All hope is not lost, my fellow frosties!
My brief (and I must let you know, it was totally brief!) foray into one of the cookie cutter raiding fire specs (10/48/3) was definitely an eye-opener! But fear not, I have once again returned to my normal Squirtle-wielding ways!
My children, the flame experiment was merely an attempt to scout the opposition in this war between the specs. While the zaptastic Zupa and I have meddled our ways to encourage more support for the cryomancers, it was the euphoric Euripedes and the lovely Larisa who have pleaded their case for wizards everywhere to follow the ways of the arcanist.
Meanwhile, the noble Gnomeageddon remains steadfast in his solo attempt to defend his combustive playstyle. And trusty ol’ Tuna? He remains undecided, despite many hints that suggest his true allegiance.
So where does that leave me? I remain a supporter of everything Ice, but in times of war, success is brought in from alliances that are forged. As of now, it is clear that the true enemies of Frost are the arcanists; that for sure is quite certain. But after my weekend of experiments (which include a run at heroic Shattered Halls, regular Mechanar, and regular Magister’s Terrace), I for one welcome our fire-wielding not-quite-overlords.
Like Peanut Butter and Jelly
While I may have commented before that Arcane is a wonderful tree for picking up supplementary talents that increase the DPS of your main tree, I want to point out that Fire is to Ice like how Peanut Butter is to Jelly. When considering the duality of the universe, there is no polar opposite to frost than fire. Blizzard acknowledges this, and even declared their intentions to push the bonds between our blazing bretheren in the upcoming expansion. While the pundits over at EJ are beginning to tout arcane as the deep spec of choice when staring down Arthas with nine of your friends (hopefully all mages…and a few healers and tanks), Fire may look to be the redheaded stepchild with regards to raid DPS, while Frost essentially retains its status as “just there.”
But the genera idea is that Frostfire Bolt is supposed to be the saving grace for the elementalist mages, depending on how they build their talent tree. While I am certainly not in the mood to overly invest myself on information that is merely speculation right now, I can be sure that Frostfire bolt is here to stay, and will have much potential to tap into the unappreciated synergy between the two trees.
So when Rash of the Itch King comes, one of the effective ways that frost mages can better rival their arcane antitheses is to borrow from their fiery friends.
Consider the description for FFB: (530 Mana, 40 yd range) Launches a bolt of frostfire at the enemy, causing 722 to 838 Frostfire damage, slowing movement speed by 40% and causing an additional 90 Frostfire damage over 9 sec. If the target is more vulnerable to Frost damage, this spell will cause Frost instead of Fire damage.
Breaking the spell down, we know that the FFB itself is modal, meaning that when casting, the game will check whether the spell will do more damage as a fire spell or a frost spell. This is determined by two things: the resistances of the target, and the +damage of each of your schools. If you spec deep frost or are wearing Frozen Shadoweave gear, the spell will most likely be frost-typed. But if you’re deep frost, that would mean that your primary rotation would be exclusively frostbolts. But if you’re pretty deep into the frost tree, eschewing Frostbolt talents in favour of pure damage-increasing talents, then you will most likely choose Frostfire Bolt as your primary nuke.
With that said, by dropping the maximum number of points from Empowered and Improved Frostbolt, combined with the increased talent point total, we can dip into the fire tree for some improved DPS on our frost spells. For me, it would probably look something like this:
Fire Tree (21 points)
Improved Fire Blast – Are you all remembering to cast a Fire Blast while you move to another location? I sure hope so.
Incineration – Increases the critical chance on your Cone of Cold now, so it’s worth picking up.
Ignite – While it won’t necessarily affect FFB due to being frost-typed, it’s still useful for the occasional Fire Blast crit or even Fireball crit.
World in Flames – Blizzard (the company), I will love you forever if you make Blizzard (the spell) critable.
Improved Scorch – HELLO! Vulnerability now affects frost spells as well! So let’s start adding 5x scorch to our FFB rotations, shall we?
