Mage Leveling Part II: 21-39
Once you get to level 20 some parts of your leveling will become easier, and some will not. The first change that you are going to find is that having the ability to teleport all over the world is absolutely amazing. It’s probably my favorite trait of the class overall. For that matter, it’s my favorite trait of every class in the game.
One change you are going to find with your questing and such is that being able to AoE grind through your quests is going to make them fly by a whole lot faster. Some quests are not impacted by AoE grinding at all, like ones that have you bring back Mr. Mob’s head, or ones where you have to deliver an item from Location A to Location B (though teleporting can help with that), and so on. But a lot of quests involve killing a certain number of specific mobs or collecting a number of items that drop from certain mobs. These are the ones where AoE grinding really shines and where your leveling process starts burning some serious fuel.
Where you level is not especially important, just try to focus questing to some degree in areas that have a lot of mobs grouped together that are melee mobs rather than ranged attackers or spell casters. My first Mage leveled through the 20’s in Hillsbrad Foothills much like my Paladin did. The Mage I am leveling right now did these levels, mostly, in Ashenvale. If you want to follow my path then feel free, but as long as you are questing in an area that is level-appropriate for you then you should be just fine. Just remember to stay away from the caster mobs and ranged attackers as they are the only ones that pose any real threat; at least from an AoE standpoint. If you’re going against mobs 1v1 then by all means just kill everything you see.
This post is about playing your mage and getting them leveled up to 39. I am going to talk about AoE grinding a bit, but that’s not the focus of this post. That will be in the next post in this series where I discuss the particulars of grinding. If you want to find out about how to AoE with a Frost Mage then you should probably look at that post rather than this one. AoE Grinding: Frost Mage Edition
Here I am going to show you how to spend your talent points, which glyphs you should get, what spells you should cast or avoid, general rotations, etc. So the scope of this post is the mechanics of leveling a mage, not the technique of casting your spells.
Counterspell (level 24) This is an excellent spell that should always be somewhere on your screen. I don’t necessarily recommend it be on your primary action bar, but have it somewhere that you can access it. It’s great for PvE (when facing casters), and it’s excellent for PvP. Check the macro section down below for this one.
Conjure Mana Gem (level 28) This spell creates a gem that you carry around in your bags that acts just like a mana potion, restoring amounts of mana that scale with your level. The gems you make early on in the game are always single use, but as you get to end game you will mage gems that have three uses. Creating a gem costs more mana than it returns, so note that it’s something that should be prepared ahead of time.
Ice Block (level 30) This is your first “oh crap” button. It throws a solid block of ice around you for the duration making you immune to, well, everything. The drawback to it is that you’re stuck there until it wears off or you cancel the spell. Use it when you pull too much, when you have Frostbite proc in the middle of a pull that can’t be fixed, when you’re about to die, when you’re covered in DoTs/Poisons/Disease, when you fall off a cliff and can’t find Slow Fall, or when you want to see yourself in a funny little pose since it keeps you exactly as you were when you cast it. If you have the Glyph of Ice Block, use it any time you need to reset your Frost Nova cooldown. And do not feel like you have to wait out its duration. If it’s accomplished what you need it to, feel free cancel the spell early and go back to your business.
Teleport: Darnassus/Thunderbluff (level 30) At level 30 you get access to your faction’s Druid city teleport. I don’t know what the reasoning is for putting these off until level 30, but apparently Blizzard does.
Mage Armor (level 34) gives you Resist Magic 5 which isn’t great, but not bad, and also allows you to regenerate 50% of your regular mana regen during combat. A lot of people love this spell and use it in place of Frost Armor. I rarely use it myself, but it’s still a decent spell.
Teleport & Portal: Theramore (level 35) Here you are able to both teleport and open portals for your party to travel to Theramore. This portal actually sells pretty frequently for me on my Alliance server as it’s an easier way for people to travel to that portion of the world. Tips for portals vary on every server, so you’ll have to see for yourself how much gold you might be able to make off of it. On my Ally server this portal sells for 3-5g and I see people asking in trade chat for it every other day or so.
