6. Typical PvE Talent Build
The most effective Blood DPS talent builds will focus on getting the damaging blood talents. You don't want to worry too much about the pure self healing talents, since you should be able to count on your Death Strikes and a healer to keep you up in groups and raids. Taking an activated healing based talent can also be problematic since it will usually require that you use runes to activate it instead of using the runes to do damage. Unholy's damage talents are your best way to go for your secondary tree. Frost is pretty much a no-go for blood builds, since the first couple levels of the tree are almost exclusively spell damage based, and blood does most of its damage from physical sources.
The most widely accepted talent outlay for blood DPS is a 51/0/20 build that looks something like this.
7. Talent Overview
In this section, we'll discuss each of the talents in the build in the last section. Talents not mentioned below are generally considered not very useful for blood DPS, that is, better suited for tanking or just not as good as other talents for blood DPS, if not outright sub par.
Butchery: Butchery is a good filler talent for the first tier. The extra runic power at least makes sure you're less likely to run low when your runes are all on cool down and you need a quick burst of filler damage. It's at least better than throwing 2 points in Blade Barrier for a DPS.
Subversion: Not only do you get some threat reduction, but a bit of extra critical strike potential for Bloody Vengeance later in the tree. This is a no brainer. Take this talent.
Bladed Armor: Since you should pretty much always be wearing plate armor unless, you're say, raiding the coliseum in 5-man dungeon blues and keep getting rogue drops, this is an excellent way to get some more precious attack power. It will be giving you a decent chunk of it, too, once you add up everything you're wearing.
Two-Handed Weapon Specialization: As a blood death knight, you will always be wielding a two-hander to do maximum DPS, and you'll be doing most of your damage from weapon strikes and white damage done by that two-hander. With that in my mind, boosting the damage of that two-hander is another no-brainer.
Dark Conviction: This talent is a pre-requisite for Bloody Vengeance, and gives you a good chunk of critical strike damage with which to trigger said talent. Take it.
Death Rune Mastery: This talent is absolutely mandatory for a good blood DPS rotation. When you convert Frost and Unholy runes to Death runes, it means you can use two extra Heart Strikes on your next rotation. Two Heart Strikes will always beat out any frost/unholy strike for a properly equipped blood death knight.
Bloody Strikes: Heart Strike will be the primary strike you use for single and double target fights, and Blood Boil will be your primary attack for larger scale fights. That makes this talent very, very good to take.
Veteran of the Third War: This gives you a ton of strength and expertise, two very important DPS stats for a blood death knight. Again, this is more or less a mandatory skill for a good blood DPSer.
Bloody Vengeance: This talent is a nice solid boost for physical damage. As most of a blood death knight's damage output is physical, that makes this is a very solid talent to get.
Abomination's Might: This talent gives you some group utility, providing a 10% attack power proc for physical DPS. It doesn't stack with procs by other classes, but luckily, this talent also gives a 2% bonus to strength, meaning its probably going to be worth taking even if you regularly group with an enhancement shaman or marksman hunter. Remember, more strength boosts all of your damage.
Hysteria: This is a nice buff that can make you more useful to raids (If they have you use it on someone else) or give you a nice personal boost of energy. It also makes your Dancing Rune Weapon more powerful if you summon it while under Hysteria's effects. Your Death Strike and Bloodworms should take care of most of the health drain.
Bloodworms: The Bloodworms that spawn can technically be targeted and killed, but on the whole, it's easy to keep aggro from them, and the damage and health they provide makes them worth the points spent even on the few fights where they get killed too easily, if only to get up to 51 points in the tree.
Improved Blood Presence: You'll spend 100% of your DPS time in Blood Presence, so the main benefit for you is that extra healing received. For the most part, you won't find this essential in a blood DPS build, but you may as well put one point here in order to get 51 total points in the three, since the 5% extra healing will at least provide a steady bit of extra healing that may even come in handy if you have a less than skilled healer or are using Hysteria.
Improved Death Strike: You'll be using Death Strike as your main Frost/Unholy strike since it doesn't remove diseases like Obliterate does. That pretty much makes this talent another mandatory one for good solid blood DPS.
Sudden Doom: This provides a nice, instant free proc on your most used weapon strike. It's another one that's pretty much a no brainer, if only to reach the higher tiers.
