(Thanks to Wizeowel for setting this up initially)
(Thanks to Lhivera for provideing most of the math behind the numbers)
Use of cooldowns
Gear (stat weighting)
Bugs, features and other issues
The bulk of this information was pulled from the Raiding as Frost thread which contained a lot of obsolute information after the 3.08 and 3.12 changes.
Right off the bat is has to be said that Frost Mage DPS in a raiding environment is pretty poor. In fact we are the lowest of all the DPS builds in the game â€“ below even the hybrid classes. (Source)
So why do some of us still raid as frost mages? Thatâ€™s a difficult to answer question â€“ at least here at EJ. For some of us it isnâ€™t about the absolute min/max of the class, it often has more to do with other intangible benefits or personal interests. So, within that context, this is a place to discuss the min/max within the Frost build itself.
Despite Ghostcrawler's statement during the 3.0 beta that frost "is close to fire", we were seeing theoretical dps of 15%-30% more from Frostfire specs compared to Frost at the end of 3.08. Blizzard initially said there wasnâ€™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. At higher levels of gearing Arcane and Fire/TTW builds surpassed Frostfire as the top Mage DPS build and left deep Frost builds even further behind. Currently it seems that for dps-check raids you will very likely want to spec fire.
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 deadly 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.
Internal EJ analysis shows that the top Frost Mages are about 28% behind the best Fireball/TTW builds. (Source and Source) So youâ€™re not going to top the DPS meters on very many boss fights, but Frost Mages are still Kings of AOE DPS and we are very mana efficient, so we do have a niche in some encounters. If nothing else we can tell the fire mages not to worry about scorching because we have it covered by default. Overall â€œRaiding as Frostâ€ has been in a bad spot since the beginning of WOLK and itâ€™s only gotten worse with subsequent patches. Blizzard acknowledges this, but doesnâ€™t seem concerned with fixing it anytime soon.
So with that out of the way â€“ how do we work with what we have?
20/0/50+1 or 19/0/52 - top â€œdeep frostâ€ DPS specs.
Frost has a set of 45 core talents which complement each other, but eventually you are left with a few non-DPS options in both the Frost Tree and a secondary tree. The â€œrequirementsâ€ to be considered a deep frost raid build are:
â€¢ 5/5 Improved Frostbolt
â€¢ 3/3 Ice Shards
â€¢ 3/3 Precision (you may be able to scrape a point off if you end up significantly over the hit cap â€“ but that is due to sub-optimal gearing)
â€¢ 3/3 Piercing Ice
â€¢ 1/1 Ice Veins
â€¢ 3/3 Frost Channeling
â€¢ 3/3 Shatter
â€¢ 1/1 Cold Snap
â€¢ 2/2 Cold as Ice
â€¢ 3/3 Winterâ€™s Chill
â€¢ 5/5 Artic Winds
â€¢ 2/2 Empowered Frostbolt
â€¢ 2/2 Fingers of Frost
â€¢ 1/1 Summon Water Elemental
â€¢ 3/3 Enduring Winter
â€¢ 5/5 Chilled to the Bone
Supplemental Frost Spells:
In addition to the 45 core DPS talents you have to choose at least 50 total points to get through Chilled to the Bone. At least 3 of these points have to spend in the first 5 tiers. Some mix of the following is generally considered the best option.
â€¢ 2/2 Arctic Reach for added range
â€¢ 1/1 Ice Barrier is for survival (although it is a DPS/DPM loss to keep it up consistently)
â€¢ 1/3 Improved Blizzard provides some snare on your AOE attack for trash control
â€¢ 1/3 Frostbite this used to be standard to take 1 point in Frostbite because of a bug with Improved Blizzard (it would not proc FoF unless you had 1 point in each), but this has since been fixed. Bosses are immune to Frostbite, so this only impacts your DPS on trash and it generally considered poor to root a mob unnecessarily as they will attack the nearest target when rooted and not the tank. Still many people will take 1 point here to improve AOE DPS by getting more shatters from their blizzard.
