- Author: Kyrasis
- Date: February 13, 2021
- Expansion: World of Warcraft
Given that you’ve read about the tank performance measures under Fundamentals, we are looking to build our character with an optimal combination of mitigation, EHP, and damage for the content we are doing. This section is going to briefly review the contribution of various attributes, explain how they contribute to each performance measure relative to each other, and give general recommendations for gearing in item slots without unique effects.
- Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target Domination Sockets
- Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target items that do NOT have Critical Strike
- Target items that have Versatility
- Target Versatility/Mastery items over Versatility/Haste items
- Avoid secondary stat Diminishing Returns
Generalized Stats Breakdown:
Mitigation (Single Target): Mastery > Versatility >= Haste >> Critical Strike
Mitigation (Multiple Targets): Mastery > Haste >= Versatility >>> Critical Strike
Damage: Critical Strike > Haste > Mastery > Versatility
These stats are almost always present on items by default and, for any item slot where they are found, they are generally provided in proportion to the item’s level. These stats can also be provided by unique effects.
Strength – This stat directly determines how much AP (attack power) we have and it’s one of the two main contributors to parry rating. With [Blood Shield] active, strength also contributes to armor.
In general, our attack power is equal to strength. Unique effects that provide AP, directly, are extremely rare. AP contributes to our ability damage using the following general formula:
(AttackPower + 6 * WeaponDPS) * AbilityAPConstant * Vers% * MasteryAP%
Armor and parry contribution are explained under their respective sections.
Stamina – This stat directly determines how much base health we have with the following formula:
Health = Stamina * 20
In some cases, our health is used to determine the damage and healing of some abilities.
Armor – This stat reduces the amount of incoming physical damage taken according to the following formula:
Physical Damage Reduction % = Armor / (Armor + K)
The “K Value” changes depending on what type of content you are engaged in and it is generally adjusted so that players maintain similar levels of physical damage reduction over the course of an expansion. The result is that physical vs. magic damage taken in M+ should be consistent across the whole expansion. The current “K value” for M+ is 2845.
Weapon DPS – As discussed under strength, weapon DPS is an input to all ability damage calculations.
Two of the four secondary stats are present on most item slots by default, with a few exceptions. The ratio of the two present secondary stats is different from item to item, but the combined total is generally based on the items level. Secondary stats are also provided by several miscellaneous effects.
Critical Strike – Every 35 critical strike rating provides an additional 1% critical strike chance and every 39 critical strike rating provides and additional 1% raw parry chance. The base critical strike chance is 5% and critical strikes double the damage and healing of abilities that can crit. Specifically for BDKs, healing from [Bloodworms], [Mark of Blood], [Bonestorm], and [Death Strike] cannot crit.
Haste – Every 33 haste rating provides 1% haste, which affects rune regeneration rate, auto attack speed, global cooldown recovery rate, [Blood Boil] cooldown recovery rate, and some proc effects. While most DoT effects are affected by haste, [Blood Plague] and [Death and Decay] are not.
Mastery – Through [Mastery: Blood Shield], every 17.5 mastery rating increases the effectiveness of [Blood Shield] by 1% and every 35 mastery rating provides 1% increased AP. The base effectiveness of [Blood Shield] is 16% and the base value for increased AP is 8%.
Versatility – Every 40 versatility rating increases all damage and healing done by 1% and every 80 versatility rating reduces all damage taken by 1%.
Diminishing Returns: New to Shadowlands, all secondary stats have multiple rating thresholds that reduce the effectiveness of additional rating for that specific secondary stat. This reduction begins to take effect once any rating provides an additional 30% of any stat (with the exception of mastery, since different specializations use different percentage-to-rating conversions) and generally ramps up for every additional 10% unadjusted contribution after that. This diminishing returns only affects *rating* specifically, no matter where it comes from, but it does not affect stat multipliers or effects that add a fixed amount of % to the stat. Rating thresholds are as follows for each secondary stat:
Tertiary stats have a small chance of appearing on most items when they drop. Other than being a rare bonus stat, they can also be provided by a few miscellaneous effects.
Leech – Every 21 leech rating heals the player for 1% of all damage and healing done. This is only applied once to abilities that naturally have leech, it does not affect raw self-healing, and it does not affect [Death Strike], [Blood Shield], [Mark of Blood], or [Bonestorm] healing.
Avoidance – Every 14 avoidance rating reduces the AoE damage a player takes by 1%.
Speed – Every 10 speed rating increases movement speed by 1%.
Diminishing Returns: New to Shadowlands, all tertiary stats have multiple rating thresholds that reduce the effectiveness of additional rating for that specific tertiary stat, just like secondary stats. This reduction begins to take effect once any rating provides an additional 10% of any stat and ramps up at 15% and 20% unadjusted contribution after that. Rating thresholds are as follows for each secondary stat:
These miscellaneous stats can only be acquired through specific sources.