Portals: Stormwind, Ironforge, Exodar (level 40) You can now open portals for your party members to be teleported to these major cities. Selling portals is an easy way to make a few gold, but again it varies on each server. My Alliance server still sells all portals and these typically bring in a 10g fee each. You don’t get the portal for Darnassus for a few more level yet, but that one sells for the same.
Teleport & Portal: Stonard (level 35) You are able to both teleport and open portals for your party to travel to Stonard. This portal used to sell almost constantly as it was the shortest way for you to reach Outlands for the first time since it’s just north of the Dark Portal. Now that those portals exist in every major city you might as well forget the fact that this one exists. I do find an occasional request for it from groups that want to run through Sunken Temple on my old Horde server, but for the most part people just don’t need it anymore.
Portals: Orgrimmar, Undercity, Silvermoon (level 40) You can now open portals for your party members to be teleported to these major cities. Selling portals is an easy way to make a few gold, but again it varies on each server. On my Horde server the only portals you ever really see people asking for are Org and TB, with an occasional ask for Undercity as well. The only time you ever see anyone ask for Silvermoon is when there’s a holiday event going on. For my Horde servers you’re lucky if you can get 2g for a port to any of the Horde’s major cities.
Rotation Option 1: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Fire Blast
Rotation Option 2: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt
Rotation Option 3: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Cone of Cold, Frostbolt
Explanation: This will pretty well be the rotation you use for the rest of the game for single mobs. Basically your life revolves around Frostbolt spamming and throwing out a Fire Blast or Cone of Cold to finish them off.
As you may notice, at this point Fireball is completely gone from my rotations and it will see very little, if any, use throughout the rest of my playing. The only time I go back to Fireball from this point on is when I am fighting a mob that is resistant or immune to Frost damage.
If you feel a need to throw a Frost Nova out there to stop a mob that’s rushing into melee range then feel free to do so. If you like Cone of Cold more than Fire Blast then feel free to use it as well. I generally stick to using Fire Blast as my finishing move, but as you get higher in levels and mobs start having more hit points I begin to use Cone of Cold more frequently for the sake of having more chances to proc Frostbite and freezing the mob in place. Doing this gives you a chance of ending many of your fights without taking a single hit.
Remember that you have your Mana Gem for when you need to restore your mana. Unless you’re in the middle of a horrible pull and already running out of mana then using the Gem by itself should give you enough to finish the fight. If you need more mana than that, then feel free to use a Mana Potion in addition to the gem.
Rotation Option 1: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Fire Blast
Rotation Option 2: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt
Rotation Option 3: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Cone of Cold, Frostbolt
Explanation: Nothing new here.
You don’t get any new offensive spells in this range, you just get higher ranks of the ones you’ve already got. Refer back to the section above for specifics.
There is one thing in particular that I want to point out right now. As you begin gaining more levels the mobs you are fighting are going to gain more hit points which will require you to cast more spells due to the fight taking longer. The longer a fight lasts, the more likely the mobs are to close in and start attacking you. Do not be afraid to stop casting a spell in order to save yourself. It’s alright to take off running half a second before your Frostbolt goes off. There’s nothing wrong with that; especially if you are close to dying. It’s perfectly acceptable to run away like a little girl, screaming your head off while you wait for Frost Nova’s cooldown to pop so that you can freeze the mob in place and then get back to killing him. There’s also nothing wrong with throwing a Frost Nova the second the mob comes within range and running away all together.
For a Frost Mage a strong offense truly is the best defense you can have. You defend yourself by attacking your enemies and slowing them down or freezing them in place. You don’t have to constantly be on the move and you don’t have to kite every mob that you face, but the abilities that you have give you the time and the opportunity to almost completely control the field.
