Death Knight Leveling: 55-75 Frost DPS

14 Dec

I’d like to tell you that leveling up as a Frost Death Knight is a hard thing to do, but then I would be lying. You see, Frost Death Knights have this thing called a God Complex where they think they can kill whoever they want to without harm or repercussion to themselves, all the loot belongs to them, their DPS is through the roof putting everyone else to shame, and so on. The bad news is, occasionally that will come back to bite you in the butt and score you a trip to the spirit healer. The good news is, that whole God Complex thing started because the majority of it is actually true.

Enough with the intro, let’s take a look at how to go about leveling and playing a Frost Death Knight.

Playing a Frost Death Knight
The Frost DK is a powerhouse of AoE burst damage. From the time you pick up your first sword and choose your spec, you’re going to be destroying everything that gets in your way. Your playstyle will evolve a bit as you gain more and more levels, but the power that you hold in your AoE means you will be able to go through quests at incredible speed, and in areas where mobs are close enough together you can kill enough of them in a short enough amount of time that you can earn more experience from that than you can questing. With the right selection of talents and glyphs you will also be able to take on groups of mobs that are higher level than you and still end the fight at, or close to, full health.

Now, just because your AoE damage is so fantastic doesn’t mean that you can’t also deal out some serious pain against single mobs. You also have a chance to proc guaranteed critical hits from two of your hardest hitting abilities, and those procs are incredibly frequent. We’ll get into rotations for AoE and solo a bit further down in the article, but first let’s get a little bit better understanding of how the Death Knight class actually works.


  • Frost Presence (55): Strengthens you with the presence of Frost, increasing Runic Power generation by 20%, and reducing the duration of effects that remove control of your character by 20%.
  • Blood Presence (57): You assume the presence of Blood, increasing Stamina by 25% and base armor by 55%, and reducing damage taken by 10%. Threat generation is also significantly increased.
  • Unholy Presence (70): You are infused with unholy fury, increasing attack speed and rune regeneration by 10%, and movement speed by 15%.

Death Knights have three Presences to choose from, and can have only one active at any given time. You’ll start off with only Frost Presence, and after a few levels you’ll add Blood Presence. Frost is a DPS stance, where Blood is for tanking. At level 70 you’ll get access to the last one, Unholy which is another DPS stance.

Blood Presence is one you should typically ignore unless you’re in a group situation and the tank dies. With your AoE capabilities, you can lay down some serious threat. Blood also has some benefit in PvP situations, and if you’re fighting hard hitting mobs then you might want to consider it as well. In my journey to level 75 (I’m currently 81) I’ve been in Blood Presence for a grand total of about 5 minutes, and even then only because I was carrying a flag in WSG.

When you get to end game content, you will want to run Frost Presence at all times as that’s simply the best method of you increasing your DPS. However, while you’re leveling you may find that Unholy is more beneficial for allowing your Runes to come off of cooldown faster because you can front-load your DPS so much with Howling Blast and Blood Boil that you don’t need to bother with other spells. So as far as leveling is concerned, I suggest you try out both Frost and Unholy and use the one you feel benefits you more. Personally, I tend to lean more towards Unholy for leveling, but I’m an AoE grinding fanatic so it suits my playstyle better.

Resource System: Runes and Runic Power
Death Knights operate on a dual-resource system, where using one builds up the other. They aren’t a fully integrated pair of resources though, as using the second does not restore the first, but it’s important to know what they are and how they work so we’ll take a look at them in a little more detail here.

Runes are your first, and primary resource. You have 2 Blood Runes, 2 Frost Runes, and 2 Unholy Runes as a Death Knight. Your spells all have certain requirements to cast them, with most costing 1 of a particular type of rune, and some requiring multiple runes but usually of different types as opposed to say, 2 Frost, it will require 1 Frost and 1 Unholy. Now, as Frost your Blood Runes are converted into what are called Death Runes which are basically wildcard runes that count as any type of Rune. So if you wanted to cast four spells in a row that cost 1 Frost Rune, then you could do so because your Death Runes count as Frost (and Blood, and Unholy).

When you use a rune it switches from being an Active rune to a Regenerating rune, meaning that it’s currently unavailable, but once it’s finished regenerating you’ll be able use it again. If you use up the other rune of that same type before the first rune is finished regenerating, then the newly-used rune goes into a state of Depletion, which means it’s been completely consumed and will not begin the regeneration stage until the first rune goes from regen to active.

