Frost PvE Guide (5.4)

100 Draenei Death Knight
15555
I will freeze you from within until all that remains is an icy husk!

-Arthas Menethil, Former Lich King

Welcome to the guide for Frost DPS! This thread is a compilation of information about the spec, aimed at the player new to DKs (not Donkey Kongs), the player new to the Frost spec (not mages), or the player just staring at their character in confused bewilderment. Apologies if the thread talks down to you too much or tells you something you already know, but I figure it's better to overexplain than underexplain.

CORRECTIONS, CLARIFICATIONS, AND UPDATES

It is certainly not my intention to mislead, so if there are any errors in this guide, please let me know and I will correct them as soon as possible. I don't claim to be a Pro™ myself, although I've tried to find and present the best information available. Updates will come when merited, which should be frequently.

If you think any information is lacking, or that I didn't explain something well enough, or you're just plain confused about something, please let me know by replying to this thread, and you'll get a clarifying answer.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am very grateful to Euliat, who singlehandedly ran the only DK DPS simulator in town for most of the beta, compiling the most accurate data possible. Without his work, and the rest of the DK beta posse, this guide would be a lot less than it is.
Thanks to Salvanic for helping me with the mathy parts of this guide.
Thanks to Heartless and Consider for providing the basics of this guide's layout as well as being awesome theorycrafters in general.
Thanks to Titus Pullo and Mendenbarr for running the EJ threads and clarifying some points in their respective guides.

Thanks also to those many posters on Elitist Jerks, the MMO-Champion forums, and here on the official WoW forums whose insights and ideas have made their way into the guide. Too many of you to name individually, but you know who you are, and if you don't, I appreciate it anyways.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1:
Why should I play Frost?
Why shouldn't I play Frost?
Is Frost or Unholy better?
Should I go DW or 2H?

Chapter 2:
What race do I want?
What professions give the most DPS?
What talents are going to be the most useful?
What glyphs do I need?
What runeforge and presence should I be in?

Chapter 3:
What's my rotation as Frost?
What's my AoE rotation as Frost?

Chapter 4:
What are my defensive abilities?
What are my utility cooldowns?
What offensive cooldowns do I have?

Chapter 5:
What are the most important stats for a Frost DK?
What are the hit and expertise caps?
What's my stat priority?
How should I gem and enchant?
What's the best way to figure out reforging?

Chapter 6:
What are the mods that might be useful?
What are some useful macros?
Edited by Taruun on 9/2/2013 10:51 PM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
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Others may find that their blade responds most eagerly when infused with the power of an icy chill. In this way, even the sharpest of runeblades will find themselves made even more potent. The same power that permeates our glorious citadel of Icecrown is yours to command, death knight. Should you choose to master this discipline, there shall be no escape for your enemies, as they find their actions slowed and made impossible by the cold.

-Lady Blaumeux

SO TELL ME ABOUT THIS "FROST" BUSINESS.

We strike hard and quick. We move around easily and deliver a lot of damage in a single blow. We're the only DK spec that's able to dual-wield, though we can use two-handed weapons as well. Most of the time, we don't have to worry about a pet. Random procs come up often to empower our attacks. It's easy to learn and hard to master completely. It's a lot of fun.

IT SURE SOUNDS LIKE FUN! WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES?

Frost is notorious for its reliance on RNG, which means our DPS can vary significantly from fight to fight simply because of random chance. Those random procs I mentioned can either work in your favor or not, depending on how many of them show up and how quickly you can react to their sudden appearance. It's not enough to hurt us significantly, but it may be noticeable.

ENOUGH BLABBING. WHICH SPEC DOES THE MOST LEET DEEPS?

It depends on your gear and the stats you stack and the boss fight and your lag and your reaction time and your general skill level and the mood you're in and simple random luck. In general, Frost and Unholy are very close to each other right now, depending on whether a fight plays to the strengths of one spec or another as I mentioned above. You can safely play the one you want without being mocked, and a player of any spec who knows what they're doing will easily beat a player who doesn't.

DO I WANT ONE BIG WEAPON OR TWO SMALL ONES?

Frost is a semi-unique spec, because we're able to use either a single two-handed weapon (abbreviated as 2H) or dual-wield two one-handed weapons (abbreviated as DW). Assuming your weapons are of roughly the same quality, 2H and DW do almost exactly the same amount of damage. (Of course if your DW weapons have a higher item level than your 2H weapon, you'll do more damage with them, and vice versa.)
But the differences between the two sub-specs are more than just swapping out weapons, and 2H and DW have a very different rotation and gearing system from each other. DW is the slightly more complex rotation (in my opinion) but I've seen players who enjoy them both.
One thing to keep in mind is that DW needs twice as many weapons as 2H, but only one-half of one other spec is trying to get the same weapons, while every other plate DPS spec plus the Blood tanks wants a 2H weapon. On the other hand, having a 2H weapon makes it much easier to try out another DK spec (especially since Unholy uses exactly the same gearing system as 2H Frost).
And don't think that you can switch weapons and playstyles in the middle of a fight - you'll be locked out of some very important combat bonuses for 30 seconds if you do.
Edited by Taruun on 9/5/2013 11:27 PM PDT
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In life we were hated enemies - this is true... But in death... We are the children of the damned. The bastard sons and daughters of the Scourge. In death we are brothers.

-Thassarian

WHAT RACE IS THE BEST?

We get no pandas. :( The difference between the races is really pretty minimal, so I would go with the one that you can stand looking at the back of for 35 levels. If you insist, Worgen and Draenei are the best on the Alliance side, with Orc and Goblin as the best to the Horde.

(draenei 4 life)

WHAT PROFESSION GIVES THE GREATEST DPS BONUS?

At level 90, engineering is the best, because it gives a burst of strength on a cooldown that we can sync with Pillar of Frost. Leatherworking is second best, only slightly ahead of the 5-way tie between alchemy, blacksmithing, enchanting, jewelcrafting, and inscription.

CAN I PICK ANY COMBINATION OF THE NEW TALENTS TO RESULT IN AN INTERESTING AND UNIQUE SPEC?

It's not quite that simple. Some tiers (specifically, Tier 56 and Tier 75) do affect your DPS to a small but noticeable degree. I'll indicate where that is the case.

Don't forget that it's very easy to swap out your talents. You can use Tome of the Clear Mind to change any talent out in the field, as well as going back to the class trainers in Acherus for a complete reset. You can create different talent combinations on a fight-by-fight basis if you want. Don't think that you're locked into what you pick right now.

I'll assume that you can read the description of each talent, so I'll use this space to go a little in-depth on each tier, and mention what my own personal choice is.

Tier 56: Roiling Blood is a pure AoE talent for Frost, because we never need to use Blood Boil on a single target. Of the remaining two options, Plague Leech requires more micromanagement than Unholy Blight, but carries a slight DPS increase. Only take Plague Leech if you're confident that you can stay right on top of that additional demand.
Taruun Picks: Unholy Blight. Never let it be said that I don't follow my own advice.

Tier 57: Lichborne is very situational, unless you really think you need to be healing yourself often or break yourself out of a boss's fear. AMZ provides a nice, unique cooldown that the whole raid can share. And Purgatory buys you some extra DPS time.
Taruun Picks: Anti-Magic Zone, because I like being the guy who has these clever ways to help out the raid. And when no one needs AMZ, I'll grab Purgatory.

Tier 58: A half-sprint, a kiting maneuver, and an old-school Sith trick (which also has half the cooldown of the ability it replaces).
Taruun Picks: Death's Advance is my go-to option (that extra movement speed is fantastic for any fight that involves a lot of running around, which is a lot of them) though I'll change it out when I need to.

Tier 60: Heals! They all look good, but here are the restrictions: Death Pact requires you to have Raise Dead or Army of the Dead (or the Tier 15 2 piece bonus, if you have it) active in order to use it, Death Siphon requires one of your Death runes to be available, and Conversion will take away the extra 20% runic power you gain from Frost Presence.
Taruun Picks: Death Pact, because despite the restrictions I'll probably want an emergency button more than a rotational ability. Plus, it doesn't consume resources that could be funneled towards DPS.

Tier 75: Our rune regen tier. I'll be going into more detail on this in the next section, because which one you pick will influence your rotation slightly.
Taruun Picks: Runic Empowerment, because I got used to it during the last expansion and feel like I can handle it well enough.

Tier 90: If you've reached level cap, all of these should be fairly self-explanatory. None of them are crucial in PvE unless the specific encounter demands it, so pick the one you think is useful at that moment.
Taruun Picks: Remorseless Winter for now, but it's a loose choice that I'm willing to swap around.
Edited by Taruun on 9/8/2013 2:12 AM PDT
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SO WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THIS TIER 75 OF TALENTS? I DON'T GET IT.

Tier 75 allows us to use our runic power (in the form of Frost Strike) to increase the rate at which our runes return to us after being spent. This increases our DPS significantly and makes picking one of these three abilities absolutely mandatory. But they're all different, and have different methods to maximize how you get the most out of them:

Runic Corruption: Whenever you Frost Strike, you have a 45% chance for all your runes to recharge at double the normal rate for a few seconds. (The exact duration depends on your current rune speed, which is affected by your haste as well as other buffs such as Bloodlust or Heroism. To keep RC equal to the other two options on this tier, the RC buff will run for less or more time depending on your current rune recharge speed.)
To maximize this, only use Frost Strike when you have at least one Death, one Frost, and one Unholy rune simultaneously recharging. If you have even one pair of two identical runes both available to use, you're only recharging two-thirds of your runes and thus only getting two-thirds of RC's effect. Don't worry about gaining another RC proc when you already have one; the duration of your second proc will be added to the end of the current one.

Blood Tap: Choose this and using Frost Strike will grant two stacks of the Blood Charge buff each time you use it. Five Blood Charge stacks can be consumed on demand by the Blood Tap ability to transform a fully-depleted rune (one not currently recharging) into an active Death rune. If you're going to be using this one to its maximum potential, you do need to keep track of your Blood Charge stacks, and never use Frost Strike when you have 11 or more Blood Charges, as anything beyond that will just be going to waste. Then it's just a matter of hitting Blood Tap whenever you need more runes.

