I’ve been promising some Death Knight tanking talk since this blog began, and now the wait is over! Today we will cover the changes to DK tanks brought by patch 3.0.6, which has already happened if you are a US reader, and will be happening today in the EU.
The biggest change is to the way our blood shield works. As you all know, when we connect with a Death Strike we create a Blood Shield. The shield lasts 5 seconds, or until enough damage is taken to remove it. Currently, if you hit a Death Strike with a Blood Shield already up, that shield gets replaced with a new one. After the patch, each new death strike will stack with the previous one. For example:
If you have a Blood Shield up with 10k health and 2 seconds left and proc a new 30k Blood Shield, you will now have a 40k death shield with the full 5 seconds duration. You can continue to stack Blood Shields up to a maximum value of 100% of your health. This did not work for a long time on the PTR, but has been confirmed as working correctly.
This is a big change from the way it previously worked. Previously, you needed excellent timing and knowledge of the fight to get the full benefit from Blood Shield. Having this timing is still to your benefit, but now you don’t have to worry about overwriting your previous shield. You should still make sure that you are not overhealing, however, and saving your DS for right after a big hit.
This really comes into it’s own as an offtank. When you are not tanking the boss directly, you can be building up Blood Shields. When you taunt the boss back, you can have a shield that will absorb damage up to 100% of your health. That is an amazing bonus.
Speaking of healing, it does not appear as though the nerf to Death Strike healing has made it to the live patch (at least judging by the official patch notes.) The healing was being dropped to 15% of the damage done by your Death Strike but (hopefully) this has been reverted. The damage boost from Improved Death Strike has been buffed, from 15/30/45% to 30/60/90%. The damage of Heart Strike has also been buffed, up to 175% weapon damage and 15% per disease. The old values were 120% weapon damage and 10% per disease.
Another excellent change is the change to Virulence. 3 points in this previously gave a 9% bonus to spell hit, making it necessary if you wanted to be able to reliably interrupt, as I have been in 10 man raids. Now, this 9% boost is passive to all DKs, meaning that if you’re melee hit capped, you are also spell hit capped for Mind Freeze. There is another small buff to the much maligned Bone Shield, which now has 4 charges rather than 3. Any more reduced damage is fine by me.
The biggest “nerf” is to scarlet fever. This is our 10% melee damage debuff which should always be up. Rather than being applied by Blood Boil, it is now tied to Blood Plague. This means that it can only be applied by Plague Strike or Outbreak. This affects diseaseless tanking more heavily than “regular” tanking as the debuff will now get applied in our normal rotation. The biggest hit though is to AOE tanking. A blood boil would previously have spread the 10% debuff to all nearby mobs, whereas now you will need to apply it to one mob and then use pestilence to spread. This uses up an extra GCD and potentially another rune.
While not DK specific, there are also a couple of nice buffs to racial abilities. The Dwarves’ Stoneform has been nicely buffed to provide a 20% damage reduction, rather than armour. This is a very nice change and makes Dwarf the best choice for a tank. Having said that, I don’t think the difference is big enough to consider changing race.
As a Draenei, I am very happy with the buff to the previously useless Gift of the Naruu. Rather than a pitiful scaling value, this will now replenish 20% of my health over 15 seconds. While it isn’t going to dramatically change anything, it is now a cooldown that I will actually use. At my current raid HP, this will give me back around 36k HP, which isn’t insignificant.
Overall, I am very happy with this patch for us DK tanks. The blood shield change is nice, especially in OT situations. We have a nice little buff to threat (which wasn’t really needed, but hey) and a boost to our interrupting reliability. With the racial changes as well, I think that we will come out of this patch better than before.