I know that’s going to be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the DK class yet, so let’s look at an example: You start the fight with your runes at 2Death/2Frost/2Unholy all Active. You pull with Howling Blast (1F) and follow it with a Plague Strike (1U). This means you’ll have 2 Active Death runes because you haven’t used either, 1 Active Frost and 1 Regenerating Frost because you’ve used only 1, and 1 Active and 1 Regenerating Unholy because you’ve used only one of those as well. If you then cast Howling Blast (1F) and Blood Boil (1D) then your runes will be: 1 Active and 1 Regenerating Death because Blood Boil takes 1Blood which you don’t have so it uses Death, 1 Regenerating and 1 Depleted Frost because you’ve used both, and 1 Active and 1 Regenerating Unholy.

The Regeneration process takes 10 seconds by default, but your Haste increases the speed of regeneration, as does Unholy Presence (10%, so basically 1 second off). So once a rune is used and starts to regen there will be a 10 second count before it becomes active again, and if you use the other rune of that same type before the regeneration is finished, then the second rune stays in depleted status until the first regen is finished. There are all kinds of addons that you can use to monitor runes if you struggle with them. Unlike Mana, being in or out of combat has no effect on how quickly your runes regenerate.

One thing to note about Death Runes is that they are consumed only if you do not otherwise have an active rune of the necessary type available. That means, if you cast Howling Blast and you have a Frost Rune available, it’s going to consume the Frost Rune even if you have both Death Runes available. it always prioritizes the actual rune required to cast the spell first, and then uses Death Runes only if all of the others have already been consumed.

Runic Power is the second resource, and you build it by using Runes. Any time you use a rune, you gain 10 Runic Power, pretty simple. There are some abilities that generate Runic Power without costing any runes, such as Horn of Winter, and there are other abilities that grant you additional Runic Power beyond just 10. You start with 0 by default, and you build it up to a maximum of 100 as you spend your runes or cast the other abilities which grant Runic Power.

Also, if you decide to use Frost Presence, you’ll generate 10% extra Runic Power. Not that that’s a whole lot, really, but it certainly adds up over time.

As Frost, you’ll spend the vast majority of your Runic Power on Frost Strike as it’s one of your primary single-target DPS attacks. You might spend a bit in Death Coil as well, but unless you pick the talents and/or glyphs that allow you to use Death Coil for healing you probably won’t have much use for that spell beyond finishing off mobs that run away from you when they have only a sliver of health left.


  • Frost Fever: A disease dealing Frost damage every 3 seconds for 30 seconds. Caused by Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Chains of Ice, or other spells.
  • Blood Plague: A disease dealing Shadow damage every 3 seconds for 30 seconds. Caused by Plague Strike and other abilities.

For the most part, the majority of your damage is going to be dealt directly rather than over-time, but diseases are a key part of your DPS not because of the damage that they do themselves, but because of how your other spells interact with them. For example, Obliterate is a single-target attack that deals massive damage on its own, but it gets a 12.5% damage increase for each of your active diseases on the target, and Blood Boil is an AoE attack that deals 50% extra damage to targets that have either of your diseases on them. As you begin to progress towards end game and find more mobs that can survive beyond your initial burst damage, disease damage will play a larger role in your overall DPS. From 55-75 though, you will more often than not kill your targets before your diseases manage to deal even half of their total damage.

Runeforging is a unique class ability that allows you to basically enchant your weapon. A Runeforging counts as an enchant, in fact, so it’s important to know what these do so that you can decide whether you want to utilize a runeforge or an enchant. Applying a runeforge to a weapon requires you to be near a rune forge, so you will need to either use a Death Gate to return to Ebon Hold to apply it, use the one in north-west Ice Crown, or find one of the few others scattered around the world now. Not that it’s a big deal since you have access to Death Gate, it’s just something to be aware of.

