Sunday, August 26, 2012

Remembering the Old Frost.

On Tuesday, Frost will no longer be the same. With the release of 5.0.4, every spec will be changing. Some will be getting minimal changes, while others will be completely revamped; Frost Mage is one such spec.

Part of me is sad because of the feeling of pride I got from playing Frost Mage in the current expansion; it was nice to know I could hold my own while playing a spec that was simply not made to be effective in PvE. More importantly, though, I'm sad because I think that Frost PvE right now is more fun than anything else. The coming changes might make the spec more accessible and more viable for the majority of the player-base; but, as subjective as it is to say, I think it will also be much more boring.

Thus, I'm writing this post. Partially in remembrance of how PvE Frost was in Cataclysm, and partially to discuss what's exciting about the new PvE Frost - after all, not every change is bad. Hell, maybe I'll be happily proven wrong, and find that the new Frost is more fun than the old Frost; I doubt it, though.

Here we go.

Frost Mage was the reason I started playing WoW. When my brother was desperately naming off every class and what they do in PvP (the original reason I started playing WoW...hah), Frost Mage sounded right up my alley. While my times being a jackass in Arenas and Battlegrounds ultimately paled in comparison to the times I spent in dungeons and raids, I still had a lot of fun doing both. More specifically, Frost made PvE pretty fun, for a change. I enjoyed how the complexity didn't come in the form of having twenty-seven buttons, but instead from the myriad amounts of choices I had to make with just a few buttons. DPS'ing in some "complex" specs just feels like operating all the individual cogs and wheels of a Rube Goldberg machine; Frost, on the other hand, always felt clear and simple in its design, while still taking time and effort to master.

Old Frost, I will miss Deep Freeze being a damaging spell, because I simply don't think Frost will be complex enough without multiple ways of using Fingers of Frost procs. Likewise, I'm gonna miss Frostfire Bolt taking a charge of Fingers of Frost (if available), for the same reason. I miss having Ignite as Frost, since it gave Frostfire Bolt some interesting mechanics in both single-target and AoE situations (if you specced for Impact). Most of all, I miss having reasons to NOT spend your Fingers of Frost/Brain Freeze procs right away, because I think it was the biggest contributing factor to Frost's sophistication.

Now, it's going to be very cut-and-dry: Single-Target? Your priority is Frostfire Bolt, then Ice Lance. AoE/Cleave? Your priority is Ice Lance, then Frostfire Bolt. Any reason to hold onto procs? I guess, burst damage, and that's about it. Even then, recharging the procs quickly is going to be easy (it always was, but even easier now), what with a DoT proccing our Brain Freeze for us, and Frozen Orb being an additional way to get an instant proc. This is one way, in my opinion, that we have been unequivocally dumbed down.

Old Frost, I will not miss your terrible AoE. Blizzard on frozen targets? Cone of Cold randomly once or twice in the middle of our single-target rotation? Spreading Ignite with Impact? (well, I liked that last one, but it's gone) That was never AoE, ever. Too weak, too sparse. Good riddance to the old.

Now, on top of Blizzard and a much, much stronger Cone of Cold, we'll have a cleaving Ice Lance (which we can glyph to cleave even more), cleaving DoTs (or Frost Bomb), a new AoE orb (Frozen Orb), and potentially, a cleaving EVERYTHING with glyphed Icy Veins. My only question now is why glyphed Icy Veins isn't the normal spell, because it's way more interesting and fun. Frost can hit multiple targets, now. Rejoice.

Old Frost, I will not miss the old Frostbolt. Sorry, but the new Frostbolt is just better. Early Frost was a lame incentive to cast Frostbolt, but ramping damage to Frostbolt, Ice Lance, AND my Water Ele is an excellent incentive. And of course, Fingers of Frost, but that isn't new. ...I suppose I'll miss Brain Freeze procs with Frostbolt; but, unlike the FoF changes, I can live with this one.

Old Frost, I'm ambivalent about the new Glyph changes. I can't decide if I would take your mandatory Primes, inane Majors, and mandatory (wtf?!) Minors over the new Frost's "only-useful-for-DPS-if-you're-in-an-AoE-situation" Majors, and "not-mandatory-but-huge-quality-of-life-improvement-and-therefore-mandatory-enough" Minor glyphs.

I really don't see how Mages of any kind are going to roll without Glyph of Momentum and Glyph of Loose Mana once they grow accustomed to them. The Major Glyphs that increase damage all hinge on whether or not we're in AoE/Cleave situations or not. ...Well, there's Water Elemental...and I guess Glyphed Fire Blast if you're using Frost Bomb. But, really? Those are boring, minimal DPS increases for single-target. The Glyph choice becomes much more complex if you DO have an AoE situation on your hands, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the lack of single-target DPS increase Glyphs to be really lame.

Old Frost, I think I will simultaneously miss and not-miss the old Talent Tree. For as many mandatory talents that existed, there was a lot of wiggle room with Frost to put talent points where you wanted. I think Frost PvE was one of the better examples of the old Talent Trees giving players choice (where most, honestly, did not).

The New Talent Trees will be more condensed, and while I some of them are very useful, I don't find most of the choices to be very interesting. "Hmmm. I could silence a guy...Freeze a lot of guys like THIS...or Freeze a lot of guys like THAT." I also honestly feel like some choices are still no-brainers...I know every Mage is lusting for Cauterize, but seriously? I'll take Greater Invisibility ANY day for the damage mitigation. Who would ever pick Cold Snap, by the way? Thus, while the old talent trees may have been chock full of no-brainers, Old Frost at least had a lot of fun decisions...surprisingly more than they will now, if you ask me.

Old Frost, I will miss gearing optimally to get the maximum amount of DPS from you. ...Or, will I? To be honest, I don't know what gearing for New Frost is going to be like. Crit is devalued (you'll need about 7% more crit to get crit-capped now, if I remember correctly), and we now need Haste (thanks to Nether Attunement, Mage Bombs, and Early Frost not capping us randomly) and Mastery (better sustained damage and AoE damage) than ever before. I always felt like Old Frost, after getting crit-capped, could play any way they liked (although I preferred Mastery-heavy builds).

It seems like Haste is about to become the crowned king, but who knows? It's still not too farfetched to become Crit-Capped. Maybe there'll be multiple ways of playing the New Frost, now. Maybe we'll have some that stack crit and get wacky damage off their Ice Lances and Frostfire Bolts. Maybe we'll have ones that stack Haste and get mad DoT damage. Maybe we'll have Mastery Frosties that just sit on their ass and let the Water Elemental do everything. I guess we'll find out!

And so. Here's to you, Old Frost. Old Frost wasn't perfect. Old Frost did terrible damage. Old Frost had mandatory glyphs, and a mandatory stat cap.Old Frost AoE/Cleave was a joke. In fact, writing this post helped me realize how much I had to look forward to in New Frost, even if I'm still losing my favorite part of the spec.

...But, Old Frost was still a lot of fun to play. Out with the old, in with the new, I suppose. This is my eulogy to the Old Frost, the reason I started playing World of Warcraft.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ice Blog is over...for now.

I didn't really want to admit it for a while; but, when my guild got into Heroic modes, I had a feeling it would happen. I'm no longer playing Frost.

But, as it happens, it wasn't because I needed to play Fire or Arcane to stay competitive; in actuality, my Frost DPS was just fine. Actually, it was because we needed a healer.

Just as we stepped into Heroic modes, two of our three main raid healers quit the group. Most of our raid can heal, but I stepped forward and took the job.

Now we're 4/8 H, and Hagara's days are numbered. But, unfortunately, it looks like my Frost Mage is going to be on hold until Cataclysm.

