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by Spiffymarlin

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Death Knight 5.4 Guide by Spiffymarlin

Version: 1.1 | Updated: 07/03/14

Introduction

Lexicon

PS: Plague Strike

IT: Icy Touch

BS: Blood Strike

SS: Scourge Strike

BB: Blood Boil

HB: Howling Blast

OB: Obliterate

RP: Runic Power

DC: Death Coil

HS: Heart Strike

FS: Frost Strike

DrW: Dancing Rune Weapon

DnD: Death and Decay

Pest: Pestilence

HoW: Horn of Winter

SD: Sudden Doom

FeS: Festering Strike

RS: Rune Strike

What's a Death Knight anyway?

Lorewise, this class was revised in Warcraft 3 to be a counter to the Paladin. The Death Knight is an undead warrior powered by unholy magic, incapable of using shields and instead wielding the biggest weapons possible.

In game, the Death knight was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King expansion as World of Warcraft's first and only "Hero Class", a label which basically means that you can only make one after getting another character to level 55. They start at level 55, have their own leveling experience which rewards you with fantastic starter gear and can buy a class specific flying mount as soon as you can fly.

As far as gameplay goes, the Death Knight can fulfill two roles: tanking in its Blood specialization, or melee DPS, this one coming in three different playstyles contained between two specializations, Frost and Unholy. They also use a unique resource system based off of Runes and Runic Power. Think self building Combo Points that feed a Rage bar.

Class Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Plate armor allows you to take reduced damage in both PvE and PvP
  • Strongest sustained self healing in the game, doubly so in Blood spec
  • Infinite access to the strongest weapon enchants in the game for free
  • Passive increase to mounted speed cuts travel time and thus leveling/farming/questing time
  • Best raid soloing class, current world record goes to Raegwyn of YouTube fame for soloing the entirety of Dragon Soul 10 man in Heroic tier 14 gear
  • Wide variety of anti-caster abilities and cooldowns make you either highly resistant to magic damage, capable of avoiding it entirely, or regenerating your health after taking it
  • Excels at impairing enemy mobility with a strong, cheap and instant snare, also available in ranged AOE form in Frost spec

Weaknesses:

  • Least mobile class in World of Warcraft, makes runspeed enchants, racial advantages like Darkflight and Rocket Jump and engineering's nitro boosts extremely valuable and keeping enemy mobility impaired a must
  • While highly spell resistant, the Death Knight toolkit for physical damage is severely lacking in PvP, making other melee classes (Warriors in particular) very dangerous
  • Rune regeneration being dependent on Haste Rating can lead to long downtime periods at lower gear levels, and conversely make playing DPS at the highest gear level a hectic and demanding job
  • CLass dependency on keeping magic debuffs on the opponent severely impairs performance on both mobs and players with strong dispel mechanics

Races and Racials

While mostly a cosmetic choice, those interested in obtaining the maximum performance out of their character or in combating some of the weaknesses of the class will find their choice of race to be deeply important. Every race can be a Death Knight, except Pandaren who were not around when the Lich King was alive and kicking.

Alliance

  • Dwarf: Stoneform provides not only a way to remove bleeding, poisons, and diseases, but also a 10% reduction to all damage taken for 8 seconds every two minutes, making it an excellent tanking and PvP cooldown. Mace Specialization will provide 1% extra expertise for one out of the Death Knight's four weapon types, making it useless or excellent depending on the tier's weapon choice. Frost Resistance provides a negligible 1% reduction to frost damage, and Explorer will make you a faster Archaeologist than any other race. Crack Shot will increase your expertise with Ranged weapons by 1%, which would be nice if you could use any of them at all.
  • Gnome: Escape Artist provides a way to break snares and roots every one minute and a half, which is useful in PvP and very niche in PvE. Shortblade Specialization will boost your expertise when using 1H swords, so it is unless you have picked one of four playstyles and the game decides that swords are the way to go for 1H that tier. Arcane Resistance provides a 1% reduction in Arcane Damage, which is again negligible at best. Engineering Specialist will provide a miniscule boost at the very beginning of the engineering profession before becoming useless. Expansive Mind provides a mana increase which is pointless for Death Knights, as they have no mana.
  • Human: Every Man For Himself provides a free PvP trinket for that purpose and while rarely useful in PvE, it will shine when you do actually get to use it. Diplomacy provides a 10% boost to reputation gain which stacks with the guild perk, effectively making Humans the fastest rep gainers in the entire game. Humans also have both Mace Specialization and Sword Specialization, which work for both 1H and 2H, making it so Humans can almost always count on 1% extra expertise except for when the tier provides only Axes and Polearms. The Human Spirit provides a 5% increase to Spirit, which no Death Knight needs at all.
  • Night Elf: Quickness provides an extra 2% Dodge chance, very useful for tanking Death Knights. Shadowmeld and Elusiveness can provide a chance for an ambush in some PvP situations, and Wisp Spirit will provide you with 75% increased movespeed when returning to your corpse after failing at said ambush. Nature Resistance will cut your Nature Damage taken by 1%, again barely noticeable.
  • Draenei: Gift of the Naaru heals you for 20% of your total health over 15 seconds every 3 minutes, making it a solid cooldown for every type of content and encounter you may find yourself in. Heroic Presence increases your Hit chance by 1% regardless of weapon used. Shadow Resistance provides a marginal 1% reduction to Shadow Damage taken and Gemcutting will provide the smallest boost to the very first few levels of jewelcrafting.
  • Worgen: Darkflight provides a 40% movement speed boost for 10 seconds every 2 minutes, giving a much needed mobility increase. Viciousness grants a 1% increase to critical chance which will increase your threat and damage. Aberration reduces Shadow and Nature damage taken by 1% and Flayer makes you an incredibly fast skinner if you've picked that profession.

