Greetings once again denizens of Tamriel! The Bloodletter build has seen some heavy hits in terms of operation and performance since the dreaded Morrowind patch, but we're still able to enjoyable clear Veteran (and Hardmode) Dungeons with ease! I have opted to not mention translations into trials tanking, so you'll have to don adult pants and experiment with the build to find what works for you. The video below has some updated information which will help you adjust your Nightblade tank back into a formidable, albeit different, tanking machine.
Now for the more nitty gritty details. Here are some simple statements about the build itself- a mix of pros and cons.
-This build is NOT your traditional tank. If you love holding down block and never moving, then this is not something for you. As a very proactive DPS member, sitting still and seldom casting abilities is something I find extremely boring. This build is all about playing like a DPS, so you'll be expected to be throwing off abilities and weaving them, WHILE blocking. Expect a steep learning curve!
-This build revolves around heavy self healing as well as AoE potential. Almost all of my healing abilities/procs grow exponentially in power based on the targets they hit, meaning this build actually gets stronger the more mobs there are. This is rather unique to the build, as many other setups begin struggling the more mobs there are, while this thrives in those situations.
-The identity of the build is a bit more selfish at self glance, compared to the more high end 'meta' builds that competitive guilds run. While it does sacrifice ultimate generation from things such as Tava's Blessing and Bloodspawn for more uptime on Aggressive Warhorn, it allows the healers of the group to focus more on damage and buffing allies instead. It's more of a redistribution of power, rather than a simple gain and loss.
-The item sets from this build all drop from 4 mans or can be bought (BoE), so no trail raiding required! The hardest set to nab will be Bahraha's in Heavy, and we'll talk about swappable sets while you work towards that.
-Resource management is much easier with this build compared to other setups, IF you can get used to weaving attacks between abilities + blocking. It's a very different playstyle, and not everyone can pull it off, but it's fun!
-Not only does this build have self healing and sustain, but it provides a decent amount of damage as well. I can easily pull upwards of 30k on trash pulls, I can sometimes get around 6-10k single target too, depending on the fight and RNG procs.
While I did cover the abilities in the video, I will explain further why I run things as well as some interchangeable setups.
Sword and Board Bar;
Pierce Armor: Our main taunt available to us, bound to melee range. This applies Major Breach and Fracture to ensure your group members regardless of spec benefit from 24/7 up time on these. It provides 10.56% damage against mobs and 8% damage against v16 players. Make sure you apply this to the major threats in a trash pull, as well as any others around if possible. Remember, the more targets hitting you, the stronger you'll be.
Sword and Board backbar
Funnel Health: Unlike DPS builds, this will NOT be our main spammable. Since this skill operates by applying a Heal over Time for 10 seconds, we'll only be casting it a few times every 10s. If you want more self healing instead of group healing, take Swallow Soul.
Sap Essence: Our main form of spammable AoE DPS and heals, also granting us Major Sorcery for a little bit more damage. Keep in mind that Sap and Swallow both scale with Spell Damage, and Swallow scales multiplicatively since the heal is based on damage done. Sap also procs Siphoning Attacks at an absurdly high rate in AoE circumstances, as each of the enemies hit with it has a 10% chance to proc it, once per second. Cast this over Funnel Health if the HoT is already applied from Funnel.
Absorb Magic: Mainly this ability is used simply as a passive slot, for 8% block cost reduction and a bonus 8% block mitigation. However in some scenarios this spell alone can allow you to negate damage and heal instead, allowing a healer to focus purely on damage. Any time a single target SPELL is casted on you, this procs. Knowing fights ahead of time is key for when to use this, so make sure you study the mechanics of a fight and look for places you can utilize this spell for truly incredible results.
Leeching Strikes: While just a former shadow of itself since the nerfs, this skill still allows Nightblades to bypass a lot of resource management issues. This now takes a bit more situational understanding to use, and forces us to drop block for a few fractions of a second here and there to light attack mobs for the base proc + the chance to proc on abilities. If your sense of timing is off this can easily spell death in sticky situations or when fighting beefier mobs such as the Mantikora from Sanctum. After the ability expires (or upon recasting) you'll net a nice chunk of resources based on how long the buff ran for, helping tide you over until the next Heavy Attack or synergy.
Mirage: A reliable source of Major Evasion that lasts a decent duration. It also costs Magicka instead of Stamina, allowing us to block even more. This helps lower incoming damage tremendously but will also lower the efficiency of our monster sets, but it's still worthwhile. Still, a very solid skill that synergizes amazingly with sets such as Tava's Favor if you're looking for insane Ulti gen.
