Note 5/29/09: This guide is now, finally, updated for patch 3.1!
Currently, as of the date of this posting, there are only three viable raiding specs for mages: Frostfire, Arcane, and Fire (with enough points in arcane for torment of the weak). Right now I’m only planning to do write-ups for Frostfire and Arcane – even though deep fire can compete with both, my experience is that not a whole lot of people play it. As someone who raided as deep fire for quite a while at level 70, let me tell you: fire is boring as hell. It’s like frostfire but without the big crits. If you play it, then more power to you, I just think frostfire and arcane cover all your raiding needs.
So without further ado, let’s talk about Frostfire!
Spec: There’s not a whole lot of variation here; if you’re going to play Frostfire, you’re going to be using something very similar to this 0/53/18 spec.
Sure you can debate a couple talent points – but the bottom line is that if you use the above spec, you will be set up just fine for raiding.
Glyphs: Don’t forget your glyphs! If you’re serious about raiding, you’re pretty much locked in to the following two major glyphs:
- Glyph of Frostfire Bolt: 2% damage and 2% crit to your Frostfire Bolt – a no-brainer.
- Glyph of Living Bomb: Allows the DoT ticks from Living Bomb to crit. They WILL proc ignite, but will NOT interact with hot streak)
That leaves one major glyph slot open, and there are two viable choices for it depending on what your situation is:
- Glyph of Improved Scorch: Makes your scorch cast apply all 5 stacks of the “improved scorch” crit debuff at once.
- Glyph of Molten Armor: Increases the crit you receive from Molten Armor based on your spirit (“an additional 20% of your spirit as critical strike rating”)
Which one of these final two glyphs to use depends on the makeup of your raids. Improved scorch, when fully stacked, provides a 5% crit debuff on bosses. However, casting scorch at all breaks up your standard rotation (see below). In addition, shadow bolt warlocks will stack the same 5% crit debuff, which does NOT stack with the scorch one. So, if you are regularly raiding with a warlock that’s spec’d into Improved Shadow Bolt, there is no reason to ever cast scorch, period.
Meanwhile, the Glyph of Molten Armor will probably give you between 1.5% and 2.5% crit depending on your gear and the buffs you have.
It basically comes down to this: If you are being relied upon to stack the scorch debuff, then you need to glyph your scorch. There is NO situation in which you should cast scorch 5 straight times to max out the debuff – this is a huge DPS loss. If, however, you are raiding with a warlock that can stack his debuff, then by all means avoid scorch completely.
Rotation: Alright, here we go. This is what separates good mages from the many, many, MANY bad ones. An enormous number of players simply have no concept of a “spell rotation” – they just cast what they feel like, and figure that the damage will take care of itself.
This, of course, is wrong.
With frostfire, there are two rotations, one that includes scorch and one that does not (see above). Basically, you will do the most DPS if you do NOT include scorch in your rotation, but you will also not be stacking the Improved Scorch debuff, which gives all DPS casters in your raid 5% crit. Again, if you have a warlock casting improved shadow bolt in your raid, you do not have to worry about scorch at all.
So, this is the rotation that includes scorch:
- When the fight starts, cast Living Bomb on the boss. This is a damage-over-time spell which does no initial damage, and therefore causes negligible threat. This works nicely at the start of fights, because there’s very little risk that you pull aggro off the tank (whereas if you just started spamming frostfire bolts you probably would).
- Cast Scorch once. Assuming you have the Glyph of Improved Scorch, this will stack the scorch debuff 5 times, giving all casters in the raid, including yourself, a bonus 5% crit on the boss.
- Spam Frostfire Bolt. This is your primary nuke. When in doubt, cast frostfire bolt. Over and over and over again. Most of your damage is going to come from this, so you want to be casting it as much as possible. Of course, you’ll also want to use your “cooldowns” as early as possible (more on this a couple paragraphs down; we’re keeping it basic for now).
- Pyroblast is not castable unless the “Hot Streak” buff procs from getting two consecutive crits. This temporary buff will make your next pyroblast an instant cast, and therefore it’s your top priority to cast it when it comes up.
