Frost Death Knight DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.2)

49 comments
Frost Death Knight Art Image
General Information

On this page, we list your Frost Death Knight core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft WoD 6.2. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing a Frost Death Knight.

The other pages of our Frost Death Knight guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Skullflower, a main raider in Midwinter and who is obsessed with Death Knights. He owns/operates SummonStone. Skullflower has been soul reaping since Wrath of the Lich King launched, and began playing the game in early 2005.

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

The single target Frost Death Knight rotation can be summarised in the form of the following priority systems. They differ slightly depending on whether you are dual-wielding or using a Two-Handed Weapon, so we have split them for a better understanding.

1.1. Dual-Wielding

  1. Cast Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech (if you have taken this talent)
    • only when you have 2 runes fully depleted.
  2. Cast Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper (use Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap if a rune is needed)
    • only when the target is below 35% health.
  3. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate
    • if you have the Tier 18 2-Piece Set Bonus, only when you have a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc and your 2-Piece Set Bonus is not active.
  4. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike
  5. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate
  6. Cast Defile Icon Defile, if you have taken this talent (use Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap if a rune is needed).
  7. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, if you have over 88 Runic Power.
  8. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast
    • when you have a Rime Icon Rime proc OR
    • when you have a Frost or a Death rune available.
  9. Maintain your disease(s) (Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever and Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague, or Necrotic Plague Icon Necrotic Plague, if you have chosen this talent) up at all times.

This works best if you are using the Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap talent. Managing Blood Tap is a simple matter of making sure to use your charges before they cap (at 12). The easiest way of doing this is to use your charges to cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, or in the event that you need to pair Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine with Obliterate Icon Obliterate. Using a Blood Tap macro is not recommended, and you are better off using Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption if you are not comfortable with managing Blood Tap.

1.2. Two-Handed

  1. Cast Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech (if you have taken this talent)
    • only when you have 2 runes fully depleted.
  2. Cast Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper (use Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap if a rune is needed)
    • only when the target is below 35% health.
  3. Cast Defile Icon Defile, if you have taken this talent (use Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap if a rune is needed).
  4. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate (use Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap if a rune is needed)
  5. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast
    • when you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  6. Maintain your disease(s) (Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever and Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague, or Necrotic Plague Icon Necrotic Plague, if you have chosen this talent) up at all times.
  7. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike
    • only when you have over 76 Runic Power.
  8. Use all your runes on Obliterate Icon Obliterate
  9. Use all your Runic Power on Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.

This works best if you are using the Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap talent. Managing Blood Tap is a simple matter of making sure to use your charges before they cap (at 12). The easiest way of doing this is to use your charges to cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, or in the event that you need to pair Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine with Obliterate Icon Obliterate. Using a Blood Tap macro is not recommended, and you are better off using Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption if you are not comfortable with managing Blood Tap.

1.3. Presence

If you are dual-wielding, you should always be in Frost Presence Icon Frost Presence.

The same is true for Two-Handed players, but once you obtain the Tier 18 2-Piece Set Bonus and the Reaper's Harvest Icon Reaper's Harvest trinket, you will benefit slightly more from Unholy Presence Icon Unholy Presence. This is because Haste becomes a much more valuable stat with those items due to the increased Rune regeneration rate, which in turn increases the amount of Obliterate Icon Obliterates you can use. The value of the increased Haste and increased number of Obliterates is slightly greater than the Runic Power generation and extra Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike uses you would gain from Frost Presence. Moreover, the movement speed increase you gain from Unholy Presence is a nice perk as well.

