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Frost Death Knight DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.1)

Last updated on Oct 28, 2016 at 07:38 by Vlad 281 comments

Table of Contents

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 Legion 7.1. 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 Totemlord, a Frost Death Knight enthusiast and respected theorycrafter on the Frost Death Knight Discord. You can contact him on Discord under the name Nic#9561.

1. Runic Attenuation + Obliteration Rotation

This rotation assumes you are using Icy Talons Icon Icy Talons, Runic Attenuation Icon Runic Attenuation, Avalanche Icon Avalanche, and Obliteration Icon Obliteration. Its priority list depends on how many targets you are using it against.

1.1. Single Target

  1. Maintain your Icy Talons Icon Icy Talons buff up (by using Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike before it drops off).
  2. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on the target at all times using Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to apply and refresh it.
  3. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike if you have 80+ Runic Power (or 70+ if you have 3/3 in the  Icon Over-Powered (rank 3) artifact trait).
  4. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc and Obliteration Icon Obliteration is not active.
  5. Cast Obliteration Icon Obliteration if you have 2+ runes and 25+ Runic Power.
  6. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike (only if Obliteration Icon Obliteration is active).
  7. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate, if you have a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.
  8. Cast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter.
  9. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate (without a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc).
  10. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike if you have 40+ Runic Power.

1.2. 2+ Targets

  1. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on all targets at all times using Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to apply and refresh it.
  2. Cast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter.
  3. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast when you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  4. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate to dump runes.
  5. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike to maintain the Icy Talons Icon Icy Talons buff.

2. Machine Gun Rotation

This rotation is ideally used when you have to cleave 3-4+ targets for periods of over 8 seconds (roughly). It is based on a priority and it assumes you are using the Icy Talons Icon Icy Talons, Frozen Pulse Icon Frozen Pulse, Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe, Avalanche Icon Avalanche, and Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance talents.

  1. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on the targets at all times using Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to apply and refresh it, only if they will live longer than 6 seconds.
  2. Cast Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance.
  3. Cast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter, only if the targets will live longer than 6 seconds.
  4. Cast Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe.
  5. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike (this will also give you a chance to proc Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment).

3. Cooldown Usage

As a Frost Death Knight, you have 3 DPS cooldowns. In addition to this, you gain another cooldown from your artifact weapon. Below, we explain how they are best used.

  • Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost should be used on cooldown, stacking it with potions or any on-use trinkets you have. Alternatively, you can save it for moments when you need increased damage.
  • Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon should be used as many times as possible throughout the encounter, making sure not to waste any of the resources it provides you with.
  •  Icon Sindragosa's Fury should be used as many times as possible throughout an encounter. Ideally, it should be used against multiple targets (and it is worth saving for this purpose), but it can also be used against a single target.

You can read more about these cooldowns, as well as about any cooldowns you gain from talents in our dedicated section.

4. Optional Read: Mastering Your Frost Death Knight

Following the guide up to this point will allow you to play a Frost Death Knight at a very high level. That said, below we go into a bit more detail about some aspects of the specialisation.

4.1. Runes and Runic Power

Death Knights use a dual resource system of runes and Runic Power. While it is quite straightforward in how it works, we will explain it here for the sake of completion.

4.1.1. Runes

You have a total of 6 Runes, which are available by default. Some of your abilities have Rune costs, and whenever you use an ability that consumes one or more Runes, those Runes will immediately begin recharging. The exact amount of time it takes a Rune to recharge depends on how much Haste you have.

Whenever a Rune is consumed, you gain 10 Runic Power (more on that below).

At most, 3 of your runes can be charging up at the same time. It is therefore optimal to keep at least 3 runes on cooldown in order to maximise the recharge rate over the course of the fight.

4.1.2. Runic Power

Runic Power is a resource that resembles Rage, in the sense that it decays when out of combat, but does not decay during combat. As mentioned above, consuming Runes generates 10 Runic Power per Rune spent, and this is the primary means of generating Runic Power, although some abilities also help with this. You can have a maximum of 100 Runic Power.

