The Ultimate PvE Guide - All Specs (4.3)

Mage
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Announcement: Hey everyone! Good to be back from my half a year hiatus! Going to go run some dungeons, kill some noobs in some BGs and get this guide all up to date. I'm unsure if I'll play more than this month (lol 1 month sub xmas present), depends on how much fun I have. Thank you for all the kind words, constructive criticism and questions, and I hope this guide continues to be a great source for update to date, accurate information.

PS: This guide just saw it's 1 year anniversary! Woot!

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With the release of cataclysm, players new and experienced are hitting 85 and getting ready for their raiding career. This guide will hopefully be a comprehensive guide for everything a mage needs to know when it comes to raiding in Cataclsym. If you have any raiding questions, please post a reply and I will (attempt to) answer your question, hopefully helped by the rest of the mage community.

Table of Contents

    General Information
    • Rating Conversions - 1
    • Addons - 1
    • The Hit Cap - 2
    • Enchants - 2
    • Gems - 2
    • Race - 2
    • Professions - 3
    • Threat Management - 3
    • Glossary - 4
    • What spec should I be? - 4
    • Final thoughts - 4
    The Raiding Specs
    • Arcane - 5
    • Fire- 7
    • Frost- 9
    • Frostfire - 12


Stat and Rating conversions

    648.91 Intellect yields 1% crit.
    102.446 Hit Rating yields 1% hit.
    179.28 Crit Rating yields 1% crit.
    128.06 Haste Rating yields 1% haste.
    179.28 Mastery Rating yields 1 mastery.
    Any other numbers wanted, such as all spell coefficients, can be found on the Elitist Jerks Mage Forum: http://elitistjerks.com/f75/


Addons

    To optimize your rotation (or to even have one), knowledge of your procs and debuffs is crucial to successful play. There are now two Blizzard implemented UI options to help with this; in the interface options under the Combat tab check the checkbox labeled "Show Spell Alert" which lets you watch your procs very easily by activating large (awesome looking) icons in the middle of your screen for the duration of the proc; and in the Display tab activate the checkbox "Emphasize My Spell Effects" so that your debuffs show up first and larger than others peoples debuffs on any target.

    While the Blizzard implemented UI elements solve the base issues, to truly optimize your character you need as much knowledge about how your character as possible, and that means addons.
    Mage Fever - http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/mfever.aspx
    This mod is preconfigured and very easy to use. Just put the warnings where you want them and go for it.
    Mage Nuggets - http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/mage-nuggets.aspx
    This is an all in one mage addon. I've tried others and found this to be the easiest to use, has the most useful monitors and is preconfigured very well.
    NeedToKnow - http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/need-to-know.aspx
    TellMeWhen - http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/tellmewhen.aspx
    These addons work together very well and with a little time you can have a very personalized way to check any and all debuffs/buffs/cooldown/etc. I personally use this addon because it's easy to use, is used on ALL on my characters and gets me the customizability I want without a lot of extra stuff.
    Power Auras - http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/powerauras-classic.aspx
    This is the most customizable mod I've found for checking conditions. It has so much customizability that it can be a little overwhelming. If you are someone who likes very nice looking UIs and is willing to take the time to configure everything, then this is probably the mod for you.

    Once you have your rotation up and running, you next need to learn how to survive, I recommend Deadly Boss Mods ( http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/deadly-boss-mods.aspx ). This addon is a must have for any raiding mage as it has a module for each isntance with timers and warnings for every boss that can be crucial to performing correctly to not be kicked out of your guild, seriously. In the same "help you survive" attitude, you need a threat meter of some kind; the blizzard implemented one can work if you get used to it, but most people prefer Omen Threat Meter 10x to the default implementation.
The hit cap

    For all mage specs, Intellect is the most valuable stat you can have. However, when choosing gear, ratings are the main factor, and hit is by far every mages best DPS rating. Hit can not be stacked indefinitely however and is capped at an exact value, 102.446*17=1741.58 hit rating. If you are a Draenei, your racial improves your hit chance by 1%, so your hit cap is 102.446*16=1639.14 hit rating.

    Reaching the hit cap should be the first thing on all new mages minds (yet never sacrifice Intellect for Hit). It is possible to have two sets of gear; one gear set has the above numbers which assume that you are attacking a "skull" level mob, aka level 88, aka raid boss; the second gear set is for trash pulls or heroics/questing where the highest mob you will see is level 87 that only requires 6% hit to be hit capped, which is only 102.446*6=614.68 hit rating. Not needing that last 1100 hit rating lets you gain a significant amount of crit/haste/mastery and improve your DPS substantially.


