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Starym

Frost Mage in the Shadowlands: Spec Highlights and Class Recommendations

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Update: the Frost pre-patch guide is ready and you can check it out here:
Frost Mage Shadowlands Guide

It's back to Mages in our spec highlights series, as Frost gets some major AoE and defensive buffs, making it "extremely powerful" to quote the conclusion of the article, and we got Kuni to take us through the changes. The biggest news is that Frost is one of the few specs so far that will probably get to chose the Covenant they want, as they are all very closely balanced. Kuni also takes us through the spell modifications, new and returning spells, talents, legendaries, Conduits and more, so we get a really good look at the upgrade Frost Mages have received.

Exciting Changes for Frost Mages in Shadowlands

Not much has really changed for Frost in Shadowlands on the single target offensive side, other than a return to the Legion style of machine-gunning Ice Lance Ice Lances. Meanwhile, our AoE and defensive capabilities have increased dramatically. The only real change is that double Ice Lance after a Flurry Flurry has been codified, thanks to the Winter's Chill change. The downside is that this means talents are even more locked in than usual.
 

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General Changes

Brain Freeze Winter's Chill has been changed slightly, now stacking a longer duration debuff with 2 stacks, rather than an approximately 1.3-second window of opportunity. This codifies double Ice Lance Ice Lance after Flurry Flurry, although it also has a couple of interesting side-effects as well. Notably, Ray of Frost Ray of Frost can be Shatter Shattered for its entire duration.

Icy Veins Icy Veins has come back off the global cooldown.

Arcane Intellect Arcane Intellect has been brought down to a 5% buff from 10%, in line with the same changes made to Battle Shout Battle Shout and Power Word: Fortitude Power Word: Fortitude.

Brain Freeze Brain Freeze's proc chance was increased to 30% from 25%.

There are plenty of extra ranks to old spells, mostly improving what they've already done, or splitting the original effect into a leveling perk. Mastery: Icicles Mastery: Icicles, for instance, now has a rank 2 that adds the Frozen Orb Frozen Orb damage that it has had already. Cone of Cold Cone of Cold's chill effect is now 50% base, and 70% after rank 2, rather than 70% baseline.
 

Returning Baseline Spells

Arcane Explosion Arcane Explosion and Fire Blast Fire Blast have returned as baseline spells. Fire Blast is a worthwhile spell to cast when you have to move, in comparison to an unbuffed Ice Lance Ice Lance, or for minor damage if you are Frost locked. Arcane Explosion grants Frost a bit of an AoE filler, which helps our already formidable AoE damage, although it is heavily limited by Mana cost.

Mirror Image Mirror Image has returned as a baseline spell, rather than a talent, but was retooled to be a defensive cooldown. The damage it deals is insignificant, but while any images are active, the Mage has a 20% damage reduction. Images now fade upon the Mage taking direct damage, with an internal cooldown on how quickly they can fade. At worst Mirror Image is a 6 second 20% damage reduction, and at best it is a 40 second damage reduction. For most raid scenarios with long-term pulsing raid-wide damage, this is one of the best defensive cooldowns in the game.

Alter Time Alter Time also makes a return, in the health and positional iteration from Warlords of Draenor. This is another ridiculously strong cooldown, in which it allows you to potentially heal to full from any non-fatal damage every minute. It is also an incredible positional tool that pairs well with Blink Blink, in that you can snap back to any location you cast it from within 10 seconds, as long as you do not go further than 100 yards.
 

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Covenants

Sadly, none of the Covenant abilities are very good for Frost by themselves; the abilities are a 2% spread from best to worst. Soulbinds will change the picture slightly, but even those are mostly balanced, barring Pelagos. As of current tuning, there's a 5% difference between second best and worst Soulbind, and Pelagos only pushes that to 8%. Best of each Covenant is a 3% difference. While disappointing at first glance compared to other specs, this allows the player to choose a Covenant that they prefer aesthetically, for the signature ability, or even to fill a missing choice in their M+ team.

Kyrian

Ability: Radiant Spark Radiant Spark

This ability is not exactly interesting, but it is fairly powerful. If Glacial Spike Glacial Spike were tuned to be worth using, lining it up for the 40% damage bonus would be a nice extra; sadly we are stuck with Thermal Void Thermal Void, and trying to get an Ice Lance Ice Lance into the largest bonus.

Signature: Summon Steward Summon Steward

Your steward will grant you 3 charges of Phial of Serenity Phial of Serenity. This phial does not share a cooldown with health potions or Healthstone Healthstones. This is a fairly solid heal, and it removes many debuffs. Given bleeds are particularly prominent in the new raid, this is a fairly powerful ability.

The questline lets you pick the name of your steward from a list, and it also lets you change talents every 4 hours, act as a vendor every 1 hour, as well as some other cosmetic abilities such as playing an instrument. Overall a cute and somewhat useful companion even outside of the phial it delivers to you.
 

Necrolord

Ability: Deathborne Deathborne

Turn into a skeleton Mage, gain 10% increased damage, and cleave Frostbolt Frostbolts. Arguably the coolest of the bunch visually. Cleaving Frostbolts doesn't really do much as the extras do not generate Mastery: Icicles Mastery: Icicles nor procs, and Frostbolt is a fairly weak spell in general. The 10% damage is the star of this ability, but it doesn't line up with Icy Veins Icy Veins after taking conduits into account.

