Frost Death Knight Quick-Start Guide For WoW Patch 5.4 – Stats, talents and spec, glyphs, rotation, reforging and gems, and ability priorities

by on August 28, 2012

The chill of the grave is spreading across Azeroth. That’s right – in WoW’s Patch 5.4 and Mists of Pandaria, everywhere, the old patch is dying. So, if you’re confused by this brave new world, don’t worry. This Quick Start Guide will soon have your talent choices, glyphs, stats, reforging, gems, and MoP rotation sorted out – as a Frost Death Knight, you’ll feel just like you were at home in Northrend again!

Updated 17th September 2013 to World of Warcraft Patch 5.4

Frost Death Knight changes in WoW patch 5.4

Some rotation simplification

Frost “Rotation” and Priorities

Frost Death Knights can now choose to either Dual Wield or use a single two-handed weapon, with about equal effectiveness.

Single-target DPS as Frost

Two-Handed Weapon

  • Top Priority: Apply diseases if they aren’t on the target. Use Outbreak, or Howling Blast and Plague Strike, for this. Use Soul Reaper if target is below 35% health and it’s available.
  • Second Priority: If the Rime buff has activated, use Howling Blast. Use Obliterate if the Killing Machine buff is active on you or you won’t max out Runic Power by doing so.
  • Third Priority: Use Frost Strike.
  • Fifth Priority: Use Horn of Winter if all else fails.

Dual Wield

  • Top Priority: Use Frost Strike if the Killing Machine buff is active on you or you’re above 89 Runic Power. Use Howling Blast if both Death or both Frost runes are available. Use Soul Reaper if target is below 35% health and it’s available.
  • Second Priority: Apply diseases if they aren’t on the target. Use Outbreak, or Howling Blast and Plague Strike, for this. Otherwise, if the Rime buff has activated, use Howling Blast.
  • Third Priority: Use Obliterate if 2 Unholy runes are available.
  • Fourth Priority: Use Howling Blast if available. If not, use Frost Strike if you have 40+ Runic Power.
  • Fifth Priority: Use Horn of Winter if all else fails.

AOE DPS as Frost

  • Top Priority: Put diseases up on all targets, using Outbreak ideally, or Howling Blast and Plague Strike, then Pestilence to spread them.
  • Second Priority: Use Howling Blast. If not, use Death and Decay if both Unholy runes are available.
  • Third Priority: Use Frost Strike if you’re at maximum Runic Power. If not, Horn of Winter if nothing else is available.


  • Pillar of Frost and Raise Dead: Use as often as possible, ideally together.
  • Empower Rune Weapon Use when as few runes as possible are active, but otherwise as often as possible. Provides large DPS burst, so may be worth saving for burn phases.
  • Raise Dead – use it with other cooldowns.
  • Army Of The Dead: Use as often as – no, just kidding. Use before the start of a fight or during a phase transition – but be very sure that there’s nothing that your ghouls can taunt in any fight where you use it.
  • Anti-Magic Shell and Icebound Fortitude: our two big defensive cooldowns. Try to use them before you know heavy damage is coming in.
  • Raise Ally: Have this bound and ready to use, both in dungeons and if you’re one of a few combat-res capable people in a raid.


Make sure you’re in Frost presence (hurrah!). Make sure to cast Horn of Winter before a pull.

Frost Death Knight Talent Choices

5.4 talent choices are meant to be situational – but here’s a good standard build to get started with.

  • Tier 1: Plague Leech – note that you’ll need to use this just before diseases drop.
  • Tier 2: Purgatory
  • Tier 3: Death’s Advance
  • Tier 4: Death Pact – gives you a strong self-heal if you have a ghoul active.
  • Tier 5: Runic Empowerment
  • Tier 6: Desecrated Ground – gives you a CD to remove control effects.

Stats, reforging and gemming for Frost Death Knight

Strength, as always, is our best stat, followed by Hit and Expertise to cap (7.5% or 2550 points). Secondary stats differ: if you’re dual-wielding, it’s Mastery > Crit > Haste, whilst if you’re using a two-hander, it’s Crit > Mastery > Haste.

Reforging: Reforge for Hit and Expertise to cap first, then Mastery (DW) or Crit (2-H). Reforge from excess Hit and Expertise, then Haste.
Gems: DW: Go for Skillful gems in Red sockets, Sensei’s in blue sockets, and Fractured in Yellow sockets. 2-H: Go for Inscribed gems in Red sockets, Piercing in blue sockets, and Smooth in Yellow sockets.
Meta Gem: Reverberating meta gem.