  • Rune of Cinderglacier (55): Affixes your rune weapon with a rune that has a chance to increase the damage by 20% for your next 2 attacks that deal Frost or Shadow damage.
  • Rune of Razorice (55): Affixes your weapon with a rune that causes 2% extra weapon damage as Frost damage and increases enemies’ vulnerability to your Frost attacks.
  • Rune of Spellbreaking (57): Affixes your one-handed rune weapon with a rune that deflects 2% of all spell damage and reduces the duration of Silence effects by 50% (not cumulative with additional Silence duration reduction).
  • Rune of Spellshattering (57): Affixes your two-handed rune weapon with a rune that deflects 4% of all spell damage and reduces the duration of Silence effects by 50%.
  • Rune of Lichbane (60): Affixes your rune weapon with a rune that adds 2% extra weapon damage as Fire damage or 4% versus Undead targets.
  • Rune of Swordbreaking (63): Affixes your one-handed rune weapon with a rune that increases Parry chance by 2% and reduces the duration of Disarm effects by 50%.
  • Rune of Swordshattering (63):Affixes your two-handed rune weapon with a rune that increases Parry chance by 4% and reduces the duration of Disarm effects by 50%.
  • Rune of the Fallen Crusader (70): Affixes your rune weapon with a rune that has a chance to heal you for 3% and increase total Strength by 15% for 15 seconds.
  • Rune of Nerubian Carapace (72): Affixes your one-handed rune weapon with a rune that increases Armor by 2% and total Stamina by 1%.
  • Rune of Stoneskin Gargoyle (72): Affixes your two-handed rune weapon with a rune that increases Armor by 4% and total Stamina by 2%.

These are all of the runeforgings that currently exist in the game, and you’ll have access to all of them within the scope of this guide. If you’re going to wield a two-handed weapon, then you want Rune of the Fallen Champion. If you are going to dual wield instead, then you want Razorice on your main-hand weapon, and Rune of the Fallen Champion on your off-hand.

Until you get to level 80 and unlock your Mastery perk, there’s not much benefit at all to using two weapons instead of one, so I suggest you stick to using a two-hander until you reach level 80 and then figure out which you prefer more.

Important Spells & Abilities
All numbers below are taken from Wowhead’s database, and those with a level slider were set to 75, the max for this specific guide. Numbers in parenthesis are the level at which you gain access to the spell or ability.

Since DK’s start at level 55, they have a lot of spells dumped on them in a short amount of time, so these lists of spells are going to be long even though we’re only looking at a 20 level spread. So sit back, enjoy the ride, and prepare for information overload.

Attack Spells for Levels 55-75

  • Icy Touch (55): Chills the target for Frost damage and infects them with Frost Fever, a disease that deals periodic Frost damage for 30 seconds.
  • Plague Strike (55): A vicious strike that deals 100% weapon damage plus 309 and infects the target with Blood Plague, a disease dealing Shadow damage over time.
  • Frost Strike (spec): Instantly strike the enemy, causing 105% weapon damage as Frost damage.
  • Howling Blast (spec): Blast the target with a frigid wind, dealing Frost damage to that foe, and Frost damage to all other enemies within 10 yards, infecting all targets with Frost Fever.
  • Death Coil (55): Fire a blast of unholy energy, causing Shadow damage to an enemy target or healing damage on a friendly Undead target.
  • Obliterate (61): A brutal instant attack that deals 230% weapon damage. Total damage is increased by 12.5% for each of your diseases on the target.
  • Death Strike (56): Focuses dark power into a strike that deals 185% weapon damage plus 331 to an enemy and heals you for 20% of the damage you have sustained from non-player sources during the preceding 5 seconds (minimum of at least 7% of your maximum health). This attack cannot be parried.
  • Blood Boil (58): Boils the blood of all enemies within 10 yards, dealing 2304 to 2816 Shadow damage. Deals 50% additional damage to targets infected with Blood Plague or Frost Fever.
  • Death and Decay (60): Corrupts the ground targeted by the Death Knight, causing Shadow damage every second to targets that remain in the area for 10 seconds.

Icy Touch is the typical method for Death Knights to apply their Frost Fever disease. However, as Frost, you have access to Howling Blast which does the exact same thing but deals even more damage and deals its damage to all targets in an area. As such, you won’t be casting Icy Touch as Frost because it has the exact same cost as Howling Blast and is inferior in almost every way.

Plague Strike is your method of applying the Blood Plague disease, and until you get a better method around level 80, you’ll be using this spell a lot to apply that disease and beef up your other attacks. Frost Strike is your primary Runic Power dump, it’s single target only but since there’s no AoE spell that uses Runic Power it doesn’t really matter. The spell does good damage, and you’ll get a passive proc pretty early on that will guarantee this baby crits when you use it so it’s a great skill.

