TBC Classic Frost Mage Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities
On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Frost Mage in both single-target and multiple-target PvE situations in TBC Classic. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS.
If you are not familiar already with all the Frost Mage spells, or simply want to refresh your memory, you may find interest in the spells summary page. Knowing how all your important spells work helps you understand your class better. This will improve your performance, as you will not have to think about these spells any longer, but simply know them and can focus on what happens around you in PvE and PvP situations. Frost Mages come with a very high burst damage potential in short fights, which always bears the risk of pulling aggro. Knowing when to press which defensive button can help your and your raid's survival. In PvP situations, you always have to be ready to notice what your enemy is doing, and you become better at that if you know all your abilities by heart.
This guide assumes you are running one of the Frost Mage PvE builds and that you are playing a Level 70 character.
AoE Damage and Threat
Frost Mages mostly use Arcane Explosion, Cone of Cold and Flamestrike for maximum AoE damage. The Arcane Subtlety talent gives your Arcane Explosion 40% reduced threat. The Frost Channeling talent gives Cone of Cold only 10% reduced threat. Flamestrike gets no threat reduction at all. In practice this means that if you do 1000 damage with each of these spells, Arcane Explosion will give 600 (60% = 100%-40% reduction), Cone of Cold 900 (90% = 100%-10% reduction) and Flamestrike 1000 (100% = 100%-0% reduction) threat points. Blessing of Salvation and Enchant Cloak - Subtlety work multiplicatively, so a 1000 damage Arcane Explosion would give you 412 threat. How does that work? The Paladin blessing gives 30% threat reduction, so 100%-30%=70%, the cloak enchant gives 2% reduction, so 100%-2%=98% and the Arcane Explosion threat talent gives 40% reduction, so 100%-40%=60%. These three percentages get multiplied, 70%*98%*60%=41,2%. It works that way for all spells, but is most important for AoE spells, as you can now get a feeling for how to avoid pulling aggro and dying. If your Paladin AoE tank does e.g. 800 threat every two seconds, and you are close to pulling threat on your threat meters, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. If your Arcane Explosion would in theory crit for 1500 damage, 41,2% of that would be 617 threat. As 617 is less than 800, you would be safe to do another Arcane Explosion after the Paladin's next threat "tick". In that same scenario you would pull aggro and most likely die, if you did a crit with Cone of Cold, the 1000 non-crit spell would crit for 2000 damage, because of the Ice Shards talent and do 1235 threat, because of the 90% threat modifier being calculated as 70%*98%*90%=61,2% threat (61,2% of 2000 damage is 1235) with Blessing of Salvation and Subtlety on cloak.
Of course, nobody in the world raids with a calculator next to his screen to see how far one could go with burst damage, but it is very good to understand how far you can go with AoE damage and that Arcane Explosion is your safest option to survive AoE packs. With this knowledge, you can easily judge when to use Cone of Cold and Flamestrike and when to use Arcane Explosion.
As a summary without all the maths, it is safe to say to only use Cone of Cold and Flamestrike if the AoE tank has a massive threat lead (several thousand threat) and use Arcane Explosion if the threat gap between the AoE tank and you is around 1000. Threat can be followed with so-called Threat Meter addons, which can be found at World of Warcraft addon sites like Curseforge. As you progress in the game, you will get a feeling for threat and will become better and better at squeezing in additional damage AoE casts without dying. It is most important that you do not die on AoE packs, because dying and resurrecting is the biggest DPS loss in the game. If you are unsure about your AoE threat, hold back for a few seconds, just never risk dying. Refining this judgment is a fundamental part of what makes a very good Mage player.
For ranged AoE Mages usually use Blizzard and if AoE threat of tanks is good sometimes also Flamestrike. It needs to be said that Blizzard never does as much damage as the AoE spells described above and should be avoided, unless the fight requires mob slowing through the Improved Blizzard and Permafrost talents. Blizzard also procs the Frostbite talent, which can be useful to keep enemies away from the group, however enemies frozen by Frostbite will also likely not be tanked and can attack healers because of healing threat. Generally, Frostbite should only be used in conjunction with Blizzard slowing by very experienced players. It is usually not recommended to go for the Frostbite talent in raids, as the freezing effect can break from friendly players' attacks.
Tips and Tricks for Using AoE Spells
All AoE spells can be combined with the Icy Veins talent and other Haste increasing abilities, as Haste increases cast speed, lowers the Global Cooldown for instant cast spells and increases the rate at which Blizzard damage is ticking. If your tank threat allows, using Destruction Potions and trinkets, such as Icon of the Silver Crescent, together with AoE spells greatly increases your damage. For that a macro like the following makes you use your Trinket in the upper trinket slot, a Destruction Potion, Icy Veins and the AoE spell of your choice:
- /use 13
- /use Destruction Potion
- /cast Icy Veins
- /cast Arcane Explosion
The trinket in the upper trinket slot is accessed via /use 13, the trinket in the lower trinket slot via /use 14. You can only use one activation trinket at a time. If you wish to not include the trinket, Icy Veins or the Destruction Potion in your macro, simply leave these lines out. If you wish to use another spell, such as Cone of Cold, simply write Cone of Cold instead of Arcane Explosion in the macro.