Enchants



Gems

    Gems are another example of something about the mage class that is quite straight forward to all specs. Which are the best gems to use depends a lot on the spec, and sometimes even more on the gear level. The following is a general guide on mage geming in PvE. Note that you can use the rare quality gem or the epic quality depending on your need.

    META
    Burning Shadowspirit Diamond (Int/cirt damage, rare and expensive; new to 4.0.6 world drop)
    Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond (The old BiS, only next to Burning; easier and cheaper to get.)

    RED
    Brilliant Inferno Ruby(40 Int)

    YELLOW
    Reckless Ember Topaz/Potent Ember Topaz/Artful Ember Topaz (20 Haste/Crit/Mastery, 20 Int)

    BLUE
    Veiled Demonseye (20 Int, 20 Hit). (If you are short on hit, expect to be)
    Timeless Demonseye (20 Int, 20 Stam)

    Notes on geming:
    Exactly what gem to use is highly dependent on gear/spec and the general rules of thumb can break down, checking your gear with a simulation program can help you min/max your gems and enchants. While you can use a (half) stam gem for a blue slot if you are hit capped, I would say that you might as well just leave it int/hit and attempt to lose hit else where.


Race

    I have some napkin math'ed numbers (with DPS factors given by simcraft, 359) about which race yields superior DPS for the hordeand alliance. I'm looking for some more accurate numbers if anybody has them. I don't trust the Belf number, I got the mana scale factor very oddly. An unlisted race means it's racials have zero affect.

    The math is at the top of this page (3):
    <a href="http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/1648728060?page=3">http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/1648728060?page=3</a>

    Fire:
    Horde: Orc = 260.0, Troll = 247.3, Goblin = 178.8, Blood Elf = 425.6
    Alliance: Worgen = 324.2, Draenei = 323.1, Gnome = 141.9

    Frost:
    Horde: Orc = 279.6, Troll = 194.6, Goblin = 147.2, Blood Elf = 493.2
    Alliance: Worgen = 292.5, Draenei = 257.6, Gnome = 164.4
Professions

    Each of the main professions gives your character 80 Intellect:
    • Alchemy: +80 Int (Mixology with Flask of the Draconic Mind)
    • Blacksmith: +80 Int (two extra gem sockets with Brilliant Inferno Ruby)
    • Enchanting: +80 Int (two Intellect ring enchants)
    • Engineering: +96 Int (the average Int received from Synapse Springs)
    • Herbalism: +480 Haste and roughly a 3K heal to self on a 2 min CD (Lifeblood)
    • Inscription: +80 Int (Felfire Inscription vs. Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone)
    • Jewelcrafting: +81 Int (3 Brilliant Chimera's Eye vs. Brilliant Inferno Ruby)
    • Leatherworking: +130 Int; -50 Crit (Replacing Greater Crit with Embossment-Int)
    • Mining: +120 Stam (Toughness)
    • Skinning: +80 Crit (Master of Anatomy)
    • Tailoring: +143 Int (average Int increase from Replacing Greater Int with Lightweave


    A good profession set up is Tailoring and Enchanting. You get a nice straight bonus from enchanting and one of the best bonuses from tailoring plus you can craft a few raid quality epics for not too bad mats and get the best mage mount in the game, the flying carpet.


Threat Management

    Like all DPS classes you should always be watchful of your threat vs any mob that you are attacking. For this purpose I highly recommend (read: must have) a threat meter, normally Omen ( http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/omen-threat-meter.aspx ). The in game threat meter works just as well, but has limited features and can be, from the few times I tried it, hard to see or use. You should normally be at ranged when fighting creatures so if you are watching Omen, you will pull agro at 130%, as it shows you. If you hop into melee for whatever reason you will suddenly only need to be at 110% threat to pull agro and if you were sitting between 110% and 130% he will happily turn, one shot you, and continue on his merry little way.

    Threat Capping. Your tanks threat is an ever increasing number, but some tanks are better at generating threat then others. Blizzard has tuned the threat levels a little tighter in this expansion then you may have grown used to, so pay a little extra attention to the threat meter as you go through instances, all out all the time will not fly. If there are any adds in a fight you are single targeting, you can swap to that add for a while and then back to the boss to continue to dps but still lose relative threat on the boss. If there is no other mob to attack you can use Invisibility or Mirror Image.

