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Frost AoE grinding

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A mage uses [Cone of Cold] to kite and kill 7 Zaxxis ethereals at The Heap in Netherstorm.

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 all the way through to level 80. 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] to make the spell's cooldown shorter than the chill duration.

One strong point of frost AOE grinding is that it becomes exponentially more powerful with even one or two pieces of Heirloom gear. [Discerning Eye of the Beast] and [Swift Hand of Justice] are both excellent choices while AOEing. [Exquisite Sunderseer Mantle] and [Tattered Dreadmist Mantle] are also excellent boons to an AOEing frost mage as they increase the experience gain on each mob killed by 10%. Combine both trinkets and either shoulder slot item and you have the ingredients for some very fast leveling with very little downtime.

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].

With the changes to mage talent trees in 3.0.8, the Blizzard Frost AOE method has become the superior method in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Some notable changes: Blizzard can now crit and many Frost talents were revamped to provide a more generic benefit (for example, [Elemental Precision] is now [Precision].)

Some talent considerations are common for both techniques:

  • [Shattered Barrier] - Shattered Barrier will freeze all enemies around the mage when Ice Barrier is broken.

Another talent to watch, similar to Frostbite. The unpredictable nature of when this will occur makes this another talent that is hard to recommend.

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 cast [Ice Barrier], mount up, gather your targets, cast [Frost Nova], [Blink] away, and finally use [Blizzard] on the pack to AOE down the mobs. With the changes to Blizzard - i.e. each wave now has a crit chance - one to two Blizzard's can down most same level packs.

  • The [Icy Veins] skill may come in handy whenever you are AoE grinding with Blizzard. It increases spell casting speed by 20% and reduces spell pushback while casting by 100%. This can serve to help you finish off a pack by casting Icy Veins and simply channeling a Blizzard in place (if for some reason Ice Barrier / Ice Block are on cooldown).
  • [Fingers of Frost] is also highly recommended. Each time Blizzard deals damage, it has a chance to proc Fingers of Frost - which in turn treats the next two damaging Blizzard effects as if the target were frozen. Couple this with [Shatter] - increasing your crit chance against frozen targets by 50% - and it's apparent how potent this combination of skills becomes.

Further, some mages have enjoyed great success with [Arcane Concentration]. As Blizzard hits multiple targets simultaneously, it greatly increases the chances to proc clearcasting, making your next spell free - Blizzard has a high mana cost and this can offset that greatly, speeding up AOE times and freeing up mana for other spells.

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] the chill duration can be made greater than the cooldown. This allows the mage to overlap snares indefinitely.

  • [Improved Cone of Cold] - Increases the damage dealt by your [Cone of Cold] spell by 15/25/25%. This technique uses Cone of Cold as the primary damage spell, so improving its 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] - Increases the duration of your chill effects by 1/2/3 seconds.

Summon Water Elemental talent

  • [Summon Water Elemental] - Provides invaluable assistance in a couple of ways provided it is up at all times. With  [Glyph of Eternal Water] The Water Elemental will stay summoned indefinitely; although you lose the pet's Freeze ability this glyph is highly recommended. There are two main ways the Water Elemental helps with Frost AOE grinding:

First, while in a defensive stance the Water Elemental will stop where ever you first attack (or get attacked) while NOT mounted. This means that while you are mounted and rounding up a group of opponents, the Water Elemental is passive, ignoring attacks and more importantly, following you closely. When you have rounded up the opponents tightly and cast [Frost Nova], the Water Elemental will stop right in the middle of the group and begin attacking one of the enemies. The value here is that you might get a resist from one (or more) of the enemies on the [Frost Nova] cast. After blinking, target the enemy that resisted and command the Water Elemental to attack it. The enemy will be quickly pulled back into the group of frozen enemies as a result. This saves you from using up [Cold Snap], rounding up the enemies, and casting [Frost Nova] all over again.

Second, sometimes you may be in a decent area for AOE, except for the occasional caster that may be too close to avoid. Once again, the Water Elemental can take care of this situation. Target the caster before rounding up the group of enemies, then after casting [Frost Nova] on the group, command the Water Elemental to attack the caster. The Water Elemental takes the damage and you are free to cast uninterrupted.

The Water Elemental is also great for finishing off a lingering enemy and will usually survive for several AOE engagements, so the two minute cooldown on recast is not usually an issue.

The technique

Find a good spot

See: Mage Aoe Locations & Mage area of effect locations not to use

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 gather

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 [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 50%, the most potent snare spell available to a mage. With [Permafrost], the snare can be improved further to 60%. [Chilled to the Bone] also adds an additional 10%.

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.

  1. Gather a group of mobs, as described above.
  2. Dismount and cast [Frost Nova] once the mobs are tightly packed.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  1. Gather a group of mobs, as described above.
  2. Dismount and cast [Frost Nova] once the mobs are tightly packed.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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%.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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] 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 probably 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 [Precision].

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