Parry – Parry is an attack avoidance stat. It is generally indirectly provided by strength and critical strike, though some other sources exist. Parry probability is determined by the following formulas:
RawStrParry = (Strength – 447) / 13875
RawCritParry = CriticalStrike / 3900
FinalParry = 447 / 13875 + 0.03 + 1 / (1 / 1.01293 + 1.0671 / (RawStrParry + RawCritParry))
(Final parry % is reduced by 1.5% for each level the target is above the player.)
Dodge – Similar to parry, dodge is an attack avoidance stat. Dodge is rarely obtainable by BDK.
FinalDodge = 0.03 + DodgeRating / 3900 / (DodgeRating / 3900 + 1 / 0.97)
(Final dodge % is reduced by 1.5% for each level the target is above the player)
Attack Avoidance – The combination of all stats that prevent an avoidable attack from hitting. Total attack avoidance is determined as follows:
AttackAvoidance = FinalParry + FinalDodge
Your current character setup and what kind of encounter you are in will determine the exact value of different attributes. That being said, you’ll generally find the following mitigation secondary stat priorities to be true in Mythic+ dungeon content:
Single Target: Mastery > Versatility >= Haste >> Critical Strike
Multiple Targets: Mastery > Haste >= Versatility >>> Critical Strike
(Note: Talent, covenant, and item choices can noticeably change the relative value of secondary stats for mitigation, so a raid setup, for example, could have a different secondary stat ordering or different gaps in value between specific stats)
Similar to dps, it’s possible for lower item level pieces to be better for mitigation than higher item level pieces. In fact, this is much more likely to occur with mitigation compared to damage with current tuning, though it’s not as easy to identify.
Mitigation for BDKs comes in a few layers: avoiding attacks entirely (dodge and parry), proactively mitigating incoming damage as it hits you (armor, versatility, avoidance, and other damage reduction effects), and reactively mitigating damage that you have already taken (self-healing). Any damage that we can’t mitigate through these methods will need to be healed by another player.
Even at the start of Shadowlands, it can be found that [Death Strike] mitigation is a much more dominant source of mitigation compared to the start of BfA, where critical strike enjoyed a brief period of being a competitive mitigation secondary stat. The main reasons for this is the existence of [Voracious], [Rune of Hysteria], and resource generating legendary items, three new multipliers on [Death Strike] effectiveness (something that scales with all secondary stats EXCEPT critical strike).
Much like Legion and BfA, we can expect the influence of versatility, mastery, and haste is expected to grow compared to primary stats and critical strike as we progress through the expansion for the following reasons:
- Increasing the “K Value” lowers the value of armor with every major content patch, which has also, indirectly, lowers the mitigation value of strength.
- Stamina does not directly influence mitigation outside of a few minor sources of healing, which are not overly large and don’t scale with incoming damage.
- [Death Strike] effective mitigation is a significant source of BDK healing and it heals proportional to damage taken (like armor and parry mitigation). However, its effectiveness is multiplied by three separate secondary stats (mastery, versatility, and haste), which results in increasing returns for all three of these secondary stats where most traditional forms of mitigation have some form of diminishing returns on their effectiveness.
For example, here are graphs comparing armor scaling to the scaling of a single [Death Strike] (adjusted to account for haste allowing for more [Death Strike] casts) in a five target encounter with increasing levels of secondary stats. On one hand, the physical damage reduction curve for armor has a decreasing slope; it is sloped in a way that each point of armor increases EHP by the same flat amount as the last point of armor. On the other hand, the [Death Strike] healing curve from the combined effects of versatility, mastery, and haste has an increasing slope for a characteristic that, like armor, effectively reduces all incoming damage by a certain %.
This is the primary reason why non-critical strike secondary stats are so influential on BDK mitigation relative to other stats and is the main reason lower ilvl gear can sometimes be better than higher ilvl gear. Furthermore, this effect only gets amplified as an expansion progresses.
With more targets, the main thing that changes for mitigation is the fact that we are able to generate more RP with [Heart Strike] for every additional target up to 5. While versatility, mastery, and haste *all* affect [Death Strike] healing, haste, and to a lesser extent mastery, benefit more from multiple targets than versatility. On the other hand, critical strike does not benefit from these extra targets, at all, other than being a more consistent form of mitigation when we are being hit with a larger number of attacks per second.
As for leech, leech doesn’t affect [Death Strike] or [Blood Shield] healing, so it is not a significant source of mitigation. It does have *some* value, but it’s very very rare that it will change any specific gearing decision.
As for avoidance, most of the damage we take in Mythic+ dungeons is not AoE, so avoidance does not provide a significant amount of mitigation.
What if we are taking high amounts of magic damage?
Critical strike’s mitigation is directly proportional to the amount of avoidable attack damage being taken by the player, so it gets less valuable with more magic damage intake. Mastery provides full mitigation as long as a certain percentage (~40-45%) of incoming damage is physical, once you drop below this threshold it starts adding little value. If all damage being taken is magical, both critical strike and mastery provide an insignificant amount of mitigation.
EHP is mostly affected by attributes that are tied to item level (strength, stamina, armor), with the big exception of versatility (and, in some cases, avoidance).