Signature: Fleshcraft Fleshcraft

Fleshcraft Fleshcraft generates a shield over the course of a 4 second channel, worth 20% of your health, or up to 50% when standing near an enemy corpse. While this can be nice between pulls in a dungeon, or during downtime on a boss, Mage has better and quicker ways to deal with damage in that range. Ice Barrier Ice Barrier is a 22% max health shield that is both instant and a quarter of the cooldown. Alter Time Alter Time is an off-GCD ability that you can also preemptively pop when damage is coming, and reactivate to heal back to full. Ice Block Ice Block is there if all else fails, and Cold Snap Cold Snap's newly reduced cooldown just lets you do two of those things again.
 

Night Fae

Ability: Shifting Power Shifting Power

Sadly, absolutely worthless in single target, and of questionable use up to 3 targets. Even the Soulbinds that interact with it will just want you to start the cast and instantly break the channel to gain their buff. In Mythic+ and on 4+ target AoE, however, the damage and cooldown reduction are fairly powerful if everything else is on cooldown. Of note, this can be combined with Ice Floes Ice Floes to gain the cooldown reduction effect while running if absolutely needed, such as on the way to a single target boss in a dungeon with a few seconds left on your cooldowns.

Signature: Soulshape Soulshape

Flicker Flicker 15 yards forward and gain a 50% sprint for 12 seconds. Mage is not exactly hurting for mobility, but another Blink Blink-like effect can be potentially valuable.

There are various animal forms that can be unlocked via items found through reputation, drops, and quests. Also of interest is that this ability has infinite duration while in a rested area, allowing for very quick movement indoors in a city, such as the outer ring of Oribos or Heart of the Forest.
 

Venthyr

Ability: Mirrors of Torment Mirrors of Torment

Mirrors of Torment Mirrors of Torment states that it is consumed on spells or abilities, which allows it to be cast and consumed on many melee mobs, as long as they cast abilities. Most raid bosses will have hidden cast flags for various events, and will fairly reliably proc all three. Sadly the silence will rarely see practical use, as casters should be interrupted. This would potentially have PVP use, but it is dispellable, so it is unlikely that it will actually get the silence effect to even proc.

Signature: Door of Shadows Door of Shadows

A short cast to teleport anywhere you can place the reticle within 35 yards. As with Night Fae, mobility is already a fair strength of Mage, but given that this ability's distance and ability for vertical movement are outside of our norm, this can be a potentially powerful one. Combined with Alter Time Alter Time, this could easily allow for someone to take an ability out of the raid and snap right back, both preserving Blink Blink's cooldown and going a further distance than Blink would allow.
 

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Talents

Rune of Power Rune of Power has been changed to activate on Icy Veins Icy Veins use, in addition to the on-use effect, although it lost the second charge. While traditionally this has been a weak choice for Frost, the duration was increased by 50%, making it a very strong choice over the passive talents.

Focus Magic Focus Magic returns as a talent choice replacing Mirror Image Mirror Image's slot, with an additional stacking 1% Intellect on refreshing the buff, up to 8%. Trading this between Frost Mages is obscenely strong, as they are one of the only specs that can reliably proc it within the 10 second window to stack up the Intellect buff.

Frigid Winds Frigid Winds took a nerf to +10% from +15% on all our slows.

Ring of Frost Ring of Frost now applies a 65% slow after the effect breaks.
 

Legendaries

Cold Front Cold Front and Freezing Winds Freezing Winds both achieve the same goal of more Fingers of Frost Fingers of Frost procs and more Frozen Orb Frozen Orbs, by different paths. Both are looking to be very strong options, with Cold Front edging out Freezing Winds.

Grisly Icicle Grisly Icicle, while a generic PVP legendary and fairly poor performer in single target, could prove to be fairly strong in M+. Unbreakable Frost Nova Frost Nova allows your AoE to gain Shatter Shatter on all targets for the full duration, while also granting a 10% damage increase during that. Combined with Icy Propulsion Icy Propulsion and Rune of Power Rune of Power dropping when you cast Icy Veins Icy Veins, this is a legendary to keep an eye on if you play a lot of Mythic+. While unlikely to beat out the two above in most scenarios, it is a wickedly powerful AoE effect, in addition to the utility of an unbreakable 10 second root on trash mobs.
 

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Conclusion

While Frost has received very few changes to the spec itself, it is extremely powerful as tuning currently stands. With the extra Ice Lance Ice Lance damage given through the conduit and legendary systems, its talents are sadly locked in place harder than ever. It has been given some of the most ridiculously strong defensive abilities the class has ever seen at the same time, and has increased its power in Mythic+ significantly.

Covenant choices are looking fairly inconsequential. This allows a Frost Mage to make a decision outside of raw throughput. That said, Pelagos of the Kyrian does stand out as somewhat out of line in terms of tuning as a whole, but Niya from the Night Fae is also fairly powerful going into Mythic raid opening, before unlocking the full Soulbind tree. Maximum throughput performance is definitely going to change on a week-to-week basis as Soulbinds open up. Depending on how fast you intend to clear with your guild, this could mean you pick for early Soulbinds, finished Soulbinds, or a non-throughput reason.

The gameplay is fairly easy to pick up, with an almost exclusively passive talent selection being the optimal choices. Frost is looking like a very strong choice in Shadowlands.

 

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Other Spec Highlights:

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