Obliterate is your hardest hitting single-target ability, and at level 70 it will be your ticket to free Howling Blast casts. Death Coil won’t be used very often unless you’re fighting a lot of caster mobs or need to stay away from a boss’s big attack or something. You can take talents and glyphs that turn this into a healing spell, but whether or not you use those is up to you.

Death Strike is already a pretty decent attack on it’s own because it can heal you, but when you combine it with a glyph (discussed near the end of this article) you’ll be able to cast this one for free every time you kill something which will make you an incredibly durable and efficient killing machine. Blood Boil is your second source of AoE damage, and it actually hits even harder than Howling Blast does. It is truly a fantastic AoE attack, and it packs one heck of a punch even at level 55.

Death and Decay is last on the list, and it deals some pretty solid damage. It does come with a 30 second cooldown which means you won’t be using it for every fight unless you’re taking breaks in between to let it cooldown. But, if you’re fighting things in a dungeon particularly since health pools will be larger, then you want to cast this as often as it comes off of cooldown. In terms of AoE, there’s not much else you’re going to use Unholy runes on once your diseases are established, so you might as well get some more AoE damage out of it.

Buffs & Procs for Levels 55-75
Note, this list does not include Presences, which were discussed in the Playing a DK section up above.

  • Blood of the North (spec): Permanently transforms your Blood Runes into Death Runes. Death Runes count as a Blood, Frost, or Unholy Rune.
  • Icy Talons (spec): Your melee attack speed is increased by 20%.
  • Plate Specialization: Increases your Strength by 5% while wearing only Plate armor.
  • Killing Machine (63): Your autoattacks have a chance to grant a 100% critical strike bonus to your next Obliterate or Frost Strike.
  • Improved Frost Presence (65): While in Frost Presence, your Frost Strike ability costs 15 less Runic Power.
  • Brittle Bones (66): Your Frost Fever also applies the Physical Vulnerability effect (target takes 4% additional physical damage).
  • Pillar of Frost (68): Calls upon the power of Frost to increase your Strength by 20%. Icy crystals hang heavy upon the DK’s body, providing immunity against external movement such as knockbacks. Lasts 20 seconds.
  • Rime (70): Your Obliterate has a 45% chance to cause your next Howling Blast or Icy Touch to consume no runes.
  • Might of the Frozen Wastes (74): When wielding a tow-handed weapon, your Obliterate deals 40% more damage, and all melee attacks deal an additional 10% damage.
  • Threat of Thassarian (74): When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, and Frost Strikes also deal damage with your off-hand weapon, and your Frost Strike damage is increased by 40%.

Most of this list is very self explanatory, so I won’t bother talking about everything.

Killing Machine is your ticket to free crits when you cast Obliterate or Frost Strike. You’ll typically want to use these on Obliterate if you have the Runes available to cast it, but if you don’t have the runes then go ahead and spend it on Frost Strike. After you hit level 80 your weapon choice will determine whether or not Frost Strike is better than Obliterate of Killing Machine procs, but we’ll get into that in the next guide. Improved Frost Presence reducing the Runic Power cost of Frost Strike means you can deal a lot more damage to a single target than if you were in Unholy Presence. This is why I suggest Unholy Presence for AoE situations and Frost Presence for boss fights.

Pillar of Frost is a buff that you definitely want to be familiar with. Immunity to knockbacks isn’t that big of a deal in the PvE world, but you might want to keep that in mind if you enjoy PvP. The real benefit is from the 20% Strength buff, and the fact that it only has a 1 minute cooldown so you can use it quite often.

When you get access to Rime, you finally get a reason to consider changing up your playstyle a bit. Obliterate costs 2 Runes to cast, and it hits only one target which isn’t always ideal when you’re facing multiple mobs at once. However, Rime gives you a chance for Obliterate to proc a Rune-free Howling Blast cast, which means you can get even more AoE damage thrown in there. Obliterate is already a great spell that deals powerful damage, but this just gives you a little bonus incentive to cast it, regardless of your situation.

At level 74 you get both Might of the Frozen Wastes and Threat of Thassarian. The first gives you a 40% damage increase to Obliterate along with a 10% damage increase to melee attacks in general if you’re wielding a two-handed weapon, which is why wielding a two-handed weapon prioritizes Obliterate for Killing Machine procs. The second increases the damage of your melee attacks by adding damage from your off-hand weapon as well, and it also boosts the damage of Frost Strike by 40% when you’re dual-wielding, and that’s why you prioritize Frost Strike for Killing Machine procs when you’re dual wielding instead.