I’m going to introduce now a tactic I like to call Run Through. It’s most effective when using either Frost Nova or Cone of Cold (or Dragon’s Breath if you’re a Fire Mage). It’s best represented in Rotation Option #3 up above. Assuming that you do not get a Frostbite proc from your Frostbolts, the mob is generally going to arrive near to melee range close to when your second Frostbolt is cast or in the middle of the third. I like to be aggressive on my Frost mage, so I take right to the mob’s face; so if he’s closing in after my second cast I don’t wait for the third cast I just start running into him after the second.
As you get close to the mob cast Cone of Cold and keep right on running through them. You can then cast Blink if you want or just keep on running a ways before turning around and going back to Frostbolts to finish them off. This is going to accomplish a few things 1 you’re going to deal additional damage with an instant cast, 2 you are going to put distance between yourself and the mob, and 3 you have yet another chance to proc Frostbite and freeze the target in place.
By running through a mob to do this you also open up the option of them causing a Frostbite proc from hitting you with a melee attack while you have Frost Armor on which will freeze them in place for you and make your job a whole lot easier. If you remember back in Part I, I mentioned that my hit points are just another resource for me to use, and this is what I mean by that. I’m giving away a few hit points by giving the mob a chance to hit me, but what I’m gaining out of the deal is another chance to proc Frostbite.
AoE Grinding: Frost Mage Edition
Here are your basics of AoE Grinding with a Frost Mage. For more details you will need to refer to the next post in this series which will discuss the details of AoE grinding across all levels.
Generally speaking you want to pull a group of mobs, at least 3, into a central location, Frost Nova to freeze them in place, and then move out of melee range before casting Blizzard. Now, that’s a very generalized version of it, but it’s essentially what it is. There are a lot of tricks that you can use to help you in this, and sometimes you have to sacrifice your cooldowns to make some of them work.
Step 1: Pull The first thing you have to do for any type of AoE grinding is pull the mobs. The easiest way to do this is to jump on your mount and ride around into all of their threat ranges.
Step 2: Corral The second thing you have to do is get them all bunched up together. If you’re still on your mount then ride away, turning a bit here and there to get the mobs next to the others. It’s a bit hard to explain how to do that, but practicing will help you understand. The point is to get all of the mobs close enough to each other, and to you, that a single Frost Nova will catch all of them.
Step 3: Freeze The third thing you have to do is stop them from moving. The best option for this Frost Nova, though at later levels your Water Elemental gets an ability called Freeze which is a ranged Frost Nova that works just as well if not better. Be aware that in this stage you will occasionally miss some of the mobs. It’s good to have items with +Hit on them for doing this, but they aren’t required. You don’t miss very often and even when you do it can still be managed.
Step 4: Distance The fourth thing is putting distance between yourself and the mobs. The traditional way of doing this is to use Blink to teleport yourself a short distance away. However, Blink is not 100% reliable and can often teleport you right into another mob, or group of mobs, if you haven’t been keeping an eye on your surroundings. Personally, I don’t Blink at this point unless the mobs have managed to Daze me which makes you move slower. If I’m not dazed or otherwise rooted in place (nets, webs, etc) then I simply run. I run about 10 yards away and then turn around. Whatever method you choose to use for moving, be sure to turn around and face the mobs when you’re done. The optimum distance is twice the size of your Blizzard’s AoE circle or just slightly further. Going too far means that the mobs will be out of range for Blizzard, while not going far enough means melee mobs will be hitting you in the face while you cast.
