Frost Mage in Shadowlands
Mage with a “Frost” specialization is a master of magic who’s mastered the water element in its most destructive form. Almost all the spells slow down enemies, which enables the mage to win time in battle. This guide will teach you all the basics and peculiarities of this specialization. It’ll show you which builds to use, which covenant to choose, how to equip properly, and many other things. Having mastered all the sections, you’ll quickly realize how much better your in-game results have become.
Like all mages, “Frost” uses mana as a main resource. There are no real problems when it comes to this specialization. The only thing that can leave a mage out of mana is the constant use of Spellsteal and Arcane Explosion.
The idea of playing a mage with a “Frost” specialization is about getting and using “Procs” right (Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze). Frostbolt is the main proc generator. All the abilities of a frost mage have an increased critical hit chance when attacking frozen targets thanks to the passive ability Shatter. It’s at the core of the spec. Read about it in detail in this guide.
- Strong single-target damage
- Strong damage from continuous cleave
- Increased damage to the main target when extra enemies are nearby
- Great survivability. Can avoid some mechanics thanks to the 2 Ice Block, Ice Barrier, and Alter Time. A frost mage can survive anything.
- High mobility. Provided that the movement in battle is moderate and predictable — a frost mage almost doesn’t lose DPS.
- Loses a lot of damage when moving often and unpredictably.
- A frost mage depends on RNG/procs
- Icy Veins — not a very strong burst compared with other specializations
- Can’t AoE/cleave targets that are very distant from each other
- Such abilities as Blizzard and Frozen Orb are bound to the area they’re cast in. If a tank has to get enemies out of it, the mage will be losing DPS.
About the author
Nourdeen, a raider of the guild Walkthrough, is the author of the guide. Check out my Twitch. There, you can watch the gameplay of various classes in completely different types of content.
Arcane Explosion — АоЕ ability. It is primarily used when there are a lot of enemies at low HP. Costs mana to use. (The soft cap is at 20 targets)
Fire Blast — Used when moving if there are no procs, or if the target has low HP and procs would be overkill. (Example — a sphere kill in M+)
Frostbolt — main proc generator for Brain Freeze and Fingers of Frost.
Ice Lance — this ability, when used with procs, becomes the main source of damage
Frozen Orb — vital DPS cooldown. Capped at 8 targets
Flurry — don’t use it without procs. With procs this spell becomes instant and debuffs the target with 2 stacks of Winter’s Chill, which will increase the power of subsequent Ice Lances. Note that every shard from Flurry applies 2 stacks of Winter’s Chill that get overwritten. By casting Frostbolt prior to Flurry, it will reach the target before the Flurry’s last shard, absorbing a Winter’s Chill stack and gaining crit bonus from Shatter, then the last shard will overwrite Winter’s Chill and it will stay at 2. This is the main frost mage’s “shatter combo”: Frostbolt >Flurry with Brain Freeze >Ice Lance>Ice Lance.
Blizzard — AoE spell, capped at 20 targets. Most important feature — deals 9 ticks of damage, each one reduces Frozen Orb’s cooldown by 0.5 sec, so it’s -4.5 sec per target.
Cone of Cold — strongest slowing effect available.
Frost Nova — Used to control adds. Note that targets within Frost Nova are considered frozen, thus all spells used on them gain crit bonus from Shatter.
Icy Veins — accelerates spellcasting by 30% for 20 seconds and completely negates spellcasting delays from taking damage. Cooldown — 3 minutes.
Time Warp — mage’s equivalent of Bloodlust/Heroism, raises haste by 30% for 40 sec. for all raid or party members. CD 5 minutes. Everyone affected by Time Warp also gets a 10 minute debuff that blocks similar effects. This is a cooldown shared by an entire raid, so its use should be coordinated.
Brain Freeze — gives Frostbolt a 30% chance to empower the next Flurry to be instant cast, deal 50% more damage, and apply 2 stacks of Winter’s Chill to the target. Winter’s Chill causes the target to take damage from spells as if they were frozen.
Mastery: Icicles — casting Frostbolt or Flurry creates an icicle. Casting Ice Lance causes all stored icicles to launch at the same target, each dealing frost damage (plus crit bonus from Shatter). Up to 5 icicles can be stored at the same time. Any excess icicles gained will be automatically launched. Increases Frozen Orb damage by 15%.