Utility Spells for Levels 55-75

  • Death Grip (55): Harness the unholy energy that surrounds and binds all matter, drawing the target toward the Death Knight and forcing the enemy to attack the Death Knight for 3 seconds.
  • Death Gate (58*): Opens a gate which the Death Knight can use to return to Ebon Hold.
  • Pestilence (56): Spreads existing Blood Plague and Frost Fever infections from your target to all other enemies within 10 yards.
  • Raise Dead (56): Raises a ghoul to fight by your side. You can have a maximum of one ghoul at a time. Lasts 1 minute.
  • Mind Freeze (57): Smash the target’s mind with cold, interrupting spellcasting and preventing any spell in that school from being cast for 4 seconds.
  • Chains of Ice (58): Shackles the target with frozen chains, reducing movement speed by 60% for 8 seconds. Also infects the target with Frost Fever.
  • Strangulate (58): Shadowy tendrils constrict the enemy’s throat, silencing them for 5 seconds. Non-player victim spellcasting is also interrupted for 3 seconds.
  • Path of Frost (61): Your freezing aura creates ice beneath your feet, allowing party or raid members within 50 yards to walk on water for 10 minutes. Works while mounted, but being attacked or receiving damage will cancel the effect.
  • Icebound Fortitude (62): The Death Knight freezes his blood to become immune to stun effects and reduce all damage taken by 20% for 12 seconds.
  • Horn of Winter (65): The Death Knight blows the Horn of Winter, which generates 10 Runic Power and increases attack power of all party and raid members within 100 yards by 10%. Lasts 5 minutes.
  • Anti-Magic Shell (68): Surrounds the Death Knight in an Anti-Magic Shell, absorbing 75% of damage dealt by harmful spells (up to a max of 50% of the DK’s health) and preventing application of harmful magical effects. Damage absorbed generates Runic Power. Lasts 5 seconds.
  • Control Undead (69): Dominates the target undead creature, forcing it to do your bidding. While controlled, the time between the undead minion’s attacks is increased by 30% and its casting speed is slowed by 20%. Lasts up to 5 minutes.
  • Raise Ally (72): Pours dark energy into the dead target, reuniting spirit and body to allow the target to reenter battle with 60% health and 20% mana.
  • Empower Rune Weapon (75): Empower your rune weapon, immediately activating all your runes and generating 25 Runic Power.

I’ve gone ahead and listed all of the utility spells you get in this level range, but I’m only going to discuss the ones that are particularly important.

Death Grip is important because you’re all about dealing damage to things, right? Well, the best way to deal damage to things is to make sure they’re close enough to actually get hit! With this spell you can pull an enemy to you, which means no more pesky caster mobs nuking your face from a distance. It’s also good in dungeons for peeling mobs off of your healer, or in PvP for all sorts of things. Death Gate mostly gets mentioned because that’s your easiest way to access a Runeforge when you get a new weapon and need to enchant it.

Pestilence is how you spread diseases from one target to every other target within range. Personally, I use a Tier 1 talent that adds Pestilence’s ability to my Blood Boil which means I can spread my diseases while also dealing AoE damage so I’m not “wasting” runes on casting this when I can do the exact same thing and also kick the crap out of things at the same time. Raise Dead gives you a ghoul minion for 1 minute which can help you with DPS, but is most useful if you invest in the Death Pact talent which lets you drain 50% of your ghoul’s life to heal yourself for 50% of your maximum health. He lasts for 1 minute and it has a 2 minute cooldown, so you might as well pull this little bugger out whenever you get the chance for extra damage or just to have things beat on something other than you for a minute.

Mind Freeze is your melee-range interrupt/silence, and Strangulate is your ranged interrupt/silence. Chains of Ice will rarely be useful in PvE, it’s primarily a PvP spell in my opinion. Path of Frost allows you to walk on water, which is great for fishing. You can also use a glyph that reduces your fall damage while this spell is active.

Icebound Fortitude reduces the damage you take by 20% for 12 seconds, so it’s a nice survival tool and can come in pretty handy on large AoE pulls. Anti-Magic Shell is another defensive cooldown, this one reducing spell damage you take by 75% for 5 seconds or until it has absorbed 50% of your max health worth of damage, whichever comes first.