Step 5: Blizzard Now it’s time to cast your Blizzard and watch the pretty numbers fly by as they all start to die. You want to position your Blizzard so that all of the mobs (or at least all that you can manage) fall within the area of the damage. You also want the furthest edge of Blizzard’s effect to be as close to you as possible. When a mob is frozen, that freeze breaks after they’ve taken a certain amount of damage, and Blizzard deals a lot of damage. So by keeping the area as close as possible it means that when their freeze breaks they still have to walk through the AoE damage to get to you. Since we also have at least one point in the Improved Blizzard talent (minimum level 20) your Blizzard now has a chill effect that will slow the mobs down. And since we have points in the Frostbite talent, every spell with a chill effect has the ability to freeze the target in place. And every time Blizzard deals damage it chills them, meaning that every time it hits it has a chance to proc Frostbite.
Step 6: Clean Up After you’ve cast your Blizzard you need to decide what’s next. If the mobs are still alive then you have to finish them off. You can do that by either casting another Blizzard if they have a lot of health, or casting Arcane Explosion of Cone of Cold if they just have a little bit of health left. If the mobs are already dead, then your only form of clean up is collecting your loot.
If you are fighting caster mobs in addition to melee, then pulling them and rounding them up into a single group isn’t going to be as easy. Until level 30 your only real option is to have the caster’s location be where you coral all of the rest of the mobs, or to line of sight the caster and coral everyone there.
At level 30 you get an excellent spell called Ice Block. It freezes you in place and makes you immune to everything for its duration. The great thing about being immune to everything is that caster mobs will move into melee range and just start attacking the ice, as will everything else. This gives you a coral method to use when facing casters as well. If you happen to be using the Glyph of Ice Block (level 30) then every time you use Ice Block it resets/removes the cooldown on Frost Nova so that you can immediately cast Frost Nova again. If my pull has gone bad I’ll use Ice Block just to let everyone come to me and start all over again.
Another thing to note about Ice Block is that it gives you a great opportunity to change the direction you’re heading after a Pull. When you go to initiate your Coral you can use Ice Block to do it and then rotate your camera to take a look around the area. Find which direction is clear of mobs so that you know which way you’re running, and have that be the direction you go when you pop out to initiate your Freeze. Playing with an AoE Mage was the reason I turned off the Smart Pivot option in my UI > Camera options. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s what causes your camera to rotate to the direction your character is facing if you rotate the camera with a click-and-drag left click. It allows me to look in any direction, for as long as I want, without having to hold down my mouse button to keep it there. If you aren’t aware, the default settings allow you to hold down both the left and right mouse buttons to run, and when doing that it causes you to run whichever direction the mouse moves. So if you hold down the two mouse buttons coming out of an Ice Block you will run the direction that your camera is facing instead of the direction that your character is facing. When you do it, go ahead and shake the mouse left and right just a hair when you first come out because it’s the movement of the mouse while the right button is down that forces your character to turn that way, but the turn is instant so once the character takes off running the way you want them to you can stop moving the mouse and use whatever method(s) of movement you use normally.
Because we’ve combined Frostbite with Improved Blizzard, we have the chance to constantly freeze the mobs in place during your Blizzard. That is why Frostbite is so essential to a good Frost leveling spec even though so many other people claim to hate it. If you find that Frostbite is messing up your pulls then the answer to that is simple, remove your Frost Armor before you pull. If you don’t have Frost Armor up (or Ice Barrier after level 40) then you aren’t going to freeze the mobs in place during a pull because there are not chill effects to make it happen.
I personally keep my Frost Armor spell on all the time, regardless of whether or not it might proc Frostbite and “ruin” my pulls, because I can handle the pulls that other mages apparently feel are dangerous. As I said, if my pull goes a bit bad, then I’ll just Ice Block and let them mobs come to me and then Frost Nova once the Ice Block is over. The duration of Ice Block lasts longer than all of your freezing abilities, so the mobs will break free before your Ice Block wears off. If you use the Glyph of Ice Block then your Frost Nova will already be available when IB wears off so you pop your Frost Nova and then jump right back into the steps above starting at #4-Distance.
