AP Frost vs Deep Frost

There has always been the debate on which of the two specs are better, and the WoW forums are always cluttered with the same questions over and over again. I am going to go through each spec and show the comparison between the two specs, and maybe help you in picking the spec that is right for you. Not saying one is better than the other, each one could be better for you depending on your current gear.

The two specs are AP Frost and Deep Frost. AP of course stands for Arcane Power, and this specs takes you down deep into the Arcane Tree to obtain Mind Mastery to give you a boost in spell damage. Deep Frost is exactly what it sounds like, deep into the Frost Tree putting 41+ points into the tree and making use of the Water Elemental.

Arcane PowerAP Frost (40/0/21) In the Arcane Tree, you have Arcane Concentration to give you a free spell 10% of the time, and also while Clearcasting, it increases your spell crit percentage by 30%. Arcane Meditation allows 30% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting for even more mana efficiency. It also stacks with Mage Armor to allow 60% mana regeneration. Arcane Mind increases your Intellect by 15% to give you a bigger mana pool, and increase your spell crit rate. With your increased Intellect, Mind Mastery converts 25% of your total Intellect into spell damage. Arcane Instability also gives you 3% more spell damage and 3% more spell crit percentage. You also have Spell Power to increase the critical strike bonus damage of all your spells by 50%. Then you have Presence of Mind to give you an instant cast spell every 3 mins, and as your trump card, you have Arcane Power that makes your spell deal 30% more damage at the expense of 30% more mana cost. In the Frost Tree, you have Ice Shards that gives your critical strike bonus damage a 100% increase and Piercing Ice to increase your frost damage by 6%. You have Icy Veins to use in conjunction with your Arcane Power and you have Cold Snap to refresh your frost spell cooldowns.

Quick Summary: 25% of Intellect is + spell damage, 225% critical strike bonus, +3% crit rating, +3% spell damage, +6% frost damage. Trump Cards: AP + IV, PoM, Cold Snap.

Water ElementalDeep Frost (10/0/51) In the Arcane Tree, you have Arcane Concentration which gives you a 10% chance to enter Clearcasting, which makes the next damage spell you cast, cost zero mana. The rest of your talents are put into the Frost Tree. Ice Shards for 100% critical strike damage bonus. Piercing Ice for 6% more frost damage. Icy Veins which increases your casting speed by 20%. Arctic Reach for 20% more range on your frost spells, and Shatter to increase your spell crit by 50% on frozen targets. Improve Cone of Cold to increase its damage by 35% and Cold Snap to refresh the cooldown on all your frost spells. Instead of Imp CoC, you could replace it with Permafrost, which increases the duration of your chill effects by 3 seconds, and reduce target’s speed by an additional 15%. Ice Floes to reduce the cooldown of some of your important frost spells, Winter’s Chill to add a debuff on your target that increases spell crit percentage of frost spells by 2% and stacks five times for a total of 10% spell crit. You get Ice Barrier that absorbs some damage, Arctic Winds to increase your frost damage by 5%. Empowered Frostbolt that increases spell crit percentage of Frostbolt by 5% and gives Frostbolt an additional 10% of your bonus spell damage effects. Then last but not least, Summon Water Elemental, which will account for over 10% of your total DPS if used correctly.

Quick Summary: Additional 10% of spell damage is added to frostbolt, 200% critical strike bonus, +5% crit rating to frostbolt, +10% crit rating to frost spells, +11% frost damage. Trump Cards: IV + WE, Cold Snap + reduced cooldown on Cold Snap.


AP Frost Deep Frost
Spell Damage 25% of Int + 6% 10% of Dmg + 11%
Spell Critical Strike 3% + Int 15% + Int
Spell Critical Bonus 225% 200%

Which Spec is better? Like I said before, they are both good, the “better” depends on your gear. When you are first starting out, AP frost will probably be better for you, since the spell damage you get from Mind Mastery will outweigh the spell damage you get from the deep frost talents. Also AP Frost crits higher, Deep Frost crits more often. So if your spell damage is low and your crit rating is still low, AP Frost will be much better for you. Once you gear up and get more damage and crit rating, you will come to a point where switching over to Deep Frost will be a greater increase to your DPS.