- The amount of versatility an item has can have a large impact on how much EHP it gives, often allowing items with versatility to provide the same amount of or more EHP than items 13 ilvls higher without versatility.
- Assuming two items both have Versatility, ilvl will generally determine which item provides the most EHP.
- Most of the damage the tank currently takes in M+ dungeons is not AoE, so avoidance is not significantly useful for increasing EHP.
EHP in this guide is generally referring to “reliable” EHP, which is always available when you are taking damage from an attack. However, there are a few indirect sources of EHP that also have some value. Sources of attack avoidance (dodge and parry), especially when taking damage from multiple targets, can serve as a form of pseudo-EHP, since it lowers the chance that you will be lowered from a high amount of health to dead in a short amount of time. Furthermore, since our main form of mitigation is [Death Strike], which is on the global cooldown, higher amounts of haste can potentially allow us to [Death Strike] faster in response to damage (which gives enemy targets less time to kill us before we can react).
Also, since we are generally pooling RP for reserve [Death Strike]s, it’s worth noting that mastery and versatility are the only attributes increasing the effectiveness of each point of pooled RP, which is effectively our “reserve” health pool.
Finally, since [Blood Shield] provides a shield effect that is applied on top of our health, any attribute that increases [Blood Shield] throughput (mainly mastery, but also haste and versatility to a lesser extent) effectively increases our *average* health % and, as such, our average EHP during encounters. In extreme scenarios, where predictable hard-hitting mechanics are about to hit you that can potentially kill you instantly, it may be useful [Death Strike] ahead of the attack to top-off your health pool to generate a [Blood Shield] that will temporarily put your combined health + absorb % above 100%. Granted, this should not be done when it’s not needed, since a lot of healing potential for [Death Strike] is wasted when you use it in this way.
Optimizing gear for damage nowadays is fairly easy, and, other than understanding the trade-offs involved, optimizing damage for tanks is not really any different than optimizing damage for dps specializations. In general, secondary stat priorities for damage, like everything, are going to change based on your character setup and circumstances. A general priority can easily be generated with sims, but it may look something like this:
Critical Strike > Haste > Mastery > Versatility
(Note: unlike mitigation, secondary stats are relatively close in value when it comes to increasing damage, so the hierarchy of stat weights will very easily change depending on your current stats. Furthermore, primary stats account for a much larger portion of an item’s damage contribution. Because of this, it is also more likely for higher ilvl items to result in more damage as opposed to other measures.)
While all secondary stats are generally multipliers on the amount of damage being done, there are a few sources of damage that are not affected by haste. Opting into more of these sources of damage, such as through [Bonestorm] or [Superstrain], will devalue haste’s relative damage contribution. While rarer in current content, a few damage sources are also not affected by mastery, such as damage trinkets.
Again, the general recommendation for M+ dungeons is to try and maximize mitigation as long as especially inefficient EHP/damage tradeoffs aren’t being made in the process. If a situation comes that can only be dealt with by optimizing tank EHP or damage, deal with it when you come to it. While it is encouraged to try and determine the value of different stats yourself to help improve understanding, a simplified list of item priorities would look like this:
1. Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target Domination Sockets
The bonuses provided by domination sockets are explained in more detail in their designated section, but, when considering two otherwise equivalent items at different ilvls, the first three domination sockets can generally justify a 13 ilvl downgrade, while the following two sockets can justify a 7 ilvl downgrade assuming the item options are otherwise similar.
2. Target your highest ilvl item that does NOT have Critical Strike
Critical strike in place of other secondary stats tends to be a significant source of mitigation loss (particularly on multiple targets) to the point where lower item level items without critical strike are often better in M+ settings, all things considered. More times than not, an item 7 ilvls lower without critical strike will be better than a higher ilvl item with critical strike (this increases to 13 for jewelry). Larger ilvl differences *can* be justified for specific item comparisons (specifically when critical strike-heavy items are involved) and vice versa, but this rule of thumb is meant to account for the majority of comparisons and not just specific cases. This itemization priority is more important than the next two.
3. Target items that have Versatility
The EHP provided by versatility should be given some consideration when comparing its value against items with mastery and haste, since they provide no extra EHP. It is thought that the EHP benefit of versatility generally outweighs the disadvantage in raw mitigation compared to mastery, but this is subjective.
4. Target Versatility/Mastery items over Versatility/Haste items
Mastery provides noticeably more mitigation throughput than haste (*especially* on single targets), though it will usually result in less damage. Additionally, mastery enhances the power of our pooled RP and can increase our average health values after accounting for absorbs, while Haste does not. While the faster global cooldown from haste feels nice and can increase our responsiveness to incoming damage, this is not thought to be significant enough to outweigh mastery’s advantages.
5. Avoid secondary stats Diminishing Returns
As previously mentioned, your secondary stats start getting penalized if you have too much of them (in particular, versatility rating past 1200 and mastery rating past 1050). It isn’t impossible that you reach these ranges, and, in most cases, changing food buffs, enchants, and gems should be enough to rebalance your stats. If either versatility or mastery reach their diminishing returns threshold even after tweaking gems and enchants, you may want to consider making some item swaps at similar ilvls, if you can, since the secondary stat not suffering from diminishing returns becomes a lot more valuable. Granted, you’d rather have a diminished non-critical strike secondary stat than critical strike. Even if you really think you need more EHP, there are more efficients ways of getting it to look into first before diving into diminishing returns.
