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Frost Death Knight DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoW 4.3.4)

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In this article, we list your Frost Death Knight (WoW 4.3) core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation). We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that playing a Frost Death Knight will face you with. The other articles of our Frost Death Knight guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the left.

1. Basic Single Target Rotation↑top

The single target Frost Death Knight rotation, both for dual wielding or two-handed playstyles, follows a priority system that can best be summarised like this:

  1. Keep your diseases (Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever and Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague) up at all times.
  2. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate if
    • both Frost/Unholy runes or both Death runes are available OR;
    • you have a Killing Machine Icon Killing Machine proc.
  3. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike if your runic power is about to reach maximum.
  4. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast when you have a Rime Icon Rime proc.
  5. Cast Obliterate Icon Obliterate.
  6. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike when you have two runes of the same type that are depleted or regenerating (but not available).
  7. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast.
  8. Cast Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter.

1.1. Presence

You should always be in Unholy Presence Icon Unholy Presence.

2. Basic Multiple Target Rotation↑top

The basic multiple target (AoE) rotation, also based on a priority system, is the same for both dual wielding and two-handed playstyles. It can be summarised as:

  1. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast if both Frost runes and/or both Death runes are available.
  2. Cast Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay or Plague Strike Icon Plague Strike if both Unholy runes are available.
  3. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike to avoid reaching maximum runic power.
  4. Cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast.
  5. Cast Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay or Plague Strike Icon Plague Strike.
  6. Cast Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike.
  7. Cast Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter.

2.1. Presence

For short periods of AoE damage, you should be in Unholy Presence Icon Unholy Presence. For extended AoE phases, you should use Frost Presence Icon Frost Presence.

3. Cooldown Usage↑top

As a Frost Death Knight, you have a total of 5 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 your trinket.

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 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.

3.3. Raise Dead

Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead summons a ghoul that fights at your side for 1 minute, with a 3 minute cooldown. The ghoul benefits from your stats at the moment when you cast it, so try to cast it when you have procs active (Pillar of Frost Icon Pillar of Frost and Heroism Icon Heroism/Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust/Time Warp Icon Time Warp especially).

3.4. 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. As it has a 10 minute cooldown, it can only be used once per fight.

The ghouls also benefit from your stats, like in the case of Raise Dead Icon Raise Dead. That said, it is best to cast this shortly before combat or during phases when you can't attack the boss, since it has a cast time during which you cannot attack.

3.5. Blood Tap

Blood Tap Icon Blood Tap will instantly refresh the cooldown of one of your Death runes. You should use this on cooldown, but only if one or both of your Death runes are unavailable.

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. The Runic Resource System

Death Knights use a unique resource system. Because this system is quite intricate, we have written a separate, comprehensive guide dealing with it. We strongly advise you to read it, and familiarise yourself with the resource system, as it holds a central place in the Death Knight paradigm.

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. Keeping Diseases Up

In addition to the damage that your two diseases do, the damage done by Obliterate Icon Obliterate is increased by 12.5% for each disease present on the target. For this reason, it is imperative to have a high up-time on your diseases.

Frost Fever Icon Frost Fever will be automatically applied each time you cast Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast, so you do not need to worry about it.

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).

4.4. Using Frost Strike

Clearly, Frost Strike Icon Frost Strike deals damage, making it a useful ability. But you should not use Frost Strike blindly, as it has a "hidden" benefit. Thanks to Runic Empowerment Icon Runic Empowerment, each time you cast Frost Strike, you have a 45% 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.

4.5. Killing Machine and Rime Procs

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

Your Obliterate has a 45% chance to cause your next Howling Blast Icon Howling Blast to be free of cost, thanks to Rime Icon Rime.

Obliterate and Howling Blast, therefore, have a higher priority when their respective procs are active. This is because, if the procs are not used up quickly, they may be overwritten by a new proc and therefore wasted.

4.6. Horn of Winter

The mention of Horn of Winter Icon Horn of Winter in the DPS priority list may seem odd, so we would like to quickly clarify it. As a Frost Death Knight, there are certain moments in your rotation when there is literally no damaging spell you can cast. Occasionally, you can fill this dead-time with casts of Horn of Winter, which will serve not only to refresh the buff for your raid, but also to grant you 10 runic power.

4.7. AoE

One mention should be made regarding the AoE priority we listed above. When we mention that you should use Death and Decay Icon Death and Decay or Plague Strike Icon Plague Strike, this is because Death and Decay has a 30 second cooldown, and you will need to regularly consume your Unholy runes much more often than that, which is when you should use Plague Strike. For maximum benefit, you should switch through the targets you are facing and apply Plague Strike to each of them (to have your DoT on as many targets as possible at once).

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