Lichborne: Guide to PvE frost death knights in Mists of Pandaria

Daniel Whitcomb
D. Whitcomb|08.21.12

Sponsored Links

Lichborne Guide to Mists of Pandaria PvE frost death knights
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. In the post-Cataclysm era, death knights are no longer the new kids on the block. Let's show the other classes how a hero class gets things done.

With patch 5.0.4 barreling down on us and the release date for Mists of Pandaria itself a mere month away, we've probably seen our new class specs and mechanics get about as solid as they're going to get. With that in mind, we'll start in our guides for all death knight specs. Note that these guides will cover primarily the basics of group PvE for each spec.

This week, we cover frost DPS.

Stat weights and other basics

Frost hasn't changed much mechanically from Cataclysm, at least on the surface. We still have the same strikes and spells serving the same basic function. You can now switch more freely between dual wielding and two-handed frost, as you get both Threat of Thassarian and Might of the Frozen Wastes by default. Frost Presence is now the best DPS presence for frost death knights, in a move that should make literal-minded death knights happy. In addition, the runic power regeneration on Frost Presence helps make up for some the runic power generation talents we lost in the revamp. Your stats priorities are also more or less in the same order they were for Cataclysm, with a few minor changes and caveats.
  • Strength remains king. You'll focus on gemming for it whenever possible, and it'll come naturally on all your plate gear. I know that agility weapon looks cool, but unless its base weapon DPS absolutely blows away any strength weapon have access to, take the strength weapon. This means agility jewelry is off limits too.
  • It's still a good idea to cap hit and expertise ratings. Under the new Mists of Pandaria caps, you'll need 7.5% of each stat, which will push all special attack and spell misses and dodges off the table when attacking from behind. After you have them capped though, start looking for other secondary stats.
  • Haste remains the strongest secondary stat once you reach the hit and expertise caps. We still thrive off the speed.
  • Mastery is a strong stat for frost death knights, adding power to both Howling Blast and Frost Strike. If you plan to try the "masterfrost" mentioned below, it will edge out haste.
  • Critical strike rating still lags behind for frost death knights, as Killing Machine still exists as a mechanic for us. When we get so many automatic critical strikes, that rating can go to waste.
Single target damage priorities

As was true in Cataclysm, damage is less of a rotation and more of a priority system. Below, you'll find the basic frost death knight single-target damage priority system. Be sure to do this in Frost Presence, because you will want the benefits it provides.
  1. If your diseases are about to expire, use Plague Leech to get the extra death rune.
  2. If the enemy is below 35% health, use Soul Reaper.
  3. Make sure your diseases are up. Howling Blast will automatically apply Frost Fever, but whenever possible, using Outbreak to apply Blood Plague, though Plague Strike will do in a pinch.
  4. If Killing Machine is up, use it. Two-handed death knights should use Obliterate, while dual wielders should use Frost Strike.
  5. If your runic power is full, use Frost Strike.
  6. Use Obliterate if any of your rune pairs are full.
  7. Cast Howling Blast if you have a Rime Proc.
  8. Use Obliterate and Frost Strike as needed to spend your current resources.

In addition, be sure to use Raise Dead and Pillar of Frost as often as possible. While it's always nice to save them for when you have stat-increasing trinket procs, potion buffs, or Heroism, be careful not to delay using them too long, since doing so will mean lost DPS regardless. You will also want to use Anti-Magic Shell liberally on caster mobs and bosses, as absorbed magic damage will translate into more runic power.

The masterfrost alternative

"Masterfrost" is a variant of dual wielding in which the death knight focuses primarily on Howling Blast, using Obliterate only as a method of getting rid of unholy runes. You'll also stack mastery under this build in order to maximize frost damage, thus the name. Currently, sims and math suggest it's slightly better DPS for dual wield frost. However, it's also very unforgiving. If you can't stick to the rotation and keep your runic power uncapped, you're better off skipping it and using the basic rotation described above.

  1. Get your diseases up, generally via Outbreak, or via Plague Strike/Howling Blast.
  2. If the target is below 35% health, use Soul Reaper.
  3. If both your unholy runes are off cooldown or nearly off cooldown, use Obliterate.
  4. If your diseases are about to expire, use Plague Leech to get the extra death rune.
  5. If your runic power is capped or near-capped, use Frost Strike.
  6. If you have 10 to 12 blood charges, use Blood Tap.
  7. If Killing Machine is up, use Frost Strike.
  8. Use Howling Blast.

Talent choices

You can read back a few weeks for another analysis we did on the new talent system, but read on for a basic rundown of what you need to know.

  1. Plague Leech continues to be the only DPS increaser on the first tier, and thus the talent you'll want to take if you're serious about maximizing your DPS. Unholy Blight is a decent secondary choice if you don't want the hassle of managing Plague Leech.
  2. Tier two is your choice. Anti-Magic Zone is a good raid defensive cooldown, but Lichborne is still part of your best self-healing trick.
  3. Tier three is also your choice, more or less. Chilblains combined with Howling Blast continues to be a good way to help your tank wrangle mobs, however.
  4. Death Pact is your best tier four choice. It provides superior health return and causes the least damage to your overall DPS. The one downside is keeping your ghoul in reserve until you need a heal.
  5. Runic Empowerment provides the most bang for your buck, even when not gamed, as two-handed frost. For dual wield frost, however, Blood Tap edges it out. Since they removed the global cooldown from Blood Tap again, you can macro Blood Tap to your Frost Strike button and be fine here.
  6. Tier six is completely up to you. Remorseless Winter will probably prove most useful for clearing trash, but as none of the options here really provide more DPS or amazing boss utility, there's not a wrong choice on this tier.
A note on glyphs

For the most part, glyphs don't really affect your DPS. You'll probably want to grab Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell for the extra absorption, but other than that, the rest of your glyphs will be a matter of personal choice and play style. See our death knight glyph roundup part one and part two for more information.

Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.

Popular on Engadget