Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
WoW mage talent build for leveling

Alcaras from has a sticky post on the World of Warcraft forums on Mage Talent Specs. Slightly outdated probably, as it is from patch 1.12, but still a very good source. But I have problems to decide whether I should use a fire build or a frost build for leveling up.

My mage is level 17 now, and up to now has put all points into fire talents: the one that decreases the fireball casting time, and the one that adds a stun chance. The idea is to start casting fireballs at maximum range, spam them as fast as I can, and by the time the mob reaches me finish it off with a fire blast. Works great most of the time, even greater if I get a stun result in. The disadvantage of this is that it works only really well against single mobs in outdoor environments. Against grouped mobs or in confined spaces where I can't get to maximum range, it works less good.

I asked around some other mages I know and several of them preferred a frost build for leveling. It's less damage per second, but better crowd control by slowing mobs down or freezing them in place. Thus it should work better against groups and in dungeons. There is also the arcane tree as a third possibility, but that one seems to be good for support at higher levels, and not so much useful for leveling up.

So, what is your advice, should I stay fire, or should I switch to frost for leveling up my mage?
I tried Fire for the first 30 levels of my mage and couldn't make it work. I went Frost and never looked back.
erm, what do you like most?

freeze the to death
see them burn to death in lovely fire?
or pwn them all with arcane missiles ;)
My 41 mage (which I haven't played in a while!), is AoE Frost spec. That is, Frost without Freezing Bites (?) or whatever those talents to proc a freeze are, so as not to "split" mobs when AoE grinding.

Works fine and the addition of Ice Cube and Ice Block(?) (like I said, haven't played in a while so don't remember the spell names!) - one is a cube for 10 seconds that renders you invulnerable (although you can't cast/use anything, but may give you time to get some more mana up for another spell or get your fingers on the right keys for your escape/finishing moves), and the other allows you to take a fair bit of damage without interrupting casts or dismounting you, which is nice when grouping mobs.

Yes, Frost kills more slowly, but also kills more "safely" where the mobs won't easily get to you so fast. And just because you spec Frost, doesn't mean you can fire up some fire spells at them while they're slowly coming to you! You just won't get Pyro if you go full frost. And frost is also more mana efficient, or so I believe I've read somewhere! :)
Frost for sure, although my mage is as far as yours are, i have a 70 lock and seen frost is the best for leveling and casual pvping.
Do you really need a suggestion? I suggest you to enjoy your mage and experiment to find your way! that said, Frost: can be exceptional for leveling: mana efficency, crowd control, survivability, elite killing (if you can slow them you can kill them) and in certain lvl brackets the "Blizzard combo" if well executed can yeld amazing HP/hour, extremely viable for PVP.....
Fire: can be fun sometimes, big numbers on mob's heads (but unreliably), perfect for show off. comment
In a nutshell, fire is for leveling quickly and frost is for leveling safely. I leveled both 1-60, 60-70 as frost, and, in fact, have never not played frost since the insta-arcane explosion and talent-free evocation patch.
Go aoe grind all the way!
Aoe guide
Frost from level 20 pretty much. There are some good guides to leveling as frost, it gets you alot more survivability which I think is much better than DPS as there is less running to your corpse all the time.
Whatever you do, stay away from arcane. Arcane is a good raidspecc if you have epic equip. It starts poor and scales with your equip. I'd stay away from it until you have at least everything that Kara has to offer.

I personally leveled frost. Switching to fire after I was 70 for a while was a tough decision, but I did it.
Summed up you have the choice between two playstyles:

- Fire: Stay at maximum range, nuke enemy down as fast as you can, if needed use frost nova and repeat.
You will kill relatively fast with this, but you also go OOM fast.

- Frost: You kill less fast, but enemy needs longer to reach you. Better in critical situations because of many emergency talents (extra shield, second frost nova, usw). In addition you will go OOM less fast.

Personally I'd prefer frost for leveling purposes. The time you win with fire killing faster is spend sitting around and pumping water into you. You will also die less often and generally have a tighter grip on your enemies.
Fire gets the upperhand when you start raiding, there are some talents that push fire damage greatly when facing enemies who last longer than 10 seconds. You can't use those to level because the mob will die long before they would take effect ;)
I leveled full frost, my friend leveled full fire. Only place where I think it matters is if you want to do difficult group outdoor quests. In instances it doesn't matter and in typical leveling content it doesn't matter.

Both do kill relatively fast, fire has more mana consumption, frost somewhat less damage.

If you feel like going fire I'd not talk you out of it at all. In some sense fire is more fun and will probably teach you better habits too, than relying on a single mob creeping towards you chilled.
Well I leveled my mage up with a frost build. I am still a frostmage at level 64 now and I love that spec. The most fun about being a frost mage is learning to bomb with blizzard ... add in the elemental and "whow what fun". It is a very versatile spec and lots of "omg help"-Buttons for emergencies.

But if your style is more suited to fire ... maybe you should stay with that spec.

With 2.3 leveling should become faster anyway and spec should matter less, but that may just be my opinion of course.

And: welcome back to actively playing ;)
Hmm.. I'd have to see you play or get some more specifics to offer accurate advice.. but here goes: You may be able to overcome your problems with multiple mobs and proximity with proper use of your other skills. Just because you're fire doesn't mean that you can't use Frost Nova, for example. Polymorph is also highly valuable, no matter what spec you are using. And if you are unintentionally pulling more than 2 mobs at a time, your problem isn't in your spec.

However, deep frost is one of the best general-purpose builds. It has moderate-to-high damage and high amounts of survivability with good mana-efficiency, all of which are useful qualities while leveling. With some practice (or Frostbite) you should be able to solo many group quests as well. And if you skip Frostbite, you can start AoE farming around levels 25-30.
well i've got a lvl 40 something mage. and i've never even bothered using fire. frost just always seemed the better choice to me for leveling. so i went a frost aoe build. and whilst i don't do much aoeing. when i do happen to agro more mobs then i meant too, i have the skills at my disposal to kill them all or escape no harm done. ever since i got ice shield i've rarely ever died.

its all down to preference really but you should def try frost and see what you prefer.
I've been playing a level 70 mage for at least a year and a half now - frost and fire both work fine for leveling, it's just based on personal choice, really. Fire is a bit faster, but frost gives you more survivability. Personally I was fire from 1-60, frost at 60, fire from 60 until i got ice lance, and then went frost. It really doesn't matter as long as you can play a mage decently well. If you want to AoE grind, however, frost is the way to go.
My advice would be to start with fire, and respecc at lvl 32, as soon as shatter is available.

The core of a solo frost leveling build are the following talents:

Improved Frostbolt 5/5
Frostbite 3/3
Ice Shards 5/5
Piercing Ice 3/3
Improved Frostnova 2/2
Shatter 5/5

With this spec, you can snare your target while pulling, and have a 15% chance to freeze it in place on each frostbolt (or when you get hit and your frost shield is up). When the target approaches your meele range: freeze it with frost nova. Once it is frozen (wither by the nova or by a frostbite proc) gain some distance and cast a Frostbolt/Fireball combo (both spells will get the +50% crit chance from shatter, and the frostbolt will do double damage when critting).

You can improve this combo by putting some points into the fire tree:

Impact 5/5
Ignite 5/5

The Fireblast you cast in the combo above will then do more damage when critting (210% instead of 150%), and has a 10% chance to stun your target. Shatter->Frostbolt+Fireblast will be your main damage combo until you hit lvl66, when Ice Lance will replace the Fireblast in said combo (You may remove the 10 points from fire then).
I asked some of the level 70 mages in my guild when I was playing around with a low level mage, and their consensus was on frost. Mostly because of it being more fun to have extra crowd control and more survivability while levelling. YMMV but I like frost too.
How about this build?

