The plight of a stationary spec in movement-heavy encounters

Today, I’m going to talk about some of my problems with frost mages in the 5.2 MOP patch.

With the Invocation talent change, my frost mage was still running OOM before the Invoker’s Energy buff faded, and so I was having to use evocation early (thus losing out on the benefit of the change they made to increase Invoker’s Energy buff duration).

Lets look at some of the changes:

“Water Elemental Freeze no longer does damage and only provides Fingers of Frost on a successful freeze.”

This means that water elemental’s freeze no longer generates Finger of Frost procs on PvE raid bosses. This results in a net loss of 4 to 8 Finger of Frost procs every 2 minutes (and a loss of 12 to 24 procs over a 6 minute fight). If you hit two targets, you got 2 procs, and 1 proc if you hit one target.

“Fingers of Frost now has a 15% (was 12%) chance to activate from Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt and Frozen Orb, a 5% (was 4%) chance to activate from Blizzard, and a 10% (was 9%) chance to activate from Scorch.”

Since scorch was removed entirely from the frost spec, this actually causes a bigger problem – because we lose a second ability that generated FOF procs for frost mages (and importantly, we lost our only ability that really allowed us to generate potential FOF procs while moving). The 3% proc chance increase to our primary spells will likely still result in a DPS loss overall, since a 3% chance to proc on each of our spells isn’t comparable to a guaranteed 12 to 24 procs across a 6 minute fight plus the procs we potentially got from using scorch during periods of heavy movement in fights.

Thus, if scorch is going to be something frost doesn’t have access to, and our pet can’t give us on-demand FOF procs, then we need the FOF proc rate for our spells overall to be re-evaluated. Otherwise, frost mages really need to be given an alternative ability to generate FOF procs, especially one that could be used while moving. Alternatively, Fire Blast should take on that 10% proc rate that scorch previously had, since Fire Blast will be the on-demand instant that we may want to use while moving more often now, since the cooldown is short and most movement happens in small chunks (I have to move three or four times before Ice Floes comes back off coolodown. Given FOF procs are less frequent and less predictable, we’re less likely to be able to use ice lance as a movement DPS mechanic, since Ice lance hits like a wet noodle without FOF procs).  Adding fire blast back in as a viable part of the movement rotation will absolutely require it to generate FOF procs, and would help compensate for losing Freeze and scorch from frost mage’s PvE rotation. At this point, it looks like the frost mage rotation may actually be the absolute most frustrating rotation due to lack of anything we can do with all the heavy movement fights. Frost went from my most fun spec to the most frustrating spec just with the loss of scorch from my movement rotation. While I didn’t use scorch for every fight, there were plenty of fights where it felt like I at least had options of things I could cast if I wanted to. Having my frost pet do the bulk of my movement damage is too passive and doesn’t allow me to feel like I’m in control of the DPS I’m doing while moving. Even if scorch didn’t generate a high % of my total damage done in a fight, it still made me feel like I was in control of my own DPS.

“Frostbolt now deals 24% more damage, but the debuff no longer increases subsequent Frostbolt damage.”

This was a really nice quality of life change overall, so that our damage will overall increase on fights with frequent target switches. Still, however, frost as a raid spec in 5.1 has been under-performing in raids compared to all the other raid specs, based on logs coming from the raids right now. Given that the loss of scorch and freeze will potentially overall impact Frost PvE negatively, frost’s overall DPS needs to be evaluated and watched much more closely (not that anyone is bothering to even play it to test on the PTR due to under-performing in the first place). This is especially important given that frost now has no real movement DPS mechanic at all, and ALL fights require heavy amounts of unpredictable movement in normal or Hard Mode difficulty.

If fights required zero movement, frost PvE would be fine in 5.2. However, the encounter designers don’t give us the luxury of Patchwerk fights anymore (and haven’t since, well, Patchwerk). Overall, I feel as though frost mage design is being done without encounter mechanics taken into consideration, and that frost in particular is being punished with changes targeted at Fire and Arcane specs. The three times I used blink in Hard Mode encounters on Thursday night, I blinked into bad stuff and instantly died. Blink isn’t a movement DPS mechanic, and frost mages don’t have any on-demand movement spells that do any real damage (Ice lance unbuffed hits for 8,000 damage).

