Blood Death Knight Tank Guide For M+ (shadowlands)

Welcome to the Advanced Blood Death Knight Guide for M+ in Patch 9.0.5! The purpose of this guide is to provide accurate, in-depth BDK information specifically geared towards players progressing in M+. While this guide was primarily made with +15 or higher key levels in mind, the recommendations can also be used for success in key levels below this point. It is a comprehensive guide that gives readers a chance to understand not only *what* decisions can improve their play, but *why* these decisions are made, so feel free to skip to whatever sections are relevant for you (a navigation tool is available on the left)!

Disclaimer

This guide was created for BDKs progressing in challenging M+ (Mythic+) dungeons; some recommendations presented herein were not made for use in raid or PvP scenarios, which often have different priorities and considerations. Furthermore, it assumes the user is capable of playing a BDK (Blood Death Knight) reasonably well and that they are able to obtain reasonably competitive gear (so, items between +15 end of dungeon reward ilvl and mythic raid final boss ilvl; not questing greens). 

If you have any specific questions, comments, or concerns regarding this guide, please message discord tag Kyrasis#9330 as your first line of support. Additionally I’m always happy to answer questions about BDKs in M+!

About the Author

I’m Kyrasis, I’ve been doing primarily doing a lot of the math-heavy theorycrafting on BDKs since Legion and I was also the #1 World Ranked M+ BDK in Season 4 of Battle for Azeroth on raider.io. Additionally, I maintain a spreadsheet that can be used to evaluate mitigation on BDK. I can be contacted through the discord tag Kyrasis#9330 or in-game if you have any feedback or questions!

Thanking Contributors

Specifically, I’d like to thank the following: 

  • Mythie for helping to independently validate core portions of the BDK mitigation model.
  • Arma for his work on the BDK simcraft module.
  • Thorlefulz and Terra for performing general support and troubleshooting.
  • Darkmech, Druchaon, Elnivera, and Floorfruits for review comments.
  • Bicepspump for taking the concept for a useful BDK Death Strike log analysis tool and single-handedly turning it into a functioning tool. Joshinator for his ongoing development efforts to get this tool up and running on wowanalyzer.com.
  • Obadyahu, Cambam, and MrPottiez for contributing actionable feedback.
  • All other users who provided support!

BDK Fundamentals

The initial sections overview some more basic information before moving onto specific recommendations in future sections. The Tank Performance Measures section, in particular, lays the groundwork for how character optimization recommendations are approached later in the guide.

Resource Overview

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Health

This resource keeps us alive.

Runes

  • Maximum Runes: 6 Runes
  • Base Rune Cooldown Time: 10 seconds
  • Base Runic Power Generated Per Rune Used: 10 RP (Runic Power)

Our primary ability resource that passively regenerates. All runes have individual cooldowns, but only 3 runes can progress their cooldown at a time. The base rune cooldown is reduced by haste. In general, 10 RP (Runic Power) is generated per each rune used, but there are exceptions.

Runic Power

Base Maximum: 125

Our secondary ability resource that is usually generated by spending runes. The main use of this resource is to spend on [Death Strike] to generate health. Alternatively, it can be spent on [Bonestorm] (when talented), which also generates health. RP is effectively a second health bar and needs to be mindfully managed. 1.25 RP is lost every second when out of combat.

Bone Shield

Maximum Stacks: 10

[Bone Shield] is a stack-based mitigation buff where stacks are generated with [Marrowrend] and lost when damaged by melee attacks. A significant amount of passive mitigation is lost when this buff falls off completely and [Ossuary] provides a [Death Strike] RP cost reduction when you have at least 5 stacks; other than that, the number of [Bone Shield] stacks do not provide any additional bonuses outside of talent interactions. Generating new stacks of [Bone Shield] is done at the cost of RP generation, since [Marrowrend] does not generate RP as efficiently as [Heart Strike][Bone Shield] stacks are reset when a M+ dungeon starts, so there is no value in generating stacks ahead of starting a key.

Class Design Implications

  • BDKs take significantly more up-front damage than other tanks, since we can mitigate significant amounts of this damage using reactive healing from [Death Strike]. As a consequence, BDKs are usually more vulnerable to dying from burst damage than other tanks, since a large portion of our mitigation happens *after* we take the damage.
  • More so than any other tank, a BDK’s health, alone, is not an indication of how vulnerable they are to dying, since our RP functions as a second health bar. This generally means that healers have a more difficult time efficiently healing BDKs, since healers need to track an extra resource to heal BDKs effectively and there is potential for both players to overlap their heals.
  • BDKs are the most vulnerable at the start of pulls, where their [Bone Shield] may be at low or no stacks, where their RP may be low or empty, and where our [Death Strike] will not be as impactful during the first few seconds of a pull (since healing is proportional to damage taken in the last 5 seconds). Attempting to refresh [Bone Shield] and to top off RP at the end of any pull, so you can have these resources available at the start of the next one, can help with this vulnerability. For much the same reasons, BDKs have a lot of difficulty recovering after they have died and have been ressurected.

