- Author: Nevermore
- Date: September 30, 2022
- Expansion: WotLK Classic
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.
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- Cast Horn of Winter / Army of the Dead / Raise Dead right before the fight.
- First moments of the fight: Icy Touch -> Plague Strike -> Hysteria -> Heart Strike -> Empower Rune Weapon -> Dancing Rune Weapon -> Death Strike -> Death Strike -> Heart Strike -> Pestilence -> Death Coil -> Death Coil
- During the fight: Pestilence (DoT upkeep) -> Death Strike (Frost/Unholy Runes up) -> Heart Strike (spam) -> Death Coil (weaved in whenever you have enough runic power)
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.
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.
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.
- Hysteria -> Dancing Rune Weapon -> Death Strike -> Death Strike -> Heart Strike -> Death Coil -> Heart Strike -> Empower Rune Weapon -> Pestilence -> Death Strike -> Death Strike -> Heart Strike -> Death Coil -> Heart Strike x3
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.
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!