As of 3.1 with the 4T8 bonus, you will still get the most benefit from ignoring BF procs and only spamming frostbolt. This is because fireball doesn't scale with any of your talents, so it's not a dps increase once you have full naxx or higher gear, and moreover the dpm benefit is negligible except on hard mode Vezax. Using ice lance on the ghost FoF charge with the new glyph could be a minor gain if you play it perfectly, but if you miss the ghost charge even once then it's immediately a dps loss. Towards the end of the 3.1 beta, Blizzard acknowledged that frost is not yet competitive with other classes/specs in World of Warcraft - English (NA) Forums -> [MAGE] We want an answer
I suspect I don't need to explain this to mages, but we can't make Ice Lance any better without making Frost even more dealy in PvP. We talked about making the glyph better, and we still might, but the problem is most PvE Frost mages take the glyphs of Frostbolt, Molten Armor and Water Elemental already, *and* inflating the glyph to something like 8x damage would make Frost mages the most insane leveling spec in the world.
Ideally, yes, we would love to get Frost into PvE and Fire into PvP in a bigger way. In the grand scheme of things though, mages have Arcane, Fire and Frostfire specs doing very competitive dps with each other in PvE and Frost and possibly Arcane as viable in PvP. That's definitely an improvement over where the class has been historically, so while it is something we want to work on, it doesn't feel like a crisis.
This is a work in progress, please post issues you'd like to see discussed. I'm going to focus on raiding, but that doesn't mean only single target dps: survivability may be a concern to you, not to mention that raid instances also have trash or bosses' adds which aren't level 83. I'm going to shamelessly steal information from Roywyn's Talent Discussion thread and I'd also like to eventually include some on Lhivera's analysis from during the beta.
Use of cooldowns
Gear (stat weighting)
Comparison with other specs
Bugs, features and other issues
0-0-53 Basic talents for Frost
Frost has a set of core talents which complement each other, but eventually you are left with many options for your subspec. The above link shows a guide for the talents you'll likely want to take. From these core talents, some are optional such as: 2/2 Arctic Reach is for mobility; 3/3 Elemental Precision might not be necessary depending on your gear; 1/1 Ice Barrier is for survival; 1/3 Frostbite makes Blizzard proc Fingers of Frost.
Frost has a basic rotation of Frostbolt spam with an instant no mana Fireball from the Brain Freeze talent. At low gear levels you might will also want to use Ice Lance on the second charge of Fingers of Frost, but at higher gear levels it will be more dps to just keep spamming Frostbolt. There is also the possibility to cast Ice Lance on the 'third' charge of FoF. That is, while the second FoF'd Frostbolt is still in the air use Ice Lance and if it lands at the same moment you will get a kind of 'ghost' shatter bonus. If the Ice Lance doesn't hit at exactly the right moment it will also lose both its triple damage and the ghost shatter. So if you can't get this to work consistantly, you are better off spamming Frostbolt. Not to mention that Lhivera showed during the LK beta, as soon as you have a certain level of gear then such shatter combos are actually a dps drop anyway.
On trash you will prefer Blizzard if possible since the two single talent points in Frostbite and Improved Blizzard will give a very high chance of crits. In fact in it's higher dps than FrB-FB on as few as 3 targets while spreading threat more evenly. Blizzard is also the quickest way to apply 5 stacks of Winter's Chill, also to bosses.
Which talents should you pick for the remaining 18-19 points? This is mostly down to playstyle.
- 1/1 Focus Magic is a dps increase of 40-70 for yourself and could be up to 150 dps bonus when applied to a full T7 geared Frostfire mage. Unless you have good reason not to spec this, you should probably put 11 points into arcane for this.
- x/5 Ignite would seem a good dps boost also, but since your Fireball procs come maximum 15% of the time, and even in current best gear it will have less than 50% crit chance raid buffed, you can see that this is only about 8-11 dps per talent point. Certainly not worth dropping Focus Magic for 5/5 Ignite, but obviously a build with FM and 3/5 Ignite would be the highest Frost dps spec. Warning: uses a debuff slot on the boss which can be a problem on 25-man raids.
- x/3 Spell Impact is incredibly poor for damage, per point it's worth maybe 3-5 dps.
- 5/5 Arcane Concentration or 3/3 Master of Elements very much depend if you have replenishment in raid. With a Shadow Priest, your own Water Elemental and especially a Retribution Paladin you'll find it very difficult to use any mana at all as Frost.