Tank Performance Measures

While damage roles are almost exclusively focused on their damage output, tanks have several measures that can affect them. The main four are as follows:

  1. Threat Generation  – A tank cannot do their job if enemies are attacking other people. Without enough threat, you risk one of your group members dying to whatever you are not tanking. Threat generation is related to the amount of damage you deal, though taunt effects can be used to instantly gain the highest amount of threat on a target and to heavily amplify threat generation during the taunt duration.
  1. Effective Health – EHP (Effective Health) as used in this guide is your normal health corrected for any passive, upfront mitigation. The primary concern with EHP is that it is high enough so that you or your healer have time to reactively heal incoming damage you are taking before you die. Particularly on more difficult content, more EHP will reduce the likelihood of dying to burst damage, but, even with enough EHP to avoid burst damage deaths, more EHP can allow tanks to mitigate damage more efficiently and allow healers to heal the tank more efficiently due to the tank having a larger range of health where they are safe from imminent death. Unlike the other measures, the benefits of additional EHP is heavily dependent on the amount of incoming damage you are encountering. In any case, you do not need to be pushing world first keys for it to be a consideration in your decision-making.
  1. Mitigation – As it is used in this guide, mitigation refers to the amount of raw damage that a tank can reduce with proactive mitigation (such as armor) *and* reactive mitigation (such as healing from [Death Strike]). Simply put, more mitigation means that less healing is required by healers for the tank to survive.
  1. Damage – While tank damage output is lower than that of damage dealing roles, tank damage still has some impact in dungeons. Strict damage requirements in M+ dungeons aren’t as commonly seen as they are in raid encounters, but more damage will result in faster dungeon times assuming nothing else changes.

What should BDKs be looking to maximize when progressing into higher M+ Dungeons?

The general recommendation is to maximize Mitigation unless a tradeoff is particularly favorable to EHP or Damage. As content starts to get more difficult, EHP becomes a secondary consideration in addition to Mitigation. At the extreme end of M+ content, strategically sacrificing other measures for Damage may allow otherwise untimable keys to be timed after other routing and gameplay improvement opportunities have already been exhausted.

Threat problems, when they arise, should be considered when they are a noticeable cause of deaths and/or group damage throttling. Currently, the most effective ways to improve threat generation involve using burst AoE (Area of Effect) such as Swarming Mist[Swarming Mist], Abomination Limb [Abomination Limb], and Blood Spattered Scale [Blood-Spattered Scale].

What’s the basis for this?

Mitigation allows us to increase our overall survivability, which increases our groups pull potential (decreasing the total number of pulls in an instance) and provides increased group damage from our healer and damage dealers since we need less healing and are less likely to need to resort to kiting (so enemies are more grouped up and take more damage from AoE abilities). Until incoming damage profiles become extremely dangerous and group damage requirements become very demanding, mitigation is the only metric that’s going to have a significant impact on your success rates. Even in higher keys when other metrics become considerations, mitigation will still be very influential to your success.

As for the other measures:

  • Threat generation past the point of solving threat issues has no value.
  • EHP becomes increasingly valuable as you do mid-to-high level keys, where your health pool size starts to limit your [Death Strike] efficiency and snap deaths become a concern. If you think you are at the point where EHP begins to have value, you probably are. Just be careful about overcommitment to EHP at the cost of too much mitigation, because EHP, alone, isn’t going to keep you alive and EHP, in particular, has diminishing returns in value.
  • Damage is always nice and *can* lead to faster dungeon completion times, but sacrificing Mitigation for damage in progression keys can hinder the rest of your group’s damage through increased healer attention or more frequent kiting and will increase the chance of group deaths. Generally, damage-oriented trade-offs should be made only when you genuinely believe you are in a situation where it will result in higher overall key success rates, such as when a bit more tank damage can make an extremely high-end key possible to time (that otherwise might not be possible to time). Overemphasizing tank damage output is a common mistake for new tank players in M+.

What’s the best way to estimate these performance measures?

Today, damage measurements are easier than ever with tools such as raidbots.com and simulationcraft. When performing damage evaluations for dungeons, it is suggested to look at the results of long duration (~8 minute) sims with fixed target counts to determine what works best for single target and multiple target situations. Hectic add cleave is not recommended since overall damage done in that scenario is not equivalent to time saved in a dungeon.


Note: Damage Measurements in Dungeons

There is a big difference between total damage and and total *effective* damage done in a dungeon, since the *real* thing we care about with damage is how much damage done affects the *overall dungeon completion time*. So, keep the following in mind:

First, damage meters are biased towards multi-target pulls. When making damage decisions, how much faster you clear a dungeon is determined by how much you can increase your group’s damage relative to the damage they are already doing. So, you need to provide a *much* greater increase in raw DPS (damage per second) in a 10 target encounter to reduce dungeon completion time by one second than you would need to do the same in a similar length 1 target encounter.

Second, large gaps in health pools among enemies can mean that damage on low-health targets is *meaningless* to overall dungeon completion time if they are going to die to nothing but passive cleave damage. So, damage to these targets will not contribute to faster dungeon completion times even though the damage dealt to them shows up on a damage meter.


Mitigation is more complicated. At this time, the best known tool for BDK’s to measure Mitigation is the spreadsheet I maintain. It can be difficult to determine what inputs are best to use for this tool and the output is going to depend heavily on the inputs, but it is recommended to model higher than average damage intakes that are representative of the most dangerous situations you encounter in M+ Dungeons (the ones that are most likely to potentially kill you). Using too low of an incoming damage input is a bigger problem than using unrealistically high numbers, since most significant forms of mitigation fully scale fully with incoming damage and you are unlikely to die during low damage periods.

EHP can be measured by the above spreadsheet or by simply applying your physical damage reduction from Armor and damage reduction from versatility to your health total.

 

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