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Frost Mage: Mists of Pandaria Rotation Changes, Talents, and Glyphs (Patch 5.0.4)

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This article is no longer being updated. Please check our Frost Mage guide, which is fully compatible with Mists Pandaria, and is being constantly updated. Thank you.

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 Mechanics

A few core abilities have been modified.
  • spell_frost_frostshock.jpgShatter no longer increases the damage of spell_frost_frostbolt02.jpgFrostbolt, but it still increases your critical strike chance against frozen targets.
  • ability_mage_brainfreeze.jpgBrain Freeze can now only proc from the damage that your Tier 5 talents do. While it still causes your next ability_mage_frostfirebolt.jpgFrostfire 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 ability_mage_wintersgrasp.jpgFingers of Frost.
  • ability_mage_wintersgrasp.jpgFingers of Frost is now only triggered by the following spells: spell_frost_frostbolt02.jpgFrostbolt, ability_mage_frostfirebolt.jpgFrostfire Bolt, spell_frost_frozenorb.jpgFrozen Orb (a new spell), and spell_fire_soulburn.jpgScorch (if you choose it as a Tier 1 talent). With the ability_mage_brainfreeze.jpgBrain Freeze changes, spell_frost_frostblast.jpgIce Lance and ability_mage_deepfreeze.jpgDeep 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 spell_frost_frostbolt02.jpgFrostbolt on it. spell_frost_wisp.jpgPermafrost no longer exists.
  • In addition to healing your Water Elemental, spell_frost_frostbolt02.jpgFrostbolt 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, spell_frost_frostblast.jpgIce Lance abilities, as well as from your Water Elemental's spell_frost_frostbolt.jpgWaterbolt.
  • ability_mage_deepfreeze.jpgDeep Freeze no longer deals damage to targets immune to stuns, so it will be dropped from the rotation.

New Abilities

You have the following new abilities.There are other new abilities provided by the other tiers of talents. They are not as important as the Tier 5 and 6 talents, so we do not mention them here, but in the talent section.

Removed Abilities

The ability that you will miss the most is your Water Elemental's spell_frost_frostnova.jpgFreeze and the related spell_frost_summonwaterelemental.jpgImproved Freeze talent. Other than that, many of the secondary Frost talents have been removed from the game: spell_frost_glacier.jpgImproved Cone of Cold, spell_frost_piercing-chill.jpgPiercing Chill, spell_frost_ice-shards.jpgIce Shards, ability_mage_coldasice.jpgShattered Barrier, and spell_frost_manarecharge.jpgReactive Barrier.

Rotation and Spell Usage

The rotation has changed quite a bit from Cataclysm (see our Frost Mage guide). Things are made easier by the fact that ability_mage_brainfreeze.jpgBrain Freeze no longer interacts with your management of ability_mage_wintersgrasp.jpgFingers of Frost charges. For single-target damage, you will need to choose spell_mage_nethertempest.jpgNether Tempest as a Tier 5 talent, although spell_mage_frostbomb.jpgFrost Bomb seems to be viable as well.Use spell_frost_frostarmor02.jpgFrost Armor as your armor of choice.

Cooldowns

ability_mage_timewarp.jpgTime Warp and spell_frost_coldhearted.jpgIcy Veins work in the same way that they used to in Cataclysm. spell_mage_altertime.jpgAlter 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 spell_frost_coldhearted.jpgIcy 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 Rotation

In Cataclysm, AoE damage was simple and consisted of combining spell_fire_selfdestruct.jpgFlamestrike and spell_frost_icestorm.jpgBlizzard. Now, it is a bit more complex.

For 2 enemies, you have two choices. In all cases, you should keep spell_fire_selfdestruct.jpgFlamestrike 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 ability_mage_livingbomb.jpgLiving Bomb as your Tier 5 talent (instead of spell_mage_nethertempest.jpgNether Tempest). You must place Living Bomb on both target and let it explode before refreshing it.
Betwen 3 and 7-8 enemies, you should stick to the second of the 2 rotations we just gave.

From 7-8 enemies up, you should start using a combination of spell_fire_selfdestruct.jpgFlamestrike, spell_nature_wispsplode.jpgArcane Explosion, and spell_mage_frostbomb.jpgFrost Bomb (the last of the Tier 5 talents). If the enemies need to be slowed, spell_frost_icestorm.jpgBlizzard can be used with success.