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

The multiple target (AoE) rotation, also based on a priority system, is the same for both dual wielding and two-handed playstyles. This is only worth switching to (from a single target rotation) when you are facing 3 or more targets if dual-wielding, or 4 or more targets if using a two-handed weapon. It can be summarised as:

  1. Use Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine procs
    • on Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, if dual-wielding. If you are using the Tier 18 2-Piece Set Bonus, and you have no runic power for Frost Strike, use Obliterate Icon Obliterate instead.
    • on Obliterate Icon Obliterate, if using a two-handed weapon. If you have no runes, use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike instead.
  2. Use your Frost and Death runes to spam Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast.
  3. Use your Unholy runes on Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay if using Necrotic Plague Icon Necrotic Plague and if the targets will receive a majority of Death and Decay's 10 ticks.
  4. Use Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil to spread Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague, if the targets will live for a majority of its duration.
  5. Use your Runic Power on Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.

If the targets are short-lived, and burst AoE damage is needed, you can prioritise step 2 above 1, however, for sustained AoE scenarios, you should follow the above priority.

2.1. Presence

The exact same presence recommendations as for the single target priorities apply.

3. Cooldown Usage↑top

As a Frost Death Knight, you have a total of 3 DPS cooldowns. Below, we explain how they are best used.

3.1. Pillar of Frost

Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost grants you 20% Strength for 20 seconds, with a 1-minute cooldown. You should use this ability on cooldown. Ideally, you should couple it with any on-use trinkets you may have.

3.2. Empower Rune Weapon

Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon refreshes all of your runes and grants you 30 runic power. It has a 5-minute cooldown and, as such, it can realistically be used only twice per fight.

Empower Rune Weapon should be used when all of your runes are on cooldown and you have low runic power. It is useful in providing a large burst of DPS, so keep that in mind when deciding when to use it.

Once Tier 18 4-Piece Set Bonus is acquired, Empower Rune Weapon is best saved when you run into a consistent Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc spree and you are running out of resources to consume them rapidly.

3.3. Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead Icon Army of the Dead summons a number of ghouls to fight at your side for a short while. It has a high rune cost, so it is only worth using about 5 to 6 seconds before the pull, as long as your runes have a chance to regenerate at least 50% before you engage the boss.

4. Optional Read: Mastering Your Frost Death Knight↑top

The above-mentioned priorities (and the resulting rotation) may appear complex and confusing. To alleviate this, we will explain, among other things, the rotation in a bit more detail.

4.1. Dual-Wielding Versus Two-Handed

Currently, the dual-wielding playstyle is superior to the Two-Handed one for both single target and AoE DPS. The Two-Handed playstyle can be considered viable for single target, but it is simply lackluster for AoE.

4.2. Dark Simulacrum

Dark Simulacrum Icon Dark Simulacrum is a very special ability. It places a debuff on the target, which causes you to mimic their next spell cast that costs Mana to use. This grants you the ability (it will replace Dark Simulacrum on your bars) for a short amount of time. Using this mimicked ability can be very beneficial (even exploitative) on some encounters.

4.3. Single Target Rotation Explained

The Frost Death Knight single target rotations can get a bit confusing when read in the form of a priority list. In the following sub-sections, we will shed some light on what you should do in practice. We mainly focus on the Two-Handed rotation, since it performs better and it is more popular, but we also dedicate a section to Dual-Wielding.

4.3.1. Keeping Diseases Up

Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever will be automatically applied each time you cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, so it will always be up, normally. Sometimes, it can happen that a long period of time will go by without any Rime Icon Rime procs (since, as we have mentioned in the priority at the start of the guide, and as we will see below, you should only cast Howling Blast with a Rime proc). In this case, simply cast Howling Blast without a Rime proc to refresh Frost Fever.

Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague will have to be kept up manually. You will do this through a combination of Outbreak Icon Outbreak (once every minute) and Plague Strike Icon Plague Strike (when Outbreak is on cooldown and you need to refresh the disease).

