Frost Death Knight DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Shadowlands 9.1

Last updated on Jun 30, 2021 at 05:28 by Bicepspump 25 comments
General Information

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Frost Death Knight in both single-target and multiple-target situations. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Shadowlands 9.1.

1.

Covenant Recommendation Change in Patch 9.1

ATTENTION

As of Patch 9.1 the recommended Covenant for Frost Death Knight HAS CHANGED. Please check out the Covenant page of this guide for more information.

2.

Frost Death Knight Rotation

Welcome to our Rotation page for Frost Death Knights. Here we will go over everything you will need to know in order to optimally play your spec for Raiding and Mythic+ scenarios.

3.

Mythic+ Rotation

Frost is a very interesting Mythic+ spec, as it has fantastic single-target burst potential and AoE burst potential, however this differs depending on your talents. For more information about Mythic+ as a Frost Death Knight, please check out our Mythic+ guide linked below.

3.1.

Easy Mode

If these rotations seem fairly complicated, then you may want to check out our Easy Mode page that gives you a much more simplistic build and rotation to play.

3.2.

PvP

Since the guides on this page are for PvE content, if you are looking for a PvP rotation guide, then please visit our PvP page linked below.

4.

Single Target Rotation for Frost Death Knights

The single target rotation is based on the following priority.

  1. Use Frostwyrm's Fury Icon Frostwyrm's Fury at the end of Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost, after Chains of Ice Icon Chains of Ice.
  2. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter on cooldown (for Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm, if you have taken this talent).
  3. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc or if your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever has dropped from the target.
  4. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate, if you have a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc or 4+ Runes.
  5. Use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike, if you have 70+ Runic Power.
  6. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate.
  7. Use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.
5.

Multiple Target Rotation for Frost Death Knights

If you are using Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance, then use instead of Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike whenever you would have used Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike. With Frostwyrm's Fury Icon Frostwyrm's Fury, it is recommended that you synergize with Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost and as many targets as possible.

The multiple target rotation is as follows.

  1. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter (if you have taken Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm).
  2. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, only if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  3. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter.
  4. Use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay.
  5. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate.
  6. Use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.

Your AoE rotation will be very similar to your single target rotation if you do not pick up Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe nor Glacial Advance Icon Glacial Advance. You generally do not care as much about Runic Power and it is fine to cap it when prioritising Rune Spenders.

6.

Breath of Sindragosa

Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa is a unique cooldown that offers a completely different playstyle from the other tier 7 talents. Currently you will experience an average duration of 25 seconds without Heroism Icon Heroism / Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust, and about 30-35 seconds with Heroism / Bloodlust. There are outliers where you do not get sufficient Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment procs, Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever procs or get a mechanic that causes you to go out of melee.

With Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost being a 1-minute cooldown, this means that it does line up well with Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa and Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.

6.1.

Opener for Breath of Sindragosa

  1. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate (use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you get a Rime Icon Rime proc).
  2. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate (use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you get a Rime Icon Rime proc).
  3. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate (use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you get a Rime Icon Rime proc).
  4. Use Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.
  5. Use Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost.
  6. Use Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa.
  7. Use Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead.
  8. Use Blood Fury Icon Blood Fury if Orc, Berserking Icon Berserking if Troll.
  9. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter.
  10. Use your Covenant Ability.
  11. Follow the "rotation during Breath of Sindragosa priority" (below).
6.2.

Rotation During Breath of Sindragosa

  1. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate if you are low on Runic Power (less than 30 RP).
  2. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter on cooldown (for Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm, if you have taken this talent).
  3. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, only if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc or Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever is about to drop. Only use Howling Blast if you are above 50 Runic Power (or ~30 if you are using Rage of the Frozen Champion Icon Rage of the Frozen Champion).
  4. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate if you are nearly capped on Runes or have less than 45 Runic Power.
  5. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter.
  6. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate.
  7. Use Arcane Torrent Icon Arcane Torrent if you are a Blood Elf and it will not overcap your Runic Power.

Basically, your goal during Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa is to keep the duration up by using Obliterate Icon Obliterate to generate lots of Runic Power. You should only be using abilities like Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast with a Rime Icon Rime proc, when you are not in danger of dropping Breath of Sindragosa, as it does not generate Runic Power (if you do not have the Rage of the Frozen Champion Icon Rage of the Frozen Champion legendary).

Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell is a defensive ability that can be used offensively to generate Runic Power. This can be used to extend the duration of Breath of Sindragosa. Make sure that the ability you are using Anti-Magic Shell on is magic damage.

7.

Obliteration

Obliteration Icon Obliteration plays very smoothly and fluidly, as opposed to Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa.