    Invisibly. Once this spell is used you lose 10% threat per second until after 3 seconds you instantly loose all threat on all mobs, where you should then use a spell or macro to drop out of the Invis effect. The line to cancel the Invisibility affect through a macro is "/cancelaura invisibility".

    Mirror Image. With the demise of Tier 10 4 piece bonus, Mirro Image is back to being for threat dropping only. When MI is used, you lose 90,000,000 million threat (literally) on all mobs you have threat with. At the end of 30 seconds you gain back that 90 million threat you lost. I use this mainly for when I actually do pull agro I can pop it and the boss runs back to the tank, or sometimes one shotting some of the MI's before getting taunted. Or if you are threat capped you can pop MI, go balls out for 25 seconds and then pop Invis to lose any and all threat, nice combo. There are a couple ways to judge MI's duration. I use the following macro that only works if you have Deadly Boss Mods installed, linked in the Addons section.

    #showtooltip
    /cast Mirror Image
    /in 25 /p Mirror Ending in 5 seconds.
Glossary

    Mages, like all classes, use aconyms more than we don't, so here is a list of all mage, none-spec-related abilities and their acronyms.
    • AoE - Area of Affect - An ability which does damage to all mobs within an area
    • BL - Bloodlust/Time Warp
    • CD - Cooldown
    • FB - Fireball or Frostbolt - Depends on situation
    • FFO - Frostfire Orb - Frost specs only
    • FO - Flame Orb
    • GCD - Global Cooldown
    • ICD - Internal Cooldown
    • Guardenteed I missed some, will update as more come to me


Which spec should I be?

    At the moment, I see no definitive answer to that question. Each of the specs are fairly close to one another and individual skill and gear will make a much larger difference on DPS than your spec, if played properly.

    Try each of the specs and see what your playstyle is. One may appeal to you more because you like DoTs, or you like procs or you like playing the mana game. You should just make a pvp and a pve spec for each element and get fluent with it before you move on to the next, and by doing this you will have a much fuller understanding of what the mage class has to offer and will be able to choose exactly what spec you want to play with certainty. Doing this also allows you to fall back into those specs playstyles fast if you ever need to be a certain spec for some reason.


Final Thoughts

    Most of this information I learned from browsing these same forums. When possible I added my own experience, having played each of the specs a bit myself, and my own theories/thoughts that are mostly backed on my experience and that of others. If you disagree with something or want more information on a topic, whether it's in this guide or not, as long as it revolves around raiding, I will try and answer your questions and update my guide accordingly. This guide is not set in stone, and nothing that I've said is necessarily the gospel truth, much is open for debate and I'll try and show both sides of an issue if possible, letting you decide for yourself. I am just hoping that this information helps raiders new and old be the best they can be. I am always open to constructive criticisms. Enjoy :)


The rest of this guide goes into more detail about the four main raiding specs for a mage; Fire, Frost, Arcane and Frostfire.
Arcane spec. (31/3/3 +4)

    Another great guide specifically for arcane can be found at: http://www.icy-veins.com/arcane-mage-pve-guide

    The default/cookie cutter spec for Arcane: http://www.wowhead.com/talent#ohIMrRhoroRocZc:sV00Mzzm0

    Variables of the spec: Improved Blink is amazing, Incanter's Absorption can be a good DPS boost on some fights, but there really isn't much of anything too important with those last 4 talent points; get what you want.

    Random note: Arcane get's an extra buff to throw around, Focus Magic, which should be placed on whoever you believe will crit the most, either another mage, shadow priest or moonkin; in a pinch or when healing is of utmost importance, placing FM on a healer is not a bad idea. If you have another Arcane mage in the raid you can swap FM's with each other.

    Glossary. A list of arcane specific class abilities and their shorthand form:
    • Abarr - Arcane Barrage
    • Abl - Arcane Blast
    • AE - Arcane Explosion
    • AM - Arcane Missiles
    • AP - Arcane Power
    • FM - Focus Magic
    • MN cycle - mana nuetral cycel, where your net mana usage is zero
    • PoM - Presence of Mind

    Arcane is a very interesting spec and played quite differently than Frost or Fire. You need to watch your mana and how the fight progresses and use your mana in the best way possible, making constant judgment calls in order to optimize your performance, not just following a simple priority list. I might go as far as saying that Arcane is the hardest of the mage specs to play to perfection, probably impossible without a computer implanted in your head.

    Mana. Arcane is dominated by mana, but has no issues with mana. Arcane, at any time, can drop into a rotation that is mana positive or it can go Abl spam and lose your whole mana bar in 10 to 20 seconds, there really is no such thing as OOM in a situation like this.