â€¢ 3/3 Brain Freeze is a fairly controversial talent. It provides instant, mana-free fireballs, but these fireballs suffer from a lack of scaling. The talent does provide a very small DPS increase for mages geared at Best In Slot (BiS) Naxx-25 and below â€“ it is also useful for improved DPM and mobility. Somewhere between BiS Naxx-25 and BiS Ulduar-25 it becomes DPS neutral. Brain Freeze does provide some added mobility and improved DPM. But with BiS T8 or T9 it is within +/- 20 DPS of a deep frost build without Brain Freeze so I wouldn't concider it a pure DPS talen. Whether a player takes BF or not is largely a personal preference.t
0/0/50 the talents up to this point.
Other Frost spells considered but not taken:
â€¢ x/3 Ice Floes is thought of as a DPS talent by decreasing the cool down of your Icy Veins spell. 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. Generally you will get 2 uses of Icy Veins on any given encounter â€“ once when initially cast and once after using cold snap. Decreasing the cool down of Icy Veins further only rarely results in an additional cast that you would not have had without the talent. But on builds that donâ€™t take Brain Freeze/Spell Impact â€“ you have to spend your points somewhere â€“ this is probably better than not taking anything at all.
â€¢ x/3 Frostbite - it is useful to take 1 point in the talent to allow Fingers of Frost (FoF) to proc off your AOEâ€™s, with Improved Blizzard, resulting in some great AOE DPS. But taking more than 1 point here is generally not necessary or useful except when spec'd for kiting purposes on specific fights.
â€¢ x/3 Permafrost is generally thought of as a â€œflavorâ€ spell. It is useful on trash and PvP, but does not impact boss fights or increase DPS. The only reason for a raiding frost mage to take any points here is for specific fights where the mage is responcible to kite a mob.
â€¢ x/3 Improved Blizzard â€“ it is useful to take 1 point in the talent to allow Fingers of Frost (FoF) to proc off your AOEâ€™s, increasing your AOE DPS. But taking more than 1 point here only increases the slow effect.
â€¢ x/3 Improved Cone of Cold is a PvP talent. You will rarely find yourself in range to use this spell when raiding. It is also less DPS than frostbolt spam even when fully talented.
â€¢ x/3 Frozen Core is another PvP talent. You shouldnâ€™t be taking significant damage when raiding. Even with 3/3 points here you will still get 1 shotted by any boss.
â€¢ x/2 Shattered Barrier â€“ PvP again â€“ Also see the discussion on Frostbite â€“ bad manners to root things in a raid. Consider that you pull agro on some elite trash. Even with your barrier up you will likely get 1 shotted â€“ shattering your barrier. So if you were standing with other ranged/healers even if they are below the tanks threat, they will get attacked if they are in range of the mob you just rooted. You are better to take 1 death than 2.
â€¢ x/1 Deep Freeze â€“ only works on frozen targets and bosses arenâ€™t freezable, so no use taking this talent. PvP only.
For a sub-spec, anything that includes 3/3 Torment the Weak (TTW) and 1/1 Focus Magic will give you the biggest DPS gain â€“ nothing in the first 4 or 5 levels of the fire tree compares. With the changes made in 3.08, you can generally count on the boss to be permanently slowed by things like Thunder Clap. So even though Frost Mages cannot slow the boss themselves (although Arcane mageâ€™s â€œslowâ€ spell does work â€“ they just never cast it in PvE), TTW is invaluable for Frost Mages and will generally be kept up all the time by the main or OT(Source).
Which talents should you pick for the remaining 18-20 points? This is mostly down to playstyle.
â€¢ Nothing on the first tier of Arcane is useful for Frost mages, but you have to put 5 points here somewhere.