What I'm wondering is, what does this mean for Ice Blog? I know I have like, zero readers; but, the significance of my chronicles of Frost Maging are to document competitive PvE play of what's considered one of the least competitive (if not THE least competitive) PvE spec in World of Warcraft. When Mists of Pandaria launches, all that changes - theoretically, every spec should be even, and players won't be forced to change specs because they will be thousands of DPS behind if they don't.

Will Ice Blog be relevant in a game where, theoretically, the best players can play competitive Frost (as opposed to right now, where they rank on World of Logs by having Dragonwrath and a full set of heroic gear)? I guess only time will tell.

As for right now, here are my current thoughts on the state of MoP's Frost. Now, admittedly, I haven't played in the Beta yet; but, here's what I know:

Frost is looking to change dramatically. Now, it looks like Haste will be our most important secondary stat. Not only is Frost Armor going to grant us Haste, but they are encouraging us to stack Haste by making Frost Bomb's cooldown and countdown scale down with Haste rating. This also allows the game designers to keep Icy Veins in its current state while synergizing with Frost PvE much better than it was before.

Now, I can't say whether or not rolling Nether Tempest/Living Bomb on just a few targets will roll in tons and tons of Brain Freeze procs (though I suspect they might); however, I can tell you that with Frost's resource management grossly oversimplified (Brain Freeze can't benefit from Fingers of Frost, Deep Freeze can't deal damage anymore), it's going to be a simple matter of finding out whether Ice Lance of Frostfire Bolt deals more damage. After that, our rotation is going to be quite simple:

1 Pet Freeze
2. Frozen Orb
3. Bomb (refresh)
4. (Ice Lance/Frostfire Bolt - whichever one does more damage)
5 (Frostfire Bolt/ Ice Lance - whichever one does less damage)
6. Frostbolt.

This might look similar to our rotation right now; but, with Fingers of Frost only interacting with one spell in our rotation instead of three, and Brain Freeze having no synergy with Fingers of Frost, it's going to be a case of "Casting (spell-x) is always better than (spell-y), all the time."  It'll just be a matter of which "Bomb" talent to take.

Crit Cap looks like it's going possible in MoP; but, we'll have to reforge for a lot more Crit to get it (31.05% after raid buffs; so, 21.05% with Crit buff + Molten Armor, and 26.05% with just Crit buff....this is, of course, assuming Food/Flask/Kings). On the other hand, if it winds up being the best way to play the spec, we won't have to depend on having Warlock/Fire Mage to be competitive. In fact,  Mages bring the crit buff, AND 10% Spell Power so we apparently won't have to depend on anyone!

If crit really does become the way to go, it probably won't be a viable gearing option until the second raiding tier (That was the first time *I* was able to get such high amounts of crit in my gear...even though I didn't really need it), so only time will tell. But, regardless of what the optimal stat weights are, Frost's rotation appears to have been dumbed down dramatically.

Here's what I'm predicting/hoping will happen, come patch 5.0: Frost will be competitive. It will be as good as Fire and Arcane. Maybe even...better? And, to boot, it'll be much easier than Fire, and even Arcane. In fact, it'll be so easy that it needs to be nerfed...but wait! Since all specs are supposed to deal competitive DPS, Frost's damage can't be nerfed! So, what happens to Frost?

Complexity is added. Here's hoping. See you in Pandaria.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Frost Mage Strats: Dragon Soul Boss 8

The only Dragon Soul boss strat I have left is Madness of Deathwing. ...Here goes. I don't suspect it'll be brief.

First things first: A note on speccing and gearing for this encounter

Haste is a tricky aspect of this encounter. Part of the mechanics for this encounter gives us an additional 20% Haste. Since you can Bloodlust twice, have at least one Haste Cooldown with Icy Veins, and can spec for other haste abilities such as Netherwind Presence and Early Frost, it's quite easy to bring your Frostbolt under the GCD.

As Frosties may or may not know, there is a sort of soft Haste-Cap, where your Early Frost Frostbolt will be at exactly 1.0 seconds during Icy Veins. Assuming that your raid has the 5% Haste Buff, the Haste ratings for this cap are 1144 with 2/3 NWP, and 1424 without NWP. If you are at the Haste Cap, you will quite often be under the GCD. Here are some cast times I wrote down. These are all with 0 Stacks of Stolen Time, so if a spell is within .01 second of the GCD, it will likely fall under the GCD at higher Stacks. Without further ado:

Haste-Capped, Raid buffed, no CDs: 51.68% Haste

FB: 1.32 s
EF: 0.923
FFB: 1.65

Haste-Capped, Raid buffed, Icy Veins active: 82.01%

FB: 1.1s
EF: 0.769s
FFB: 1 37s

Haste-Capped, Raid buffed, Bloodlust/Heroism Active: 97.18%

FB: 1.01s
EF: 0.71s
FFB: 1.27s

Haste-Capped, Raid buffed, Icy Veins & Bloodlust Active: 136.49%

FB: 0.845s
EF: 0.592s
FFB: 1.06s

As you can see, it's very plausible to have Frostbolt fall under the GCD, even without Early Frost.

I thought about ways to fix this; it probably is no help in this encounter to have Early Frost, and could be done without. And yet, Frostbolt still comes in danger of falling under the GCD if Bloodlust is active, and will definitely fall under the GCD if BL/IV are active simultaneously.

We could also lower our Haste levels dramatically, and spec out of NWP (if we're specced into it; I generally don't anymore). But, if you look at the cast time of FB when Bloodlust and Icy Veins are up, it's 0.845 seconds; you'd have to spec out of a lot of Haste, and it would be for nothing more than a fringe situation that only comes up twice. Not to mention, since virtually every damned piece of Tier 13 Cloth gear has Haste, it could be difficult to do that without replacing our current gear for inferior pieces in the first place.

Thus, I make the following recommendations:

1. Optionally, spec out of Early Frost. One GCD Frostbolt every once in a while won't kill us; but, if you can make a spec that doesn't include it, go for it.

2. Don't bother removing Haste. While I do recommend taking Impact over NWP this tier (and especially for this encounter), don't make a separate reforge or gear set for this fight. ...Except trinkets. If you're running a Haste Trinket, I would recommend switching it out if you have anything comparable. Good trinkets for this encounter are Will of Unbinding, Variable Pulse Lightning Capacitator, and Cunning of the Cruel. I would super-duper not-recommend Insignia of the Corrupted Mind - you don't need a few-thousand points of Haste messing with you mid-fight.

3. If/When your Frostbolt falls under the GCD, switch to Frostfire Bolt.While its chance to Crit will be lowered, it can still proc Fingers of Frost, and it certainly can still Crit, proccing Ignites - not a bad tradeoff at all. Now, we don't have to worry about having Icy Veins and Bloodlust active simultaneously.

If your raid progression is on this fight, I would recommend this spec:

Normally, I hate Reactive Barrier; but, it's honestly the only thing we can spec for instead of Early Frost that won't be a waste. Deathwing doesn't heal himself, nor does our Water Elemental come in danger of dying, so Permafrost is out. We don't need to snare anything, so Improved Cone of Cold and Shattered Barrier are out. We'll never need a 40-yard Ice Lance, and there are no moving adds without aggro tables, so we don't need to max out Ice Shards. Thus, Reactive Barrier is the only reasonable choice.

I would spec for Impact, as it can be a huge boon for the AoE sections of this fight. If you can, make sure your Haste Rating is at least 1424. You can still spec for NWP and probably not see a huge difference, although I don't like to admit it; thus, if it will be too inconvenient to spec out of NWP, go ahead and keep it instead of Impact.

Naturally, if you have this fight on farm, just spec and gear in whatever way is most convenient for you.