    Cooldowns. Even as arcane you still want to be casting Flame Orb every cooldown. Arcane still has three spec specific cooldowns. Arcane Power should be cast with Mana Gem during your burn cycle to make the most of the spell power/damage bonuses. For when the best time to use your burn phase, refer to the rotation section. Presence of Mind allows one cast time spell to be instant cast every minute and a half. This is most useful for keeping your Abl stacks stacked while moving, but if your mana gem runs out in a long fight, the mana gem should be recast with PoM (as the mana gem conjure is a longer cast than Arcane Blast, always).

    Threat. Arcane is about the least interesting of the specs with regards to threat. In single target, none of your damage is front loaded like frost, so not much to worry about there, and in AoE, you are either going to deal no damage via Arcane's terrible AoE, or are going to be using a near threatless ability, Arcane Explosion.

    Mobility. Many people see instant cast nuke and think mobility, but Arcane rarely, if ever, casts Abarr. Proper use of Blink and your instant cast abilities (PoM+Abl, Abarr, Fireblast, and rarely, ice lance) should allow you to be casting 100% of the time with proper planning and placement of self within the boss's room.

    AoE. Arcane's AoE is pretty lackluster at the moment. The iconic Arcane AoE spell, Arcane Explosion, received a significant buff but is still quite limiting. With a talent, the GCD for AE is lowered significantly and the threat is brought to near zero, but you still need to be right in the heart of the pull to be able to use the skill, greatly increasing your chance to be killed. Because of this position requirement, many arcane mages might resort to the old fall backs, Flamestrike and Blizzard; however, Blizzard is terrible for arcane now and really shouldn't be used; Flamestrike is, if the dot is allowed to tick fully, about equal to AE in DPS; if you are looking for top DPS as arcane in an AoE situation though, AE is the way to go.


Gearing

    Intellect has an even more significant affect on Arcane's DPS than any other spec, as arcane receives a boost in damage done not only from the spell power, but form the mana gained as well. When intellect is unavailable, hit rating is still king as with all mage specs, and should be stacked until the hit cap of 1742 hit rating. When more hit rating can not be found or you are hit capped, Mastery will be stat of choice. With the significant cast time reductions made in 4.1, haste has been devalued to below crit , generally; however, this is more of a rule of thumb, and definitely not set in stone. A quick sim can be run of your character to give you a much better understanding of your current gear's stat values, letting you make much more accurate assessments.
The Rotation

    Arcane has a fairly straightforward, but all together different rotation from Frost or Fire, and focuses more on your mana pool more than on procs or debuffs.

    The mechanic which is gives Arcane such an interesting "rotation" has to do with Arcane Blast, the new mastery and Mage Armor. When Abl is cast a debuff is placed on the player which can stack four times, the debuff increases Abl's damage substantially but increases it's mana cost even more (a lot more); the mastery increases your damage done relative to your current mana percent; Mage Armor simply helps you regen a lot of mana continuously. With their powers combined...

    The possible rotation's and there ups and downs are as follows:
    Abl spam: your "burn" cycle; just spam Abl at full stacks, consuming ungodly amounts of mana very fast but yielding your highest possible DPS.

    Abl x(2 or 3) -> AM: your mana nuetral (MN) cycle, or 'normal' rotation; alternating between two or three stacks (in any amount necessary) to stay at a constant amount of mana, namely above 90%, where your mastery has the greatest effect.

    Evocation has a cooldown of two minutes, and as such you basically get a free 60% mana every two minutes. About 10 to 20 (or more) seconds before evocation comes off CD you want to enter into your burn phase/cycle (using all available cooldowns) so as to reach 30-35% mana right as Evo comes off CD, where you can then Evo back to full mastery bonus and begin the mana neutral (MN) cycle once more.

    From here on is my own thoughts and I hope for verification/discussion to come to an at least slightly definitive answer. At the beginning of the fight, you will start in a MN rotation because the tank doesn't have the threat for you to lay into the mob, but you will presumably want to go into Abl spam as soon as possible as it's your highest DPS rotation, where you then Evocate back up and use a MN rotation until the CD comes up once more. In other words you want to Abl spam as soon as possible and get the Evo CD running as quickly as you can (without wasting it). Having your evo and CD's up for Bloodlust is a huge DPS boost and should always be a top priority; however, burning phasing twice in a fight is better than one burn phase during Bloodlust (again, verification of this would be awesome).