Horde

  • Orc: Blood Fury provides a static increase to your Attack Power, this bonus is not modified by any stat in the game, leading it to an inverse scaling scenario where it becomes a relatively weaker cooldown the better your gear gets. Axe Specialization gives you a 1% expertise bonus when wielding Axes, Command increases pet damage by 2% which will benefit your strongest damage cooldowns for Blood and Frost, and Hardiness reduces the duration of all stuns by 15%.
  • Tauren: War Stomp provides a 2 second long AOE stun with a 0.5 second cast, Endurance increases base health by 5%, Nature Resistance reduces Nature Damage taken by 1%, and Cultivation lets you pick herbs faster if you're an Herbalist.
  • Troll: Berserking gives you 20% haste for 10 seconds every 3 minutes, Beastslaying increases damage done to Beasts by 5%, Da Voodoo Shuffle reduces duration of snares and roots by 15%, Regeneration allows 10% of your out-of-combat regeneration to continue while in combat, and Dead Eye gives you 1% more expertise with all ranged weapons, which is completely useless.
  • Forsaken: Touch of the Grave will give all of your attacks and DoTs a chance to do an amount of Shadow Damage to the target and heal you, Will of the Forsaken breaks you out of all charms, fears, and sleeps every 2 minutes, Cannibalize is a 10 second channeled spell that you can use on any humanoid or undead corpse that regenerates 9% of your total HP per second, and Shadow Resistance gives a 1% reduction to Shadow Damage taken.
  • Blood Elf: Arcane Torrent is an AOE interrupt that refunds a small amount of RP every 2 minutes, Arcane Resistance gives a 1% reduction to Arcane Damage taken, and Arcane Affinity gives a small boost to your enchanting skill if you have that profession
  • Goblin: Rocket Jump is a Blink spell on a 2 minute cooldown, Rocket Barrage is a single target ranged nuke spell that scales with AP, Time is Money gives a free 1% Haste, which translates into a 1% increase in Rune regeneration, Best Deals Anywhere gives you the Exalted reputation discount with vendors, Pack Hobgoblin gives you 1 minute to access your bank every 30 minutes, and Better Living Through Chemistry gives you a 15 point increase in Alchemy if you have that profession.

Talents and Glyphs

The old talent trees are gone, and the new one provides a greater variety of choices to modify your playstyle while offering no clear winners or simple mathematical tests.

Individual Talent Breakdown

Tier 1 (Level 15)

  • Roiling Blood: Your Blood Boil ability now also triggers pestilence if it strikes a diseased target.
    • A simplified aoe option for Blood and Unholy deathknights alike; synchronizes well with Blood's use of Blood Boil and Unholy's disease dependant AOE, but brings next to nothing to Frost.
  • Plague Leech (30 yards, 25 sec CD): Consumes your diseases on a target to reactivate two fully depleted runes as a Death Rune.
    • A great leveling talent, as wasted damage from fresh diseases on a near death target is a staple in DK pet peeves. This talent can also provide a DPS increase if used on the last 3 seconds of your diseases, but minmaxers beware, as this will add complexity to your rotation and reduce your available global cooldowns. 5.4 makes this talent rather desirable, as the change to generating two runes instead of one simplifies its place in a rotation.
  • Unholy Blight (1.5 min CD): For 10 seconds upon activation, all targets within 10 yards of you will be infected with Blood Plague and Frost Fever.
    • A fire and forget AoE option to get your diseases back on your target or to infect a large amount of mobs at once. As Unholy and Blood can use either Festering Strike and Outbreak or Bloodboil respectively to refresh diseases, this is also an option for Frost to reapply diseases for free more often.

Tier 2 (Level 30)

  • Lichborne (2 min CD): Turns you undead, which breaks and makes you immune to Charm, Fear and Sleep. Also allows for Death Coil to heal you.
    • A solid PVP cooldown and a so-so PVE survival choice.
  • Anti Magic Zone (2 min CD): Sets a zone under which all party or raid members take 40% reduced spelldamage.
    • The raid cooldown option, this will take the oomph out of any large amount of magic damage coming towards you or your friends. 5.2 deeply changed this talent, making gaming it impossible. A buff in some situations, a nerf in several others.
  • Purgatory (3 min internal CD): Any fatal damage will instead be prevented and turned into Shroud of Purgatory. Shroud of Purgatory can only be dispelled by healing for whatever amount of damage Purgatory prevented. If Shroud of Purgatory is not dispelled after 3 seconds, it will kill you.
    • A personal Cheat Death that's equally useful for DPS and Tanks alike. Tanks will be able to take care of their own Shroud of Purgatory rather easily, but DPS are recommended to warn healers so it can be dispelled before their demise.

Tier 3 (Level 45)

  • Death's Advance (30 sec CD): You passively move 10% faster (stacks with the move speed from Unholy Aura), and movement impairing effects may not reduce you under 70% movespeed.When activated, you gain 30% movespeed and cannot be slowed under 100% for 6 seconds.
    • Anti-Snare protection, for the few PVE encounters and for the PvPer who is sick and tired of being kited.
  • Chillblains: Your frost Fever now reduces movespeed by 50% and your Chains of Ice gains a 3 second root.
    • Equal and excellent amounts of PVE and PVP kiting capacity for all three specs.
  • Asphyxiate (Replaces Strangulate): Stuns the target for 5 seconds. Functions as a silence if the target is immune to stuns.
    • With Stuns returning to the Raid Environment this seemingly PVP only talent finds usefulness when fighting unfriendly AI.

