Necrolords control Maldraxxus, Ardenweald is the home of Night Fae, and Venthyr rule in Revendreth. Selecting a covenant will unlock two new abilities: a signature ability for all Covenant’s allies and a class ability.
In this guide we’ll look at all the new Covenant abilities and how they affect gameplay.
- Venthyr > Night Fae >= Necrolord > Kyrian
- Kyrian > Night Fae >= Venthyr > Necrolord
Kyrian — best choice for raids. Even though their Soulbinds have been nerfed significantly throughout the last weeks of the beta, the ability to drop raid debuffs with the Covenant’s signature ability pays for itself. It’s also a good option in terms of DPS.
Venthyr — great for M+. Their class ability generates a lot of Runic Power, boosting your self-healing capabilities.
Night Fae have been revamped since beta but they still remain viable. Plus their Soulbinds are pretty powerful, which makes up for their mediocre class ability.
Necrolord are at the bottom of the list for now, due to their weak ability with a long cooldown. However, even this Covenant can be called playable.
Note that only Night Fae and Venthyr increase mobility. Given the Death Knight’s limited movement, these Covenants will always come in handy.
- Class ability: Shackle the Unworthy — damages the target over 14 sec and reduces the damage they deal to you. While Shackle the Unworthy is active on an enemy, your direct-damage attacks that spend runes have a 50% chance to spread this effect to a nearby enemy.
- Signature ability: Summon Steward — summons a minion that gives you 3 Phials of Serenity that restore 20% health and remove all diseases, poisons, curses, and bleeds. These potions have a separate cooldown.
Kyrian is a good Covenant for ST fights, especially in raids. Phials of Serenity removes most debuffs even in raids and Shackle the Unworthy deals serious damage to a single target.
Pros: High DPS for ST and cleave, Phials of Serenity removes debuffs.
Cons: Weak AoE DPS.
- Class ability: Swarming Mist — lasts 8 sec, CD 1 min. Increases dodge chance by 10%, deals damage every second to enemies within 10 yds. Generates 3 Runic Power per damage tick, up to a maximum of 15. Deals reduced damage beyond 5 targets (but still damages all of them).
- Signature ability: Door of Shadows — blink with a 1.5 sec cast time. CD 1 min.
Venthyr — great choice for M+ and pretty solid for raids. Their ability synergizes with Bonestorm and generates a lot of Runic Power in AoE fights, allowing you to use Death Strike more often. The first Shadowlands raid, Castle Nathria, has multi-target fights, making Venthyr a decent choice for raids.
Pros: High DPS and survivability in AoE, good mobility.
Cons: Low effectiveness in ST fights.
- Class ability: Death’s Due — replaces Death and Decay and has the same cooldown (15 sec). While in its area, your Heart Strike applies a stacking effect that reduces damage enemies deal to you by 1%, up to a maximum of 8% and their power is transferred to you as an equal amount of Strength.
- Signature ability: Soulshape — teleports you 15 yds forward and increases your movement speed by 50% for 12 sec. CD 1.5 min. While this effect is active, you can activate it again to use blink every 4 sec.
Night Fae is an average Covenant for DK-tanks. Their Death’s Due ability is quite complicated to use effectively (the last GCD must be used on Heart Strike). Nevertheless, its bonus is pretty good and uptime is high in raids, allowing you to reduce incoming damage and increase damage dealt. In Mythic+ this ability is not as good, but still has uses. For dungeons this Covenant’s signature ability Soulshape allows to kite dangerous packs of mobs easily.
Pros: High mobility, damage reduction in raids.
Cons: Complicated ability, average Soulbinds, low damage bonus.
- Class ability: Abomination Limb — instant use, 2 min cooldown. Sprout an additional limb, dealing damage over 12 sec to nearby enemies. Every 1 sec, an enemy is pulled to your location if they are further than 8 yds from you. The same enemy can only be pulled once every 4 sec. Gain 3 Bone Shield charges instantly, and again every 6 sec.
- Signature ability: Fleshcraft — after channeling for 4 sec, grants a shield equal to 20% of your max health. Channeling near a corpse boosts the shield even further — up to 50% of your max health. Bosses and powerful enemies grant the maximum shield bonus. CD 2 min.
Necrolord — average Covenant for a DK-tank. Abomination Limb deals a lot of damage, but you’ll have to put up with its target cap and long cooldown. Moreover, their Soulbinds are mediocre and signature ability Fleshcraft wastes 4 sec every 2 min on channeling. During that you can’t move or use abilities, which outweighs all its pros.
Pros: Good AoE DPS, interesting pulling effect.