What does that mean? Say your mage has 500 spell damage, and 400 intellect. Now lets compare the two specs for this mage. Adding these stats into the chart, we come up with:

AP Frost Deep Frost
Spell Damage 645 610.5
Spell Critical Strike 23.83% 33.11%
Spell Critical Bonus 225% 200%

Now my math isn’t 100% correct but you can see AP Frost gets more spell damage out of using Intellect than Deep Frost gets out of additional spell damage. As you get more gear and more damage, the more you benefit from the extra spell damage bonus for Deep Frost, then eventually the bonus together with the extra crit rating of Deep Frost will be greater than the damage you get from Intellect and the extra spell crit bonus.

Also keep in mind that the “wild cards” for Deep Frost is better than the “wild cards” for AP Frost. Water Elemental (if used correctly) will output alot more damage than Arcane Power. With the reduced cooldown of Cold Snap in Deep Frost, you will also be able to Summon your pet out more often, and use Icy Veins more often than AP Frost.

AP Frost vs Deep Frost

AP Frost Talent TreeDeep Frost Talent Tree

Remember there are other factors you must take into consideration. Is there Aoeing? Do you need burst damage? Is this for PvP? Is this for raiding? Long fight? Short fight? Also keep in mind that a Deep Frost mage will share their Winter’s Chill with the entire raid, so an AP Frost mage can benefit from the +10% crit rating to frost spells. Ultimately its up to you and your playstyle. Pick a spec that you like, and enjoy.

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  • Pies @ Sunstrider EU said:

    Hey there,

    Might I just say that this is a VERY nice looking blog and well written post.

    Ive never really tried AP frost but I would definitely be tempted into a respec now – perhaps even for 5v5 pvp where the Water Elemental can be nice but is often targetted by the enemy.

    Just gotta get my internet back from the clutches of MASSIVE lag (not just WoW =S)



  • WowMom said:

    Thank you so much for this post. We have a couple of mages were starting out with and they both just hit 10. And I have to decide what to do with them. So I spent most of today reading endless forums about Fire, Frost, Deep Frost, Elemental, AP/Frost, and on and on. We’re going to take them in different directions and see which we like better, but first I need to know what’s what. So thanks for this very clear analysis.

  • Adrus said:

    BRK was right this blog does look better than his..=P

    Start reading this and just maybe i will go back to leveling my 51 frost mage but with a 70 hunter doing kara and a 66 pally plus 6 other low level toons just on that server its hard to find the time for them all….

    I will have to see if you have an e-mail address and drop you a line and get your ideas on a good frost build for a level 51…

  • Sephran said:

    Your my hero. Finally a good frost mage blog to read and learn from. Your like a BRK for mages. HOPEFULLY you post as much as he does :p


    Thanks so much!!

  • Tuna said:

    Thank you everyone. I will do my best to come up with anything that can be of help.

    my email is listed in the about page, or under the pandaren picture at the top right of the main page.
    spicytuna[.]blog[@]gmail[.]com , without the []’s of course :)

    haha, I don’t know If I can post as much as BRK, but I will try to post as much as can :)

  • Selleya said:


    I spent a whole day last week looking for a good mage-blog. This is the first I would be willing to read frequently!

  • ailtia said:

    I like it alot…

    making me want to play my gnome frost mage some more to get him higher.

    but I must get my flying mount and get my rogue and shaman higher…

    gteat and informative blog.

    thanks for the hard work that you have done

  • Super_Duck said:

    Nice post, got me abit interrested in getting my mage to 70, probably not gonna happen because anytime soon though..

  • Pagoplexia said:

    Really nice blog.. I am leveling a hunter, so BigRedKitty is bookmarked – he sent me here :) I have a 70 deeeeeep frost mage (Yes, all talent points but 2) that I have played since WoW started.

    Just to try it out, I switched to your AP/Frost… man, what a difference! Thanks for the tip, big damage.

    One question… why Cold Snap and not Slow? Is it a toss up point and you just prefer the option?

  • Tuna said:


    For raiding, I would chose Cold Snap over Slow. There are some uses for Slow in raiding, but it is minimal. Cold Snap will let you use Icy Veins more often, and allows you to use Ice Block or even Frost Nova again incase of an emergency.

    For PvPing, Its a toss up. Slow works wonders for kiting melee, or even slowing down casting speed for casters. Cold Snap, again for an extra nova or IB will save your life. Cold Snap Icy Veins is there for the extra burst if needed.

  • Arpigee said:

    Looking forward to viewing your site often, looks like it will be a really good one!