Runic Empowerment: If you pick this, Frost Strike has a chance to take fully-depleted runes, which are not currently recharging, and make them instantly available to use. This means that you should only use Frost Strike when at least one rune is at zero, or in other words, when at least one pair of runes are both on cooldown.
But that's not all! Runic Empowerment can be "gamed" to increase rune regen even further. I'll explain:
The DW rotation, as well as everyone's rotation for multiple targets, doesn't have much use for Unholy runes, while Death and Frost runes are always welcome for more Howling Blasts. Runic Corruption increases the regen rate of all your runes, and Blood Tap gives always-useful Death runes no matter what the original rune was, but Runic Empowerment can be "gamed" to give you nothing but Frost or Death runes. (Essentially, if you leave at least one Unholy rune available and unused at all times, then no Unholy rune will ever be fully depleted and eligible to be restored by Runic Empowerment, which means all your restored runes will be Frost or Death for more Howling Blastiness.)

WHICH ONE IS THE MATHEMATICALLY PROVEN SUPERIOREST OPTION?

Honestly? Whichever one you can manage the best. If played to their absolute best, Blood Tap is the technical best, followed by Runic Empowerment, but any of the three choices will give very good DPS if played well. Try them out, measure your DPS, and pick the one that you can best utilize.

Also bear in mind that because RE is a random chance on top of a random chance, those of you who value more consistency may want to pick something else.

WHAT ABOUT MY SIX EMPTY GLYPH SLOTS?

We have a bundle of Interesting™ major and minor glyphs. Most of them don't affect our DPS directly, so we have a little more leeway to decide what we want. Here are a few standouts:

Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell carries no disadvantage and is a very nice bonus. It's probably as close to mandatory as any of the glyphs out there.

Glyph of Dark Succor, AKA Glyph of the Nonstop Grinder, is fantastic for leveling. I used it constantly when questing, and I'd recommend it to anyone else who's trying to reach 90. At max level, it loses a lot of its effectiveness, since it requires you to personally deal the final blow to the target, but can still be useful for dailies. 
Glyph of Unholy Command is very useful for many of the same reasons.

Glyph of Outbreak is currently calculated to be a slight DPS loss for Frost. Don't use it.

ANYTHING ELSE TO DEAL WITH BEFORE I KILL BADS?

Just two more things. First off, you will be DPSing in Frost Presence. You newcomers may be wondering why you would ever pick anything else, so just be glad that you weren't around for the last two expansions. Man, was it crazy!

As for runeforging, 2H will use that old favorite, Rune of the Fallen Crusader. DW will put Rune of Razorice on their mainhand weapon and Rune of the Fallen Crusader on their offhand weapon.
Edited by Taruun on 9/8/2013 2:10 AM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
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The endless hunger will soon take hold of you, death knight. When it does, you will feel pain immeasurable. There is only one remedy for the suffering: the hunger must be sated.

I give you the key to your salvation.

-Instructor Razuvious

SO WHICH BUTTONS DO I HIT AND WHEN?

That will depend on whether you are DW or 2H. Although we still call it a "rotation," we don't actually rotate through the same abilities in the same order over and over. Instead, we have a priority system, where at every moment you need to pick the ability available to you that's highest up on the following list:

The 2H list:

-Soul Reaper (if the target is below 35% health)
-Diseases (if not on target or about to fall off target)
-Killing Machine procs (used on Obliterate if possible)
-Obliterate (if both Death runes or all four Frost/Unholy runes are up)
-Frost Strike (if runic power is close to or at maximum)
-Rime procs (used on Howling Blast)
-Frost Strike
-Obliterate
-Horn of Winter

The DW list:

-Killing Machine procs (used on Frost Strike if possible)
-Frost Strike (if runic power is close to or at maximum)
-Howling Blast (if both Frost or both Death runes are up)
-Soul Reaper (if the target is below 35% health)
-Blood Plague (if not on target or about to fall off target)
-Rime procs (used on Howling Blast)
-Obliterate (if at least one Unholy rune is up)
-Howling Blast
-Frost Strike
-Horn of Winter

ALL OF THAT? I'M SCARED!!!

It might look like a lot, so here's the absolute basics for you to understand:
2H: keep both diseases up, use your runes on Obliterate and runic power on Frost Strike, use Rime procs on Howling Blast.
DW: spend runes on Howling Blast (and use Obliterate when you have Unholy runes), spend Runic Power on Frost Strike.

Let's break it up, then break it down. For the sake of space, I'll double up on explanations where possible.

SOUL REAPER
This is the most finicky of our abilities to use, since it costs a Frost rune and has a six second cooldown. It does very little damage by itself, so don't spam it at the start of the fight, but its real power comes five seconds after you use it. If the target is below 35% health at the end of those five seconds, then they get dealt some decent damage. If they die before those five seconds are up, you get a whopping 50% haste buff for five seconds. (To put that in perspective, Bloodlust/Heroism is only 30%.) Use this ability any time you can get one of these two effects to trigger, and slap it on every about-to-die creature that you see. And if the boss is below 35% health, have a Frost or Death rune ready and waiting every time Soul Reaper comes off cooldown.

