Frost Mage 5.4 PVE perspectives

With the chance to do some PTR testing for the most recent frost mage build, I wanted to highlight some of the changes. Since I don’t PVP, I will really focus on PVE aspects of the frost mage 5.4 changes. Since this is still on the test realm, it is likely that some aspects will change before the patch goes live.

New Mastery: Icicles

The biggest upcoming change is the removal of the original frost mastery (increased frost damage to frozen targets), and replacement with a new mastery (a portion of the damage from frostbolt and frostfire bolt is stored as icicles that will launch at the target when you hit ice lance. If you have 5 stored up, extra icicles will auto-fire at the target).

WoWScrnShot_072813_123542 Why a new mastery? The original mastery tended to be great in PVP, where your crowd control abilities allow for freezing your targets and unloading burst damage on your target. However, since bosses can’t be frozen, this proved to be problematic where mastery is not currently a great PVE stat. Since frost mages have easy-to-attain soft caps on both critical strike and haste from gear, this left PVP mages too powerful in high levels of gear, and PVE mages not powerful enough.

How do you increase the PVE value while decreasing the PVP value of the mastery? The only way to do it was to change the mastery.


What is Icicles? Lhivera has a nice two part series on both the original implementation of icicles and the updated version that addressed many of our original concerns.

Briefly, the current version of icicles does this:

  • Our pet gets a flat damage increase from mastery as a stat, and does not generate icicles. This is because the pet could generate a lot of low damage icicles that made icicles feel awkward.
  • So, only two spells generate icicles: Frostbolt and Frostfire Bolt. With PVE mages spending a lot of time hard-casting frostbolts, this won’t be problematic for PVE purposes. We will generate fairly frequent icicles and always benefit from the pet buff portion. This means that if Blizzard balances the numbers out correctly, mastery could increase in value for PVE frost mages in the next patch.
  • The icicles will auto-fire if you have a 5-stack. This means that under most circumstances, you should not be casting Ice Lance to launch icicles unless you have a FOF proc that increases the damage done by Ice Lance. The icicles will last in your storage “bucket” for up to 30 seconds before they will fall off unused. This should reduce the amount of wasted icicles in PVE compared to the original version.
  • Glyph of Ice Lance is being replaced with a new glyph that allows for icicle damage to also be split to a second target, increasing the value of mastery on cleave fights compared to the original version. This makes icicles valuable on cleave fights (though it is still important to note that none of our AOE spells generate icicles).
  • The changes to our mastery created a problem where we now had multiple ramp-up times, due to the combination of charging up both icicles and the frostbolt debuff. To address this, the frostbolt debuff was removed. Now, the debuff that reduces the target’s movement speed will stack, but it doesn’t impact the damage of our spells. The baseline damage of spells were adjusted as needed. This will ultimately help in target-swap fights where frost mages had the problem of having high ramp-up time.

In the end, icicles doesn’t really impact the PVE rotation in its current form. It isn’t really something you should have to worry too much about managing outside of situations where you may want to choose to delay Ice Lance casts to make the timing work with the rest of your rotation and allow for the ~3 seconds it takes for all 5 of the icicles to launch. If the number balancing is done well, this can also make mastery a valuable stat for PVE frost mages.

The bigger concerns now about icicles is how it impacts PVP play styles, where they are unlikely to want to hard-cast frostbolts to generate icicles.

Cosmetic Changes for Frost Mages


There are currently three major cosmetic changes for frost mages in the next patch (two of which you can see in the picture above).

  • First, the icicles mastery has a graphic. The 5 stored icicles show above your head, and fire off from above your head when launched or auto-firing.
  • Second, we got a new glyph that changes the water elemental pet into a new “unbound water elemental.” This is the first time we have been able to adjust the look of the water elemental pet.
  • Third, you can control how big your pet is. The glyph of water elemental no longer increases the size of your pet. Instead, you can choose between three pet sizes. The regular unglyphed size, the glyph that makes your pet smaller, or the glyph that makes your pet bigger. I find this set of changes to be really important to me, since my water elemental pet feels too big even though PVE encounters force me to take the water elemental pet glyph so my pet can cast while moving.

Overall, with the current PTR build, the frost mage feels pretty fun to play. There are still definitely problems that need to be addressed (especially related to how the mastery change impacts PVP viability). However, the developers responsiveness to fixing some of the original icicles problems makes frost a pretty fun PVE option in the next raid tier.

Posted in Mage, Patch 5.4, Written By Lissanna

3 comments on “Frost Mage 5.4 PVE perspectives
  1. Newsom says:

    Now they just need to do something about haste…

  2. Muphrid says:

    What tweaks could be considered so that PvP frost mages can generate Icicles even while pressured (i.e. outside of Frostbolt)? With Waterbolt out of the picture, that leaves just what, Brain Freeze FFB? Would it make sense for Ice Lance itself to generate an Icicle? If so, could Icicles be restricted not to fire before a full stack?