Fingers of Frost — Frostbolt or Frozen Orb have a 15% chance to grant a charge of Fingers of Frost. It stacks up to 2 times and causes your next Ice Lance to deal triple damage, as if the target were frozen.
Shatter — multiplies the critical strike chance of frost spells by 1.5 and adds an additional 50% increase.
Ice Barrier — mage’s main self-sustain ability. CD is less than duration.
Ice Block — makes the spellcaster immune and allows to survive through anything.
Cold Snap — resets the cooldown of defensive abilities.
Invisibility — drops aggro, allowing to skip unnecessary encounters in the dungeon.
Alter Time — this ability has many uses, you can cast it as a defensive spell and heal predictable damage, use it to save a charge of Blink or negate the DPS loss from knockback abilities.
Mirror Image — used to be a talent, now it’s a base ability. Gives an insignificant damage boost. Primarily used to reduce incoming damage or draw away enemy attacks if your tank died.
Counterspell — useful interrupt, prevents any spell in the game (the longest lockdown of the school in the game). Has a 40 yds range and can be cast while facing away from the target.
Slow Fall — slows a group member’s falling speed for 30 sec.
Portal — allows you to open a portal for raid or party members to one of the faction’s capitals or a major city.
Polymorph — our single-target CC. Aside from that it can be used to heal targets. (Sometimes killing an enemy is more trouble than it’s worth. Example — Bolstering affix in M+)
Blink — teleports you forward 20 yds or until reaching an obstacle, and frees you from all stuns and bonds.
Conjure Refreshment — conjures food that replenishes health and mana. Conjured items disappear if logged out for more than 15 minutes. Cast it for your healer.
Teleport — teleports you to your faction’s capitals and major cities.
Spellsteal — note that it costs a lot of mana. This ability is unique. It allows you to “steal” buffs from enemies.
General information. On reaching several levels, you will open new Talent tiers. In each tier, you can choose one Talent at a time. Talents can affect your abilities in different ways: add new ones, replace old ones, passively modify various effects and spells. You can change Talents while you’re in Sanctums or in rest areas, but if there are no such places nearby, you can use Tome of the Tranquil Mind, which allows you to change Talents within a minute. Note that Talents can’t be changed in combat. Also, if a Talent selected in a certain tier is on CD, you’ll have to wait for it to recharge in order to change it.
Tier 1 — 15 lvl. Talents that affect DPS
- Bone Chilling. Whenever you attempt to chill a target, you gain Bone Chilling, increasing your frost spell damage by 0.5% for 8 sec, stacking up to 10 times.
- Lonely Winter. You can no longer summon a Water Elemental, however your Frostbolt, Ice Lance, and Flurry now deal 25% more damage.
- Ice Nova. Deals a lot of frost damage to enemies within a 8 yard radius, freezing them for 2 sec. The main target receives 100% more damage. CD 25 sec.
* Lonely Winter grants the largest damage boost for your main spells and should be chosen by default. Ice Nova is primarily used in PvP.
Tier 2 — 25 lvl. Mobility and Survivability
- Glacial Insulation. While active, Ice Barrier increases your armor by 200% and Ice Block applies Ice Barrier to you when it fades.
- Shimmer. Can be used instead of Blink. Unaffected by the global cooldown and castable while casting. It has 2 charges, and CD 15 sec.
- Ice Floes. Has 3 charges, can be used during spellcast, doesn’t affect global CD. Allows casting the next spell while moving. This talent is sometimes useful. It should be noted that if you use it at the end of your cast (about 0.5 sec before), you can sometimes move while casting the next spell as well (could be a bug). This talent is useful in situations that require a lot of movement or Shimmer has a chance to teleport you somewhere you shouldn’t be. (Example — in Antorus, Varimathras summons an add if someone moves too far away from the raid and sloppy use of Shimmer makes him spawn an additional copy which usually results in a party wipe)
*By default — Shimmer allows you to change your character’s position without breaking spellcast and losing DPS. The other two talents are niche and used rarely.
Tier 3 — 30 lvl. Talents that affect DPS
- Incanter’s Flow. Used to be a default choice for a frost mage in previous addons, now it’s not viable compared to the other two options.
- Focus Magic. New talent. Interestingly, it doesn’t stop your movement, and swapping buffs with other frost mages brings uptime to 100% (plus 5% crit and 5% intelligence)
- Rune of Power. After changes, when using Icy Veins the rune is placed instantly and it has only 1 charge instead of 2. The most powerful talent in this tier due to 40% magical damage increase.