What about [Jaithys, the Prison Blade]?
[Jaithys, the Prison Blade] is a strange weapon with six variations (Ranks 0 through 5). To start, it’s a weapon with below average itemization (Haste/Crit) and no other special characteristics, but it also has 7 item level advantage over all other obtainable weapons if you obtain one on mythic difficulty. The player has the option to irreversibly lower the secondary stats on [Jaithys, the Prison Blade] by 20% of the base amount in order to gain a progressively stronger single target damage proc that, starting at Rank 3, also provides a temporary strength buff. If a player is willing to upgrade this weapon, at all, they will generally want to upgrade it to Rank 5. While Rank 4 is a defensible position, it would require very specific preferences that are considered unlikely. In general, higher ranks provide an extremely efficient damage increase in single targets, though the tradeoff becomes a lot more questionable as the target count and pull difficulty increases. The following guidance is recommended for [Jaithys, the Prison Blade]:
2. If you have an ilvl 259 [Jaithys, the Prison Blade] and a seperate ilvl 252 weapon, upgrade [Jaithys, the Prison Blade] to Rank 5 and actively use weapon swapping to switch between the two depending on pull size and pull difficulty. For some rough guidance, using Jaithys is a somewhat less efficient tradeoff than swapping from Draven to Niya, so similar considerations apply.
If in +18’s or above: [Codex of the First Technique]
If situationally using [Bonestorm]: [Splintered Heart of Al’ar]
If Tyrannical is Active: [Reactive Defense Matrix]
Otherwise: [Blood-Spattered Scale] and/or [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis]
Alternate #2: [Reactive Defense Matrix]
(Note: Trinkets are generally assumed to be at their highest available ilvl, or close to it)
For M+, there are generally seven trinkets we are going to be looking at based on their overall performance in encounters with various amounts of targets:
[Blood-Spattered Scale] – This trinket provides a 2 minute cooldown absorb shield and AoE damage that increases in strength for each additional target hit after one and up to five. This can either be used as a substitute [Death Strike] or as an up-front shield to mitigate incoming damage while setting up a pull. The fact that this is a on-use cooldown-based effect gives it a lot of flexibility and it allows you to specifically target situations where damage intake is high and/or when your RP levels are low (while letting you recharge the effect during pulls that are no longer dangerous or when you are traveling between pulls). Additionally, the front-loaded AoE damage can be nice for threat generation.
[Splintered Heart of Al’ar] – Yes, this is updated for 9.1. While this trinket does not provide a reliable source of mitigation, EHP, or damage, it *does* provide a unique 8 minute cheat death effect that, if used in place of [Purgatory], could allow you to have a (longer cooldown) cheat death effect *and* [Red Thirst] at the same time. On that note, [Red Thirst] provides a substantial amount of mitigation and EHP that is generally superior to what can be found on a trinket. However, if you are in situations where a cheat death isn’t particularly valuable, or if the downgraded cheat death is too much of a step down from the shorter cooldown [Purgatory] for your purposes then you could always opt for something else. That being said, you also have the option of using this trinket *with* [Purgatory] for two cheat deaths and it is generally advisable that you run at least one of these effects in mid-to-high M+.
[Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis] – This trinket provides a 1.5 minute cooldown buff that absorbs a fixed amount of damage from each attack taken from an enemy in front of you over 8 seconds. If you meet a relatively low total absorb threshold, a 8 yard range 90 degree frontal cone damage effect triggers at the end of the duration. The absorb effect functions like a substitute defensive cooldown that is especially powerful when dealing with large groups of enemies and it can be used to target situations where it is especially useful. The damage hitbox is really small and the timing is awkward, so you won’t reliably be able to hit all targets with it.
[Whispering Shard of Power] – A random proc stat stick that can be whatever stat you want it to be, though you need to perform small actions to activate the effect. This trinket mostly serves the purpose of a placeholder, since it is quite average, but there are a lot of extremely weak tank trinkets out there if you are just gearing up a new tank and this one is at least passable.
[Old Warrior’s Soul] – The healing effect is mostly just flavor, while the meat of this trinket is in the stacking haste effect. The haste effect takes 80 seconds of being in combat to fully ramp and the stack effect lingers for 15 seconds upon dropping combat. If you are able to minimize downtime and maintain high stacks, this trinket can be a very solid option. However, it’s more than likely going to end up around the power of a normal haste trinket in most situations, which isn’t anything special. Still, it’s an acceptable placeholder if you are low on trinket options.
[Codex of the First Technique] – A unique stamina trinket from the new megadungeon that is limited in ilvl, but it has an effect that mostly scales with incoming damage regardless of ilvl that provides a respectable amount of damage and healing as long as you, yourself, are taking a respectable amount of damage. If the key level is high enough, the trinket effect can do more damage than what you lose from the absence of passive strength on the trinket. The mitigation is respectable, though it’s main drawing point is the direct and indirect EHP it provides (as well as its damage if the key is high enough).
[Reactive Defense Matrix] – This trinket adds a strong amount of damage output and a small amount of mitigation with its reflect shields, though it doesn’t scale up with multiple targets the way some other trinkets can and a good chunk of its potential value relies on dropping below 20% health at regular intervals. This is the most damage-oriented of the trinket options and despite its lack of multi-target scaling it has respectable enough performance that it’s worth mentioning.
For your initial trinket slot [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] is thought to be more valuable than the alternatives (specifically if you are using no other sources of cheat death). If you’re in high enough level keys (maybe ~18-20+), using [Codex of the First Technique] is a valid alternative for the first trinket slot, though you may also want to consider running [Purgatory] if you are using this setup.
For your second trinket slot, smart use of [Blood-Spattered Scale] should allow you to get more value out of it compared with other options with one exception; [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis]. On the plus side, [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis] has more absorb *potential* than [Blood-Spattered Scale] on any individual use, its cooldown is a bit shorter, and it is better at protecting the user against burst damage deaths for a longer period of time since the absorb is spread out over 8 seconds. On the negative side, [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis] often has noticeably less overall damage, slightly less overall healing, the damage effect isn’t as useful to support initial threat generation, and it can’t provide the same level of near-death recovery that [Blood-Spattered Scale] can on-use. At the end of the day, the best option may come down to the dungeon you are running.
If you wish to forgo using cheat death effects, you don’t think you’ll get enough value out of [Codex of the First Technique], and you don’t want to or can’t run both on-use trinkets, [Reactive Defense Matrix] is likely the first alternative of choice, followed at some distance by [Old Warrior’s Soul] and [Whispering Shard of Power].
If in +18’s or above: [Codex of the First Technique]
If situationally using [Bonestorm]: [Splintered Heart of Al’ar]
If Tyrannical is Active: [Reactive Defense Matrix]
Otherwise: [Blood-Spattered Scale] and/or [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis]
Alternate #2: [Reactive Defense Matrix]
(Note: Trinkets are generally assumed to be at their highest available ilvl, or close to it)
For your initial trinket slot, [Codex of the First Technique] becomes a staple inclusion once you are in high enough key levels (with a threshold thought to be around roughly +18’s, though the exact number is debatable). This trinket is very well-rounded and very high performance once the initial condition is met.
Furthermore, if you are using [Bonestorm] for situational reasons (it is not a default talent recommendation), this guide generally encourages players to use at least one cheat death effect, which means that [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] is the only way you are going to get a cheat death effect without [Purgatory]. It’s a noticeably weaker cheat death effect, but it still provides a lot of value compared to having none.
Large trash packs become a lot more manageable on Tyrannical weeks, which means that [Reactive Defense Matrix] gains in a lot of value as a relatively efficient damage option, even if its mitigation benefits are noticeably weaker than other options. On Fortified weeks, this tradeoff is much more questionable, but that’s why it’s only being limited to Tyrannical weeks.
Otherwise, we have the two on-use trinkets to fall back on. Outside of the above trinkets under their associated conditions, both [Blood-Spattered Scale] and [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis] are very strong, though one is not obviously better than the other in all situations. On one hand, [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis] has more absorb *potential* than [Blood-Spattered Scale] on any individual use, its cooldown is a bit shorter, and it is better at protecting the user against burst damage deaths for a longer period of time since the absorb is spread out over 8 seconds. On the other hand, [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis] often has noticeably less overall damage, slightly less overall healing, the damage effect isn’t as useful to support initial threat generation, and it can’t provide the same level of near-death recovery that [Blood-Spattered Scale] can on-use. At the end of the day, the best option may come down to the dungeon you are running and how you are using the trinkets. However, using both at the same time is also an option in applicable situations. Granted, they put each other on cooldown for 30 seconds when one is used, which is something of an inconvenience.
If your trinket selection is limited, two alternatives are available. First, you can use [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] with [Red Thirst]. [Red Thirst] is a powerful talent even if the cheat death trinket isn’t the greatest. Second, [Reactive Defense Matrix] could be used even in Fortified settings.
All item modifiers and consumable usage is handled in this section.
Death Knights have access to unique enchants for their weapons called runeforges that are stronger than traditional weapon enchants. Notable BDK options are listed below:
[Rune of Hysteria] – This runeforge provides a very large amount of mitigation, a small amount of damage, and increases the size of our RP pool. The mitigation also scales higher with multiple targets. This is the best mitigation option.
[Rune of the Fallen Crusader] – This runeforge provides a moderate amount of damage and mitigation as well as a small amount of EHP. This is the best damage option in M+.
[Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle] – This runeforge provides a moderate amount of EHP, a small amount of mitigation, and a small amount of damage. This is the best EHP option.
[Rune of Saguination] – This runeforge can provide a large amount of single target damage, and a small amount of mitigation. The damage doesn’t fully scale with the number of targets, though it actually does 100% more damage to targets 20% health and lower (which is likely a bug).