Tier 4 (Level 60)

  • Death Pact (2 min CD): Drains 50% of your Ghoul's HP and heals 50% of yours.
    • Death Knights fear no more, Death Pact won't leave Unholy DKs without their biggest source of DPS or Frost and Blood without their DPS cooldown.
  • Death Siphon (1 death rune, 40 yard range): Instantly deals shadowfrost damage and heals you for 165% of the damage dealt.
    • A 40 yard range attack that deals decent damage for solid healing. While the cost of a Death Rune is high, using it while catching up to bosses is an increase over Icy Touch spam, and as emergency healing it'll give you more bang for your buck than Death Strike as a non-Blood DK.
  • Conversion (5 RP, +5RP per second): Heals you for 3% of your health per second while activated. Cancels all runic power generation except from spending runes.
    • Being subjected to a strong DOT or continuous pulses of magic damage? Conversion will lower your DPS during it, but it will make sure you make it out alive.

Tier 5 (Level 75)

Note: In current testing, all 3 talents in this tier provide the same amount of Rune Regenration within a 2% range. This may change in the future, but for now choose whichever you like best.

  • Blood Tap: Each damaging Runic Power ability generates 2 Blood Charges, stacking up to 12 charges. Using Blood Tap will consume 5 charges to restore a fully depleted rune as a Death Rune.
    • Complete control over your rune regeneration. This will stabilize your rotation immensely, reliable but may be boring.
  • Runic Empowerment: Runic Power abilities have a 45% chance to restore a fully depleted rune at random.
    • The RNG staple for Blood and Frost, now available to Unholy as well if you want a less predictable if slower rotation.
  • Runic Corruption: Runic Power abilities have a 45% chance to increase all rune regen by 100% for 3 seconds.
    • A more predictable but far faster version of rune recovery.

Tier 6 (Level 90)

  • Gorefiend's Grasp (1 min CD): All enemies within 20 yards are instantly pulled to your target.
    • AOE targeted Death Grip. Not a tank? Help your friendly tank gather all mobs or make that unbearable healer in your group receive a group hug. This may not have a taunt component, but makes AOE threat and damage incredibly simple. This also works on enemy targets, so you can pull all mobs in an aoe group to one in particular for heavy AOE phases.

      Note: This effect now has a pvp target limit of 4. Yes, it is sad.
  • Remorseless Winter (1 min CD): For the next 8 seconds, enemies within 8 yards of the death knight will receive a freezing pulse per second, stacking up to five times. Each pulse reduces movespeed by 15%, with the 5th one stunning your target for 6 seconds.
    • Control a bunch of adds or enemy players with relative ease. Catching up to or trying to melee a DK under Remorseless Winter is a really, really stupid thing to do.
  • Desecrated Ground (2 mind CD): Sets an 8 yard area of corruption under the Death Knight for 10 seconds. While standing on this area, you are immune to any effect that would make you lose control of your character, and activating this ability will break any of those effects as well.
    • While of variable usefulness in PVE situations, this talent in addition to your choice from the 3rd tier, will help you show anyone you Death Grip to you that this isn't a Desecrated Ground. It's an Operating Table, and you're the surgeon.

The New Glyphs

The new glyph system brings flavor and specialization instead of flat improvements on skills. There is no ‘best' glyph build anymore, so it's highly encouraged that you go through each available glyph and choose the 3 major that better compliment your playstyle and the 3 minor that strike you as the most fun.
Keep in mind, as of right now there's no noticeable numerical performance different between a full glyph setup or no glyphs at all. It's all situational, convenience or flavor.

Specializations and How to Play Them

Blood: The Self-Healing Tank

The Blood DK is the original model of active mitigation, taking more damage than any of the other four tanks, but more than making up for it with powerful self healing abilities and an incredibly powerful physical damage shield tied in to your most used ability as well as the widest array of defensive cooldowns of any tank in the game. Clever use of these two mechanics will separate the great tanks from the mediocre Death Strike spammers.

Ability and Cooldown Breakdown

Core Abilities:

  • Outbreak : 1 minute cooldown, applies Frost Fever and Blood Plague to your target at no rune cost at all, use to refresh diseases
  • Icy Touch : Does low frost damage and applies Frost Fever to your target for one Frost or Death Rune, use when Outbreak is not available.
  • Plague Strike : Does low Shadow damage and applies Blood Plague to your target for one Unholy or Death Rune, use when Outbreak is not available.
  • Horn of Winter: 20 second cooldown, provides all your party and raid members with 10% extra attack power, as well as giving you 10 Runic Power. Use on Cooldown.
  • Soul Reaper : Six second cooldown, places a 5 second debuff on your target which will do massive damage if said target is under 35% health when the debuff runs out. If your target dies before the debuff expires, you will receive 50% haste for the next 5 seconds. Costs 1 Blood Rune.
  • Death and Decay: 30 second cooldown, does heavy shadow damage to all targets in its are a per second for 10 seconds. Costs one Unholy rune.
  • Heart Strike : Moderate damage to your main target and two additional targets for 1 blood rune, damage increases by 15% per disease you have on the target.
  • Death Strike: Moderate damage to your target which also heals you for 20% of the damage you have sustained from nonplayer sources in the past 5 seconds, minimum of 7% of your maximum health. This also triggers your Mastery, Blood Shield, which shields you from physical damage by a mastery based percentage of the heal you just received. One Frost and One Unholy per cast, either replaceable by Death Runes.
  • Rune Strike : High physical damage on your target for 30 runic power, also fuels your Rune Regeneration Talent of choice while providing massive threat.
  • Blood Boil : Strikes every target around you within 10 yards, doing 50% more damage to targets afflicted with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.

