Frost Mage DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Shadowlands 9.1
On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Frost Mage in both single-target and multiple-target situations. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Shadowlands 9.1.
If you were looking for TBC Classic content, please refer to our TBC Classic Frost Mage rotation.
Single Target Ability Priority List for Frost Mage
At its most basic, the premise of Frost Mage is to spam Frostbolt until you gain a proc. Fingers of Frost allows you to cast Ice Lance and gain the benefits of the frozen state. Brain Freeze wants you to use a cast time spell, like Frostbolt, going into the instant cast Flurry, and then follow up with 2 Ice Lances to consume the 2 remaining Winter's Chill charges.
This Frostbolt > Flurry > Ice Lance > Ice Lance combo is the heart of the spec, and if you have that committed to memory, then the rest is simple. Anything beyond it is simply cooldown and movement management. The priority lists below will showcase where exactly they are to be used optimally, but as long as they are being used at all, your damage should not suffer too severely.
PvP plays slightly differently, favouring burst windows rather than sustained DPS of PvE. More information about PvP can be found in our PvP guide found here:
This is a priority system, not a rotation. This means things higher up have priority over things lower on the list, rather than cast them in this order. You would go down the list until you hit the first thing that is true, cast that spell, then go back to the top and start again. This of course assumes raw single target with no mechanics. Please do not go throwing Icy Veins into an immunity phase.
- Night Fae
- Cast Icy Veins.
- Cast Rune of Power, after the one from Icy Veins fades.
- Cast Ice Lance if you have Fingers of Frost.
- Cast Ice Lance whenever there are charges of Winter's Chill on the target.
- Cast Flurry if you have Brain Freeze and you have just cast Frostbolt.
- Cast Frozen Orb.
- Cast Blizzard if there are 2 or more targets that will get hit by it.
- Cast Frostbolt.
Where's Shifting Power?
Multiple Target Priority for Frost Mage
The AoE priority system should kick in when you are fighting 5 or more mobs, dropping to the above rotations once you fall below.
- Icy Veins
- Rune of Power, after the one from Icy Veins fades.
- Cast Frozen Orb
- Cast Blizzard
- Cast Flurry if you have Brain Freeze available.
- Cast Ice Lance if you have Fingers of Frost available.
- Cast Arcane Explosion if you are above 10% Mana, or 30% if you need to Spellsteal anything in the pull.
- Cast Frostbolt.
Core Concepts for Frost Mage
Frost Mage is an extremely straightforward specialization, however, it offers enough choice and flexibility that understanding the fundamental concepts of the spec is paramount to success. There are 4 major concepts that form the central core of optimizing for success:
- always be casting;
- movement management;
- proc management;
- maximizing cleave.
Managing movement is a fundamental skill shared by all the caster classes in World of Warcraft and the Mage class lends itself beautifully to dealing with high movement. Learning to fully maximize efficiency with respect to movement is extremely important for all the Mage specializations.
While it is difficult to describe the best ways to position and move during a dungeon or raid encounter, it is essential to your success as a Frost Mage. Ice Floes charges set an important balance; it is important to refrain from overusing these and leaving yourself with nothing when it actually matters, but you also want to avoid letting Ice Floes sit at 3 charges when you are moving. Try and use Blink for urgent movement — when you need to travel from one place to another as quickly as possible. Ice Barrier is a good choice when you only need to take a few steps, as it only costs a single global cooldown. For phases with predictable high movement, you should treat Ice Floes as a DPS cooldown and plan your charge usage accordingly. If you are playing with Shimmer talented, you should be using this as a pseudo Ice Floes as it does not interrupt your cast when used. Frost is an especially powerful specialization with respect to movement, as you have a variety of spells that are instant cast. You can save charges of Fingers of Frost for predictable movement and use these globals to cover the entire distance travelled. Finally, always try to position yourself in a location central to fight movement. For example, if the boss is being moved in a circle, try to stay on the inside of the kite path to ensure minimal movement.
Alter Time is likewise useful in terms of movement. Casting it just after getting a raid mechanic you have to deal with by moving out of the raid will make your return instantaneous. In terms of DPS throughput, using Alter Time as a movement ability is always better than a heal, unless your healers are overwhelmed and you will likely die without it.
Use Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze as they come: Fingers of Frost, through straight Ice Lance casts, and Brain Freeze, through the primary Frostbolt > Flurry > Ice Lance > Ice Lance combo. Now, there are situations in which you have mentally committed yourself to going into your Frostbolt > Flurry > Ice Lance > Ice Lance, but you proc Fingers of Frost on that Frostbolt. Almost no human can react that quickly, and the optimal play is to simply continue with what spells you had queued, and lose the Fingers of Frost proc. It is unfortunate, but that is the optimal breakdown in that situation.
For further information on how and why the Frostbolt > Flurry > Ice Lance > Ice Lance combo works, see this section on the FAQ page.
There is never a situation in which you will fire two Flurrys back to back. Likewise, there is never a situation in which you go Frostbolt > Flurry > Ice Lance > Flurry > Ice Lance. You always have a cast time spell — Frostbolt, Ebonbolt, or Glacial Spike — preceding Flurry, regardless of talent setup.
Ultimately, Frost Mage is primarily about abusing your casts in a way that is suitable to the situation. There are an enormous amount of possibilities, synergies, and overlaps that will provide an advantageous result. It is important, therefore, that you as a player think carefully about how you can use your spells in a way that makes sense. Try to avoid using your major abilities haphazardly or without thinking, as this will invariably result in you losing a lot of damage. When your Frozen Orb is about to come off cooldown, for example, start thinking about the ways you are going to cleave with it or if the boss is going to be moved. Check your boss timers to see how you can line it up for a phase with increased damage dealt or AoE. A lot of this might seem like common sense, but you would be surprised how uncommon that is!
Opening Sequence for Frost Mage
We advise you to use the following opening sequence (or opener).
- Pre-cast Frostbolt at 2 seconds on the countdown.
- Activate Icy Veins.
- Use Potion of Phantom Fire.
- Cast Frozen Orb.
- Follow your normal priority.
Tier 3 Talents
Rune of Power
Rune of Power is incredibly strong. On-demand 40% damage boost for 12 seconds, which can either be dropped every 45 seconds or will automatically drop when you cast Icy Veins is very hard to match. This talent will also allow you to take advantage of vulnerability phases better, something Frost has traditionally struggled with.
Focus Magic is an interesting talent. On the one hand, a purely selfish maximum DPS use should see all Frost Mages in any given group trade it around. This will produce higher damage than even Rune of Power. However, it may be advisable to spec into it and give it to a non-Frost Mage in certain scenarios, such as if you are playing an undergeared alt. Granting 5% Critical Strike to spells to a fully geared party member is disproportionately strong compared to what a fresh character can do in terms of DPS. Likewise, it might be worthwhile in cases where a healer needs just a little bit extra throughput.
It is never advisable to try and game Incanter's Flow. You lose too many potential procs over the course of a fight, and it only takes one or two lost to make the endeavour a waste.
- 28 Jun. 2021: Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.1.
- 09 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 16 Jan. 2021: Minor clarification added to Glacial Fragments.
- 18 Dec. 2020: Updated for Glacial Fragment usage.
- 23 Nov. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands launch, adding information about where to cast Covenant abilities.
- 05 Nov. 2020: Updated AoE rotation, adding BF-Flurry and removing Cone of Cold.
- 17 Oct. 2020: Fixed a missing note for Blizzard in cleave.
- 14 Oct. 2020: Added Fingers of Frost Ice Lance to single target rotation.
- 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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