Blood Death Knight Tank Gear & Stat Priority For M+ (shadowlands)

General Gearing

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.

Recommendations

Stat Priority:

  1. Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target Tier Set Bonuses
  2. Disregarding limited ilvl differences on jewelry (specifically), target items with Sockets
  3. Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target items that have Haste
  4. Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target items that do NOT have Critical Strike
  5. Target Haste/Versatility items over Haste/Mastery items
  6. Avoid secondary stat Diminishing Returns on non-Haste stats

Generalized Stats Breakdown:

Mitigation: Mastery > Haste > Versatility >> Critical Strike

EHP: Versatility > Haste

Damage: Haste >> Critical Strike > Mastery > Versatility

Tier Set Bonuses

Patch 9.2 includes influential tier set bonuses that are obtainable from multiple sources. These tier set bonuses provide a number of strong bonuses that generally make them worth using over gear sets that do not make use of tier set bonuses.

2-piece bonus:

Any [Heart Strike] (other than the triggered [Heart Strike] from the 4-piece bonus) that occurs during [Dancing Rune Weapon] extends the duration of [Dancing Rune Weapon] by 0.5 seconds and provides a 1% stacking strength buff. Any additional [Dancing Rune Weapon] units duplicate this effect. The 1% stacking strength bonus persists until 10 seconds after [Dancing Rune Weapon] expires. Furthermore, the strength buff cannot go higher than 75%.

If you use [Dancing Rune Weapon] while a pre-existing strength buff is still active, the pre-existing strength stack will be removed. However, this is not reason enough to delay using a new [Dancing Rune Weapon].

This tier set bonus on its own isn’t overly exciting without the 4-piece, but it’s still strong enough that you will want to use it if you have it regardless of any realistic item level drop.

4-piece bonus:

Whenever you take any (non-AoE) damage, there’s a chance equal to your parry rate that you will [Heart Strike] the source target (this effect cannot occur more than once every 3 seconds). If there is no source target for the damage, the proc’d [Heart Strike] will then be redirected into your current target. If the source target is not in front of you and in melee range, a [Heart Strike] will not be performed, but you will gain 15 RP and the effect will be put on cooldown. A [Heart Strike] from this bonus is no different than a normal [Heart Strike], other than the fact that it only partially interacts with the 2-piece bonus (you will only proc the bonus once, instead of three times with the weapon units included). Your [Dancing Rune Weapon] now also summons two weapons, which doubles the damage your dancing rune weapons do, doubles the bonus RP and [Bone Shield] generation from [Heart Strike] and [Marrowrend], respectively, and provides an additional proc for the 2-piece bonus for all applicable uses of [Heart Strike].

The 4-piece tier set bonus is very strong to the point where any realistic item level drop you would be presented with is worth taking to enable this bonus.

Implications:

The tier set bonus (1) makes [Dancing Rune Weapon] a stronger cooldown and (2) provides an extra source of [Heart Strike] whose frequency is influenced by critical strike.

Given current tuning the first effect has the most implications, since it creates a significant positive feedback loop for [Dancing Rune Weapon] with an increase in [Heart Strike] cast frequency. This interaction GREATLY increases the value of haste as a secondary stat relative to other secondary stats, GREATLY increases the value of increased rune regeneration in any other form, and GREATLY increases the value of any options that provide more uses of [Dancing Rune Weapon]. In fact, the positive feedback loop driving this interaction is stronger than any existing forms of diminishing returns that are currently imposed.

However, there are some limits associated with the increasing value of improved [Heart Strike] cast frequency. First, if you are in a situation where you are using [Dancing Rune Weapon] before your previous strength buff has expired, any further increase in [Heart Strike] frequency will have little to no effect on your overall bonus strength benefit, since generated strength stacks during the overlap will expire with the old strength buff instead of contributing to a new one. This SIGNIFICANTLY reduces the extra damage benefit associated with haste or any other option that increases [Heart Strike] frequency. Additionally, if you are in a situation where you have already achieved full [Dancing Rune Weapon] uptime, such as multiple target pulls when using (Kyrian), the extra mitigation and EHP benefits associated with haste and other options that increase [Heart Strike] frequency also disappear along with any remaining extra damage benefit.