If none of those options work because something else comes along and fouls it all up, then welcome to being in a world you don’t control! In this case, put your true mage skills to the test and kick the crap out of them anyway. You’ve got a ton of tools at your disposal to handle the mobs you’re facing, so put them to use. If you need to sheep one, then do it. If you need to Cone of Cold to try to proc Frostbite for Blizzard, then do it. If you need to run around in circles while you wait for Frost Nova to cool down again, then do it. If you want to Arcane Explosion spam hoping to slay them all anyway, then do it. If you took the Glyph of Evocation at 20 as I suggested, then try to run around until Frost Nova is up again, freeze them in place, and then hit your Evocation to restore 60% of your health and mana, and then slay them all.
If the crap hits the fan, then turn the sucker on high and start flinging that crap wherever you can until you’re either the last one standing or you’re all alone in the graveyard. These are the moments that help you grow more confident in your ability to solo content, or that teach you what mistakes not to make again.
I love screwing up an AoE pull with way more mobs than I could take on otherwise and still pull it off without a single Blizzard being cast. I’ve taken out 8 mobs with nothing but Frost Novas, Cones of Cold, and Fire Blasts while running around in circles because my attempts to freeze the mobs kept missing or not freezing. It’s not always easy, but it sure is fun when you come out of it still standing.
There are a few new macros to bring to your attention at this point.
Counterspell: Cancel whatever spell you might be casting and immediately cast Counterspell.
Ice Block: Stop whatever you’re doing and cast Ice Block
/cast Ice Block
Sometimes a big spell is about to go off and it needs to not happen. If stopping that spell is potentially more important than casting the one you’re on, then make the call and counter the spell. Heals and Mana Burns are the primary target for this unless you’re low on health and need to stop a dps spell from killing you.
Ice Block sometimes has to be cast on the fly simply to save your life rather than to help you in your AoE grinding. When that is the case, don’t bother with trying to get that one last spell off, just throw the barrier up and deal with the situation once it wears off.
Talent Points and Glyphs: Level 21-39
Starting at level 21, this is how I would suggest spending your talent points.
Ice Floes +1 (3/3) Reduces the cooldown of Frost Nova, Cone of Cold, Ice Block, and Icy Veins by 20%.
Piercing Ice 3/3 +2/4/6% damage to all Frost spells.
Shatter 3/3 +17/34/50% critical strike chance against targets who are frozen.
Arctic Reach 2/3 +14/20% range to Frost Bolt, Ice Lance, Deep Freeze, and Blizzard spells and +20% radius to Frost Nova and Cone of Cold spells.
Cold Snap 1/1 Resets the cooldown of all Frost Spells.
Icy Veins 1/1 +20% spell haste and reduces pushback on channeled spells by 100% for 20 seconds.
Frost Channeling 3/3 -4/7/10% Mana cost of all Frost spells and reduces threat generated by Frost spells by 4/7/10%.
Winter’s Chill 3/3 Gives +3 chance to crit with Frostbolt, and a 33/66/100% chance that your Frost spells will increase your chance to crit the target by 1%, stacks up to 5 times.
Cold As Ice 2/2 Reduces the cooldown of your Cold Snap, Ice Barrier, and Summon Water Elemental spells by 10/20%.
Ice Floes is simply there to reduce the time on our cooldowns. Every spell that it effects is useful for AoE grinding as well as leveling in general, so reducing the cooldowns on those is great. Piercing Ice is just a general increase to all of our damage; the more damage you do, the few spells you have to cast. Shatter is going to increase the chance to crit when targets are frozen by 50%. That’s a huge boost to our crit and since every spell you’re going to use has a chance of freezing your target, that means you’ve got a whole lot of potential for landing crits. Shatter is the reason why we want Frostbite.
Arctic Reach helps with the range at which we can cast our spells. That means you can get off more Frostbolts before an enemy can close in on you, and it means you can cast your Blizzards from a greater distance as well. In addition to that it increases the radius of Frost Nova and Cone of Cold. The increased radius is crucial to what you do as a Frost Mage, but it’s also a hard thing to judge because neither of these spells shows you visibly how large their radius is to being with. It’s something you’re going to have to learn on your own and just become aware of. With practice you’ll start picking it up instinctively and you’ll just know when you can catch someone with it and when you can’t.
