The main advantages of the Blood tree, when specced accordingly, are the steady healing and very decent DPS. Leveling as Blood was a very satisfying and safe experience. I really appreciated the ability to kick ass and heal (my own) ass while doing it. A Blood Death Knight with this spec has zero downtime. It feels sublimely gratifying to slam a mob with instant hits from a heavy weapon and at the same time leech life such that my health is always full. For that reason, I haven't even leveled my First Aid properly.
OK, now a Blood spec can be achieved in several ways. One of them is "my" way. Another is a high-DPS one, with less healing. Still another is for tanking. Then there are hybrid builds. One of the hybrids includes a permanent ghoul. I will be describing the spec that I use because, like I already said, it allows you to solo pretty much anything that doesn't require a 5-man group. If you raid though, you might be more interested in the high-DPS spec which I will not delve into but merely mention.
"My" SpecTruth be told, before patch 3.2 I was using a slightly different spec, as I had swapped a few talents around but as soon as I get back into the game, I will be using the following spec (at level 80):
If you are just starting a new Death Knight, I would suggest the following spec at level 58:
The goal here is to get Heart Strike as soon as you have enough talent points for it.
What follows is a breakdown of these talents and my reasons for choosing them. Remember, my goal with this spec is not to achieve Uber-DPS but rather a balance between damage and self-healing. This is by no means a weak spec. I love it to death. Get it, "death"? Meh, stupid pun. Anyhoo...
- Butchery 2/2 - Essential talent. Generates Rune Power while in combat and after killing a mob.
- Subversion 3/3 - Nice boost to crit chance but will only be useful to Heart Strike since Blood doesn't use Obliterate anymore.
- Blade Barrier - Tanking talent. Skip.
- Bladed Armor 5/5 - Increases Attack Power based on your total Armor. Since DKs wear plate => lots of armor => very good talent.
- Scent of Blood - Tanking talent. Skip.
- Two-Handed Weapon Specialization 2/2 -Essential talent. Nuff said.
- Rune Tap 1/1 - Some people don't like this ability but I've come to love it. When fully talented, it instantly restores 20% of your health and it is on a short 30 second cooldown. For a level 80 Death Knight with 15,000 health that means 3000 points are restored at the cost of 1 Blood Rune. To me, this has really proven useful in many situations. I also use it often to top up after a more difficult fight after which I'm not at 100% health.
- Dark Conviction 5/5 - Essential talent. 5% extra crit is very good for a DPS build.
- Death Rune Mastery 3/3 - Essential talent. This will apply to our Death Strikes and will convert our Frost and Unholy Runes to "wildcard" Death Runes, which will allow us to Heart Strike more often.
- Improved Rune Tap 3/3 - I like this talent, as explained above.
- Spell Deflection - Tanking talent. Skip.
- Vendetta 3/3 - Another talent that's shunned by many. I like it because it keeps me topped off. Although the healing isn't that much, it really shines when fighting a group of mobs that can bring your health down quicker than you can leech it back with other abilities. As soon as one mob goes down, you are healed by a small (but not insignificant) amount. Bringing several mobs down in quick succession can rapidly turn the tides of a battle. It comes in handy in such situation as when I'm AOE farming rhinos for skins in Storm Peaks.
- Bloody Strikes 3/3 - Essential talent. A lot of extra damage for your bread-and-butter strike.
- Veteran of the Third War 3/3 - Essential talent. A mere 3 points increase so many vital stats that it makes me dizzy.
- Mark of Blood 1/1 - Here's another talent that's not particularly sought-after. I have tried both this one and Hysteria and I ended up liking Mark of Blood more. This is a situational ability. I use it exclusively when fighting very tough mobs, such as elites. When the elite hits me, it also heals me. This is one of the abilities that allow me to solo even 3-man quests with this spec.
- Bloody Vengeance 3/3 - Very good talent. Since a Death Knight typically crits a lot, this buff will be up practically all the time even if it doesn't reach the full 3 stacks for normal mobs. However, for elites it will be up constantly at full strength.
- Abomination's Might 2/2 - Essential talent. Unfortunately it doesn't apply to Death Strikes but it still procs from our main strike so it's still ok. Besides, you can't argue with the extra boost to Strength.