Talents

Tier 1 talents have been designed with mobility in mind. You have the choice between:
  • spell_nature_enchantarmor.jpgPresence of Mind, which should only be chosen for encounters with no movement or for encounters where the small DPS increase it provides is necessary;
  • spell_fire_soulburn.jpgScorch, which should be the default choice for Frost Mages, as it can proc ability_mage_wintersgrasp.jpgFingers of Frost;
  • spell_mage_iceflows.jpgIce 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.
Tier 2 talents have been designed with survivability in mind. You have the choice between:
  • spell_mage_temporalshield.jpgTemporal Shield, which can be very useful in encounters with a lot of raid damage;
  • spell_fire_burningspeed.jpgBlazing Speed, which might be of use in some encounters, though spell_arcane_blink.jpgBlink should be enough in most cases;
  • spell_ice_lament.jpgIce Barrier, which should be the default choice because the shield it gives you also protects you against pushback, resulting in a slight DPS increase.
Tier 3 talents have been designed with crowd control in mind. Whichever talent you will choose will depend on the encounter, but we think that these talents are mostly for PvP and will be mostly irrelevant in PvE: Tier 4 talents have been designed with survival in mind. You have the choice between:
  • ability_mage_greaterinvisibility.jpgGreater Invisibility, which seems to be the less viable choice;
  • spell_fire_rune.jpgCauterize, which is the most useful of the three talents;
  • spell_frost_wizardmark.jpgCold Snap, which can be used in encounters where you need to use spell_frost_frost.jpgIce Block twice in a row. Previously, this Frost-specific talent used to reset the cooldown of all your spells.
Tier 5 talents are AoE damage talents. We have already discussed them in this article. To sum it up, here is what you should base your choice on.
  • spell_mage_nethertempest.jpgNether 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.
  • ability_mage_livingbomb.jpgLiving Bomb should be used in multiple-target situations.
  • spell_mage_frostbomb.jpgFrost Bomb is currently viable in most situations.
Tier 6 talents are mana management talents. All of them are viable.
  • spell_arcane_arcane03.jpgInvocation will require you to cast spell_nature_purge.jpgEvocation 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.
  • spell_mage_runeofpower.jpgRune of Power provides a slightly better gain than Rune of Power, but the faster you cast spell_nature_purge.jpgEvocation, 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.
  • spell_shadow_detectlesserinvisibility.jpIncanter'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.

Glyphs

Most of your major glyphs will give you more utility, but from a DPS standpoint, only a few will matter:
  • inv_glyph_majormage.jpgGlyph of Ice Veins modifies some of your spells while spell_frost_coldhearted.jpgIcy Veins is active, at the expense of the +20% spell haste increase. Your spell_frost_frostbolt02.jpgFrostbolt, ability_mage_frostfirebolt.jpgFrostfire Bolt, and spell_frost_frostblast.jpgIce 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).
  • inv_glyph_majormage.jpgGlyph of Arcane Explosion can be useful in AoE situations with a large number of enemies that are not stacking.
  • inv_glyph_majormage.jpgGlyph of Water Elemental will prove beneficial in encounters with a lot of movement or a lot of AoE damage.
  • inv_glyph_majormage.jpgGlyph 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.
Among the minor glyphs, only inv_glyph_minormage.jpgGlyph of Momentum might be of interest. It will allow you to blink in the direction where you are going. It can be very useful if you are moving sideways and want to keep facing the boss.

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!

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A few quick corrections:

  • Deep Freeze no longer deals damage. It will not be used in rotation, and its glyph is not relevant.
  • It is no longer beneficial to hold onto an FOF charge unless you're preparing for movement.
  • You want to use Frozen Orb pretty much on cooldown.
  • Frost Armor sims a few hundred DPS higher than Molten Armor.
  • Frost Bomb now sims a bit higher than Nether Tempest, but bomb choice is more a playstyle preference than anything.
  • Invocation does not make you lose DPS. The 40 seconds you spend at 125% DPS is worth much more than you lose in the five seconds of dealing no DPS. In simulation so far, the L90 choice for Frost is either Incanter's Ward or Invocation, depending on encounter.
  • Glyph of Icy Veins becomes preferred when your instant spells, not your frostbolts, begin spending any significant amount of time below 1.0 seconds. Instant spells make up a huge portion of your total casts, so once your buffed passive haste exceeds 25% (well before you've achieved full T14 heroic), the glyph is helpful. (Despite this, Frost Armor still sims better than Molten Armor.)