Cold Snap is easily one of the best talents you ever get. It completely resets all of your Frost spells and makes them available to you again. So you can blow all of your cooldowns, hit Cold Snap, and they’re all right back ready to use again. Icy Veins is a great spell for two reasons: 1 the increase spell haste means all of your Blizzard damage happens in a shorter amount of time (or other spells if you’re fighting single mobs), and 2 removing the effect of pushback means that you get the full bang from your mana-buck from your Blizzard even if you’re getting punched in the face while you do it. I don’t cast it on every Blizzard, but there’s nothing wrong with using it every chance you get. The haste from Icy Veins also works on your Evocation, by the way, so if you need to refill your life/mana in a pinch that’s the way to get it done.
Frost Channeling is last up on the list. The reduced mana here is the primary reason for taking the talent as Blizzard is a huge mana cost spell. The reduced threat is nice when you’re running with groups though it serves no purpose at all when soloing. Winter’s Chill is a stacking debuff on the target that gives you an additional 1-5% chance to crit each time you hit them with a Frost spell. The extra crit chance goes for all spells, not just Frost, but Frost spells are what stacks it from 1-5%. Cold As Ice is strictly to lower the time on your cooldowns.
Glyphs for Leveling
The only glyph slot that is going to open up for you at this level range will open up at level 30.
I recommend the Glyph of Ice Block for level 30 which resets your Frost Nova cooldown when you use Ice Block. It’s great for AoE grinding so that you can make sure that your pulls go off as smoothly as possible.
Some people prefer to go with Mage Armor here instead to get mana regeneration during combat, but since I prefer using Frost Armor I don’t personally recommend it. Since I can summon my own water on the fly and have mana gems I don’t really care about regenerating mana during combat. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not my personal play style.
Gearing Up for Spellcasting
Your gear priorities don’t change: stack Spell Power and Intellect, take Stam/Hit/Crit when you can find it, and the other things don’t really matter. Hit becomes increasingly important as you level, so take it when you see it if it’s not going to cost you too much Spell Power or Int.
Again, Tailoring can provide a lot of useful upgrades for you around this level so you might want to check with a Tailor if you aren’t one yourself.
You are still going to be more likely to find a good staff at these levels that a one hander plus an off hand item, but just go with whichever you find that can give you better stats. A lot of the Inscription off-hand items open up during this level range which can give you additional spell power, so if you find a nice off hand go ahead and take it, but you’re still more likely to find a better staff overall.
And as always, keep an eye out for good wands that provide stats. If you find that you are actually using your staff for anything other than killing off mobs that are low on health, then you’re probably doing something wrong; like using Mana Shield for anything other than PvP.
I would highly suggest in your twenties that you run through either Deadmines (VC) or Shadowfang Keep (SFK) (both, if you can manage it) for good gear during those levels. You can find a staff, gloves and ring in VC, and excellent robes in SFK that will last you well into your 30’s.
In your thirties, Scarlet Monastery is the place to be. You will get gear from here that will last you into your 50’s. You can get inside the doors of all four sections at level 20 if you have someone run you through, or you can start joining LFG for it at level 28. For a mage you can find shoulders or an off-hand item in SM:Graveyard, a great robe and an excellent staff in SM:Library, and while SM:Armory offers very little, there are a couple of items in SM:Cathedral that can really help you out as well. Primarily SM:GY and SM:Lib are the areas for you to focus on, and both of them can be ran with a group of people around level 30 with little problem. Especially with your AoE skills.
Edit: (10/29/09) Added level listing for spending talent points.
Edit: (10/30/09) Finished Ice Block section near the spell description at the top and added Ice Block information to General Tactics section as well.