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I’m a bloody tank – cooldowns

October 18, 2010

I’ve always said that managing cooldowns is the most important thing about death knight tanking. I’ve changed my mind, now it is only second most important. Most important is using death strike well.

But that is no excuse for ignoring cooldowns. Cataclysm has changed us but we are still a cooldown strong class and using them properly is very important. The question really is which to use when. Below, I have listed out each cooldown with some details on what it does, how often and for what cost and some thoughts on when to use it.

Icebound Fortitude (talents improve it to Sanguine Fortitude):

60% damage reduction for 12 secs. Cooldown: 2 min. Cost: none
This is probably our strongest single cooldown. Best to use this when you know you are about to take a vast amount of damage. You can also press it after you have taken lots of damage and want to give your healer a chance to recover but other cooldowns are better here.
Good examples in Wrath when this can be used is Plasma Blast, Soul Reaper or a 3d Sartharion Breath.

Vampiric Blood:

Either increases maximum health by 15% and all healing done to you by 25% or, if glyphed, increases healing done to you by 40%. Cooldown: 1 min. Cost: free.
One of my favourite spells in the game. The fact that it is now completely free and so you don’t have to worry about having a rune off cooldown just makes it better. The extra health is great and the boost to your healer if marvellous. I am currently testing it with the glyph which I suspect will make it more efficient but less of an instant survival cooldown.
This one is great to use both before or after you take a vast amount of damage as it will allow your healers to recover much quicker. Unglyphed it also allows you to survive vast hits that would otherwise one shot you but with the glyph it does not have that particular piece of proactivity.

Bone Shield:

Reduces damage by 20% for 5 mins or until charges are gone. Grants 2% extra damage while up. Three charges with an internal cooldown of 2.5 secs. Cooldown: 1 min. Cost: 1 unholy.
One of the most controversial cooldowns, it has several benefits and disadvantages over others. As so often, proper use will make it much more powerful. Due to the internal cooldown, it will last for a minimum of 5 seconds but with avoidance and the removal of parry-haste is likely to last longer. Recent modelling on the pwnwear forums suggests that on average it should last about 12 seconds.
The spell is one of the very few that gets better with avoidance. While avoiding an attack whilst under the effect of Icebound Fortitude means it has not mitigated damage, avoiding an attack while Bone Shield is up just means it will last for longer. Since it reduces the damage of all aoe and ticking auras, this can add up quite nicely.
On the pull; the nice thing about this is that you can put the shield up a minute before you pull and have it off cooldown when you run in. This allows you to back to back it if you want and at any rate have it available straight off. However it also means that for those critical moments, when people are getting into position and you are getting proper aggro, the healers do not need to work quite so hard to keep you alive. Even better, the dps component of the spell means better initial threat.
On a tank swap, again, preparation is the key. You can have Bone Shield up for when you taunt so that your healers have a little time to realise it has happened and react appropriately. Again, if it is a long time between swaps, you may even be able to get two shields up back to back for additional mitigation/threat.
The glyph for this gives you a 15% speed increase while the shield is up. This is great for running around Dalaran faster but many people have questioned its use otherwise. I think this is a great glyph. It will get you to the boss quicker on a pull (as you will nearly always want to pull with the shield up) and you can keep it to use as a speed boost when needed. Times when this would be especially good would be when running to and from ice blocks in Sindragosa and when kiting the slimes in heroic Rotface. It is especially good there as you should never get hit and so should have the shield up permanently and thus be taking less damage from the aoe throughout.

Dancing Rune Weapon:

For 12 secs will give you a 20% bonus to parry and do additional damage (which does give some threat). Glyphed it will boost your threat by 50% in addition. Cooldown: 1 min. Cost: 60 RP.
I’m not sure quite how this will work out as up until now this has been a pure dps/tps cooldown. The additional parry is not insignificant but I doubt it is worth saving the cooldown for moments of damage. Instead, I will probably glyph is and use it more as a threat cooldown which has bonus survivability attached.
One advanced technique that may be worth looking into is trying to build up >60 RP before a pull (through Death and Decay, Blood Tap, Horn of Winter and killing critters). Then you can use this on the pull for a huge initial threat boost and a good boost to the average length of your Bone Shield. Mind you, your raid may get upset with the various noises you make when trying to get to that >60 RP. I wish that runic power potions existed!