Arcane Talents - 30 point(s)

Arcane Subtlety - rank 2/2
Arcane Focus - rank 5/5
Improved Arcane Missiles - rank 5/5
Wand Specialization - rank 2/2
Magic Absorption - rank 5/5
Arcane Concentration - rank 5/5
Arcane Impact - rank 3/3
Arcane Potency - rank 3/3

Fire Talents - 17 point(s)

Improved Fireball - rank 5/5
Impact - rank 5/5
Ignite - rank 5/5
Flame Throwing - rank 2/2

Frost Talents - 14 point(s)

Frost Warding - rank 2/2
Elemental Precision - rank 3/3
Frostbite - rank 3/3
Improved Frost Nova - rank 2/2
Permafrost - rank 3/3
Cold Snap - rank 1/1

It has the three things that I like:

arcane explosion
cold snap

By the way, this build wouldn't be for raids or pvp.
tachyon's plan is pretty good, but frostbite is useless. Once you can get max rank improved blizzard, you should be frost for leveling. AOE grinding is tons more efficient, especially as a twink buy lots of healing pots in case you are having trouble learning how.

Alternately with frost you can just safety grind without AOE, but pulling 4+ mobs is a lot simpler. The worthens in duskwood and the arathi farm (go'shek?) are just nuts. There are guides giving good aoe locations per level. Since your world is sparse you won't have any competition for them.

I'd start improved frostbolt*5, permafrost +nova, blizzard*3. Then get piecing ice, shatter, arctic reach, improved CoC, ice shards. frostbite can be annoying for Aoe because it can mess up your timing, letting mobs get out of the blizzard.

Once you've got to level 44 you've pretty much extracted all the core frost AoE talents, at that point you have a lot of flexibility. Probably ice block/barrier/ice floes/water elemental/arctic winds make the most sense.
How about this build?

I'm far, far from discussing level 70 builds yet. In the state that WoW is now, it is enforced soloing from level 1 to 69, and then optional groups and raids for level 70. Which for a great many classes means that a respec is a good idea once you hit level 70, depending on what exactly you plan to do in the end-game.

A complete level 70 build might A) be different from the best build to level, and B) not contain essential information with what talents to start in the lower levels.
Frost has two different philosophy schools: Focus and AoE.

If you choose the focus school, you're the king of focus damage and control. All talents you chose are directed towards more single target damage, and for a frost mage this means: more freeze and thus more shatter crits. For this philosophy, frostbite is essential, as it adds the chance to freeze your target even between frost novas.
Focus frost mages are very viable for single pulls, which makes them the preferred choice for instances, PvP and killing elites.

If you choose the AoE school, you're the king of area damage and control. AoE frost mages need high control over the mob packs they are kiting, and thus want to have maximum snare. Keeping the pack together is very important, so frostbite is an absolute no-go, as it would separate some mobs from the pack. They have to take care fo their hit chance, as it's dangerous when some mobs resist the frost nova. In urgent cases, they can use coldsnap to quickly reset the cooldown of the frost nova, and apply it again.
Crit is completely irrelevant, as their weapon of choice is Blizzard, which can't crit. Cone of cold is used sometimes, but you expect the mobs to go down at the same time anyway, so no crit is needed.
AoE frost mages are perfect for AoE farming and quick leveling, but aren't that good in PvP and instances as the focus frost mages.
And, honestly, solo AoE farming tends to get annoying quickly.
I like = # # ='s suggestion to use all three trees for leveling. Almost everyone here rules out arcane for 1-69, but honestly I went the whole way specced arcane/fire and loved it. Just saying, it's another option to keep open...uninterrupted arcane missles saved my butt countless times, and you can still *use* frost nova without speccing frost. Which I do. Often. =P
I tried all the different specs while leveling my mage. My mage is currently end game 3 minute spec(arc/fire). However leveling like that sucked. I did the first 30 levels in the arcane tree. I also did 60-70 w/ arc/fire. I have limited experience in an all fire build, but I used that betwee 50-55.

My recomendation: Frost.