Frost DK Glyphs

Frost DK glyphs are very situational, but these are three pretty good, very few downside options:

Major: Glyph of Icebound Fortitude, Glyph of Death Coil, and Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell.
Minor: Your choice!

Frost Death Knight enchants and item enhancements

You should almost always use a profession enhancement item if it provides appropriate stats instead of a general enchant.

  • Shoulder – Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
  • Back – Enchant Cloak – Accuracy or Enchant Cloak – Superior Critical Strike
  • Chest – Glorious Stats
  • Bracers – Enchant Bracers – Exceptional Strength
  • Gloves – Enchant Gloves – Super Strength
  • Belt – Living Steel Belt Buckle
  • Legs – Angerhide Leg Armor
  • Feet – Enchant Boots – Greater Precision or Enchant Boots – Greater Haste
  • 2H Weapon – Rune of the Fallen Crusader
  • Main Hand – Rune of Razorice
  • Off Hand – Rune of the Fallen Crusader


EJ and Icy Veins are now updated by the same person!

If you’ve found this article useful, please consider sharing it using the buttons below!

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: Archives

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyraèl September 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm

M8 i got only one question. your going Rune of the Fallen Crusader on both weapons?


Hugh Hancock September 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Nope, Razorice on MH / Fallen Crusader on OH.

Sorry that wasn’t clear – I’ve updated the guide to better explain that.

Thanks for the comment!


Rodrigo Fogagnolo September 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Sorry, but I disagree about talent Runic Empowerment! I think Runic Corruption is much better, because it’s a cumulative skill, so you can get like 10 seconds of really fast rune regeneration


Hugh Hancock September 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

In that case, you should take Runic Corruption and see how it works out for you.

Runic Empowerment currently sims out as the strongest choice, but the choice in Tier 5, to the best of my knowledge, is mostly governed by how you feel about RNG.

If you’re very comfortable with RNG and don’t want to have to worry about the Tier 5 ability, Runic Corruption is a strong choice. Likewise, if you want 100% reliability, Blood Tap is a good choice.


Nigel September 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

Wouldnt u want crit on your weapons and gear? if your DPS i have plenty of Crit on my frost and i hit top of DPS most times..

just a question wondering?


Hugh Hancock September 17, 2012 at 9:57 am

There’s no secondary stat that will reduce your DPS – Crit is still a lot better than nothing! However, reforging to Haste has been shown to give the best DPS increase of all the reforging options.


geriatric October 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm

ive played frost for a couple of years now and this guide is just fine, the only change i think that impacted frost is which pres to be in while dpsing. i have found frost pres to be far superior to unholy pres in the fact that it reduces the cost of your frost strikes tremendously, 15 rp is quite a bit since frost strike is 35 rp. this allows you to use 5 frost strikes if your rp capped instead of 2 if your in unholy pres. with the removal of talents like runic power mastery, and chill of the grave, along with the prime glyphs removal,has left many with no choice to do this (if you want to deal damage.) 2H burst is insane if you talent and use your abilities right, ive hit around 70k dps in just 463ilvl gear, but ive always been and will always be a DW kind of guy. RNG is always a big factor for DK’s and if youve played one long enough you know what i mean when i say “sitting on runes.”


Jackson October 12, 2012 at 5:42 am

I have been playing a DK for several years now especially as frost, but lately gear optimizing sites such as and keep telling me to re-gem my gear from strength to expertise and this goes counter to all logic on the subject up until this expansion. Do you ave any ideas as to why they would recommend that or are you as baffled as I am?


Hugh Hancock October 18, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Nope, baffled as to why anyone would recommend that.

Expertise is important, but nowhere near as crucial as Strength.


Mangkone October 17, 2012 at 8:20 am

I have read that crit is better for dw and mastery is better for 2hd. Can you give me an explantion?


Killsquad October 18, 2012 at 3:24 am

i think haste even for DW, but that’s my preference. i want my Runic regen to be massive, but that doesn’t mean you always have to reforge crit-haste


Hugh Hancock October 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Hmm – no, those aren’t the accurate stat weights, at least to my understanding.