[Rune of Spellwarding] – This runeforge can provide a large amount of *magic-specific* mitigation and a small amount of *magic-specific* EHP.
[Rune of Unending Thirst] – While on-kill effects aren’t particularly useful in M+, the one unique benefit provided by this runeforge is its movement speed bonus.
Weapon swaps can be made out of combat at no cost, so we can potentially weigh the merits of using certain runeforges pull by pull instead of dungeon by dungeon (if you have multiple comparable weapons to put different runeforges on). Properly executed, you can improve dungeon success with smart swapping than you would by using any runeforge alone, though it’s kind of a pain to do.
Keep in mind, weapon swaps made while in combat will incur a 30 second [Off Balance] debuff, which temporarily disables runeforge bonuses. [Off Balance] will easily remove most of the potential benefits related to swapping. Additionally, buff and debuff effects related to runeforges instantly vanish when the related runeforge is unequipped. So, be careful about swapping at the wrong times.
General Recommendation: [Rune of Hysteria]
In M+ dungeons, [Rune of Hysteria] will best address the most dangerous situations you’ll be in and it is particularly well-suited towards Fortified weeks, where a larger portion of the dungeon difficulty is placed on tank execution of pulls and dungeon timers tend to be more lenient given good execution. This is suggested as the default runeforge on fortified weeks when only one competitive weapon is available.
[Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle] is a reasonably efficient way to gain more EHP if you need it, and a case can be made for it in specific high key level dungeons in place of [Rune of Hysteria] where burst damage deaths are the primary obstacle to successfully timing a particular key, as opposed to failures related to throughput. However, it is not currently being recommended for general use. In the event of EHP difficulties, there may be other EHP options you want to explore first (see the Build Modifications section for more details on this), though runeforges have the advantage of being interchangeable from pull-to-pull.
[Rune of the Fallen Crusader] is one of the most efficient ways to increase damage relative to other options (see the Build Modifications section for more details on this), so it should be a consideration for non-challenging pulls in a dungeon and it is particularly well-suited towards Tyrannical weeks, which often put less emphasis on tank execution in addition to having tighter dungeon timers. As such, it is suggested as the default runeforge on tyrannical weeks when only one competitive weapon is available..
[Rune of Unending Thirst] is only used to shave a few seconds off of a key with a speed weapon when running between packs in a dungeon, if the player finds this level of micro-management acceptable. The gains are minor, but they are free for the taking if you want to exert the effort.
While versatility is generally recommended, an argument can be made for mastery since it provides a lot of mitigation relative to the EHP being lost relative to versatility or if you are trying to stay away from versatility diminishing returns.
Chest – [Eternal Bulwark]
Cloak – [Fortified Leech]
Extra EHP is an option with [Soul Vitality], but it’s efficiency is a little below the threshold of what is being considered for this guide, though an argument can be made for it (or even [Fortified Speed], for that matter).
Belt – [Nitro Boosts]
In M+ dungeons, [Nitro Boosts] provides a 70% movement speed buff with an 8 second duration on a 2 minute cooldown (it will put potions on cooldown for 1 minute). It will never backfire in M+. This is an exceptionally useful benefit for an otherwise slow tank class in many situations.
Boots – [Soul Treads]
Gloves – [Eternal Strength]
No other useful options in these slots.
The same reasoning as the ring enchants applies here, though, with gems in particular, there are some speed options that may or may not be worth using (there is no way to directly compare the benefits with traditional gems). While they are not generally recommended, they are listed as alternatives for those that are interested.
New in 9.1, wrist, gloves, shoulders, chest, and head slots from raid each have one domination socket that can be equipped with domination shards, which directly makes raid gear stronger than M+ gear in these slots if all items are available to you. The shard set bonuses won’t work in M+, but the individual shard effects will. Both wrist and chest item slots can have both domination sockets and regular sockets. All guidance below assumes max rank shards.
All of these shards provide powerful benefits that are capable of overturning large differences in item quality. If nothing else was different between two items besides item level and whether or not they had a domination socket, these shards can justify a 13 ilvl downgrade between those two items. You’ll want to find a way to work these into your item set regardless of the level of keys you are doing. If you only have one domination socket to work with, [Shard of Kyr] is suggested first, because of its raw throughput and its ability to generate shields during downtime or low damage periods. [Shard of Jas] is suggested next because of its consistent value that scales with damage intake. [Shard of Zed] toes the line of whether it justifies a 13 or 7 ilvl downgrade, but on multiple target pulls, especially, it provides *relatively* strong damage and some amount of mitigation; while not as good on single targets, it still outperforms all lower priority shards in those circumstances.
These two shards provide small, but respectable boosts in damage in dungeon settings that are capable of overturning moderate differences in item quality. Beyond the five listed shards, [Shard of Bek] is the only other shard that provides some noticeable benefit, but is generally worse than the other options in M+. If nothing else was different between two items besides item level and whether or not they had a domination socket, these shards can justify a 7 ilvl downgrade between those two items. All in all, these shards are noticeably less valuable than the initial three, since they only provide minor damage benefits, but they are still a solid bonus to have if you can get multiple strong base pieces from raid. [Shard of Dyz] is generally thought to be the most desired for the 4th socket due to its consistency, but an argument could be made for either.