The Encounter: Phase 1

There are four platforms, which Deathwing hangs onto with his arms and wings. Before we kill Deathwing, we need to knock out both arms and both wings - hereafter "limbs" - one representing each platform. Each platform goes like this:

A few seconds after reaching the platform, Deathwing summons a Mutated Corruption on the opposite end of his limbs. The Mutated Corruption needs to be dealt with by both tanks (unlike the limbs which don't attack and have no aggro tables, so wait for the tank!). Mutated Corruptions will occasionally Crush an opponent, hitting anyone who is lined up vertically with its target; so, spread our horizontally as best as you can, trying to make sure no one is in front of you or behind you.

At some point while fighting the Mutated Corruption, Deathwing will cast Elementium Bolt. The bolt itself is an add which can be attacked. If the bolt lands on your platform, it will deal a TON of damage to your raid, and will probably kill people who aren't topped off/using defensive cooldowns, so don't let it happen unexpectedly.

After dealing with the Corruption and Bolt, the raid will go back to killing the limb. Deathwing will eventually channel a spell called Cataclysm, which is a mini-enrage for each platform. We'll need to kill the limb before the cast is finished, or the group will wipe; but, we also need to deal with two different sets of adds during this part:

- Regenerative Bloods, which will spawn about 90 seconds into a platform. They need to be picked up by a tank and AoE'd down by the group, because they place a stacking debuff on whomever they attack, and will also regenerate all of their health if not killed within a certain timeframe.

- Blistering Tentacles, which will spawn when the limbs are at 70% and 40% health. The tentacles place a stacking debuff on the raid which deals damage to everyone, and increases over time. They need are also immune to any attack that can hit more than one target, so they need to be focused with single-target attacks and killed immediately.

Also, Deathwing's limbs are constantly casting Burning Blood, which deals raid-wide Fire damage. This damage is trivial at first, and ramps up as the limb's health drops.

Repeat this process four times and we've finished Phase 1.

However! What makes this Phase interesting is that we have four special raid buffs placed on the group by our Dragon buddies, which help us with healing, damage, defense, and add control. Here they are:

Ysera: Increases Healing by 20%, and allows all players to use a Defensive Cooldown called 'The Dream", which lowers all damage taken by 50% for a few seconds.

Alexstraza: While she is active, she will kill the Blistering Tentacle adds extremely quickly (about 5 seconds), allowing your raid to continue DPSing the limbs instead.

Nozdormu: Increases Haste by 20%, and also places a circular AoE on the platform called "Time Zone." The Time Zone slows the attack speed of all enemies within it by 50%, making it an ideal place to tank the Regenerative Bloods. The Time Zone will also slow down the trajectory of the Elementium Bolt, allowing the raid to destroy it before it lands.

Kalecgos: Increases Damage by 20%, and all attacks proc an ability called Spellweaving, which deals additional damage to enemies near your target. This makes AoE spells very powerful, allowing us to kill the Regenerative Bloods very quickly.

Each Dragon represents a specific platform, and once the limb on a platform has been killed, the corresponding Dragon's buff will be removed from your raid until Phase 2. The platforms can be dealt with in any order, and it's up to you to be aware of how the situation changes. I'll do my best to go over my thought process for each platform, from the beginning to the end:

- Don't be afraid to use DPS cooldowns as they come up, unless Kalecgos's platform is down; in which case, I'll want to try and save them for the Elementium Bolt and Blistering Tentacles.

- If you have The Dream from Ysera, just use it on cooldown in Phase 1. Save the healers some heartache and just do it.

- Be sure to spread out horizontally when the Mutated Corruption spawns. Also, I rotate my camera so that I can see the Corruption and the Limb, as my Water Elemental is frequently in range to cast Freeze on the limb, but not the Corruption. Don't wanna be missing out on FoF procs!

- When the Bolt comes down, switch to it immediately. If we have Nozdormu's platform up, the Bolt won't hit right away, so I don't need to worry about how to defend against the impact. Speaking of Impact, the Bolt is very close to the limb at this time, so be sure to spread Ignite to the Limb for additional damage.

On the other hand, if Nozdormu's platform is down, I'll need to take necessary precautions. If I have Ice Block, I'll cast it right before the Bolt lands and prevent all damage, then DPS the bolt right away. Otherwise, I'd turn on all my cooldowns (The Dream if I have it, Ice Barrier, Mage Ward, and Mana Shield), then get as far away as possible. After the Bolt lands, I'll Blink back in range and DPS the Bolt as hard as I can.

- Once the Corruption is dead, focus on the limb. I try my best to get into the Time Zone aura (if Nozdormu is still up).

- When the Bloods spawn, I immediately cast Blizzard immediately. If I get BF+FoF+Impact, I'll try and hit the target with the most HP with a Frostfire Bolt, then spread Ignite to all the rest of the Bloods, at which point I'll continue with Blizzard. For one set of slightly stronger ticks, I also use Pet Freeze if it's ready.

A note: spreading Ignite instead of using continuous Blizzards may be a DPS loss if Kalecgos's platform is still up, as you're losing about two seconds of Spellweaving on each individual target. Unfortunately, the DPS numbers are super high, there are many variables, and the encounters are long, so I can't test this. However, if Kalecgos's platform is down, you'd be crazy not to spread Ignite.

- When the Blistering Tentacles Spawn, I'll keep DPSing the limb if Alexstraza is up. If she's down, however, it falls to us to kill them. I'll help the melee DPS out by hitting the ones in the far back so that they don't have to move as much. If the Tentacles are out at the same time as the Bloods, I'll focus the Tentacles first, as they are causing more damage to the raid overall. If Kalecgos is down, I'll make a mental note to save powerful cooldowns for the tentacles.

- After the first Blistering, the damage from Burning Blood begins to become noticeable, so I'll use Ice Barrier (and The Dream if I have it) to prevent as much damage as possible. If things begin to get desperate, I'll use Evocation to heal myself, and even Mage Ward (I wouldn't do this until things start getting really bad though, as Mage Ward usually drops off before the GCD is even finished!).

- When the limb dies, we can switch platforms. If we're jumping two platforms over in any direction, my strategy will change depending on one or two things.

If we're skipping a platform where a tentacle is still alive, I don't hesitate to cast anything I can at it. My priority is:

1. Deep Freeze
2.  (Brain Freeze) Frostfire Bolt, to gain additional stacks of Stolen Time
3. (FoF) Ice Lance
4.  (Brain Freeze) Frostfire Bolt, if I already have 8-10 stacks of Stolen Time
5. (Early Frost) Frostbolt
6. Fire Blast
7. Ice Lance

This is especially important with Will of Unbinding, since the stacks fall off after only ten seconds.

If we're skipping over a platform that has already been completed, I cast Blink to move across the platforms as quickly as possible. I also switch to Mage Armor until just before I'm about to reach my destination, to try and get as much Mana back as possible, too.

The Encounter: Phase 2

Phase 2, thankfuilly, is a very short portion of the fight. Hop on over to Ysera's platform and Deathwing's head will fall to the ground. Start to kill him, and he will spawn two different types of adds:

1. Elementium Fragments, which put a debuff on random players called Shrapnel. Shrapnel will absolutely kill a player without a Tanking cooldown/Guardian Spirit, so be sure to use The Dream to mitigate the damage. The spawn location of the Fragments is random; if you're using Impact, be partial to Fragments that are right next to each other, as you can get some extra damage out of it.

2. Elementium Terrors, which need to be tanked in the time zone. Make sure you let the tanks pick them up before touching them, as they place a very, very dangerous stacking debuff on anyone they attack. Be sure to focus down one at a time.

These adds are spawned on specific timers, so if there are no adds up, be sure to burn Deathwing as much as possible. If your raid still has Bloodlust, use it some time after killing the Terrors - either the first set that your raid kills or the second set. DW will likely hit his enrage before you can kill a third set of adds, so if you didn't do it the first time, do it the second time! Once you pop Bloodlust, you'll probably be burning the boss, in which case, ignore any new adds that spawn at this time.