In any case, the second effect is still a significant source of damage and RP generation in its own right.

Attribute Overview

Primary Stats:

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 ‘3824.5’.

Weapon DPS As discussed under strength, weapon DPS is an input to all ability damage calculations.

Secondary Stats:

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:

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Tertiary Stats:

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:

image 3

Miscellaneous Stats:

These miscellaneous stats can only be acquired through specific sources.

Parry Parry is an attack avoidance stat. It is generally provided by strength and critical strike, though some other sources exist. In 9.2, Parry can increase the proc rate of [Heart Strike] from the four piece tier set bonus. 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

Mitigation

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:

Mastery > Haste > Versatility >> Critical Strike

(Note: Talent, covenant, and item choices can noticeably change the relative value of secondary stats for mitigation, (Note: Talent, covenant, and item choices can influence the relative value of secondary stats for mitigation)

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 generally more likely to occur with mitigation compared to damage, since primary stats are relatively poor sources of mitigation value.

More Details?

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], [Blood Tap], and resource generating legendary items, which are all new multipliers on [Death Strike] effectiveness (something that scales with all secondary stats EXCEPT critical strike). In 9.2, resource generation is further increased with the tier set bonus with some minor scaling from critical strike due to the bonus.

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:

  1. Increasing the “K Value” lowers the value of armor with every major content patch, which has also, indirectly, lowers the mitigation value of strength.
  2. 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.
  3. [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 %.

armor
dsscaling

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.

Effective Health

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.
  • Due to the 9.2 tier set bonuses, haste can provide significant, but unreliable, EHP.

Extra Considerations:

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.

Damage

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:

Haste >> Critical Strike > Mastery > Versatility

(Unlike mitigation, secondary stats have previously been relatively close in value when it comes to increasing damage, so the hierarchy of stat weights could very easily change depending on your current stats. However, The 9.2 tier set bonus changes this by allowing haste to provide SIGNIFICANTLY more benefits that become especially noticeable against multiple enemies. Furthermore, primary stats account for a much larger portion of an item’s damage contribution. Because of this, it is generally 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 (the 9.2 tier set bonus is also one of these sources). Granted, given the state of haste in 9.2.7, this is a trivial concern. While rarer in current content, a few damage sources are also not affected by mastery, such as damage trinkets.

Overall

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 Tier Set Bonuses

The bonuses provided by the tier set are strong enough to justify using lower ilvl gear in almost all situations. If you have a way to turn on an extra tier set bonus, it’s likely worth it.

2. Disregarding limited ilvl differences on jewelry (specifically), target items with Sockets

On jewelry slots, a socket is generally worth more than 7 item levels. While still valuable on socketable armor slots, sockets will generally not be able to justify ilvl downgrades of 7 or more on their own except on lower budget armor pieces with sockets.

3. Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target items that have Haste

Haste in place of other secondary stats tends to be a significant source of damage gains, competitive mitigation, and marginal EHP benefits (particularly on multiple targets) to the point where lower item level rings and necks (up to 7 ilvls lower for armor pieces and much larger differences for jewelry) with haste are often better in M+ settings, everything else held equal. The existence of the 9.2 tier set is the reason why this rule of thumb exists, at all. Larger ilvl differences *can* be justified for specific jewelry item comparisons, but the 7 ilvl 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 one if the two are both applicable.

However, there are limits to the extra value of haste as described in the preceding tier set bonuses section under “implications”, be aware that in situations where you are casting [Dancing Rune Weapon] before the previous 10 second lingering strength buff from the tier set bonus has expired, most of the bonus damage value being attributed to haste goes away, while all remaining bonus mitigation, EHP, and damage benefits go away in situations where you are able to maintain 100% [Dancing Rune Weapon] uptime. There is no clean haste threshold that identifies this loss of value, as it changes based on the frequency of incoming melee attacks, your covenant, and how well you are playing the rotation, but it is worth noting that a haste value drop-off point exists. This threshold is most easily encountered on multiple target pulls and when using (Kyrian), while only just barely being achievable on single target encounters. Under these conditions, additional haste becomes our weakest stat, so there may be a point where further haste gains are not justified.