Heart Strike: This strike lies at the heart of any blood DPS build. This is going to be your mainstay strike for any single target battle. It's an improvement over blood strike in every way, and if you do not get it, you are in the wrong tree. Pick this up.
Might of Morgraine: This provides extra damage to almost every major attack you're going to be unleashing in your standard rotation. You'll around have a 14% chance for most of these abilities to be critical strikes from talents alone,
Blood Gorged: Since most of your damage is physical, the 10% armor penetration from this talent is phenomenal. Since your self-healing powers and talents mean you'll be pretty durable, that 75% health damage boost should be active most of the time. Grab this talent for sure.
Dancing Rune Weapon: This is an excellent source of burst damage. It takes a snapshot of your stats when it's summoned and uses those to determine its own stats, so make sure you're as buffed as possible when you summon it for best results, and that includes temporary buffs like Hysteria and Heroism/Bloodlust as well as trinket procs. None of those will apply to the weapon after its already out, but they will buff it if they're on you when it is summoned. You may also want to hit Empowered Rune Weapon and start a new damage rotation, as almost every spell and weapon strike you use while Dancing Rune Weapon is out is mirrored, causing even more damage.
That said, the above is perfect conditions. Don't be afraid to summon the blade in less than perfect conditions to maximize your DPS. If you're only summoning it every 10 minutes or so, that's at least 5 or 6 missed opportunities to get a lot of extra DPS.
Here's a quick look at the secondary unholy skills we're using for our optimum blood DPS build as linked earlier in the article.
Vicious Strikes: This isn't amazing for blood DPS, but it's a better way of getting to higher tiers than 2 points in Anticipation, as you'll at least be using Plague Strike to put Blood Plague on your target.
Virulence: While the main use of getting this talent is to boost us to tier 2, it still has its place for Blood DPS. If you combine this 3% spell hit with 8% hit from your gear and a Misery or Improved Faerie Fire debuff, you'll rarely miss with Death Coil.
Ravenous Dead: This talent's main function for a blood DPS is the extra strength it provides, but don't freely discount the buff to your ghoul either. Your ghoul will never be as good as an unholy DPSer's ghoul, but if you have a spare global cool down and there's not too much AE on a given fight, it still can't hurt to summon said ghoul, especially if you have a Glyph of Raise Dead.
Morbidity: Your main runic power dump will be Death Coil, so a talent that raises the damage on Death Coil is certainly a good thing to have. Mostly, it's the best way to get enough points to grab later talents in the tree.
Epidemic: The main thing to ask yourself when choosing whether to spec Epidemic is this: "If I have 3 or 6 extra seconds of disease, will I have the resources to squeeze out an extra weapon strike before I need to refresh my diseases?" In the case of blood death knights, 1 point Epidemic should be enough to make our rotation slightly more forgiving and possibly allow us to squeeze out an extra Heart Strike before our diseases drop. If you feel like you need some extra grace time, you can take a point out of Morbidity and max out Epidemic.
Necrosis: You'll be doing a lot of white damage with your two-hander, and this talent provides 20% more of it. Mind you, it doesn't get any love from most spell damage increasing talents, and it appears to calculate off your white damage after any armor mitigation, so it's not as amazing as it could be, but it's the best damage potential you'll get for your talent points at this point in your build.
Blood Caked Blade: The basic idea is the same as Necrosis. This'll just do more damage for you than anything else you can buy while staying in the general framework we outlined in section 6 of this article. If you want to maximize your damage potential, get this talent.
8. Leveling as Blood
Blood is an amazing leveling tree, and possibly even the preferred leveling tree for death knights. The main disadvantage to leveling is blood is the same disadvantage as doing end-game DPS as blood: You just aren't as good as the other trees at AoE damage. Other than that, blood is a very solid leveling tree in nearly all other aspects. Your strong self-healing abilities mean less downtime and even give you the potential to solo some elite quests if you use your cool downs well.
In addition, the extra healing potential on blood means you're less likely to die in groups from a mediocre healer or a tank who can't keep aggro if you chose to group and/or use the looking for dungeon tool for your leveling. In other words, it's very hard to go wrong leveling as blood DPS.
If you have a main who's willing and able to grab heirlooms, grab the plate DPS shoulders and chest and grab an Arcanite Reaper or Truesilver Champion for your weapon and go to town. As far as talents, move down the blood tree first, then fill out the unholy tree later.