PvE Blood Death Knight DPS Rotations & Abilities Overview

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In this section, we will go over our abilities and possible rotations, explaining how the single-target rotation works in detail, while also debunking the myth of Blood Death Knight’s incompetence in the role of a damage dealer.

Abilities Overview

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  • Icy Touch deals direct frost damage and also afflicts the target with Frost Fever. This will be your main way of applying your Frost Fever, while also reducing your target’s attack speed by 20% and increasing yours.
    • You will only want to use this ability to apply your Frost Fever, not spam it mindlessly.
  • Plague Strike deals direct weapon damage and inflicts the target with Blood Plague. This ability will be your primary way of applying Blood Plague.
    • You should only use this ability to place your disease, not spam it.
  • Blood Boil can be used to devastate your enemies in AoE situations. This ability should only be used after applying your diseases to the targets.
    • Keep in mind that this ability consumes Blood Runes, so you may want to start spamming it only after you convert all of your Frost and Unholy into Death Runes with Death Strike.
  • Death and Decay is an AoE ability that allows you to desecrate an area, dealing medium to high damage to all of the enemies caught in it. You will only want to use this ability after you make sure that you’ve spread your diseases.
  • Death Coil deals direct shadow damage to a enemy, or heals any friendly undead unit. This will be your main Runic-Power-spender, used as a filler ability whenever your runes are not available.
    • As a Blood Death Knight in a DPS role, you will want to use this ability only when you have enough runic power. Keep in mind that we want to use talents that empower Death Coil as much as possible, especially because of the Sudden Doom.
  • Heart Strike deals direct weapon damage to your target while also causing half the damage to one additional target in the vicinity. This ability is enhanced by 10% for each of your diseases present on the target.
    • This will be your main spam ability, replacing Blood Strike entirely. Most of your rotation will be revolve around this ability!
  • Blood Strike deals direct weapon damage, increased by 12.5% for each disease present on the target.
    • This ability is the precursor of Heart Strike! We listed Blood Strike here to make sure that you won’t use it instead of Heart Strike.
  • Empower Rune Weapon resets the cooldown of all your runes, while also giving you 25 runic power. This ability will be a part of your burst, allowing you to use all of your abilities once again.
    • We recommend you use this one in conjunction with your trinket procs and your Dancing Rune Weapon, to maximize the damage.
  • Dancing Rune Weapon is the ultimate skill available to a Blood Death Knight, letting them summon a replica of their weapon that will use any ability that the Death Knight casts, for a limited amount of time.
    • This ability is a part of your burst, and can be enhanced by the Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon.
    • Keep in mind that since this ability has a 1.5-minute cooldown, you will want to use it every time the cooldown finishes to maximize your damage. You can execute this perfectly by planning ahead and saving up enough runic power right before the cooldown is ready.
  • Death Strike deals direct weapon damage while also healing you for 5% for each disease present on the target. As a DPS Blood Death Knight, you will want to actively spam this ability — for two distinct reasons.
    • Firstly, it transforms your Frost and Unholy runes into Death runes, allowing you to use any ability by consuming them.
    • Secondly, it deals high amounts of damage while also providing you with a very reliable, consistent self-healing tool.
  • Hysteria (Unholy Frenzy) is among the most powerful physical-damage-enhancing abilities in the game. It allows you to empower either yourself or one of your allies with 20% increased physical damage, at a cost of 1% maximum health lost every second, for up to 30 seconds.
    • As a DPS, you will want to think of this ability as your personal burst button. However, you can choose to grant this boon to a more powerful ally.
    • Ideally, you will want to use this ability in conjunction with Dancing Rune Weapon and Empower Rune Weapon.
  • Pestilence allows you to spread any disease placed on your target to any number of nearby enemies in a 15-yard radius. This ability will be your main AoE tool with massive damage, useful for your raid group or your dungeon party. This ability will also be used to refresh your diseases with the Glyph of Disease.
  • Raise Dead is the trademark of the Death Knight class, allowing you to force ghouls into servitude for a limited amount of time. Unlike the Unholy Specialization, which gets a permanent pet, you will likely want to use your more limited trusty ghoul in two different ways.
    • The first option is to use your pet as a burst tool. The second option is to quickly raise a ghoul and instantly sacrifice it with Death Pact to regain a large portion of your health.
  • Army of the Dead is the ultimate proof of a Death Knight’s proficiency in the dark arts. It allows you to summon a pack of ravenous ghouls that will attack any opponent standing in your path, while also attempting to taunt the target. This ability has a long cooldown but provides you with ample burst damage.
    • You should always try to use this ability at the beginning of an encounter, as your ghouls will not last very long.
    • Another reason for timing it this way is that it has quite a high channel time.