Flask – [Spectral Flask of Power]
While a stamina flask would generally give a lot of EHP with minimal losses in mitigation and could be argued for, the dps loss is very steep for what you would be getting. So, the general recommendation is the strength flask.
Secondary stats provide a lot more mileage than primary stats in most situations where we have the option to choose between one or the other; food is no different.
Weapon Add-on – [Shadowcore Oil]
[Shadowcore Oil] will generally do more effective damage than [Shaded Sharpening Stone] over the course of a dungeon, though [Shaded Sharpening Stone] does more damage on multi-target pulls. While [Embalmer’s Oil] provides mitigation, it does so at an exceptionally bad tradeoff, so it is not recommended.
- Invisibility is a top priority when invisibility is necessary to enable better routing.
- Speed potions can directly shave up to 5+ seconds off of a key per use in certain situations (which is more than what you get out of a damage potion), make grouping some pulls a lot safer, or serve as an emergency kiting tool.
- [Potion of Phantom Fire] can fill in the gaps for some extra priority damage on single targets; it’s the most valuable potion unless the target count gets high enough.
- If you will have an extended amount of time doing 5+ target pulls and you have nothing else to use potions on, [Potion of Spectral Strength] could become the best situational choice.
With the arrival of Shadowlands, we now have the ability to craft legendary items. Some generic legendaries are excluded if they obviously have no application to dungeon content.
General Recommendation: [Crimson Rune Weapon]
[Bryndaor’s Might] – This legendary is a multiplier on our RP generation, providing a very large amount of mitigation at all target counts and a small amount of damage. Because the RP generation is on [Death Strike] cast, it effectively increases the size of our RP pool. Its averaged benefits are overshadowed by [Crimson Rune Weapon], though its benefits are not cooldown reliant and it’s easier to use.
[Crimson Rune Weapon] – This legendary amplifiers the power of our [Dancing Rune Weapon] and lowers its cooldown, providing a very large amount of mitigation, a moderate amount of damage that partially scales into AoE, and effectively increasing our EHP with higher defensive uptime (which becomes particularly valuable in higher key levels). Since the benefits of this legendary are all tied to [Dancing Rune Weapon], a cooldown-based ability, it benefits more from downtime between pulls relative to other options. On the other hand, there are no benefits outside of [Dancing Rune Weapon] windows and extra rotational considerations are needed to maximize bone shield generation (a respectable amount of value is tied to these bone shield stacks). Granted, as long as you are making a point to use [Dancing Rune Weapon] on cooldown whenever reasonable, it is generally justified in its use based on dungeon log data.
[Gorefiend’s Domination] – This legendary shortens the cooldown of [Vampiric Blood] to a much smaller extent than [Red Thirst], but the important benefit is the extra RP generation on [Vampiric Blood] cast. It provides a very large amount of mitigation, a small amount of damage, and effectively increases our EHP by a small amount with higher defensive uptime. Since the main benefit of this legendary is tied to [Vampiric Blood], a cooldown-based ability, it benefits from downtime between pulls relative to other options and it loses significant value if you aren’t running [Red Thirst]. It’s overshadowed by [Crimson Rune Weapon] for what it does, though it is capable of providing a bit more mitigation on single targets at the cost of losing on all other metrics.
[Vampiric Aura] – This legendary provides only a small amount of mitigation for a personal benefit and makes your primary defensive ability party-wide. A lot is being sacrificed for this party-wide utility, so it is generally difficult to justify.
[Death’s Certainty] – This legendary provides moderate damage that does not scale well into multiple targets. While it also has [Death and Decay] cooldown reduction, we do not benefit from [Death and Decay] cooldown reduction. Some of the stronger damage-oriented legendary items are strictly better than this option in M+.
Death Knight Covenant Specific:
[Final Sentence] – This legendary provides rune generation and a stacking increased damage buff when [Shackle the Unworthy] spreads. For a Kyrian BDK, this legendary can provide the greatest mitigation and damage benefits among all legendary options when 5 or more targets are present, but the legendary ends up providing no benefits, at all, on single targets and subpar benefits on lower target counts. This legendary has some potential, but its reliance on high target counts is a notable downside and the Kyrian covenant, itself, has some glaring weaknesses in M+ content.
[Abomination’s Frenzy] – This legendary provides increased [Abomination Limb] duration, increased [Bone Shield] generation during [Abomination Limb], and the application of an increased damage taken (by you) debuff on any gripped enemies. Unless you are starting from zero [Bone Shield] charges, most of the additional [Bone Shield] generation will be wasted. Outside of any additional grip utility, this legendary only provides a low amount of mitigation and damage, so other legendary items will be more beneficial.