DISEASES
You need to have both Frost Fever and Blood Plague up constantly. They don't deal much damage, but they boost your Obliterate damage by 25%, and Frost Fever makes your target take an additional 4% physical damage from everyone in your group. Frost Fever will take care of itself via Howling Blast, since you'll be using that ability more often than once every 33 seconds, so the only disease you have to worry about is Blood Plague. How you deal with it will depend on the talent you picked in Tier 56:
Rolling Blood: This talent is only good for spreading diseases in AoE, so you will just use Plague Strike (or Outbreak for 2H) to keep diseases up on one target.
Plague Leech (DW edition): Use Plague Strike every time Blood Plague is running low or has gone off the target. Make sure an Unholy rune is active before you use it, so you don't spent a Death rune on a mere Plague Strike when you could have used it on a much more powerful Howling Blast! Plague Leech itself will be used as an emergency get-runes-back button when you don't have the runes or runic power to do anything else. After you use it, use Plague Strike to get the disease back up as soon as you reasonably can.
Plague Leech (2H edition): Use Outbreak to keep Blood Plague up, and use Plague Strike when Outbreak is on cooldown. Every 30 seconds or so, right before Blood Plague is about to fall off, use Plague Leech to get some bonus runes before reapplying the diseases.
Unholy Blight: Whenever Blood Plague is about to slip off the target, you'll use Unholy Blight (2H will also use Outbreak) to put it back up. When neither of those are available, spend an Unholy rune on Plague Strike to keep it going.

KILLING MACHINE
Your auto-attacks have a chance to trigger Killing Machine, which will make the next Obliterate or Frost Strike you use a guaranteed critical strike. You'll know when it's triggered, because your Obliterate and Frost Strike abilities will light up and two bars of ice will appear to the sides of your character. 2H wants to use it on Obliterate and DW on Frost Strike, thanks to the bonus damage given to those abilities by Might of the Frozen Wastes or Threat of Thassarian.
Now let me say something that would seem to contradict all of that: it is always better to use KM on a non-ideal ability than wait even a couple of seconds for the ideal ability to become available. The reasons for this are complex (and I owe many thanks to Euliat for running the calculations on the matter) but they boil down to this: the extra damage from using KM on the right ability is not more than the damage you lose by waiting around and not using any attacks.

MAXIMUM RUNES/RUNIC POWER
Always keep your runes recharging, and never let your runic power hit maximum. If two runes of the same type are both available, then any time they spend not regenerating now just means more time spent regenerating later, and that's lost DPS. And any runic power you gain when you have a full runic power bar just vanishes into nothing, which again means you've lost the DPS that runic power could have given you (this means the cutoff point for using Obliterate is 76 RP, and 89 RP for Howling Blast, before you start losing runic power).

RIME
When you use Obliterate, you have a 45% chance that your next Howling Blast or Icy Touch will be free of cost. It doesn't grant any runic power, either, so think of it as free damage, plus the chance to keep Frost Fever on the target without spending runes or cooldowns to do so. You'll know when it's triggered, because your Howling Blast and Icy Touch abilities will light up, and a bar of ice will appear above your character. Howling Blast will always hit harder than Icy Touch, so use it in any situation where the 10 yard AoE won't be an issue (if it is, ask your tanks to keep the mobs a little farther from the CC).
Edited by Taruun on 9/8/2013 10:22 AM PDT
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Chapter 3 (continued)

OBLITERATE
For 2H: This ability deals the most damage and should be prioritized, once the procs/special abilities from further up the list have been dealt with.
For DW: If you gear the way I tell you, Obliterate will not hit as hard as Howling Blasts. That doesn't mean you don't use it, though. Remember when I told you to always keep all your pairs of runes recharging? In order to get some damage out of your Unholy runes, you'll use Obliterate when at least one of your Unholy runes are available. (And if you picked Runic Empowerment, you'll use it only when both Unholy runes are available, in order to "game" RE into giving you only Frost and Death runes back.)

FROST STRIKE
Although it hits much harder for DW than 2H, both specs will be using Frost Strike to expend their runic power and trigger the rune regeneration mechanics from tier 75 of the talent grid. Make sure you're only using it when you can get the most benefit out of that regen mechanic. I've explained this in the talent section, but here's the refresher:
Blood Tap: Only use Frost Strike when you have 11 or fewer Blood Charges
Runic Empowerment: Only Frost Strike when at least one of your runes is at zero and not currently recharging
Runic Corruption: Only Frost Strike when at least one rune of each type is in the process of recharging

HOWLING BLAST
For 2H: This is only an AoE ability for you. Except for when Rime removes the rune cost, ignore this ability when fighting a single target.
For DW: This will be a significant source of damage. All your Frost and Death runes should go towards this ability.

HORN OF WINTER
Every now and then, nothing is available to use. In that case, you can use Horn of Winter to provide a useful buff for you and your buddies, as well as give you 12 runic power. That might be all it takes to get your rotation going again, and even if not, it's better than doing nothing.