Flex Spot: There are tons of options to use. You can use Heroic Slash for ultimate, Merciless Resolve to buff your damage (which will increase Funnel's healing), or pretty much anything.
Inner Rage: The only ranged taunt in game, used for pulls where you can't devout yourself to running straight to the adds or boss. This helps a lot in places like vICP where there are a lot of high priority targets spread out that you need to get before they reach your allies. Make sure you take this morph so you have 1 taunt that uses different resources so you have a back up in case you somehow run out of a resource. This morph also has an increased chance to proc the Radiate synergy, which is one of the strongest synergies in game for DPS.
Refreshing Path: Usually I really detest this skill for casters, as it severely under performs compared to Twisting Path damage wise, but the heal scales incredibly well due to the CP system. Since this build isn't a full on damage setup, this isn't as much of an issue, and the need for a Shadow ability that would be casted ~ once every 10 seconds to ensure Major Ward/Resolve for mitigation leaves Refreshing as a much more reasonable fill. Add on all the bonus healing taken and this becomes a lot stronger than the tool tip would suggest.
Dark Shades: You may have realized I didn't suggest always slotting Heroic Slash with this build on our SnB bar. That's because this beauty of a spell lasts almost double the duration, doesn't have a high cost, and has multiple target potential. It also activates some passives for us, really making it much easier than Slash to manage for the Minor Maim buff. Keep this up on any bosses, to really help control damage output. Heroic Slash still boasts superior Ulti gen, but Dark Shades is easier to manage and is much more cost efficient.[/spoiler]
Optimal; 5 Alteration Mastery: A BoE set from Rewards of the Worthy mail or bought in bags from Cropsford in Cyrodiil, this set reduces ALL costs by 6%. Yes, ALL. Stamina, Magicka, Ultimate, Health, Roll Dodge, Block, Bash... EVERYTHING. Boasting immense resource management, this set is any active caster's best friend. This is why we double bar SnB as of the Morrowind patch, to ensure we have it active on both bars. This set comes in Light armor only, so you'll want 3 jewelry pieces (this means Arcane!) with Sword and Board. If you aren't enacting the GCD every second by using abilities, try the flex option instead!
Bloodthorn: Another BoE set, this time from Glenumbra overland events (World Bosses, delves, dolmens, quests). Again it's a Light armor set, so you'll want to use Jewelry + SnB to enable this bonus. Anytime you deal direct damage (which is anytime you hit with taunt, Funnel, Sap, or Light attacking), you'll get a butt ton of Stamina and Magicka, with a 5s ICD. While not boasting as efficient resource management as Alteration, it's much easier to see the gains when it procs, and doesn't require constant damage GCD enacting like Alteration Mastery.
5 Bahraha's Curse: This set drops from Hew's Bane zone events (bosses, chests, etc) in Light Armor, OR in any weight from Thieves Guild quests and heist dailies. This means it's kind of hard to obtain in the ideal. You're going to want 5 pieces of Heavy Armor, which can be extremely rare in optimal (Infused/Divines) traits. Again this set is kind of brushed off by most players for its wonky looking bonuses. With a staggering 25% chance to proc off of any damage DONE, this means this set is up almost indefinitely. It does have an ICD of the duration of the proc itself, so you will not see more than one up at a time. This is alright though, as the AoE is rather sizable for a proc (About 3-4m) and everything in it triggers the damage and heal. Mob mitigation lowers the effectiveness, so penetration is good for healing as well. The minor set bonuses of this give us a bit of well rounded stats, with Max Health+Stamina+Magicka. This also scales in power with CP, similar to Leeching. The following trees boost the set; Elemental Expert (magic damage), Thaumaturge, Blessed, Spell Erosion, and Quick Recovery. The trap damage reduction granted by this set actually works inside trials when taking AoE damage, leaving it to be deceptively powerful.
Getting Bahraha's Curse in heavy armor can be a chore since you can only get it from Thieves Guild quests and heist rewards (or buying them from guild traders if you can find them!). In the mean time try using a crafted set such as Seducer (resource management), Twilight's Embrace (improved self healing), or Torug's (amazing group enabling when paired with Infused Crusher enchant).