*Rune of Power is the default choice, but Focus Magic has its uses, too. If two mages combine buffs, both get a DPS boost without losing momentum. You can compare these two talents on raidbots.com, since they are very similar.
Tier 4 — 35 lvl. Talents that affect DPS
*This build is designed to increase the damage of Ice Lance, so Chain Reaction is the only choice in this tier. Plus, it’s now easier to maintain stacks due to Brain Freeze applying 2 stacks of Winter’s Chill.
Tier 5 — 40 lvl. Control
- Frigid Winds. All chilling effects reduce the enemy’s movement speed by 15%.
- Ice Ward. Frost Nova now has 2 charges.
- Ring of Frost. Summons a Ring of Frost for 10 sec in the chosen area. Enemies entering the ring are incapacitaded for 10 sec. 10 target limit. CD 45 sec.
*This tier has no damage bonuses. Take Frigid Wind if you want to boost your slowing effects, Ice Ward — if you can utilize the second Frost Nova (Note — the target standing in the Frost Nova is considered frozen, so we can shatter ticks of Frozen Orb, Blizzard, and other abilities). Ring of Frost is primarily used in PvP for cross-control or against targets immune to polymorph, or if you need to group up multiple targets.
Tier 6 — 45 lvl. Talents that affect DPS
- Freezing Rain. Frozen Orb makes Blizzard instant cast and increases its damage done by 60% for 12 sec.
- Splitting Ice. Ice Lance and Icicles now deal 5% increased damage, and hit a second nearby target for 65% of their damage.
- Comet Storm. Calls down 7 icy comets on and around the target, that deal huge amounts of Frost damage to all enemies within 6 yds of its impacts. CD 30 sec.
*Splitting Ice. Best choice in this tier. Another talent that boosts Ice Lance damage and allows it to cleave. Freezing Rain — best talent for AoE with multiple targets.
Tier 7 — 50 lvl. Talents that affect DPS
- Thermal Void. Icy Veins‘ duration is increased by 10 sec. Ice Lances against frozen targets extend your Icy Veins by an additional 1 sec.
- Ray of Frost. Channel an icy beam for 5 sec, dealing Frost damage every 1 sec. With each tick, its damage and snare increase by 10%. CD 1.15 min. Also generates 2 charges of Fingers of Frost over its duration. Overall low damage, its main use — slowing and proc generation.
- Glacial Spike. Ice Lance no longer launches icicles. This ability allows to release all 5 stored Icicles and deal a huge amount of damage to the enemy, freezing them for 4 sec. Requires 5 icicles to cast.
*Thermal Void — default choice, along with potency conduit Icy Propulsion (more on that next), Icy Veins’ uptime becomes high even on a single target, 3 targets or more – 100%. Ray of Frost is used in PvP and Glacial Spike has lower damage.
Frost mage’s build is universal for Raids and Mythic+
- Lonely Winter
- Rune of Power / Focus Magic (coupled with another mage that has the same talent)
- Chain Reaction
- Frigid Winds
- Splitting Ice
- Thermal Void
Each covenant grants its followers a signature and a class ability.
There are 4 covenants total: Venthyr, Kyrian, Night Fae, and Necrolord.
You can change them once a week. Note that the covenant’s power depends not only on signature abilities, but also on available soulbinds.
Single-target: Venthyr > Kyrian >= Night Fae > Necrolord
Mythic+ / АоЕ: Night Fae >>> Venthyr = Kyrian > Necrolord
Signature — Door of Shadows. Slow long-range teleport. Not a big gamechanger for a mage, but has its uses, making this class even more mobile.
Class — Mirrors of Torment. Grants 3 procs of Brain Freeze, powerful and easy-to-use ability. Try maximizing DPS, don’t use it on a single target with Frozen Orb. Rune of Power’s CD is 45 sec, Mirrors of Torment’s CD is 90 sec, so use them in such a way that every 2nd Rune of Power is used at the same time as Mirrors of Torment (Legendary Freezing Winds and Conduit Icy Propulsion):
00.00 Icy Veins + Frozen Orb 00.15 Mirrors of Torment + Rune of Power 01.00 Rune of Power + Frozen Orb 01.45 Mirrors of Torment + Rune of Power
upd. The simulations have shown that it slightly boosts DPS only when using a legendary (more on that coming up).