WHAT ABOUT WHEN I JUST WANT TO AOE FACEROLL?

No, but seriously. Try to keep the facerolling to a minimum. Follow this rotation:

-Diseases on all targets
-Howling Blast (if both Death runes or both Frost runes are available)
-Death and Decay/Pestilence (if both Unholy runes are available)
-Frost Strike (if runic power is at maximum)
-Howling Blast
-Death and Decay/Pestilence
-Frost Strike
-Horn of Winter

Howling Blast will be the bread and butter of your AoE damage, while Death and Decay will be used on cooldown for some additional damage, and Frost Strike will be used in combination with talent tier 75 to coax your runes into regenerating faster.
Edited by Taruun on 9/8/2013 3:06 AM PDT
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The Scourge is infinite in potential. We are not, however, infallible by any means. Always be well aware of your limits, and the resources at your disposal. Always have an exit strategy.

-Kel'thuzad

WHAT ABOUT ALL THESE OTHER INTERESTING BUTTONS?

They divide up pretty nicely into three basic categories, defensive, utility, and offensive.

DEFENSIVE? BUT I'M NOT A TANK!

No, you're not, but if you're doing double everyone else's damage but die a third of the way through the fight, you lost the DPS race. Now that many abilities are unique to certain specs, Frost has access to everything here for a reason.

Anti-Magic Shell: 
If you know how to use this spell right, you'll love it. Proper use of Anti-Magic Shell separates the okay DKs from the great ones. When you activate it, three things happen:
-All magic damage you take is reduced by 75%, up to a maximum amount equivalent to 50% of your total health. You can laugh as the rest of the raid suffers through the AoE and you shrug a lot of it off.
-You become immune to any debuff classified as "Magic." If you know that a boss is about to slap one of those debuffs on you, pop AMS just beforehand and the debuff won't stick. It's situational and dependent on the fight, but when it helps, it really helps.
-Here's the big one. When AMS is active, any magical damage you absorb will give you runic power. That's right, using AMS at the proper time is a DPS gain. The best time will vary from fight to fight, of course, but you definitely shouldn't ignore this. Bet you're glad you didn't skip over this section of the guide, huh?

Anti-Magic Zone:
The raid-wide big brother to AMS, if you choose to get it. Unlike AMS, it doesn't have a limit to how much it can absorb (for you or for others), but it only lasts for three seconds, so time it good.

Lichborne:
It has two uses. The first is to make yourself immune to charms, fears, and sleeps, if there is any fight out there that involves them. The second is to turn Death Coil on yourself to heal yourself for Lichborne's duration. 

Purgatory:
If you're confused, here's one way to think about it: once every three minutes, an attack that would have killed you instead pushes you into negative health. For the next three seconds, any additional damage you take will push you further into the negative, and any healing from yourself or others will push you out of the negative and into the positive. If you haven't reached positive health after three seconds, then you die.
Bear in mind that once you get healed back into positive, even if the three seconds aren't up yet, the protection of Purgatory is gone and you can end up dead for realsies.

Icebound Fortitude, Death Strike, Death Pact, Death Siphon, Conversion: 
These all make sense, right? No real confusion? Bear in mind that while some of them are a loss of resources that you could use for DPS, they're definitely worth it if they keep you alive.

UTILITY SPELLS:

Mind Freeze:
Now without any resource cost (unless you glyph for it), this is our basic interrupting spell.

Chains of Ice/Chillbrains:
Our amazing kiting spells. If you need to keep an add away from something or someone, this is what you use, combined with some Howling Blasts to keep them slowed.

Strangulate/Asphyxiate: 
More powerful than Mind Freeze but with a longer cooldown, and it can be used at range.

Raise Ally:
Every ten minutes, and for the cost of only 30 runic power, you can bring a fellow party or raid member back to life in the middle of a fight. There are only a few things to consider: they'll only have 60% health and 20% mana when they come back, so make sure to use this when there's not much raid damage flying around, unless the healers are ready to fill them up quickly. Also, they will rez at the location you were at when you cast the spell, so don't stand in fire when you use the spell. Lastly, remember that in raids you are limited to one battle-rez per boss attempt in 10-man and three in 25-man (this includes death knight, druid, and warlock resurrections).

Necrotic Strike:
Unless you have a boss that's healing constantly or really needs to have its casting time slowed down, this spell isn't worth it.

Dark Simulacrum:
Again, unless there's a specific boss where it might be useful, leave this spell to the PvPers.
Edited by Taruun on 9/2/2013 10:45 PM PDT
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Chapter 4 (continued)

OFFENSIVE SPELLS:

Pillar of Frost:
This utterly amazing little powerhouse of a spell should be used whenever it possibly can. The amount of strength is gives will update every second as the rest of your strength changes from short-term buffs and procs.

Empower Rune Weapon:
You probably won't get a chance to use it more than once per fight, but it provides a huge chunk of burst damage. Use it when you/the raid has popped all the cooldowns, or when you have no runes and runic power and need to get your rotation back in gear, or both.