    I think there are valid concerns about the desire to have burst and having that burst Icicle dump to Ice Lance means not being free to use excess FoF procs.

    So I think there are two problems here: being unable to generate enough Icicles and not being able to use Ice Lance freely because Icicles are tied to them.

  3. TTGF Jamie says:

    I’m pretty sure the reason for Icicles being implemented is the opposite of how you’ve explained it – in other words, it wasn’t implemented because Mastery was not powerful enough in PvE, but rather because Mastery was waaaaaaaayyy too powerful in PvP.

    For anyone here that doesn’t PvP often, PvP Frost stacks Mastery in the same way that PvE Frost stacks Haste. When a Frost Mage suspects they are going to land a Deep Freeze that won’t be escaped (by trinket or by a spell that removes stuns, etc.), they build up as many FoF/BF procs as they can, launch a Frostbolt and cast Glyphed Deep Freeze, activate their Spell Power trinkets, and go to town on their opponent. The combined increase in damage on their Frozen target, plus the burst of anyone else on their team, means that the person almost certainly going to die.

    I’d be willing to bet that Icicles were implemented deliberately to smoothen out the damage in PvP and make it less bursty. Reason being is that Frost PvE still frequently benefits from Mastery (about the only spell that PvP Frost benefits from that we don’t is their Mage Bomb, since a Mage Bomb cast during Deep Freeze gets the Shatter crit bonus until it expires). But, if you think about it, every Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze proc is benefiting from Mastery; since these procs make the spells act is if the target were frozen, they get the benefit from Mastery along with the crit bonus/additional increase to damage on Ice Lance.

    Personally, I hate Icicles. The reason they are bad in PvP is already succinctly explained in the post above me. They are horrible in PvE for a lot of reasons:

    1. Lack of control: You can’t choose when to cast them, and the logic for firing them is “First in, first out”. Since they are tied to Ice Lance, it creates funny situations when your target is about to die – Do you cast Ice Lance, which would finish the target off on its own, but lose an Icicle? Do I long-cast Frostbolt, knowing that the cast probably won’t finish? Or, do I just switch targets much earlier now?

    Solutions to this would be either allowing us to control when to shoot the Icicles (although that will probably never happen, cos it will just create the same PvP issue of controlled burst in a different way), or to have the Icicles shoot from lowest damage to highest damage. The reason this would work is because there’s really never a time when you’re waiting thirty seconds between Frostbolt casts. There’s almost no fights in this entire expansion so far where the Icicles are going to fall off, and it will only take about 5-7 seconds to generate all five if you are playing your spec properly, so you’re unlikely to lose any Icicles from this sort of change.

    2. Our Mastery now benefits more from ALL our other stats than it does from Mastery itself.

    Let’s take a look at Icicles’ tooltip, for the sake of conversation:

    “When the Mage damages an enemy with their Frostbolt, and Frostfire Bolt (14% + 1.75% per Mastery) of the damage done is stored as an Icicle for 15 seconds. Mastery: Icicles also increases the Water Elemental’s Water Bolt damage by (14% + 1.75% per Mastery). Up to 5 Icicles can be stored at once. Casting Ice Lance launches all stored Icicles at the target.”

    We can ignore the Water Elemental part, because that’s already in our current Mastery.

    – Any time we cast FB or FFB, a percentage of those spells’ damage becomes an Icicle. The Icicle, of course, will hit for that percentage of damage.

    Now, the amount of damage stored in the Icicle will go up when you raise your Mastery, BUT…

    – It will be raised by our Int value – the more damage we do, the higher “x% of that spell’s damage” will be. Simply raising our intellect makes Icicles stronger.

    – It will be raised by our Crit rating – A critical strike on either FB/FFB means that the Icicle is going to be twice as strong. Naturally, Frostfire Bolts are going to be a much better candidate for generating Icicle procs than Frostbolt now, due to the more reliable crits.

    – It will be raised by our Haste rating – Faster long-casts mean that we just simply get more Icicles. But, that’s not necessarily a huge issue if you’re gearing properly (I am above the GCD cap when raid-buffed now, with no trinket procs at all). More importantly, however, more Haste means more ticks of your Mage Bomb, which means more frequent Frostfire Bolts. The more frequently we cast Frostfire Bolts, the higher chance we have to generate huge Icicles from FFB crits.

    So, in a strange twist, our new Mastery not only raises the value of Haste even further, it raises the value of crit, our currently worst stat, and actually LOWERS the value of Mastery, since it’s much easier to raise the damage of our Mastery with Int, Haste, and Crit than it is to raise the damage with actual Mastery rating.

    It’s a bummer, because Blizzard is already saying that they love the idea…and maybe it can be good, but the implementation right now seems pretty terrible to me. I hope Icicles undergo a very dramatic change before 5.4.


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