Glyphs

Fire spec. (3/31/3 +4)

    A very detailed and highly accurate inspection of the Fire spec is being undertaken at Elitistjerks, linked: http://elitistjerks.com/f75/t110326-cataclysm_fire_mage_compendium/
    Frostedblaze's fire guide, sitckied with this guide, is linked here as well: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/1577520163
    My consolidated guide to fire is as follows:

    The default/cookie cutter spec for Fire is: http://www.wowhead.com/talent#o0hZrshrkbRRscoc:zcozMszmo

    Variables of the spec: max out Burning Soul or Improved Fireblast, or even removed Imp Fireblast entirely, you only need 3 points total in either to continue; Blazing Speed, useless, you should never really get melee'd enough for this to be useful; Molten Shields, mildly useful, will keep your Mage Wards impact to your DPS to a minimum; Pyromaniac, amazing on paper, but I think that other talents will prove more useful; 1/3 Arcane Concentration, will help with mana issues a little bit, smart playing can improve this talents usefulness.

    Glossary. A list of fire specific class abilities and their shorthand form:
    • BW - Blastwave
    • FB - Fireball
    • FS - Flamestrike
    • LB - Living Bomb

    Fire is all about burning things and blowing things up. You have a castable on three targets exploding dot, every crit leaves a dot, your big instant cast ball of fire leaves its own dot, and you get Combustion to rol all your dots into one super dot. Besides all the burning, with impact you can spread all your dots (including combustion) to all nearby mobs. Fire is also a master of explosions and AoE with talented Fire Orb, Blastwave, Dragons Breath and isntant cast Flamestrike.

    Mana. Fire feels pretty good with mana at the moment after the fireball mana cost reduction. Yet, even with the mana usage buff, you can still get into mana troubles for various reasons; whenever that happens, a fire mage can actually gain mana with a pretty low (~10%) DPS loss by swapping to scorch spam instead of fireball. You want to have enough mana for sub 35% so that you can spam fireball during the entire Molten Fury range.

    Cooldowns. Fire has one cooldown (ignoring Flame Orb, as you just pop that every time it's up...), Combustion. It's not a bad cooldown at all, regardless of what some less skillful mages might believe. I have my LB, pyro dot and ignite all watched by NeedToKnow (Although most mages seem to love CombustionHelper) and pretty much the first time pyro procs I try and line up a couple good crits (to get a good ignite) and then Combustion, and it can easily deal 50k damage. You only want to use Combustion when you have all three dots up. If you use FFB Glyph, that would be one more dot you can include. Combustion can be spread via impact, and spreading a 6k ticking (every second) combustion onto 5 mobs in an AoE situation will yield ungodly DPS, especially considering you still have LB and Flamestrike/BW going.

    Threat. Nothing particularly interesting regarding threat and the fire spec besides that fire's AoE can be ridiculous and during those huge AoE moments you will definitely need to pay attention to threat. As always, make sure you watch Omen carefully at the beginning of a fight, especially if you get a crit or two.

    Mobility. Living Bomb and Hot Streak are both instant casts, but even when those are down, a properly specced fire mage has free scorches that can be cast while moving. I absolutely love this and am always loving my scorch spam.

    AoE. When AoEing you will always want to have three Living Bombs up. At first you can do this by tab targeting three mobs, but after that you will probably have impact, so LB one and impact it to the others. Impact+Combustion can give easily the best AoE dps numbers of any class in the game. The key is to build up the three main dots on a single mob, combustion and then impact all four dot to every single other mob, inc 30k+ DPS. Besides keeping LB up, you need to keep the ground dot rolling by Blastwave'ing every 15 seconds and using Flame Strike in between (the ground dot lasts 8 seconds). When all of those are good, single target something or blizzard large packs.
Gearing

    Intellect will always be your main stat, surpassing even hit rating. Until the hit cap of 1742 hit rating, hit rating will be your number one rating. While hit has a hard cap, (after which you gain no benefit) haste has a soft cap of 12.5% where 3 of your 4 possible dots gain an extra tick of damage. After taking into consideration buffs and talents, you only need 516 haste for am extra tick, easily reachable, but it takes 3476 haste rating for a 2nd tick, completely impossible at the moment. This "haste soft cap" should be easily reached while wearing fresh 80 greens. After this haste soft cap, crit becomes your most significant rating, followed by mastery, and bringing up the rear (and being the thing you should always reforge etc) is post haste cap haste rating.


