Monday, July 21, 2008

Deep Frost in Wrath of the Lich King - Initial Impressions

Well, apparently, I was a little too busy to post this weekend. But of course, that's what the post date and time options are for. Sigh, I'm still pretty new at this, I suppose.

Regardless of my horrid blogging skills, I still want to post my take on the new beta talents (or the now-NDA-lifted alpha talents, if you want to call them that) as well as the beta patch notes for mages, and in particular, how they affect frost mages. Yes, I'll do both at the same time, since I didn't even bother commenting on the alpha details, since there was that whole debacle about NDAs and such. Now that the NDA has been lifted, I feel obligated as a mage blogger to do so. So let's begin!

The Frost Tree, Beta Edition

- Winter’s Grasp: Gives your Frost Spells a 20% chance to apply the Winter’s Grasp effect, which increases the chance that all attacks will hit the target by 2/4% and the target will be considered Frozen for 2/4 seconds.
I love the feeling of contribution that you bring to a group by putting in your own debuffs on a focus-fired target, especially when they're beneficial to another player. Case in point, I pugged a kara with an arcane-frost specced mage, and he volunteered to do all the table/int buffs for the whole instance, even after wipes, simply because he appreciated my winter's chill debuffs.
Now this debuff benefits the whole raid. Improving general hit by 4% for everyone attacking that monster is just simply ridiculous. In high-end raid instances, all members are expected to be hit-capped, so this talent is not as important, but in entry-level raid instances such as Kara for TBC, there will be some members in Kara guilds and Kara PUGs especially. Whatever the Kara Equivalent for WotLK will be, an 80 mage will be a definite boost for the other hit-dependant classes, especially tanks, who need capped hit to ensure they don't lose aggro from misses on white damage.


- Improved Water Elemental: Increases the duration of your Summoned Water Elemental spell by 10/20/30 seconds and increases the total mana and health of your Water Elemental by 10/20/30%.
Skilled use and precise management of the Water Elemental is the hallmark of a good frost mage. Unfortunately, I'm not quite there yet, but as the 41-point talent, it is as much a part of being a frost mage as it is having Tree of Life on a restoration druid. And When you get a talent such as this, it only makes the identity of a frosty even more concrete. Now, it becomes more important than ever to ensure that your Elemental stays alive and uses up all of its frostbolt charges.

From a theorycrafting standpoint, it is important to figure out whether or not the 30 second increase corresponds nicely with the 30% mana increase, and whether or not the elemental will be able to use its entire mana pool before it dies. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens, because I'm not in the mood to do the calculations.

- Brain Freeze: Your Frost Nova and Frostbite effects also reduces the target’s chance to hit with all attacks by 5/10/15%.
This feels much more of a PvP talent than it actually is. As I recently mentioned in my "10 things you need to know about mages" post, I noted a tactic that I use to at least try and save a healer from getting beaten down by a mob by staying close to them and using Frost Nova before the aggro'ed guy gets too close. With Brain Freeze, your Novas will be somewhat safer to do if you happen to snag a dude in front of your healer. This doesn't really guarantee that the healer won't get hit, but it gives him or her a better chance to escape unscathed or at least alive, especially in heroics where many mobs will 1-2 hit a squishy for a massive kill.

On a related note, a few of you have pointed out that it is simply bad practice to stand close to the healer due to aoe aggro shifting to him if the mage pulls a mob with aggro and then using a threat wipe such as Ice Block. That is true, assuming that 1) you pull aggro in the first place, and 2) the healer is also above the tank on the threat list, or maybe 3) the tank is dead and the two of you are second and third on the list. Well, DPS classes should NOT be pulling aggro in the first place. If aggro is pulled, whether or not it's by the healer or a dps, then you'll increase your wipe chances either way (especially on high-end content), so this isn't an issue. Frost Nova will always give the person who pulled aggro to walk away from the mob that focuses on him, given that he walks away from him. As tanks always say, if you pull aggro, walk the mob back to the tank, to make it easier on him. With Frost Nova, the aggro'd member can walk back to the tank without risk of getting hit. That's all I have to say on the matter, and I'm going to continue nova'ing any mob that comes close to me. Case closed.

- Chilled to the Bone: Increases the damage caused by your Frostbolt and Ice Lance spells by 1/2/3/4/5% and reduces the movement speed of all chilled targets by an additional 2/4/6/8/10%.
Self-explanatory. More frostbolt damage AND Ice lance damage. Ice Lance doesn't really have much utility in a raid situations, but for questing and PvP, it is a good asset to have. What I particularly love about this talent is the additional 10% chill effect, which is added to your already high % chill effects from Improved Blizzard and Permafrost. Kiting is a very good skill to have as a frost mage, and this increases your effectiveness by a good margin.


- Deep Freeze: Stuns the target for 5 sec. Only usable on Frozen targets.
I'll admit it once again, I'm not a PvP person. But last weekend, I did an AV, and did my first ever shatter combo. I even timed the last-second WE freeze and everything, and I essentially one-shotted a rogue from full health to about 15%. Other stragglers from my team finished him off without a problem.

With this talent, depending on the spell mechanics, you might have to rework your shatter combo. Normally, you would cast Frostbolt, cast your Water Elemental's Freeze at the last second, And then Ice Lance immediately when your frostbolt fires off, for double critty goodness.
Consider the possible rotations you might use, depending on the mechanics of the spell.

1) Deep Freeze has cast time: replace your initial Frostbolt with Deep Freeze, and you'll get a stunned enemy with a critical Ice Lance. Depending on whether or not your target is still frozen after the Ice Lance, you have more than enough time to do a regular Frostbolt-based shatter combo.
2) Deep Freeze is instant-cast, uses the global cooldown: replace your Ice Lance with Deep Freeze, and you'll get a crit frostbolt and a stun effect. If target is still frozen, do another shatter combo.
3) Deep Freeze is instant-cast, does not use global cooldown: Cast your Deep Freeze in place of Ice Lance, but use Ice Lance immediately after your Deep freeze. Unlikely scenario, but you still get the damage of your normal shatter combo, but your target is stunned and potentially frozen.

Hrmm...maybe I'll actually start doing BG's in wrath...

Wrath Beta Patch Notes
- Counterspell now costs 9% of base mana.
- Polymorph now costs 12% of base mana.
- Portal spells now cost 18% of base mana.
- Slow Fall now costs 6% of base mana.
- Teleport spells now cost 9% of base mana.
I grouped all of the "base mana" cost adjustments together. For sure, there's going to be an outcry on the intardnet about Mages getting the shaft by making these spells much more expensive than it was in TBC. But I am willing to look at the positive aspects here. Teleport, Portal, and Slow Fall don't really count, because they're used outside of combat (except maybe Slow Fall in world PvP, or in a BG).

Counterspell and Polymorph are important spells, however. As a frost mage, I really don't give a damn. Our mana is so damn efficient due to the insanely cheap cost of our bread-and-butter Frostbolts. In kara, i'm usually in a group with another fire mage, and even though he has a larger mana pool, he's always using his mana-regenerating spells/items before I do. Sure it's a nerf, but it doesn't hit frosties as hard as it will to other specs.

One more thing to consider is how gear scaling will effect these costs. While the base mana cost will always remain a constant as you level up, your actual mana pool will be MUCH larger than it was when you hit level 70. Considering the non-base stat curve one undergoes as he gears up through the levels, and you might actually see that the cost is actually MUCH lower than it will end up being when you start doing level 80 content. So yeah, it's not really that big of a deal.
- Frost Armor, Ice Armor, Mage Armor and Molten Armor are no longer Magic effects and cannot be dispelled.
I already commented on this with the 2.4.3 patch notes, but I just want to announce that you can still spellsteal Armor from NPC mobs. This change only seems to apply to PvP, and that makes me a happy little gnome.
- Invisibility now makes the caster invisible after 3 seconds, reduced from 5 seconds.
WOOT! Invisibility buff! I'll be really honest again, I've only had to rely on Ice block as a threat wipe, but I've never really gotten a chance to use Invisibility to remove myself from combat in case of a wipe. This is normally because I'm usually the second person to go as soon as the tank dies in a fight. 5 seconds to not get hit by anything is a really long time, and a 2 second decrease really makes it much more likely to get out of a wipe situation.

On the flip side, the utility that invisibility has as a threat reducing spell isn't too bad. Instead of the 5 seconds worth of threat decrease, you only get 3. Consider the following threat level after each tick of invisibility, according to how the spell works (10% of your current threat removed each second).

Starting with 1000, each tick will bring you to 900, 810, 729, 656, 591.

The old invisibility will reduce your threat by 40%, while the new version will reduce your threat by 27%. The reduction in duration actually benefits the spell user, simply because of the percentage effect of the threat reduction itself. Simply put, the longer the effect lasts, you lose less threat with each tick. 3 seconds seems to be a good balance between leaving combat sooner and reducing enough threat to be used as a viable threat dumping spell.

Overview of the proposed Wrath Changes

While the beta patch notes indicate that mana cost nerfs are coming to the mage, we must be aware that this change in philosophy is being applied across most classes. An example of this is the change to Shackle Undead to also cost a percentage of the Priest's base mana. Looking at the big picture (considering all classes and levels), it would seem that mages aren't the only one to be re-worked into Blizzard's ideal vision of their game in the new expansion.

While both the talents and changes listed above are from alpha and beta information, we must still be warned that these aren't the final figures. But according to what people say about beta changes in TBC, the general design concepts and goals that the WoW dev team has in mind for particular classes remain the same. That being said, I welcome these new assets to the frost arsenal when the time comes for us to hit up Northrend and kick some Lich King butt. Not only do deep Frost specs remain viable as a PvP class, but they have even more of a utility role in raids than ever. With each new expansion, the increase in your total talent points allows for even more fine-tuning with mix-and-match specs such as the elementalist specs (hello, Frostfire Bolt!), arcane-frost and arcane-fire specs. When the theorycrafters develop the cookie-cutter raid builds for each elemental school, it is quite likely that builds depending on having Frostbolt, or even Frostfire Bolt, will require a deep frost spec in the raid to maxmimize their individual DPS. With both Winter's Chill and Winter's Grasp effects available to deep frost, our utility will become a valuable asset to rosters that include such builds, with Winter's Grasp alone giving such a great single-target buff for your entire team, regardless of its size or composition.

What we're seeing is this concept of having multiple specs being raid-viable because of the buffs that they offer, instead of the cookie cutter spec. Think of Beastmaster Hunters, the raiding build of choice in TBC, according to BigRedKitty. With WotLK coming out, the Hunting Party talent makes Survival a very lucrative asset to bring in a raid, very much like the Winter's Grasp Mage. Frankly, I'm really excited to see how this pans out in the new expansion. For all you know, you just might end up killing Arthas in parties consisting of survivalist hunters, retro pallies and deep frost. That would be an experience more than worth the price of buying the expansion.

Kudos, Blizzard, on developing such an interesting idea for class dynamics in the new expansion. The mage class may still have a bit of a way to go with regards to being "fixed," according to the voices of the mage community. But compared to popular belief, this mage in particular is excited to see that his class is actually taking a few good steps in the right direction.

As always, Frost Mages are looking to be very cool in Wrath.

(that pun never gets old, lol)

6 comments:

moonchicken said...

I might have to go back and level my Frost Mage after getting my Warlock to 70 now. Mmmm, Shatter combos. Btw, would you like 5% crit and 20% spell haste? I think you would, I think you would. Here, catch!

Yes, all Druid specs are good but Balance is just so...unique, if you will.

Larísa said...

Nice walk-through!
But I'm not convinced to leavey my arcane spec yet. But then I'm not any pvp:er at all.

About that arcane mage you met in the Kara pug: it was a nice gesture indeed, but wasn't it kind of stupid? As you pointed out you've got much less mana issues being a frost mage, therefore it would probably have been better that YOU had made all the tables and int buffings so that the wait-for-mana-drinkers-down-time could be kept at a minimum.

krizzlybear said...

@larisa: don't leave your arcane spec. ARCANE BARRAGE FTW.

and that other mage was arcane-frost. what he does is frostbolt with arcane missile clearcasts. with his spec, he's much more mana efficient than i am. regardless, however, tables and such are made outside of battle, so it doesn't affect his mana anyways. if you're arcane frost, you'll love people who stack winter's chill.

Larísa said...

Actually I'm arcane frost 40/0/21 and I hardly ever throw a frostbolt, except for when I'm dangerously low on mana and need to save it a bit and can't cope anymore with the AB debuff.

And yes, table is out of combat, but buffing isn't always, after a res people are often quite eager to go on....

krizzlybear said...

@lar: i guess i misclassified him as an arcane-frost. his build was clearly frost, but used arcane talents to boost his dps and crit damage/percentage. hope that clarifies it.

krizzlybear said...
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