Cooldowns

  • Anti-Magic Shell: 45 second cooldown, Absorbs 75% of spelldamage taken up to 50% of your maximum health. Also prevents some magic debuffs from affecting you. Any damage absorbed by it is directly turned into Runic power and as such can serve as a DPS cooldown as well as a defensive one.
  • Army of the Dead: 10 minute cooldown, 3 second channel. Reduces all damage taken by your combined dodge and parry chance then unleashes a horde of undead which will do an enormous amount of damage to your main target.
  • Empower Rune Weapon: 5 minute cooldown. Instantly replenishes all six of your runes and grants you 25 Runic Power, use the moment all your resources are at their emptiest.
  • Raise Dead: 2 minute cooldown, raises an undead ally that will attack what you do. Can be used for heavy healing from Death Pact and is otherwise an excellent damage cooldown.
  • Dancing Rune Weapon: 1.5 minute cooldown increases parry chance by 20% for 12 seconds and every attack you do will be mirrored by the Dancing Rune Weapon, use in combination with Outbreak to apply a second set of diseases to your target, effect also works on Soul Reaper.
  • Rune Tap: 30 second cooldown and 1 Blood Rune, Heals you for 10% of your health. Use as often as possible without overhealing.
  • Bone Shield: 1 minute cooldown and 5 minute duration, reduces damage taken from any source by 20% as long as you have charges active. Starts with 6 charges and loses one per damaging attack you take.
  • Vampiric Blood: 1 minute cooldown, increases health by 15% and healing received by 25% for 10 seconds. Unless you desperately need the extra health, glyph it to make it a 40% healing received increased for stronger Death Pact, Blood Tap, Death Strikes and Blood Shields as well as making your healer's job a breeze.
  • Icebound Fortitude: 3 minute cooldown, reduces damage taken by 50% for 12 seconds. Your strongest damage reduction cooldown, use wisely.

Rotation

Pull with Outbreak, then proceed to empty your runes by alternating between Death Strike and Heart Strike.
After that, look after disease uptime above all, as these will increase the strength of your abilities while weakening the targets you are tanking. Your melee strikes will provide Crimson Scourge, which will allow you to cast a free Blood Boil or a Death and Decay. Always select Death and Decay unless it's on cooldown or you have less than seconds left on your diseases, in which case using Blood Boil will refresh them to their full duration thanks to Scarlet Fever. If your diseases somehow fall off, refresh them with Outbreak or by using Icy Touch and Plague Strike.
After that, your highest priority is to use Death Strike as many times as you can while burning Blood Runes with Heart Strike and using Runic Power through Rune Strike. Once your target falls under 35%, using Soul Reaper becomes almost as important as Death Strike and fully replaces Heart Strike, as it will provide with a massive DPS increase.
On multiple target fights, drop your DnD, hit a target with your diseases by any means possible, then alternate between Blood Boil and Death Strike, while using Rune Strike to use your Runic Power and trigger your regeneration mechanic.

Gear and Reforging

Always use a 2H weapon and the best plate armor you can find. Strength and Stamina will mark the gear you need. As far as your stats go, MoP has progressively made DK tanking a matter of decent complexity and personal choice, while still based entirely on active mitigation.


Blizz added a new mechanic to Blood Tanking; Riposte. This passive makes it so whenever you dodge or parry an attack, you'll gain 75% of dodge and parry combined as crit for the next 20 seconds. While seeming like and odd burst sorta thing, the long duration ensures a rather high uptime. However, diminishing returns and the RNG nature of avoidance stats keep them as a subpar choice. Thus, your stat priority, while highly subjective, should follow this scheme.

Stamina (As much as you need to not die from boss burst damage) > Mastery (As much as you and your healers feel comfortable with) > Hit and Exp to Cap (Softcap for Exp!) > Haste Rating > Avoidance

Follow the same rules for Reforging, or download ReforgeLite which will do it for you. It even has the same templates in it!

Gemming, Enchanting, Runeforging, and Tradeskills

Gemming:

Meta: Austere Primal Diamond or Effulgent Primal Diamond (unless you have your legendary)
Prismatic: Mastery/Haste
Blue: Mastery+Hit/Haste+Hit
Red: Mastery+Exp/Haste+Exp
Yellow: Mastery/Haste

Enchanting:
Shoulders: Greater Ox Horn Inscription
Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Greater Protection
Chest: Enchant Chest - Superior Stamina
Bracers: Formula: Enchant Bracer - Mastery
Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Superior Mastery Sha Armor Kit
Belt: Living Steel Belt Buckle
Legs: Ironscale Leg Armor
Boots: Enchant Boots - Pandaren's Step
Weapon :Rune of Swordshattering or Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle (Only consider the second one if you require more health to survive burst

Professions:
Once again Blacksmithing and Leatherworking will give you the larget stat gains possible, with Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, Mining and Alchemy being close behind. Inscription provides a small downgrade to them, with Engineering's ranking depending on use of the defensive cooldown the glove enchant allows. All other professions provide negligible bonuses for Blood tanks.