Signature — Summon Steward — Call a steward to bring you a potion that restores health and removes most debuffs and bleed effects. Very useful.
Class — Radiant Spark — enhances 4 of your next spells. Pretty powerful, but sometimes getting the maximum effect can be tricky, i.e. boosting only Ice Lance —
Radiant Spark >Flurry with Brain Freeze>Ice Lance>Ice Lance.
With legendary Freezing winds —
Radiant Spark>Frozen Orb> Icy Veins>Ice Lanceх4/Rune of Power>Frozen Orb>Ice Lanceх4
Signature — Fleshcraft — without soulbind bonuses it’s just a strong shield. With them — quite useful, since it gets stronger when cast near a corpse.
Class — Deathborne — IMO, it’s weak, mainly due to its long cooldown that doesn’t line up with Icy Veins.
Signature — Soulshape — a very pleasant ability. It can get you out of a hairy situation if you have no blinks left, and running around rest areas with infinite sprint is a joy.
Class — Shifting Power — very strong in M+ and any AoE encounter. Reduces CD of all abilities except itself and Soulshape. Against a single target its usefulness depends on the duration of the fight. In case you were unable to dish out more Frozen Orbs, runes, or receive a bonus from Icy Veins, you’ve basically wasted its use.
There are three types of conduits:
- Potency Conduit — improves your character’s efficiency in their main role. There are 4 in total plus 1 for each covenant.
- Endurance Conduit — improves survivability. There are 4 in total.
- Finesse Conduit — enhances utility abilities, 4 in total.
Icy Propulsion — the most effective conduit for single-target and AoE, starting with 3+ targets the uptime of Icy Veins is 100%.
Ice Bite — even after nerfs in beta it still holds the second place in terms of damage to a single target.
Unrelenting Cold — pretty weak conduit.
Shivering Core — doesn’t boost DPS on a single target, could be used in ultra-AoE situations since it has no target cap.
Cryo-Freeze — heals you while inside Ice Block. Even though at higher ranks it heals almost completely, we’re not going to chill inside the Ice Block for the whole duration, which makes this conduit less useful.
Diverted Energy — healers usually try keeping everyone at full hp, so heals from this conduit will be wasted more often than not. However, it can be useful if AoE damage is overwhelming and the healer has their hands full.
Tempest Barrier — at higher ranks the shield absorbs slightly less than Ice Barrier.
Flow of Time — more blinks — more DPS. At maximum level it has the same cooldown as Shimmer before the nerf.
Grounding Surge — situational, if you wish to reduce the cooldown of counterspell. Even at max level it doesn’t reduce CD to 15 sec, so its usefulness is up for debate.
Incantation of Swiftness — nice to have in M+ or the arena, but not really worth the slot.
Winter’s Protection — at max rank reduces CD by a minute. Could be viable in some fights, where you need a 3-minute Ice Block.
Here’s a comparison chart of conduits for all covenants:
Each covenant has 3 soulbinds to choose from with unique abilities and effects. Often you have to choose between the soulbind ability that deals damage and a conduit.
The image below shows a comparison chart for soulbinds with the maximum level of Renown (The use of 2 DPS conduits is implied if the chart doesn’t specify the Soulbind’s DPS ability).
Slick Ice>Freezing Winds>Temporal Warp>Expanded Potential>Cold Front>Disciplinary Command>Glacial Fragments
Freezing Winds>Glacial Fragments>Temporal Warp>Cold Front>Slick Ice>Disciplinary Command>Expanded Potential
Note that the choice of legendaries can be affected by your chosen covenant, talents, and your overall equipment.
We recommend visiting raidbots.com
- Icy Veins
- Rune of Power
- Ice Lance, if Fingers of Frost is active
- Ice Lance if the target has Winter’s Chill debuff
- Flurry, if Brain Freeze is active and you just stacked Frostbolt
- Frozen Orb
- Blizzard if there are more than 2 targets
If there is a larger (5+) number of additional targets, casting Blizzard and Frozen Orb becomes a priority over the use of procs. But don’t forget about your priority target and don’t waste your procs. Also, when there’s a lot of enemies, no priority target and Blizzard is on cooldown, use Arcane Explosion as a filler instead of Frostbolt.
