PvE Frost Death Knight Rotation & Cooldowns

wotlk classic pve frost death knight rotation & cooldowns

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.

Simple Rotation

Abilities Overview

In this section of the guide, we will go through each separate ability and explain how to properly use it.

  • Obliterate is an ability that deals instant physical damage to the target, increased by 12.5% by each of your diseases present on the target while also consuming the diseases. Obliterate is going to be considered our main ability, even more so when considering that Annihilation allows us to use Obliterate without consuming the diseases placed on our target anymore.
  • Frost Strike is an ability exclusive to a Frost Death Knight that deals hybrid damage, dealing Physical Damage in the first instance and additional Frost Damage afterward. This ability uses Runic Power and can be considered our true Runic Power spender.
  • Plague Strike is an ability that deals physical damage while also placing a disease on a target named Blood Plague. This can be considered one of your core abilities. When taking into consideration the glyphs that we are using, this ability will only be used at the beginning of the fight, as long as you properly upkeep your diseases.
  • Icy Touch is an ability that deals Frost Damage to the target, reducing its attack speed by 20% while also placing a disease named Frost Fever on the target. This will be one of the first abilities that you will find yourself casting on a target, especially since it is a ranged ability. However, due to the glyphs that we will be using, you will not want to cast this ability again as long as the target is in your proximity and you properly utilize Pestilence to upkeep your diseases.
  • Pestilence is an ability that allows you to spread your diseases to all nearby targets within a 15-yard radius of your primary target. This ability is extremely powerful when using Glyph of Disease, as it can reset the duration of all the diseases you have previously placed on all the targets afflicted by them at the same time.
  • Rune Strike is an ability that has a special prerequisite in order to be used. This ability uses Runic Power while also having the special condition that you have to either dodge an attack or parry an attack in order to be able to utilize it. If you manage to proc this ability, you will find yourself dealing a lot of damage to your target, especially due to the fact that this ability is not affected by Global Cooldown. You can macro this ability to all of your other abilities in order to utilize it while also casting another ability.
  • Unbreakable Armor is an ability that increases your armor rating by 25% while also increasing your strength by 20% having a 1-minute cooldown. This ability can be considered your true burst ability, having an extremely low cooldown. You will want to utilize this ability in combination with other damage-enhancing items or consumables.
  • Death Coil is an ability that uses runic power in order to either deal shadow damage to a target or heal a friendly undead target. As a Frost Death Knight, you will not want to utilize this ability!
  • Death and Decay is an area of effect ability that places a zone on the ground that deals high damage to all the targets present in the area. You will only want to utilize this ability after you spread your diseases to all present targets.
  • Blood Boil is an AoE ability that deals shadow damage to all targets in a 10-yard radius, dealing additional damage to targets afflicted by Blood Plague or Frost Fever. You will only want to utilize this ability after you make sure that every single target has been afflicted by one of your diseases, ideally using it after you placed Death and Decay on the ground.
  • Blood Strike is an ability that deals physical damage while also dealing increased damage for each of your diseases present on the target by 12.5%. You will want to utilize this ability in order to spend your Blood Runes, transforming them into Death runes. Death Runes can be used as a replacement for any type of Rune, allowing you to spam an ability such as Obliterate more efficiently.
  • Army of the Dead is an ability that allows you to summon multiple ghouls to aid you in battle. This ability should be considered one of your burst tools and should be cast right before the eve of battle, as it requires extensive channel time.
  • Howling Blast is one of your signature abilities as a Frost Death Knight, allowing you to bring down frigid winds upon your enemies freezing them to death. This ability can be used as a Single-Target ability, however, it has much more potential in AoE situations. Be cautious of spamming this ability mindlessly, it can result in massive damage loss, especially when taking into consideration Rime. During Single-Target encounters, you will mostly want to utilize Howling Blast only when Rime procs.
  • Empower Rune Weapon can be considered another burst ability, as it allows you to reset the cooldown of all your runes and gain 25 runic power. You will want to utilize this ability as fast as possible after the initial moment of the encounter, as it will allow you to consistently perform abilities without being hindered too much by downtime. Another reason why you will want to utilize this ability as fast as possible is its extensive cooldown.
  • Raise Dead is one of the Death Knight trademark abilities which allows you to utilize corpse dust in order to raise a terrifying ghoul to assail your enemies. However, this morbid creature can not last indefinitely, and will eventually rot away. You can utilize this ability in order to either quickly heal yourself with Death Pact or to deal additional damage during a boss fight.
  • Death Strike is an ability that deals physical damage while also healing you for 5% for each of your diseases present on the target. Normally, you will not be finding yourself using this ability in your standard rotation. However, you will want to utilize this ability whenever your healers are having mana issues, as it can provide you with extensive survivability.