â€¢ 3/5 or 4/5 Arcane Concentration provides a lot of additional mana efficiency â€“ but that is generally only needed on extended trash pulls with lots of AoE. If you donâ€™t take Spell Impact below then youâ€™ll likely put 4 or 5 points here and it when you consider where to spend your last talent point in between things like Icy Floes or a 2nd point in Improved Blizzard â€“ putting a 5th point into Arcane Concentration isnâ€™t a completely useless idea either.
â€¢ 2/2 Magic Absorption is a great survival talent and at the moment I'd say you should prefer 2 points in this to 5/5 Arcane Concentration.
â€¢ 1/1 Focus Magic is a dps increase of 40-75 for yourself and could be up to 200 dps bonus when applied to a full T8/T9 geared Frostfire/Fire mage.
â€¢ X/3 Student of the Mind â€“ now that additional Sprit = Crit, this is actually a DPS talent. It can be very slightly better than Spell Impact (Even if you take 3/3 Brain Freeze) depending on your exact gear and other talents & glyphs â€“ but the difference is small â€“ like 1 or 2 DPS total. If you did not take Brain Freeze then I'd recommend specing for 3/3 SotM and putting the extra point into Magic Absorbtion or Arcane Conentration.
â€¢ X/3 Spell Impact is incredibly poor for damage, per point it's worth maybe 3-5 dps. But you have to spend 2 more points somewhere to get to the next level in the Arcane Tree. Some DPS (no matter how small) is probably better than none. Between Spell Impact and Stutent of the Mind youâ€™ll likely have to pick up 4 points â€“ no matter how you split it, it will be very close. If you went with Brain Freeze and the Ice Lance Glyph then I'd spec 3/3 Spell impact and put any left over points into SotM.
â€¢ x/2 Magic Attunement grants, on Amplify Magic friendly fights at least, an extra +127 healing for the raid. But this is generally better to be provided by Arcane mages who take the talent for extended range anyway. Still if you want to take this over Spell Impact (especially for those that drop Brain Freeze) then go ahead.
â€¢ 3/3 Torment the Weak (TTW), finally a great spell. This is a solid 12% boost to our main nuke, and it even applies to any fireballs we may be casting from Brain Freeze too. This is the whole reason to drop 18+ points into the Arcane tree.
Glyph of Frostbolt is your first choice. Its bonus is ~110 dps in Sunwell gear, ~145 dps in Naxx-25 gear and probably ~200 dps in T8 or T9. Yes you lose your snare so you maybe have some adjustments to make in your grinding and pvp behavior (i.e. begin with a FrostFire bolt when soloing).
Glyph of Molten Armor is your second choice, worth some 30-75 dps. When raid buffed you are unlikely to be wanting for mana, and even if you're forced to use Mage Armor for the added spell resistance in certain situations, there won't be any additional benefit in glyphing it.
Glyph of Water Elemental is probably your third choice, depending on how well you can execute Ice Lance Ghost Shatters (see below). If you cannot or do not use the Ice Lance Ghost Shatters then the Glyph of Water Elemental is a better choice. It's not worth much dps, but there just arenâ€™t any better options. The glyphed and talented 2 minute cooldown also conveniently coincides with most trinket cooldowns.
Glyph of Ice Lance may be valuable as well. But the analysis has shown that even with the glyph, casting an Ice Lance is still a DPS loss when compared to pure Frostbolt spam. (Source) But it is useful on "Ghost FoF charges". See this post for some good comparison between Glyph of Water Elemental and Ice Lance
Glyph of Fireball was taken by some Frost Mages in place of the WE glyph back in 3.0 days. But with the 3.08 changes to TTW, frost builds that attempt to spec into the Fire tree for Ignite are far behind Frost/TTW builds.
I wouldnâ€™t insult you by calling it a â€œrotationâ€. Frost Mages just spam Frostbolts without much regard to anything else. Depending on your gear, Brain Freeze fireballs may be a very small DPS gain or a very small DPS loss at very high gear levels. At very low gear levels (Pre-Naxx gear) 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.
