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AoE grinding is a type of grinding only available to mages, and sometimes good protection paladins.
It's famous due to its insanely fast xp gained, as you can kill 10+ mobs in almost the time it takes to kill 1, so you get 10x the xp.
It's also incredibly fun - the sight of seeing your ungodly destruction on 10 mobs, or watching other people's reactions when you utterly omgwtfpwn them is amazing.
However, it's not easy, and it does require fast reactions, quick thinking and lots of training.
Pros and Cons of AoE grinding ∞
So I'll start with the pros and cons.
- It's fun, and fast, boosting you through the horrible grind between 55-60, or if you want, your entire journey between 1-60. I haven't tried doing 55-60 as fast as I can, but I've seen friends level ridiculously fast.
- Much better than normal single-target grinding.
- Gives a lot of gold, and cloth (you'll be generally grinding on humanoids or undead)
Also the advantages of grinding, as opposed to questing.
- It's hard, and you'll often die, especially in the beginning. You'll look like an idiot, rounding 10 mobs and then just dying >.<
- You need to spec to a certain AoE spec, which essentially wipes out your single-target DPS.
- You might have to miss out talents which you may really like.
Also the disadvantages of grinding, as opposed to questing.
So firstly, we come to the talents. Generally we pick the frost tree due to Blizzard and CoC.
Flamestrike and Blast Wave IS possible, but that's IMO harder to do, so I'll focus on the frost spells.
I also prefer Blizzard AoEing than CoC kiting AoEing, as it's easier to do. However, if you do want to do CoC kiting, these talents are still more or less valid, but you'll want more +crit, and less imp blizzard.
Here is my recommended talent spec - http://www.wowhead.com/?talent-bc=RZZMhMIsf0sro (broken link)
You can either fill in the rest of the frost tree, or spec somewhere in arcane.
Essential Talents ∞
These are the absolute 'must'. You simply have to take them.
3/3 Improved Blizzard
- You need 3/3 to fit in 2 blizzards when firing at max range before the mobs reach you. If you spec 1/3, you can only fit in 1, and 1.5 if 2/3.
2/3 Arctic Reach
- Like Imp Blizzard, you need this to obtain the max 36 yards of your blizzard. Otherwise you can't fit in 2.
3/3 Improved Cone of Cold
- You'll be using CoC a lot, with your blizzard, and more damage (+35%) is good.
1/1 Ice Barrier
- You need this during the pulling part. If you use mana shield you'll have half your mana burned before you even start killing.
Recommended Talents ∞
These talents could be helpful, but aren't mandatory.
In no particular order..
3/3 Elemental Precision
- Nothing is worse than 1 out of the 10 mobs resisting that frost nova and then whacking you as you perform blizzard.
- Less resistance, thus, is good, and so is the reduced mana cost as you will be burning up your entire mana bar during the killing process (blizzard x3 or 4 + CoC + frost nova + ice barrier is quite a lot of mana).
1/1 Cold Snap
- Useful if you really need to pop a frost nova or ice barrier.
2/2 Improved Frost Nova
- Frost nova is used a lot, and 4 secs left of cooldown is always good. However this is not vital.
- Reducing the mobs' speed by +10% gives you more time to think and react, but this is once again not essential.
1/1 Ice Block
- This is actually a very important spell, and is on the border of being a 'must' talent. This can be used during the pulling process - pop up the ice block and allow them to you, so they become clustered into a group. Also useful in emergencies.
3/3 Frost Channeling
- Less mana usage is always good, as explained in Elemental Precision.
Talents to Avoid ∞
Some of these talents are amazing, but they are not appropriate for the AoE spec. DO NOT TAKE THESE.
- Yuck. Having some mobs frozen and left behind and some not means the group is not together and clustered.
- Absolutely horrible, because you can't perform AoE on them if one is ahead and the other is 50 yards behind. Go take Wand Specialization, if you're going to take this. Absolutely horrible for AoE grinding. Note this is actually pretty good if you're single-targetting DPS.
Any +crit % or +crit damage (Ice Shards, Shatter)
- These don't wreck your AoE grinding, but you need to save these talents for others. Blizzard doesn't crit, so it's quite pointless, and you don't want to rely on critting for this type of grinding process in case it doesn't crit. Then you're dead.
The process ∞
Now is the actual process of AoE grinding. The killing part is really easy. All you need to do is press a key, aim, and then unleash hell on your foes. And watch the purple numbers fly.
I wouldn't recommend actually grinding before lvl 40 or so, but that's just me (I prefer questing, it means more for the game to me - yes, I know, I'm writing a grinding guide....). But if you insist, I really recommend only grinding when you hit 26. This is when you get Arctic Reach 2/2 and Imp Blizzard 3/3, which are vital talents. Otherwise you'll only fit in 1 full Blizzard.
Pick a place where there are 5-10 MELEE mobs, of your same level. There are some recommended places[not existing], below.
All ranged classes murder you, as they interrupt your blizzard casting and generally mess everything up. If you're lucky, and there's only one, you may be able to sheep them, but this is risky.
STAY AWAY FROM RANGED! There should be space for blinking around, running around, and also a good place to flee just in case. I'll suggest some good places later on.
DO NOT put Ice Armor on! This has the same effect as frostbite because it disperses the mobs. You want them clustered! So use MAGE ARMOUR instead, and if you don't have it, just don't put a shield on.
Remember - No. Ice. Armour.
Here is the entire AoE process, and I'll explain how further below.
- Choose a good spot, where you can see 5 or 10 mobs, and a good space for you to run around.
- Pop up Ice barrier, or mana shield (not recommended - ice barrier doesn't waste mana)
- Mount up if you have a mount
- Take a deep breath and hope you don't die.
- Run into the mobs - try to get the mob furthest away from your original position first, to the mob nearest to you.
- After you have the mobs you want, run around in spirals for a few seconds to cluster them together. If they're not in a group, run back and circle them until they are.
- Put Ice block on, if you have it. Otherwise, put on ice barrier (just to be safe).
Once they are all hitting you, frost nova, and blink away. Anywhere, so long as it's not off a cliff, or into more mobs. Strafe away about 16 yards, or a few seconds. This is your max range for Blizzard.
- update: don't frostnova unless you have to. Mobs can resist it!
- update: don't blink unless you get rooted. Try an ice barrier instead.
- Hit the key, and aim the green circle so that the edge furthest away from you touches the furthest guy at the back.
- When the first blizzard is about to be over, hit the key again, and aim the green circle so that the furthest edge away from you is just IN FRONT of the guy CLOSEST to you.
- Ice barrier if you want to be safe. You'll probably run out of mana around here, and you still need mana for one more blizzard and a CoC. Eat a mana gem if you want.
- CoC, then frost nova and blink TOWARDS the enemy (so you're now behind the mob who was furthest away from you - or you can blink away, but you have to check there IS space. Generally there isn't, and just to be safe, you should blink towards your mobs)
- Blizzard again, and they should be dead. If not, finish up with a CoC, and if the infidel still insist on living, you can wand them down, AE, Fire blast, etc.
Hooray! You killed them all!
Here is a nice video guide that someone made explaining how to do it, similar as listed above (thanks nyuu).
(archive of page, the actual video was not archived)
It's a very long video, showing the same tactic again and again, but it's 'part of the learning process' :P
The killing part is very easy to master. It simply involves blizzard, blizzard, CoC, nova, Blizzard, and maybe another CoC.
The pulling part requires precise movements and reactions, as you are being hit by 10 mobs of your same level. Ice barrier is pretty important, as you can lose a lot of hp much faster than you think.
You don't just charge in like a crazed gnome either, you should tag the one furthest away, then work your way to the front. Keep going back to the first tagged mob once in a while, so they keep their aggro on you. Once you've tagged them all, you must run around in spirals, and if there are ones which aren't with the group, you need to run to them, then run back to the group.
The biggest area for dying is the part between the dismounting and the blinking away.
This is why ice block can be very useful. It needs to be done quickly, but not rushed.
The second you dismount, you must frost nova, but you have to nova all of them.
If there is a mob you know who's outside the nova range, don't bother wasting your nova. Just run around in circles (very dangerous) until you can, and immediately blink away. If you're lucky you might be able to pop up a CoC just before you blink, but this is depending on how good you are.
The first few tries you WILL die a lot. It's a sad fact, but you have to accept it. Just keep practicing and practicing until you get the times, CDs, and movements right.
alternate tactics ∞
I never blink unless I get rooted, the ice barrier can usually take it. After all, you can cast it, wait for the CD to drop and the mana to fill back up and you can pop ice barrier on your way out.
Also, I've never AoE-grinded with Blizzard without frostbite. Here's what I do...
- Gather all the mobs, FN, run off.
- Lay your best rank of blizzard on the mobs. Some mobs will be frozen while others start to move towards you.
- Put a rank 1 blizzard just in front of those that are moving towards you. They will be slowed, and the ones in the back will be unfrozen and start running towards you, which equals going through your rank 1 blizzard.
- Use CoC on the bunch, preferably on the frozen ones.
Frost nova again and repeat.
Places to AoE Grind ∞
27-30 Raven Hill or Tomb. Duskwood.
- Good Undead mobs to grind on, lots of them and fast respawns. Watch out for casters, and there may be limited space to blink around in. Lots of quests for killing these guys. Undead so no runners.
25-30 Gnolls in Redridge.
- Pretty good, generally not too much ranged.
30-35 Witherbark Village. AH.
- The trolls are great to grind on, but watch out for ranged. There are quests for here too in AH. Look out for runners.
36-40 Murlocs in Theramore.
- These have no ranged (I think) and are easy to grind on. They run, so be prepared to wand.
40-44 Murlocks in Swamp of Sorrows.
- Read above.
44-50 Pirates in Lost Rigger Cove, Tanaris, or just in Tanaris
- (watch out for the 'locks though). Some ranged, and they run.
50-54, Undead in Sorrow Hill.
- Great place, this is where the speed of AoE grinding really kicks in when it boosts you to 60. Very fast respawns, and the mobs generally cluster in 5s or 6s in the first place anyway. Lots of runecloth/money drops, and no runners. No ranged.
53-60. Undead in Dalson's Tears.
- This is a great place to grind, no ranged at all. Even faster respawns than Sorrow Hill, and good drops too. Nice place to grind for rep for AD, watch out for fears though. This will take you all the way to the infamous 60.
GEAR - if you can, invest in stamina and intellect. Eagle gear is good, as it focuses on these 2 stats.
- .. is the only other valid option for a mage, but since you're casting 100% of the time, all it'll do is less downtime, but you can drink anyway. Mage armour allows 30% mana regeneration, but you'll need a lot of spirit for it to have any effect, so it's not worth it.
- like spirit, you need a lot for effect and it's better to take intellect and stamina since you're doing burst mass damage, not slow endurance damage.
- .. does not effect blizzard much. It's a pathetic amount (I've forgotten how much, but it's ridiculously low) This still needs to be researched if I bother playing and being a frost mage again.
- You need lots of intellect because of the high mana usage, and lots of stamina since a lvl 50 being hit by 10 lvl 50s is quite deadly.
- 1 intellect = 15 mana
- 1 stamina = 10 hp
Don't take strength or agility, etc.
Try to get a rune of perfection trinket from the Warsong Gulch vendor, as it makes your mobs resist less.
Apart from that, the main thing is to have fun! AoE grinding is meant to be fast, fun and exciting, so if you hate it, don't force yourself! However, DO remember you die a lot in the first few tries, so don't let that put you off. Once you learn it, you can't forget, and you'll be racking in the XP by the 1000s.