4. Disregarding limited ilvl differences, target items that do 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 (up to 7 ilvls lower for armor pieces and much larger differences for jewelry) without critical strike are often better in M+ settings, everything else held equal. Larger ilvl differences *can* be justified for specific jewelry item comparisons, but the 7 ilvl rule of thumb is meant to account for the majority of comparisons and not just specific cases.

5. Target Haste/Versatility items over Haste/Mastery items

While a lot more subjective than the above rules of thumb, it is believed that versatility should be preferable to mastery in most cases by providing more EHP oriented benefits, though the overall value of both secondary stats is generally believed to be about equal in most circumstances.

6. Avoid secondary stat Diminishing Returns on non-Haste stats

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, the other stat would become more preferable. Haste, however, is a big exception. Diminishing returns, alone, do not lower the value of haste enough to change normal rules of thumb, though haste does have separate concerns after achieving near-full [Dancing Rune Weapon] uptimes.

Trinkets

Upfront Recommendations

1. If in +23’s or above: [Codex of the First Technique]
2. If stacks can be Maintained: [Old Warrior’s Soul]
3. Unconditional: [So’leah’s Secret Technique] and/or [Elegy of the Eternals]
4. If Tyrannical: [Reactive Defense Matrix]
4. If using a Cheat Death: [Weave of Warped Fates] with [Red Thirst]
4. If using a Cheat Death: [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] with [Red Thirst]
5. Otherwise (1): [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis]
6. Otherwise (2): [Reactive Defense Matrix]

(Note: Trinkets are generally assumed to be at their highest available ilvl, or close to it)

Trinket Details

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:

[So’leah’s Secret Technique] – This trinket provides the secondary stats of your choice, as long as an ally has the desired stat as their highest, though some of the secondary stat benefit goes to them instead of you. At a competitive ilvl, this trinket gives a strong amount of secondary stats that make it a very competitive option relative to the other trinket options. When choosing who to buff with this trinket, try to follow the same rules that you would for itemization.

[Codex of the First Technique] – A unique stamina trinket 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 noticeably more damage than what you lose from the absence of passive strength on the trinket. The mitigation is also very respectable through the proc effect, which also combines with the passive stamina to provide excellent EHP benefits. Overall, this trinket is extremely strong given that the key level is high enough for it to provide a damage benefit, at all, and for its EHP benefits to be useful.

[Elegy of the Eternals] – This trinket also provides the secondary stats of your choice in most cases, even if you need to resort to some gear manipulation to make it that way. And, generally, you are likely to see one other person who is the same covenant as you. The strengths of [So’leah’s Secret Technique] still apply here, though you’ll be giving applicable allies *your* highest stat with this trinket. [Elegy of the Eternals] is at a similar power level to [So’leah’s Secret Technique] if there is one other person in your group who is the same covenant as you, with the potential to be more powerful with more than one and less powerful if you have no same-covenant allies.

[Old Warrior’s Soul] – This trinket has the potential to provide a stronger effect than [Elegy of the Eternals] or [So’leah’s Secret Technique], but it heavily depends on maintaining buff stacks between pulls. So, if you believe you can maintain extremely high uptimes, it may be worth keeping this trinket in consideration as an alternative to the other haste trinkets.

[Weave of Warped Fates] – 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 can often be 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. Using two cheat death effects is also an option, but the key level would generally need to be +28 or above for it to be a consideration and it’s not clear whether or not it is worth the tradeoff.

[Splintered Heart of Al’ar] – All discussion for [Weave of Warped Fates] also applies to this trinket, which works in a near-identical fashion. The only point of differentiation from [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] is that it also provides an AoE damage effect when triggered, though, because this effect can damage allies, [Weave of Warped Fates] is generally thought to be a better option.

[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.

[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 has its uses.