With you frost you get great survivablity. As a mage, esp a leveling mage who might not be so keen on using his tricks yet. Survivablity helps. I did so many corpse runs when I was between levels 15-30. Frost also gives you good mana efficiency(even better when you get talents) and a snare...effectivly health efficency as well. With arcane or fire chances are mobs will atleast hit you a couple times unless your stun procs. With frost you always have the mob moving at 50% speed. If the mob isn't dead from just spamming frost bolt, you can blink or frost nova then continue to spam frost bolt. This works excellent for most elites as well. Lastly frost is good for those times you don't have any quests or dungeons and just want to grind...AoE grind. Rakes in the exp.
I actually recommend 5/5 in imp frost bolt, maybe some elemental precision, but dump the rest into arcane for now. Imp counterspell is extremely useful, and I love Imp Arc missles and Imp Arc explosion. Presence of Mind is great as well. I'm also leveling my first mage. I've respecced at least 4 times, and I'm only level 45. Right now I'm running with 20 / 18, (I think, not sure how many frost points off the top of my head, but I know I'm one away from Presence of Mind in Arc) in Arcane and Frost. I figure my fire spells already have enough base damage for nukes, and the frost points are largely for chill effects. Arcane has been a huge help in boosting intellect, resistances and threat reduction.
I always read / heard about Fire and Frost, but just working through things on my own, I'm really enjoying the Arc / Frost hybrid.

Short version: I'd go frost for leveling unless you're really twinked out.
Long version: I did a full breakdown and comparison of mage leveling specs at GMW here, and it's attracted a lot of good comments and some differing opinions as well. Check it out if you're interested.
Oh, and an additional note to everyone talking about AOE grinding -- with the changes to quest XP and leveling XP hitting today, going out and doing pure (non-quest) grinding AOE farming is going to be much less efficient as a leveling strategy, IMO.
[i]It is a very versatile spec and lots of "omg help"-Buttons for emergencies. [/i]

Truth. Combine frost with engineering for frost grenades, and the only thing you fear is unsnarable mobs, and they tend to be named, and even then not all of them.

Also, for future reference, but perhaps not so useful now, at low levels improved arcane missiles is very useful, before you get good escape methods (ie, blink).
Fire, the reason I say this is fire is quicker and you dont need safety becuase you can easily run away if you get in trouble. Frost nova run blink and your safe!
From expirience soloing a mage, I have to say Fire/Arcane is truly your fastest bet for soloing. It provides the most offense and the largest amount and variety of nukes for a single tree.

Since you said you will be soloing to 60, then I say you don't need the ability to AE, crowd control (beyond sheeping the occasional double-pull), or dungeon skills, as all of these things will come later after you respec. What you need is raw unadultered speed, and Fire spec provides that.

Everyone says Frost is safe, well expirience should tell you that safe is never fast. The Fire spec can be safe to play, but you have to remain realistic to do so. Too many fire mages think "If I only get 3 crits I can kill X mob", and all too often the numbers catch up to them and get them killed. Instead focus on quests/targets you know you can kill without any crits whatsoever, that way crits only speed things up for you.

Also I feel that Frost is about using snare and root tactics, forcing the mage into kiting his mobs, and outdoor zones like STV do not give you enough room to run around like this and will cost you adds. Probably why they like crowd control so much :)

The classic attack pattern with a fire spec was simple:
1.Pyroblast/Fireball (max range best)
2.Ice bolt (snare)
4.Fire Blast (Mob should be up in your face now)
5.Frost Nova
6.Blink/Run a few meters.
8.Arcane Missiles (Repeat or go back to step #4 when the recast is up)

The only thing I mixed up in this was swapping steps #1&2 if I had the insta-cast talent, then you could squeeze in an extra fireball.

This pattern allowed me to slay 2-4 single-pulled mobs per mana bar, depending on crits.

To sum up, and I emphasize this, Fire will be the quickest route if you are soloing. Yes it's less safe than Frost, but temperance and judgement can make it a very quick-kill route. Besides, it's only WoW, what's the worst that happens when you die? You lose 3 min running to your corpse and are 1/10th of the way to your next repair! :)

Good hunting.
I've leveled as all three, frost, fire and arcane. My conclusion is that the laziest and most convenient way to level is arcane.

Frost - start from great range, frostbolt, keep them slow, when they reach you, freeze, move out of the way, and resume casting.

