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Thread: Frost DK DPS Guide

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    Cataclysm Frost Death Knight Guide

    I've been searching around the forums, and have yet to see a DPS guide for Frost DKs in Cataclysm. I have decided to create such a guide to better educate players who don't quite understand how to maximize their DPS as Frost.
    ----------------------------
    This guide will teach you how to maximize your DPS with your CURRENT gear. The idea is NOT to tell you "You need X iLvl to be good". Regardless of what your gear looks like, this guide will be beneficial.

    Glyphs & Spec
    Regardless of that class or spec you play, Glyphs play a major role on DPSing.
    Glyphs that a Frost DK would use are the following:
    Prime
    • Glyph of Frost Strike - Reduces the cost of Frost Strike by 8 Runic Power
    • Glyph of Obliterate - Increases the damage of your Obliterate ability by 20%
    • Glyph of Howling Blast - Your Howling Blast ability now infects your target with Frost Fever
    Major
    • Glyph of Hungering Cold (Situational) - Your Hungering Cold ability no longer costs Runic Power
    • Glyph of Dark Succor - Causes your Death Strike ability to always restore at least 15% of your maximum HP when used while in Frost or Unholy presence.
    Minor
    • Glyph of Horn of Winter - Increases the duration of Horn of Winter by 1 minute.
    • Glyph of Resilient Grip (Situational) -When your Death Grip ability fails because its target is immune, its cooldown is reset.
    • Glyph of Blood Tap - Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you

    I have found these specs to perform the best, however, yours doesn't have to be exact. Do as you please. This is simply an outline you can follow when specing into Frost.

    Duel Wielding

    Two-Hander


    Plate Armor & Item Stats
    As a Death Knight, you have a passive skill in your spell book called "Plate Specialization". This ability increases your primary base stat by 5% - in the case of a Frost DK, this will increase your Strength by 5%! In order for this passive ability to remain active, you must be wearing plate armor in EVERY armor slot. This passive ability is a "MUST HAVE" and can be learned at lvl 80 through the DK spell trainer.

    Now you're in the hunt for plate armor - fantastic! But those +113 intellect shoulders aren't going to do you much good. You're going to need plate armor with specific stats, such as Strength, Haste, Mastery, Crit, Hit Rating, and Expertise. But be careful, these stats have different levels of priority.
    From research and personal experience, the stat priority list goes like this:

    Strength > Hit (until 8%) > Expertise (Until mob dodge is 0%) > Haste > Mastery > Crit

    If you find any plate armor with these stats, then it's exactly what you're looking for! And remember, Strength is ALWAYS the number 1 priority stat!

    Reforging & Choosing your Items


    Reforging your items plays a huge role in your DPS. It prevents having too much of a certain stat - such as having too much hit or expertise if you're already at the cap. From research and personal experience, I have found this to be the best way to reforge:

    Hit (if over the cap) => Haste. If the item already has Haste, then do Hit => Mastery
    Expertise (if over the cap) => Haste. If the item already has Haste, then do Expertise => Mastery
    Mastery => Haste. If the item already has Haste, don't reforge it.
    Crit => Haste. If the item already has Haste, then do Crit => Mastery

    Remember that crit is the least desired stat and should always be reforged into something else if possible. After having a good idea about how a Frost DK should reforge, you'll find it easier to decide if a dropped item would be better or worse for you. Here's an example.
    Say you have a cloak with +112 Haste and +112 Crit, but you've reforged it so now it has +112 Haste, +67 Crit, and + 45 Mastery. You run a heroic and a cloak with +112 Haste and +112 Mastery drops - need it. Your current cloak already has Mastery on it, however, it also has Crit - which is an undesired stat. The new cloak also provides more Mastery than your reforged one, and thus doesn't require any reforging at all.

    Duel Wielding VS Two-Handers
    Duel wielding and two-hander DPS are in no way greatly superior to the other. In fact, the differences are very subtle - but they do indeed exist.
    Duel Wielding
    With the ability Nerves of Cold Steel, duel wielding requires less hit rating (but also slightly more expertise), and thus leaves room to reforge into other stats, such as haste or mastery. Also, your off-hand weapon's damage is increased by 25% for both auto-attacks and special attacks. However, your auto-attacks still have a chance to miss - even over the 8% marker. But don't let that scare you. Your auto-attack damage still plays a big role in your dps, and attacking with two weapons is still faster than a 2-H weapon, and thus gives you a better chance to proc Killing Machine. Reforging out of hit is indeed safe, stats from higher-end gear should put you at around 9.5%-10% hit - it's a dps increase, but not by a significant margin.
    Accompanied with Threat of Thassarian, your crits from Killing Machine hit harder than 2-H weapons, thus compensating for missing auto-attacks. Duel wielding and Improved Icy Talons are best friends. They love each other. They love each other even more if your weapons have a 2.60 speed or slower. The slow/slow weapons typically hit harder than faster ones, and your haste bonus makes them hit almost at the same rate as a fast weapon. You get the best of both worlds - power and speed.
    Two-Handed
    Using a 2-H weapon provides harder-hitting auto attacks compared to duel wielding. It also ensures that both special attacks and auto-attacks will never miss - assuming you're at 8% hit. The ability Might of the Frozen Wastes increases the damage of your auto-attacks by 12% - but keep in mind that the damage of your special attacks remains unchanged. This ability also has a 45% chance to generate 10 runic power, thus allowing you to use frost strike more often. However, a 2-H weapon is a lot slower than a 1-H weapon, and therefore your Killing Machine procs may not occur as often. And because Might of the Frozen Wastes only applies to auto-attacks, your crits won't hit as hard. But your ensured auto-attack hits compensate for the lower crit numbers. Wielding a 2-H weapon requires more hit rating, but less expertise. The increase in hit rating required doesn't leave much room to reforge into other, more beneficial stats.
    Remember, using a 2-H provides harder hitting auto-attacks, which never miss (if you're at 8% hit)! Those two facts compensate for any of the less attractive qualities of 2-H DPSing.
    ----------------
    People are misled into thinking that duel wielding results in better dps - however, most haven't even tried 2-H DPS, and if they have, they were trying to force the 2-H to act as duel wielding, or in other words, they didn't change their play-style to maximize their dps with a 2-H.
    If you can master either of these weapon types, and you know your rotation, the damage meters will show that the outcome is almost the same.

    Runeforging
    Duel Wielding
    Runeforging your weapons should be pretty simple. One weapon should be enchanted with Rune of Razorice, and the other with Rune of the Fallen Crusader. Although some might say that it doesn't matter which order you're wielding them, I say differently. Putting Rune of Razorice in your main-hand weapon provides more damage, simply because your main-hand weapon hits more often than your off-hand weapon, causing your enemies to constantly be vulnerable to frost attacks such as Frost Strike and Howling Blast.
    Rune of the Fallen Crusader is no less important however. When it procs, it provides 15% additional strength for 15 seconds and heals you for 3% of your maximum HP. This can be very useful when popping cooldowns at the same time.

    Two-Handed
    Your weapon should be forged with Rune of the Fallen Crusader, simply because it procs off of auto-attacks, which, with a 2-H weapon, never misses. This way, there is a better chance that your runeforged weapon will proc at more convenient times - such as blood lust or other cooldowns. However, you must consider that you only have one weapon, therefore losing the benefit of Rune of Razorice.

    Hit Rating & Expertise
    Some people are misled into thinking that hit rating and expertise are just semi-important stats - stats which can be somewhat ignored. This idea is false. These two stats are vital to max performance. I'll explain.
    An 8% hit rating means that all of your abilities (Frost Strike, Obliterate, and so on) will NEVER miss your target. Missing attacks can be severely detrimental to your dps. It may not seem important - but it is. Think of it this way:
    In 5 seconds, you can attack about 4 times, each attack landing 20k. Now lets say you miss one attack. During those 5 seconds, you've done 60k damage, when you should have done 80k damage. Now lets say you're fighting a boss and the fight lasts 2 minutes. Theoretically, missing 1/4 attacks.
    At the hit cap, you'd attack 96 times, and hit every time. Putting you at 1,920k damage. Not hit capped however, you would have done only 1,440k damage. That's a 480k difference!

    However, there are other ways your attacks may not land on the target - this is where Expertise comes into play. Mobs in the game can dodge and parry attacks, and Expertise tries to prevent that. The higher your Expertise is, the less likely your attack will be dodged or parried.
    You only need enough Expertise to obtain a 0% dodge chance on mobs. Once you've acquired this much, lvl 87/Skulled monsters still have about a 7% chance to parry your attacks - but don't worry. As DPS, you should ALWAYS be standing behind your target, which means they cannot parry your attacks. And with a 0% chance to dodge your attacks, accompanied with 8% hit, your DPS will be significantly higher than before!

    Rotation & Managing Runic Power



    The frost DK rotation is pretty simple. Initially, start off with Bowling Blast => Plague Strike => Obliterate.
    Your go-to ability is always going to be Frost Strike, since you only want to use Obliterate when your Runic Power is too low, or when Killing Machine procs. Refresh your diseases when they're low, as they increase the damage of Obliterate by 12.5% per disease. Rhime procs, accompanied with the Glyph of Howling Blast, should constantly keep your Frost Fever up. However, in order to keep your Blood Plague going, you have to spend an unholy rune on Plague Strike, or you could use Outbreak - which is the better choice if it's available.

    With Butchery from the Blood tree and Runic Power Mastery from the Frost tree, you may quickly find yourself with more Runic Power than you can handle. Trying to get full Runic Power is never a good idea. You want to be constantly spending it. And the best way to do that is by using Frost Strike. This ability is very powerful and you cannot properly DPS without it. Costing 32 Runic Power (Glyphed), this ability should be your only major Runic Power dump. The more runic power you spend, the faster you can dish-out Frost Strike. Now you may be thinking, "That doesn't make any sense! Wouldn't spending more Runic Power just mean I use Frost Strike less?" However, that isn't the case.
    Lets say you have 110/130 Runic Power. You COULD use Obliterate, however, the better choice would be to use Frost Strike. Obliterate generates about 30 Runic Power, meaning you'd cause yourself to lose 10 runic power, since 130 is your cap. But using Frost Strike, THEN Obliterate, allows you to gain the full amount of Runic Power from that ability, therefor giving yourself more opportunities to use Frost Strike, since you're generating more Runic Power.

    Killing Machine
    The best way to take advantage of your KM procs is to use Obliterate once it's proc'd. Some people like to button mash their abilities that are still on GCD - I say this is bad. Killing Machine may proc just as the ability comes off GCD, either using your runes on something else other than Obliterate, or using Frost Strike.
    My advice is to pace yourself, only press Frost Strike when it's off the GCD to prevent yourself from wasting a KM proc that should've been used with Obliterate. Using Frost Strike and Obliterate in that fashion not only increases damage output, but also helps sustain Runic Power - increasing overall performance.

    Cooldowns
    Pillar of Frost
    As a Frost DK, your most valued Cooldown is Pillar of Frost, which increases your Strength by 20% and only has a 1 minute cooldown! Almost every boss fight you come across lasts a little over 2 minutes, which is good for you. This means that you can pop Pillar of Frost at the beginning of a fight, and pop is again towards the end! Accompanied with 15% additional strength from your Rune of the Fallen Crusader, you'll be hitting some nasty numbers! But hold on - using Pillar of Frost can mess up your rotation, as it costs a Frost Rune. However, there is a way to fix that. Once you click on Pillar of Frost, immediately click on Blood Tap, which converts a Blood Rune into a Death Rune, therefore setting your rotation back on track.

    Icebound Fortitude & Anti-Magic Shell
    Just because you're not a tank, doesn't mean you won't be getting damaged. This is a fact - an unavoidable fact. However, lessening the amount of damage you take both keeps you alive and makes your healer very happy. When you're taking more physical damage than you'd like, pop Icebound Fortitude - which decreases physical damage tken by 20% and causes you to become immune to stuns. If it's Magic damage, pop Ant-Magic Shell - which absorbs 75% of damage from spells and makes you immune to debuffs and DoTs. Taking the time to click on these abilities might reduce your DPS a bit, however, it's still much better than dying and your party losing all of your 10K+ DPS.

    Empower Rune Weapon
    Empower Rune Weapon is a very useful ability - it immediately activates ALL of your Runes and generates 25 Runic Power. However, this ability has a 5 minute cooldown, and shouldn't be used frequently. Personally, the only time I ever use this ability is when Blood Lust/Heroism or Time Warp is casted. However, this ability can be used whenever you're in a sticky situation - a situation that's a matter of staying alive or dying.

    Blood Tap
    This ability converts a Blood Rune into a Death Rune. Probably one of the most important cooldowns of a Frost DK is Blood Tap. This may seem strange, but it's true. Without Blood Tap, you may have to wait up to 4 seconds to use an ability! However, you do have it - so use it. However, be careful! Don't use it if your Pillar of Frost is almost off cooldown, that way you can use Blood Tap and Pillar of Frost, increasing your Strength by 20% and still maintaining your normal rotation.

    Macros
    Macros are an excellent way to save bar space and save clicking/pressing buttons. With a macro, you can have certain ability tied into one button! But be careful, if you try to macro abilities from your main rotation together, it'll turn out sloppy. So leave them alone. The code isn't as smart as you, so don't be lazy - individually click/press your main rotation abilities. The only abilities you should macro together are those in which don't share the same GCD as your other abilities. Such as Blood Tap, Pillar of Frost, Raise Undead, and even Trinkets!
    Here's an example of a macro I use for Burst DPS
    #showtooltip Pillar of Frost
    /cast Pillar of Frost
    /cast Blood Tap
    /use Might of the Ocean (this is a trinket)
    /cast Raise Dead

    All of these abilities don't share a GCD, and so I can tie them into a macro - using them almost simultaneously! I would highly suggest using this macro and using it instead of your regular Pillar of Frost button. If you can macro correctly, you will save time - which increases DPS!
    Last edited by Taythorn; 05-15-2011 at 03:38 PM. Reason: Updated for DW and 2-H

  2. #2
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    Very VERY well done so far. I'm curious though if you want to maybe branch off and talk about a two handed spec of this DPS tree. There are people higher up who swear that the two handed version of Frost is better, and maybe compare both and see what are added bonuses and problems that come with this.

    I especially like your Rotation and Runic Power usage. And everything I read is pretty spot on as well.

    However seeing how I haven't done research on Death Knights in a while, where would you rank your hit after 8%? I know you suggest reforging it to Haste, but it still does white damage and because of that, and you're dual wielding, White Damage 'can' be a decent part of your DPS. Perhaps clarifying that part would be a good thing.

    So far though, very good job!
    Last edited by Krenian; 05-15-2011 at 06:28 AM.

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    I'm comparing DW vs. 2-H numbers as we speak

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    Glad to hear it! Death Knight was my baby back in Wrath and I just enjoy watching people keep the thread alive!

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    Updated for both Duel Wielding and Two-Handed DPS

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    taythorn, thanks for the excellent guide. very easy to digest and answers the questions i have been asking recently.
    cheers.

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    As for spec. I've found that Endless winter has far more utility than On a pale horse and that taking 1 point from butchery and moving it to epidemic makes keeping blood plague up easier you you only have to use PS once per outbreak. Putting 2 points into endless winter also allows for more FS since you will be using no RP on interrupts, and becomes far more apparent when assigned to interrupts. Outbreak I use pretty much on cd coupled with pillar of frost macroed together but I wait to use raise dead for a few seconds into the fight til I my trinket stacked and my other trinket procced.

