Friday, August 7, 2009

Solo Blood Death Knight Spec

Fresh on the heels of my eulogy to Death Knights, I will now detail a Blood spec that I use and like a lot. As a disclaimer of sorts, please note that this spec might not be particularly well suited for raiding but it works very well if you like to solo stuff. Also, what works for me might not work for you but if you are interested in Blood, read on.

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" Spec
Truth 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...

Blood Tree

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3
  • 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.

Tier 4

  • 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.

Tier 5
  • 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.

Tier 6
  • 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.

Tier 7
  • 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.

Tier 8

Tier 9
  • 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.

Tier 10
  • 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.

Tier 11
  • 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.

Unholy Tree

I chose to move to the Unholy tree for my remaining points. There are a few talents here that complement my existing build nicely.

Tier 1
  • 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.

Tier 2
  • 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 Spec
This 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 Spec
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.

See also:
Solo Blood Death Knight Rotation
Solo Blood Death Knight Glyphs
Solo Blood Death Knight Gear


Anonymous said...

Super informative post!
Most helpful too as I have just rerolled my DK and have been uhmmming and ahhhing about my build.
Thanks for the great blog!

frogi said...

After the what I like to call The Death of Unholy (SS nerf and UB going from 51 point with AoE to a mid table talent with some minor added DPS on a DC) I have been looking at the Blood talent tree and look forward to being able to testing it out.

Something along the lines of:

It has solo play in it but with only losing 3% STR and Blood Caked which I believe only really affects DPS at higher tiers.

Whats your thoughts on the "You need 20% Armor Pen for Blood?" arguement I see from time to time?

Darth Solo said...

@Barbie thanks! Which spec are you gonna pick: the survivability one or the dps one?

@frogi TBH I try to stay away from Armor Pen. I suspect that this stat is more important when you're raiding. I don't mind if Armor Pen is on an item but I prefer Str, AP and crit. The spec that you linked looks pretty solid. It will definitely do very well for solo-ing.

frogi said...

Yeah, just wondered what all the fuss was about. Thanks mate. Enjoying 3.2 then?

jfurrer said...

Thanks for an informative post... I too have been looking at a new DK to play with. Lots of good stuff here. Can you include a basic DK blood rotation you are using for solo? That would be super helpful!!

Love your blogs. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to part II of this!


Darth Solo said...

@frogi I'm enjoying it from the sidelines for the time being. Still need to get some stuff finished IRL before I return. But I can tell you I'm all hyped up about 3.2 and can't wait to get back.

@jfurrer thanks! Stay tuned for rotation, glyphs and gear.

Anonymous said...

You got Dark Conviction wrong. It does not give you +5% hit but +5% crit.

Emberstorm said...

Nice stuff. I tried soloing Nexus at level 78 DK with full savage crafted and failed due to lack of self heals, was Unholy spec at the time. I may try your blood spec next. When the time comes share your thoughts on Nexus with your DK compared to your hunter.

Great site btw, keep it up!

Melvyl said...

Any DK leveling spec that doesn't include On a Pale Horse makes me want to cry. I still insist on keeping it in my DPS spec as long as I making those mind-numbing flights to Howling Fjord to pick up that sword.

Safrienaer said...

Wow.. Just wow. I never thought that playing a DK would be this much fun! I've had one at level 60 fo ages now and decided to try this build of yours out a bit. A while later I found myself wondering how quickly eveything kept dying.

Darth Solo said...

@Anonymous thanks for the heads up! I've made the correction.

@Emberstorm I haven't tried solo-ing the Nexus yet on any of my characters but I definitely should. I can't imagine it being too hard. I will, of course, post my impressions once I do it.

@Melvyl I love that talent too. Unfortunately you would have to swap some dps talents in there, either from Unholy or Blood. If you get the points from Blood, you won't be able to get Dancing Rune Weapon.

@Safrienaer I've heard of many people who didn't want to play a Death Knight beyond the starting experience for various reasons. Once you get to Hellfire and start questing there you will come to realize that it's awesome. You feel very powerful compared to those mobs. It's a truly heroic experience IMO.

Anonymous said...

I will be going for survivabilty - as my DK is really a timeout toon for me when I want to be left alone - so it is going to have to be 'your' way all the way... for the time being at least ;-)

Darth Solo said...

Ah, that's nice :) Let me know how you like it. And also what did you choose between Hysteria and Mark of Blood (perhaps both?).

Anonymous said...

I am going to go with Mark of Blood for the time being - it appeals more and seems more apt :-) but I will probably experiment with Hysteria too though, albeit at a later stage.

Davinfelth on Pernolde said...

love the site. the experimental build with the perma goul was exactly what I had in mind for my DK, just needed a little help

keep up the good work

Darth Solo said...

@Davinfelth on Pernolde thanks man! And let me know how the hybrid build worked out for you.

WOW Death Knight Guide said...

Death Knight, I really want to try this character class. The way a warrior and dark arts work is so cool. He can kill enemies by weakening them and even slowing them, dealing damages like no other and healing from it. He can also summon minions which is way too creepy. I'll try this guide sometimes :)

Tox said...

Hi Darth,

Some other site suggested swapping points from "sudden doom" to "scent of blood". What do u think?

Darth Solo said...

@Tox not in my book. To me, Scent of Blood is a tanking talent because it relies a lot on dodge and parry (direct damage too) in order to proc. A DPS build doesn't rely on dodge and/or parry, though it has some of that inbuilt. Hence, for DPS I would pick Sudden Doom while for tanking Scent of Blood.