Raise Dead:
While Unholy gains a permanent ghoul, we can still sling around a minion for half of our total fight-time.
Bear in mind that although he's a hardy little fellow (and he takes 90% less damage from AoEs than you do) he can't actually be controlled. He'll attack the first target he sees you attacking and then follow you around until you attack something else.
In Mists of Pandaria, the ghoul will receive a portion of your strength, hit, expertise, crit and haste. As those values change on your character, they'll change on the ghoul as well, so make sure you use any cooldowns that you can during the ghoul's duration. However, don't wait too long for all your cooldowns to come back, because summoning the ghoul three times in a fight will always been any two cooldown-stacked summons.

Army of the Dead:
Do me a favor and read this section before you try to be Michael Jackson in Thriller. For such a visually awesome spell, AotD comes with a surprising number of caveats.
First, unless you grab the glyph, your ghouls will continuously taunt anything that isn't skull level, which includes everything inside 5-player dungeons and most non-bosses in raids. There are times when this can be useful, but they usually involve a tank that's about to die or already has. The rest of the time, it's going to involve a healer who hates you because the rapid-fire taunts are spinning the boss around like a Wheel of Dragon, merrily breathing fire in all 360 degrees.
The second thing to remember is that AotD isn't a DPS increase in all circumstances, since the time and runes you spend summoning the army are time and runes you're not using on your usual attacks. The best time to begin summoning the army is when you won't be losing any time to attack the boss, either right before the pull or any point during the fight when you can't attack the boss directly. Like the other ghoul, your army receives a portion of many of your other stats, and any changes in your own stats from short-term buffs and procs will be reflected in the army's damage.
Edited by Taruun on 9/7/2012 12:48 AM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
15555
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Do you feel it, mortal? Death seeps through me, enveloping all that I touch. With just a snap of my finger your soul will languish in damnation for all eternity. But... It is not yet your time to serve the Lich King. Yes, a greater destiny awaits you. Power... You must become more powerful before you are to serve me.

-Arthas Menethil, Former Lich King

WHAT'S MY BEST STAT? SPIRIT, AGILITY, OR PVP POWER?

The master stat is Strength. Point-for-point, it's a bigger DPS gain than anything else. All your gear (except for your trinkets, maybe) should have Strength somewhere on it.

You may also run across a stat called "attack power" from time to time. One Strength does equal two attack power, but the two don't have the same value, because anything that boosts your Strength, such as Rune of the Fallen Crusader or Pillar of Frost, will not boost any attack power found on your gear. Always go for Strength where you can.

YEAH, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF MY STATS? EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT THESE HIT AND EXPERTISE CAPS….

Reaching the hit and expertise caps should be your first priority when you hit max level. For each of these stats, you're aiming to get as close to a specific number as possible (being a little under or a little over is okay, but not too far). That number is identical for both hit and expertise, and for 2H and DW: 7.5%, or 2550 rating at level 90. Once both your hit and expertise values are at that number, none of your melee attacks or spells will miss, and none of them can be dodged. Additional hit or expertise beyond this number is useless in nearly all situations.
For those who don't know, you don't have to worry about making your attacks unparryable (still pretty sure that's not actually a word), because attacks made from behind a target cannot be parried, and I know you're all attacking from behind like good little melee DPS.

Some races have exceptions to the magic number, though, through a one percent bonus to either their hit or expertise. Check below to see if you qualify for the reduced rate:
Draenei: hit rating cap is 2210. You also gain the confidence and knowledge that you're playing the best race in the game.
Dwarf: expertise rating cap when using maces is 2210
Gnome: expertise rating cap when using DW swords is 2210
Human: expertise rating cap when using swords or maces is 2210
Orc: expertise rating cap when using axes is 2210

If you're DW Frost, you may notice that you have a second, much larger hit cap for "normal attacks", or auto-attacks. Increasing your hit beyond the magic number will allow for more of your auto-attacks to hit, but no one expects you to reach that second hit cap or be anywhere close. While DW Frost will gain some DPS from adding additional hit beyond the magic number, they'll gain much more DPS from stopping at that magic number and focusing on other stats instead.

If you're not raiding at the moment, you can get away with being hit and expertise capped for level 92 mobs, which is all of the 5-man bosses. In that case, your magic number for both hit and expertise is only 6%, or 2040 rating. However, the moment you start raiding (and Raid Finder counts), you need to go the full distance.

CRIT, HASTE, AND MASTERY

Once you've reached the hit and expertise caps, DW and 2H have slightly different priorities. These are your stats from best to worst:

DW: mastery, crit, haste
2H (low gear levels): haste, crit, mastery
2H (high gear levels): crit, mastery, haste

Haste is useful for a couple of reasons: it gives us more Killing Machine procs by increasing our auto-attack speed, and it increases the regeneration rate of our runes. However, (with apologies to Shaohao) haste is good until it is bad. Once your resources are coming in faster than you can get rid of them, the value of haste drops significantly and it's time to start stacking something else.
Mastery increases our frost damage done (Icy Touch, Frost Fever, Howling Blast, Frost Strike, Death Siphon), which is obviously very important to the frost-damage-centric DW rotation.
Crit isn't quite as good of a stat because it competes against Killing Machine. If KM and your regular crit percentage pick the same attack to boost, you don't get a double bonus, so the crit on your gear was essentially useless in that moment. It's still a small DPS increase, though, because of all the times KM can't or doesn't proc.