Horn of Winter is an Attack Power buff that lasts 5 minutes, and also gives you 10 Runic Power every time you cast it, which is nice since it doesn’t have a Rune cost. This is sort of your filler spell if you have nothing else to do in combat because your Runes are all regenerating and you don’t have enough Runic Power to cast Frost Strike. Raise Ally allows you to resurrect someone instantly, so you’ll want to be aware of it’s use if you plan to do much in dungeons or raiding.

Last but not least, Empower Rune Weapon allows you to instantly restore all of your runes to Active status, and grants you 25 Runic Power. This is a great DPS cooldown for both AoE and single-target situations. With this, I was able to easily pull groups of mobs in zones that were six levels higher than me and AoE them down before they killed me. It was great for farming herbs in Cataclysm zones when I was just barely half-way through Wrath content, and the experience really helped me get through Northrend which is the hardest place for me to level as I still have some burnout from that expansion.

Leveling a Frost Death Knight
Alright, so now that we know how the Death Knight class works and what spells we have available to us, let’s get into some rotations.

  • Single Target: Howling Blast (F), Plague Strike (U), Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Obliterate (DD), [Howling Blast if Rime procs], Frost Strike x3, Horn of Winter, Frost Strike
  • Multi-Target: Howling Blast (F), Plague Strike (U), Blood Boil x2 (D,D), Howling Blast (F) or Obliterate (FU), [Howling Blast if Obliterate procs Rime), Frost Strike x3, Horn of Winter, Frost Strike

Single Target If you’re killing single targets as Frost, then you want to keep throwing out your big hits. Start of with your diseases, and then start in on the big blows. Obliterate is your biggest damage dealer right now, so focus on that. If Rime procs, make sure you throw those out there since they’re free damage, but otherwise you want to use Obliterate as much as possible, keep diseases up if you’re fighting a boss but while questing nothing should live longer than your disease duration anyway. When Killing Machine procs you want to prioritize Obliterate, but Frost Strike is fine if your runes are all regenerating. It’s better to use a proc on weaker ability for good results, than to overwrite a proc and miss using it completely.

Personally, I avoid killing single mobs whenever possible because it’s just not worth my time. I can kill six mobs just as fast as I can kill one, so if there’s any possibility at all that I can kill things in multiples then that’s how I prefer to do it. That’s just me, it’s not something that’s written in stone. If you like them one at a time, then more (frost) power to you.

Multi-Target is my preferred method of killing, questing, leveling, farming, you name it. Out in the world, almost nothing will be able to stand up to this rotation. I frequently killed mobs that were 4-7 levels higher than me in groups of 4-10. Blood Boil in particular hits like a freaking truck, and Howling Blast is nothing to laugh at either (well, you’ll be laughing pretty hard, but those on the receiving end won’t). The key to being able to do this with mobs that are higher level is either using Dark Pact, which lets you drain 50% of your Ghoul’s health to heal you for 50% of your max health, or using the Glyph of Dark Succor which gives you a free cast of Death Strike every time you kill something that gives you experience. With some types of mobs you won’t need to heal even if they are higher level than you, but others can deal a significant amount of damage so you’ll want to either use your defensive cooldowns or make use of healing talents and abilities.

If you’re doing Multi-target in a dungeon, then I suggest you use this rotation to start the fight, and then switch to Obliterate for your Frost and Unholy runes and Blood Boil for your Death runes. Obliterate will give you a chance to proc free Howling Blast casts, and Blood Boil is your big hitter, so that will be your best method of spending your runes from that point on in the fight.

Talent Points

  • Roiling Blood: Your Blood Boil now also triggers Pestilence if it strikes a diseased target.
  • Lichborne: Draw upon unholy energy to become undead for 10 seconds. While undead, you are immune to Charm, Fear, and Sleep effects, and Death Coil will heal you.
  • Death’s Advance: You passively move 10% faster, and movement-impariing effects may not reduce you below 70% of normal movement speed. When activated, you gain 30% movement speed and may not be slowed below 100% of normal movement speed for 6 seconds.
  • Death Pact: Drain vitality from an undead minion, healing the Death Knight for 50% for his maximum health and causing the minion ot suffer damage equal to 50% of its maximum health.
  • Blood Tap: Each damaging Death Coil, Frost Strike, or Rune Strike generates 2 Blood Charges, up to a maximum of 12 charges. Blood Tap consumes 5 Blood Charges to activate a random fully-depleted rune as a Death Rune.