Cons: Average ST DPS, mediocre Soulbinds.
After you join a Covenant, you’ll have the ability to link your souls and powers with three soulbinds.
Soulbind is a specific NPC, with whom you create a spiritual connection, granting you access to a separate talent tree. Each tree has both common passive effects and slots for conduits.
A Conduit is an item similar to a gem that has a unique effect for your class and specialization. By visiting The Forge of Bonds at your Covenant sanctuary, you can apply Conduits and then swap them out just like the essences in Battle for Azeroth.
It’s worth noting that each Soulbind has predetermined slots for Conduits in their talent tree, and each of them comes in three types. A Conduit of a certain type can only be inserted into a slot specifically designed for its effect.
Plan your Soulbind’s talent tree carefully — if you make a mistake when choosing Conduits, you’ll have to wait a long time to replace them.
Let’s look at the more powerful passive effects of every Soulbind.
- Valiant Strikes — occasionally, depending on the frequency of your critical hits and those of your allies, it stacks a buff and heals you when you drop below 50% health. CD 1 min.
- Pelagos: universal choice for any type of content.
- Kleia: good choice for M+, but weak in raids.
- Mikanikos: not used.
- Thrill Seeker — being in combat and killing opponents grants you stacks of “Thrill Seeker”. At 40 stacks it grants you Euphoria, increasing your Haste by 20% for 10 sec.
- Enduring Gloom — Door of Shadows grants you a shield that absorbs damage equal to 15% of your maximum health.
- Service In Stone — damage taken below 40% health is reduced by 10%. Upon death you leave a stone husk behind which shatters after 3 sec, inflicting damage to enemies around it.
- Nadjia: good choice due to haste bonus.
- Theotar: weak option.
- General Draven: great choice for survivability.
- Grove Invigoration — your abilities generate up to 10 stacks of Redirected Anima. Death’s Due increases your max health by 1% and mastery by 25 per stack. Given the Death’s Due cooldown, the health bonus will have 100% uptime.
- Field of Blossoms — Death’s Due creates a zone at your feet for 15 sec that increases Haste by 12%. Given the Death’s Due cooldown, the haste bonus becomes indefinite, but limits your positioning.
- Podtender — when you take fatal damage, creates a wildseed with 9700 hp. If it gets destroyed in 10 sec, you’ll die. Otherwise, you rejuvenate with 30% health. May only occur once every 30 min.
- First Strike — damaging an enemy before they damage you increases your chance to critical strike by 25% for 5 sec.
- Hold the Line — after standing still for 5 sec, you take 15% less physical damage until you move.
- Wild Hunt Tactics — your damage to targets above 75% health is increased by 10%.
- Niya: good starting choice for low Renown.
- Dreamweaver: best choice for high Renown.
- Korayn: good for M+.
- Serrated Spaulders — enemies that attack you in melee, take damage from dark magic.
- Heirmir’s Arsenal: Marrowed Gemstone — after landing 10 critical strikes, you gain 12% increased crit chance for 10 sec. May only occur once every 50 sec.
- Forgeborne Reveries — upon death your armor comes to life for 10 sec, allowing you to continue fighting. You cannot be healed and your damage is reduced by 50%.
- Marileth: a weak Soulbind.
- Emeni: the only good Necrolord choice.
- Heirmir: not worthy of attention.
- DPS: Nadjia
- Survivability: General Draven
- Raids: Dreamweaver
- Mythic+: Korayn
Now let’s talk about Conduits. They come in three types — Potency, Endurance, and Finesse. Let’s look at the ones the Death Knight has.
Put a Conduit for your Covenant ability in the first slot.
If you have a second slot, pick Withering Plague, but it’s best to choose a Soulbind without a second Potency slot.
Hardened Bones is a must.
Second slot: Meat Shield.
Third slot (if available): Reinforced Shell. If you need to increase the duration of Anti-Magic Zone, put it in the first slot.
Finesse Conduit doesn’t give bonuses to damage and survivability, so pick whichever you like the most.
For Mythic+ pick Spirit Drain, for raids — Chilled Resilience, but only if it helps you survive through certain mechanics.
A total of 16 Legendaries are available to Death Knights — 8 class ones and 8 general ones. We will highlight only those that are noteworthy.
A great defensive choice for high M+ keys and tough raid fights. With Voracious this legendary procs on each Death Strike, since it’s minimal healing increases to 10.5%.
- Superstrain — Your Frost Fever, Blood Plague, and Virulent Plague also apply the other two diseases at reduced effectiveness.