- Bloodworms 3/3 - I love these disgusting little critters. They don't heal for much but every little bit helps. There are so many abilities in this tree that trickle-heal, but combined together they are very powerful in keeping your Death Knight alive and well. Besides, if there are several mobs, occasionally they get distracted by your worms and will hit on them for a few seconds instead of you.
- Hysteria - It's up to you if you pick this talent or not. Personally I've tried it and didn't like it. On paper it looks like a great boost to DPS at the cost of a little bit of health which will be leeched back in any case. My problem is that if I use this on normal mobs, the DPS gain isn't worth it since the mob goes down very fast but until I can reach the next mob my health is still decreasing slowly. You can definitely swap Mark of Blood for this and it wouldn't be a bad thing though. Whatever. I'm not losing sleep over this.
- Improved Blood Presence 2/2 - Personally I consider this talent essential. Since you will be spending all your time in Blood Presence, the extra healing will come in handy.
- Improved Death Strike 2/2 - Since Death Strikes has become a very important part of our rotation now, this talent is essential.
- Sudden Doom 3/3 - Very good talent. Essentially, 15% of your Heart Strikes will contain a free Death Coil.
- Vampiric Blood 1/1 - Personally I didn't find this very useful. You won't miss it if you skip it. More of a tanking talent than anything.
- Will of the Necropolis - Tanking talent. Skip.
- Heart Strike 1/1 - Essential talent. Your primary weapon strike that is now even more potent than a few patches back due to the fact that it acts like a cleave and strikes 2 enemies at once. Learn to love it and learn to spam it.
- Might of Mograine 3/3 - Essential talent. Big boost to the crit damage bonus from some of your most used offensive abilities.
- Blood Gorged 5/5 - I like this one because it's essentially an extra 10% damage + 10% armor reduction considering that a Blood DK's health is over 75% in 99% of cases.
- Dancing Rune Weapon 1/1 - The culmination of the Blood tree, this ability has gone through several iterations until Blizzard finally settled on a variant that seems to be working the way they want it to. Although the damage has been severely nerfed, its cooldown has also been slashed, making it more usable. It is essentially a Runic Power dump and uses a fair amount of it.
I chose to move to the Unholy tree for my remaining points. There are a few talents here that complement my existing build nicely.
- Vicious Strikes 2/2 - Since we are using Plague Strike anyway, this talent will provide an extra damage boost to it by making it crit more often.
- Virulence 3/3 - The important part here is that we get a 3% hit increase for spells. Now your Death Coil will miss less often.
- Anticipation - Tanking talent. Skip.
- Epidemic 1/2 - I would take both points in this if I could. It lengthens the duration of your 2 diseases on your target and allows you for example to place an extra Heart Strike or Death Strike if needed.
- Morbidity 3/3 - The increase to Death Coil damage is what I'm going here for.
- Unholy Command - While Death Grip is one of the coolest abilities in WoW, we won't be getting this talent.
- Ravenous Dead 3/3 - Extra 3% Strength is a good boost to DPS.
High-DPS SpecThis is a suggestion for a high-DPS spec. It might not be THE best DPS spec out there but as solo players we don't have to be anal about it so for our purposes it should work just fine.
Notice that here I've chosen Vendetta 2/3 which is definitely not a DPS talent. That's my personal preference but you can swap 1 point from that with something else if you wish and the best choice DPS-wise would be Hysteria. Although Hysteria is a good DPS increase at the cost of health, I don't fancy it much for reasons I've mentioned above.
Bonus Hybrid Permanent Ghoul Spec45/0/26
Here's an "experimental" spec that might work. I'm definitely considering giving it a try. It trades the final 2 tiers in the Blood tree for a permanent Ghoul. You might want to use Glyph of the Ghoul for this one to make your undead buddy more efficient.
In my next article I will detail the Glyphs that I use for my Blood spec. I could do it here but this article is long enough and I would rather break everything into sections.
Solo Blood Death Knight Rotation
Solo Blood Death Knight Glyphs
Solo Blood Death Knight Gear