The loss of two abilities, which increased our movement damage potential, has the potential to really hurt Frost PvE in 5.2. Since the goal of any playstyle is to “always be casting”, the fact that encounter mechanics in 5.2 prevent frost mage PvE from being able to “always be casting” is problematic. There aren’t encounters that allow for a “move, stop, cast” playstyle outside of 5-mans and some LFR encounters. Raiders have really had two choices in PvE raiding since Cataclysm: either “Move while casting, stop while casting, cast while standing still for a few seconds, and then move while casting again a few seconds later,” or just don’t bother going to raids at all. Looking at mage representation in raids this expansion, it really looks like not going at all is turning into the more attractive solution to a lack of movement DPS. Designing classes for Vanilla raid mechanics in MOP does a disservice to the raiding community. Either frost needs to have significant buffs to our stand-still rotation, so that we can compensate for our lower DPS up-time compared to everyone else, or frost mages need a better option for movement fights. Having poor mobility DPS is very much like having your hands tied behind your back and trying to play by mashing your face on the keyboard – it can be potentially effective, but it sure as heck isn’t fun. Given that the movement DPS of arcane & fire are also under attack by Blizzard (while at the same time, they hand out new fun movement mechanics to most of the other ranged DPS), it doesn’t make being a mage at all very comforting right now.

Posted in 5.2, Mage, Written By Lissanna

12 comments on “The plight of a stationary spec in movement-heavy encounters
  1. Scorch (not scotch, silly phone) is becoming a baseline ability, though, isn’t it? Blazing Speed is moving down a talent tier and a passive damage reduction talent is being added in its place. How do you think the impact will look taking that into account?

  2. TTGF Jamie says:

    I’ll wait and see before I make a judgment. But, here’s what I see:

    – We may get closer to OOM with Invocation now, but that just means we’ll have to Evocate early…if you’re using Rune of Power, it was already like that – you rarely ever got to stay still and benefit from the Rune for a full sixty seconds. I don’t think this is gonna be much worse.

    – The Freeze change is a bit jarring, but I think the increased chance to proc Fingers of Frost will offset this. I’m just guessing right now, but we’ll see. Also, bear in mind that Ice Floes is available more often now, too. This might also make other talent options, such as Ice Barrier or Nether Tempest/Frost Bomb more attractive, too.

    – At the risk of insulting many people who play my class…I’m glad Scorch is no longer a talent. It’s one of the most overrated abilities in our toolset, right up there with Cauterize. I think Mages in general use them as a crutch and I would be more than happy to see them go. Scorch in particular is a boring talent that Frost simply doesn’t need. Frost was already the best Mage spec for movement (it’ll be Fire now, obviously), with as many instant casts as we have in the spec. I’m happy to think that Mages will be using Ice Floes more often – it was always flat-out better for Frost in the first place.

    – The Frostbolt change was good, and it was the main thing I had hoped Blizzard would give to Frost.

    I admit, I haven’t played around on the PTR, but I don’t see most of this being a big problem. In fact, I see a lot of this as being good (less dependency on that stupid Water Ele, more procs from our normal casts, a much-needed buff to Frostbolt, and a greater incentive to not use only Frost Bomb). Now, if Blizzard would finally wise up and make Glyph of Icy Veins the baseline ability, it sounds like Frost is shaping up a bit from their boringization in MoP.

    Feel free to tell me I’m dumb on Twitter, @GLJamie.

    • Lissanna says:

      I really dislike periods of time when I am just simply not casting anything. While frost has a lot of instant-casts, these instant-casts are in the form of procs (which are now less frequent and less controllable in 5.2 – the 3% proc rate change doesn’t compensate for the loss of frequent FOF procs that you could control the timing of). At this point, most of my movement DPS on the 5.2 beta comes from my water elemental pet casting on the move, not from ME casting. I need to move three to four times more often than Ice Floes allows us to cast, and your best source of damage while moving is Ice Lance, which does 8,000 damage without FOF procs (versus the 21,000 damage of scorch). Most of the time you need to move, Ice Lance isn’t going to be receiving the 4x damage buff from FOF, and you can’t control WHEN you have to move the vast majority of fights, unless all you run is LFR (in which case, movement DPS doesn’t matter at all – only Heroic & Normal encounters matter for DPS).

      Even on Live right now, I choose a buffed Ice Lance or other instant-cast proc over scorch. I still cast scorch 60 or 70 times on my Wednesday night raid (which would have been approximately 6 or FOF procs from those casts), and Ice Floes absolutely can’t compensate for scorch given the fact that Ice Floes just isn’t up every time you need to move on heroic-level boss encounters, even at a 45 second cooldown (If you can find a way to complete the Spirit Kings fight with only moving once every 45 seconds on Normal or Heroic, please let me know the trick!). I can’t use Rune of Power in normal or heroic bosses at all because there just aren’t stationary periods on pretty much any fight to benefit from it. Rune of Power is for LFR when you can stand in the fire and not die. So, I still believe that the movement DPS changes results in a bigger Quality of Life problem.

      I’d be fine using Fire Blast instead of scorch, since they have similar amounts of damage. However, Scorch could generate FOF procs, and Fire Blast can’t. So, I’m forced to have to choose scorch over Fire Blast so I can follow up a FOF proc from scorch with a buffed Ice Lance. That damage boost from procs won’t easily show up on meters, but is important to talk about. In addition, I really think that scorch should just be baseline for all mage specs. It gets hyped because it was inappropriately a talent (instead of baseline) in the first place. We should have scorch baseline and be doing everything in our power to only cast scorch when we have zero other viable options – but on the vast majority of encounters, there are periods of time when we have zero other viable options, and this problem needs to be understood and fixed.

      Blizzard’s class designers are still designing classes without paying attention to what the encounter designers are doing. They’re still designing classes around Vanilla-style (don’t ever move on most encounter) raids, instead of designing classes capable of taking on MOP-style (move all the time on every encounter) raids. Given that raid leaders judge us not based on what we can do in LFR, but what we can do in heroic-mode encounters, frost and arcane mages are going to be in really big trouble in 5.2 – because the movement times are more frequent than increased damage during stand-still times can compensate for at all. Instead, you are going to see a huge increase of mages being forced to go fire because fire is the only spec that has any movement DPS capability at all now.

  3. TTGF Jamie says:

    I definitely run more than LFR! I am not into Heroics like you are; but my guild is 13/16N (We almost killed Tsulong on our first and only attempt, so he’s as good as dead for us anyways), and I’ve been ranked at one point or another on most fights in the tier as Frost (all of MGV except Elegon and Will; and, HoF Zor’lok and Garalon), with any fight I haven’t ranked on being very close (like <98%). I've also ranked on a few fights as Arcane using RoP.

    I am really not sure what to say – I definitely don't spend a ton of time just running and not-casting. I use Ice Floes when it's necessary, but otherwise I don't find that I am desperately needing to move without procs or without IF active all the time.

    I have Fire Blast on my bars, but I prioritize that lower than anything – even instant casts that don't deal damage. I used to use that a lot more as Frost in Cata, but I think I can count the number of times that I've used Fire Blast in MoP on one hand.

    I've also never had to take Scorch in a single encounter as Frost (admittedly, it was pretty handy as Arcane, but I legitimately think that the move back to four stacks will make using Arcane Barrage and Ice Floes more attractive). The only fight I've ever thought about taking Scorch as Frost was Stone Guard, but even then, maintaining Nether Tempest is such a huge part of your damage on that fight, you can refresh NT any time you are out of movement options and it will almost always be a net gain compared to a single use of Scorch.

    Here are some things that I do to make sure I can be mobile whenever I want – none of them involving Blink:

    – Hold onto your procs if you need to. If you hold onto one FoF proc, it's not a waste at all. In fact, this was par for the course if you raided as Frost in Cata (which I did, even on Heroic Mode content). If you are using Frost Bomb, you can even hold onto Brain Freeze for a long time, since you don't have to worry about the proc being overwritten for several seconds.

    – If you're using NT/LB, you can always refresh them, especially on any encounter with multiple targets. It may not seem like the most ideal thing to do at first, but it's better than refreshing it when you can finally stop moving and waste an entire second of Frostbolting.

    – If you are not consistently getting Brain Freeze procs, you can try using Frost Bomb exclusively; it does at least the same amount of damage as NT/LB, and you have more control over your procs in general that way, along with the ability to hold it until you need to use it.

    – You can always spec for defensive abilities that are on the GCD, such as Ice Barrier or Greater Invisibility. Ice Barrier is useful on many fights (the only fights so far that I felt Temporal Shield was a must so far was Blade Lord and Shek'Zeer), and it gives you something meaningful to do while moving, especially since Ice Barrier will be a worthwhile cast as long as you take all that damage in the span of

    – Make absolutely sure you are clearing your FoF procs before you cast Frozen Orb or Freeze; between the ability to hold BF procs with Frost Orb and my FoF management, I can get several seconds of movement using those abilities as long as I make sure I'm not overwriting my procs.

    – Here's a weird one that took me a long time to come to grips with: If you are ever going to cast Frostfire Bolt, make sure you only have one FoF charge. If you are going to cast Frostbolt into Frostfire Bolt, make sure you have no charges. You may already know that; but as someone who raided Frost in Cata, this was weird for me since FFB didn't proc Fingers of Frost back then. This is also one of the main reasons why I think it's always important to prioritize casting Ice Lance over Frostfire Bolt, regardless of damage dealt or any other circumstances except a Patchwerk encounter, even if you spec into NT/LB.

    – If you love NT/LB and hate Frost Bomb, you might try learning to love Living Bomb a little more, since it has been theorycrafted to generate the most Brain Freeze procs out of all three Bombs by a narrow margin.

    – Very specific situation: If Frost Bomb comes off cooldown while you're using Ice Floes, cast it. You're looking at a very small difference in the distance you can move, for the ability to generate another GCD that you can use to move in just a few seconds.

    – Finally, on raid fights where you take consistent damage (Stone Guard 25, Zor'lok, Blade Lord, Garalon, Shek'Zeer), you absolutely can use Incanter's Ward to ease the pain of moving. The damage is comparable as long as you are lining up your CDs with it.


    If you'd like to know my Spirit Kings strategy, sure thing! I think it's a bit sensational to say that you can only move every 45 seconds, but I won't worry about that. The following is my strat on Spirit Kings 10N, specifically how I think about movement:

    – For Qiang, I simply Blink behind him when he casts Annihiliate. I hold onto any instant casts as necessary for movement during this phase, as well as Ice Floes. I sometimes will use Blink to avoid the flanks; but, obviously not on this phase, so as not to kill the rest of my raid.

    – Subetai is probably the most difficult part, since the need to spread out causes problems avoiding Volley. Since you may need to Blink out of Rain of Arrows, you'll be hopefully saving Blink for when he is about to cast that. Otherwise, Flanking Orders and Pillage can be dodged with the usual tricks (save instant-casts, move with Ice Barrier/Bomb refresh). If you spec into Greater Invis, you can also cast that and run straight through the Flank without fear of dying, thanks to the huge damage reduction.

    Make sure that when you're not looking for any of those things specifically, all your instant casts are spent working your way towards the boss – if you are spread far out when he casts Volley, your only suitable options are to Ice Block or die. Do not use Ice Floes for this purpose.

    – When Meng is incredibly easy; you only need to watch out for Flanks (Blink) and Pillage (can move out with just one GCD). Meng is more about making sure you dodge *toward* the boss, so that you can be ready to stack up for Maddening Shout. When Maddening Shout is about to be cast, drop a Flamestrike on the boss and use Frozen Orb to move in.

    – Zian can be a bit tough if you get fixated by the add. I try to save practically instant cast I have for this, as well as Ice Floes. Since Meng is out, I will need to make sure to dodge flanks in a direction that leaves me as close to the boss as possible. I save Blink for this as much as I can – in rare occasions, I will need to use it while kiting an add, but I can usually depend on my team to help me kill the adds before I ever need to worry about doing this. If Flanks are coming your way and you've exhausted everything trying to get away from the add, just use Greater Invis at the last second and run through the Flanks.

    If you're not getting fixated, however, it couldn't be much easier! Spread out as much as you need to, while staying near the boss. If you are concerned that you might be fixated, be sure to watch the timers for when the adds are about to reform; you can get a decent lead on the adds as soon as they get up, which will shave off kiting time for anyone.