- 2/2 Magic Absorption is a great survival talent and at the moment I'd say you should prefer 2 points in this to Arcane Concentration in any 11/x/53+ spec.
- 2/2 Improved Fire Blast is difficult to measure in dps terms, but on high movement fights you'll likely not always be able to save BF for instant Fireballs and FoF procs for Ice Lance, therefore having a shorter cooldown on Fire Blast is generally going to be useful.
- 3/3 Ice Floes is a dubious bonus. Unlike Cold as Ice + Glyph of Water Elemental which synchs nicely on a 2 minute cooldown, Icy Veins gets a cooldown reduction of 36 seconds which doesn't really synch with anything especially given variable fight lengths. On the other hand, if you're finding many fights ending with IV just coming off cooldown then you might consider it.
- 2/2 Magic Attunement grants, on Amplify Magic friendly fights at least, an extra +127 healing for the raid. If the other mages in your guild are Frostfire specced, you may be the only one who can provide this.
Here is an example of a more survival-mobility oriented spec 13-2-56.
Glyph of Frostbolt is your first choice. Its bonus is ~110 dps in Sunwell gear and ~145 dps in Naxx-25 gear. Yes you lose your snare so you maybe have some adjustments to make in your grinding and pvp behaviour.
Glyph of Molten Armor is your second choice, worth some 30-70 dps. When raid buffed you are unlikely to be wanting for mana, and even if you're forced to use Mage Armor for certain situations, there won't be any additional benefit in glyphing it.
Glyph of Water Elemental is your third choice. Not that it's worth so much dps, but because it's worth so much as replenishment for your raid. The glyphed and talented 2 minute cooldown also conveniently coincides with most trinket cooldowns.
Glyph of Fireball is another option instead of Water Elemental if you want to maximise your damage on Brain Freeze. However, the dps increase is not spectactular, possibly up to 15 dps over Water Elemental given top-end gear and 3 points in Ignite.
Use of cooldowns
Summon Water Elemental starts a global cooldown, and the pet itself can gain stats dynamically. This means that you'll want to summon it on the pull and (using a macro) make it attack your target immediately. The next thing to do is to get a stack of 5 Winter's Chill on the boss: I'm personally using Blizzard for this and cutting it short after 5 hits. Then follow with your Icy Veins/Consumable/Trinket macro. Mirror Images are best to stack with a clicky spellpower trinket since that is the only stat they scale with. If you have a second clicky trinket use it immediately after the first trinket is done.
Your WE lasts 1 minute, has a (talented, glyphed) cooldown of 2 mins, and since you summoned him on the pull you could use him again in combination with 2-minute trinkets. You can also coldsnap on 3 minutes for 75% uptime on a 4 minute fight. But is this the best method? Consider also that Mirror Image is on a 3 minute timer, so you might want to hold off the last trinket activations until the 3 minute mark instead of at 2 minutes. And what happens if the boss dies quicker than 3 minutes or lasts longer than 4 minutes? Remember that you've got it a lot easier than if you were specced fire with Molten Fury. You can afford to frontload your damage without significant impact to your dps. Also, the Mirror Image scaling isn't really worth holding off your trinkets for. So on shorter fights where you don't know if you have 4 minutes, it is maybe better to try to synch trinkets with the WE. If a fight turns out to be shorter even than 3 minutes, then next time remember to Cold Snap for 2 minutes of WE at the start, and hold the second Icy Veins for the trinkets.
If you know the exact fight length, you can try calculating the optimal activation sequence using Rawr.mage. What you'll notice is that the value it gives to the WE, the glyph and Cold as Ice talent will vary quite a bit depending on the fight length.
Of course, bosses with phases, portals and so on might need a different approach. Make sure before a boss pull that you understand what length timers each boss ability is on, then you can plan your cooldowns around these.
Gear and stat weighting
In the T6/Sunwell gear that I levelled to 80 with, using an 18-0-53 spec, Rawr showed the following stat values on a raid buffed 5 minute fight.
1 hit rating = 1.11 dps (until capped*)
1 spell power = 0.99 dps
1 haste rating = 0.64 dps
1 crit rating = 0.36 dps
1 intellect = 0.11 dps
When I equipped myself with the best Naxx-25 gear seen on the armory/wowhead, those values changed as follows.