[Rampant Transference] – This legendary provides increased RP generation when standing in [Death and Decay] as well as increasing the duration and strength of our [Death’s Due] stacks (specifically the strength buff and *not* the damage reduction debuff). Since we actually care about our damage reduction debuff, this legendary does not change how we use [Death and Decay], so the only benefits of note are the increased strength and RP generation. In total, the legendary provides a large amount of mitigation and a moderate amount of damage, but it’s not enough for it to compete with the stronger legendary options.
[Insatiable Hunger] – This legendary potentially provides a large amount of burst damage on up to five targets through its [Swarming Mist] effect. However, since the effect deals more damage based on the amount of RP spent during [Swarming Mist], maximizing the damage benefit will come at a cost for mitigation. A portion of the damage is provided by healing, but, similar to other leech effects, it does not result in a significant amount of mitigation on its own. At certain mid-sized target counts and with enough RP expenditure, this can be the highest damage legendary option, but any small damage advantage is unlikely to be worth the steep mitigation costs associated with achieving it (at least in M+).
Death Knight Specific:
[Death’s Embrace] – Gaining a heal on our [Anti-Magic Shell] provides a large amount of damage under ideal circumstances and a small amount of damage. However, convenient uses of [Anti-Magic Shell] are not guaranteed and, even when they are, other legendary items options are strictly better. The only use-case for this legendary is if the extended [Anti-Magic Shell] duration provides significant value with debuff immunity.
[Phearomones] – This legendary provides moderate mitigation and a small amount of damage through its haste effect. The CC effect breaks on damage, so, outside of unreliably interrupting enemy abilities, it won’t do that much. Unless an excessive amount of value is being gained from the CC effect, other legendary options are strictly better.
[Superstrain] – This legendary provides extra DoTs which provide a large amount of mitigation and a moderate amount of damage. The damage scales almost fully into multiple targets, though the RP generation from Frost Fever is sporadic and has an increased risk of causing RP overcapping compared to other sources of RP generation. This legendary generally provides the most overall damage with the exception of [Final Sentence] on multiple target pulls, though its averaged benefits are often overshadowed by [Crimson Rune Weapon]. Still, the benefits of [Superstrain] are not cooldown reliant and it’s easier to use.
[Echo of Eonar] – The extra damage reduction buff provides a small amount of mitigation and EHP to yourself and three allies. The effect is tied to a random proc and the effect is low-powered enough that there is little reason to consider this legendary over other options.
[Judgment of the Arbiter] – This legendary can potentially provide a moderate amount of damage that partially scales into multiple targets. The bulk of the performance of this legendary relies on having a second person using it who is positioned properly between 5-20 yards away from you. In theory, this legendary can do more low-target-count damage than any other option, but it provides no other benefits and it is a logistical nightmare.
[Sephuz’s Proclamation] – With full uptime on the triggered buff, this legendary provides a moderate amount of mitigation, a low-moderate amount of damage, an insignificant amount of EHP, and some CC duration reduction. It is not too realistic to achieve full uptime and, even with full uptime, other legendary options are strictly better.
[Vitality Sacrifice] – This legendary generates a damage and healing buff whenever you take more than 10% of your maximum health in damage; depending on how much % health you lost on that triggering attack, the buff will provide anywhere from a 3% buff (for a 10% health loss) to a 9% buff (for a 50% or more health loss). At maximum strength (which is far from realistic), this legendary provides a moderate amount of mitigation and a low-moderate amount of damage. Other legendary options are strictly better.
General Recommendation: [Crimson Rune Weapon]
In M+, [Crimson Rune Weapon] is a juggernaut that can provide the best mitigation, competitive damage, and the best EHP all at the same time. As long as you are consistently getting at least half of the [Bone Shield] generation and not losing more than 20% of your potential [Dancing Rune Weapon] casts it will generally be the best option (which is easily achievable just by making a point to use [Dancing Rune Weapon] whenever it is off cooldown and not chronically staying at very high bone shield stacks). While it isn’t difficult to play “good enough” to justify the use of this legendary, it *is* difficult to min/max bone shield efficiency with the legendary (the best players appear to waste 1-2 less bone shield stacks per use compared to other players). In situations where other options pull ahead of [Crimson Rune Weapon] on a specific metric, they generally are losing to it on other metrics by a larger margin.
Alternatively, [Bryndaor’s Might] or [Superstrain] can be used as mitigation- or damage- oriented alternatives that are easier to use and not cooldown reliant, but their overall performance is generally worse than a decently well-utilized [Crimson Rune Weapon]. [Superstrain], in particular, will generally provide more raw damage than [Crimson Rune Weapon], with a higher damage advantage at larger target counts. The “Build Modification” section has more discussion on [Superstrain] as a damage tradeoff, though it generally is not a recommended option.
You have a limited choice of item slots to choose from when crafting legendary items with specific legendary effects. Since legendary items can be crafted at a higher item level than what you can normally acquire, you generally want to craft the effect on the largest budget items, since that will give you the most additional primary/secondary stats from the higher item level legendary item. Not considering specific character gear options (or domination sockets), the general hierarchy is usually as follows:
Chest >= Legs >= Head > Ring = Amulet > Shoulders >= Boots >= Belt = Gloves > Wrist > Cloak