A last note: When to use Bloodlust?

Simply put, there's two ways to handle Bloodlust:

1. Use it at the start of the encounter, and then it'll be ready to use again on Phase 2

2. Save it for a sticking point in Phase 1. For example, my raid group did the platforms in the following order: Ysera, Alexstraza, Nozdormu, Kalecgos. This means we had only one Bolt we couldn't kill before it landed. Back when we were still working on the fight, our tanks did not have their 4t13 sets, and mustering up the cooldowns to survive was hard...not to mention the Corruption could usually kill the tank afterwards by doing some nasty stuff that I didn't mention in this strategy guide. So, we used Bloodlust on the fourth platform to try and kill the Corruption before the Bolt landed, preventing the possibility of the Corruption killing raid members immediately afterwards.

If you're going to use it for a sticking point, take some time to find out what they are, and how Bloodlust will help.

As a Frost Mage, Your Ice Barrier, as usual, is the biggest advantage you can bring, and it's nothing to scoff at in this encounter, either. The end of each platform can get rough for your healers, especially after Alexstraza is down. Anything you can do to take some of the weight off them is good. You can also Ice Block the largest amount of times - technically, at least four times - making you perhaps the most low-maintenance spec for surviving Elementium Bolts in the game, especially when factoring in your Ice Barrier for the times Ice Block is unavailable. Taking down Nozdormu's platform early should be no problem whatsoever for you.

As a pet class, you have a slight advantage in being able to spread your DPS. For example, if your raid triggers tentacles while bloods are coming, you can have your Water Ele attack a tentacle while your raid group deals with the bloods. Having Impact (if you specced for it) will keep you afloat for killing bloods in Phase 1 if Kalecgos is taken out early, and is also good for dealing with the adds in Phase 2. Admittedly, though, Fire can do this better; Impact for Frost is mainly a point we have over Arcane.

For Glyphs, I would recommend Ice Barrier, Evocation, and Blink. Ice Barrier...well, yeah. Evocation can be handy in emergency situations. although the fight is so long that we might wind up using Evocation for its intended purpose for a change. Glyph of Blink allows us to cross a platform as quick as possible when skipping platforms.


Hooray! These are all my strats for Dragon Soul normal. Here's to the possibility of seeing some Heroic Frost Mage strategies.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brief Frost Mage strats: Dragon Soul bosses 5-7

I decided to make my Brief strats post into two posts, because I practically wrote a novel about Hagara. I have had the pleasure of fighting Madness of Deathwing on Normal mode; however, not only have we not killed him, but I also want to gather a lot more empirical evidence before I confidently post a strategy guide to him.

So, here's some brief Strats for Ultraxion, Blackhorn, and Spine.


This fight is about as easy as it gets. It's a DPS check where you'll need to be doing roughly 27K DPS (assuming 5 DPS roles and not 6). This fight really depends on you and the other DPS to rock the hell out, but it can also be frustrating depending on what buffs you do and don't have - the first time my guild beat Ultraxion, we had to do it without Trueshot Aura/Blessing of Might. We also never have the 3% Damage buff. Try not to be in our situation!

Anyways. Stack up with the rest of the raid and go to town on the boss. If you don't normally pre-pot (and shame on you), this is a good fight to just do it. You don't need to do any movement, so just make sure you're being absolutely on point about using your Mana cooldowns, and make sure your rotation is perfect.

There are, however, a few gimmicks to this fight. The first two are Hour of Twilight and Fading Light. Both of them, as far as you are concerned, are just countdowns to an instant-kill spell. However, you have a special ability, specific to this fight, called Heroic Will. Heroic Will prevents all damage for five seconds, allowing you to evade the instant-kill; however, it also prevents the user from performing any actions. Both abilities will forcibly end Heroic Will afterwards, and Heroic Will is off the global cooldown. In other words, to get the best DPS uptime, you'll want to cast Heroic Will just before Hour of Twlight/Fading Light hits you, and it will immediately end Heroic Will and allow you to start casting again. Since Heroic Will is off the GCD, you can safely attack until the last possible second (latency notwithstanding).

Sometimes, Hour of Twilight will be cast just after Fading Light hits you, preventing you from using Heroic Will to evade both (Heroic Will has a cooldown). If this happens, just Ice Block whichever one comes second. If it looks like this will happen again (are you using the Deadly Boss mods add-on?), make sure to cast Heroic Will when the Fading Light Debuff has 3 seconds left, ensuring that there's no possibility of Heroic Will still being on Cooldown at the end of the Hour of Twilight cast.

The only other gimmick is Ultraxion's attacks. At the beginning of the fight, his attacks come out every six seconds; however, each minute, his attack speed will increase by one second, causing the incoming damage to ramp up considerably near the end of the fight. You are of no use to your raid when you're dead; as the fight goes on, make sure you begin using your Ice Barrier on cooldown, pop an emergency glyphed Evocation, and click the damn Lightwell!

As a Frost Mage, your main bonus is that you could theoretically Ice Block twice (although you probably won't), and you can use Ice Barrier to ease the agonizing job the healers have later in the fight. I suppose it's nice that you don't have a burn phase, because it can't be rudely interrupted by Hour of Twilight/Fading Light. You don't have to worry about setting up a good time to use Arcane Power/Combustion for fear of having them ruined.

For Glyphsthe only really important ones are Ice Barrier and Evocation, for survivability. To that end, if you want to be really, REALLY prepared for Survivability, you could also glyph for Mana Shield. I wouldn't bother, though.

Warmaster Blackhorn

This encounter takes place on an airship. In Phase 1, you have four different adds to deal with: Dreadblades, Slayers, Drakes, and Sappers. Some of these guys are here to keep us busy, while some of them are here to deal damage to the ship. If the ship reaches 0% health, it's an automatic wipe.

Your primary goal in Phase 1 is to kill the Drakes. They will be out of range most of the time, and will be brought into range at certain intervals for a limited amount of time.

The reason these guys need to be killed so badly is because they cast Twilight Barrage, which will hurt the ship. It will be marked as a small purple circle on the ground, and you'll need to stand in it to take the damage instead. You should stand in them with a buddy most of the time, as the damage is split between players; however, if you are topped off, you'll survive. You can also survive without being topped off by using Ice Barrier, but make sure it's up before running in alone, or you'll be asking for a B-Rez in a few seconds.  Some Barrages will naturally get by, so don't worry too much about defending against each and every one.

Your secondary goal is to kill the Dreadblades and Slayers. All you need to know about these guys as that they do a charge attack which needs to be avoided (especially after tanking a Twilight Barrage), and that you will be helping the tanks by killing the Dreadblades first, as they place a stacking debuff on the tanks.

Finally, there are Sappers, which are dropped off in front of the ship, and make their way to the back. If they reach the back, they deal 25% of the ship's health. If these guys are on the deck, they are your highest DPS priority.  Sappers can be Stunned and Slowed.

Finally, there is an occasional ability to deal with called Twilight Onslaught; it's essentially the same thing as the Drakes' Twilight Barrage ability, but it does much more damage total, so everyone needs to move into the area and soak the damage.

The Frost Mage needs to be sort of everywhere on Phase 1. The best way to DPS this fight, in my opinion, is to delegate certain attacks to the Melee Adds. You don't want to throw your Frostfire Orbs at the Drakes, for example, because not only can the orbs get caught up on a lot of stuff (preventing it from reaching the Drakes), the Drakes move out of range quickly, so if you throw it any time after they first come in range, it probably won't have full up-time. Likewise, if you're spec'd for Impact, it might be wise to throw your Frostfire Bolts at the Melee Adds, as you can spread Ignite between the two (and potentially even the Sapper if he runs close enough).

