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Blood Tanking 1: The Basics

September 15, 2010

This post is designed for beginning tanks. Some disclaimers:

This will be out of date as soon as Cataclysm hits us.
For detailed information on raid tanking go and look at Elitist Jerks and the forums.
For a look at talent trees have a look at this blog post by Gravity

What is Blood Death Knight tanking?

The Cataclysm beta description is “A dark guardian who manipulates and corrupts life energy to sustain himself in the face of an enemy onslaught”. In other words we are all about self-healing. The result is that a well played Death Knight tank can survive on their own for a very long time which can allow them to save an entire group if the healer dies and also allows them to solo very challenging content. Conversely, a badly played Death Knight tank is probably the squishiest one and most difficult to heal around.

The Level 58 Tank and beyond

Talents: I strongly believe that for Blood, it is worth starting with the basic tank talents. On the other hand Heart Strike is very important and worth sacrificing for. This means that at level 58 when you have 49 talent points, I would recommend a build that is roughly 41/3/5. Your next points can be in Toughness and Improved Icy Touch, Then probably Epidemic and Morbidity and then continue to fill out the Blood Tree. Eventually you’ll have a build that is roughly 53/8/10 (have a look at the link above for deciding your level 80 build).

Gear: Luckily, you’ll start at level 80 with a very strong set of blue gear from the Death Knight starting area. So you can hit the ground running with this. Basically at this point the stats you are looking for are Stamina, Strength and more Stamina. Dodge, Parry and Defence are all good as are Hit and Expertise. But when it comes down to it, Stamina is your best friend when levelling as a tank. Make sure you only use plate gear because you need the armour.

I note, you are a blood death knight and therefore you use a two-hander. If you have picked up a one-handed weapon, drop it and back away slowly.

Runeforge: If you aren’t using an heirloom weapon then you want to use the Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle once you get it. If you are then get crusader or strength put on it and wait. It may well be worth ditching the heirloom for a dungeon drop blue weapon once you do that the Stoneskin Gargoyle enchant as it is a vastly powerful one.

The Level 80 Starting Tank

Talents: At this point, go and decide what sort of talent tree you need with Gravity’s grid. Survivability? Single-target threat? AoE threat? The choice is yours to pick. To be frank though, if you are a starting tank then you are almost certainly going to be running heroics for a long time and in the current climate, this means AoE tanking. So I’d start off with an aoe threat build. If you find yourself dying then you can go for more survivability. But to be honest your best bet for this will be improving your rotation and use of cooldowns.


First and foremost get defence capped; 535 for heroics and 540 for raids. No excuses will be accepted. This is your number one survivability priority.
Secondly, try to get hit and expertise capped. This is a huge threat boost and expertise helps survival too.
You can tell it is tank gear if it has defence, dodge or parry on it. Don’t use dps gear. The only exception to this is if you are already hit capped and you find a good piece with hit and expertise on it which will get you to but not to far over the caps. Even then think two or three times.
I lied; the other exception is your weapon. This can’t be tank based and so you want to go for the highest ilevel one you can for threat purposes. Expertise, Hit, Amour Penetration and Crit are probably your best bets for secondary stats (this can be a good way to get a long way towards the Expertise and Hit caps).
Enchant for stamina if you can and expertise or hit if you can’t (Elitist Jerks will tell you your best enchants for each slot).
Gem for stamina in general; if you can use a single gem to get a +9 or more stamina bonus then it is worth gemming to get it. For a yellow socket, go for hit/stamina or defence/stamina (which depends on whether you are below one of the caps). . For a red socket go for expertise/stamina or strength/stamina.

Runeforge: Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle. Just do it.

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