- Author: Nevermore
- Date: July 6, 2022
- Expansion: WotLK Classic
When it comes to the abilities and possible rotations for a Death Knight, we have to take into consideration the fact that the class itself uses two special types of resources. With this in mind, there are two things that we have to talk about. First of all, it is unbelievably easy to mess up your rotation due to how our runes work. Secondly, we have to take into consideration that there is a major difference between a properly done rotation and a completely random button-mash. In this section of the guide, we will explain how to properly utilize both your Runes and Runic Power and how to properly perform your rotation whether it might be on a Single-Target raid boss or an AoE situation in a dungeon filled with monsters.
- Use Blood Tap + Unbreakable Armor as an opener
- Use Empower Rune Weapon early in the fight along with other burst abilities
- Cast Unbreakable Armor every time it is available!
- Cast Icy Touch to apply Frost Fever
- Cast Plague Strike to apply Blood Plague
- Use Pestilence to refresh DoTs
- Cast Obliterate whenever you have the necessary runes
- Cast Blood Strike/Pestilence to transform your Blood Runes into Death Runes
- Cast Frost Strike to dump your Runic Power whenever possible — you never want to be at full Runic Power!
In this section of the guide, we will go through each separate ability and explain how to properly use it.
When it comes to the Single-Target rotation, Frost Death Knights have managed to perform extremely well in all the different phases of the expansion.
There will be only one standard rotation for the entirety of the expansion, even with Tier set changes.
- Horn of Winter ->Use Blood Tap + Unbreakable Armor as an opener-> Icy Touch-> Plague Strike-> Blood Strike-> Obliterate->Frost Strike->Pestilence->Obliterate-> Empower Rune Weapon-> Obliterate -> Obliterate-> Blood Strike->Blood Strike-> Frost Strike (Until Runic Power is Depleted)-> Repeat
- Howling Blast-> You will want to utilize Howling Blast on each individual Rime Proc! However, you will not want to utilize Howling Blast without a proc!
- Frost Strike should be always weaved in between your abilities whenever you have enough runic power. Beware that you should only utilize it if your runes are on cooldown, as it deals less damage than the abilities based on runes!
- Unbreakable Armor is a cooldown that you will want to weave into the rotation precisely each minute! Make sure to not forget to use it, as it is extremely powerful! Due to this cooldown, we are offered a short burst duration every minute in which we can really make Obliterate shine!
In this section of the guide, we will explain how each individual ability weaves into your rotation and why you will want to maintain a specific type of abilities sequence!
The first and foremost most important thing that we will discuss in this section is the upkeep of your diseases. You will always want to initially place your disease on your main target with Icy Touch and Plague strike, however, you will not want to upkeep them with those two abilities! To properly upkeep your abilities, you will want to utilize Pestilence! To do so, you will require the glyph of Glyph of Pestilence.
By choosing to utilize Pestilence as the means to refresh your diseases, you will have more runes at your disposal to cast Obliterate!
Obliterate is the source of your main damage, along with your diseases and Necrosis. You will find yourself casting Obliterate most of the time or utilizing your blood runes in order to optimize your frost and unholy runes better for more chances to cast Obliterate. Obliterate is the hardest damaging ability in your arsenal, so make sure to not spend your runes randomly!
When it comes to your runic power, you will only want to spend it with Frost Strike! Frost Strike deals hybrid damage, being an exceptional tool even in the early phases of the expansion. You will not want to prioritize Frost Strike over any of your basic rune abilities such as Blood Strike or Obliterate, however!
Howling Blast is a special ability in your arsenal that you should only use when you receive the Rime proc! The reason for this is quite simple when comparing the raw damage of Howling Blast and Obliterate, Obliterate will always win by a high margin. Therefore you will always want to prioritize Obliterate over any other spell that might mess up your runes and only utilize Howling Blast when it is completely free thanks to Rime.
When taking into consideration the duration of most fights, Empower Rune Weapon should be used as early as possible! The goal is to make the best out of it and try to utilize it while your trinket procs are still active while at the same time trying to make it available for the end parts of the encounter as well.
All Death Knight specializations have access to a special mechanic called Rune Grace. Whenever you use a rune, for example, a frost rune, you will trigger its 10-second internal cooldown. After the internal cooldown is finished, you will have about 2.5 seconds in which you can weave in a runic power ability, such as Frost Strike in our case, before using another ability that uses a Frost Rune. If done correctly, the next time you will be casting an ability such as Icy Touch, 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 specific addon. We recommend that you use a specific Weakaura addon in order to visually see the Rune Grace period, to help you optimize your rotation.
While not as powerful as the Unholy Death Knight AoE performance, Frost Death Knights can display very high AoE damage. This can be achieved by spreading your diseases and by spamming Howling Blast on your targets.