Advanced Tactics and Tips

  • Parry and Dodge have different diminishing return rates! When reforging, aim to have half the dodge percent that you do of parry. If you have 20% parry chance, aim for 10% dodge.
  • If you choose Death Pact as your sel fhealing talent, save button space and reaction time by macroing Raise Dead into it.
  • Death Siphon is your highest damaging ability at high levels of Vengeance, but it will keep you from receiving Blood Shield, consider if you need the shield before spending your runes in it to increase dps.
  • Your short cooldowns (Bone Shield, Vampiric Blood, AMS/DRW) are meant to be used constantly but never overlapping, this will deeply decrease the damage you take while saving your biggest cooldowns for actual ‘oh crap' moments.
  • Consider standing in fire when AMS is off cooldown for free Runic Power if the fight allows it.
  • Taking Runic Corruption as your Rune Regen talent will provide you with a streamlined rotation as well as make it so you don't have to sacrifice Death Strikes when your target is at Soul Reaper range.

Twohanded Frost, Big Crits

Often considered the easiest spec to play in the DK repertoire, the buffs in 5.2 have brought it back from falling behind dual wield. Excellent snaring capacity is added to massive burst damage; expect 6 digit crit Obliterates on low armor targets.

Ability and Cooldown Breakdown

Core Abilities

  • Outbreak : 1 minute cooldown, applies Frost Fever and Blood Plague to your target at no rune cost at all, use to refresh diseases.
  • Howling Blast: Moderate frost damage to your target and all targets around it. Use it to refresh Frost Fever and when Rime procs, costs 1 Frost or Death Rune.
  • Plague Strike : Does low Shadow damage and applies Blood Plague to your target for one Unholy or Death Rune, use when Outbreak is not available.
  • Horn of Winter: 20 second cooldown, provides all your party and raid members with 10% extra attack power, as well as giving you 10 Runic Power. Use on Cooldown.
  • Soul Reaper : Six second cooldown, places a 5 second debuff on your target which will do massive damage if said target is under 35% health when the debuff runs out. If your target dies before the debuff expires, you will receive 50% haste for the next 5 seconds. Costs 1 Frost Rune.
  • Death and Decay: 30 second cooldown, does heavy shadow damage to all targets in its are a per second for 10 seconds. Costs one Unholy rune.
  • Frost Strike: 35 runic Power, moderate frost damage strike. Used to burn runic power and trigger your Rune Regen talent of choice.
  • Obliterate: The bread and butter of twohanded frost, the spec revolves around using this as much as possible, preferably with Killing Machine procs. This also has a chance of proccing Rime.

Cooldowns

  • Anti-Magic Shell: 45 second cooldown, Absorbs 75% of spelldamage taken up to 50% of your maximum health. Also prevents some magic debuffs from affecting you. Any damage absorbed by it is directly turned into Runic power and as such can serve as a DPS cooldown as well as a defensive one.
  • Army of the Dead: 10 minute cooldown, 3 second channel. Reduces all damage taken by your combined dodge and parry chance then unleashes a horde of undead which will do an enormous amount of damage to your main target.
  • Empower Rune Weapon: 5 minute cooldown. Instantly replenishes all six of your runes and grants you 25 Runic Power, use the moment all your resources are at their emptiest.
  • Raise Dead: 2 minute cooldown, raises an undead ally that will attack what you do. Can be used for heavy healing from Death Pact and is otherwise an excellent damage cooldown. Always combine with Pillar of Frost.
  • Pillar of Frost: 1 minute cooldown and a 20 second duration for one frost rune. Use it when the fight starts alongside a strength potion, your ghoul and maybe even Empower RuneWeapon and Bloodlust, then use it as often as possible. Tie it to Raise Dead in a macro if you're afraid of them falling out of synch.

Rotation

Keep your diseases up at all times, use Soul Reaper when your target is under 35% health, burn Rime procs as soon as they happen and Killing Machines as fast as you can, preferably with Obliterate. Otherwise prioritize using Obliterate and try to use Frost Strike in between weapon swings to avoid consuming Killing Machine with it. It's nowhere near a big deal if you decide not to wait at all and just burn your procs as fast as you can, the difference between playing Frost as fast as you can vs waiting on runes and swingtimers is currently at around 1% at ilevel 509, mattering even less at lower ilevels.

Otherwise, use Pillar of Frost and Raise Dead on cooldown together, and Army of the Dead right before the pull.
In AoE situations, drop Death and Decay and then try and use as many Howling Blasts as you can. If you're certain the targets will live for more than 20 seconds, use plague strike then pestilence to spread Blood Plague.

Gear and Reforging

A twohanded weapon and the best plate armor you can get, otherwise follow this priority both for gear and reforging.

Strength > Expertise (7.5%) > Melee Hit (7.5%) > Crit > Mastery > Haste

Gemming, Enchanting, Runeforging and Tradeskills

Gemming:

The budget of gems as it stands ends up breaking the regular stat priority, as unless we hit the haste cap, 2 points of Crit will provide more than 1 of Strength.
Meta: Reverberating Primal Diamond or Legendary
Prismatic: Crit
Blue: Crit+Hit
Red: Crit+Exp
Yellow: Crit

Enchanting:

Shoulders: Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Accuracy or Enchant Cloak - Superior Critical Strike
Chest: Enchant Chest - Glorious Stats
Bracers: Enchant Bracer - Exceptional Strength
Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Super Strength
Belt: Living Steel Belt Buckle
Legs: Angerhide Leg Armor
Boots: Enchant Boots - Pandaren's Step
2H Weapon: Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Professions:

Engineering wins the DPS race due to the fantastic synergy between the 1 minute cooldown 1920 Str of Synapse Springs with Pillar of Frost's 1 minute cooldown Strength boost. Other than that, every profession will give you the same Strength benefit, with Blacksmithing providing slots for more Crit gems and Jewelcrafting providing sadly underbudget Serpents Eye gems. The benefits from Skinning, Mining and Herbalism are otherwise small and under budget.