  • Death Pact is a defensive ability that sacrifices a ghoul in order to restore health to the Death Knight. This ability can be utilized in conjunction with Army of the Dead, even while having the ghoul active from Raise Dead, thus resulting in consuming one of the ghouls from Army of the Dead instead of your main ghoul.
  • Icebound Fortitude is a defensive ability that reduces all incoming damage received by 30% while also granting a bonus damage reduction based on your defense rating. This ability also makes you immune to stun effects, however, it can not be used while you are stunned. You should always use this ability when you are about to take heavy damage from a raid or dungeon mechanic as it can prove to be a life-saver. However, you should never utilize this ability randomly!
  • Anti-Magic Shell is an ability that provides a magical absorption barrier, just like the name implies, that provides you with runic power as it absorbs more damage. This spell can be used to negate magical debuffs and effects placed on you, making it a great tool in order to cancel either raid or dungeon mechanics. You have two options when it comes to this ability, you can either save it for important raid or dungeon mechanics, or you can utilize it in order to gain more runic power, allowing you to effectively spam Frost Strike for a short duration.
  • Horn of Winter is an ability that buffs all allies in your vicinity, offering 155 Strength and 155 Agility while also providing you with 10 runic power. This ability can be utilized during your rotation as it has a short cooldown, providing you with runic power, especially useful when your runes are on cooldown. Sadly, Horn of Winter does not stack with other effects that offer the same type of buff, making it entirely useless if there is a shaman utilizing the Strength of Earth totem in your raid or group.
  • Raise Ally is one of the rare abilities that you can find in the game, allowing you to resurrect an ally during combat. However, unlike the druid’s ability, Raise Ally has a gimmick embedded into it. You can offer one of your allies the chance to come back to life and aid in the battle once again, however, they will be raised as a ghoul, having access to special abilities for a limited duration. Due to this gimmick, Raise Ally can not be considered a true combat resurrection ability but more of a Second Wind.
  • Chains of Ice is one of your strongest crowd control abilities, allowing you to severely dampen a foe’s movement speed, reducing it initially by 95%. The target of this ability will then recover 10% of their lost movement speed each second for a duration of 10 seconds. This ability is extremely powerful when dealing with extremely dangerous adds. You can utilize it to either save a healer that has grabbed aggro of a threatening mob or to impair a mob that can be blasted away by your ranged allies before it can reach the tank.
  • Blood Tap is an ability that allows you to change one of your blood runes to a death rune at the cost of health, the conversion itself lasting for 20 seconds. This ability can be utilized in your rotation to acquire more death runes without having the need to cast Blood Strike first, proving to be quite useful in different situations. You will want to utilize a glyph for this ability to make sure that you do not suffer any health penalty when utilizing it.
  • Strangulate is an ability that can silence a target for up to 5 seconds. While this ability is mainly used in PvP content, it can be utilized in PvE scenarios as a long-range interrupt effect. Remember to use it against pesky caster mobs!
  • Mind Freeze is your main interrupt tool that can be cast without any cost whatsoever, having a mere 10-second cooldown. Remember to always bind this ability on your action bar, as many encounters will display abilities that require interrupts. You will often find yourself recognizing what abilities to interrupt after a short while but you will also often find yourself in situations where your raid leader will request an interrupt on a certain ability.
  • Death Grip is an ability that allows you to displace a target, effectively grabbing it from its location and placing it in front of you. This ability, while it mainly has PvP uses, will be one of the best tools that tanks can hope for, as you can directly pull a pesky ranged or caster mob directly in the tank’s proximity, making his job a lot easier.
  • Path of Frost is an ability that allows you and your allies to form icy patches under your feet while standing on water, effectively allowing you to walk on water. his 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, providing them with a quick and sudden death. (Yes, I am teaching them how to troll people, let them have some fun :XO)
  • Dark Command is an ability that allows you to taunt a target, having only an 8-second cooldown, making it extremely potent. As a general rule of thumb, as a Frost Death Knight you will not want to taunt and tank targets, however, this ability can be used from a safe distance in order to prevent some bosses from stacking debuffs on the tanks.

  • 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 allows you to gain 8% increased stamina, 60% armor value contribution from items and 8% reduced damage while also increasing the threat you generate. While this ability might not be in any shape or form “standard” to a Frost Death Knight, there are many situations in which you should utilize this presence in order to increase your overall survivability. While this ability might not be so useful against magical damage, it will provide you with a huge defense boost against physical damage.
  • Unholy Presence increases your attack speed and movement speed by 15% while also reducing your overall global cooldown by 0.5 seconds. As a Frost Death Knight, you will not want to utilize this presence, as the only real benefit you can gain from it is the overall GCD reduction.


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.

In Depth-Rotation

In-Depth Explanation

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.

Rune Grace

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.


In-Depth Explanation

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.


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

Few suggestions:

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.

Reply to  Nevermore
1 year ago

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?

1 year ago

Do not use Blood Strike in an AOE rotation. Use Blood Boil.

Reply to  Kain
1 year ago

I’m guessing they use blood strike for the death rune for howling blast?

1 year ago

How are you spamming Howling Blast in an aoe rotation when it has an 8 sec cooldown?

Reply to  Altego
1 year ago

Rime reduces the CD of HB

Last edited 1 year ago by ChrisNix
Reply to  ChrisNix
1 year ago

Rime process off oblit

Reply to  Kurt
1 year ago

Simply wait to use HB when it comes off of CD, as obliterate is not part of the AOE rotation

Last edited 1 year ago by Bewtyjoose
1 year ago

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%.

Reply to  Exileknight
6 months ago

was hasst du denn für ein Addon, weil ich benötige dringend auch eins xD

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