The Rotation

    For this spec your rotation is less of a set order and more about watching procs and timers. Excluding the very beginning of the fight, you will simply spam fireball over and over, keeping Living Bomb up on all targets you want it up on, using Hot Streak procs as available and keeping Flame Orb on cooldown. Use the above addons to keep track of the scorch/LB duration and for when HS procs.

    If LB is about to expire and Hot Streak procs, you want to choose which to cast first based on if you think your Hot Streak will be overridden during the Global Cooldown (GCD) used to cast LB. This can only happen if your previous ability crit and the last fireball or scorch you cast before casting LB crits as well, so if I see crits happening I will use the HS first otherwise if I feel I'm safe from losing a proc, I will cast LB first (to increase uptime).

    If you start running low on mana, use scorch in-place of fireball and you will stop losing mana entirely, maybe even gain some. At the beginning of a boss or when you are switching to an add/different mob cast LB and then scorch (and then Flame Orb if off CD) to get into position and then follow the normal rotation. For trash, use the single target rotation, keeping LB up on at least three targets, or follow the AoE rotation if enough mobs are present.


Glyphs

Frost spec. (2/8/31)

    Another worthy guide only for frost can be found at: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/2522074557

    The default/cookie cutter spec for Frost is: http://www.wowhead.com/talent#o0bZfcZffzzsGszro:MaoqMzzmo

    Variables of the spec: Reactive Barrier can easily be dropped in lieu of other talents that you want, such as maybe maxing out Ice Shards or Piercing Chill; only 1/3 Enduring Water is necessary for a raiding build, but 2/3 is recommended; you could also move a point from Ignite to Netherwind Presence, although I believe the math dictates otherwise.

    Glossary. A list of frost specific class abilities and their shorthand form:
    • DF - Deep Freeze
    • FoF - Fingers of Frost
    • Freeze - The WE Pet nova
    • FB - Frostbolt
    • IB - Ice Block
    • IV - Icy Veins
    • FFB - Frostfire Bolt
    • WE - Water Elemental

    Frost is a very straight forward, it's all about watching what is happening with your character. When a lot of things come up at the same time it can be fairly hectic trying to get it all used, get the cooldowns running, not waste any procs, but it's also some of the most fun I've had on my mage this expansion.

    Mana. Frost has mana problems right now, at least in heroics, and I assume the longer raid boss fights will only make it worse. Frost does fine on short fights, with use of gem and Evo, but even on a recent heroic boss I popped Time Warp and was OOM when the boss was at 50%, Evo'd, and was OOM by 15%. To avoid wanding, Mage Armor needs to be used. The longer the fight the more important use of Mage Armor becomes for a sustainable rotation.

    Cooldowns. Frost has a few CD's; Frostfire Orb just needs to be used on CD, Deep Freeze requires a little more finesse and Icy Veins and Cold Snap have optimum times to use.

    Deep Freeze can only be used on a target that is frozen, so if you want to use it on a boss you can only use it while you have Fingers of Frost active. The Water Elemental pet nova (Freeze) helps with this a lot, and I normally save Freeze for right as DF is coming off CD so it can be used immediately. If that won't be possible (because Freeze is on CD or what have you ) then I try and have one FoF charge saved for the CD; when about 10 seconds are left I will stop using FoF if I only have 1 charge, and will use it only when I have two charges so that no matter what I will have one charge for the instant DF comes off CD. While trying to save a proc, it's more possible that you will accidentally miss a proc (FoF procs twice at 1 charge, yet you only gain 1 proc, for two total) so extra attention needs to be paid.

    Icy Veins is a very powerful cooldown, but it has a 'long' cooldown, so you want to maximize its use when you are able to use it, this means, for the most part, that you want to have IV up when Bloodlust is active. Most guilds should use BL nearer then end of a fight, so you can usually use IV once at the start of the pull and it will be up later on for BL. If you know you are going to be BL'ing in less than 2.4 minutes from the start of the pull, I would save my IV for BL.

    Cold Snap is a little trickier, but at the same time easier. On a normal fight, you pretty much only want to use this ability during Bloodlust, the order of use is important; in a perfect scenario, Frostfire Orb and Deep Freeze will both be used by you right before Bloodlust goes off, when BL is hit, you want to use Icy Veins and THEN Cold Snap to remove the CD's on FFO, DF and IV. The first DF (right before the BL) will probably have used Freeze to do, so you will be able to use that second Freeze FoF charge for the newly Cold Snapped DF. FFO should be cast again, and IV should be cast again when it ends the first time, for a total of 100% IV uptime during BL, as well as two FFB orbs flying and three DF's. If the fight is long enough to use CS twice the fight will probably be long enough to use Bloodlust twice, and you should simply follow this same procedure during both BL phases. This is all given in paragraph form and may be confusing, if this paragraph needs to be rewritten please tell me and I'll change it up; I was also thinking of naming this section not Cold Snap, but Bloodlust, or maybe "How do I optimize Bloodlust?" thoughts?

