Patch 4.3 Frost Death Knight (DK) Quick-Start guide – stats, spec and talents, glyphs, enchants, gems, reforging, and rotation / priorities

by on June 24, 2011

It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere – no, wait, that’s Red Dwarf. In Frost Death Knight land, there’s an atmosphere of hideous chilling death. And ridiculously high DPS meter totals. So, if you want to get a’frostin’ in Patch 4.3, we’ve got your spec, talents, glyphs, gems, reforging, enchants, and priorities right here!

Updated 29th November for Patch 4.3

Frost Death Knight Changes in Patch 4.3

Not much has changed for Frost – it was great in 4.2, and it’s still great in the new patch. We’re the beneficiaries of the new global melee DPS buff – giving us an extra 10% attack power – and, well, that’s about it for Frost DKs in this patch.

Our Tier 13 set bonuses are solid, but won’t change how we play.

Rotation / Priorities

Frost DKs, like most DPS classes in Cataclysm, do not have a ‘rotation’ as such. Instead, they work on a priority system – use the most important abilities whenever possible before less important ones.


Top Priority: Diseases. Apply or reapply diseases as first priority. Use Outbreak, or Howling Blast and Plague Strike, for this.
Second Priority: Obliterate IF Killing Machine has procced. Frost Strike if you’re approaching maximum Runic Power and you can’t use Obliterate with Killing Machine.
Third Priority: Howling Blast IF Freezing Fog (Rime) has procced.
Fourth Priority: Obliterate or Frost Strike if you’re on low Runic Power and Killing Machine hasn’t procced.

Remember that Howling Blast hits multiple mobs – use Icy Touch instead if there’s danger that you’ll break crowd-control.

Multiple Targets

Only use this for 3 or more targets.

Top Priority: Howling Blast.
Second Priority: Death and Decay if it’s off cooldown, Plague Strike to apply disease to each mob if not. Don’t use Pestilence to spread the disease here.
Third Priority: Frost Strike. Although if you’re on high Runic Power, you can also use it as Second Priority.

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Best Frost Death Knight Spec / build

The optimal Frost DK spec depends on whether you’re heading for a single two-handed weapon spec or a dual-wield spec. The two specs are very, very close in damage, so it’s up to you which you chose based on available weapons.

Dual-Wield Spec – 4.3
Two-Handed Spec – 4.3

In both, you have a small choice of which Tier 2 talents to put points into. If you’re going to be interrupting, or like interrupting, chose Endless Winter, otherwise Icy Reach is your best in-combat option.

Stats, Reforging and Gems

Strength is by far your most important stat, followed by Hit to the Hit Cap (961 for anyone except Draenai, for whom it’s 841), then Expertise to the Expertise cap of 26, Haste, Mastery, and finally Crit.

Gems: Always choose a Bold Inferno Ruby unless a socket provides 20 or more Strength or 40 or more of another important stat. In the latter case, use either Fierce Ember Topaz or Etched Demonseye as appropriate.

Reforging: Reforge to Hit up to the hit cap, then Expertise to the Expertise cap. Then, reforge to Haste, or Mastery if that’s not possible.

Buffs: Stay in Unholy Presence. Sorry, but it’s better than Frost Presence. Use Rune of the Fallen Crusader if 2H and Main Hand Rune of Razor Ice, Offhand Rune of the Fallen Crusader if DW. Keep Horn of Winter up whenever possible.

Frost Death Knight enchantments

Remember, your profession may offer better enchantment options – check against the stat priorities above.

Head Arcanum of the Wildhammer (Alliance) or Dragonmaw (Horde)
Shoulders   Greater Inscription of Jagged Stone
Back Enchant Cloak – Greater Critical Strike
Chest Enchant Chest – Peerless Stats
Wrist Enchant Bracer – Major Strength
Hands Enchant Gloves – Mighty Strength
Belt Ebonsteel Belt Buckle
Legs Dragonscale Leg Armor
Feet Enchant Boots – Haste or Precision if you’re not hit-capped
Weapon Rune of the Fallen Crusader

Glyphs for Frost

Prime: Glyph of Howling Blast, Glyph of Frost Strike, Glyph of Obliterate

Major: Glyph of Dark Succor, Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell, Glyph of Hungering Cold

Minor: Glyph of Horn of Winter, Glyph of Blood Tap, Glyph of Path of Frost


  • Elitist Jerks Frost Guide – It’s a toss-up between this and Son Of A Lich’s Frost guide for the most complete – they’re both ace. Not updated for 4.3 yet, although there aren’t many changes, as we mentioned.
  • Son Of A Lich’s Frost guide Fantastic guide from a really great DK site. Check it out.
  • #Archerus IRC channel on – GREAT DK community.