7.1.

Opener for Obliteration

  1. Use Chains of Ice Icon Chains of Ice at 20 stacks (if you have taken Cold Heart Icon Cold Heart).
  2. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter.
  3. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate (if you got an early Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc).
  4. Use Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.
  5. Use Blood Fury Icon Blood Fury if Orc, Berserking Icon Berserking if Troll.
  6. Use Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost.
  7. Use Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead.
  8. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast.
  9. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate.
  10. Follow the "rotation during Obliteration priority" (below).

We cast a naked Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast in this opener to immediately proc a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine in your Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost window.

7.2.

Rotation Priority during Pillar of Frost (Obliteration)

  1. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate with a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.
  2. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc and to generate a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.
  3. Use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike to generate a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.
  4. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to generate a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.

The idea here is to weave your abilities so as to both generate and consume the maximum amount of Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine procs! You can get procs of Killing Machine naturally, forcing you to sometimes use Obliterate Icon Obliterate twice in a row. It is important to ensure you have sufficient resources before entering the Obliteration Icon Obliteration window. This generally means saving some Runic Power and Runes ~5 seconds before the window. It is generally sufficient to enter with 2 or more Runes and 30 or more Runic Power. You can have less Runic Power if you have a proc of Rime Icon Rime.

7.3.

Rotation Priority outside Pillar of Frost (Obliteration)

  1. Use Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast (if you have a Rime Icon Rime proc or your Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever is about to drop).
  2. Use Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter (if you have Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm talented).
  3. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate (if you have more 3+ Runes available).
  4. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate (if you have a proc of Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine).
  5. Use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike (if you are about to cap Runic Power).
  6. Use Obliterate Icon Obliterate.
  7. Use Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.
8.

Cooldown Usage for Frost Death Knights

As a Frost Death Knight, you have 4 Core DPS cooldowns. 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. When using Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa you should always pair these 2 cooldowns together, as well as Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.
  • Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon should generally be used together with Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost. If you are talented into Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa then sync up your Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon with Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa, ideally delaying it a couple of seconds so as to utilise the resources you gain effectively.
  • Frostwyrm's Fury Icon Frostwyrm'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.
  • Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter should always be used on cooldown in AoE. If you have specced into the Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm talent (like a lot of people usually do), you also want to use this spell on cooldown in single target.

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

9.

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 specialization.

9.1.

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.

9.1.1.

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.

9.1.2.

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.

9.2.

Dual-Wielding Versus Two-Handed

Currently Dual-Wield and Two-Handed are both very viable builds although Two-Handed plays better in PvP situations while Dual-Wield plays better in PvE situations.

9.3.

Mastery: Frozen Heart

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

9.4.

Procs

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

9.4.1.

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 at Level 58, you get Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine Rank 2 which makes your next Obliterate Icon Obliterate deal Frost Damage, meaning it will scale off your Mastery and ignore armor. Killing Machine works based on the number of auto-attack critical strikes you have had since the last proc. For dual wield, the first time you get an auto-attack critical strike after your previous proc, you have a 30% chance to get a new proc. If this fails, the next auto attack has a 60% chance. If this also fails, you get 90% proc chance and then 100% proc chance if 3 auto-attack critical strikes have failed in a row.

Wielding a Two-Handed weapon increases these proc chances. You have a 70% chance to proc Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine on your first auto-attack critical strike and then 100% if this first auto-attack fails to generate a proc. Still, due to the lower attack speed of a Two-Handed weapon, and since you only have one weapon to attack with, the number of procs is 80% higher for Dual-Wield compared to Two-Handed.

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 Icon Frost Strike and Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to trigger Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine (for the duration of Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost). Each time you trigger Killing Machine, you should consume the proc before getting a new one, so as not to waste any procs.

9.4.2.

Rime Procs

Your Obliterate Icon Obliterate has a 45% chance and your Frostscythe Icon Frostscythe a 22.5% 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, most importantly before Obliterate or Frostscythe are used again to prevent the buff from being overwritten.

9.5.

Advanced Cooldown Usage

9.5.1.

Pillar of Frost (Core)

Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost grants you 20% Strength increasing by 1% for each rune you spend for 12 seconds, with a 1-minute cooldown.

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. When using Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa you should always pair it with Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost and Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon.

9.5.2.

Empower Rune Weapon (Core)

Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon grants you 15% haste and generates 1 Rune and 5 Runic Power instantly and every 5 seconds for 20 seconds. It has a 105-second cooldown (before level 56, the cooldown is 2 minutes).

Empower Rune Weapon should generally be used in conjunction with Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost. The extra haste and resources helps to make the most of these damage windows.