    Threat. Nothing particularly interesting regarding threat and the frost spec besides that a Deep Freeze (DF) crit on a fresh mob can easily pull agro. A little juggling game at the start of every pull or new mob is how soon you can lay down DF to get the CD rolling without critting for 60k and stealing agro, omen helps substantially.
    Mobility. To optimize your damage you must not only always be casting something, even while moving, you must also be casting the right thing. If you can move while only casting FoF'ed IL, Brain Freeze or DF then you will have zero loss in DPS. Moving during your Freeze+DF+IL combo as well as all of the individual IL and Brain Freeze procs give you a lot of GCDs to slowly step by step (GCD by GCD) move to where you need to be for the next phase or boss ability.

    AoE. The only AoE that Frost really has available to it is Blizzard, and while nice and all, does not compare to Fire's absolute AoE overload. Looking for more to say on this.


Gearing

    Intellect will always be your main stat, surpassing even hit rating. Until the hit cap of 1742 hit rating, hit rating will be your number one rating. Crit and Haste are quite close to each other, and an equilibrium between the two can be found once rawr is fully functional. This means that through use of (mainly) reforging and (to a lesser extent) geming, a point can be reached where adding any crit rating lowers crit's DPS to below that of haste, and adding any haste will reduce haste to below crit's DPS. This means that if you want to add any more of either, you should be adding both, and if you get a nice upgrade giving you one but not the other, it would be in your best interest to change one of your other somethings to account for the jump. Crit's value drops pretty substantially at 23% self buffed crit due to crit capping (having 100% crit chance) during shatter moments; after 23% crit chance, haste or mastery will be a higher DPS gain. Mastery is generally the bottom stat for Frost, and is the stat that you will reforge away, etc.


The Rotation

    Frost's "rotation" got a huge quality of life improvement in Cataclysm, and the optimum rotation is not a rotation, but rather a priority list.

    The order, from most important to least is as follows: Deep Freeze, Frostfire Orb, Brain Freeze (with FoF), Ice Lance (with FoF), Frostbolt. You will want to cast Freeze right before DF to be able to DF as soon as possible, to optimize it's CD.This priority list will not change throughout the fight, but proper use of CD's and the randomness of the FoF and BF procs, as well as the assurance of a huge DF every 30 seconds makes this spec, personally, the most fun to play.

    A slightly advanced form of play (because the room for error is cut significantly, and much closer attention is required) that will optimize BF procs and your FoF procs, is to bank one charge of FoF for the instant BF procs or right as DF comes off CD. This will not increase the amount you cast DF, because you were presumable using Freeze every time anyways, but instead will allow you to cast Freeze every 25 seconds (on CD) instead of every 30 seconds (DF's cooldown), increasing your overall # of procs from Freeze in a given fight. This also allows you to use BF instantly, removing the chance for a wasted proc while fishing for a FoF charge.

    The only problem with banking a FoF charge is if you aren't paying attention closely enough, you can easily lose a charge. You will see that your first FB procced a second FoF charge mid cast on the your second FB; if you are quick, you'll be able to use the extra charge right after that second FB, and you'll have one remaining. If you aren't as fast or you're under a lot of haste, you will still be able to use your FoF before the 3rd FB lands, so that even if it procs a FoF charge, you will then be at 2.

    Whether saving a proc is worth it to you is up for you to decide.


Glyphs

    There are five prime glyphs with merit; Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt, Deep Freeze, Molten Armor and Ice Lance. One would think that FB and DF are obvious choices and that 5% more damage on your hard hitting IL would be great, I would also say that Molten Armor is amazing too, unfortunately that is all wrong. IL is actually terrible, and its DF and FFB that are the actually reliable choices. If a fight is going to be long, the best use of the last prime glyph slot is on Frostbolt, but if the fight is short enough to allow use of Molten Armor for most of the duration of the fight, the Molten Armor glyph actually overtakes Frostbolt in DPS given.

    For the majors, only Ice Barrier is really useful; I grabbed blink and Evocation as well. Conjuring, Slow Fall and Armors are once again my glyphs of choice for the minors.
Frostfire Bolt spec.