You also might find the rest of MMO Melting Pot interesting – we scour the blogosphere daily looking for the most interesting discussions and posts about WoW and other MMOs and deliver them straight to you, all in one place, right here. See what’s on the Pot today!

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Other Patch 4.3 Quick Start Class Guides




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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

jacob July 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm

while dual weilding in frost, am i using unholy presence? if so why put points into imp frost presence?


Donnie March 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Yes, you will be dpsing in unholy presence. You want to put points into improved frost presence for the rune regeneration you retain while in unholy.


Hugh Hancock July 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Yes, you are in Unholy as Frost spec except in very specific circumstances – see above.

Why Imp. Frost Spec? Because it also improves Unholy presence :)


Faspitch August 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm

not only that, but if you’re spec’d in imp FP you’ll regen RP faster and yes it improves your unholy presence@jacob -


Bjart October 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I keep doing more dps in Frost then unholy on dummy, and all other frost dk’s in unholy presence i meet, even though they are better geared :x


Nox November 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm

How haste need it? I have reforge all on haste after cap Expertise and Hit, mastery for Haste… i don’t think is a good choise.


Hugh Hancock November 21, 2011 at 7:11 pm

@Nox – Theorycraft says that Haste is – narrowly, in most cases – preferable to Mastery for Frost DKs. Quoting EJ:

“More haste means more Killing Machine procs and Runic Power gains from Might of the Frozen Wastes for 2H. “


Rades November 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Nice summary, Hugh. For DW spec, if you’re not taking Endless Winter, I’d put those 2 points into Icy Reach instead – being able to Howling Blast targets a bit faster, or from farther back, is very useful. It lets us fill a quasi semi-ranged role on certain fights, and gets us back into the action faster on fights where we have to break off from the boss to go do other things for a while.


Håvard December 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

me to mate… using unholy prec is bs. Frost prec does better overall dps in all occasions without short nuke fights


jess December 31, 2011 at 8:30 pm

i use frost pres on my dw frost dk. this dk is my alt while my main is an arc mage and in my main raid group we have 2 dw frost dks who both use unholy pres. one of them does amazing and he other pulls alot less than my alt dk. i think which pres u use depends alot on where ur haste/mastery are at. you need to figure out which one works for you with ur statz to max ur dps


Hugh Hancock January 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

@jess – It’s certainly possible to do decent DPS in Frost Presence. However, to quote the EJ guide, “a mastery heavy Frost Presence build is still a viable option for DW but is behind Unholy Presence.”

If you have solid figures to prove otherwise, I’d recommend posting on EJ about them – if the EJ theorycrafters accept your logic, I’ll be happy to change the guide subsequently!


galapogosian February 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Why Glyph of Dark Succor if you mention it nowhere in our priority lists?


Hugh Hancock February 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Mostly for two reasons: 1) It can add a bit of survivability (and you should definitely be popping Death Strike if you’re in danger of dying), and 2) The choices for Frost Major Glyph are, shall we say, not overwhelmingly awesome.


Jack February 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

re frost dps being superior in unholy pres—blame blizzard for obfuscating what could and should be an elegant , straight-up deal—
but, this is their modus operandi—they paint themselves into illogical corners, then warp rationality to stumble out…alas they leave too many chaotic footprints across the floor and thus are forced to repaint and repaint and repaint, ad infinitum…
too much rockin’ the ganga , most likely.


Ronel April 10, 2012 at 11:45 am

The talent builds doesn’t appear, so doesn’t have the right links? :)


Frank August 13, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Love the guides!
Are you going to make any for MoP?


Hugh Hancock August 14, 2012 at 12:06 am

Yep, look for them in the week of release for both Patch 5.0 and MoP!


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