This legendary procs every time, applying diseases from other Death Knight specs. In addition to damage, Frost Fever also has a chance to generate additional Runic Power.
Currently, Death Knights have only two legendary effect options. Superstrain is more suitable for raids and simple M+ keys, while Bryndaor’s Might — for high M+ keys and tough raid fights.
If you’re interested in both raids and Mythic+, you should craft both of these legendaries.
Let’s examine the class mechanics of a DK-tank.
Runes and Runic Power
The Death Knight has Runes and Runic Power in their arsenal.
- 6 Runes. A maximum of three runes can be recharged at a time, base recharge time — 10 sec (scales with Haste). For each Rune spent, you receive 10 Runic Power.
- Runic Power — energy bar that’s replenished by spending Runes and used for abilities like Death Strike and Bonestorm.
As a tank, Death Knight should optimize generation and consumption of Runes and Runic Power, avoid Runic Power overcap and keep at least 3 Runes on recharge. Base rotation priority — the use of Death Strike at the right time for self-healing.
Plus, a DK tank should maintain their Bone Shield with Marrowrend. Shiled charges are spent on enemies’ auto attacks, but no more than 1 charge every 2.5 sec. In addition, it’s important to minimize the use of Marrowrend in favor of Heart Strike for 5 additional Runic Power.
Unlike other tanks, Death Knights are weak without cooldowns and receive more damage. In turn, they have a lot of defensive abilities with short cooldowns. Moreover, DKs can self-heal more often than other tanks thanks to Death Strike. This ability heals 25% of damage received in the last 5 seconds, so you should time it correctly and use it right after getting a lot of damage.
AoE rotation (3 or more targets)
Note that sometimes you have to keep your Runes and Runic Power full, if you know that you’re about to need a full heal from Death Strike. These situations might occur during dangerous pulls in high Mythic+ keys and epic dungeons. In these moments, immediately exhaust your Runic Power on healing, replenish it with Runes, and heal again.
Before you start choosing gear, remember one important rule — item level comes first! Never equip an item that is 10 or more ilvl lower, even if it has better stats. This rule also means that Strength and Stamina are the best stats for us, so they will not be mentioned in the priorities below.
Moving on to the stat priority for survivability:
Versatility >= Haste > Mastery >= Crit
Versatility is a good passive stat for all tanks — increases damage dealt and reduces damage taken by half.
Haste reduces the intervals between your auto attacks, GCD, and helps generate Runes faster (by 1.1% per each percent of Haste).
Mastery: Blood Shield — grants a shield after using Death Strike that absorbs incoming physical damage. This stat is weaker than Haste and Versatility, but not totally useless.
Critical Strike is basically a pure dps stat. Critical Strike Rating increases the chance to parry an attack, but has a diminishing effect — the more crit you have, the less chance to parry is given by each stat increase. In general, it’s quite a weak stat for a tank, hence its ranking in last place.
Tanks can use Simcraft for DPS calculations. Therefore, the use of raidbots and Pawn for character optimization is welcome.
Based on the priorities above and simulations of your character you can choose gems, enchants, and consumables.
Choosing a race
Keep in mind that in any content the difference between racial bonuses is relatively minor. So if you’re not aiming to get on the first page of WowProgress, you can safely choose a race by their appearance.
Below I list the races with the most significant bonuses for each faction.
- Blood Elf — great choice for M+ due to their AoE dispel.
BiS Gear + Trinkets
Understand that BiS Gear for a tank in Shadowlands is relative. Apart from rings and accessories, you should prioritize item level over stats.
Nevertheless, here is a list of the gear that you can strive for.
Interrupt with modifiers, hold Shift to cast it on the focused target, otherwise — on the current one
/cast [mod:shift,@focus] Mind Freeze
Macro to cancel Blessing of Protection might be useful:
/cancelaura Blessing of Protection
“Pool” on cursor:
/cast [@cursor] Death and Decay
Taunt on cursor:
/cast [@mouseover] Dark Command
Grip on cursor:
/cast [@mouseover] Death Grip
Resurrect on cursor:
/cast [@mouseover,help] Raise Ally
Addons for World of Warcraft is a purely subjective matter. Many experienced players don’t use addons or use them sparingly. Others completely rework the UI. I’ll recommend those I use myself, that not only change the game’s appearance, but also can be useful in a variety of situations.
For installing and updating addons, I recommend Ajour. It’s free and easy to use, and has no ads or other nasty stuff.
A powerful and very flexible addon that displays almost any information at any time you need. It started out by displaying buffs, debuffs, and alerts during fights, but has improved considerably over time. Today WAs allow you to create and send other players important information on bosses, replace standard interface elements, track other players’ abilities, and much more.