    Frostfire Bolt is odd in the fact that it can replace either Frostbolt or Fireball in their respective trees and be about equal. It's glyph increases it's damage substantially. When using FFB in place of Frostbolt or Fireball while using a normal Frost or Fire spec, respectively, the damage difference should be negligible (~1% loss for fire, unsure about frost). Most people agree that you can choose to use FFB simply because it "looks cooler."

    For fire spec: rotation, spec, mobility, threat, mana, cooldowns, nothing changes when going from FB to FFB besides that Glyph of Frostfire Bolt must be used in place of Glyph of Fireball.

    For frost spec: because FFB is now your main nuke and FFB can't proc BF, you won't be getting insta cast FFBs anymore; FFB costs 39% less than FB, so your mana will be easier to deal with; you also loose out of replenishment and the extra cleave damage FB gets from spreading it's chill with PC.


If this section gets recognition from the mage community, I can expand this to include more details but I don't have that information nor do I think it's needed right now, post any feedback you have however, and it will all be considered.

Rawr Guide

Before I integrate my Rawr guide here, I want to here from the rest of the mage community on it's current usefulness. From fiddling with it I noticed quite a few problems and I don't trust it's answers right now as much as I did in wrath.
Links to useful posts/replies:


Major changes/events:
  • 12/24/2010 - Initial guide posted
  • 1/4/2011 - Stickied!


Enjoy the guide! Post feedback!
Post 2 for my eventual rawr guide.
Spot 1 for my eventual rawr guide.
For the frost tree:

Just thought I'd open with, why the ice shards over piercing chill?
Ice shards does not proc fingers of frost, on the other hand Piercing Chill does.

Also for the start of raids using molten armor 2/3 points in enduring winter is wasted, 1 point is really just for the replenishment.
With that you shouldn't be having too many mana problems, even in raids.

As for mage armor vs molten armor, that 3% crit is real nice getting to the shatter crit cap.
For me it's molten armor on boss fights (Obviously because of the DPS state of mages right now, any extra dps is good) and mage armor for trash since you shouldn't be needing that little bit of extra dps.

EDIT: Also cold snap, since FFO causes so many Fingers of Frost procs, wouldn't it make sense to aim for this outside of the haste?
I mean, the frostbolts would better benefit your overall DPS than instant casts.

As for Cold snap, I burn my cooldowns (FO, burning FoF and BF procs wherever possible with an early deep freeze followed by icy veins at the start of the icy veins I pop my cold snap (because all the key frost CD's are on cooldown) and start over again.
Good point on the FFO causing procs, and with BL and IV you will be under the GCD gearless (1.5/1.3/1.2=.96 seconds). If you don't want to FFO during BL that makes sense, but I would still save CS for the double IV"ed BL.

EDIT: About Piercing Chill, I wasn't too sure how often you actually think TWO Adds will be within melee(ish) of the boss, so I figured 1/2 would be the most useful addition to the spec. After that I figured one point in Ice Shards for some extra blizzard utility, and I just tossed the last point into enduring water. I will reiterate on that section and list my assumptions better. Also, what spec would you recommend? I see a couple points floating around that I don't know what to do with.
(FROST SPEC)

Has anyone done the math for crit rating to see how good it is compared to haste/mastery after the soft crit cap has been reached? With ilvl 359 gear it shouldn't be too difficult to reach since you only need 20% crit from your gear to be capped with molten armor. I'm practically hit and crit capped myself and I don't even have any epics.

As for Ice Shards/Piercing Chill/Permafrost: This is highly dependent on the encounter. If you have to kite, or the boss does something that likes to kill your water elemental, then take Permafrost. If the boss has nearby adds, take Piercing Chill (1 or 2 ranks depending on number of adds). If there is mass AoE required, take Ice Shards. If you want to reach your best potential in raids you should respec according to each new boss you've reached in progression. For heroics, any combination of the three should suffice.

Medaz: I'm not sure where you're getting all that mana from, but I've found it difficult to sustain my mana pools even on a short raid boss like the one in Baradin Hold. I'm still waiting on reliable results from number-crunchers on crit rating to see whether it's more optimal to get 23% crit on gear and go with mage armor, or just get 20% crit and try to hold out with molten, while reforging any excess crit to haste/mastery.
20% from gear is 20*179=3580 crit rating. Good luck getting that short of Deathwing gear, if even then (unless you stack it, but that's mostly stupid).

I agree with the zomgz mana comment.

I think the points we are discussing in the frost tree almost don't matter, if someone really thinks they got a great frost spec, please feel free to link and expound upon what makes it so awesome.

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