Actually, it’s the other way around. Mastery is significantly better than Crit for DW, whilst Crit is slightly better than Mastery for 2-H – but there’s much less in it for 2-H than for DW.


Killsquad October 18, 2012 at 3:23 am

I have found that as 2h to not always use your killing machine buff with obliterate… lets say you have full RP and it procs.. with atleast 3-4 seconds before you could have an unholy and frost rune active… then go ahead and use FS. I could understand the argument that w/ DW you get many more procs and wasting one on a FS would limit your DPS, but in actuality it gives you a go to for even an aditional Rime activation… or Just using something other than HOW for the time in between. maybe i am losing 2k deeps… but i have been DW all through CATA(obviously) and found that i am more successful as 2h using this method… It’s very situational, though… like all Frost DPS.


mangkone October 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I am DW frost DK. I’ve reforged both ways and the damage was close, but mastery seems to be a little better. I was also acquiring new gear so hard to tell for sure.
I worded my question incorrectly, I read that for DW stat priority are of course hit, and exp cap 7.5, strength, haste>mastery>crit and 2hd sat priority are hit and exp cap 7.5, Strength, haste> crit>mastery. On this site crit and mastery are reversed for DW and 2hd. Also isn’t haste still best secondary stat for 2hd as well? I looked up a frost DW DK in a top guild and he is has even reforged some haste to mastery. I it is because he better geared, but he still has haste>mastery>crit. Do you still get the frost damage buff from mastery? Thanks for reply Killsquad.


Hugh Hancock October 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Aha – I think I may not have written the reforging guide very clearly!

I suggest you reforge FROM crit first if you’re DW – because Crit is by far your weakest stat, as you say.

For 2H, you should reforge from mastery first.

Thanks for pointing this out – I’m going to clarify a bit in the reforging section.


Mangkone October 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

Thank you for the quick respond Hugh, and keep up the great work you guy are one of my favorite sites.


Hugh Hancock October 19, 2012 at 10:11 am

Thanks very much!


Dèathlord January 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I have tried both DW and 2-handed, and find that for PVP DW is better, but for straight up DPS in raids 2-handed is much better. I also find that reforging crit to Mastery serves me better. I am a level 85 DK, and currently have an iLvl of 438, and find that very few out dps me :) Feel free to look me up on the armory, and provide feedback on any items that I may be missing to increase damage. Thanks!


Frentauk-TB February 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Still a great go to guide for a quick overview. I have mainly run Unholy as my main spec but this expansion I am really digging frost. The comment about gemming other stats over strength is what brought me here. I have been confused by that as well. I know this is an older post but I wanted to say thanks for your work here. This site is definitely going in my favorites!


forensic scientist colleges February 27, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to
be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider
worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people
could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more.


Xbones July 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Your website is very helpful. The info is presenting in a non-overwhelming way. Rotation seems to be a big part of WOW. I pick up the aspect of specing, gearing, and other set up well, but the rotation is hard sometimes. You make it easier.


Jeebz October 3, 2013 at 9:46 am

I think this is a load of shit to be honest,not having a go at you but Ive tested my own dps and overall damage done multiple times and I was doing way more dps and damage stacking haste than what I do with crit.

Im sticking with haste.


Alek January 2, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Hi! Im new to the death knight world, and I wondered if someone could please help me make some room on my action bar?! What I mean by that is that I’m overwhelmed with all the spells we have, and wondered what I actually use? I’m frost ATM.

Ty very much!


Patsy February 27, 2014 at 12:37 am

Hello! I am also new to the frost death knight, and I need help with the action bars. I am also overwhelmed by all the spells and have tried icyveins, all the more confusing to me. I would be so appreciative if someone could help me figure out what spells to use! I love WOW but it’s hard for me to understand when Frost Strike is mentioned at least 2-3 times in the same bar. Please!! Please!!
I am Frost and level 87 almost 88.
Thank you very much!! I’ll be watching my email!!!


google site gratuit June 9, 2014 at 9:32 pm

With off-line marketing, however, the chance continues to have to
go to the shop that provides red sure footwear she acknowledges by using an promoting over a paper or TV skilled.

It’s the positioning of your web-site during the Google
lookup outcomes that aren’t compensated provides. Use other traffic sources
besides Google, Yahoo and Bing3.

Reply August 28, 2014 at 7:04 am

Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing issues with
your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it.
Is there anybody having the same RSS issues?
Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond?



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: