Friday, August 31, 2012

Coolest Mage Spec: A guide to 5.0.4 Frost Mages

Oh Frost spec. You and I have done our dance for a long time now and we’ve seen many highs and many more lows throughout our WoW love affair. We have been mocked for choosing each other but those people never understood the power of Frost. They didn’t let us raid with them and it was ok, because you and I were better than them and we knew it. We were once the top dog in Vanilla but when BC came out, we were left behind by the other two specs. It was ok because we had our water elemental (Aquamus Prime)and we were still feared in pvp. In Wrath we were given more fight control talents but our dps was miles behind most other classes. Our new ability, deep freeze, only froze things in place for a few seconds and on mobs that were immune to it, it was wasted. Eventually it was made to do damage on immune mobs and seeing high crits on bosses was nice but we were still a rare sight in raids.

When leveling, many mages went frost because it made leveling a lot easier to have a damage shield and plenty of crowd controllability. As soon as most frost mages hit level cap, they’d usually pick a different spec. Why bother playing a class that you enjoy if it can’t bring the dps you need in raids? Because of the high number of leveling frost mages who didn’t understand the class or how to play it right, most people assumed that frost was a lost cause and that only baddies played frost at level cap.
In Cata, that sadly didn’t change much. Sure we could do nice dps but a simple respec  to a different spec would double or triple the dps of most mages with barely any thought. The few frost mages out there who raided worked hard on their rotations, spec, gems/enchants to do the most dps they could. But why? Why play a low dps class? Why not respect to something else? My answer: because I enjoy playing frost. When I run a random and get people talking smack about frost mages and low dps, I enjoy showing them up on the dps meters. It’s my $15 and I will play whatever class brings me the most enjoyment.

Anyway, that’s the history of Frost Mages in WoW up to now. Let’s talk about something exciting now: the MoP changes to the class. Even though the new class changes have only been out a day or so, I am LOVING the changes made to the class. The worst thing I have to say is that I am not happy that deep freeze no longer does damage to immune mobs so it is no longer our hardest hitting ability against bosses. Boo urns.

What’s changed:
-    Deep Freeze no longer does damage to immune mobs.
-    Water Elemental now has a shorter summon cooldown, 1 minute down from 3.
-     Frost Orb is now a frost only ability, before frost mages had to put a point into a talent to turn flame orb into frost orb.
-    Brain Freeze no longer uses up Fingers of Frost charges and Brain Freeze procs will only come from Bomb use.
-    Frostfire is now your first dps ability and it is gained at level 1. You get frostbolt at level 12 and if you spec frost, you never get access to fireball or arcane missiles.
-    Frost, Molten, and Mage armors now grant an increase to a stat. Molten = 5% crit, Frost = 5% haste, and Mage = 893 mastery.

What’s new:
-    Casting Frostbolt on your Water Elemental will now heal it.
-    Frost gets its very own frost version of living bomb called Frost Bomb.
-    Scorch has a chance of proc’ing Fingers of Frost.
-    You automatically learn new abilities when you ding. No more having to go back to a trainer to buy new abilities. Trainers are still around but they are there for learning dual spec and resetting all your talents.

Quick and Dirty Talents:
With the new talent trees, you no longer have to worry about picking talents that increase the damage done by your ice lance or reduce the cooldown of an ability. There are no more spec specific talent abilities like improved blizzard or piercing chill. Talents like that are now baked into the class automatically now. The new talent tree offer abilities that are very situational and if you need to change a talent, you can just buy a vendor item and change the talent without having to hit up your trainer.

Currently this is my Mage’s talent tree:

Talents are changeable and you can have a different opinion than mine! The spirit of the new talent trees is that there is no wrong talent tree build! But here’s why I picked what I picked for each tier.

Tier 1:
Presence of Mind is a cool ability but it limits you to only one insta-cast ability and Ice Floes lets you move and cast 2 spells every minute which is nifty for movement heavy fights but I think Scorch will be a bigger dps increase because it allows you to use scorch while moving which is helpful any time you have to move. Scorch also has a chance of proc’ing Fingers of Frost which are awesome. Think of fights like Morchok when moving to crystals or on Gunship when moving to the large purple circles, you can be scorching all the things while moving.

Tier 2:
Temporal Shield sounds nifty but it requires you to take damage during its 4 second duration. In 4 seconds you can take a hell of a lot of damage and die before you start getting healed from it. To me Blazing Speed sounds like more of a pvp talent or an ability that you pick when you are assigned kiting duty. I picked Ice Barrier because not taking damage is always awesome and being able to help healers out by not taking damage that has to be healed is double awesome. Right now my Ice Barrier absorbs about 50k which if I’m low on health, can definitely save my life. Ice Barrier has a 1 minute duration and only a 30 second cooldown which means you can keep it active forever and ever!

Tier 3:
This tier is all about crowd control and is a great example of a personal choice tier. You can pick any of the three talents and do just fine. Ring of Frost hasn’t changed and is still a 2 second cast that lasts 10 seconds. It’s useful if you need to hold mobs in place and you know where they are going to go. Frostjaw is similar to Deep Freeze, it silences and freezes the target in place for 8 seconds but it has a 1.5 second cast. I picked Ice Ward because I rarely used Ring of Frost since I had my pet’s freeze and Frostjaw is Deep Freeze with a cast time. Ice Ward is a buff you can toss on anyone in the group/raid and when they take damage, it freezes all attackers within 10 yards for 5 seconds. It has a 20 second cooldown and lasts for 30 so you can keep reapplying as necessary. I toss it on a healer so if they pull healing agro on adds they can freeze any attackers and they’ll have 5 seconds to get away from the frozen mobs.

Tier 4:
Greater Invisibility is neat upgrade to Invisibility that makes it instant and reduces any damage you take while invisible by 90%. Cauterize has been fixed so that it no longer kills you if you don’t get a heal when burning. It causes any attack that would kill you to bring you to 50% of your max health but it also puts a dot on you that does damage equal to 40% of your health for 6 seconds. The dot used to do more damage and would kill you if you didn’t get a heal. Both of these are cool and can come in handy but I chose Cold Snap. Cold Snap finishes the cooldown on Ice Block, Frost Nova, and Cone of Cold and also heals you for 30% of your max health. 

Tier 5:
This tier is all about bombs. Nether Tempest is an Arcane bomb that explodes on one target and hits a nearby target for 50% of the damage. Living Bomb is still the same spell it was before this patch, dot that blows up at the end of its duration and hits 3 targets. I picked Frost Bomb because it does damage like the other two bomb types when it blows up but it hits all targets nearby and it is slows targets by 70% for 2 seconds. While each bomb type has a chance of proc’ing Brain Freeze, I like the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a limit on how many targets Frost Bomb can hit.

Tier 6:
Since we aren’t level 90 yet, I haven’t been able to play with this tier yet. I think Invocation looks to be a good dps talent because of the 25% extra spell damage you get after evocating. Incanter’s Ward gives you a shield that when it disappears causes you to gain 30% increased spell damage and it will restore 18% of your mana if it absorbs damage. I’m thinking of choosing Rune of Power which creates a rune that you stand in which causes you to regenerate 100% more mana and deal 15% increased damage. It has a 6 second cooldown and lasts 1 minute. Each can be good depending on the fight you’re on. For heavy movement  fights, Incanter’s Ward will probably be best as long as you’re taking damage so that you can get the asbsorb mana.

I’ve looked into what stat priority we should have for frost and after getting hit capped, it seems to be a little conflicted depending on which site you go to. I believe that Haste will probably edge out over Crit because so many of our abilities have high Crit modifiers already. Stacking a lot of crit will mean higher amounts of frostbolt crits but our Ice lance, Frostfire bolt, and Frost Bomb abilities won’t benefit from that  heavy Crit stacking. Our passive ability Shatter, doubles the critical chance of our spells against frozen targets and adds an additional 50%. That means if you have 20% Crit and your target is frozen, you will crit as if you have 90% Crit. Your 20% Crit doubled would be 40% and Shatter adds another 50%, so you get 90%. We crit a lot.

Since Crit isn’t that useful, we can stack Haste which allows us to cast more spells in a shorter amount of time.
Hit Cap is now 15% which is 1537 Hit Rating for non Draenei, who only need 1435 or 14%. Damn space goats and their 1% bonus hit racial! As usual getting hit capped is your number one priority. Once you get hit 15% hit, you can reforge additional hit into other stats.

Our mastery Frostburn causes our spells to deal 16% more damage to frozen targets and increases damage done by our water elemental by 16%. Each point of mastery ups this damage. At the moment seems be our worst ability. We’re better off stacking haste or even crit and mastery will probably be reforged into one of these two stats.

Stat Priority
My suggested stat priority:

Int > Hit rating > Haste > Crit(to 25%) > Mastery

Like I said this is what I suggest and if you want to switch Haste with Crit and aim for 25% Crit before going for Haste that could work too. I’m no number cruncher so I don’t have any hard numbers to show why stats are prioritized the way they are. If you are, please feel free to let me know what you find out and I’ll gladly update this priority list to show proper information.

Our rotation is not that different from what it used to be:
1.    Frost Bomb/Living Bomb/Nether Tempest
2.    Frozen Orb
3.    Frostfire Bolt if you get a Brain Freeze proc
4.    Ice Lance if you have Fingers of Frost procs
5.    Frostbolt

Always aim for having Frost Bomb and Frozen Orb on cooldown and remember to use your pet’s Freeze to proc a Finger of Frost charge. If you freeze more than 1 target you’ll get 2 charges. At 90 I would imagine you would cast your tier 6 ability before starting your rotation but since we don’t have that yet, this rotation will work just fine. Also remember to use your mirror images and icy veins when you need to increase your dps, usually this is during a hard burn phase or an execute phase on bosses.

So that’s pretty much it. Frost has been and always will be an awesome spec and Blizzard has FINALLY decided to increase its pve damage. Compared to the other two specs, it may do slightly less damage but the difference is minor especially considering how huge the gap between the specs once was. According to simulations all three specs are within 2-3k dps of each other. Remember to play the spec you want to play and don’t disregard Frost mages!

Stay Frosty my friends.


  1. Has Frostfire Bolt been dealing more damage than Ice Lance for you? When I've had full stacks of the Frostbolt debuff on a target, Ice Lance has been outperforming FFB on a single target for me...nevermind the cleave.

    The new upcoming changes (buffed Ice Lance, nerfed Ice Lance Cleave, nerfed damage increase on FB debuff) will make it even better single target than it was before. I'm guessing this will change at level 90, though, since I'm playing at 85.

  2. I've noticed that FFB has been doing more damage now than it used to pre-5.0.4 but I haven't noticed how it compares to Ice Lance. When I get home I'll have to sit on a target dummy and see what my average for both is. I'm not using the Ice Lance glyph because when I was on the beta leveling, it kept getting me into trouble hehe. Nothing like pulling 3 mobs while trying to kill one target.

  3. I want to know why in the world i do everything in my power to be doing constant dps (to the tune of scorching if i have to move even one inch) and ill be top dps. But 4% lower damage done than a fire mage? what am i doing wrong? we are talking about 5 million damage less than a fire mage overall in a raid boss fight, yet i am #1 dps.