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Frost Death Knight DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.0.3)

Last updated on Jul 22, 2016 at 12:48 by Vlad 63 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 7.0.3. 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 Tegu, one of the best DPS Death Knights in the world, who raids in Serenity. You can follow him on Twitter, and you can watch his stream on Twitch.

1. Single Target Rotation

This Frost single target rotation assumes you are using Obliteration Icon Obliteration as your tier 7 talent. The rotation has two phases, depending on whether or not Obliteration is available.

Outside of Obliteration, the rotation is based on the following ability priority system.

  1. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on the target at all times.
    • Normally, this should be refreshed by the Howling Blast Icon Howling Blasts you use with Rime Icon Rime procs, but if you do not have a Rime proc, you can even use Howling Blast without one if Frost Fever is about to expire.
  2. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate (as long as you will not reach maximum Runic Power).
  3. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  4. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike to consume Runic Power (making sure not to reach maximum Runic Power).
  5. Cast Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter (if you have taken this talent), as long as you do not reach maximum Runic Power and if you do not have maximum Runes.

When Obliteration is about to become available, you should pool 50+ Runic Power in preparation for it, make sure that you do not have a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc active (by consuming it), and then use Obliteration. During Obliteration, you should only use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike (which will proc Killing Machine) and Obliterate Icon Obliterate (which will consume the proc), alternatively. If you get a Rime Icon Rime proc, you should use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to consume it before you use Obliterate again.

It appears that currently, at high gear levels and with the Tier 18 4-Part Set Bonus, Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe (the tier 6 talent) actually deals more single target damage than Obliterate Icon Obliterate. We are not yet certain of the viability or the applicability of this playstyle, but we will update the guide as soon as possible.

2. Multiple Target Rotation

The multiple target rotation depends on how many enemies you are facing. There are 2 different rotations against 2 targets (depending on talent choices), while the rotation against 3+ assumes you are using Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance.

2.1. Against 2 Targets

There are currently two different viable rotations to use against 2 targets.

2.1.1. Machine Gun Rotation

This rotation assumes you are using Icy Talons Icon Icy Talons, Frozen Pulse Icon Frozen Pulse, Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance, Avalanche Icon Avalanche, and Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe. It is based on the following priority.

  1. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on the targets at all times.
    • You will never get Rime Icon Rime procs using this rotation, because you will not use Obliterate Icon Obliterate. This means you will simply have to use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast when it is time to refresh Frost Fever.
  2. Cast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter on cooldown.
  3. Cast Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance.
  4. Cast Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost to activate Avalanche Icon Avalanche.
  5. Use Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe.
    • Against 2+ targets, you should spend your Runes on Frostscythe regardless of whether or not you have Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine procs.
  6. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.
    • Make sure not to reach maximum Runic Power, and to use it often enough to keep up the Icy Talons Icon Icy Talons buff.

2.1.2. Breath of Sindragosa Rotation

This rotation assumes you are using Murderous Efficiency Icon Murderous Efficiency, Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe, and Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa. The rotation has two phases, depending on whether or not Breath of Sindragosa is available.

Outside of Breath of Sindragosa, you should follow this priority system.

  1. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on the targets at all times.
    • Normally, this should be refreshed by the Howling Blast Icon Howling Blasts you use with Rime Icon Rime procs, but if you do not have a Rime proc, you can even use Howling Blast without one if Frost Fever is about to expire.
  2. Cast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter on cooldown.
  3. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  4. Use Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe, only if you have a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.
  5. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate (as long as you will not reach maximum Runic Power).
  6. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike to consume Runic Power (making sure not to reach maximum Runic Power).
  7. Cast Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter (if you have taken this talent), as long as you do not reach maximum Runic Power and if you do not have maximum Runes.

When Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa is about to come off cooldown, you should save up Runic Power in preparation for it (but saving Runes is not necessary). Then, you should cast Breath of Sindragosa and attempt to have it last as long as possible by generating Runic Power and not spending it on anything else. This means that during Breath of Sindragosa you should:

During Breath of Sindragosa is also when you should use your Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost, legendary ring, potion, on-use trinkets, and racial ability (if applicable).

2.2. Against 3+ Targets

The rotation we present assumes that you are using Murderous Efficiency Icon Murderous Efficiency, Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe, and Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance. It is based on the following priority system.

  1. Maintain your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever on the targets at all times.
    • You will never get Rime Icon Rime procs using this rotation, because you will not use Obliterate Icon Obliterate. This means you will simply have to use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast when it is time to refresh Frost Fever.
  2. Cast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter on cooldown.
  3. Cast Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance on cooldown, while aiming it at the enemies.
  4. Use Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe.
  5. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  6. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike to consume Runic Power (making sure not to reach maximum Runic Power).
  7. Cast Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter (if you have taken this talent), as long as you do not reach maximum Runic Power and if you do not have maximum Runes.

2.3. Using Obliteration

If you are using Obliteration Icon Obliteration as your tier 7 talent, then you should use it against multiple targets in a similar way as during your single target rotation. The only difference is that during Obliteration, you should consume Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine procs with Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe.

3. Cooldown Usage

As a Frost Death Knight, you only have 2 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. 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 your legendary ring and 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 with these talents.

3.2. 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.

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.

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).

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.

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 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.

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.

5. ChangeLog

  • 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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