I use Roiling Blood because if I’m going to spend a Blood (Death) rune to spread my diseases, then I would much rather do it while also dealing significant damage. Pestilence by itself does no damage, it just spreads the diseases, but this will cause Blood Boil to spread disease on top of dealing its damage. For leveling, this is one of the best talents you get in my opinion. Lichborne is my talent of choice because I do PvP quite a bit and find it useful for the CC breaking functionality, but also because you can use it in combination with Deal Coil (see macro section below) to heal yourself with your Runic Power if you find you’re in need of additional healing.

Death’s Advance is sort of a quality of life talent, it increases your speed by 10% at all times and can be activated for 6 seconds of 30% speed. People might not realize it, or perhaps they just take it for granted, but increasing your movement speed actually has a significant impact on how fast your character actually levels. You may also consider using Asphyxiate instead. It’s good in PvP because it’s a ranged stun, but it’s also really good in PvE for dealing some instant damage and for a touch of survivability if you’ve pulled just a few too many mobs. I used it for most of my leveling, switching back and forth with Death’s Advance and I enjoy using both of them.

Death Pact is a fantastic healing talent, allowing you to heal 50% of your maximum health for the low low price just 50% of your Ghoul’s hit points. I don’t need to use my Ghoul in most combat situations, so he instead turns into a (re)living healing potion. If I start to get low enough that I’m uncomfortable, I just summon the ghoul and immediately hit Death Pact to heal myself for half of my hit points. Blood Tap is probably the best method of rune regeneration you can get. Some people prefer the passive regeneration talents instead of active like this one, but this gives you more control of the situation and ensures that you get the runes you need when you need them instead of just being random. I typically use Blood Tap for the sake of getting another Blood Boil cast in heavy AoE situations, or to get more Obliterate casts during boss fights.


Major Glyphs

  • Glyph of Dark Succor: When you kill an enemy that yields experience or honor, while in Frost or Unholy Presence, your next Death Strike within 15 seconds is free and will restore at least 20% of your maximum health.
  • Glyph of Pestilence: Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
  • Glyph of Icebound Fortitude: Reduces the cooldown of your Icebound Fortitude by 50%, but also reduces its duration by 75%.

The first two glyphs are the ones that I really suggest, with the third being the best one I can think of for the leveling process. Dark Succor is the most important for leveling because that’s how you’re going to destroy everything around you and end the fight with full health while you’re at it. In an AoE situation, after you unleash your Blood Boils and Howling Blasts you should just be a Frost Strike or two away from killing anything that’s there, and then you can start spamming Death Strike to finish everything off and heal yourself while you’re at it. It’s an incredibly powerful healing tool while you level.

Pestilence is just to give us a better radius on spreading our diseases, and since Blood Boil deals 50% extra damage to targets that have an active disease on them, you want to make sure you get those diseases on as many targets as possible. Icebound Fortitude is mostly if you’re a crazy sucker like me and enjoy pushing your limits either by fighting higher level mobs or by fighting large groups of mobs. You’ll get better survivability overall from being able to use Icebound Fortitude more frequently rather than for longer periods of time. Since you’re going to kill things so quickly outside of dungeons anyway, the normal duration of the spell is going to be mostly wasted making it better to reduce the cooldown.

Other glyphs you may want to consider include: Anti-Magic Shell if you’re into PvP while you level, Shifting Presences if you find yourself changing frequently, and Death Coil if you often run in groups or do LFG a lot and want to be able to put your Runic Power to a defensive use rather than offense. Death Knights have some pretty decent glyphs to choose from, but as far as Frost-specific glyphs go there’s not really anything that’s super appealing except for Dark Succor and even that is only good while leveling.

Minor Glyphs

None of these are all that critical, so you can really use any glyphs you want. I use Path of Frost because I have a tendency to dive-bomb my targets from the sky because it makes me feel cool. Tranquil Grip is the closest you’ll come to a truly useful glyph as it removes the taunt from Death Grip. It’s a glyph you’ll likely use at end game, so you might as well get it now.

The other minor glyphs are either cosmetic or have an effect that really makes no difference at all. I use Death Gate personally, just because I often farm things in the area of Ebon Hold, so I can get there in half the time. Most players though, probably won’t take enough trips through the Death Gate to make this glyph worth using or worth making/paying for in the first place.

Gearing Up Your Frost Death Knight
Here are the stats that you’re looking for on your gear.