Fire - start from even greater range, fireball, kill them as fast as possible.

Both of these requires you to start from a certain range. The harder the monster, and the less room for error, the greater range and the better positioning you need. If you're unfamiliar with the area, and in densely populated areas where there are a lot of unfamiliar patrols, you may not always have the opportunity to maintain the furthest range, or pick the best spot from which to start your attacks. Not to mention that Fire is very weak when dealing with surprise patrols. Frost being slightly better.

With arcane missiles, it doesn't matter when you are surprised. You can open with a frostbolt to slow mobs a bit before you blast them with arcane missiles. When they reach you, you take a couple of hits, but can still continue casting, and mobs that surprise you will get in a couple more hits, but you can continue doing dps uninterrupted. Which mage doesn't sit down to drink after a while anyways, and considering that you can eat and drink at the same time, it's no biggie. Not to mention that Presence of Mind is a lifesaver when mistakes are inadvertently made. Instant cast pyroblast, frostbolt or sheep saves your life in a lot of situations.

AOE Frost grinding for leveling used to be a viable spec, however with the increase of quest xp rewards and the general speeding up of leveling, there will be little need for mob grinding. Quest grinding will no doubt be a lot faster.

In other words, Arcane = room for lazy errors.

I respecced frost once I started mainly partying and raiding. But arcane brought me there.
I don't think I have ever seen so many responses to one of Tobold's blogs.
I am currently a level 32 Fire Mage. I can mow down most MOBs my level or a few levels higher before they ever reach me.
However, it seems the concensus is pointing in favor of the Frost Mage.
I really like Tachyon's Frost build, and since I am level 32 I am going to give it a shot.
imp scorch + impact + ignite are my three favorite leveling talents.
Just to add one more voice to the pro-frost chorus: I've been leveling with an arcane/fire spec, which worked pretty well for the first 35 levels or so, but recently began to run into serious mana efficiency problems.

After reading this thread, I went and respecced to full frost using Girl Meets WoW's suggestions, and it's been a huge improvement.
I wonder about all the "with the change..." comments about leveling... Here is my thought - If it was faster to get to 80K by AOE grinding; will it not still be faster to get to 50K by incorporating AOE grinding? YES -- of course it will. But the key is not to JUST AOE grind or JUST QUEST grind, do both and do it when it is convenient.

Check out one of the many guides on AOE grinding, and plan on stopping by a good location on your way to and from a quest run. Also, keep in mind that you are not going to be perfect at AOE grinding to begin with. Like all things, it takes practice -- after a few mistakes you will have a sequence down that works.

Low level example (pre mount)
Run into a NONCASTING / NONRANGED group (3-5 at 2-3 levels below you to learn) with Mana Shield up, pull those over yonder with the LOWEST level arcane blast (save your mana). STOP - WAIT for them to gather on you. (work your way towards the middle of the pack as they converge on you as needed) Frostnova - run forward (never back up) - as soon as your GCD is good Blink - take 1-2 steps then begin turning back. Blizzard. You should be near the maximum range of your blizzard when you cast it and the mobs will still be frozen. DO NOT MOVE - Click on blizzard again and begin ranging for your second cast. Just as your first blizzard ends, drop a new on at the feet of the closest mob. DO NOT MOVE. If you are grinding at or below your level they will drop at or near your feet. Worst case, blast a Cone of Cold to finish or AB to finish the last bit of damage. Once you get this simple method down you can begin grinding on heavier mobs where you are blinking twice, and going OOM as you drop 10-15-?? all at or above your level. Start small, and master it.

For me personally, AOE grinding has proven to be an excellent supplement to quest grinds...and this is in 2.4. My build ... well, 0-0-xx I have been 100% frost from day one. Be sure to keep in mind, that build is what works for ME...experiment for what works for you. You can easily make a few gold grinding to respec a time or two along the way. And if you even think that you MIGHT AOE grind, do NOT EVER GET frostbite. It will scatter your group and you WILL die.

Hope this quick reference helps to get you started!
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