Blood Death Knight Tank Guide For M+ (shadowlands)

Welcome to the Advanced Blood Death Knight Guide for M+ in Patch 9.0! The purpose of this guide is to provide accurate, in-depth BDK information specifically geared towards players progressing in M+ who already have a basic skill set developed. While this guide is targeting all levels of keys that are challenging to you and your group, 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 bare-bones list of recommendations can be found in this Oversimplified Guide.

Disclaimer

This guide was created for M+ (Mythic+) dungeons; some recommendations presented herein are not reliable for use in raid scenarios, which can have different priorities and considerations. Please consult other resources for those purposes. Furthermore, it assumes the user already has a general understanding of how to play a BDK (Blood Death Knight) and that their item levels are reasonably competitive. 

If you have any specific questions, comments, or concerns regarding this guide, please message discord tag Kyrasis#9330 as your first line of support.

About the Author

I’m Kyrasis, I’ve been 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 primarily 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

I’d like to thank Mythie for helping to independently validate core portions of the BDK mathematical model; Thorlefulz and Terra for performing some general support and troubleshooting; Darkmech, Druchaon, and Floorfruits for review comments; as well as all other contributors who provided good feedback and support!


BDK Fundamentals

This section overviews 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 naturally 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: 115

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. At the end of the day, RP is effectively a second health bar. 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 with reactive healing from [Death Strike]. As a consequence, BDKs are usually more vulnerable than other tanks to going from near-full health to dead in a very short amount of time, 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 effectively healing BDKs, since they need to track an extra resource to heal them effectively in addition to the fact that both have the potential to overlap their heals.
  • BDKs are the most vulnerable at the start of pulls (particularly on the first pull of the dungeon), 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 based off of the damage taken in the last 5 seconds). This can be mitigated to some extent by 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. For much the same reasons, BDKs have a lot of difficulty recovering after they have died and are battle res’d.

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 this measure is that it is high enough so that you and/or your healer have time to react to the incoming damage you are taking before you die. When doing 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 damage on the tank more efficiently without the fear of their imminent death. It’s likely that the benefits of additional EHP diminish heavily as the gap between EHP and incoming damage increases. However, if you are continuing to push keys to your own personal limit, it’s very likely that EHP will always have *at least* some value and it should be kept in mind when making decisions.
  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 generally lower than that of damage dealing roles and often requires larger tradeoffs to maximize, tank damage can still have an impact. 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/Damage. As content gets more difficult, EHP starts to become 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/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).

As for the other measures:

  • Threat generation past the point of solving threat issues has no value.
  • EHP becomes increasingly valuable as you do harder and harder content; it’s definitely something to pay attention to, since EHP can indirectly allow for more Mitigation and problems can occur if EHP is too low.
  • 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 groups damage through increased healer attention or more frequent kiting and can 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).

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 for a similar length 1 target encounter to reduce dungeon completion time by the same amount.

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 in the #spreadsheets channel of the Death Knight class discord. 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.

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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