4.2. Dual-Wielding Versus Two-Handed

Despite historically being able to use both Two-Handed weapons and to dual-wield One-Handed weapons, Frost Death Knights can now only use most of their damaging abilities if they are using One-Handed Weapons. As a result, the Two-Handed playstyle is dead.

The fact that the artifact weapons are two One-Handed weapons further reinforces this fact.

4.3. Mastery: Frozen Heart

Mastery: Frozen Heart Icon Mastery: Frozen Heart increases all Frost damage that you do.

4.4. Procs

Frost Death Knights have two procs that will regularly show up in the rotation, so it is important that you understand them.

4.4.1. Killing Machine Procs

Your auto attack critical strikes have a chance to make your next Obliterate Icon Obliterate (or Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe, if you have taken this talent) a guaranteed critical strike, thanks to Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine.

Generally, these procs should be used right away so as to ensure that no procs are overwritten.

If you have the Obliteration Icon Obliteration tier 7 talent, then this ability causes each Frost Strike to trigger Killing Machine (for 8 seconds). Each time you trigger Killing Machine, you should consume the proc before using Frost Strike again.

4.4.2. Rime Procs

Your Obliterate has a 45% chance to cause your next Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to be free of cost and deal 300% additional damage, thanks to Rime Icon Rime. These procs should be used quickly, certainly before Obliterate is used again to prevent them from being overwritten.

4.5. Anti-Magic Shell Usage

Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell absorbs 100% of all magic damage taken, up to 30% of your maximum health, 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.

The Volatile Shielding Icon Volatile Shielding tier 5 talent can be used to increase the amount of damage absorbed by Anti-Magic Shell, allowing you to survive even more dangerous mechanics. Keep in mind that using this talent causes Anti-Magic Shell not to generate Runic Power. The damage that the talent deals is Arcane damage, which does not benefit from your Mastery.

4.6. Advanced Cooldown Usage

4.6.1. Pillar of Frost

Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost grants you 20% Strength for 20 seconds, with a 1-minute cooldown. It also grants you immunity to external movement effects such as knockbacks (which could be useful in some situations).

You should use this ability on cooldown and ideally couple it with any potions or on-use trinkets you may have. That said, it can sometimes be better to save it until a high priority target becomes available.

If you are using the Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa or Obliteration Icon Obliteration, it is best to stack Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost with these talents.

4.6.2. Empower Rune Weapon

Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon refreshes all of your Runes and grants you 25 Runic Power. It has a 3-minute cooldown.

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.

If you are using the Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa talent, Empower Rune Weapon is crucial to extending its duration, so saving it for such moments is important.

Note that if you have the Seal of Necrofantasia Icon Seal of Necrofantasia legendary, Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon will have 2 charges.

4.6.3. Artifact Abilities

The main artifact ability,  Icon Crystalline Swords, is entirely passive and you should not concern yourself with it.

On the other hand, the  Icon Sindragosa's Fury trait provides you with a 5-minute cooldown that deals massive Frost damage to all enemies located in a cone in front of you, also slowing their movement speed by 50% for 10 seconds. You should use this as many times as possible throughout the fight, ideally against multiple targets. If no multiple targets will spawn, you should use it on cooldown against a single target.

5. ChangeLog

  • 28 Oct. 2016: Amended the Obliterate line in the single target priority to include one with and one without a Killing Machine proc.
  • 27 Oct. 2016: Added the Runic Attenuation + Obliteration rotation to the guide.
  • 05 Oct. 2016: Split the rotation into single target and AoE.
  • 26 Sep. 2016: Improved the single target rotation.
  • 25 Sep. 2016: Removed the non-machine gun rotations.
  • 24 Sep. 2016: Updated the guide to reflect that the machine gun rotation is currently recommended in all situations.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 22 Jul. 2016: Several updates.
    • Tweaked the Frostscythe line in the Machine Gun rotation.
    • Removed mentions of Rime procs from all rotations except single target one, since not using Obliterate means you will never have them.
  • 21 Jul. 2016: Added machine gun rotation to the guide.
  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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