    I have been leveling a BM Hunter (thanks BRK!) and Frost mage concurrently and have had a hard time finding god frost mage info. I intend to go Deep Frost, but was wondering if you are planning on doing a “building a frost mage” piece, similar to the way BRK did for a BM hunter. I’m level 37 and looked at one of the few sites that had a step by step frost build and don’t think they did a great job of it.

    I guess I’m wondering mostly at what point do I start mixing in the arcane stuff…

  • Tuna said:


    A “building a frostmage” piece is a great idea. I will be working on this in the near future.

    In my opinion, when leveling and going deep frost, you just throw all your points into frost. You won’t need the points into Arcane until you are around 60.

  • Olympia said:

    Well, very nice, but if you going with an 25 raid to like SSC, then u will have at least 2-3 mage more, and if any of em are deep frost and u are AP you will still beinfit of the 10% frost bolt, and will own dps.


  • Tuna (Author) said:

    Yep! “Also keep in mind that a Deep Frost mage will share their Winter’s Chill with the entire raid, so an AP Frost mage can benefit from the +10% crit rating to frost spells.”

    You get high crit damage AND frequent crits! Yummy!

  • Chris said:

    I just got my Sword from gruils with soul frost and personal buffs IE pots/oil I am sitting at 970 bonus damage 25% crit. I am deep frost speced, only 55 Spell hit(working on it) What spec do you think would be best for me. I am Deep do you think AP would up my DPS or should I stick with Deep.

    in an hour long instance (H Bot) I was reading with Damage meters at 550 dps(instance wide 2 deaths) and 58% crit criting FB at around 3400, Lance 2200. Please let me know if I would see an increase.

  • Tuna (Author) said:

    IMO you should stick with Deep Frost spec at this point. The bonus damage and crit you get from Empowered Frostbolt and the other frost talents will out-weight the damage bonus you will get from Mind Mastery. Also switching to AP Frost, you won’t see that high %58-ish crit that much. <3 Winter’s Chill.

    If you have the gold to spare to mess around, give it a try. It is fun to change your spec around once in awhile. You’ll see really high crits too! Also, if you are running with another Mage that happens to be Deep Frost, AP Frost will perform even better.

  • Chris said:

    Yeah I ran with another Deep Frost today, and I was hitting over 1k DPS on boss fights with Icy Veins, Shatar Hit trinket clicked, and crit proc trinket, Water Elemental, Cold Snap start again.

  • Tuna (Author) said:

    Also, if you running with another Deep Frost Mage on a regular basis, since you are both stacking Winter’s Chill, you may talk to them and change your specs slightly to add a bit more to the raid.

    For example, if both of you change to 3/5 Winter’s Chill, 5 stacks of Winter’s Chill will be applied normally during the raid, but it will also free up 2 talent points for both of you to be put into say, 2/3 Frostbite, or even Permafrost or Improve Blizzard.

    Or if he wants to stay 5/5 Winter’s Chill, you can still switch to 3/5 Winter’s Chill for extra talents.

  • LM said:

    Awesome guide between the difference of the two, ive been raiding with AP Frost for quite abit now.

    I just wondered at what sort of mark of spd / crit would you recommend look at changing into deep frost, ive been looking to do it for quite some time now but wasnt sure what sorta borderline would be more beneficial to switch into deep frost.

    Atm im currently raiding with 1140 (unbuffed) spell damage.. so that would be 999 spd without mind mastery if my math is correct.

    Just wondered what your thoughts are..

    Btw, cheers for this blog, there are some interesting articles which I have read on here.. and your WWS stats are very impressive.

  • Tuna (Author) said:


    I think this would be a good time for you to switch over to Deep Frost. You won’t see an increase in spell damage on your character screen, but you’ll notice your Frostbolts hitting higher. You might not get high crit damage like you’re used to, but you will crit a lot more often with Winter’s Chill.

    The only problem is getting used to using the Water Elemental which will account for ~10% or more of your damage. Once you adapt to this fairly different playstyle, you will notice an increase in your damage output.

    Have fun with it, and let us know how it goes :)

  • Alex said:

    I realize this is a bit late in the life of this post, but thanks for doing this. I recently switched from deep frost to AP/frost and then back again. I was noting that I was actually doing less damage than with AP than with Deep frost which surprised me, but which makes sense after reading your post.

    For those interested I was at 932 bonus damage and 20% crit unbuffed. It does seem that as the bonus damage gets higher deep frost outpaces AP.


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