2 Malubeth: A monster helm obtained from Veteran Wayrest Sewers and Undaunted Chests, with a chance to be put in the Cyordiil vendor every weekend. This set takes everything this build can do and multiplies the values by a ground breaking 30%, in form of Major Vitality. The only downside is the set has a lower proc chance than anything else in our kit, at 6% per damage source taken. Still, in large density pulls this set is going off quite a bit. It's received a few nerfs due to the toxicity of this set in Cyrodiil, but it has everything we need for big AoE fights in PvE.
Again this scales with CP, however I have not fully tested which nodes it all scales with. I know Blessed and Quick Recovery have this scale, but I'm not sure if the offensive nodes do.
Honorable Mentions or alternatives (break away from identity of build, more 'meta' esque);
5 Alkosh (Obtainable from Maw of Lorkhaj, any difficulty): While this strays far away from the identiy of this build, the group damage potential from this set is staggering. Reducing Armor (Physical and Spell Resistance) by a whopping 3010, it enables tons and tons of group wide DPS in trials. I don't like all that much in 4 man groups however.
5 Tava's Blessing (Craftable set from Hew's Bane) : Again going into more of a utility meta role, this set enables absurd ultimate generation. Just make sure you pair Mirage with this to make use of the 5 piece.
2 Bloodspawn (Obtainable from Spindleclutch II) : An alternative to Malubeth, that also gives you spikes of Ultimate generation as well as some much desired Resistances for mitigation. The stamina regeneration bonus is a bit wasted for the most part, but the 2 piece is the main focus here. If you're trying to dish out more Warhorns for the group, I'd pair this with Tava's on a Nightblade tank since we have the highest Ulti gen in game for truly efficient results.
2 Swarm Mothers (Obtainable from Spindleclutch I): Since we lack any form of Chains, this set will help pull enemies to you if you block their attacks. This means you'll need to hold block and taunt them for it to work.
Armor: The truly optimal setup for this build has you running Infused on every Major armor slot with Prismatic Enchants. This allows our stat pools to be enormous for a tanking role, giving us plenty of room for a rotation and healthy block/bash/dodge pool. Since Bahraha's Curse doesn't come in Sturdy for the Heavy Armor (old drop system sadly), you'll only be able to get that on your Helmet & Shoulder. I opt to run Infused on everything with this build personally.
Weapons & Shield: For group utility, go with an Infused 1h weapon to buff up the enchant. Otherwise you can run Powered for group healing, Sharpened for self healing (to increase damage of Bahraha's, Funnel, and Leeching), Decisive for stupid high ultimate generation, or Defending for tankiness. Go with either Reinforced or Infused on the Shield (you can't get Nirnhoned Alteration/Bloodthorn or Bahraha's Curse).
Jewelry: I run all 3 slots as Arcane, as my offensive spells scale dually in nature with damage and heals. This allows me to become even more self sufficient, so my group can focus on them instead of me. You can run pretty much whatever trait here, based on your preference. Arcane is definitely the most efficient in my opinion though. In trials you may want to opt to take Healthy or Robust depending on your race and stats.
If you're looking for mathematical data here are the values for possible traits;
Infused legendary: 20% bonus enchant
Reinforced legendary: 16% bonus to Armor's rating (gives armor and spell res)
Divines legendary: 7.5% bonus to Mundus Stone
Running Prismatic enchants + Infused is a 20% bonus to 434 Max Magicka and Stamina, and 477 Max Health. This ups the enchant to 520 Max Magixa and Stamina, and 572 Max health; a gain of 86 Magicka and Stamina, and 95 Max Health. This doesn't seem like much, as it's only ~8.9% of the value of a single resource pool set bonus (967 stamina/magicka and 1064 Health), but multiplied by 3 it's 26.7% of a set bonus gained (a little over 1/5th). This means after 5 infused prismatic enchants, you're gaining a whole additional set bonus worth of stats.
Reinforced changes based on the armor piece it is applied to. The order of highest to lowest Armor Rating is as follows; Chest > Helmet, Shoulders, Boots, Legs > Gloves > Belt. Let's look at the first two orders of power to get a more ideal picture.