Deep Freeze's priority is going to change in this fight, depending on your role:

- If you have been assigned to Stun the Sapper (and I would beg your Raid Leader to pick any other available candidate), then you never want to use Deep Freeze in Phase 1 after the opening. You'll need to save it for when the Sappers are dropped, and won't have any opportunities to use it for DPS until Phase 2.

- If you're not Stunning the Sappers, then contrarily, you want to make absolutely sure that you don't cast Deep Freeze on the Sapper, as they aren't immune to Stuns (obviously) and won't take the huge damage. Thus, you should either switch targets to the Drakes or Melee Adds, or hold onto Deep Freeze until the Sapper is dead.

After you kill all those dorks, Blackhorn jumps down to try and ruin your day, along with his Dragon, Goriona. Goriona will be off the starboard side, and has to be dealt with by RDPS. All Goriona will do is put circles of fire on the ground. These things HURT, and they make it very hard to handle Blackhorn, who will be doing a variety of  things to the group already.

Blackhorn doesn't do a lot that you'll need to worry about; he has an AoE interrupt for anyone within 10 Yards, but this shouldn't be a problem for you. He will also cast Shockwave on a random target; Shockwave is a conic AoE that will hit you really, really hard and stun you. In other words, if you get hit by Shockwave and Goriona decides to put fire down on your location, you're in a lot of trouble. You can see the projected area of Shockwave indicated by columns of smoke. Get out of the way, immediately.

...Uh, and there really isn't much else to say about Phase 2. Kill Goriona (well, Goriona retreats after being brought down to a certain percentage of HP, but whatever), and then turn around and Kill Blackhorn. Don't stand near him, and if you are in the AoE of Shockwave, avoid it by Blinking behind him.

As a Frost Mage, Your only advantage is that you can safely take a Twilight Barrage by yourself by using Ice Barrier. As a result, you should really refresh it every time it breaks. You can keep up a little bit of your damage while moving all over the damn deck, but you'll probably be moving too often to always have FoF/BF Procs at the ready each and every time. I daresay, you're kind of crazy for not respeccing to Fire for this encounter. But, I stay in Frost too, so don't worry!

For GlyphsTake Ice Barrier, Evocation, and Icy Veins. Ice Barrier because you gain a powerful utility from it in this fight. Evocation is to potentially ease the Healers' jobs in Phase 1. Icy Veins will allow you to break out of Shockwave Stuns in Phase 2. This will be especially handy if you have your 4-Piece Tier 13 Bonus, which will allow you to use Icy Veins quite often.

In case you're wondering why I didn't recommend Blink...the arena this encounter takes place on is just too small to necessitate Blink. In fact, most of the technical errors I've made in this encounter were due to Blink moving me too far: Blinking past Barrages I could have tanked, Blinking out of Goriona's Fire into more Fire or even a Shockwave...but what really made me rethink my choice of glyphs was the time I Blinked from the Starboard side to the very edge of the Port side and accidentally walked off the cliff. I'd have to say Glyph of Blink is problematic in this encounter!

Spine of Deathwing, a.k.a Deathwing I

There's not any way I can think of to explain the mechanics of this fight in a brief manner, but I'll do my best. Spine of Deathwing has three 'phases', which need to be repeated for three cycles - one for each Armor Plate that needs to be pried off Deathwing's back. Once three have been removed, the fight ends. Here are the phases:

1. Kill Corruptions and Barrel Roll

As soon as you land on DW's back, the encounter begins. There will be four tentacles named "Corruptions" on his back; your first goal is to immediately kill three of them; these guys can do a stun which deals 60K damage every few seconds (Fiery Grip), and will also place a debuff on random party members which absorbs tons and tons of healing (Searing Plasma). Get rid of three as soon as possible.

When a Corruption dies, a new add called Hideous Amalgamation will spawn in its place. The raid needs as few Corruptions and Amalgamations as possible, so we're going to cause DW to do a Barrel Roll, which will send the Amalgamations flying off of his back. To do this, the entire raid should stand on one side of DW's back, and on the spot where one of the Corruptions died (those spots actually secure you to his back; if you're not standing there, you'll be thrown off his back and die, too). After a few seconds of standing on one side or the other, DW will roll in that direction.

2. Amalgamation Control

After the Barrel Roll, move out of the firey patch (because you're taking a lot of damage) and kill the fourth Corruption. Now, we'll have one Amalgamation and one Corruption (because, when you kill all of the Corruptions on DW's back, another one spawns at random).

Now that the situation is under control, you need to loosen DW's armor plates. But, how?

Out of the firey patches where the Corruptions died, a third type of add called Corrupted Blood will spawn at timed intervals. When a Blood is killed, it leaves a glowing spot on the ground. The Tank should drag the Amalgamation through these spots; they place a stacking debuff on the Amalgamation (called Absorbed Blood), which - at nine stacks - will cause the Amalgamation to explode, knocking an Armor Plate loose!

But, the trick is, you want to try and get the Amalgamation down to very low health (~10%), and then get all nine stacks at once, for two reasons:

1. Absorbed Blood increases the Amalgamation's damage and attack speed by 10% per stack

2. At nine stacks, the Amalgamation begins to deal a ton of raid damage.

So, you'll be killing the Bloods as they spawn, and damaging the Amalgamation in the meantime. When the Amalgamation's HP is low, you'll stop killing it until it has nine stacks, and then resume fighting.

Finally, in the meantime, one Corruption will be up, occasionally stunning raid members. The stun is broken by dealing 25% of the Corruption's health. You are a prime candidate for this, as you are a Ranged DPS, and you can easily deal a controlled amount of damage, especially compared to Fire and Arcane, who may have trouble accomplishing the task without leaving DoTs, clearing AB stacks, or just doing flat out way more damage than necessary. ...Oh, and if the Corruption stuns you, you can Ice Block out of it.

When the Amalgamation dies, it will trigger Nuclear Blast (which does a lot of damage - be far away from the add!), prying the Armor Plate open (as long as it does near the Armor Plate).

3. Burn the Burning Tendon

A few seconds after the Amalgamation blows up, it will knock the Armor Plate loose, and a new add will appear called Burning Tendon; you have an extremely short window of time to kill this add (15 seconds), so save all your CDs for this and hit it for everything you're worth. You still need to watch out for the Corruption's stun in this phase, so be ready to switch at a moment's notice, depending on how your raid deals with it.

One thing I've noticed about this Phase as Frost, is that it can be very hard to hit things with Pet Freeze. Your camera will be difficult to move, making it very hard to tell where you should be aiming the damn thing, and to top it off, your Pet may not have line-of-sight to certain adds (although I can't tell how at this point, cos I can't SEE anything!). My best suggestion is, as the Amalgamation is channeling Nuclear Blast, set it to Passive (or make it stop attacking) and have it move right on top of it. That way, you'll have very little problem aiming it, and will have no LoS problems.

If you knock the Armor Plate off, then two more Corruptions will appear, and the raid goes back to step one and you begin a new cycle (of three total), If your raid fails to knock the Armor Plate off, you'll need to repeat phase two again.

As a Frost Mage, your main advantage lies in that you are probably the best spec at breaking the Corruptions' stuns without doing too much damage. If you kill the Corruptions early, you'll have an additional Amalgamation to deal which - not good! Your burst is not superior to Arcane's; however, since it requires essentially zero ramp-up, your prowess in Phase 3 won't feel like it's at the mercy of RNG, as a Fire Mage might.

For GlyphsTake Ice Barrier, Evocation, for sure; your third is a wild card. Ice Barrier is good for the damage you'll be taking during Barrel Rolls. Evocation is the biggest help in this fight, since your healing can help clear your Searing Plasma debuff.