Anti-Magic Shell:

All magic damage reduced by 75% for 5 secs or until 50% of maximum health absorbed.
Can anyone say Breath Weapons? This cooldown has been weakened slightly in cataclysm but has several really good uses. 1) It can negate a lot of a single big magical attack (such as the aforementioned breath). 2) It can negate a ticking aura for a while. 3) It can allow you to avoid various magical status effects. This third can be by far the most useful at times but is the hardest to get right. Still once you know which ones it works on (and the great god google will probably tell you) this can be especially useful.
The main downside of this ability is that it does not have any effect on physical damage. However, since you already have a physical shield from Life Shield, this does well to layer on top of it.
The best example of using this to avoid status effects that I can think of is in Heroic Rotface where you can use it to merrily run over the slime without it slowing or harming you. Sindragosa is a fight where it can be used almost any moment to good effect, on the magic pull, against the breaths and to ward off the aura are all useful.

Army of the Dead:

While channelling this spell (6 secs), reduces damage by dodge + parry. Cooldown: 10 mins. Cost: 1 frost, 1 unholy and 1 blood.
Mostly this spell is seen as a dps boost and is used on the pull. But in my current gear it is a nearly 50% damage reduction for six seconds so long as I do not move. So there are times when it is worth using it as a tanking cooldown if you know you won’t have to move for six seconds and will take a lot of damage.
Remember that Army of the Dead will taunt anything but raid bosses. This can save a wipe as a boss spins round and kills ghouls (and allows the healer to recover or the dps to finish it off) but can also cause major devastation if there is any form of cleave around. Do not use this on dragons therefore. On a raid boss fight with no adds it can be great though.
Festergut is a good time for this. It’s a pretty stationary fight with lots of tank damage at known intervals that can be predicted. The fact that it is a dps race and so you will want every bit of damage you can get just makes it better.

Rune Tap:

Grants 15% maximum health. Does not use a GCD. Cooldown: 30 secs. Cost: 1 blood.
A simple self heal. Not cheap but quite effective, especially if you use it under the effect of vampiric blood. It scales with your stamina as well and so gets better and better.

Will of the Necropolis:

Once every 45 seconds when you dip below 30% health you take 25% less damage for 8 secs and your Rune Tap cooldown is refreshed. Cooldown: 45 secs. Cost: Free and grants one blood rune
This is not a cooldown that you get to push a button for. It will proc the first time you dip below 30% health and then not work again for 45 secs. Tracking this so that you don’t double up too many cooldowns on top of it will be key to getting the best out of this one.

Blood Tap:

If you have 4pt10 and have talented for it, this will give 12% damage reduction for 10 secs. Cooldown: 1 min / 30 secs. Cost: Free and grants one death rune.
This is an ability that I tend to use for sorting out threat and rotation issues and as such consider the damage reduction as a useful bonus. This is especially the case when you talent it as it can be up for 33% of the time if you push it. However once you know where small damage spikes are it can be useful to wait for these and it is especially good to use this to get a rune to put up a bone shield which gives you a larger amount of damage reduction.

It’s a lot to think about and choosing the right thing at the right time is important.


On the initial pull and for tank swaps use –

Bone Shield
Dancing Rune Weapon
Army of the Dead (if you know you won’t need the survival or if there will be adds later on in the fight)

When taking or having taken major damage –

Sanguine (Icebound) Fortitude
Vampiric Blood
Army of the Dead (if there are no adds and you don’t need to move)

When about to take major magical damage or to avoid a magical effect –

Anti-Magic Shell

Whenever you have taken considerable damage and they are on cooldown –

Rune Tap
Blood Tap

Will of the Necropolis will sort itself out.

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