The Shatter talent can greatly increase your AoE damage. It increases the Critical Strike chance against frozen targets for all of your spells by 50%. A Frost Nova or a Water Elemental's Freeze used before a Flamestrike+ Cone of Cold "Shatter Combo" can deal huge amounts of AoE damage and threat. Be careful though, if you Frost Nova enemies that are out of range of a tank but within range of anyone else, enemies can attack and kill the closest person. Therefore, use Frost Nova with caution, or you might kill your friends (or yourself). It is usually not recommended to go for the Shatter talent in raids, as freezing effects from Frost Nova and Frostbite can break from friendly players' attacks.
Single Target Damage
Frost Mages are capable of doing huge amounts of single target damage, especially in short fights, due to the double use of Icy Veins and Summon Water Elemental with Cold Snap. Your main rotation will be to Icy Veins and Summon Water Elemental when possible, and casting Frostbolt. Use DPS cooldowns when it is required to deal a lot of damage (nuke) in a short period of time or when it is safe to use them without having to move a lot.
Frostbolt is your main source of single target damage. Minimize the time spent moving and maximize the time casting, to effectively increase your DPS. If you need to change positions, try Blinking instead of walking, as this will almost always be faster than moving. While your Water Elemental is active, you can make it fire Waterbolts automatically, using the following macro:
- /cast Frostbolt
Summon Water Elemental is a DPS cooldown. The Water Elemental attacks enemies with Waterbolt and Freeze them with a ranged, controllable Frost Nova, which is useful for doing a "Shatter Combo". Find out more about the Shatter Combo below in the Ice Lance TBC spell description. If summoned before Bloodlust/Heroism, the Water Elemental will also get and benefit from the Haste bonus. In your Key Bindings section in game, you can also bind the Water Elemental's abilities to keys. This is particularly important, for if your Water Elemental stands in AoE damage effects and needs to move out of them. The Water Elemental needs a bit of attention, so it does not die right after being summoned, or you will lose DPS. The Water Elemental uses Mana to cast it's spells and can run out of Mana. Being in a Shadow Priest group can be useful to squeeze more DPS out of your Water Elemental.
Icy Veins is also a DPS cooldown. Use it as often as possible and try to use it in a phase of a boss fight that does not interrupt your casting with movement or anti-casting mechanics. For example using it right before a 10 second stun mechanic on a boss makes this cooldown 50% worse. A good macro to use Icy Veins with is:
- /use 13
- /use Destruction Potion
- /cast Icy Veins
- /cast Frostbolt
It will use your trinket in the upper trinket slot (13, the lower trinket slot is 14), use a Destruction Potion, Cast Icy Veins, will make your Water Elemental attack (if summoned) and cast Frostbolt.
Ice Lance is a low damage spell against targets that are not frozen. However, it does three times normal damage against frozen targets, making this an incredibly powerful ability. This can be used to your advantage. You can Freeze or Frost Nova an enemy, cast a Frostbolt immediately followed by an Ice Lance. Casting an instant cast spell right after a spell with cast time, so both hit a frozen target at the same time, is commonly referred to as "Shatter Combo", as both spells will benefit from the 50% increased crit chance of the Shatter talent. This spell can also be cast while moving to prevent Winter's Chill from dropping from an enemy target or to stack this debuff.
Cold Snap is used to reset the cooldowns of all your Frost abilities, making you able to use Icy Veins and Summon Water Elemental twice in a row. If you know a boss fight will be around 5 minutes in length, you can use your cooldowns once in the start, once more after 3 minutes and a third time with Cold Snap in the end. Get a feeling for your guild's boss kill times and take advantage of your knowledge.
Fire Blast will be cast when you are moving and your target is not frozen to maximize the damage while you cannot cast Frostbolt. If your target is frozen, use Ice Lance.
Remove Lesser Curse — While this is no damage spell, it is of high importance to decurse on some fights and doing so is part of being a good Mage.
Molten Armor — It is important to keep this buff up on you, as it gives you a higher Critical Strike chance with spells. Therefore it is part of your rotation.
Arcane Intellect/Arcane Brilliance — It is important to keep this buff up on you and your group for a higher Critical Strike chance with spells and more Mana. Therefore it is part of your rotation.
Offensive Potion/Gem is not an ability per se, but the act of making a macro for your Potion and Mana Gem uses. For instance when using a Mana Potion, there is always a little offset between using the potion and casting your next damage spell, just from human reaction time. You can eliminate this offset and make a macro for Mana Gems and Mana Potions like this:
- /use Super Mana Potion
- /cast Frostbolt
- /use Mana Emerald
- /cast Frostbolt
These macros will not only use your Mana restoring cooldowns, but also make your Water Elemental attack and instantly cast a Frostbolt afterwards.
Other Useful Combat Abilities
Playing a Mage does not only mean to press the Frostbolt button, but also managing your Mana, using crowd control spells and making sure you survive.
Please consider taking a look at the Frost Mage spells if you want to refresh your memory.
- 30 May 2021: Guide added.
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