Cooldown Management for Frost Mages

Note: for more general information about cooldown management, refer to WoW Insider’s Cooldown Management article.  This post attempts to cover the topic as it pertains to Frost Mages.

By definition, a cooldown is the amount of time required for a spell to become available for repeated use after it is initially cast.  Spells affected by cooldowns come in two different forms:

– spells that deal a large amount of damage in a single strike
– spells that grant the caster a specific ability over a set duration of time

The former includes spells such as a hunter’s Arcane Shot or the various Shock spells used by a shaman.  The latter includes spells such as a hunter’s Readiness or Bestial wrath, or a shaman’s Fire Elemental Totem or Heroism/Bloodlust.

A frost mage’s arsenal of cooldown spells consists primarily of spells belonging to the latter type, and in a raid environment, consists of Icy Veins, Summon Water Elemental, Cold Snap, and Mirror Image.

Unlike the other two mage trees, Frost is heavily dependent on these short-term damage boosts that, when managed properly and coordinated alongside his raid group, can contribute to a very high damage output for a particular fight.  Combined with the spammy nature of the frostbolt-centric spell rotation, cooldown management is one of the more (if not most) important skills that a Frost Mage needs to learn in order to become an effective contributor to his or her raid’s DPS.

The Importance of Stacking

One of the more important aspects of maximizing cooldown use is the ability to stack multiple effects of the mage’s cooldowns.  With good understanding of the synergy between different mage abilities, one can squeeze out more damage than usual.  Let’s take some cooldowns in more detail, and examine which of these abilities stack with each other.

Icy Veins – this spell decreases the cast time of your spells by a considerable amount, and in essence, increases the amount of spells you cast within a particular time frame.  This is stackable with your fellow Shaman’s Heroism or Bloodlust, which increases your haste value even more.  It is advisable to stack your stat-increasing abilities such as Trinkets with IV, to maximize the number of spells cast that are affected by your stat-ups.

Summon Water Elemental – When fully talented and glyphed, the water elemental lasts for a whole minute, and has a 50% total up time*.  Due to the amount of time the Elemental stays up, one must try to maximize the amount of damage done while it is up.  The elemental inherits a percentage of your total current spellpower when the summon is cast.

Therefore, effects that increase your spellpower should be used before casting the summon to maximize your pet’s damage.  While Icy Veins does not affect the casting speed of an elemental’s Waterbolts, Heroism does, since it is a raid-wide buff that affects pets as well.  To take advantage of this, coordinate with your Shaman, and be sure your pet comes out before the buff is cast.

*it is, however, not ideal to max out Enduring Winter, as there is a bug that lowers the efficiency of the refreshment buff provided by Frostbolt.

The Importance of Timing

Under most straightforward boss fights, such as Patchwerk, it is ideal for the Frost mage to pop all of his cooldowns as soon as possible, and as often as possible.  Unlike deep Fire builds, Frost does not have a talent that increases damage dealt when the target is in a particular percentage of health.

However, there are particular exceptions to the rule, especially when the fight involves a particular timing in which delaying the use of your cooldowns will benefit not only your dps, but the survival of the raid as well.  Here are a few examples.

The boss has phases that are most harmful to the raid, and the DPS is tasked with minimizing the time spent in that phase (ie, Emalon’s overcharge).

The boss has phases in that increases its vulnerability (ie, Malygos charges).

The boss has phases that maximizes safety/ease of ability use (ie, post-Heigan Dance).

Therefore, prior knowledge and experience of the fight will allow you to plan your use of cooldowns ahead of time.

Putting it all Together

There are also effects such as Bloodlust/Heroism that stack well with your own buff effects, so it is important to coordinate with the raid in order to maximize your buff duration and synergy.

For visual types like myself, I like making a timeline outlining the times certain abilities are used, both by the boss and myself.  For example, let’s create a hypothetical boss with cyclical phases based on time.

0-1m – normal mode, dps as regular.

1-2m – dangerous mode, does a lot of unavoidable damage, difficult to cast spells safely

2-3m – vulnerable mode, increases damage done to the boss
3m – repeat to 0m, enrage is set at the 6th minute

Essentially, the boss cycles through the 3 phases twice, then enrages.  Let’s also talent and glyph our spells to occur as often as possible, and for simplicity’s sake, are rounded up to the nearest 10-second interval.  That means Water Elemental is 2 minutes, Cold Snap is 6 minutes 30 seconds, Icy Veins is 2 minutes 30 seconds, trinkets are 2 minutes, and mana gem is 2 minutes.

The table below represents a timeline of when the above spells are used in an “early and often” approach, as described by Ready Check.  Cells shaded in blue represent uptime when the spell is in effect, while cells shaded in grey represent downtime when the spell is still unavailable and not in effect.


Recall that the 1m-2m and 4m-5m marks are the danger mode phases of the fight.  By popping spells as soon as possible as shown above, you have effects taking place during unsafe spots, which may result in lost cast time due to movement, or pet vulnerability and death.


Here is another timeline when the spells are planned ahead.  At 2 minutes, pop available cooldowns before Heroism is cast, Cold Snap back Icy Veins, and use Icy Veins concurrently with Heroism when it is cast.  This ensures that all of your buffs are stacked with each other when Heroism is cast.  By delaying the subsequent cooldowns until the 5m mark, you can stack your cooldowns again, but this time it will do more damage than at the 0m mark.

Playing with Procs

There are other chance-specific proc effects that you should look out for, such as Sundial of the Exiled, Focus Magic, Lightweave, and Darkmoon Card: Greatness.  It is certainly possible to plan your cooldowns around these as well, since some of them have effects that cannot be ignored.  Who would say no to an additional 590 damage from a Sundial proc stacking with Heroism/Trinket/Icy Veins?

The problem with playing around procs is that some of them are too chance dependent to plan accordingly.  The best strategy is to look up the different procs and find out their proc chance as well as their proc per minute rate, and make further decisions from there.


Cooldown management varies from boss to boss.  It is important that during the learning process, you should try to get a feel for the pacing of a boss fight, and plan your cooldowns according to the pace of damage being done to the boss, as well as the timing of phases.  Tuna has a wonderful Frost Mage PvE series that gives suggestions as to when cooldowns can be popped during each boss.  If you learn to time better, your DPS will increase, guaranteed.


2 thoughts on “Cooldown Management for Frost Mages

  1. Since I was often forgetting my procs I began to the use the “Tell Me When” addon. I absolutely agree with your post and perhaps the addon has made me lazy and inattentive as to when its more beneficial to use procs.

    I’ll definately have to put more thought into individual bosses.

    Thanks..great info

  2. @Cathy: I’ll be very honest. Before writing this post, I never knew that Squirtle benefited from Heroism. I would always take him out after it was cast. I tried taking him out beforehand in an OS25 pug, and I ended up beating my previous record in single-target DPS.

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