Master of Elements – When I temporarily specced into fire, I was sceptical about the mana efficiency of the rotation, but with this talent maxed out, it’s actually not that bad. Imagine this combined with Ice shards? Double the damage, 70% of the cost. Pure pwnage.
Frost Tree (48+2 points)
There’s so many talents here, I’m just going to mention the noteworthy additions and omissions.
2/5 Improved Frostbolt – We won’t be casting frostbolts, but we need 2 points to get into the next tier. Either way, a 1.3 second rank 1 frostbolt is good for kiting mobs.
Improved Frost Nova, Arctic Reach, Improved Blizzard – We can start AoE grinding mobs again! Joy!
Improved Cone of Cold – Synergy with Incineration and Ice Shards lead to massive damage.
0 points in Fingers of Frost – Oh well. Winter’s Grasp was never meant to be, I suppose. Don’t put points into this if you’re not invested into Shatter. Even then, it’s not really that worth it in a raid environment.
Summon Water Elemental, Improved Water Elemental – Welcome back, Squirtle. How I’ve missed you so.
Chilled to the Bone – DPS, yum. Snare, yum. This is the talent you want to strive for if you want to spec Deep Frost FFB, and thankfully, we get to keep it.
You have 2 extra points leftover in the Frost Talent tree, but there are a few limitations based on tier level requisites. These leftovers are to make sure you can get your Water Elemental, so put them on utility talents. Here are a few options:
1/3 Brain Freeze – Free Fireballs are always nice. But you’re only allowed to spend 1 point because of tier-specific talent point requisites. The other point can be spent on the other options.
2/2 Ice Floes – More CoC’s, more Ice Barriers, more utility.
2/2 Shattered Barrier – Ice Barrier should be renamed Ice Barriawesome. Makes your blizzard grinding even more effective, as it gives you a free frost nova. I’m not sure if this uses up the Frost Nova cooldown, though. If it doesn’t, you get a chance to Frost Nova again if any mobs resist the first one, all without having to pop a cold snap.
2/3 Permafrost – Improve your kiting abilities even further.
Scorch x5, Summon Water Elemental, Icy Veins, Frostfire Bolt spam, Scorch x1 to restore the debuff. Cold Snap when Water Elemental/Icy Veins ends, and then repeat as necessary. Depending on your raid composition, you might need a Shadow Priest to keep up your Squrtle mana, or you might not need to scorch so much if you have another Fire Mage. Either way, you’ll be getting the benefit of both scorch and winter’s chill, while getting the improved crit bonuses of Master of Elements and Ice Shards as well as the mana efficiency of Master of Elements, Brian Freeze and Frost Channeling.
Some Things to Consider/Theorycraft
Cost efficiency of Master of Elements vs. Brain Freeze – 30% reduction of critical hit spell costs, or 15% chance to get a free Fireball? I'm sure that at least 1 point into each talent will give you some sort of return, but what combination will maximize your damage per mana?
2/3 vs. 3/3 Improved Water Elemental – Due to the “nerf” to improved WE’s health and mana, you may have moments at the end of a fully talented Water Elemental where it’s just sitting there doing nothing. 2/3 may maximize the use of your Squirtle, while putting an extra point into Brain Freeze.
A Moot Point
As this post goes live, the talent tree will have been shifted again, but that’s the risks we take for speculating on upcoming talents. I know that Shatter no longer requires a talent pre-requisite, and may be moved to lower tiers, so I might shift some points to include Shatter and Fingers of Frost if possible. It’s a decent combo if you can afford it. Definitely expect me to update my WotLK talent plan as the new versions of the beta builds are implemented.
If there’s one thing that I learned about my time as a Fire Mage, it’s that juggling scorch is indeed a very challenging aspect of your flamethrowing rotation. By implementing that into Deep Frost, I may find myself with a wonderful marriage between exciting rotations that keeps me on my toes with the use of my Water Elemental.
Indeed, I still love me some mudkips.