Choosing a race
Choosing a race is not critical for a Frost Mage. You can use whatever looks best to you. But if damage bonus is a crucial factor to you, use these charts for the Alliance and the Horde:
The following stat priority can be taken as a basis:
Crit to 33.34% > Haste = Versatility > Mastery
You should always use raidbots.com to determine priorities for your character.
Based on the priorities above and simulations of your character you can choose gems, enchants, and consumables.
Deadly Jewel Cluster (Crit) / Versatile Jewel Cluster (Versatility) / Quick Jewel Cluster (Haste)
Weapon: Celestial Guidance
Bracers: Eternal Intellect
Chest: Eternal Stats
Cloak: Soul Vitality / Fortified Leech
Rings: Tenet of Versatility or any other stat depending on weight.
Oils: Shadowcore Oil
Pots: Eternal Cauldron / Spectral Flask of Power
Potions: Potion of Spectral Intellect / Potion of Phantom Fire / АоЕ: Potion of Empowered Exorcisms
Healing: Spiritual Healing Potion
Food: Feast of Gluttonous Hedonism (+20 agility) / Spinefin Souffle and Fries (+30 crit) / Steak a la Mode (+30 versatility)
Armor kits: Heavy Desolate Armor Kit
BiS Gear & Trinkets
Head — Confidant’s Favored Cap Lady Inerva Darkvein / or Freezing Winds legendary
Neck — Azure-Venom Choker M+ Spires of Ascension
Shoulders — Shawl of the Penitent Sire Denathrius
Cape — Crest of the Legionnaire General General Kaal
Chest — Robes of the Cursed Commando General Kaal
Wrist — Grim Pursuant’s Maille Huntsman Altimor
Hands — Supple Supplicant’s Gloves BoE
Waist — Cinch of Infinite Tightness Hungering Destroyer
Legs — Grim-Veiled Pants legendary slick ice / Leggings of Lethal Reverberations Sludgefist
Feet — Slippers of the Forgotten Heretic Shriekwing
Ring 1 — Ritualist’s Treasured Ring Lady Inerva Darkvein
Ring 2 — Most Regal Signet of Sire Denathrius Sire Denathrius
Macros are utilized to do something faster and more efficiently. Their use is optional.
Blizzard at the cursor position
Focus on the target under the cursor
Macros for casting spells at focused targets
/cast [@focus] Counterspell
/cast [@focus] Polymorph
/cast [@focus] Spellsteal
When there’s a lot of enemies and you need to multitask (attack one enemy, interrupt another, and purge that third guy over there) and clicking nameplates is unreliable, use this macro:
/target <NPC name>
Cancel Alter Time (if you don’t want to return to the void zone).
/cancelaura Alter Time
I also have a lot of abilities in /cancelaura Ice Block macros. Example:
/cancelaura Ice Block
Burst + use of trinket and racial ability:
/cast Icy Veins
/cast <racial ability>
Addons are personal preference as well. I myself am not a fan of interfaces that look like a spaceship console. Main rule — don’t clutter your screen with useless information.
I recommend these ones:
BigWigs/Deadly Boss Mods — addons with timers and announcements for important events.
Details! Damage Meter — of course, most people use it to evaluate their button mashing skills, but this mod’s features go beyond simple DPS counting.
Shadowed unit frames — allows customization of unit frames.
Exorsus Raid Tools — pretty good addon that was recently revamped, now it has an updated UI and unique features.
WeakAuras — probably the most important addon for modern WoW. With its help, you can set up almost anything, and on wago.io you can find hundreds of useful auras and import them to your game in a few clicks.
Plater Nameplates — its design and nameplate customization tools leave much to be desired.
BigDebuffs — allows you to filter out debuffs on unit frames.
Advanced Interface Options — allows you to fine tune the config.
- Keep casting at all times even if you have no procs, 2000 damage from Fire Blast or Ice Lance without proc — it’s better than nothing. Use Shimmer, plan your positioning in advance.
- Don’t forget about Mirror Image, it’s a very powerful defensive ability. The copies disappear only after you take a direct hit, most AoE skills don’t kill them and they reduce incoming damage by 20%.
- While scoping out dungeons and during boss encounters try to find effective uses for Alter Time. It has a short cooldown, doesn’t waste a lot of mana and GCD of your healer that they can spend attacking or healing others.
- Many people get confused about how to deal with a lot of procs. Use this rule:
That’s quite it for this guide. We hope you have no more questions and are ready to get down to practice. Thanks for tuning in. Best of luck in the world of Azeroth!