Frost AoE Grinding is a mage technique to kite and kill a large group of mobs at once. In many situations, killing multiple mobs at once can give more cash, loot, experience, and reputation than killing one at a time would yield. Because a Frost mage can kite multiple mobs through snare effects, frost AoE grinding can be done solo, whereas other AoE grinding techniques might require the help of a healer.
Frost AoE grinding is doable by most mages from upper 20s to level 70. There are two primary techniques: Improved Blizzard AoE Grinding uses the Improved Blizzard talent to add a snare effect to the Blizzard spell. Cone of Cold AoE Grinding uses the Cone of Cold spell, and talents such as Permafrost and Ice Floes to make the spell's cooldown shorter than the chill duration.
Talents and abilities
A few talent considerations are necessary to be effective at Frost AoE grinding. While any mage of any spec can effectively kite a few mobs at once, large packs of 5 or more need some specialized talents in the Frost tree to improve AoE snare effects. Talent selection generally depends on the chosen technique. There are several different techniques for frost AoE grinding, but most can be categorized by the primary snare spell used, Blizzard or Cone of Cold.
Some talent considerations are common for both techniques:
- Frostbite (Frost, Tier 2) - 0-3 points.
Frostbite gives your Chill effects a X% (15% max) chance to freeze the targets for 5 sec. When using Cone of Cold to grind you won't want this talent cause it will freeze single enemies and thus scattering the enemies. A bad thing due to Cone of Cold's relatively small radius. However, when using Blizzard you might really love this talent. In addition to the extreme slow effect of an upgraded Blizzard it will make whole groups of enemies standing still. There is no problem with scattered groups here because Blizzard has such a huge radius and also slows the foes much more than Cone of Cold does. Another advantage is of course that freezed enemies will take critical strikes from Cone of Cold or Arcane Explosion more often. When using Frostbite you have to choose between your Ice Armor and the other armor spells for melee mobs will often freeze in place after hitting you while Ice Armor is active... which makes it quite complicated to get them all together. On the other hand it greatly increases your survability especially on low levels. So if an enemy is frozen just lead the others to him.
Improved Blizzard talents
The Improved Blizzard technique makes use of the Improved Blizzard talent, which adds a snare effect to Blizzard, reducing the movement speed of anything hit by it. The general technique is to use Frost Nova to freeze the pack, get to maximum range, then cast overlapping Blizzards on the pack until it is close. If the pack is not dead, kite them further away until Frost Nova is available again and repeat.
- Improved Blizzard (Frost, Tier 3) - Adds a chill effect to your Blizzard spell. This effect lowers the target's movement speed by X% (65% max). Lasts 1.50 sec. At three points, 65% is the best snare a mage can use. With Permafrost, this improves to 75%. However, it may be desirable to only take two points in this talent (See Understanding snares later).
Cone of Cold talents
The Cone of Cold technique uses Cone of Cold almost exclusively. The spell normally has a chill duration of 8 seconds and a cooldown of 10 seconds, but with talents such as Permafrost and Ice Floes the chill duration can be made greater than the cooldown. This allows the mage to overlap snares indefinitely.
- Improved Blizzard (Frost, Tier 3) - TWO points max. At two points, Blizzard's snare effect is only 50%. This is important so that the longer duration Cone of Cold snare can overwrite the Improved Blizzard snare.
- Improved Cone of Cold (Frost, Tier 5) - Increases the damage dealt by your Cone of Cold spell by X% (35% max). This technique uses Cone of Cold as the primary damage spell, so improving it's damage makes it faster and more efficient.
To overlap Cone of Cold snares, the cooldown must be shorter than the snare duration. This is achieved by reducing the cooldown or increasing the snare, or a combination of the two, via two key talents:
- Permafrost (Frost, Tier 2) - Increases the duration of your chill effects by 1 second per point, 3 seconds max.
- Ice Floes (Frost, Tier 6) - Reduces the cooldown of Cone of Cold by 1 second per point, 2 seconds max.
At least 2 points total should be allocated to these talents, with each extra point giving 1 more second margin to re-apply the Cone of Cold snare before the previous one expires. Lower level mages will likely take Permafrost over Ice Floes due to the location in the tree. The following table shows combinations of the two talents that will give a snare duration equal to or greater than the cooldown for the Cone of Cold spell. Cells that are highlighted are desirable combinations.
|0 pt.||1 pts.||2 pts.|
|0 pt.||10s CD, 8s dur||9s CD, 8s dur||8s CD, 8s dur|
|1 pts.||10s CD, 9s dur||9s CD, 9s dur||8s CD, 9s dur|
|2 pts.||10s CD, 10s dur||9s CD, 10s dur||8s CD, 10s dur|
|3 pts.||10s CD, 11s dur||9s CD, 11s dur||8s CD, 11s dur|
The following talents are not required, but provide more flexibility and room for error.