Trait-less Legendary Chest: 2772 Armor Rating
Trait-less Legendary Helm/Shoulder/Boots/Legs: 2425 Armor Rating
Reinforced Legendary Chest: 3215 Armor Rating (+443, or .67% damage mitigation)
Reinforced Legendary Helm/Shoulder/Boots/Legs: 2813 Armor Rating (+388, or .58% damage mitigation)
A legendary set bonus of Armor or Spell resist is 1935, but since Armor Rating gives both of these we need to multiply the efficiency value by 2, since it's getting two different set bonuses in one. 443/1935 = 22.89% x 2 = 45.79% the value of a set bonus, meaning after 2 (technically 3 but let's round up) you're getting an additional set bonus of mitigation. This seems to be more than double the value of Infused paired with Prismatic enchants, but mitigation is valued in a different way than resources. Let's convert mitigation to something called Effective Health, which pretty much means how much health you gain by lowering the amount of damage you take. For example if I take a hit of 5000 but mitigate 10% of it, or 500, I have effectively gained 500 health in the process, since I ignored that much damage. Since Effective Health changes in value based on the amount of damage received, let's look at the epitome of values, Mantikora. Mantikora is currently the heaviest hitting mob in the game, hitting upwards of 50k true damage (no mitigation, block, etc). With this build we have ~ 26500 mitigation in the final setup, which is ~40% damage mitigation (50% is cap), so that 50k now becomes 30k. Now apply our CP passive Hardy of 16% Physical reduction, which makes 30k into 25,200. Then apply block which is a base of 50% mitigation, then add 20% of that from Sword and Board passive which makes it 60% damage mitigation, and then apply the 8% from Absorb Magic which gives us a final mitigation of 64.8% mitigation while blocking and it becomes 8870 incoming damage. This means against Mantikora our Effective Health is increased by 41,130, since we mitigate that much damage when he attacks with his Power Attack. To find out where Reinforced fits into Effective Health we simply go back and add in the value of one Reinforced trait to our mitigation values and then finish the calculation and look at how much incoming damage we take. 26500 becomes 26943 so we take 50k x (100-(26943/660)) = 29590 x (1-.16) = 24855 x (1-.648) = 8749 incoming damage. That's 121 effective health for one Legendary Reinforced Trait. Recall Infused's Prismatic value of 95 Health and 86 Magicka AND Stamina, which both get increased by % passives such as racials/etc. We can clearly see that Infused is now more efficient in every way possible to Reinforced in this build.
On Shields this changes a little bit. A base Legendary Shield has an Armor Rating of 3010, while Reinforced has a Rating of 3491. a 481 increase compared to a 443 increase is rather marginal, so if you have a lot of % amps for stats, go with Infused instead of Reinforced on your Shield, and pop another Prismatic on there. Since my tank is a Khajiit, I don't have as many useful passives as other races, so I opt for Reinforced.
Mundus Stone, Consumables, and Enchants
With this build there are two pretty clear cut choices to run; Atronach or Ritual. They each offer unique utilities, and the choice kind of depends based on what race you are.
Atronach Stone base: 210 Magicka Regen (getting buffed in Horns of the Reach!)
Ritual Stone base: 10% bonus healing
Since we run no divines these are rather static, although Magica Regen gets some minor amps thanks to CP (20.4% for my allocation) and a few other passives. Refreshing Shadows grants a 15% bonus and Recovery grants 4%. If you drink a tri pot you also gain another 20% bonus. Each of these adds separately as follows
210 + (210 x .204)42.84 + (210 x .15)31.5 + (210 x .04)8.4 + (210 x .20)42 for a total of 334 Magicka Regen. You can add in another 10% if you're a High Elf, but that's pushing the sustain past where it's pretty much impossible to run out.
The 10% bonus healing from Ritual stone is a static % that gets added separately to healing, similar to how the regen sources added. This means you'll simply get a bonus 10% healing done (not received!) which is nothing to laugh at. I average about 6k single target to 10k aoe HPS with my current setup (non optimal remember) so the ritual would add a bonus 600-1k+ HPS in efficiency. Pretty nice, but I prefer regeneration so I can ensure I never run out of Magicka.
I prefer Tri Stat food (Max Health, Stamina, and Magicka) as of the Morrowind patch, due to the nerfs to Shards, Repentance, and Siphoning Strikes. You can attempt to run Witchmother's Brew or Orzorga's Frothgar (or whatever the hell it's called) for more regen, at the expense of your Stamina pool.
I also run Tri Pots for clutch moments where I need that little added health or magicka back, although this is rare. This also gives us a flat 20% bonus to all regeneration sources, which is pretty nice. Sap Essence gives us Major Sorcery for damage/healing potential, so running Spell Power Pots would be silly. You can also run Major Mending potions now, to bring this build to entirely new heights in terms of healing.
