Know Your Enemy – Frost Mage

Warning, pre-cataclysm content detected!

This article was written before patch 4 went live and will contain information that may no longer be relevant.

Like, this with ice

Like, but this with ice

Frost Mages. One of the thorns in a rogue’s side since TBC, these icy vending machines still prove to be a worthy counter to our class. Arguably a skilled mage will be able to take down an equally skilled/geared rogue, but with a bit of luck and focus you can still score kills. As well as mastering your own class, you do need to understand the mage class and be able to anticipate their actions/cooldowns.

The following is a breakdown of a typical frost mage’s repertoire.

PASSIVE ABILITIES

Ice Armor

Expect this self-buff to be active all of the time – as soon as you start unloading damage onto the mage you will be affected by the chilled debuff. Due to unusual game mechanics, this will happen before your Deadly Brew procs crippling poison, so remember to keep running forwards to try to compensate for this.

Frostbite

Unless the mage forgot to assign their talent points, expect them to have this tier1 talent. Any spell that puts the ‘chilled’ debuff onto you has a 15% chance to freeze you in place for 5 seconds. Spells that can trigger this are Ice Armor, Cone of Cold, Blizzard and Frostbolt.

Ice Barrier

With decent spellpower plus the Ice Barrier Glyph, this will absorb 5-6k of your damage. The mage will reapply this when it wears off, so expect to see it a couple of times. If you are lucky enough to be able to pick the moment of your opening move, don’t attack until the moment the mage reapplies this (you want to smash through it quickly, leaving it on cooldown for as long as possible). Keep an eye out for the buff icon, it’s the same one as Cold Blood.

Shattered Barrier

As soon as you put out enough damage to destroy the Ice Barrier, you will be frozen in place.

DEFENSIVE ABILITIES

Brrrr

Brrrr

Ice Block

If a paladin’s bubble is the mother of all defensive cooldowns, Ice Block is its crazy middle-aged auntie. Unless you lock them out of their frost school by kicking a frost spell, this can be used to cancel all CC (except cyclone) and silencing affects. With the right glyph, this will reset the cooldown on Frost Nova. I’ll come back to Ice Blocks later, there are a few things you should/shouldn’t do when faced with one.

Frost Nova

Another AoE snare. If you’re chasing down a mage who you’re expecting to cast a frost nova, try to jump just as you get in range. You’ll still be snared, but you’ll continue to travel through the air, maybe ending up a few more feet. The phrase “Nerf gravity!” has appeared in a couple of frost mage threads on forums for just this reason :)

Blink

A very self explanitory spell, and the reason why you shouldn’t open with a cheap-shot. Only use your cheap-shot/kidney-shot when this spell is on cooldown, or if you wish to force the mage to use this. Wasting 5 combo points on a 0.2sec stun is a good way to lose a match/duel. Using a 1combo point stun when the mage is facing a wall/side-edge of a bridge can occasionally cause them to waste their blink (quite common to see in games played at low rating).

Invisibility

Similar to vanish, but with a slight delay before it takes effect. This will break on damage, so dots/fan of knives will cancel the invisibility.

Cold Snap

Preparation for mages – resets frost spell cooldowns, including Ice Block (but hypothermia will prevent a double iceblock for 30seconds).

CROWD CONTROL

Polymorph

Sheep, pig, rabbit.. the effect is the same no matter what you’re turned into. I asked a mage-playing friend if the chosen animal symbolised any sort of sexual preference – apparently it does, but I need to level a mage before he’ll tell me.

Deep Freeze

Only usable when you are frozen, which unfortunately is hard to predict (due to the random nature of frostbite procs).

AoE

Arcane Explosion

A mage’s number #1 anti-sap spell – makes getting a sap risky, but the longer you can keep a mage using this the better. I like to drop a distract behind an AoEing mage as soon as he sits down to drink, as it tends to keep him on his toes (and hopefully encourages him to waste a bit more mana with some more arcane explosion spam).

Cone of Cold

This is a decent retaliation to your vanish – better than an arcane explosion as it will reapply the chilled snare that your vanish just removed.

OFFENSIVE ABILITIES

Mirror Image

One of a mage’s more confusing spells (especially when combined with a 180° spin+blink combo), this can cause targeting problems if you’re not paying attention. It’s a good habbit to change your keybindings – I have tab set to ‘target enemy player’ and shift-tab to ‘target enemy’. If you do this and clear your current target with the escape key, you’ll be able to cycle through enemy players without having to flick between the mirrors/totems/pets.

Frostbolt

Nothing too special about this spell other than its ability to apply the chilled debuff.