Advanced Tactics and Tips

• Stack cooldowns with strength potions at the start of a fight!
• Consider not using Death Pact as your selfhealing talent, since you'll be using your Ghoul on cooldown for maximum dps.
• Howling Blast + Chillblains make you an excellent kiter

DualWield Frost, Spam Howling Blast

Using two onehanded axes, swords or maces, DW Frost is all about doing as much frost damage as possible to your target while juggling your mostly useless Unholy runes. It's spammy, quick and deadly.

Ability and Cooldown Breakdown

Core Abilities:

  • Outbreak : 1 minute cooldown, applies Frost Fever and Blood Plague to your target at no rune cost at all, use to refresh diseases.
  • Howling Blast: Heavy frost damage to your target and every hostile around it. As DW, two Howling Blasts will always hit harder than an Obliterate, as such this is your main damage dealing ability.
  • Plague Strike : Does low Shadow damage and applies Blood Plague to your target for one Unholy or Death Rune, use when Outbreak is not available.
  • Horn of Winter: 20 second cooldown, provides all your party and raid members with 10% extra attack power, as well as giving you 10 Runic Power. Use on Cooldown.
  • Soul Reaper : Six second cooldown, places a 5 second debuff on your target which will do massive damage if said target is under 35% health when the debuff runs out. If your target dies before the debuff expires, you will receive 50% haste for the next 5 seconds. Costs 1 Frost Rune.
  • Death and Decay: 30 second cooldown, does heavy shadow damage to all targets in its are a per second for 10 seconds. Costs one Unholy rune.
  • Frost Strike: 35 runic Power, heavy frost damage strike. Your high mastery will boost this to dangerous levels and as such it should be used whenever you can't use Howling Blast and to consume Killing Machine.
  • Obliterate: A rather weak strike you should avoid using as DW, only use it to burn an unholy rune every rune cycle if Death and Decay is on cooldown and you don't need to use Plague Strike to refresh Blood Plague

Cooldowns

  • Anti-Magic Shell: 45 second cooldown, Absorbs 75% of spelldamage taken up to 50% of your maximum health. Also prevents some magic debuffs from affecting you. Any damage absorbed by it is directly turned into Runic power and as such can serve as a DPS cooldown as well as a defensive one.
  • Army of the Dead: 10 minute cooldown, 3 second channel. Reduces all damage taken by your combined dodge and parry chance then unleashes a horde of undead which will do an enormous amount of damage to your main target.
  • Empower Rune Weapon: 5 minute cooldown. Instantly replenishes all six of your runes and grants you 25 Runic Power, use the moment all your resources are at their emptiest.
  • Raise Dead: 2 minute cooldown, raises an undead ally that will attack what you do. Can be used for heavy healing from Death Pact and is otherwise an excellent damage cooldown. Always combine with Pillar of Frost.
  • Pillar of Frost: 1 minute cooldown and a 20 second duration for one frost rune. Use it when the fight starts alongside a strength potion, your ghoul and maybe even Empower RuneWeapon and Bloodlust, then use it as often as possible. Tie it to Raise Dead in a macro if you're afraid of them falling out of synch.

Rotation

Keep your diseases up at all times and use Frost Strike when Killing Machine procs or if you're about to cap RP, otherwise use Soul Reaper if your target is below 35% health. If those aren't available, use Howling Blast as much as you can, using Frost Strike to burn up your Runic Power and trigger your rune regeneration mechanic.


You will notice this leaves you with two unused unholy runes. One of them must *always* stay unused, with the other one being burned as soon as it fills up. You must do so by using Plague Strike if your Blood Plague is about to fall off, Death and Decay if it's off cooldown, or Obliterate if those two things aren't possible. The key to playing DW frost properly is knowing when to save a frost rune to use with Obliterate, instead of using them all away then being stuck with two unholy runes you and a red face.


In AoE situations, drop Death and Decay and then try and use as many Howling Blasts as you can. If you're certain the targets will live for more than 20 seconds, use plague strike then pestilence to spread Blood Plague.
Otherwise, use Pillar of Frost and Raise Dead on cooldown together, and Army of the Dead right before the pull.

Gear and Reforging

Two one handed weapons, plate armor, and otherwise follow this simple priority for both acquiring gear and reforging.

Strength > Yellow Hit to Cap = Expertise to Cap > Mastery > Crit > Haste

Gemming, Enchanting, Runeforging and Tradeskills

Gemming:
Unlike 2H frost, haste doesn't quite beat strength in a point by point basis for DW.
Meta: Reverberating Primal Diamond or Legendary
Prismatic: Str
Blue: Str+Hit
Red: Str
Yellow: Str+Hit

Enchanting:
Shoulders: Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Accuracy or Enchant Cloak - Superior Critical Strike
Chest: Enchant Chest - Glorious Stats
Bracers: Enchant Bracer - Exceptional Strength
Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Super Strength
Belt: Living Steel Belt Buckle
Legs: Angerhide Leg Armor
Boots: Enchant Boots - Pandaren's Step
Mainhand: Rune of Razorice
Offhand: Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Professions:
Engineering wins the DPS race due to the fantastic synergy between the 1 minute cooldown 1920 Str of Synapse Springs with Pillar of Frost's 1 minute cooldown Strength boost. Other than that, every profession will give you the same Strength benefit, with Blacksmithing providing slots for more Strength gems and Jewelcrafting giving you equally powerful Strength Serpents Eye gems. The benefits from Skinning, Mining and Herbalism are otherwise small and under budget.