â€œGhostâ€ charges on Fingers of Frost:
There is also the possibility to cast Ice Lance or a Brain Freeze Fireball 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 resulting in a DPS loss. Overall, in order for "ghost Ice Lance shatters" to be useful you need to execute them correctly more than 90% of the time. If you attempt a "Brain Freeze Fireball ghost shatter" and miss the timing you will loose the shatter bonus, but this is still DPS neutral and a DPM gain.
On trash you will prefer Blizzard if possible with a 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.
Use of cooldowns
The most important part is to use your cool downs in coordination with Blood Lust/Heroism. Many guilds will use Blood Lust near the opening of a fight in order to allow all the DPS to time their cool downs around it easily. If you know that your guild will be using Blood Lust at some later in the fight, be sure to use your cold snap to synchronize your cool downs later in the fight.
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. 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. But 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 when your trinkets come off cooldown.
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 T6/Sunwell gear, using an 18-0-53 spec, Rawr showed the following stat values on a raid buffed 5 minute fight (3.08 numbers).
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
*note that spirit was not a DPS stat until 3.1
For 3.1.3 the best DPS deep frost build with 1/3 Enduring Winter is 20/0/51
When equipped with the best Naxx-25 gear (including hardmodes), the best DPS those values changed to.
1 hit rating = 1.68 dps (until capped*)
1 spell power = 1.30 dps
1 haste rating = 1.18 dps
1 crit rating = 0.66 dps
1 spirit = 0.40 dps
1 intellect = 0.18 dps
When equipped with the best Ulduar-25 (including hardmodes)
1 hit rating = 2.25dps (until capped*)
1 spell power = 1.32 dps
1 haste rating = 1.32 dps
1 crit rating = 0.72 dps
1 spirit = 0.48 dps
1 intellect = 0.22 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 maximizing dps that you should priorities hit and spellpower over all other stats. Haste becomes more valuable later in the game, and becomes more valuable than spell power once you have more than 3800 spell power (not currently possible). Crit continues to be about Â½ as valuable as haste/spell power. Overall you are still best off taking gear without spirit as it is of little value for Frost Mages.
For gems however the situation is more complex since the item budget favors spell damage. Overall, Runed red gems (Pure spell power) offer the best DPS unless you have very low hit ratin, then use Veiled orange gems (spell power and hit). Be wary of course about gemming for hit since it's very easy in raid gear to suddenly get an upgrade which nullifies all those +hit gems. I would therefore suggest that the most flexible approach is just gemming for spellpower, socket bonuses notwithstanding.
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, until you get into the â€œhard modeâ€ content. So it looks advantageous to save your dkp for The Turning Tide rather than new boots.
Both the 2pc T7/7.5 and 4pc T7/7.5 bonuses are useful. 3 of the 5 T7/7.5 pieces are well itemized for Frost Mages. Neither the Head nor Cheast piece are particularly good in their own right, but the 4pc bonus is more important than the small upgrade's available by choosing a better itemized piece of gear. Given the option, the Chest, Hands, Legs and Shoulders are the 4 best pieces to get allowing you to choose from amoung the multiple head pieces that are better than the tier 7/7.5 head.
For Tier 8/8.5, the 2pc bonus is useful, but there is no DPS increase for the 4pc T8/8.5. As you gear up in Ulduar, you will likely find yourself with 2pc T7.5 and 2pc T8/8.5 for some time. The tier 8.5 hands are very well itemized for frost mages. Combine these with the chest to get the 2pc bonus.
For Tier 9/9.5 both the 2pc and 4pc bonus are useful.
Frost spec isn't different from any other dps caster at the moment. Here are the items you'll want to take to raids.
Flask of the Frost Wyrm (187 spellpower if you are a mixologist);
Fish Feast, Tender Shoveltusk Steak or Firecracker Salmon all provide the biggest DPS buff. If you are more than 40 hit rating under cap however, use
Potion of Speed 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.
Tailoring is a clear win for Mages and is generally useful outside of its profession specific bonus. Beyond that JC, Enchanting, Inscription and Alchemy all have very similar bonuses and are generally useful professions for mages. There is no longer any significant DPS reason to take Blacksmithing or Leather Working over other more mage friendly professions.