- Icy Touch -> Plague Strike-> Pestilence-> Death and Decay-> Howling Blast->Blood Strike->Howling Blast->Pestilence->Howling Blast->Howling Blast->Repeat
- Howling Blast (If you have the Glyph of Howling Blast in order to apply Frost Fever)->Plague Strike->Pestilence->Death and Decay->Blood Strike->Howling Blast->Howling Blast->Howling Blast-> Repeat
As mentioned earlier, the main way that you can spread your diseases is constituted by Pestilence. On top of that, you also have access to Death and Decay, a zone-based ability that allows you to devastate an area. As a Frost Death Knight, you have access to a very powerful ability named Howling Blast, depending on whether you use the glyph for it or not it can be utilized to spread Frost Fever besides dealing massive amounts of damage
There are two main ways in which you can refresh your diseases, the first one is to manually reapply them to your main target and then cast Pestilence again, thus refreshing the disease duration to all the targets afflicted by the second pestilence. The second way of refreshing your diseases in an AoE situation is to utilize the Glyph of Disease. By utilizing the Glyph of Disease, you will be able to refresh all diseases that are currently afflicting any mob in your vicinity by just simply casting Pestilence again, without the need to cast Icy Touch or Plague Strike on your main target first.
1) You want to use Blood Strike and (Blood Tap + Unbreakable Armor) in the opener to start using UB as soon as possible, just make sure to cancel the aura before the rune respawns so you are not stuck with different runes.
2) You do not want to prioritize Blood Strike over Frost Strike. It does more damage on its own and is likely to crit because of the Killing Machine talent.
3) Death and Decay should only be used in 4+ mobs scenario. If there are 3 or less – you use Howling Blast when it is off cd and Obli/Blood Boil when HB is on cd. Otherwise it is not worth it – DaD doesn’t generate a death rune so you are potentially missing out on extra Obli/HB from death runes, and using 3 runes, meaning you will be having downtime after using the remaining runes.
4) It is very very important to know and understand what Rune Grace Period is, which is completely missing from this page. I’d recommend googling a few explanations because one might not be enough, but basically – in combat, after a rune is ready, it has a grace period of up to 2.5 sec, when you can let it hang unused without sacrificing the cd time (cd becomes up to 2.5 sec less)
So for example, if your blood rune is up but you have full runic power – you can squeeze in one FS and use Blood Strike after, and the blood rune will have a cooldown time as if you used it before FS. So assuming you have no haste and gcd is 1.5 seconds – when you used FS and then BS – the cooldown of the rune will be 8.5 seconds instead of 10, covering for those “lost” 1.5 seconds.
If you want to master your DK – you really ought to understand how this works.
Alright, so a couple of things to mention here. First of all. The Blood Tap+ Unbreakable Armor is a very solid suggestion, one I forgot to add. By removing the Blood Tap aura, you will actually be removing the Death Rune effect, meaning that you must use the newly acquired Death rune before the Blood Tap effect expires. If you remove it before using the Death Rune, you will just waste the rune and force its cooldown.
Blood Strike is prioritized only for the Death Rune generation, not for its damage. If you do use Blood Tap as an opener, you will only want to cast one Blood Strike after that, as you have already gained the Death Rune effect. Keep in mind that Blood Strike will not consume the newly acquired Death Rune. It will consume the remaining Blood Rune.
Frost Strike and Obliterate are big contenders for the highest damage, with Obliterate providing more damage as the expansion unfolds. Frost Strike will be more powerful at the beginning.
Rune Grace is a mechanic in the game that is hard to track without a special addon, thus, I chose to not implement it as it can be harsh for new players. But you are right, it does indeed exist and it is important for completely mastering the class. Just like you have explained, the Rune Grace period is a mechanic in the game that encourages any death knight to use his specialization’s runic power spender weaved in between the abilities that use runes. For example, for Frost, we will have Frost Strike weaved in between our abilities, given that we possess enough runic power.
I will implement the Rune Grace mechanic, but with the addition that there should be a Weakaura added for it, just to make the best out of it.
Hey, so in the whole debate of blood strike vs frost strike which one should I use more often? If i have blood rune should i use blood strike before frost strike or should I ignore it if I have frost strike?
Hey there! You will want to use Frost Strike weaved in between your normal rune abilities. It is not a good idea to ignore Blood Strike as you will want it for the Death Rune effect. Think of it as setting up your next Obliterate!
Do not use Blood Strike in an AOE rotation. Use Blood Boil.
I’m guessing they use blood strike for the death rune for howling blast?
How are you spamming Howling Blast in an aoe rotation when it has an 8 sec cooldown?
Rime reduces the CD of HB
Rime process off oblit
Simply wait to use HB when it comes off of CD, as obliterate is not part of the AOE rotation
You definitely want weave in Frost strikes between, I use a OB – FS – OB – FS -BS – FS – Dot Refesh not only for the rune grace period but also more time for Killing machine to proc between frost strikes, if you just spam 3 FS in a row you lose a chance at several free crits. My FS crits average about 60-65%.