Armor/Shield Enchants: As stated in the trait section, I run all Prismatic Enchants on my Armor+Shield. This is because you get half of the value of a normal enchant, but three. This means you have 150% bonus overall enchantments, per Prismatic. At a total of 8 possible enchants, that's 4 (8 x 1.5 = 12 enchant values) additional enchantments you couldn't have gotten otherwise.
Weapon Enchants: I opt to run the Crushing Enchant to ensure my team does maximum damage. However in a situation where all team members are Caster spec, you are free to run whatever you like. From a tanking perspective none of the enchants are all too great mitigation or resource wise, due to the 6 second ICD to enchants, so I still run Crushing even if no one is around to benefit from it. On the back bar you can run Weakening or anything you prefer honestly.
Jewelry Enchants: Most tank builds run the same exact setup for jewelry; 3 Block/Bash Cost reduction enchants to ensure the least amount of stamina drain possible. However, thanks to Leeching Strikes we don't need these enchants! Since this is the case, I'm able to run 1 Block Cost Reduction, 1 Magicka Cost Reduction, and 1 Magicka Regeneration glyph. This is to help my Magicka sustain to stay at a high enough to heal and deal damage, while also helping me ensure I can remain healthy with my Stamina pool.
Honestly from a tank perspective, racials are more fluff due to the nature of the game. You're pretty free to choose what you want based on play style or even appearance. However, there still is optimal choices based on what you're looking for. Here's a brief breakdown of the top of the line races.
Argonian: Yes, you read that right. Argonian's have one thing that no other race has, and it's unparalleled resource management for EACH resource pool; Flat resources returned on potion consumption (45 second cooldown if you keep it up 100%). Not only do Argonians have great sustain, but they also have a hefty 9% Health bonus, which is nothing to laugh at. This easily equates to ~ 2 set bonuses of Max health when applied to this build. Finally, we have another really nice passive of 9% bonus healing received. This is a slightly weaker Ritual Mundus stone (1% less), which is a pretty nice bonus to our healing potential. Finally, a use for Argonians!
Altmer: Any caster oriented build can find itself scaling exceptionally well with this race. With a great bonus to Max Magicka (10%) as well as Magicka Regeneration (another 10%) they are definitely the option to go for a more offensive look to this build. The Max Magicka will let your offensive and healing spells do more, so you'll be more efficient. Not only that but the bonus regen will let you spec other sources into different stats. You could opt to only run 1 Magicka Regen enchant and 2 Spell Damage, or use the Ritual over The Atronach.
Dunmer: With 9% Max Magicka, 6% Max Stamina, Increased Fire/Lightning/and Ice Damage, AND 3.15% Fire damage reduction (2079 Flame Resist) the Dunmer now contests as an extremely capable race for non-Dragonknights. The Max Magicka helps increase our damage and sustain, while Max Stamina increases our blocking capabilities. The Elemental damage increase is mute since we run only Magic+Poison damage in this build, but it's great if you plan on switching between DPS + Tank.
Imperial: The sturdy Imperial always serves a nice purpose for tank builds. An unparalleled bonus to Health (12%) and a nice boon to Stamina (10%) leaves them with sizable resource pools. However this build is primarily Magicka and it has no benifit to that. To make up for this though, there is the West Star passive, which gives a nice little bit of Health back on Melee attacks.
Nord: A truly under appreciated race overall, this is by far the best race for a full on tank. The 6% raw damage mitigation offers so much effective health and allows you to reach a damage mitigation no other race can hit. Pair that with a 9% Max Health bonus and you're going to be one beefy tank. The Health Regen passive is a bit shoddy, but it serves better on a tank than any other role.
Champion Point Allocation
This is what I like for the current 600 CP cap. Try and hit these numbers as you progress, focusing mainly on the nodes with the highest dump in them first.
49 Elemental Expert
22 Spell Erosion
Progression; Focus on Blessed and Elemental Expert first. Once you hit those numbers, start splitting between the rest at your own pace.
49 Elemental Defender
40 Thick Skinned
11 Quick Recovery
Progression; Focus on Ele Defender and Hardy first, and then start filling in the rest.
56 Shadow Ward
56 free points (Split between Bash reduction, CC break, and Dodge roll)
Progression; Put 10 into Shadow Ward first, then 75 into Magician, then 30 into Arcanist, and then fill in any order after you've hit those numbers.