That’s it. Those are your four spells, and all you’ve got to do is manage them. What do I mean by “manage”? Well, let’s go to the three key concepts:
- You need to keep the scorch debuff active. If you are responsible for keeping the debuff active, you should NEVER, EVER let it go away. Once you cast your initial scorch, watch the debuff under the boss’ health bar – it lasts for 30 seconds, and when it’s getting close to running out, just stop casting frostfire bolt for a second to throw in a scorch to refresh it. You can use an add-on like Scorchio (get it from curse.com) if you have trouble seeing the debuff.
- Living bomb needs to be re-applied as soon as possible. When you cast living bomb, it will tick for 12 seconds, doing minor damage – then it will explode for a significant amount of damage. Once it explodes, you need to cast it again as soon as possible, and repeat that until the boss is dead. A lot of mages think living bomb isn’t worth casting, but it will consistently account for 10-12% of your overall damage – you’re telling me that’s not worth it?
- Hit Pyroblast any time the “Hot Streak” buff comes up. It takes a little (but not much) practice to see the Hot Streak buff (you can also listen for it, or get an add-on), but you’ll pick it up soon enough. Your next pyroblast will be an instant cast when hot streak comes up, and in general there’s little downside to hitting it as soon as possible.
It really is that simple – but what if you are NOT being asked to stack the Improved Scorch debuff? Well, then it just gets easier! Simply remove scorch from the equation entirely. Start the fight with a living bomb, then go right into casting frostfire bolt. All you have to worry about is refreshing living bomb every 12 seconds, and hitting pyroblast when hot streak procs – no more worrying about scorch at all! This will be a significant increase in DPS for you, provided that someone else (either another mage or a shadow bolt warlock) is providing the 5% crit debuff.
We’ll just touch on one more thing: Cooldowns. “Cooldowns” are spells that you can use every couple minutes that provide you with a temporary buff of some kind. As a Frostfire mage, here are the ones you have:
- Combustion: Increases your crit chance 10% per cast until you crit 3 times. You can use this every 3 minutes.
- Icy Veins: Increases your cast speed 20% for 15 seconds. With the talent build above, you can use this every 2.4 minutes.
- Mirror Image: Creates 3 mini-yous that do a small but sorta non-negligible amount of damage. These guys will also effectively prevent you from pulling aggro for 30 seconds (your attacks will still generate threat, but it won’t be applied to you until the 30 seconds is up).
- Any trinkets you have that have a “Use”. Some trinkets will increase your spell power, haste, etc. for a limited amount of time when you use them. These usually have a 2-3 minute cooldown.
In general, you want to use your cooldowns at the same time, to get the most ‘bang for your buck.’ Putting them in a macro works well – just type /macro to bring up the interface, create a macro, and type the following:
/cast icy veins
/use [name of your trinket, if you have one]
/cast mirror image
Then put that button somewhere convenient, and you’re good to go. Just hit that after you’ve cast your living bomb and scorch (or no scorch), and you can really go crazy with frostfire bolts right off the start of boss fights. By the time your mirror image runs out of time, the tank should have plenty of threat so you don’t pull aggro. If the fight lasts long enough for you to use your cooldowns a second time, use them when the boss is under 35% health so your cooldowns benefit from the 12% damage you’re getting from the Molten Fury talent.
So let’s do a quick review of how the standard boss fight should go:
- Start boss fights by applying living bomb, then, if it is your job to provide the 5% crit debuff, casting scorch. When living bomb explodes 12 seconds later, cast it again. When the scorch debuff has nearly run out, cast it again. Repeat this until the boss is dead.
- Hit all your cooldowns and start spamming frostfire bolt.
- Only stop casting frostfire bolts to cast an instant pyroblast when hot streak procs, to reapply scorch (if necessary), to reapply living bomb, or to use a mana gem.
Well, that’s about it! It really isn’t that complicated, and with a week of practice you too can be topping the damage charts even if you don’t have the best gear!