How to Play Frostfire Mage

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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?
  3. 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:

  1. Combustion:  Increases your crit chance 10% per cast until you crit 3 times.  You can use this every 3 minutes.
  2. Icy Veins:  Increases your cast speed 20% for 15 seconds.  With the talent build above, you can use this every 2.4 minutes.
  3. 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).
  4. 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
 /cast combustion
 /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:

  1. 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.
  2. Hit all your cooldowns and start spamming frostfire bolt.
  3. 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!

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37 Responses to “How to Play Frostfire Mage”

  1. Duncansby Says:

    I’ve tried adding Fire Blast to my rotation whenever if comes off cooldown, with the thought that it would trigger Hot Streak more frequently than just spamming FFB alone.

    I cant tell if it’s working, but the theory sounds reasonable to me. Any thoughts?

  2. MattG Says:

    I switched to the 0/53/18 Frostfire build yesterday morning. Here is my old build:

    http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/classes/mage/talents.html?tal=23002303010000000000000000000023050320123033310531203213510000000000000000000000000000

    I had it that way on the advice of another mage in my guild so that we could cast Focus Magic on each other. With buffs, I was doing around 2200 dps against raid bosses. Respectable, but nothing to brag about.

    I was already using the exact spell rotation you laid-out in this post. LB, IMP Scorch x2 (I have the glyph), spam FFB until hot streak procs or LB or Scorch needs refreshing. So, I decided to switch to the Frostfire build.

    My first dungeon run was heroic Violet Hold. I did nearly 4k DPS against Cyanigosa. The top DPSer in our guild was in the group at the time and was very impressed. :)

    • Karch Says:

      Good to hear! Yeah it’s amazing how big a difference talents can make. The thing with frostfire bolt is that the spell by itself isn’t any better than fireball. What makes frostfire bolt so potent is the frost talents – the 100% bonus crit from ice shards primarily. Ironically, you were actually very close to using a viable spec before you changed – if you would’ve went down to Torment of the Weak in the arcane tree, you’d be using the standard arcane/fire spec that’s performing at a very high level for some people right now. Your main nuke would be fireball though, and it’s a really boring spec to play – so I’m glad you’ve found success with frostfire!

  3. Kob Says:

    Just what I needed, thank you for taking the time

  4. Qwsaz Says:

    Actualy u right with one difference. u dont need to have x2 talent points on Flame throwing but it will be usefull instead to have one on dragon breth due to thing that blizzard changed tactic of trash cleaning from “more single target” to “aoe clear”

  5. Qwsaz Says:

    And about scorch. if boss going down and u know u have good crit and runing out of time for living bomb can aswell be usefull to cast scorches more than FF bolt coz cast time way faster and u will get more chansee to trigger Pyroblast. but it depends on situation actauly

  6. Red’s Head - Being a Frostfire Mage - The ropes Says:

    […] much to this website for providing most of the info i used in this guide. Mage Kearch’s How to play a Frostfire Mage Looking forward to writing the next guide, Frostfire Mage and […]

  7. Derek Says:

    thanks so much man. really appreciate it.

  8. marcus Says:

    thanks for the guide im seeing forward to test it :)

  9. Patch 3.1 « World of Warcraft Mage Guide to Raiding Says:

    […] By Karch As you know, patch 3.1 is now live on all servers.  I will be updating the frostfire mage guide and arcane mage guide in the near future, as well as writing a fire mage guide for the deep […]

  10. Dan Says:

    Hello:

    Great guide. I am currently trying to setup my interface and macros. Would you be willing to send me a screenshot of your UI and a list of your macros that you use? Thanks!

  11. Hawk Says:

    What sort of DPS should I expect from a frostfire build? I have reasonable gear and a *similar* spec, but struggle to get higher than 3k DPS. (Comparable warlocks and hunters are achieving 500-1000 DPS higher).

    Armory link below. Any thoughts on how I can improve?

    http://www.wowarmory.com/character-sheet.xml?r=Aman%27Thul&n=Hawk

  12. When is your DPS too low? « Armaggedon’s coming Says:

    […] is Karch’s solution to low DPS numbers. If your usual spec isn’t cutting it, change spec to rock the […]

  13. Denlo Says:

    I’m still doubting about the glyphs,
    there are about 5 good ones : Improved Sorch, Molten Armor, Frostfire bolt, Living bomb, Mana gem.
    I would really put Living bomb in because it helps for the Hot Streak crits, and the Mana gem helps a lot on longer casting.
    Anyone knows what to chose?

