Runes and Runic Power - A Death Knight Resource System Guide (MoP 5.4)

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Death Knights have a truly unique resource system. We feel that this resource system is often improperly understood, and, as such, deserves a dedicated guide.

Death Knights use a dual resource, comprised of runes and runic power. Some abilities cost one or more runes to use, other abilities abilities cost runic power, while some have no cost at all.

Runes regenerate slowly over time. Runic power is generated by using runes, as well as through a variety of talents and abilities.

1. Runes↑top

Death Knights have 3 types of runes: Blood runes, Frost runes and Unholy runes. While these rune types are named after the three Death Knight talent specialisations, they are not related to these in any meaningful way. By default, each Death Knight has 6 runes: 2 Blood runes, 2 Frost runes and 2 Unholy runes.

1.1. Rune States

At any given time, a rune is in one of three states: active, depleted, or regenerating. When both runes of a certain type (for example, both Frost runes) are depleted or regenerating, they are considered fully-depleted, in the terminology used by the game. Each of these states is detailed in the following sections.

1.1.1. Active

Active is the default state of the runes. When idle, all runes will regenerate slowly. Therefore, if you have been idle for some time (10 seconds or so), all runes will be active.

Essentially, active means that the rune is available and ready to be used.

Active runes are consumed by abilities that cost runes. For example, Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil costs 1 Blood rune, therefore, using this ability causes 1 available Blood rune to be consumed.

When you have insufficient active runes to use an ability, the ability will appear on cooldown on your action bars, the cooldown corresponding to the amount of time until the necessary runes become available.

1.1.2. Depleted

A rune becomes depleted after being consumed by an ability.

When a rune becomes depleted, it immediately starts regenerating. There is an exception to this, which is that if there is already another rune of the same type that is in the process of regenerating, the recently depleted rune will remain depleted. In other words, two runes of the same type cannot be regenerating the same time.

For example, if a first Frost rune is regenerating and a second Frost rune is consumed by an ability, then the second Frost rune will remain depleted until the first one finishes regenerating.

Each time a rune is depleted, you gain 10 runic power (12 if you are in Frost Presence Icon Frost Presence).

1.1.3. Regenerating

By default, it takes exactly 10 seconds for a rune to regenerate. Haste influences this value. The more haste your character has, the faster your runes will regenerate.

As soon as a rune finishes regenerating, it becomes active.

Rune generation is the same in combat and out of combat.

2. Death Runes↑top

Death runes are not exactly a fourth type of rune, but rather an alternate active state that runes can sometimes be in.

There are several ways in which Death runes can be generated.

  • For Blood Death Knights, thanks to Blood Rites Icon Blood Rites, each Death Strike Icon Death Strike cast causes the runes used for it (1 Frost and 1 Unholy) to become Death runes when they finish regenerating.
  • For Frost Death Knights, thanks to Blood of the North Icon Blood of the North, Blood runes are permanently Death runes.
  • For Unholy Death Knights, thanks to Reaping Icon Reaping, each Blood Strike Icon Blood Strike, Pestilence Icon Pestilence, Festering Strike Icon Festering Strike, Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil, and Icy Touch Icon Icy Touch cast causes the runes used for it to become Death runes when they finish regenerating.
  • Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap, a tier 5 talent, causes a fully-depleted rune to become active, as a Death rune.

Regular Blood, Frost, or Unholy runes have priority over other runes marked as Death runes. For example, using an ability that costs 1 Frost rune will consume:

  • the active Frost rune, if you have 1 Death rune and at least 1 Frost rune active;
  • an active Death rune, if you do not have any Frost runes active.

3. Rune Screenshots↑top

Default runes display with the standard User Interface:

Death Knight Runes

Unholy rune regenerating:

Death Knight Runes - Unholy rune regenerating

1 Blood rune and 1 Frost rune as Death runes:

Death Knight Runes - 1 Blood rune and 1 Frost rune as Death runes

1 Death rune regenerating:

Death Knight Runes - 1 Death rune regenerating

3 Death runes, including 2 regenerating:

Death Knight Runes - 3 Death runes, including 2 regenerating

4 Death runes, including 2 regenerating:

Death Knight Runes - 4 Death runes, including 2 regenerating

4. Runic Power↑top

The runic power bar has a maximum capacity of 100, and it is empty by default. 10 runic power (12 in Frost Presence Icon Frost Presence) is generated each time you spend one of your runes, as well as through a variety of talents and abilities. Death Knights have many abilities which cost varying amounts of runic power to cast.

While in combat, runic power does not decay. Outside of combat, however, runic power decays quite rapidly.

5. Improving Rune and Runic Power Generation↑top

Various talents and abilities can increase rune or runic power generation.

5.1. Rune Improvements

In this section, we list the talents and abilities that speed up rune regeneration.

5.1.1. Tier 5 Talents

Each tier 5 talent offers a way of improving your rune regeneration rate.

Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap grants you two charges of a buff each time you use Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike, Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, or Death Coil Icon Death Coil. Using the active spell that Blood Tap provides consumes 5 charges, activating a fully-depleted rune as a Death rune.

Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment gives you a 45% chance to activate a fully-depleted rune, each time you use Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike, Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, or Death Coil Icon Death Coil.

Neither of these two talents will work if there are no fully-depleted runes. In the case of Blood Tap, you continue to accumulate charges, but you cannot spend them unless you have fully-depleted runes.

Finally, Runic Corruption Icon Runic Corruption gives you a 45% chance to increase the regeneration rate of your runes by 100% for 3 seconds (the duration is lower the more Haste you have), each time you use Rune Strike Icon Rune Strike, Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, or Death Coil Icon Death Coil.

5.2. Runic Power Improvements

Frost Death Knights gain 20% increased runic power generation from Frost Presence Icon Frost Presence (the presence that Frost Death Knights should always use). Thanks to Improved Frost Presence Icon Improved Frost Presence, Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike costs 15 less runic power than normal.

Unholy Death Knights benefit from an 8 runic power cost reduction for Death Coil Icon Death Coil thanks to Sudden Doom Icon Sudden Doom, a passive ability.

6. Magic Runes Addon↑top

A useful addon for keeping better track of your runes (as they are not very obvious or easy to follow in Blizzard's standard interface) is Magic Runes. The addon provides a set of customisable bars that allow you to see the cooldown and the state of your runes.

There exist several alternatives to Magic Runes, and we provide some of the more popular here in case you wish to try something else.

7. Changelog↑top

  • 04 Apr. 2013: Corrected several inaccuracies in the guide, and reworded several sentences to make them clearer. Also added several alternative addons for rune management.