If you are using the Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa talent, Empower Rune Weapon is crucial to extending its duration. It is ideal to wait a couple of seconds into your Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa window before activating Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon. This is to avoid overcapping resources. As a general rule of thumb, 2-3 GCDs outside of lust and something like 5-7 GCDs during lust are okay numbers to aim for.

9.5.3.

Remorseless Winter (Core)

Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter deals damage and slows by 20% to all targets around you over 8 seconds. The damage and duration can be significantly increased with Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm, Biting Cold Icon Biting Cold and Everfrost Icon Everfrost.

Always use this spell in AoE scenarios on cooldown. On single target, use it on cooldown if you have specced into the Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm talent or if you are running Biting Cold Icon Biting Cold or Everfrost Icon Everfrost. An important part of this cooldown, when talented into Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm, is that you can refresh its duration with the maximum of 10 stacks rolling. If you are able to spend enough Runes as to increase the duration by 10 seconds, you can then recast Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter and keep the 10 stacks. This is a huge damage increase and should always be aimed for.

9.5.4.

Frostwyrm's Fury

The huge AoE burst of this spell warrants saving it for any potential add phases. As the value grows linearly with added targets, one use of this spell on three targets is better than three overall uses. Do always try to time it with the end of your Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost window.

9.5.5.

Cold Heart (Talented)

Cold Heart Icon Cold Heart turns your Chains of Ice Icon Chains of Ice slow into a powerful nuke that ramps over 40 seconds. This unfortunately makes it misalign with our 60 seconds Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost cooldown. As a rule of thumb, use Chains of Ice when above 16 stacks of Cold Heart. Do try to time it with procs of Unholy Strength Icon Unholy Strength, using Chains of Ice if this proc is about to fall off and you are above 16 stacks. It is also a good idea to use Chains of Ice in your Pillar of Frost window, as long as you have not specced into Obliteration Icon Obliteration. If using it in Pillar of Frost, use it as the last GCD within that window.

9.5.6.

Horn of Winter (Talented)

If you are using Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter as your tier 2 talent, then you should cast it as often as you can, whenever nothing on your rotational priority list is available. If you are using Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa, make sure to use Horn of Winter when you are low on Runes within the Breath of Sindragosa window.

9.5.7.

Breath of Sindragosa (Talented)

We have already covered the opener and priority when running this talent, but let us put it in words. Before using Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa, you want to pool some Runic Power (60+). Do not worry too much about pooling any Runes. Breath of Sindragosa provides 2 Runes on activation, which is generally sufficient to get going. Once you have activated your Breath of Sindragosa, your highest priority is to prolong it as much as possible. This means using Obliterate Icon Obliterate to consume Runes and generate Runic Power. You should not simply mash this button as much as possible though.

At the start of your Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa, you will most likely have a lot of Runic Power, making it important to not overcap on Runic Power as you hit your Obliterate Icon Obliterates. Only use Obliterate if you have more than 3 Runes (avoiding overcapping on Runes) and less than 70 Runic Power.

There are other spells to use within your Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa window. Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast should be used with procs of Rime Icon Rime as long as you are at a healthy level of Runic Power (30+ with the Rage of the Frozen Champion Icon Rage of the Frozen Champion legendary, 50+ without it). Remorseless Winter Icon Remorseless Winter should also be used when available (your Breath of Sindragosa window is the easiest time to extend your Gathering Storm Icon Gathering Storm stacks).

Using your resource-generating cooldowns smartly in your Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa window is also crucial. Empower Rune Weapon Icon Empower Rune Weapon, Swarming Mist Icon Swarming Mist, Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter, Hypothermic Presence Icon Hypothermic Presence are best used when you start to starve on resources. If you pop them too early, you will overcap and lose effectiveness. Generally, wait at least 5 GCDs before using any of these resource cooldowns. If you find yourself losing your Breath of Sindragosa way before the resource Cooldowns finish, alter your timing and use them earlier the next time!

9.5.8.

Hypothermic Presence (Talented)

Generally, use this cooldown as soon as it comes up. If you are running Breath of Sindragosa Icon Breath of Sindragosa, make sure to hold it until you start starving on resources.

10.

Changelog

  • 30 Jun. 2021: Reviewed and updated for Patch 9.1.
  • 04 Jun. 2021: Reviewed and expanded Cooldown usage.
  • 09 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
  • 23 Feb. 2021: Added rotation switches for the single target rotation.
  • 24 Jan. 2021: Guide reviewed and completely updated.
  • 08 Jan. 2021: Updated rotation priority.
  • 14 Dec. 2020: Updated the description of Dual-Wield vs Two Handed Frost.
  • 23 Nov. 2020: Updated the rotation priority and guide for Shadowlands.
  • 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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