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A few quick corrections:

  • Deep Freeze no longer deals damage. It will not be used in rotation, and its glyph is not relevant.
  • It is no longer beneficial to hold onto an FOF charge unless you're preparing for movement.
  • You want to use Frozen Orb pretty much on cooldown.
  • Frost Armor sims a few hundred DPS higher than Molten Armor.
  • Frost Bomb now sims a bit higher than Nether Tempest, but bomb choice is more a playstyle preference than anything.
  • Invocation does not make you lose DPS. The 40 seconds you spend at 125% DPS is worth much more than you lose in the five seconds of dealing no DPS. In simulation so far, the L90 choice for Frost is either Incanter's Ward or Invocation, depending on encounter.
  • Glyph of Icy Veins becomes preferred when your instant spells, not your frostbolts, begin spending any significant amount of time below 1.0 seconds. Instant spells make up a huge portion of your total casts, so once your buffed passive haste exceeds 25% (well before you've achieved full T14 heroic), the glyph is helpful. (Despite this, Frost Armor still sims better than Molten Armor.)

Thank you very much for this! I can't believe I didn't notice Deep Freeze was no longer dealing damage. I did test it and I must have mistaken damage from another source for Deep Freeze damage. I fixed the mention of Frozen Orb in the rotation, I meant to put it there, but I forgot. For Frost Armor, this is my mistake again, as I failed to notice that it was now grating +5% increased haste.

I try to write these previews by only researching things on the beta, so that it is truly my work and not something I would have copied from somewhere else. It has worked pretty well so far, except for this guide :P

Regarding Invocation, it grants +25% spell damage for 40 seconds. At 0% haste, you cast Evocation in 6 seconds, which means that every 46 seconds, you only spend 40 seconds casting. If I haven't forgotten all about math, the average gain you gain is: 1.25 * (40 / 46) = 1.087 or +8.7%.

For Rune of Power, you get +15% spell power for 1 minute. At 0% haste, you cast Rune of Power in 1.5 seconds, which means that every 61.5 seconds, you spend 60 seconds casting (in theory because on the beta, it lasts a bit less than a minute currently). Using the same formula: 1.15 * (60 / 61.5) = 1.122 or +12.2%.

Using the same equations, Rune of Power remains the best choice until 42.25% haste. Let me know what you think.

For Glyph of Icy Veins, isn't the threshold value 50% for hitting the global cooldown with instant spells (and not 25%)?

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20% buffed haste is likely a better assumption, which narrows the gap considerably: 40 / 45 * 1.25 = 1.1111 vs 60 / 61.25 * 1.15 = 1.1265. Active haste changes things more in favor of Invocation (though that's mitigated somewhat by the glyph).

More importantly, though, Invocation tends to do a better job of amplifying the effects of other cooldowns. When you pop a trinket that bumps your Int up by a few thousand, that's never going to be multiplied by more than 1.15 with Rune; with Invocation, it's multiplied by 1.25. There's a tradeoff in that you need to refresh Invocation early or late sometimes to line things up, so you lose some uptime, but overall, it comes out ahead. Not by a lot, but consistently.

Yes, the threshold is 50%. At 25% passive haste, you hit 50% haste when you activate unglyphed Icy Veins, thus hitting the 50% threshold.

Edited by wrd

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In the past most raid fights with aoe opportunities have also still had important single target phases. What's the thinking for this scenario? Switch to Living Bomb anyway and use it on the single target phases in place of Frost Bomb / Nether Tempest? Or better to stick with the single target tier 5 talent? If so, what's the best aoe rotation that doesn't rely on Living Bomb?

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In the past most raid fights with aoe opportunities have also still had important single target phases. What's the thinking for this scenario? Switch to Living Bomb anyway and use it on the single target phases in place of Frost Bomb / Nether Tempest? Or better to stick with the single target tier 5 talent? If so, what's the best aoe rotation that doesn't rely on Living Bomb?

It depends on what is most important in the fight: AoE damage and single-target damage. This is just a preview and it is rather pointless to start conjecturing at this point. Classes are changing with every new beta build.

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