Advanced Tactics and Tips

• Always sit on enough RP for a single Frost Strike to burn KM procs as they happen, your fast attack speed, dual weapons and haste make predicting them *really* hard.
• Do not pick Runic Corruption as your Rune Regen talent, 33% of its output will go towards that useless unholy rune.
• If you pick Blood Tap, try and always sit on 5 charges, that way if you burn your procs as fast as you can and you end up without a Frost Rune to burn your Unholy rune in an Obliterate, you can Tap and Obliterate immediately.
• Stack cooldowns with strength potions at the start of a fight!
• Consider not using Death Pact as your selfhealing talent, since you'll be using your Ghoul on cooldown for maximum dps.
• Howling Blast + Chillblains make you an excellent kiter

Unholy, Diseases and Undead Friends

The underdog no longer, buffs to Unholy and the DK class as a whole make your plague spreading, shadow damage causing, and ghoul wrangling character a force to be reckoned with.

Ability and Cooldown Breakdown

Core Abilities:

  • Outbreak : 1 minute cooldown, applies Frost Fever and Blood Plague to your target at no rune cost at all, use to refresh diseases.
  • Plague Strike : Does low Shadow damage and applies Blood Plague and Frost Fever to your target for one Unholy or Death Rune, use when Outbreak is not available.
  • Horn of Winter: 20 second cooldown, provides all your party and raid members with 10% extra attack power, as well as giving you 10 Runic Power. Use on Cooldown.
  • Soul Reaper : Six second cooldown, places a 5 second debuff on your target which will do massive damage if said target is under 35% health when the debuff runs out. If your target dies before the debuff expires, you will receive 50% haste for the next 5 seconds. Costs 1 Unholy Rune.
  • Death and Decay: 30 second cooldown, does heavy shadow damage to all targets in its are a per second for 10 seconds. Costs one Unholy rune.
  • Blood Boil : Strikes every target around you within 10 yards, doin 50% more damage to targets afflicted with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.
  • Raise Dead: Raises a pet ghoul with no duration limitations. Keep it up at all times as it'll be your highest dps source.
  • Death Coil: 40 runic power for a powerful, ranged shadow attack. It uses up Runic Power, procs your Rune Regen mechanic *and* builds up Shadow Infusion charges on your pet Ghoul.
  • Dark Transformation: 1 Unholy Rune and technically no cooldown, it will use five charges of Shadow Infusion to turn your pet into a powerful behemoth for 30 seconds.

Cooldowns

  • Anti-Magic Shell: 45 second cooldown, Absorbs 75% of spelldamage taken up to 50% of your maximum health. Also prevents some magic debuffs from affecting you. Any damage absorbed by it is directly turned into Runic power and as such can serve as a DPS cooldown as well as a defensive one.
  • Army of the Dead: 10 minute cooldown, 3 second channel. Reduces all damage taken by your combined dodge and parry chance then unleashes a horde of undead which will do an enormous amount of damage to your main target.
  • Empower Rune Weapon: 5 minute cooldown. Instantly replenishes all six of your runes and grants you 25 Runic Power, use the moment all your resources are at their emptiest.
  • Unholy Frenzy: A 20% haste increase on your target (preferably you) for 30 seconds on a 3 minute cooldown. Does damage to you unless you glyph it, and should always be used with Summon Gargoyle.
  • Summon Gargoyle: A powerful extra pet that will shower your target with heavy nature damage, this was reworked in 5.2 and is now far stronger than before and costs no Runic Power at all to activate.
  • Festering Strike: 1 Frost and 1 Blood Rune, deals moderate physical damage and increases the duration of Frost Fever and Blood Plague on your target by 6 seconds per application. It also turns said Blood and Frost runes into Death Runes.
    Scourge Strike: 1 Unholy Rune, deals moderate physical damage plus moderate shadow damage per disease active on your target. Use it to consume your Unholy and Death Runes.

Rotation

Apply your diseases with Outbreak, or Plague Strike if Outbreak isn't available. After that, use Soul Reaper if it's available, use Dark Transformation the moment it is available. Otherwise, throw Death Coil when Sudden Doom procs or you have the Runic Power to use them, use Death and Decay on cooldown, then turn your Blood and Frost Runes into Death Runes with Festering Strike and burn then with Scourge Strike.
Every three minutes pop Unholy Frenzy and Summon Gargoyle together, preferably with a strength potion and be mindful of Bloodlust timing, as UF+Bloodlust will more than likely be enough to hastecap you and waste the extra haste.
In an AoE situation, spread diseases via outbreak/plague strike+pestilence, drop your Death and Decay and use as many bloodboils as you can, weaving in Festering Strikes as you run out of Death runes.

Gear and Reforging

A twohanded weapon and the best plate armor you can get, otherwise follow this priority both for gear and reforging.