1 hit rating = 1.47 dps (until capped*)
1 spell power = 1.11 dps
1 haste rating = 0.8 dps
1 crit rating = 0.51 dps
1 intellect = 0.16 dps
*) Presuming you take elemental precision and there are shadow priests in the raid, you'll need 11% hit to cap (289 rating), or 10% (263 rating) if you are a draenei or are partied with one.
For gear stats it's obvious for maximising dps that you should prioritise hit and spellpower over all other stats. For gems however the situation is more complex since the item budget favours spell damage. Overall, Runed Scarlet Rubies offer the highest dps bonus (~30% higher than Reckless Monarch Topaz) unless you have very low hit rating in full T7. In the latter case, Veiled Monarch Topaz are approximately the same or a little higher dps than Runed Scarlet Rubies. Be wary of course about gemming for hit since it's very easy in Naxx-25 to suddenly get an upgrade which nullifies all those gems. I would therefore suggest that the most flexible approach is just gemming for spellpower, socket bonuses notwithstanding.
Furthermore, the set bonus from 4T6 is still very good since it's an (additive) 5% dps boost for both Frostbolt and Fireball. Rawr estimates this bonus as around 170 dps. The best items to use are of course the 3 Sunwell T6 pieces, as they offer the least loss compared to T7 level gear. For the 4th piece, you can choose it depending on your hit rating and of course which items you pick up in Naxx. I'd suggest using the Rawr Optimiser to see which combination works out best for you. As far as I can see in Rawr, best-in-slot Naxx-25 gear is only ~100 dps improvement on using 4T6, so it looks advantageous to save your dkp for The Turning Tide rather than new boots
Frost spec isn't different from any other dps caster at the moment. Here are the items you'll want to take to raids.
(187 spellpower if you are a mixologist);
or , or if you are more than 40 hit rating under cap then use ;
can be worth 20-30dps if stacked with Heroism/Bloodlust and Icy Veins, but the utility of health and mana potions can't be overlooked either.
Comparison with other specs
Despite Ghostcrawler's statement during beta that frost "is close to fire", we're currently seeing theoretical dps of 15%-30% more from Frostfire specs compared to Frost. There isn't enough empirical data at the moment to support this fully, and we know that Blizzard's position is that many players will find it harder to perfectly execute SC-FFB-LB-Pyro than they will FrB-FB, but currently it seems that for dps-check raids you will very likely want to spec fire.
However, as frost you do have certain advantages over fire when looking at a raid evening on the whole. Firstly, your water elemental is a mana replenisher. Secondly, your fire mages don't have to Scorch, which can increase fire mage dps by 80-90 for a perfect player (and much more for the very many fire mages who would normally rebuff Scorch early). Thirdly, you will find that your dps output on well tanked large trash groups is high and very sustainable in a raid setting. Since your Water Elemental has 50% uptime, you are also shaving off a few seconds drinking time between pulls for your casters.
Bugs, features and other issues
You can see Roywyn's thread for all these issues, here are the ones which might currently apply to a frost mage.
Several effects are not triggered by Blizzard. This includes Ashtongue Talisman of Insight and Sundial of the Exalted trinkets. Improved Blizzard also does not proc Fingers of Frost unless specced for Frostbite as well.
Fingers of Frost
Fingers of Frost and Frostbite will always proc simultaneously if specced for both. This is intentional by design. The idead of the talent to make Frostbite useful in raids and some other situation where mobs/players do not stay frozen.
If the spell that is cast on the 2nd (or 3rd) FoF charge also procs FoF, this new proc immediately disappears and is lost.
You can cast an instant spell right after your 2nd spell under FoF to get a 3rd spell with the FoF buff off. It is not known whether this is intended behaviour as shatter combo or not.
Does not have an aviodance talent to reduce damage taken from AoE.
Master of Elements
Blizzard rank 6 currently does not proc this talent. The other ranks seem to work fine.
Disclaimer: whenever I have mentioned 'dps' increases I'm presuming a properly raid buffed 5 minute boss fight with little or no AoE nor movement. Of course, real raiding isn't all Brutallus and Patchwerk, so your mileage may vary. Use a simulator such as Rawr.mage to get estimates for your particular situation. Or test on a target dummy - Rawr won't be able to tell you the best technique for maximising damage during the Heigen dance.
Please feel free to make comments, suggestions or corrections.