Overall

1. If in +23’s or above: [Codex of the First Technique]
2. If stacks can be Maintained: [Old Warrior’s Soul]
3. Unconditional: [So’leah’s Secret Technique] and/or [Elegy of the Eternals]
4. If Tyrannical: [Reactive Defense Matrix]
4. If using a Cheat Death: [Weave of Warped Fates] with [Red Thirst]
4. If using a Cheat Death: [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] with [Red Thirst]
5. Otherwise (1): [Shard of Annhylde’s Aegis]
6. Otherwise (2): [Reactive Defense Matrix]

(Note: Trinkets are generally assumed to be at their highest available ilvl, or close to it)

[Codex of the First Technique] becomes a staple inclusion once you are in high enough key levels where the EHP benefits become useful and the healing/damage becomes “good enough”. This trinket is capable of providing a strong mix of Mitigation, Damage, and EHP benefits, though the damage, in particular, is highly dependent on key level and is not its main selling point in most situations.

The presence of the tier set bonus (and potentially (Night Fae)) are also contributing to make secondary stat trinkets much more competitive, since they lower the value of fixed damage and healing effects. Additionally, haste in particular is now extremely valuable. While it is nearly impossible to obtain one now if you don’t have one already, [Old Warrior’s Soul] is capable of providing significantly more benefit than any other trinket if you are able to maintain stacks between most pulls. Otherwise, both [So’leah’s Secret Technique] and [Elegy of the Eternals] are conditionally strong alternatives, where one trinket or the other has the potential to be more powerful depending on your group composition. Granted, the normal disclaimers for haste still apply.

Large trash packs become a lot more manageable on Tyrannical weeks, which means that [Reactive Defense Matrix] gains in 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 has a separate ranking based on the affix.

Assuming you are not forgoing the use of a cheat death effect, altogether, using [Weave of Warped Fates] or [Splintered Heart of Al’ar] with [Red Thirst] is seen as preferable to using [Purgatory] with most other trinkets. There are pros and cons when choosing between cheat death effects, but having one cheat death effect greatly devalues the use of a second (so using two is generally not advised). While both cheat death effects can be used together, this is only potentially seen as a good option at extremely high key levels. And, even then, it’s difficult to say if it’s worth the tradeoff.

Otherwise, we have a decently-strong on-use trinket to fall back on with [Shart of Annhylde’s Aegis]. Even though it has lower consistent benefits than other trinkets, the one strength it does have is situationally strong burst mitigation and (limited) AoE damage benefits that are 100% controllable. While this is an ok trinket, it is harder to justify over other options if they are available, especially given our high [Dancing Rune Weapon] uptime.

Enhancements

All item modifiers and consumable usage is handled in this section.

Runeforges

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.

Runeforge Swapping

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:

(Multiple Weapons)
Hard Pull Flex Option: [Rune of Hysteria] or [Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle]
Out of Combat Movement: [Rune of Unending Thirst] (On a +Speed Weapon)
Otherwise: [Rune of the Fallen Crusader]

(Single Weapon)
Unconditional: [Rune of the Fallen Crusader]

In M+ dungeons, [Rune of Hysteria] will generally best address your personal survivability in the most dangerous situations with high RP generation and higher RP pooling potential, though, in 9.2 with the tier set bonuses, both benefits are now MUCH less valuable than during previous patches and the damage tradeoff is even more severe. As such, this runeforge is generally only suggested for use on weapon swap in specific situations. Granted, if you wanted to make a build variation in the direction of more mitigation relative to the standard recommendations, this is pretty much the only option available that isn’t already recommended.

[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 its situational use in high key level dungeons, specifically when burst damage deaths are the primary obstacle in certain dungeon segments as opposed to failures related to throughput. However, outside of these situations, the benefits of this runeforge are limited. In the event of EHP difficulties, it is now technically one of the more efficient EHP options due to the 9.2 tier set bonuses (see the Build Modifications section for more details on this) and 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), enough so it should be an uncontested pick for any non-challenging pull in a dungeon and is a reasonably strong option overall if no weapon swaps are being used. This is one of the few damage tradeoffs that doesn’t result in an excessively large mitigation or EHP sacrifice, though the ability to swap weapons mid-dungeon does mean that, with smart play, the benefits of other runeforges can be enjoyed only during dungeon sections where the tradeoffs are worthwhile.

[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.

Enchants

General Recommendations:

Ring [Tenet of Haste]

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 Stats]

The extra EHP from [Eternal Bulwark] is no longer considered efficient in 9.2, due to K value adjustments, higher ilvl gear, and the 9.2 tier set bonus. So, it is generally best to use [Eternal Stats] for all circumstances.