* Tailoring: +51 spell power equivalent (73.75 spellpower, -23 haste. Assumes 1/4 uptime for lightweave proc, 295 spellpower for 15s out of 60s)
* Jewelcrafting: +48 spellpower (3x 39sp instead of 3x 23sp)
* Alchemy: +47 spellpower (172sp flask w/ mixology vs 125 baseline)
* Blacksmithing: +46 spellpower (2x 23sp epic gems in extra sockets)
* Enchanting: +46 spellpower (23sp x 2 rings)
* Inscription: +46 spellpower (70sp vs 24sp on epic Sons inscription)
* Leatherworking: +46 spellpower (76sp fur lining - 30sp enchant)
* Engineering: +44 spell power equivalent (+45 haste, -1 spellpower [+27sp -23haste on cloak, -28sp +68haste on gloves], also gets a burst of speed basically once per boss fight when using Icewalker instead of runspeed, which could come in minor handy for raiding)
* Skinning: +20 spell power equivalent (+40 crit)
* Mining: +60 stamina (no effect on DPS)
* Herbalism: +3600 healing over 5 seconds (no effect on DPS
I generally have one macro to synchronize my trinkets/2pc T7.5 mana gem and Icy Veins â€“ use this in combination with Blood Lust â€“ just remember to cast your WE first. (Obviously once you outgear T7/7.5 tier, then drop the mana sapphire)
/cast icy veins
/cast mirror image
/use mana sapphire
Iâ€™ve also seen ones like this. Standard frostbolt macro. /petattack makes it so that your frost elemental follows your target.
/cast Icy Veins
Aggro wipe. Hit once to go invisible. Hit again to get back to the fight after aggro has been wiped.
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, including Illustration & Spider trinkets. The Sundial trinket does proc correctly now and is a good trash clear trinket. FoF fails to proc from Blizzard if the targets are immune to frostbite, which is a major AOE DPS loss. With mixed groups, only the targets that could be frostbitten proc FoF (wether you have the frostbite talent is irrelevant).
Fingers of Frost
Fingers of Frost and Frostbite will always proc simultaneously if specâ€™d for both. This is intentional by design. The idea 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 â€“ commonly refered to as the â€œGhost Chargeâ€.
Frost would be the superior choice in:
- Encounters in which using Ice Barrier is useful enough to reduce DPS by spending GCD's on it.
- Encounters that require a large amount of AOE.
- Encounters in which a 35% AOE snare is useful.
- Encounters that need a dedicated kiter (so long as the frost mage removes the glyph of frostbolt)
- Threat-sensitive encounters (having a percentage of damage come from the pet means around 17% threat reduction vs Fire's 10%).
- Encounters in which active mana regeneration effects don't work.
- Encounters in which having an Ice Block every 4 minutes is better than having one every 5 minutes.
- Multi-Boxers who need the simplified shot rotation
Fire would be the superior choice in:
- Any encounter longer than five minutes.
- Any encounter that contains movement.
- Any encounter that requires maximum DPS
- Any encounter that kills pets.
- Any encounter in which DPS near the end of the fight is more important than DPS in the rest of the fight.
- Any encounter in which passive pushback protection is useful.
- Any encounter in which having a ranged, single-target snare is useful (Fire has a 1.5-sec Frostbolt; Frost has only a 3-second FFB due to Glyph of Frostbolt).
Frost does indeed have Replenishment. But if it's much more than 5% lower than Fire in a short Patchwerk-style encounter, then in the majority of encounters, it will remain too low for most people to consider it a viable choice.
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.
Not all the information is available for 3.2 as of the time of this post. Specifically Iâ€™d still like to include numbers for BiS T9 gear, and any changes to Blacksmithing, Inscription, LW, Alchemy, Skinning, Mining and Herbalist.
Please feel free to make comments, suggestions or corrections.