    (I can also tell you for a fact that this strategy works just fine using Invocation or Rune of Power.)


    It's hard for me not to think of most of the changes as anything but great for Frost, except the possibility of Freeze's change. Maybe I'll suddenly change my mind during Heroic modes? I have a hard time thinking I will at this point. I did heroic modes as Frost back when Frost was a complete and utter joke, and I was never behind the rest of my raid, so I'm sure I'll be fine doing them now.

    • Lissanna says:

      I do appreciate the feedback and advice. One of the reasons for starting posts like this is to generate controversy and discussion. I quite enjoy arguing. 🙂

      Are you running 10s or 25s? I actually find myself moving consistently quite more often in 25s when there are many more people to get in the way and force moving. I actually do better damage surprisingly in 10s than 25s for that very reason. Also, Terrace of the Endless Spring is where I use scorch the most often, compared to the MV and HOF instances. As I progressed through MOP, I became more and more reliant on scorch as a spell (and one of the reasons why I’m convinced that the 5.2 content won’t be playable with the current frost toolset, scaling, and overall mechanics). I didn’t need it on some of the early normal-modes (especially of the 10-man variety). I’m running frost bomb for raiding right now, as I find it to do better damage overall for the content I’m running (especially with groups of adds and such). However, I may need to go back to Nether Tempest or Living Bomb, since Frost Bomb can’t be cast while moving.

      At this point, however, I’m pretty sure I’ll need to drop frost in 5.2 to be able to keep raiding 25-man content. I personally suck at fire (my up-time as a fire mage was horrible). So, I’m going to start working on learning the 5.2 arcane rotation and figure out what the heck to do about movement with arcane.

      More than anything, however, I’m mostly just angry that Blizzard’s class designers insist on making some ranged specs really poor for movement damage, while allowing other ranged specs just blast away at full power while running circles around you. My problems are more about general game design problems and shortcomings of the designers that make things unnecessarily difficult on players to deal with encounter mechanics. Encounters aren’t stationary anymore, period. Over the next one, two, or three expansions – we’re just going to have to move at even more increasingly frequent intervals, to the point where we just won’t stand still at all if they keep pushing for more and more things to move away from. The fact that things like Rune of Power shouldn’t even get implemented anymore when encounters are all about who can move the fastest while still outputting incredible amounts of damage.

      • Hercdeisel says:

        “More than anything, however, I’m mostly just angry that Blizzard’s class designers insist on making some ranged specs really poor for movement damage, while allowing other ranged specs just blast away at full power while running circles around you. ”

        This is absolutely the thing that kills me as well.

        Want to treat hunters like ranged melee and have them be fully mobile? Fine. They do pay a small target switching penalty like melee do as well since their pets will likely have travel time for high add swapping fights.

        But to give Locks a talent that lets them pay the laughable cost of a small snare (and the opportunity cost of the level 90 talents) is ridiculous.

        Even Ele sham’s with castable LB on the move doesn’t bother me too much since they don’t have meaningful dots or instant casts to keep ticking/use during movement. I wish it weren’t part of the game but it isn’t like Ele’s are rocking the dps meters anyway.

        I actually think that the mage tookit sans scorch is a good toolkit to have (better than the current moonkin kit, for example, and comparable to shadow priests)…if it weren’t the case that there were other classes who (a) pay no meaningful dps cost for movement and (b) those other classes don’t get destroyed on meters when everyone is standing still.

      • TTGF Jamie says:

        I have no anecdotal evidence on 25s, since I play exclusively in 10s. What I can say, however, is that looking at some empirical data, there’s not a huge discrepancy. In fact, 25 has some nice advantages – I rarely raid with every possible buff/debuff at my advantage, for example. On any given week, I am missing either Spell Haste or the Spell Damage Taken debuff, as the 10th slot usually rotates between our Balance Druid and Affliction Warlock. If anything, I would guess my DPS would be higher on average in 25-man raids.

        Either way, Scorch is typically not a useful spell as far as I’ve seen. Yes, I suppose I have two more fights to look at on Normal Modes, but I know I don’t need them for Protectors and Tsulong, and I know I won’t need it for Lei Shi (all the mechanics that require movement are present in LFR and can’t be circumvented, and I don’t need it there). Scorch feels very safe, but overall it’s a low-damage alternative to most things you could be doing.