Ice Lance

Forming part of the deadly ‘Frostbolt/double ice lance shatter combo’, this instant spell is lack-lustre until you find yourself frozen (at which point you’ll suddenly see over a third of your health vanish). You can be kited with this spell, which is frustrating, but at least it doesn’t cause a chilling debuff.

OTHER ANNOYANCES SPELLS

Gouge!

Time for a Gouge

Evocation

Interrupt, interrupt interrupt. This is a channelled spell, but do NOT rely on just your damage breaking it. If the mage has Ice Barrier up at the same time, he will absorb all the damage and the spell will not be interrupted. Gouge is a life saver here, even blind can be used in an emergency. With the normal combination of PVP glyphs, evocation will also restore 60% of their HP… interrupt it!

Summon Water Elemental

Not a massive source of damage, this 45-second summoned pet has one outstanding ability – Freeze. This is another freezing snare, but with the added bonus to the mage of being able to cast it from 45yards away using his pet as the point of origin.

Arcane Missiles / Fire Blast

An instant cast and a chanelled cast that you will sometimes see. Arcane missiles cannot be LoS’d once the spell begins, so ducking behind a pillar will not prevent you from taking damage.

Additional Tactics for Rogue vs Mage

The Opener

In a situation where you can decide when to start the fight, wait until the moment that the mage reapplies ice barrier. You want to destroy it and leave it on cooldown for as long as possible.

If you can safely avoid the inevitable arcane explosions, a well timed sap can help you move in close to open with a garrote. Due to the unusual mechanic of the Deadly Brew talent, your crippling poison won’t proc immediately, meaning you will be effected by the ‘chilled’ ice armor snare before the mage is slowed by your poison. To counter this, try and run through the mage in anticipation of him also running forward.

Your garrote will give you three seconds to put out as much damage as humanly possible. A double mutilate+coldblood eviscerate (with pyro-rockets if you have them) will smash through the Ice Barrier and cause at least some damage to the mage. By this point you will most likely be frozen in place from either Frostbite or Shattered Barrier – this is the mage’s cue to blink from you. In a duel/1v1 scenario you will need to vanish as soon as possible, otherwise you will eat a Deep Freeze.

Now that blink is on cooldown, you can open up with a cheap shot. This is likely to trigger either a trinket or an Ice Block.

The Ice Block

With the mage tucked safely away in his block of ice, you will need to reassess the situation. Are you clean of dots, and don’t have his partner/pet hitting you? If so, dropping from combat to restealth will possibly give you another opportunity to open up with a garrote/ambush. Bear in mind that if you run off, you might find the mage cancels Ice Block early and lands a Fire Blast on you, keeping you in combat. If you can’t drop out of combat, you need to position yourself infront of the mage. If his Water Elemental is shooting at you, don’t be tempted to switch to it and start attacking. Ignore the damage and wait for the Ice Block to expire.

By now the cooldown on blink will have worn off, so the mage will want to use it the second Ice Block wears off. While they can blink out of cheap-shot and kidney-shot, they cannot escape from a gouge. If you land your gouge at the right moment, they will blink through it, and appear on the other side of the arena in a gouged state. Even with the ‘chilled’ debuff, you’ll have time to catch up to the mage to unload more damage (unfortunately, you’ll have to beat through another Ice Barrier as the cooldown will be off by now). Ideally you’ll still have Cloak of Shadows / PVP Trinket / Preparation / Sprint available – use them to apply more pressure when needed.

Gouge the Blink

When trying to gouge a blink after an Ice Block, the best technique for this I’ve found is to focus on the actual mage character on the screen rather than watch his Ice Block buff timer. Regardless of whether the Ice Block expires normally or is cancelled prematurely, the mage has to sit through a split-second animation of it fading. You need a decent conenction, but it is when the ice turns from white to blue that you need to quickly hit gouge. If the mage doesn’t blink, wait until you’ve got your energy back from gouging before launching into an attack (ice block will clear any dots, so it will be a full duration gouge) . Fighting good frost mages is all about maximizing the damage you can do to them during the brief moments you get to sit on them, so pool your energy!

It’s also possible to gouge after your initial garrote, but only if you manage to get infront of the semi-snared mage before the garrote silence wears off (harder than it sounds).

Footnote

I hope that is of some use – if there are any glaring mistakes, please let me know and I will fix them or add anything useful that’s been missed off.

About Dcruize

Rogue addict, PVP junkie, insomniac. I started playing WoW in 2006 and, after being told that 'nobody wants a rogue', tried to level a priest. I quickly realized that love and approval were a poor alternative to stealth and ambush and have been backstabbing away quite happily ever since.