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Arcane Brilliance: The wonders of Frostfire



Each week Arcane Brilliance mixes frost with fire and comes up with a column about Mages. It's a delicate recipe, requiring just enough frost, and exactly the right amount of fire, with a thick glaze of arcane spread across the entire concoction. If you add too much lightning, you end up with Shamans. If your recipe calls for shadow, you might end up with a Priest. Whatever you do, don't let any amount of suck get into your recipe. Everybody knows that's what Warlocks are made of.

Frostfire Bolt is an interesting little spell. When you first hit level 75, visit your Mage trainer and learn it, you may think to yourself, "So...it does frost and fire damage? It's like a Fireball and a Frostbolt combined! You take some ice, and you combine it with some fire, and you come up with...slush? I'm not sure how something like that is effective, but whatever. Now I don't have to respec to fight fire or ice-immune mobs, I guess? Let me see if I can find a place on my action bar for this. There we go. Right between Amplify Magic and my tea-bagging macro."

You would not be totally wrong in thinking this way. Well, maybe for having a tea-bagging macro, but that's wrong for a whole slew of other reasons. At level 75, when you first obtain the spell, that's really about all it is: a damage spell to use when running into a mob that's immune to your usual nuke. Frostfire Bolt doesn't really hit its stride until you've hit level 80, talented specifically to get the most of the spell, and started to get some of that sweet Naxxramas gear.

Once it does start to live up to its potential, though, Frostfire Bolt suddenly becomes the primary nuke in the single highest DPS raiding spec for Mages in the game. After the break, we'll talk about the why's and how's of this wonderful spell.

Frostfire Bolt is a nuke that has a three-second cast time that cannot be talented down. It has a fixed 40 yard range which also cannot be talented down. It doesn't do fire damage, and it doesn't do frost damage. It does "frostfire" damage. As far as I am aware, there are currently no resistances or immunities that specifically effect this type of damage, with the exception of general, across-the-board spell damage reductions. When determining partial resists, the lowest of the two resistances (fire or frost) on your target will be used to determine the amount of frostfire damage resisted. There were points in the Wrath beta where the spell would switch damage types depending on the mob's resistances--doing fire damage to some, frost to others--but this is no longer the case. It is now always frostfire, all the time.

Talents

It benefits from most talents that affect either fire or frost spells. Here's a list:

Fire

Frost
These will always work, regardless of mob immunities, with the exception of those that trigger procs. If you're fighting a fire-immune mob, you'll still get the crit bonus from Critical Mass, but the mob will be immune to any Ignite procs, since those are still straight fire damage, even if you triggered them with a Frostfire Bolt.

Another notable exception is Elemental Precision, which actually grants double the normal benefit. Apparently Frostfire Bolt qualifies for the extra 3% hit for fire spells and frost spells, giving it an effective +6% to hit, meaning that you will cap out your Frostfire Bolt before you cap out all of your other spells.

Builds

To be effective, Frostfire Bolt must be talented around with an elementalist build. These generally come in two flavors, either a deep Fire build, or a deep Frost one. The Frost-heavy one has sub-par damage (a normal deep-Frost build using Frostbolt as its primary nuke will usually trump it), but some Mages like it because it still allows them some PvP utility and gives them access to their Water Elemental. For pure damage potential, however, a Fire-heavy build is the only way to go. If done correctly, the raw damage output of a Frostfire build will out-perform every other Mage spec at the current end-game. It is, quite simply, the highest DPS raiding build out there.

You'll find some slight variations, but this is the generally-accepted cookie-cutter Fire-heavy Frostfire Build at the moment:

0/53/18 Frostfire Build

If you insist on going Frost-heavy, you'll find variations of this build floating around:

10/10/51 Frostfire Build

Spell Rotation

When raiding with a Fire-heavy elementalist build, you'll want to begin each encounter by fully applying the Improved Scorch debuff, then use a very simple rotation: Living Bomb-->5 x Frostfire Bolt (possibly six, if you have enough haste to fit six Frostfire Bolts in during the 12-second duration of Living Bomb). Once you've cast your five Frostfire Bolts, you'll re-cast Living Bomb so that its DoT can run its course, and sandwich in the occasional Scorch to keep that debuff up. When Hot Streak procs, you'll want to use it for a Scorch-->Pyroblast combo, since that's probably the most effective way to keep your Improved Scorch debuff up without messing up your rotation too much.