The only way to know for sure which stats are best for you to use is to run some sims on your character. If you're not sure how to do that, Mendenbarr has created an excellent guide here: http://destinysoftworks.blogspot.com/2013/06/getting-most-out-of-simulationcraft.html

PvP Power and PvP Resilience are of course useless stats in PvE content. Ignore them, and then decide if the rest of the stats on the gear justify an upgrade.

WHAT ABOUT GEMMING?

In Mists of Pandaria, we're back to focusing on socket bonuses again. Here are the best gems:
Red sockets: Bold Primordial Ruby
Blue sockets: Etched Imperial Amethyst or Accurate Imperial Amethyst
Yellow sockets: Fierce Vermilion Onyx for 2H and Skillful Vermilion Onyx for DW

And your meta gem should be Reverberating Primal Diamond

WHAT ABOUT ENCHANTING?

Ignoring profession-specific enchants:
Enchant Cloak - Superior Critical Strike
Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
Enchant Chest - Glorious Stats
Enchant Bracer - Exceptional Strength
Enchant Gloves - Super Strength
Living Steel Belt Buckle
Enchant Boots - Greater Haste or Enchant Boots - Pandaren's Step

The runeforges I mentioned earlier are much better than any other weapon enchant, and they're free!

WHAT ABOUT REFORGING?

Reforging allows you to take 40% of the hit/expertise/haste/crit/mastery on an item and transform it into another stat that isn't already present on the item. But it's not simply a matter of turning all your crit into haste or mastery, because you have to work around the fixed hit and expertise caps. Sometimes you may need to turn crit into haste, but other times it might be better to turn crit into expertise on one item and expertise into haste on another. A site such as wowreforge.com or askmrrobot.com will perform these calculations for you, and get you as close as possible to the hit and expertise caps while maximizing your other stats.
Edited by Taruun on 9/12/2013 12:24 AM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
15555
(post held in reserve for future expansion)
Edited by Taruun on 8/27/2012 7:32 PM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
15555
_
/
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/ \
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Though they carry with them the stench of death and the look of the Scourge, they have the soul of a champion. A soul that has only recently been reunited with the body.

-Highlord Tirion Fordring

I'm one of those people who doesn't care much for mods and prefers the interface the way it is. Nevertheless, I'm going to recommend three addons that I use personally and that make my life a lot easier.

Deadly Boss Mods:
This addon provides warnings and timers for the abilities of individual dungeon and raid bosses and can prevent a DK from standing in the fire or wiping the raid many times over.

Recount:
The source of the (in)famous "meters," Recount can also provide a stunning level of detail on the amount of damage you're doing and where it's coming from. An excellent tool for analysis.

The third mod I use and recommend to every death knight is a rune display mod.

COME ON, TARUUN, HOW MUCH DO I REALLY NEED TO KNOW THE EXACT STATE OF ALL MY RUNES?

More than you might think. The default rune display is adequate, kinda, and maybe you'll be okay with just moving it to the center of the screen (because, really, how can you pay attention to the fight if you have to keep glancing up to a corner of the screen?), but I would highly recommend trying out at least one of these addons.

DKOne
MagicRunes
Rune-it-All
Edited by Taruun on 8/27/2012 7:33 PM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
15555
MACROS

These little bits of code allow you to string several abilities together. Again, they're not mandatory, but you may find one or two of them useful.

"Make Blood Tap Work"
If you're planning on using Blood Tap, create this macro for all of your spells/attacks and have it replace the regular attacks on your bars. The following macro is for Obliterate; if you replace Obliterate with Frost Strike or Howling Blast or Plague Strike, it will work for those attacks as well.
#showtooltip Obliterate
/cast Obliterate
/cast Blood Tap


"The Lichborne Self-Heal"
If you have Lichborne in your spec, this macro will cast it and cast Death Coil at yourself with one button press.

#showtooltip Lichborne
/cast Lichborne;
/cast [@player] Death Coil


"No Really, Start the Auto-Attack"
When you use Howling Blast or Outbreak, unlike most other abilities, your auto-attack will not automatically activate...

(Taruun has earned the achievement 'Alliteration!')

…unless you use a macro like this. (Replace Howling Blast with Outbreak if necessary.)

#showtooltip Howling Blast
/Startattack
/cast Howling Blast


"Mr. Chekov, Fire All Phasers" (thanks to Joolz)
This macro pops everything at once: Pillar of Frost, Raise Dead, and both your trinkets (which the macro language simply calls 13 and 14). If you want to add more spells - such as Blood Tap or Empower Rune Weapon - simply add another line starting with "/cast" in the order you want.

/use 13
/use 14
/cast Pillar of Frost
/cast Raise Dead


"The Bird's Eye View"
Thanks to Heartless:
This isn't so much of a macro as it is a one-time slash command. The following script will increase the allowable threshold of your camera's distance. This is wonderful for fights like Al'Akir where there are large scale effects and far away enemies. Just type the script into your chat window and scroll your wheel to experience the amazing new birds-eye view.