Cloak [Soul Vitality]

Due to the 9.2 tier set bonuses, [Soul Vitality] is now our most efficient source of extra EHP. However, if this is not desired for whatever reason, you can choose more mitigation with [Fortified Leech] or more speed with [Fortified Speed].

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.

Gems

General Recommendation: [Quick Jewel Cluster]
Alternatives: [Straddling Sage Agate] or [Straddling Jewel Doublet]

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.

Consumables

General Recommendations:

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.

Food [Tenebrous Crown Roast Aspic]

Secondary stats generally provide a lot more mileage than primary stats in most M+ situations where we have the option to choose between one or the other; food is no exception to this (especially given how valuable haste currently is with the 9.2 tier set bonuses).

Weapon Add-on [Shaded Sharpening Stone]

[Shaded Sharpening Stone] will generally do more effective damage than [Shadowcore Oil] over the course of a dungeon as of 9.2, though it does less in single target encounters. While [Embalmer’s Oil] provides mitigation, it does so at an exceptionally bad tradeoff, so it is never recommended.

Potions [Potion of the Hidden Spirit] / [Potion of the Psychopomp’s Speed] / [Potion of Spectral Strength]

  • 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. Granted, this is only true if you don’t have other movement speed abilities available to use in these moments.
  • [Potion of Spectral Strength] is generally the better choice of damage potion in most situations given the 9.2 tier set bonuses and being able to use two legendary powers.

Legendary Items

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.

Legendary Abilities

General Recommendation: [Crimson Rune Weapon]

Blood Specific:

[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 large amount of damage, and effectively increasing our EHP with higher defensive uptime (which becomes particularly valuable in higher key levels). All of these bonuses are SIGNIFICANTLY increased when you include the 9.2 tier set bonuses. All aspects of this legendary scale very well into multiple targets. 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 (some amount of value is tied to these bone shield stacks). Granted, as long as you are making a point to actually use [Dancing Rune Weapon] at a reasonable frequency, it is extremely strong in M+ content.

[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 Knight Specific:

[Death’s Embrace] – Gaining a heal on our [Anti-Magic Shell] provides a large amount of mitigation 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.

[Grip of the Everlasting] – Double-cast [Death Grip] on a shorter cooldown provides additional grouping and taunt utility, but too much is sacrificed for this utility in any M+ situation.

[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. It is generally overshadowed by [Crimson Rune Weapon], but the benefits of [Superstrain] are not cooldown reliant and it’s easier to use.

Generic Legendaries:

[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, damage, and EHP all at the same time. As long as you are actually using [Dancing Rune Weapon] it will generally be the best option. 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).

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 MUCH worse than a decently well-utilized [Crimson Rune Weapon].

Crafting Considerations

You have a limited choice of item slots to choose from when crafting legendary items with specific legendary effects, with the exception of the covenant legendary item that can be crafted in any slot and used alongside our first legendary item. There are a few things to keep in mind with choosing where to craft legendaries, as follows:

  • Can you dramatically improve the item level or secondary stat itemization of an item slot by crafting a legendary in that item slot compared to what you would otherwise use?
  • Does guaranteed socket (on applicable item slots) provide additional value based on your alternatives?
  • Does the item slot have a naturally high stat budget?
  • Is the item slot competing against other items that provide unique effects (such as tier set pieces)?

The primary driver of where you want to craft a legendary is where you can provide the largest upgrade given your current or future gearing options, which also implies that you’ll want to accommodate any powerful unique item effects when deciding where you are crafting your legendary items. Beyond this, we prefer to craft legendary items in low budget item slots, since legendary items are now stuck at a lower item level than what you can normally acquire and can cause you to miss out on more raw stats when applied to higher item budget items. Not considering specific character gear options (or tier set pieces), the general hierarchy for item slot stat budgets is usually as follows:

Chest >= Legs >= Head > Shoulders >= Boots >= Belt = Gloves > Wrist > Ring = Amulet > Cloak

Taking everything into consideration, the general recommended end-game M+ setup will be crafting [Crimson Rune Weapon] in the Belt item slot and [Unity] in the Cloak item slot unless you have item level disparities or other special considerations between your non-legendary options.

 

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Kyrasis

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