As for your third glyph? I dunno...if the newly-spawned Amalgamations seem to gun it for you, take Frost Armor. The arena is generally too small for glyph of Blink to be useful, but if you're used to keeping it on, you can leave it. Alternatively, if you want to help healers out just a little more, you could try glyphing for Mana Shield and reapplying it, since your DPS uptime will be far from 100%; you simply won't always have something to attack, and you'll have Mana to spare.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Brief* Frost Mage strats: Dragon Soul bosses 1-4

I would really like to do some detailed guides; however, the normal mode Dragon Soul fights have been disappointingly easy so far. Thus, I'll write some short rundowns.

* - The Hagara rundown is not especially brief; whoops.


My guild one-shot this boss. It's ridiculously easy.  Start the fight by moving in close to the boss; this is to help soak the damage of "Stomp", which splits damage between all players within 25 yards. Not that you'll be the closest person...but don't be the closest person, as you might take twice the damage.

Otherwise, your personal responsibility will be to deal with "Resonating Crystals". Three of them will spawn in succession, dealing damage to three targets based on how far away they are; the closer you are, the lower the damage. Ranged need to deal with this, so be expected to run around a bit. If you have procs of Fingers of Frost/Brain Freeze, or are close enough to touch the crystal within one global (use Fire Blast), then cast some spells as you move to the crystal. Otherwise, Blink your way over.

Occasionally, Mor'chok will pull the entire group next to him, damaging them for 5% of their max health. After that, a bunch of stalagmites appear from the ground, and you'll need to run (or Blink) behind one before he casts "Black Blood of the Earth", which covers the ground in nasty stuff that will hurt you...a lot. As ranged, you can still hit hit Mor'Chok during this phase in two ways:

1. If you jumped behind two stalagmites, you can position yourself between the two and fire at him from there, or

2. You can get Line-of-Sight on Mor'Chok by moving just barely past the edge of the stalagmite, standing as close to the blood as possible.

If your Frostfire Orb is off cooldown or about to come off cooldown, you are going to want to choose option two. This is also a good time to use Time Warp, or your Volcanic Potions.

After this phase is over, stack in again, rinse and repeat.

As a Frost Mage, I don't believe you bring much special into this fight. Arcane will rule the burn phases, and Fire can keep up their DPS while moving. Granted, you're not doing so bad, given that you can theoretically keep up maximum damage while moving, and your single-target damage still isn't even bad. It might be best to save Frostfire Orb and Pet Freeze for this reason.

For Glyphs, I recommend taking Ice Barrier, Evocation, and Blink. Blink gives you the best mobility, while Ice Barrier and Evocation are just for general survival.


This is an easy fight as well...for DPS, at least. Yor'Sahj spawns three different colored adds (of six possible) that make their way to him. You can only kill one, and the other two are going to grant him abilities. Your raid leader will decide which one the raid is going to kill, so don't try and rambo a different one...I don't need to tell you that, right? Otherwise, go back to killing Yor'Sahj after the add is down. He will spawn new adds and gain new abilities every once in a while, so you'll have to know your own special contingency plans for all six abilities. Here's some things you need to know, based on which colored adds reach the boss:

Red: You're going to take damage based on how far away you are, so stack in close to the boss.

Green: You're going to take damage if you're too close to other raid members within 4 yards, so try and spread out a bit.

Black: There are going to be adds that need to be AoE'd down, so you're going to stack in on the boss. For this very reason, I would recommend having a spec that takes Impact instead of Netherwind Presence, as well as Glyphing for Frost Armor.

Yellow: If you don't use Ice Barrier much...this is one of those times where you should start. P.S: Start using Ice Barrier.

Blue: You're going to have your mana drained and placed in an add which runs around the room. Save your Mana Gem (and Arcane Torrent if you're a Blood Elf) for this, and switch to Mage Armor (or Frost Armor if Yor'Sahj got Blue+Black). Once the add is down, it gives mana back to RDPS/Healers within 15 yards, I believe? You have to be pretty close. Once that's done, do whatever needs to be done to handle Yor'Sahj's other ability.

Purple: Well, you don't have to worry about this much, per se, but this phase makes it more dangerous to heal you in general, so make sure you're casting Ice Barrier (and Mage Ward if Yor'Sahj got Purple+Red).

As a Frost Mage, your advantages lie in having Ice Barrier to help take some heat off the healers. You also have better AoE than Arcane, again putting you in sort of a middle ground of mobility vs. single-target damage between Fire & Arcane.

For Glyphs, I recommend Ice Barrier, Frost Armor, and Blink. Ice Barrier is taken for survivability, and Frost Armor is taken to mitigate damage from the adds while being able to run your AoE without running out of mana. Finally, Blink is used to move back to the boss after killing the adds, which spawn pretty far out. You can still attack Yor'sahj while moving out to the add, so I recommend using it to move back to the boss, rather than moving out towards the add.


This fight actually requires some attention on your part. The main mechanic of this fight is the boss spawning a "Void of the Unmaking", a giant purple volleyball which needs to be bounced between two groups - melee and ranged. Most raid groups will aim it at ranged first, so you'll need to watch for the ball forming and get in front of it right away. Being in front of the ball causes it to bounce in the opposite direction and deal damage to anyone within range. This also means that your groups need to move as one, and be on the ball - no pun intended - about moving in the way of its trajectory.

The ball deals more damage every time it's bounced, so you'll eventually need to pass it to Zon'ozz himself (exactly how you do this is up to your raid - we had melee move back while the tank kited the boss into it). This begins a burn phase, where the entire raid takes damage for a little while. Zon'ozz takes more damage based on how many times the ball was bounced before you pass it to him, so this is a good time to rock your cooldowns. If you're using potions or are in charge of Bloodlust, make sure you know how many times you're going to bounce the ball each pass; for example, my raid did 5-5-3-3-etc. so it would be most efficient to use them on the first burn phase.

The only other important thing to know, is that while the ball is being passed around, Zon'ozz also casts a DoT on random players called "Disrupting Shadows", which ticks for high damage, but also hits for huge damage and knocks back upon being dispelled. If you get hit with this, try and run out of the group, because you will almost certainly die if you hit the ball at the same time that it gets dispelled.

As a Frost Mage, your advantage is quite clearly in your ability to mitigate damage. The raid damage on this fight is pretty intense, and the fact that you have Ice Barrier is a huge benefit to the group; be sure to use it on cooldown.

On the other hand, you might even be at a slight disadvantage based on the shorter range of your spells. If your raid group has an unusually high amount of RDPS, you might ask to be put in the melee group. If you have to move out of range to hit the ball, be sure to turn on Mage Armor, as it will help mitigate the damage; you can switch back to Molten Armor as you move back in range.

For Glyphs, I recommend Ice Barrier, Evocation, and Blink. Ice Barrier should be a no-brainer for survival. Evocation's heal can be used as an emergency precaution. Finally, Blink is useful for stacking in during the burn phases or moving back out afterwards, if you have no procs to spare.


This fight sounds pretty scary at first, but it's actually easy. Hagara has three attack phases: Main Phase, Ice Phase, and Lightning Phase. The flow of the fight is: Main, Ice/Lit, Main, Lit/Ice (in other words, the second phase is random between Ice or Lightning, and then the fourth phase will be the alternate).

In the Main Phase, your primary concern is the Ice Lances (hers, not yours). They will shoot from the edges of the room, and need to be blocked by Healers and RDPS; the reason being that they place a buff on their target which slows Melee attack speed. She'll also use Shattered Ice, which hits a random playing for 70-80K damage. This damage can all be reduced by Mage Ward as well as Ice Barrier, so give your healers a hand.

Every Main Phase after the first one, Hagara will use Icy Tomb on two random players, freezing them in a block of ice where they take periodic damage. Your priority is, naturally, to break players out of the tombs rather than DPS Hagara.