/script SetCVar("cameraDistanceMax",30)

"Two Buttons in One" (thanks to Derriere)
With this macro, you can cast one ability when you push the button (in this case, Mind Freeze), but holding down the Shift key and pushing the button will cast another ability (in this case, Strangulate). You can also use this macro to cast Death Coil with Shift when you can't attack in melee range.
#showtooltip [modifier:shift] strangulate; mind freeze
/cast [modifier:shift] strangulate; mind freeze

#showtooltip [modifier:shift] death coil; frost strike
/cast [modifier:shift] death coil; frost strike


"Another Silence Macro" (thanks to Hipho)
I found this really helpful, it will cast Strangulate on your current MOUSE-OVER target, if you have no MOUSE-OVER target, it will cast on your current SELECTED target; if Strangulate is on cooldown it will perform the SAME EXACT function using Mind Freeze.

#showtooltip
/cast [target=mouseover, exists] Strangulate; Strangulate
/cast [target=mouseover, exists] Mind Freeze; Mind Freeze


If you have another macro which you think is useful, please let me know and I'll add it to the list.
Edited by Taruun on 9/2/2012 5:07 PM PDT
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100 Draenei Death Knight
15555
That should be everything for now!

WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU EDITED THIS GUIDE?
8/27/12 - guide completely rewritten for 5.0.4
11/29/12 - updated for 5.1, integrated masterfrost into guide, added gemming and enchanting sections
3/5/13 - updated for 5.2, clarified KM usage
9/5/13 - a few minor updates for 5.4
Edited by Taruun on 9/5/2013 11:38 PM PDT
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85 Worgen Death Knight
1435
good stuff mate, helped me out a lot.
thanks
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85 Blood Elf Death Knight
6230
Nice, a PvE Frost guide. The forums certainly have a tangible need for Frost DW/2H guidance which I think will, in all likelihood, only increase come 4.1.

I did a quick read through pre-lunch break here and only noticed one technical thing which may need to be changed.

04/05/2011 07:20 AMPosted by Taruun
26 expertise from gear, or 780 expertise rating

I want to say that this will actually be closer to 781. Blizzard's character sheet makes some rounding errors when it comes to displaying stats which is a little misleading. Expertise point to rating value is 30.0272 [1] so 26 * 30.0272 = 780.7072.

[1] http://elitistjerks.com/f15/t29453-combat_ratings_level_85_cataclysm/

04/05/2011 07:23 AMPosted by Taruun
Reserved for expansion.

Have you thought about adding Macros? You may get some requests for the Licborne Self-Heal, Pillar/Trinket and things like that. I'm sure a true-blue Frost player could rattle them off quickly or make suggestions for the most efficient iterations of code.

04/05/2011 07:10 AMPosted by Taruun
Thanks also to Heartless, who wrote the stickied Unholy guide, for providing a basic structure for this guide and some info in that thread which applies to Frost as well as Unholy. Her guide's professionalism and clarity is something I aspire to.

/cheer!
Thanks a bunch and I appreciate the kind words. Please feel free to hit me up on Twitter @heartless_dk. Some of the BNET/EJ forum folks keep up with PTR and game changes there. It's also a helpful sounding board for ideas and thoughts too.

Quite a nice guide! I think if you can add some visual separation in a few places, you'll have a very navigable and easy to read piece. Maybe bold, underline or style the chapters and their headings in some way to make it easy to scroll through. BNET didn't exactly trust the forums with much BBCode (I know it's a pain!), but you may be able to do a little ASCII and make lines, brackets, or something of that nature. Some of the other class forum stickies have variations that you might like to borrow from.

Overall I really enjoyed the casual tone and the humor you added to the text. I think it's approachable and includes a lot of information that will tackle common questions that are being asked daily via new threads.
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90 Blood Elf Death Knight
0
Ah. I found this fairly helpful as I am still learning my DK. (always learning, perfecting) However you claim 2h frost is the best for quest leveling, Yet I think its worth noting that questing as blood is ridiculously easy.
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85 Troll Death Knight
0
Spell hit cap isn't really necessary for DW Frost. The stat loses a lot of value after you reach yellow hit cap.
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85 Blood Elf Death Knight
6230
That reminds me...Nijeak, where's my EJ Frost guide, eh eh? :)
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85 Blood Elf Death Knight
6255
04/05/2011 12:30 PMPosted by Nijeak
Spell hit cap isn't really necessary for DW Frost. The stat loses a lot of value after you reach yellow hit cap.


Yeah, I was about to mention that.

Anyway, sticky requested. Good guide.
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85 Troll Death Knight
0
04/05/2011 12:50 PMPosted by Heartless
That reminds me...Nijeak, where's my EJ Frost guide, eh eh? :)


I actually just finished a rough draft and sent a PM to Tehax to see what I need to do. I figure 4.1 is going to happen in a week or two so I should expect that no one else has offered to do it and bite the bullet.
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