- Improved Frost Nova (Frost, Tier 2) - Reduces the cooldown or your Frost Nova spell by X sec (4 sec max). Frost Nova is used to get range on a pack of mobs for Blizzard, or as an emergency if a snare is resisted, so it's nice to have the reduced cooldown.
- Permafrost (Frost, Tier 2) - Increases the duration of your chill effects by X sec (3 sec max) and reduces the target's speed by an additional Y% (10% max). The technique relies on snares, so any talent that increases snare duration is helpful.
- Elemental Precision (Frost, Tier 1) - Reduces mana cost and chance targets resist your Frost and Fire spells by 1% per point (3% max). A single resist on a snare or Frost Nova can break up the pack, so anything to reduce the resist chance is welcome. Also, AoE spells are mana intensive, so the added efficiency is a plus.
- Arctic Reach (Frost, Tier 4) - Increases the range of your Frostbolt and Blizzard spells and the radius of your Frost Nova and Cone of Cold spells by 10% per point (20% max). This doesn't increase the radius of Blizzard, but allows the mage to cast from farther away. Also, the area of effect for Cone of Cold and Frost Nova is increased.
- Frost Channeling (Frost, Tier 4) - Reduces the mana cost of your Frost spells by X% (15% max and reduces the threat caused by your Frost spells by X% (10% max). Another talent useful for mana efficiency.
When choosing talents, it's important to understand how snares interact with each other. Effective Frost AoE grinding requires precise control of a pack of mobs. The pack needs to be kept at a distance at all times, either snared or frozen with Frost Nova. The larger the pack, the more likely getting too close will mean death.
Without talents, Cone of Cold is the mage's most potent snare, reducing movement speed by 50%. With three points in Improved Blizzard, Blizzard has the strongest snare at 65%. This is important to consider because a snare will only be applied to a mob if it is stronger than any current snare that is present. Improved Blizzard has a very short duration, at 1.5 seconds not including Permafrost. Thus, Cone of Cold's longer duration snare will not be applied if it is cast while Improved Blizzard is still present. For this reason, many mages do not take the full 3 points in Improved Blizzard, instead taking only 2 and a 50% snare. This ensures that Cone of Cold will always be applied, as the movement speed reduction is now equal.
Find a good spot
- See: Mage Aoe Locations
Frost AoE grinding works best on equal-level or lower mobs that only do melee attacks. Ranged mobs, such as casters and gun/bow users are not recommended because it is difficult to round them up into a neat pack, and their damage can't be avoided by kiting. Mobs should be in static camps or roaming close by to gather them up most effectively.
The area should be generally clear of obstacles that will hinder line-of-sight, and any stray patrols that wander by that could spoil a pull. Frost AoE grinding requires a lot of space to kite the pack around. Know the area well, where obstacles are and how mobs will path around them. It takes a bit of experimentation to find a good camp and become familiar with it.
When grinding for experience, mobs should be equal level or lower. Higher level mobs have a higher chance to resist spells, and one resist can break up the pack and spoil the pull. If resists are a problem, consider a lower-level location, or pull fewer mobs at once.
The first step, regardless of technique, is to gather the mobs into a tight pack. This is best done on a mount, but lower level players won't have one yet. The key is to aggro as many at once as possible and run in a circle, keeping the mobs in the center. After running in a circle for a while, the mobs will be in a tight pack on top of each other. Before gathering, use a shield such as Mana Shield or Ice Barrier if specced for it to reduce damage taken while gathering. Taking some damage is OK, because once they are in a tight pack and kited properly, any further damage is completely avoidable.
Note that the farther you run from the spawn point, the more likely it is for a mob to break off pursuit and reset. To prevent this, circle around as close to the spawn points as possible. In some cases it might not be possible to get all the mobs in a single pack because they will reset. One possibility is to use Rank 1 Arcane Explosion to keep aggro, and use Blink to keep distance and continue to circle around the pack.
Once a tight pack is established, dismount and cast Frost Nova.
Improved Blizzard technique
The Improved Blizzard technique uses the Blizzard spell, talented with Improved Blizzard to add a significant snare. With 3 points in the talent, the snare reduces movement speed by 65%, the most potent snare spell available to a mage. With Permafrost, the snare can be improved further to 75%. After freezing a pack of mobs in place and moving to maximum Blizzard range, it is possible to channel two full casts of the spell before the snared mobs reach melee range. For non-elite mobs a few levels below the mage, this is often enough to kill them all. However, extended kiting is more difficult with this technique as it is more troublesome to keep the pack indefinitely snared.
- Gather a group of mobs, as described above.
- Dismount and cast Frost Nova once the mobs are tightly packed.
- Move to maximum range for the Blizzard targeting circle to just reach the pack. The circle's outer edge needs to just barely reach behind the mobs.