    Expertise I've found lacking in importance as a melee strike only consumes runes when the attack lands and reforging the exp into haste provides a lot more benefit to rune regen. So my stat prio is Hit to cap>strength>haste>mastery>exp>crit. For those less experienced or have a harder time watching their runes to make sure that a OB landed exp will more than likely come out ahead of haste. With this set up a piece of 359 gear with crit/exp I found will be a dps loss vs a 346 piece with haste/mastery. This is nearly the same as hit not being quite as important as most believe for a destro lock. (Accidentally did BH with 12% hit (lfd setup) and was able to do more dps than the previous week without gaining any new gear). So before you stick with this stat prio do your own testing before stepping into a raid or bring your exp capped set with you.

  8. #8
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    I find that putting 3 points in epidemic and 2 points from virulence in chillblains gives me a lot more utility in raids especially 10 mans which my guild runs
    Also i would move the 2 points from on a pale horse to endless winter as you no longer need to be keeping an eye on your rp during interupt fights.
    These are just my preferences but other than that very nice guide

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    Quote Originally Posted by uglie View Post
    As for spec. I've found that Endless winter has far more utility than On a pale horse and that taking 1 point from butchery and moving it to epidemic makes keeping blood plague up easier you you only have to use PS once per outbreak. Putting 2 points into endless winter also allows for more FS since you will be using no RP on interrupts, and becomes far more apparent when assigned to interrupts.
    You are absolutely correct. I should have used an example tree with such talents. I will change it - however, people will always have different preferences. The talent tree(s) in this guide are merely outlines, pointing out obvious abilities you want to put points into (i.e Pillar of Frost and Howling Blast)

    Quote Originally Posted by uglie View Post
    Expertise I've found lacking in importance as a melee strike only consumes runes when the attack lands and reforging the exp into haste provides a lot more benefit to rune regen. So my stat prio is Hit to cap>strength>haste>mastery>exp>crit. For those less experienced or have a harder time watching their runes to make sure that a OB landed exp will more than likely come out ahead of haste. With this set up a piece of 359 gear with crit/exp I found will be a dps loss vs a 346 piece with haste/mastery. This is nearly the same as hit not being quite as important as most believe for a destro lock. (Accidentally did BH with 12% hit (lfd setup) and was able to do more dps than the previous week without gaining any new gear). So before you stick with this stat prio do your own testing before stepping into a raid or bring your exp capped set with you.
    Expertise being less important than mastery? I'm not too sure on that one.

  10. #10
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    There are a few things missing in this guide (or maybe I overlooked it) and a few holes that need patched up. First and foremost you never stated what presence to dps in. As per this last patch alot of research has been done that once you reach a certain level of haste (basically full 346 ilvl haste stacking for dw and always for 2h) you dps in unholy presence. Your glyphs are a little off too. In aoe situations, you want to replace frost strike glyph for icy touch. Your talent trees are also off. For dw frost points in runic mastery is a waste. You should never get your rp that high to begin with since dw frost is no where near gcd capped in unholy presence. Also as of last patch going back to an imp blood tap spec like the one in my signature on my dk will provide higher dps out put. Also imp frost presence is bugged and not worth taking for two points since it only gives one rp since we dps in unholy presence. Another thing, glyph of pestilence is bugged still and still provides the 20% damage increase to plague strike. This glyph is a must for min/maxing. Just some things to keep in mind.

    Edit: guess I don't have it in my signature. You can look up krahgan on laughing skull
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taythorn View Post
    Expertise being less important than mastery? I'm not too sure on that one.
    Exp is devalued because when a OB or PS does not land the runes are not consumed but instead immediately refreshed for you to "try again". This allows the stat points that would be allocated to exp to be put into haste further increasing rune regen which in my testing has more than made up for the very few missed autoattacks that would've generated minimal rp that would've been used to FS which may or may not have procced RE. So at current gear levels haste will come out ahead of exp in providing faster rune regen for more OBs than more RE procs from more FSs because more auto attacks landed.

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    You should link Outbreak with Pillar of Frost.

  13. #13
    I find it more useful to macro Pillar of frost to blood tap, should you be having all runes on CD you won't be able to cast PoF straight away. As it's off GCD you can use outbreak within that same time window

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    Let me clarify...