Plague Leech Icon Plague Leech is a tier 1 talent that we advise you to take. You should use it to consume your existing diseases on the target, every time that Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague is about to expire and Outbreak Icon Outbreak is available. Afterwards, you will quickly re-apply the diseases through Outbreak Icon Outbreak. Alternatively, you can use it to consume your diseases on the target even if Outbreak is on cooldown, provided that Blood Plague is about to expire and you have a Rime Icon Rime proc. This allows you to gain one Death rune (from consuming the diseases) at the expense of one Unholy rune (the cost of refreshing Blood Plague through Plague Strike), since refreshing Frost Fever will not cost any runes due to the Rime proc.

4.3.2. Using Frost Strike

If you are using Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment (a talent which we do not consider to be optimal for Dual-Wielding), you should not use Frost Strike blindly, as it has a "hidden" benefit. Thanks to Runic Empowerment, each time you use runic power (in other words, each time you cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike), you have a 1.50% chance per runic power spent to regenerate a fully depleted rune. Therefore, you should only use Frost Strike when both runes of a certain type are unavailable.

You will, of course, be forced to use Frost Strike in situations other than these, because your runic power will reach maximum capacity otherwise. This is acceptable. Just make sure that you are not using Frost Strike when your runic power is not full and the above-mentioned rune condition is not met.

4.3.3. Killing Machine Procs

Your autoattacks have a chance to make your next Obliterate Icon Obliterate or Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike a guaranteed critical strike, thanks to Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine.

When dual-wielding, you should use Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine procs on Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, and when you are using a Two-Handed Weapon, you should use them on Obliterate Icon Obliterate.

4.3.4. Rime Procs

Your Obliterate has a 45% chance to cause your next Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast or Icy Touch Icon Icy Touch to be free of cost, thanks to Rime Icon Rime. These procs should be used with Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast. There is no difficulty here. Additionally, there is no need to use these procs right away - it only matters that you use them before casting Obliterate again.

4.4. Soul Reaper

Soul Reaper Icon Soul Reaper can be cast at any time during the fight (provided that you have the necessary rune), and it works much like a DoT that has a single tick. Specifically, Soul Reaper instantly applies a debuff to the target, that lasts for 5 seconds, and at the end of this duration, it will tick once.

Soul Reaper will only tick if the target is at or below 35% health at the moment when the tick takes place. If the target has more than 35% health, the tick will do no damage, and the entire Soul Reaper will essentially have no effect whatsoever, other than using up the respective rune.

So, even though in our priority we mention including Soul Reaper in your rotation when the target is at or below 35% health, in reality, you can start using Soul Reaper slightly sooner than that, provided that the target will be at 35% health or less at the time that the 5-second debuff expires.

4.5. Anti-Magic Shell Usage

Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell absorbs 100% of all damage taken for 5 seconds, and grants you runic power based on the amount of damage that it absorbs.

While this ability has amazing survivability benefits, allowing you to often taken practically no damage from various raid-damaging mechanics, it also has great benefits for your DPS.

Indeed, the amount of runic power you gain if you absorb a lot of magic damage is far from negligible.

Therefore, you should always try to make use of Anti-Magic Shell to boost your runic power generation throughout the fight. The best way to do it is to know when a raid-damaging attack is coming, and to have Anti Magic Shell up for that time. Then, simply enjoy the extra runic power (and do not forget to spend it).

That said, make sure that your Anti-Magic Shell is not needed for something much more important to your own survival, before using it just to get more runic power.

Finally, while you can use Anti-Magic Shell to purposefully stand in void zones, you should be very careful when doing this.

5. Changelog↑top

  • 22 Jun. 2015: Greatly revamped the single target and multiple target rotations, and made some other minor changes.
  • 08 May 2015: Made tweaks to the single and multiple target rotations.
  • 07 Dec. 2014: Made a few tweaks and improvements to the rotation and cooldown usage.
  • 18 Nov. 2014: Fixed an issue where use of Defile Icon Defile was missing from the two-handed rotation.
  • 16 Oct. 2014: Amended the simplified dual-wielding rotation section to account for the larger loss in DPS that it causes.