  • Icebound Fortitude makes you immune to stun effects, reduces all incoming damage by 30%, and grants you additional damage reduction based on your defense rating. This ability should be used whenever there is an AoE-threatening boss mechanic, as it can offer you massive survivability.
    • Make sure to save this ability for dangerous situations that can result in a one-shot. There is no point in using this ability if the damage you are about to receive only takes a small chunk of your health pool.
  • Anti-Magic Shell provides you with a magical damage-absorption shield that gives you Runic Power whenever you absorb magical damage.
    • This ability also prevents you from being afflicted by any magical effect, making it a great way to dispel dangerous boss mechanics.
  • Death Pact sacrifices a ghoul to restore 40% of your total health. This ability is best used as an emergency panic button, however, it does require a living ghoul, meaning that you will either need to use Army of the Dead or Raise Dead.
    • If both are active at the same time, Death Pact will prioritize a lesser ghoul created by the Army of the Dead instead of your main ghoul.
  • Rune Tap is an ability reserved only for the followers of the Blood Specialization, allowing you to recuperate 10% of your total health upon use.
    • While this ability is mainly used as a self-sustain tool, you can also choose to sacrifice one of your DPS glyphs in exchange for increased utility from Rune Tap, allowing you to grant 10% health to every party member if you use a Glyph of Rune Tap in its place.
  • Vampiric Blood is another ability reserved only for the followers of the Blood Specialization, allowing you to increase your maximum health for a limited amount of time while also increasing all healing received.
    • While this ability is much more suited for the tanking role, you can still benefit from it as a DPS — it’s still a very powerful defensive tool that can help you survive one-shot mechanics from raid bosses.
  • Raise Ally is a special ability that allows you to revive one of your fallen combats. However, the ability has a dark twist to it. While Rebirth grants its target their original form, simply resurrecting them, Raise Ally brings back the target in the shape of a ghoul, granting your ally new abilities.
    • The use of this ability is usually frowned upon, as the ghoul form is much weaker than a player character, however, it can still be useful in a situation where you require all the damage you can get!
  • Horn of Winter imbues you and your allies with increased strength and agility, with a +155 bonus to both. This ability also generates 10 runic power, making it a part of your rotation.
    • This ability should be used before a fight, and then during the initial part of the encounter in order to generate enough runic power to speed up the deployment of your Dancing Rune Weapon.
  • Path of Frost makes you and your entire raid group create slivers of ice beneath your feet, allowing you to walk on water. This ability is mainly used to help you during traveling and leveling, but it can also be used as a gimmick to troll other players in encounters such as Anub’arak, delivering a quick and sudden death. (Why not? Have some fun.)
  • Blood Tap lets you convert one of your Blood Runes into a Death Rune. This ability is very valuable when used by a skilled player, allowing you to use an ability like Heart Strike or Pestilence an additional time.
  • Strangulate lets you Silence an enemy for up to 5 seconds. While this ability is mainly used against players in PvP content, you can still effectively use this ability in PvE as a ranged interrupt effect.
  • Chains of Ice is one of your strongest abilities, allowing you to reduce your enemy’s movement speed by up to 95%, with the target regaining 10% of its movement speed each second, for up to 10 seconds.
    • This ability is one of the most useful and powerful Slow effects in the entire game, allowing you to save your allies from any incoming threat from a mob, dampening that mob’s mobility so much that it stays completely still for a couple of seconds.
    • This is an overall great ability that should be used as much as possible. It’s often coordinated by your raid leader when multiple Death Knights are present in a raid.
  • Mind Freeze allows you to interrupt a target at the cost of runic power. This ability will be your main interrupt tool, being extremely useful because of its low cooldown.
    • However, while the other two Death Knight specializations can typically use this ability without any runic power, you will have to get the special Frost Tree variant if you want to cast it without any cost.
  • Death Grip is a unique displacement ability that allows a Death Knight to pull any mob directly to them. This ability is mainly used to reposition pesky adds during raids or dungeons.
    • You will want to use this ability to help your tank gather ranged or caster mobs. However, you will not want to be the one to initiate an engage with this ability.
  • Blood Presence allows you to deal 10% increased damage while also healing yourself for 4% of all damage done. This will be your default Presence in the later phases of the expansion, mainly being used with the Standard Build.
  • Frost Presence gets you 8% increased stamina, 60% armor value contribution from items, and 8% reduced damage, while also increasing the threat you generate.
    • While Blood Death Knights are usually seen in this Presence, as a damage dealer you will want to only use this Presence in case you draw aggro or if there is a raid mechanic that requires you to survive.
  • Unholy Presence increases your attack speed and movement speed by 15% while also reducing your overall global cooldown by 0.5 seconds.
    • As a Blood Death Knight in a DPS role, you may find situations where this Presence can help you execute your burst better, however, you will generally want to avoid this one in favor of Blood Presence.