Strength > Expertise (7.5%) > Melee Hit (7.5%) > Crit > Mastery > Haste

Gemming, Enchanting, Runeforging and Tradeskills

Gemming:
Just like with Frost, the budget of gems as it stands ends up breaking the regular stat priority, as unless we hit the haste cap, 2 points of Crit Rating will provide more than 1 of Strength.
Meta: Reverberating Primal Diamond or Legendary
Prismatic: Crit
Blue: Crit+Hit
Red: Crit+Exp
Yellow: Crit

Enchanting:
Shoulders: Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Accuracy or Enchant Cloak - Superior Critical Strike
Chest: Enchant Chest - Glorious Stats
Bracers: Enchant Bracer - Exceptional Strength
Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Super Strength
Belt: Living Steel Belt Buckle
Legs: Angerhide Leg Armor
Boots: Enchant Boots - Pandaren's Step
2H Weapon: Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Professions:
Every profession will give you the same Strength benefit, with Blacksmithing providing slots for more Crit gems and Jewelcrafting providing sadly underbudget Serpents Eye gems. The benefits from Skinning, Mining and Herbalism are otherwise small and under budget.

Advanced Tips and Tricks

• Keep an eye on the duration of your Dark Transformation, and start stacking Runic Power as it nears the end, only using Death Coil if you're about to cap or if you get a Sudden Doom proc. If you manage to hit full RP just as your ghoul transforms back to normal, you can use it all up on Death Coils, get his stacks back up and use Dark Transformation almost immediately again. This provides a strong dps gain.
• Festering Strike increases disease duration without recalculating for your current strength, crit, mastery or haste. If you're certain you won't need to change targets throughout the fight, starting off with potions, cooldowns and trinkets then maintaining the same set of diseases through prioritizing Festering Strike over the Scourge Strike rotation will provide a dps boost!
• Have extra Frost Runes after AOEing you can't use? Icy Touch will turn them into Death Runes by triggering Reaping!

5.4 Changes

General

Death Gate now returns the Death Knight to a location near their original departure point when the spell is cast while in Ebon Hold.

Icebound Fortitude no longer costs Runic Power.

Necrotic Strike now deals 100% weapon damage (down from 150% weapon damage).

Rune of Razorice now causes 3% extra weapon damage as Frost damage (up from 2%), and each stack of Frost Vulnerability now causes the target to take an additional 3% damage from the Death Knight's Frost attacks (up from 2%).

Soul Reaper initial damage component has been increased by 30%. If the target is below 35% health after 5 seconds the amount of Shadow Damage dealt has been increased by 20%.

Unholy Presence now grants a flat 10% Haste to all things, up from Haste for melee (attack speed and Rune regeneration) only. The movement speed buff remains unchanged.

Fixed a bug that caused Improved Blood Presence and Runic Corruption to incorrectly increase activation rates of some trinkets and effects.


Blood

Riposte is a new passive ability learned by Blood Death Knights at level 76. When the Death Knight dodges or parries any attack, they gain 75% of their Parry and Dodge as additional bonus to Critical Strike for 20 seconds.

Dancing Rune Weapon no longer costs Runic Power.

Sanguine Fortitude no longer reduces the cost of Icebound Fortitude.

Scent of Blood now also has a chance to activate when the Death Knight dodges or parries a melee attack.



Frost

Frost Strike now deals 115% weapons damage (up from 105% weapon damage).

Howling Blast now deals 15% more damage.

Might of the Frozen Wastes now increases all melee attack damage by 30% (up from 20%).

Obliterate now deals 250% weapon damage (up from 230% weapon damage).


Unholy

Master of Ghouls now reduces the cooldown of Raise Dead by 60 seconds.

Ghoul's Leap and Gnaw abilities are no longer on a global cooldown, and no longer cost Energy.

Unholy Might now increases the Death Knight's Strength by 25% (up from 10%).


Talents

Anti-Magic Zone has been redesigned. The talent now reduces magic damage taken in the area-of-effect by 40% for 3 seconds, there is no longer a cap on total damage absorbed, and the ability no longer scales with strength.

Death Siphon had its damage increased by 10%.

Plague Leech now tries to convert 2 fully-depleted runes (up from 1) into a Death Rune based on specialization.
Blood: Restores 1 Frost Rune, 1 Unholy Rune

Frost: 1 Frost Rune, 1 Unholy Rune

Unholy: 1 Blood Rune, 1 Frost Rune

Glyphs

New Major Glyphs
Glyph of Festering Blood: Makes Blood Boil treat all targets as if they have been infected with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.

Glyph of Regenerative Magic: If Anti-Magic Shell expires after its full duration, cooldown for the ability is reduced based on the amount of damage absorbed.

Glyph of Swift Death: Haste effect granted by Soul Reaper now also increases the Death Knight's movement speed for the duration.

Glyph of the Loud Horn: Horn of Winter now generates additional Runic Power, but the cooldown is increased.

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Enduring Infection now reduces damage dealt by diseases by 15% (down from a 30% reduction).

Glyph of Mind Freeze now reduces the cooldown of Mind Freeze by 1 second, and raises its cost by 10 Runic Power (down from 2 seconds and 20 Runic Power).

Glyph of Outbreak now causes Outbreak to cost 30 Runic Power (down from 40).

Glyph of Pillar of Frost now reduces movement speed by 70% instead of freezing the Death Knight in place.

New Minor Glyphs
Glyph of the Long Winter: The Horn of Winter ability now lasts for 1 hour.

Glyph of the Skeleton: The Death Knight's Raise Dead spell now summons a Skeleton instead of a Ghoul.