        Were I not doing extremely well, I might consider taking a different stance on the issue; however, I can demonstrate that my DPS is very high without ever using it:

        My only “low” fights are Un’Sok, wherein I was never turned into a construct the entire encounter; and Shek’Zeer, wherein I don’t DPS for a large amount of time during Phase 2, because I take it upon myself to set up both Amber Traps. You can do many great things without Scorch.

        I would also suggest that you take a look at some of the tactics I’ve given you for movement and work on them. Frost is the most mobile of all three Mage specs – that is, they are the best at moving while dealing the full damage of their rotation. Arcane, alternatively, is the least mobile, and if you are having trouble with moving and casting as Frost, you may find that Arcane has some insurmountable issues for you.

  4. Svartalf says:

    10 vs 25 … the room size stays the same, the ‘keep clear’ radius of the various enemy spell effects stay the same size, but there’s 15 more people trying to find a good spot to stand when you do the encounter in a 25 raid.

    I know exactly what you mean, Lissanna. There just seems to be a lot more movement needed in the 25 raids to stay out of the way of the 24 other people in the raid.

    (I’m a healer, so generally people try to keep clear of me so I don’t have to move and stop healing, but I do see all the ranged dps trying to find good spots to plant themselves for a bit, and looks like a lot more in the 25 raids.

  5. Treeboi says:

    I’m going to be blunt.

    Change spec.

    I’m serious, change spec.

    That’s the way it has always been for pure dps players who raid. You have to change with the patch and with the gear.

    You’ve always played your druid, where a spec change meant a role change. Ie, balance = ranged dps, resto = healing, feral = melee dps / tank.

    A dps class is different. Your role never changes, so you have to change your spec with the times. If a new patch favors fire mages, then all the mages in the guild migrate to fire, learning a whole new rotation in the process. If the next tier of gear favors arcane mages, then all the mage in the guild migrate to arcane once they get 3-4 pieces of gear, learning yet another new rotation.

    That’s just the way it works for dps, and it has happened for every single expansion.

    You have to stop being a frost mage, and just be a mage. Whatever spec is best given your gear and the current patch, that’s the spec you should be using.

    That’s the price a pure dps player has to pay in order to raid. They must play their class, not play their spec.

    • Lissanna says:

      I actually found that so far, I didn’t do any more damage as fire than I did as frost. It takes hours of investment to learn how to play a new spec (because skill matters just as much as what buttons you have to push). As someone new to mages (I didn’t reroll until the very end of Cata), I’m not finding that playing the FOTM spec actually translates into higher damage output if I don’t know what I’m doing (and if I’m totally miserable and not enjoying raids). I’m working on learning all the new mage specs (I spent some time on the PTR and live starting to learn PTR arcane, which is different from Live arcane, but my arcane training dummy DPS is still lower than my frost DPS on the live server). I’m just not good at fire’s twitchy reactionary playstyle. I always miss casting inferno blast to get my 2nd crit “in a row”, and so my pyroblast up-time is far too low for fire to be an effective spec for me (I’m far too used to moonkin’s more predictable rotation).

      In general, I’m going to do the same advocating for each mage spec, the same as I already still do for druids. If different class specializations come within less than 3% on overall logs, at that point, skill and choice is much more meaningful in determining what is going to be better for the individual. It turns out that re-rolling FOTM every patch doesn’t necessarily equal higher DPS if that specialization just doesn’t fit how you play. At this point, I don’t have to let Blizzard off the hook when they’re just being lazy about something that would be trivially simple to fix (or just not break a mechanic that is already working fine).

      My problem with the current post was that frost mages started out fine, but got the wrong kind of nerfs during beta that made me concerned about their raid viability. That’s a simple fix – either compensate for nerfing the spec, or just don’t nerf it. It’s likely that the additional buff to frost bolt’s base damage and spell power multiplier may help with that problem indirectly by making their stand-still DPS more comparable enough to keep up. I give feedback about class design during PTRs for whatever class I play. It’s just not enough for me to have one of the class’ specs be viable (since back in Vanilla, I heard all the time about how it didn’t matter if all the DRUID specs were viable if one of them were).


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