It isn't the most interesting rotation in the world, but it will out-damage just about anything else out there. Just set up a macro that keeps your trinkets and longer cooldown talents like Combustion and Icy Veins in the mix, and let the Frostfire fly.

Glyphs

There is only one glyph that affects Frostfire Bolt. You'll never guess what it's called.

Glyph of Frostfire is pretty awesome, actually. It has no downside, and it's a pure and significant damage boost. I'm not sure you can beat a flat 2% damage and crit increase to your primary nuke. I guess it could be 3%, but that's just being greedy.

Stats

So what stats are most important to a raiding Frostfire Mage? Hit rating is still king, but once that's capped out, the order goes something like this: spellpower>crit>haste>everything else. Crit and Haste are actually very close for this build's purposes, and depending on your gear and current stat levels, their order could very well switch. Both are incredibly important to have solid amounts of to get the most out of your Frostfire build, as haste rating is the only way to lower that 3-second cast-time, and so much of your damage and procs are so heavily crit-dependent that you really have to have a decent crit rating.

Other Random Information

When Counterspelled or Earth Shocked or otherwise locked out of your spell school while casting a Frostfire Bolt, you are actually locked out of both Frost and Fire schools. If you get locked out of either the Frost or Fire trees, then you also won't be able to cast Frostfire Bolt. It counts as either tree, and both trees. Yes, this sucks, but you're the dummy who took a raiding spec into a PvP situation. Silly raiding Mage. Go spec straight Frost or deep Arcane and try again.

The hit cap for this spell, if you've taken Elemental Precision, is effectively 289, rounded up. That's not too bad at all. Keep in mind, though, that once you hit that, you'll still be another 3% short of the cap for your other Fire and Frost spells, and 6% short for your Arcane spells. Do with that information what you will.

With the above heavy-Fire elementalist build, the crit damage bonus on this baby is a whopping 315%. If that doesn't make you stand up and take notice, please note that on that critical strike--the one that just did somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 points of damage--you also triggered Ignite, which will do another 40% of that amount over the next four seconds, and made your target defecate in their pixelated trousers. That, my friends, is some sexy, sexy damage.

Brief and Relatively Inoffensive Editorializing

Now, having said all of that, let me end by submitting that I am not planning to spec Frostfire at any point in the foreseeable future. It's an incredibly effective spec, and I have nothing against it. By extolling its virtues in the above wall of text, I was in no way suggesting that every raiding Mage should always spec this way, simply because it can produce the highest amount of DPS. I love my Arcane build, and I tend to generate big four-digit numbers over the heads of mobs just fine, thank you. When in groups, my Mage's name generally tends to appear at some point or another on the damage meters, usually somewhere between the top of the meter and the bottom. I have fun when I play, and I would encourage the rest of you to attempt to do the same.

Frostfire Bolt--and the builds it is designed to take advantage of--is just a small but extremely interesting part of the awe-inspiring newness we've been introduced to with this expansion. It's a great new way to maximize your DPS in raiding encounters, and if you want to try it out, you totally should. Tis the season to throw slushballs, after all.

As always, play how you want to, don't ever let anyone tell you what spec you should or shouldn't be rolling with, and as always, kill a Warlock or two for me. If not for me, kill one for yourself. Nine out of ten doctors recommend Warlock-killing as part of a daily routine, and the tenth doctor is probably a Warlock.


Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent two-part look at reputation rewards in WotLK, or our guide to leveling builds to get you through Northrend. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

Filed under: Mage, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Features, Raiding, Classes, Talents, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance, Wrath of the Lich King

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