WAs can be found on wago.io, but I’ll list the most important ones:
- ZenTracker + Interrupt Tracker and Party CDs. An essential tool for M+, allowing you to keep track of party cooldowns. For raids, tracking the defensive cooldown of your healers can be useful.
- Dungeons – Targeted Spells — highlights party frames if a mob casts a dangerous spell, also shows their targets on the enemy’s nameplate. Useful for M+.
- Afenar Paladin — a nice WA for Paladin’s class abilities and active buffs.
- Castle Nathria + Co-Tank Auras — WA for main abilities of bosses in the first Shadowlands raid — Castle Nathria, as well as important debuffs on other tanks in the raid.
A multipurpose addon for nameplates. With it you can easily see which enemies are aggroed on you, how and who they attack. In addition it shows you certain buffs and debuffs on enemies, including control effects.
Moreover, Plater supports third-party mods suitable for a variety of situations. You can download them on wago.io in the Plater section.
An addon that shows your group/raid damage and healing. That’s it? Not quite — it can show you the uptime of buffs and debuffs, damage to specific targets and during specific boss phases. In M+ you can see who broke control, who and how many times interrupted spellcasting, and much more.
Shows you the cooldown of bosses and mobs, reminds you when these abilities are about to go off. Very useful for raids and Mythic+. Alternatively, you can use the Deadly Boss Mods. Their functionality is very similar.
Useful little addon that allows to automatically repair gear, sell junk to vendors, accept and complete quests, includes the ability to quickly loot items, and much more.
Despite it not having any particularly important features, it’s very popular among players. With it, you can customize frames, command bars, and almost every aspect of the UI.
Pro Tips & Tricks
In this section I’ll talk about the spec’s intricacies, as well as do’s and don’ts for a more effective play as a tank.
- Preventing Rune and Runic Power overcap. Since you can recharge 3 Runes at the same time, you should not have more than 3 Runes off cooldown. Otherwise it will negatively impact your Runic Power generation and self-healing.
Similarly, by generating Runic Power while having a maximum amount, you miss out on more Death Strike uses. Even at full health, Death Strike deals significant damage and grants a shield from Mastery.
- Effective use of Runes. Due to additional Runic Power generated by Heart Strike, it’s best not to use Marrowrend on 5+ Bone Shield charges, since each extra Marrowrend takes away Runic Power from Death Strike. Thus, 2-3 extra Marrowrends = 1 wasted Death Strike. Some especially challenging bosses or pulls in Mythic+ can punish you for incorrect use of Runes.
- Death Strike timing. Its healing depends on the amount of damage you received in the last 5 sec, so it’s crucial to use Death Strike immediately after taking a large amount of damage.
Try anticipating the damage — stock up on Runic Power prior to taking a big hit. Your goal is to use 1-2 Death Strikes in a 5-second window after taking damage and heal up without bothering your healers.
- Maintaining Bone Shield uptime. In most cases you’ll have to refresh Bone Shield when its charges drop below 5. Except sometimes you can have enough charges, but its duration is about to expire. In these situations make sure to refresh Marrowrend charges, as it’s more useful than just generating charges from scratch.
- Use of defensive cooldowns. DK-tank relies heavily on defensive abilities. Without them, this spec is pretty weak. Always have an approximate plan with a sequence of abilities in mind — this applies to both Raid and Mythic+.
Thankfully, raid bosses and trash mobs in M+ are very predictable and you can easily plan your sequence of defensive cooldowns. You should use abilities with the shortest recovery time first.
For example, you can use this rotation in M+:
During raids you can use a similar rotation for boses. That way, your cooldowns can be extended a bit longer.
- Use of external cooldowns. Your healers have saves, too — they can use them on you at the right moment. Coordinate with your healer, schedule your cooldowns so that they don’t overlap with their defensive abilities.
External cooldowns include:
Dealing damage. A common notion among tanks is that it’s unnecessary to inflict maximum damage, you should just stay alive. That’s only partially true. Undoubtedly, the tank’s top priority is survivability. Still, it’s always worth maximizing your damage. The more damage you deal, the faster you can finish a dungeon or kill a boss. As such, tanks and healers are no different from simple damage dealers in this regard — everyone should maximize their damage output. Sometimes a total respec is necessary.
The Death Knight managed to keep and even enhance its strengths in Shadowlands without getting nerfed. It’s still a very powerful tank class. Hope this guide helped you understand all the intricacies of the Blood spec in this new expansion.
Thanks for tuning in! Best of luck in the world of Azeroth!