    • Karch Says:

      I need to update the guide – there’s a post later on outlining that you should use Glyph of Living Bomb instead of Glyph of Improved Scorch if at all possible. Glyph of Living Bomb has proven to be a better DPS increase than originally thought. Most high-end mages (whether fire/arcane or frostfire) are now ignoring scorch entirely whether there’s a shadow bolt warlock or not. So, the glyphs you should be using are Glyph of Living Bomb, Glyph of Molten Armor, and Glyph of Frostfire.

  14. Kristina Says:

    This was helpful. I just dinged 80 on my mage yesterday, and wanted to go FFB. I read a bunch of other stuff (including, obviously, the EJ FFB threads), but this distilled it in a way that was really good. Thanks. :)

  15. thallaron helscream eu Says:

    this is best guide for FFB mages.really tnx m8 my dps is 4.1k now.Xd
    see ya on wow!

  16. Mordak muradin US Says:

    Good guide, nothing to add. A+

    I really don’t get why people need this though. FFB is easy to understand and figure out by yourself. Learn your class instead of sucking info out of other people.

  17. Giannoss Says:

    Ty mate ur Advices was so helpful i can easily reach 4k Dps now…What about arcane pve

  18. Turney Says:

    ty m8. i found this guide very helpful although when i click the link you put in at the top the build comes up with no points spent in any of the trees. do you know y this is and if so could you tell tell me?

  19. Otztagotz Says:

    What if u have the LB glyph instead of IMP scorch, but a shadow spec does not show up in the raid how should the rotation look? Just forget about scorch totally?

  20. Otztagotz Says:

    Above the question is really wether to put Imp scorch or not and which glyphs you would reccomend

  21. Otztagotz Says:

    Above the question is really wether to put Imp scorch or not and which glyphs you would reccomend. And if you could tell me an updated marco that might help, ha I’m just looking to top dps

  22. doo Says:

    yeah the build is blank :(

  23. joey Says:

    wow, this really rocks pulled my DPS up with 2k (5k now) in raid bosses 25 anyway

    thanks alot mate

  24. sarah Says:

    Right i have just respected to FF and took me a while to get used to it.but loving it know :)

    You say earlier about the scorch not been used you mean NEVER?.or just the glyph

    Glyph of Living Bomb has proven to be a better DPS increase than originally thought. Most high-end mages (whether fire/arcane or frostfire) are now ignoring scorch entirely whether there’s a shadow bolt warlock or not

  25. Andy Says:

    Nice guide, but I am wondering about Fire Blast. Shouldnt it be added to the rotation?

  26. Isoluinen Says:

    Good job mate. The text was helpful and interresting to read. As many have already told you, the links should be repaired. And some macro for cd that works would be awesome.

    Thanks very much for your work.

  27. Nevis Says:

    Great guide!!! Thanks!

  28. Nik Says:

    i was just wondering if fireball wouldnt be better, as it does more damage

    • Karch Says:

      Deep fire plays the same way as frostfire, and this guide applies to that spec as well – just replace Frostfire Bolt with Deep Fire (and of course the spec is different)

  29. Saini Says:

    Here’s the updated link.

    http://www.wowarmory.com/talent-calc.xml?cid=8&tal=00000000000000000000000000000023050320123033300531203003512033030310030000000000000000

  30. Serenity Says:

    Thanks for your tip. I had taken about 6 months off from WoW and since returning I had been floundering about with my build. This has been very effective for me. Thanks again.

  31. Antti Says:

    I would alter your macro a little bit:
    /cast icy veins
    /cast combustion
    /use [name of your trinket, if you have one]
    /cast mirror image

    You can replace the name of your trinket with slot number and you can include both trinkets, if it doesn’t have on use effect, it won’t matter:

    /use 13
    for upper trinket in your character portrait

    /use 14
    for lower trinket

    So we end up with macro of (this also should use both trinkets on same time):
    /cast icy veins
    /cast combustion
    /use 13
    /use 14
    /cast mirror image

  32. Nex Says:

    build link not working :(

  33. nick Says:

    What epic gems should i go for? i have +23 spell power for red, can u suggest me the rest? should i go for +20 crit or +12sp and +10 crit?

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