    You should link Outbreak with Pillar of Frost, in addition to everything else already linked to it.

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    This guide made a noticable difference to my DPS, thanks.

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    Just as a side note, if you're progressing in Firelands (normal or heroic) and not doing BWD that much, it's worth it to drop Endless Winter and pick up Icy Reach in a DW spec. The benefits of range on howling blast is a boon on Beth, Rhyo, Alysrazor and Rag while Endless Winter only saves you a couple frost strikes worth of RP on Alysrazor. With intelligent use of strangulate and AMS on Aly, there's really no reason to have EW in a progression spec.

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    As I just returned to WoW about 1 week ago (stopped right before ICC came out). I am wondering what presence I should use? Most people are going on that "unholy" presence as frost DK is just the best. Getting a bit confused there since in the wrath days it was blood presence > more %dmg.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Domiy View Post
    As I just returned to WoW about 1 week ago (stopped right before ICC came out). I am wondering what presence I should use? Most people are going on that "unholy" presence as frost DK is just the best. Getting a bit confused there since in the wrath days it was blood presence > more %dmg.
    In cata blood was decided to be THE tanking spec for dk's, no longer do they have 3 tank 3 dps specs. Being so blood pres now functions more like frost pres did in wrath, buffs your health and threat.
    Frost pres now functions like old blood pres i.e.: more damage
    Unholy pres is basically the same, it makes you GCD faster, and gives you haste(?).

    Generally for a dps dk UH is the best because it allows to get more GCD's in a given period of time.
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    Clarification for Hit/Expertise:

    From my own research, play, DK Spree, I've found that regardless of spec (DW or 2h) Hit needs to be at 8+% to ensure yellow damage connects, and expertise needs to be at 26-ish (Higher is better). Above 8%, hit only applies to white damage for DW (Important, but not to the point of gimping other stats), and removing the mob's ability to dodge/parry completely means no more rotation blunders/refunded runes.

    Haste:
    A GODSEND after the runes have been redone. My DK's wearing some pretty crap gear, and sitting on like 61% haste without gimping other stats (In unholy presence). For a retired toon, he's pretty amazing.

    Mastery:
    Anything Frost hits like a truck. Get this. Now.

    DPS Presence: Unholy, without question. Hitting like a bus as fast as possible is wonderful. Plus the runes coming off cd faster helps too.

    Advising people use IBF and AMS:
    Keeping people alive is great to add into guides! Also, for more experienced DKs, pop AMS and step into a ground dot real fast for some free Runic Power at times when you're starved. I don't think we have a time when we're RP starved anymore, but if it happens, this helps. While it's 20 Rp to cast AMS, you get a pretty hefty gain in return.

    Nice guide! Thanks a lot.

  20. #20
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    To adjust the above:
    You only need 25.4 Expertise (the Dodge cap) after which it is USELESS!! More Exp will only work on Parry, which you shouldn't be encountering as DPS (Parry only happens when attacking from the front and you shouldn't be doing that!). Hit past 8% is as said useful for DW, I tend to keep a trinket slot for hit, which makes other gear choices way easier. Remember you have 3% from the talent if you are using DW!

    The 61% Haste Charon is seeing comes mostly from Icy Talons and Improved Icy Talons talents, which gives him 38.6% Haste with just those talents (52.46% with Unholy Presence). That said, Haste is indeed the best stat for Frost DKs due to the extra rune refresh and KM procs, closely followed by Mastery (KM greatly devalues Crit Rating, so it's our least wanted stat)

    Unholy Presence is the best not just because of it's 10% melee/rune haste, but mostly because of its 15% movement bonus and most importantly, the 1s GCD that allows you to use up double runes or procs more quickly. (The Imp Frost Presence talent is still a good talent to have, even in Unholy Presence, so don't skip it!)
    Frost Presence will be reserved for more AoE oriented phases, where the extra damage outweights the rune speed.

    On AMS:
    Unless you're Unholy, AMS doesn't provide RP, so don't stand in fire thinking it helps!
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