If I were to simplify the main goals of a Frost Mage in a raid boss situation, I would narrow it down to the three points below:
1. Spam Frostbolts
2. Use cooldown spells whenever they’re up
3. Keep your pet alive
Compared to the slightly more complicated rotation of Fire’s Scorch Debuff->Fireball->re-Scorch-debuff and Arcane’s absurdly complicated Arcane Blast variants (Arcane Blastx3, Missiles, Fireball, or Frostbolt timed perfectly such that the next Arcane Blast casts faster, but for less mana, transitioning in and out of AB spam for mana-intense fights), it is safe to say that Frostbolt spam is indeed fairly straightforward.
But to generalize Frost raiding as simply spamming a single spell is ludicrous. Proper management of cooldowns, especially with Water Elemental, can easily determine the mage’s spot on the raid DPS charts.
I’m not here to provide strategy, since Euripides has an excellent general outline for raiding Frost mages.
What I’m here to talk about, however, is the state of Frost heading into 3.0, and by extension, the release of the upcoming expansion. There are a lot of new tools being added to the cryomancer’s arsenal in the form of baseline spells and talents. So let’s take a look at each of the upcoming individually.
As I stated before, it would be an absolute riot if the clones created by Mirror Image could summon their own Water Elementals. I’m not just talking about the DPS increase as a result, but the possibility of having each Water Elemental stacking mana regen for the raid if specced into Improved Water Elemental. That would be disgusting, but hey, I can dream, right?
Either way, this is a welcome addition to the collection of cooldowns in our reportoire. The difference between this spell and Summon Water Elemental is the control the mage has over his or her summons. The clones cannot be controlled, and as such, proper timing of cooldown usage will contribute to the spell’s contribution to your DPS.
Initially, you will cast this at the same time as your Water Elemental, but due to cooldown-reducing talents, Squirtle will be coming out a lot more.
Fingers of Frost
Fingers of Frost is a passive talent that currently procs off of your spell rotation, and gives your current target a “frozen” property, regardless to immunity to traps and snares.
This talent will now require talent point investment into Shatter in order to maximize the damage gains from the proc.
Mages who spec deeply in the Frost Tree are typically specialized for AoE pulls and “add duty” during boss fights due to their investment into talents that increase their ability to kite and control multiple enemies. This talent essentially gives them a free Frost Nova for AoE kiting multiple spawns during an encounter (i.e., Nightbane’s skeletons).
As a result, Shattered Barrier will not increase DPS, but will increase the survivability of mages responsible for the roles mentioned above. As we all know, a dead mage does zero DPS.
Here’s another proc-based talent that will certainly be incorporated into your rotation. Free, instant cast fireballs are nothing to sneeze at. This talent will increase damage per mana, and is good to use on the run.
While it is unwise to simply wait for the effect to proc before you move out of a boss’s devastating AoE spell, the duration of the proc is long enough to decide whether or not you need to reposition yourself in anticipation of an oncoming attack, or if you need to move your Water Elemental closer to mana-hungry raid members.
With Fire Blast also available as an instant-cast, it is possible to use up 2 GCD on instant casts, giving you approximately 3 seconds in total to move without severely hampering your DPS. While not exactly an earth-shaking improvement in a mage’s raid mobility, it’s certainly better than nothing.
Improved Water Elemental
This talent alone, in my opinon, will singlehandedly change the way frost mages are viewed and used in the upcoming expansion.
With proper talents and cooldown management, it is possible to have your pet up for more than half of the duration of a boss fight. Combine that with the fact that the Water Elemental will be affected by the mage’s Hit Rating, and we end up with a very significant source of DPS.
Although we won’t be replacing Shadow Priests anytime soon, the beneficial mana regeneration effects provided by this talent cannot be ignored. With the changes to mana regeneration and potion mechanics tweaked in the upcoming patch/expansion, every single point of mana spent is crucial. The increased utility of the water Elemental spell, combined with its buffed duration essentially turns your pet into a caster’s wet dream, literally.
Now, more than ever, it is of utmost importance to properly manage your Water Elemental with regards to survivability, timing and positioning. Frost mages need to really learn boss fights in order to determine the optimal times and locations to release their pets.
In a way, Squirtle has changed from a flash-in-the-pan increase in Frost DPS into the 11th/26th raid member. The only difference is that this raid member is multiboxed, and lags out periodically during boss fights.
BONUS: Spirit is the new Stamina
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a tad concerned lately regarding issues with mana regenration and conservation. Terms such as DPM, Five Second Rule, and cooldown management (with regards to chain-potting and chain-gemming) have made one or more appearances in the last while.
And even though I don’t have access to the beta, it has been reported and acknowledged by development that mages are indeed having mana problems in recent builds. Whether or not this is due to regeneration mechanics, spell costs, or simply untweaked numbers, the fact of the matter is that the patch is coming soon, and because of issues related to Hunter and Shaman talents, the Development team is not unaccostomed to simply releasing content and emergency patching if necessary.
With itemization emphasizing spirit, passive mana regeneration could become more lucrative to mages as a raiding class, especially if high DPS specs continue to have problems with running out of mana as the content progresses.
That being said, mages are left with Mage Armor as their baseline mana regeneration ability, which directly benefits from this trend in Spirit itemization. While at 70, 18/0/43 is a very viable spec simply due to its raw DPM, it is often eschewed in favor of 10/0/51 or even 0/0/61, depending on the mage’s mana management abilities. But in the upcoming expansion, I predict that 18/0/53 may get some more attention once the dust settles and more data can be collected from first-hand raid experiences on the live realms.
It is a very exciting time to be a Frost mage with the shadow of an unexplored expansion blanketing our frozen hearts. In the past few weeks, we have been given previews of what is to come, and while the theorycrafters are furiously pounding away at the calculators, it is a thrill to see how Frost DPS is stacking up against the other trees and classes with each beta build.
For as long as anyone can remember, Frost was regarded as a single-spell spam spec, sometimes summoning Squirtle (alliteration for the massive win). But crymancers can rejoice in Wrath, for now they have to really push their pet, while predicting procs in the process (not as alliterative, but nonetheless still win).
While our DPS remains middle-of-the-road, it is something that we are accustomed to seeing. But with a potential emphasis placed on mana management on a raidwide level looming over the heads of frantic GMs everywhere, our utility may be an x-factor that could determine our success in high tiered content.
Because in the end, it is only appropriate that the ones most tolerable to the vast, icy cold of Northrend are those who can harness the icy cold itself.