- Use Blink to get range quickly so there is more time to find the correct position while Frost Nova still holds. One tip is to Blink, click the Blizzard hotkey to bring up the targeting circle, and walk backwards while holding the circle in the position described. Once it turns red (out of range), stop and take a step forward to get back in range. This part will take some practice to get the best range and targeting before Frost Nova breaks. Eventually, learn to get good range running full speed and targeting quickly so that the Blink cooldown is available for emergencies.
- Cast Blizzard with the far edge of the targeting circle just touching the mobs. Start casting before Frost Nova breaks.
- The mobs need to move across the full diameter of the Blizzard area to get the most out of the spell. Due to some lag from cast time to the first tick of damage, it's necessary to start before Frost Nova breaks, or the mobs will run at full speed for part of the spell, shaving off some of the Blizzard area.
- When the first cast ends, or the mobs move through the area of effect, cast a second Blizzard similar to the first.
- At maximum Blizzard range, it's possible to get two Blizzards down before the mobs reach melee range. With a full 75% snare, this should be enough time to channel the spell completely each time. With a lesser snare, the mobs may exit each Blizzard before the channeling completes. The timing varies by spec, so practice.
- When the mobs reach just outside melee range, cast Cone of Cold and kite until Frost Nova's cooldown is up.
- With 3/3 in Improved Blizzard, the Cone of Cold snare will not be applied, Blizzard snare will remain for a short period of time, and eventually the mobs will be moving full speed. If this is your spec, move quickly with Blink to get good range until Frost Nova is up.
- With 2/3 in Improved Blizzard, the Cone of Cold snare will take effect and you'll be able to safely kite until Frost Nova is up.
- Cast Frost Nova and repeat from step 2 until the mobs are dead.
Cone of Cold technique
The Cone of Cold technique primarily uses the Cone of Cold spell (CoC), properly specced so that the snare debuff lasts longer than the spell cooldown. This technique is most effective for higher level mages, and especially on groups of elite mobs. With the Improved Cone of Cold talent, CoC has better mana efficiency than Blizzard, meaning the mage can kite higher-HP mobs.
- Gather a group of mobs, as described above.
- Dismount and cast Frost Nova once the mobs are tightly packed.
- Stand outside melee range, but close enough for Cone of Cold to hit all the mobs.
- Learn and practice this range, as it's important to find this sweet spot on the move later on.
- Do not cast Cone of Cold immediately, but instead wait until the Frost Nova is just about to break, then cast.
- Frost Nova has a chance to break on damage, so timing the CoC until the end of the freeze will prevent the pack from breaking up.
- Optionally, cast Flamestrike first, then immediately CoC. This makes timing more difficult, as you need to account for the cast time. However, two damage spells will have a higher chance of breaking the freeze on all the mobs.
- Immediately move backwards, away from the pack. Ideally, you will cast the CoC while moving away. Moving backwards is 50% of normal movement, and the mobs will be snared at least 50%.
- Kite the pack at normal run speed in a circle to keep them bunched up. Strafing is best as it will be easier to re-position for the next CoC.
- If you have the mana for it and want to speed up the process, use Arcane Explosion while kiting in between CoC cooldowns for added damage.
- When the CoC cooldown is almost up, position close to the pack again for the next cast, but still outside melee range. Begin moving backwards again, and cast CoC immediately when the cooldown is done.
- Learning the proper range to avoid damage and still land the CoC on all the mobs is the key to this technique. You must transition from normal run speed kiting in a circle, and moving close to the pack in the sweet spot described earlier. Ice Barrier and Mana Shield can provide some room for error when learning.
- Repeat until all mobs are dead.
- Most mobs will slow down when damaged below 20%, so it is important to keep the pack together by circling. If they spread out too much, use Frost Nova and reposition to group them back up.
The most common thing that can go wrong is Cone of Cold misses one mob, either because it is out of range, or it resists. When this happens, use Frost Nova before the pack becomes too spread out. The pack will always spread out a bit, so it's necessary to reposition. On a miss, the loose mobs will move towards the mage, and generally make a straight line. Reposition ninety degrees to this line so that the mobs are roughly all the same distance from you. At this point, Cone of Cold will be on cooldown, so get range and use improved Blizzard (A low rank if mana is an issue) as a snare until the mobs are in CoC range again. Note that this will only work with one or two points in Improved Blizzard (not three), as discussed above.
If the Frost Nova also resists, then Cold Snap if specced and try again, or use Summon Water Elemental and cast its freeze spell. If using the water elemental, be sure to put it on passive or it may attack a single mob and break the freeze. If resists continue to be a problem, consider grinding a lower-level camp or pull fewer mobs. If at max level, then consider wearing more spell hit gear when grinding, or speccing Elemental Precision.
-  - Video of a level 46 mage farming Lost Rigger Cove in Tanaris using the Improved Blizzard technique.
-  - Video of a level 60 mage farming Zul'Gurub using the Cone of Cold technique (Chinese text).
-  - Video AoE guide called In Frost We Trust