Next, will be the Ice Phase or Lightning Phase. Let's talk about Ice first:

When Ice Phase begins, Hagara shields herself, and you will only be able to move in the outer ring of the platform. Four "Binding Crystals" will spawn in the North, South, East, and West points of the platform. A few seconds after that, Hagara summons an Ice Wave, a rotating "X"-shaped wall of ice that will probably one-shot you if you get hit by it. All four Binding Crystals need to be destroyed to stop Hagara's Ice Wave and lower her shield.

Now, a lot is made of how Fire rules this phase due to their ability to move and cast; perhaps rightfully so in the Heroic version. However, in Normal mode, the crystals drop FAST, and so I think that Frost has an excellent advantage here: we can attack THREE crystals at once. Here's how you should be doing the Ice Phase as Frost:

1. Pick a crystal that you want to target and Blink slightly to the right of it. For example, if you choose the north crystal, Blink towards northeast.

2. Throw your Frostfire Orb to the Crystal to your right side (going with the example in step 1, you'd be throwing this at the East crystal, since it would be to your right).

3. Now, move towards your preferred crystal and stay slightly to the right of it (but not exactly in-between, cos that's exactly where the Ice Wave spawns, and you'll die. A lot.). Cast Pet Freeze on it as you move into position if you have no Fingers of Frost charges.

4. Order your Pet to attack the Crystal to your left (i.e. we chose to target the North platform, so your Pet will be attacking the West Crystal).

Congratulations, you are now hitting three out of four Crystals. To clarify something, you want to stand to the right of the crystal you're targeting, because the walls of the Ice Wave spawn at the midpoint between two Crystals and rotate clockwise. Thus, if you stand slightly to the right, one of the walls will spawn right behind you, and move away from you, allowing the most possible time for you to stand in place and shoot.

While you do this, take the time to look at the adjacent Crystals:

If the one to your left is going down, run clockwise (same direction of the Ice Wave and get ready to shoot the next Crystal you run by. You can Blink towards it to get some additional stand-in-place time. Keep moving clockwise until all of the Crystals are destroyed. Be sure to keep track of whether or not your Water Ele is still attacking a target.

If the one to your right is going down, rejoice - you are one of the only classes who can move contrary to the Ice Wave thanks to Blink and Ice Block. Once your target is down, walk counter-clockwise and Blink through the Ice Wave as soon as you can. Remember, those things HURT, so Cast an Ice Barrier as you run into position. After you've blinked through the wave, get in range of your next target and shoot it; you'll have a decent amount of time to stand and shoot. If you need more time, Ice Block as the next wall is coming your way.

...Oh yeah, and Icicles fall from the ceiling. Don't run through cold-looking circles unless you want to get knocked off the platform and die.

Once the Crystals are destroyed, Hagara is vulnerable and takes additional damage for a few seconds. If you are trying to top the DPS meters, you may wish to save your big cooldowns for this. However, if your raid group is still working hard to beat this fight, it's better to blow up the crystals instead.

The Lightning Phase is way less-complicated than the Ice Phase (on Normal, at least). Hagara shields herself in in the same manner as she does on the Ice Phase, and spawns some Crystal Conductors, along with one Lightning Elemental. Make your way over to the Lightning Elemental and kill it immediately (it should be noted that it spawns near a Conductor and should be killed near the Conductor, but that's the Tank's concern). When it does, the nearby Conductor blows up, and one of the raid members nearby becomes charged with Lightning (debuff is caleld Lightning Conduit). Everyone then needs to move towards the remaining Conductors together; they will be destroyed as you move past them. Be sure to turn on Mage Armor as you run around, so that you can gain as much Mana back as possible.

When all the Conductors are destroyed, Hagara takes additional damage, just like she does after the Ice Phase. After every Lightning/Ice Phase, Hagara repeats her Main Phase.

As a Frost Mage,  you're pretty well off in this fight. Fire and Arcane can probably take better advantages of the burn phase than you can, but even in that regard, you'll be pretty well off. Your ability to mitigate damage better than any other spec, your ability to move short distances while casting, and your ability to attack most of the Crystals during Ice Phase makes Frost a pretty good candidate for this fight.

For Glyphs, take Ice Barrier, Evocation, and Blink. Ice Barrier should be obvious. Blink will get you the most possible DPS uptime, and Evocation...cos, you won't be using Frost Armor? I don't know, I don't really run out of mana in this fight!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MoP feedback post, part 2.

I'm a bit late on this one, but I did write up a feedback post for the second revision of the talent calculator for Mists of Pandaria. This one still deals mostly with Frost, but I did give some opinion on the actual talent tree this time, as well.

This one is generating a (very small) amount of discussion, so it looks like I'm finally getting the ball rolling! You can find the post here:

And, below is a transcript of my post.


I have already posted once previously about my concerns with Frost Mage when the first talent calculator was released:

Now, I am posting again, obviously, to ask about some of my new concerns - both pertaining to Frost spec and to Mages in general.

A. About Frost...

I see that Fingers of Frost was added back into the talents; thank goodness, as this is sort of the key to making the spec fun.

However, what worries me now is the wording on Fingers of Frost: "Your freezing effects that fail due to target immunity now grant the Fingers of Frost effect." I don't think this is a good idea. The wording is a bit vague; however, I foresee two problems with this, based on the two different interpretations I can think of:

1. "Freezing Effects" means chilling/movement slowing effects related to Frost spells.

This would be really lame, since FoF seems to have a 100% proc rate. Our rotation would come down to (Something-Ice Lance-Something-Ice Lance) ad infinitum. If "Freezing Effects" really refers to Frost-related movement slows, it would be much more fun with a percentage chance to proc.

2. FoF truly doesn't proc unless you fail to Freeze something.

This means that the only way to proc FoF is to try and Freeze the target. For starters, the only spell in our spellbook that actually Freezes targets is Frost Nova, which I'd rather not use as an integral part of my DPS rotation - why even be RDPS if we have to get into melee range? Now, to be fair, I'm aware that the Water Elemental likely still has Freeze; but, I still think this takes a huge part of the fun out of playing Frost Mage.

I saw in a blue post "Seeing the forest for the talent trees", a short section about picking classes based on flavor, and Mages were specifically addressed:

"There will still be some utility in the various specs, but less than we have today. You should pick a spec because you like the rotation or the kit. Fire is about crit, Hot Streak, and Ignite. Frost is about Shatter combos and the Water Elemental. Arcane is about mana management and clearing Arcane Blast stacks."

For what it's worth, I don't believe that either of these are technically what make Frost fun. The Water Elemental could be all-but removed if the Freeze ability was given to us and was off the GCD. Water Elemental doesn't have the variety and versatility of Hunter/Warlock pets (a given, since we only have one pet), and it doesn't even have the types of utility spells granted by Enhancement Shaman's Spirit Wolves. Water Elemental is just free FoF procs every 25 seconds.

I also disagree about Shatter making Frost fun. It's not like, "Woo, I got some ballin' crits, rock on Frost!" (cue Joe Satriani's Summer Song) If Shatter weren't in the game, right now, Frost would still be fun - even if their DPS would be terrible without it - because Frost's fun comes from intelligently making split-second decisions on how to spend or conserve incoming procs of FoF+BF.

Thus, if Pet Freeze were really the only way to get FoF procs, there wouldn't be any randomness, and no need to make any quick decisions. We already know exactly when we're gonna get FoF - every 25 seconds! And, since Brain Freeze doesn't appear to be affected by FoF, and Deep Freeze doesn't appear to do damage anymore (I'm aware that it might still deal damage, and it just isn't reflected in the tooltip; but, just in case...), there's also no necessary decisions to conserve procs anymore, either. Got FoF? Use an Ice Lance, right now. Got BF? Use a Frostfire Bolt, right now.

