In preparation for the updates to our guides for Mists of Pandaria Patch 5.0.4, we are releasing articles such as this one, explaining what has changed for a particular class and spec, and what the new rotation is likely to be.
Keep in mind that this is still a work in progress (both from Blizzard's side and from our own) and that this article assumes you are at least somewhat familiar with the Cataclysm version of the Frost Mage rotation and playstyle (such as from reading our guide).
We will first list the most important changes to the Frost Mage Cataclysm abilities, and then we will proceed to explaining the (likely to be) optimal rotation. Keep in mind that we do not document every single change or new ability, only those that impact the rotation.
Finally, we will give you some information about the most useful talents and glyphs you should choose.
Changed Abilities and MechanicsA few core abilities have been modified.
- Shatter no longer increases the damage of Frostbolt, but it still increases your critical strike chance against frozen targets.
- Brain Freeze can now only proc from the damage that your Tier 5 talents do. While it still causes your next Frostfire Bolt to be instant-cast and cost no mana, it also makes it act as if the target were frozen for 15 seconds. As a result, Brain Freeze-enabled Frostfire Bolts no longer consume charges of Fingers of Frost.
- Fingers of Frost is now only triggered by the following spells: Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt, Frozen Orb (a new spell), and Scorch (if you choose it as a Tier 1 talent). With the Brain Freeze changes, Ice Lance and Deep Freeze are the only spells that can consume charges of Fingers of Frost. Also, Ice Lance deals 25% more damage when it consumes a charge of Fingers of Frost.
- Healing your Water Elemental is now done directly through casting Frostbolt on it. Permafrost no longer exists.
- In addition to healing your Water Elemental, Frostbolt stacks a debuff on your target, up to 3 stacks. Each stack of this debuff causes your target to take 8% more damage from your Frostbolt, Ice Lance abilities, as well as from your Water Elemental's Waterbolt.
- Deep Freeze no longer deals damage to targets immune to stuns, so it will be dropped from the rotation.
New AbilitiesYou have the following new abilities.
- Alter Time is a new DPS cooldown.
- Nether Attunement causes your haste to increase your mana regeneration. This will be very useful as your amount of mana will be capped to 300k.
- Frozen Orb acts as a replacement of the old Flame Orb + Frostfire Orb combo.
- Burning Soul is now a passive skill given to all Mage specs.
- Cauterize used to be only accessible to Fire Mages and is now given to all Mages.
- The 5th tier of your talent tree gives you the choice between Nether Tempest, Living Bomb, and Frost Bomb. All of them are viable, as we will see in the AoE Rotation section.
- The 6th tier of your talent tree gives you the choice between Invocation (a modification of Evocation), Rune of Power, and Incanter's Ward (improvement over the old Mage Ward). All of them are viable, as we will see in the talent section.
Removed AbilitiesThe ability that you will miss the most is your Water Elemental's Freeze and the related Improved Freeze talent. Other than that, many of the secondary Frost talents have been removed from the game: Improved Cone of Cold, Piercing Chill, Ice Shards, Shattered Barrier, and Reactive Barrier.
Rotation and Spell UsageThe rotation has changed quite a bit from Cataclysm (see our Frost Mage guide). Things are made easier by the fact that Brain Freeze no longer interacts with your management of Fingers of Frost charges. For single-target damage, you will need to choose Nether Tempest as a Tier 5 talent, although Frost Bomb seems to be viable as well.
- Keep Nether Tempest (or Frost Bomb) up.
- Cast Frozen Orb on cooldown.
- Cast Frostfire Bolt as soon as Brain Freeze procs.
- Cast Ice Lance when you have charges of Fingers of Frost
- Cast Frostbolt as a filler spell.
CooldownsTime Warp and Icy Veins work in the same way that they used to in Cataclysm. Alter Time is a very interesting cooldown. We see two main ways of using it. If you cast it while you have a powerful trinket proc/use effect or while Icy Veins is on with more than 6 seconds remaining, then you will extend the duration of the trinket effect or of Icy Veins by 6 seconds. If you cast it before receiving a large amount of damage or a dangerous debuff, then, after 6 seconds, the damage or the debuff will be gone.
AoE RotationIn Cataclysm, AoE damage was simple and consisted of combining Flamestrike and Blizzard. Now, it is a bit more complex.
For 2 enemies, you have two choices. In all cases, you should keep Flamestrike up all the time.
- If you want to focus on one of them while doing collateral damage to the other, keep doing your single-target rotation on one of them.
- If you want to do more collateral damage on the secondary target (at the expense of the damage on the main target), choose Living Bomb as your Tier 5 talent (instead of Nether Tempest). You must place Living Bomb on both target and let it explode before refreshing it.
From 7-8 enemies up, you should start using a combination of Flamestrike, Arcane Explosion, and Frost Bomb (the last of the Tier 5 talents). If the enemies need to be slowed, Blizzard can be used with success.
TalentsTier 1 talents have been designed with mobility in mind. You have the choice between:
- Presence of Mind, which should only be chosen for encounters with no movement or for encounters where the small DPS increase it provides is necessary;
- Scorch, which should be the default choice for Frost Mages, as it can proc Fingers of Frost;
- Ice Floes, which allows you to cast two spells while moving and should be used in encounters where you have to move from time to time.
- Temporal Shield, which can be very useful in encounters with a lot of raid damage;
- Blazing Speed, which might be of use in some encounters, though Blink should be enough in most cases;
- Ice Barrier, which should be the default choice because the shield it gives you also protects you against pushback, resulting in a slight DPS increase.
- Greater Invisibility, which seems to be the less viable choice;
- Cauterize, which is the most useful of the three talents;
- Cold Snap, which can be used in encounters where you need to use Ice Block twice in a row. Previously, this Frost-specific talent used to reset the cooldown of all your spells.
- Nether Tempest should be used in single-target situations or when you are fighting two enemies and want a bit of collateral damage on one of them.
- Living Bomb should be used in multiple-target situations.
- Frost Bomb is currently viable in most situations.
- Invocation will require you to cast Evocation every 40 seconds, as this will keep a 100% uptime on the +25% spell damage buff on you. The advantage of this talent is that it amplifies the effect of trinket procs, potions, and debuffs on enemies that make them take increased damage.
- Rune of Power provides a slightly better gain than Rune of Power, but the faster you cast Evocation, the smaller the gap between the two talents. As gear gets better, Rune of Power, in its current state, will become less and less useful.
- Incanter's Ward seems to be more of a situational talent. We need to see how it will fare in the raid encounters, but we believe that the use of this talent will require encounters where periods of downtime on the boss and periods of raid damage are distinct.
GlyphsMost of your major glyphs will give you more utility, but from a DPS standpoint, only a few will matter:
- Glyph of Ice Veins modifies some of your spells while Icy Veins is active, at the expense of the +20% spell haste increase. Your Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt, and Ice Lance abilities will deal 20% more damage. This spell will probably only be useful in situations where using Icy Veins would cause you to be over 50% spell haste (hitting the global cooldown with instant-cast spells).
- Glyph of Arcane Explosion can be useful in AoE situations with a large number of enemies that are not stacking.
- Glyph of Water Elemental will prove beneficial in encounters with a lot of movement or a lot of AoE damage.
- Glyph of Armors increases the defensive effects of your armors by 10%. It can be useful on fights with a lot of magic damage and on which the other major glyphs are not useful.
This concludes our Frost Mage preview for Mists of Pandaria. We hope you have enjoyed reading it and that it proved useful to you. As always, we are looking forward to reading your opinions on the matter!