Single-Target Rotation

In-Depth Explanation

As we discuss the single-target rotation, it will be very important to understand that our specialization works similarly to the Retribution Paladin, meaning that, every once in a while, we have access to crazy burst damage, and then consistent damage in between the burst windows.

For a long time, there has been a running idea in WoW’s community that the Blood Specialization is only suitable for the tanking role. However, if you follow this rotation and itemize yourself properly, you will find yourself quickly dismissing any doubts about this specialization having a place in the role of a damage dealer.

Our rotation seems quite easy at first glance. However, it still keeps its dynamic properties — it will change to accommodate a specific moment of your encounter. So, you will have a normal rotation that you will want to maintain continuously, and then a burst window that requires you to use your abilities in a specific order to maximize your damage output every 3 minutes, according to your Hysteria (Unholy Frenzy) buff.

Normal Rotation

Your first task as a Death Knight will be to apply your diseases to the target and upkeep them afterward. You can achieve this by using Icy Touch and Plague Strike to apply your diseases, and then use Pestilence to keep them up. Keep in mind that you will need Glyph of Disease to allow your Pestilence to refresh your diseases.

Ideally, you will want to use that Glyph to spend 1 Blood rune to refresh your diseases, instead of 1 Frost and 1 Unholy rune — we will have much better uses for those two.

After applying your diseases and maintaining them, you will want to execute a very standard rotation that will be used consistently throughout most fights.

Think of the following example: you have all of your runes available and your diseases are up on your target. Now, cast Death Strike twice to turn your Frost and Unholy runes into Death runes, then cast Heart Strike twice. By doing so, you will have two Blood runes on cooldown and 4 Death runes that are about to refresh. You will want to use 3 out of the 4 Death runes for Heart Strike, and one of them to upkeep your diseases with Pestilence.

With every ability that uses your runes having been cast, you will generate runic power. Then, you can use Death Coil as a default runic spender, a very strong ability that deals shadow damage to your target. Keep in mind that, aside from the manual casts of Death Coil, your Heart Strike has a 15% chance to launch a free Death Coil towards your enemy after each cast, thanks to the Sudden Doom talent.