Strength > Hit = Expertise > Haste > Crit

Strength is the source of all your damage, so that’s the top. Hit and Expertise determine whether or not your attacks hit their target, so those are up next. Haste isn’t a huge deal, but it does impact disease damage. The problem with Haste is that you’ll kill everything except for dungeon bosses so fast that it won’t seem to have much impact at all. Crit is low on the list because we have Killing Machine which guarantees that we crit often enough that there’s not much point in raising our random chance to crit.

I don’t have much for you in the way of macros for the Death Knight as most of their spells are pretty straight forward.

/cast Lichborne
/cast [@player] Death Coil
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This macro is one that only works if you’ve taken the Lichborne talent. When you cast Lichborne you become Undead which makes you immune to some crowd control effects which is why it’s often considered more of a PvP talent. However, by becoming undead you also become eligible to be healed by Death Coil as it deals damage to enemies but heals undead allies. With this macro you can spam the key that you have it bound to and you will apply Lichborne to yourself to become undead and then start casting Death Coil on yourself every time you press it. This is a bit of an emergency button, though you could use it at any time to heal yourself even if it’s after the fight is over and you just don’t want to waste the time eating food or applying a bandage to heal yourself.



9 responses to “Death Knight Leveling: 55-75 Frost DPS

  1. Rades (@_Rades)

    December 14, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    Nice guide, Psyn! As always, love the artwork. :D

    Another macro that used to be more important is a Pillar of Frost/Raise Dead macro. You used to want to cast these together, but now it’s not necessary. However, it’s still handy, as you should generally be casting them both as much as possible.

    This macro is, of course, simply
    /cast Pillar of Frost
    /cast Raise Dead

    Also, I’m not sure if this is a glyph still? But the one that refreshes the cooldown on your Death Grip after you kill something that grants experience can be a nice perk while leveling. Kill something, immediately grip the next target, Dark Succor-Death Strike it to heal up, repeat!

    • Psynister

      December 20, 2012 at 9:10 AM

      I replied to you the day you left the comment, but apparently it didn’t go through. Sorry for the delay.

      The glyph still exists, but I don’t recall which one it is off hand. Right now you can Dark Succor critters and still get the health, so if I happen to need a heal after the fight that’s typically what I’ll do unless I’m ready to jump right into another fight.

      I’m in the really bad habit of saving my DPS cooldowns “just in case” I stumple onto a rare spawn or something that might take that extra bit of damage to bring them down. I don’t use it nearly as often as I should.

  2. Nobody

    December 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    ahhhh, the death knight, one of my favorite things from wow. from the starter zone to dk-only dungeons in outland, there was never a dull moment.
    so, does blizzard try to put any spin on the dk storyline now that it’s 2 expansions later? i would think it would be slightly disorienting for someone awakened to arthas’ service to ride out into the post-cataclysm world and see pandas everywhere.

    • Psynister

      December 20, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      I’ve rolled so many since they were released that I don’t pay any attention to quest text anymore, but I can tell you that every quest you do is exactly the same. So unless they made no change other than wording in the text, then it’s all still the same.

  3. Steven Gallagher

    December 21, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Impressive guide. Thank you taking the time to go into such detail. As a fellow altoholic your making me want to start up another Death Knight. Shame on you! :)

    • Psynister

      December 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      The only shame would be if you didn’t roll that DK alt. ;)

  4. nostalgeek

    February 20, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Nice Frost guide as usual.
    I’m debating making a DK again since I haven’t touched them since the launch of WotLK but I’m unsure if I want to go Frost or Blood. I’ve never been a fan of Unholy plus I recently played a Necro in GW2 so I’d like something different. Also my other leveling toon is a Rogue so I’m not sure if I want to be more DPS-tank or TANK-dps.

    • Psynister

      February 20, 2013 at 11:31 PM

      Unholy used to be my favorite back in the day, but I haven’t touched the spec in a good while and it seems that’s normal for the playerbase.

      I’ve had a (howling) blast with with Frost and definitely recommend it. I really want to learn how to play Blood as well, but every time I do I see a chance where Frost would really cool so I switch my spec back then go right back to having too much fun as Frost. I’ll get around to trying it out before too long, though.

      • nostalgeek

        February 21, 2013 at 2:12 AM

        Haha, well we each have our preferences. If I end up trying Blood i’ll let you know how I feel.


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