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I’m a bloody tank – Death Strike

October 15, 2010

Death Strike! It’s a great name and a great concept; we harbingers of dismay get to replenish and preserve our own lives through the deaths of others. I can see the manga death knight shouting it now as he rips the life force from another and forces it through his own gaping wounds to form a shield of swirling, hardened blood around him to deflect and further mitigate damage done to him. The animation really should be spectacular.

This has become the signature strike for Blood in Cataclysm and understanding it is key to survival and hood tanking. But how does it work? What is the best way to use it? The spell has changed a lot in the Cataclysm changes and we are only now starting to see this. Currently the strike:

Costs 1 Frost and 1 Unholy rune
No longer requires diseases to be up to do healing.
Heals you for the greater of 1) 30% of the damage take in the last 5 sec or 2) 10% of your maximum health. This increases to 48% and 15% with talents.
Creates a shield for 50% of the amount healed. This amount increases with mastery. The shield is like a priest’s in that it will absorb multiple hits but will not stack. As far as I can tell if you death strike with a shield up it will replace the old with the new.
Does single-target threat based on the damage and aoe threat based on the healing.
Can be glyphed to do more damage (and thus more threat but not more healing or shielding).

Basically, if you have a frost and an unholy rune then you want to use this strike on it. Due to the changes in rune regeneration, if you have two frost and unholy runes then you want to use it immediately to get your runes regenerating.

The question really comes in its interaction with diseases and heart strike. Currently, it appears that single-target threat from Death Strike may be better than that from two heart strikes. This will only be where you are getting benefit from the healing however. As such you may want to prioritise Death Strike for your death runes on single targets (obviously your priorities change when you have 2 or more mobs) when you are taking lots of damage. In these cases it will be best for both survival and threat which is a beautiful piece of synergy.

If you are overgeared, don’t need the survival and your heal is keeping you at full health with a single rejuvenation while he hurricanes all the mobs? Just use heart strike.

But Heart Strike or Blood Boil will be used for blood runes and to get best effect out of both of these, you need diseases up. I haven’t seen the maths yet but I suspect it will be worth putting diseases up anyway despite the relatively low use you get out of them. Even if it isn’t now, Blizzard will fix it so it is so don’t get comfortable ignoring them. Diseases are a core mechanic even for blood.

So basically, your single target priorities is to get diseases up before heart striking, death strike whenever you can and heart strike on blood runes only.

But there are a couple of interesting wrinkles for an aspiring death knight tank to consider and these revolve around timing:

1) Can you predict when a large spike of damage is incoming? If so, use Death Strike immediately after to heal for a vast amount. Can anyone say Soulreaper or Plasma Blast?

2) Have you used up your previous shield? If not and you already have runes regenerating then you may wish to delay a few seconds to maximise the use of shields.

3) Are you on max health? If so, you may wish to wait a bit so that the healing is not overheal. Overheal makes baby ghouls cry; it lowers your threat and is a waste of runes.

So the result is that you may well wish to use either Rune Strike, Blood Boil or Heart Strike when you could Death Strike so as to get more benefit from it.


Frankly, you don’t care and just want priorities?

1) you’re a bad tank and that baby ghoul is probably going to cry (see above)

2) Single Target opener:
– Outbreak (to apply diseases, remember this causes no threat. Unfortunately this can’t be learned until level 81 so until then we’ll have to rely on the traditional icy touch and plague strike we are used to.)
– Blood Boil (to apply Scarlet Fever)
– Death Strike
– Heart Strike
– Death Strike

3) Single Target priorities:
– keep up diseases (use runic empowerment procs of frost or unholy runes if possible rather than death runes) and scarlet fever (use your free blood boil after a plague strike). Remember that diseases are not so much damage that it is a problem if you overwrite them a little early but you will take a lot more damage without frost fever and scarlet fever on the target.

– Use Death Strike if you have both pairs of Frost and Unholy Runes active
– Use Heart Strike if you have both Blood Runes active
– Use Rune Strike if you are Runic Power capped.
– Use Death Strike if you have taken a lot of damage recently and/or are not topped off.
– Use Rune Strike if you have the Runic Power ( it is your highest threat ability so up priority if you have threat issues but not survival ones).
– Use Heart Strike.

4) 2-4 targets rotation and priorities: only difference is that you would start with Death and Decay, use pestilence straight after blood boil in the opening rotation and use Heart Strike in favour of Death Strike when you can unless you have survival issues.

5) AOE: rotation and priorities: as 2-4 targets except use Blood Boil at any time when you would use Heart Strike.

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