Effectively, you will weave in Death Coil whenever you have access to enough runic power, with a single exception. Because Glyph of Death Strike is a mandatory pick, you will always want to maintain 25 runic power prior to casting Death Strike.

Death Strike will always be used whenever you have both a Frost rune and an Unholy rune available. If you do a good job at upkeeping your diseases with Pestilence, all of your Frost and Unholy runes will be used on Death Strike, with the exception of the initial application of your diseases.

Dancing Rune Weapon should always be used on cooldown, since its cooldown is quite low. While this ability is active, the summoned weapon will replicate any of your abilities, even your diseases. You may want to use one instance of Icy Touch and Plague Strike when Dancing Rune Weapon is active (instead of a Death Strike) to apply a second set of diseases to your target.

Burst Rotation

Besides your normal rotation, you will want to use a special burst rotation at the beginning of the fight, and a lesser version of it every 3 minutes thereafter because of Hysteria.

The lesser version exists because the cooldowns of Hysteria and Empower Rune Weapon do not match. The only difference with this rotation is that you will want to activate Hysteria, followed up by Dancing Rune Weapon, then expend all of your runes. The extended rotation includes activating Empower Rune Weapon after your runes are consumed.


Area-of-Effect Rotation

You have several choices for the Area-of-Effect rotation which you can employ depending on how many enemies you are fighting, as well as the duration of the fight.

Your first and most important task is to infect your enemies with your diseases and then spread them. Just like we discussed under the single-target rotation above, you can achieve this by using Icy Touch and Plague Strike to apply your diseases, and then using Pestilence to both spread and upkeep them. Having done this, you will have precisely 1 rune of each type available: a perfect time to use Death and Decay.

Having done all that, you will find that you have no more runes but you still have access to runic power, meaning that you will actually want to use it on Dancing Rune Weapon instead of Death Coil if the fight will last more than a few seconds.

You have several choices for what follows afterward.

Firstly, you can choose to spam Heart Strike if there are only 2-3 targets. This can be achieved by using Death Strike after your initial abilities to turn your runes into Death runes. Remember to always maintain your diseases active!

Otherwise, if there are more than 2-3 targets and the fight looks like it won’t last a long time, you can use Death Strike to turn your Frost and Unholy runes into Death runes, after which you can spam Blood Boil up to 6 times to decimate your enemies.

Rune Grace

All Death Knight specializations have access to a special mechanic called Rune Grace. Whenever you use a rune — for example, a Blood rune — you will trigger its 10-second internal cooldown. After the internal cooldown is finished, you will have about 2.5 seconds where you can weave in a runic power ability — such as Death Coil, in our case — before using another ability that uses a Blood Rune.

If done correctly, the next time you will be casting an ability such as Heart Strike, for example, the new internal cooldown of the Frost rune itself will be the difference between the moment it comes off cooldown and the idle time, meaning around 7.5 seconds, if done correctly.

This mechanic was implemented in the game in order to maximize runic power and rune management, however, it can be very difficult to track without a dedicated addon. We recommend that you use the Weakaura Addon in order to get a visual reference for the Rune Grace period, to help you optimize your rotation. Check our Addons section next to learn more about this and other helpful tools available to you!


About the Author


Hey there folks, I am Nevermore and have been deeply passionate about WoW for more than a decade. Whether we talk about the hidden mysteries of Azeroth or the otherworldly Outland, my journey brought me here to share the things that I have experienced with you all.
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1 year ago

It is nice to see a Blood DK DPS section finally.

3 months ago

IT > PS > DS (active relic) > HS > HYSTERIA > DRW > ER > IT > PS > HS > HS > HS > HS > PESTILIENCE
IT>icy touch/PS>plague strike/DS>death strike/HS>hearth strike/DRW>dancing rune waepon/ER>empowered rune

Last edited 3 months ago by Abumnn
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