I'm aware that there are additional talents available in the Level 45 Tier which Freeze targets; however, having FoF always come from a Freezing spell means that FoF essentially has a cooldown, and making it absolutely predictable when we're going to get FoF charges is the exact opposite of what makes Frost fun right now, in my opinion. Not to mention, this would essentially force us to spec for Ice Ward all the time. This seems to contradict the reasons for changing the talent system in the first place, as this definitely isn't a choice; as it stands, if there's a Freezing spell anywhere in the talent tree, we're likely to get it unless it requires melee range (and maybe even then; who knows?).

If the argument would be made that this is less important now, what with all of Frost's new spells...I disagree. Simply having more cooldowns to use is not fun, unless they are somehow meaningful. Right now, every spell in Frost's rotation has meaning. What place do Frozen Orb (which doesn't proc FoF) and Frost Bomb have in our spec right now? They don't generate FoF procs, and since raid bosses can virtually never be Frozen, they'll never benefit from Shatter, anyways. They are not fun based on my perspective of what makes Frost fun, nor is it based on Ghostcrawler's! They're nothing more than additional cooldowns based on spells from another spec, serving only to homogenize all three (although I can at least see why Arcane Orb/Bomb are attractive, since you can increase their damage with Arcane Blast).

3. Frost Bomb

Will Frost Bomb even be better than Living Bomb for Frost? The damage is 1/4th of Living/Arcane Bomb's damage, and Living Bomb can be cast on three targets at once. That means we need four targets to Living Bomb's one target to do comparable damage with it. I realize this can combo with Shatter, but does that mean that Frost Bomb is going to suck without having a Freeze ready? Are we going to have to pull the reins on our single target DPS to do more AoE? Also, it's not unreasonable in AoE situations to have adds that could die in five seconds. Ten seconds, easily. That means we'd probably only get off one Frost Bomb, and maybe even zero if we're unlucky. Living Bomb just sounds more reliable and easier to use without having to curtail our DPS.

4. And now for something completely different:

Icy Veins. Still not a DPS cooldown that rewards us for playing the spec "properly", a la Combustion and Arcane Power. Any thoughts on changing this?

Those are my Frost-specific concerns. But, now...

B. Meaningful Decisions:

In a Mists of Pandaria FAQ that came out during Blizzcon, this was the reason given for the talent system overhaul:

"As with the talent-system redesign in Cataclysm, our goal is ultimately to give players more meaningful character-customization options and to eliminate “cookie-cutter” talent builds. We were only partially successful in realizing that goal in Cataclysm, as many talents still felt mandatory to a given specialization, and some talent choices in the trees were still not particularly interesting or exciting. By giving the benefits of the previously “mandatory” talents to players automatically as part of their specialization choice, and allowing any specialization to choose any given talent, we hope to be able to give players much more significant and interesting decisions to make about their character."

Right now, I still feel like there's some no-brainer decisions in our current talent tree. Let's go over it real quick:

Level 15: No problems. Heavy movement makes Scorch attractive, and low movement makes Presence of Mind attractive. Ice Flows is somewhere in-between the two.

Level 30: No problems. I honestly can think of a lot of fights this expansion where I would have taken Blazing Speed over Mana Shield or Ice Barrier (Atramedes, Ascendent Council, Al'Akir, Ragnaros, Blackhorn), so I'm not really sure why people don't like this option here. Mana Shield has its uses in PvP, but could possibly be made more attractive for PvE - maybe roll in the Incanter's Absorption talent as part of its ability?

Level 45: My main problem here is that Frost PvE is pretty much locked to Ice Ward. The argument could be made that Frostjaw gives us an additional interrupt; but, if we're going to sacrifice DPS for an interrupt (that is, getting 1 FoF charge instead of potentially getting 2, not 'wasting' a global where I could be doing damage), I'm pretty sure the rest of the raid can pick up my "second" interrupt after Counterspell. Otherwise, I can see this tier is being an interesting one for Fire and Arcane.

Level 60: No problems. Greater Invisibility sounds great, and Invisibility was really strong on certain fights (Atramedes if you were running during air phase, Chimaeron P2). Cold Snap's mana regen makes it sound pretty sexy, not to mention I won't have to use it at the start of a fight as Frost - maybe now I can actually use two Ice Blocks! Cauterize is obviously good, and I don't think it's quite the no-brainer that other people do. You can't use Cauterize as a crutch, since it has a 2 minute internal cooldown (that's maybe three times in a raid boss?). And, if a Mage is banking that hard on Cauterize, there might be a bigger underlying problem.

Level 75: I've never thought that Heavy Polymorph was interesting, even in Arcane. I know no Arcane Mages who ever pick it up in PvE, and people who trinket out of Polymorph in PvP aren't affected by the stun. Looking at it that way, we'd need to cast two Polymorphs in PvP, giving us a ranged stun with a 3.4 second base cast. Maybe other people feel differently; but, I've never found anything useful or fun about this talent.

Level 90: I don't see any meaningful decision to be made here at all. I can't imagine an Arcane Mage ever picking up Living Bomb or Frost Bomb when they could be doing more damage with Arcane Bomb. The same is true for Fire; why get a "Bomb" that doesn't synergize with our spec?

I also am not convinced anyone would take Frost Bomb - not even a Frost Mage, either, for the reasons I stated earlier. I don't believe that anyone who PvPs would use Frost Bomb, either. It's an extremely delayed movement slow, and I would be willing to bet that it's more trouble than it's worth to try and plan your battle strategy around getting in range to be hit with spells/Charged/Death Gripped/Shadow Stepped/Wolf Stunned/etc. and waiting four seconds. For a movement slow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mists of Pandaria feedback post.

Blizzard recently released their early version of the talent calculator for 5.0, as well as projected spell trees for each class and spec. Their intended purpose is to get feedback and make changes accordingly. Since I'm like, the only Frost Mage on Earth, I felt the need to make a feedback post on Frost myself, after looking at the new changes.

I've included a transcript of the post below. However, you can follow the thread here:


Looking at the talent trees for Mage, I can see the clear idea behind the Fire and Arcane specs, which look similar to how they are right now:

- Fire has to manage their DoTs. They are clearly rewarded for keeping track of their DoTs, as it allows them to do unparalleled AoE damage, and their main DPS cooldown is also a DoT spell that scales in effectiveness based on whether they're playing the class 'correctly' or not (although having Ignite replace Mastery and as a completely static passive ability may trivialize this a bit).

- Arcane has to manage their mana and their Arcane Blast stacks. All Arcane spells deal increased damage based on AB stacks, but the stacks also fall off after a while, so Arcane Blast needs to be refreshed - not spammed - to keep mana high and damage up. Their DPS cooldown plays to this by increasing the damage of spells while increasing the mana cost. It, too, rewards the Arcane Mage for playing the class by its intended design (although I can Arcane Missiles circumventing intelligent use of AP in its current state).

...So, Frost.

As someone who actually raids in Frost, I've always thought that the philosophy behind Frost was proc management - Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze can proc quickly and instantly. The number of charges for FoF and BF that a Mage can hold is finite. Also, what a Frost Mage does when they have 1FoF, 2FoF, FoF+BF, whether or not Deep Freeze is off cooldown, etc. is drastically different. Thus, the spec is rewarded for making intelligent decisions on how, where, and when to spend the procs in the QUICKEST amount of time possible - any time we gain a FoF/BF charge when we have the maximum amount is a DPS loss.

Looking at the new spec abilities and talent trees, it appears that I was either wrong about this being the intended design for Frost. DPS between specs are supposed to be more balanced with the new talent trees since they don't get increased survivability/CC options, right? Well, what exactly IS the Frost Mage's design philosophy? I can't figure it out.

Here's what we've got for unique spells:

1. Frostbolt: This doesn't even look attractive. It does less damage than Fireball, has the same base cast time, and costs more mana. Fireball can at least proc Ignite. Arcane Blast increases the damage of every Arcane spell, making its relevance pretty obvious. How is the movement slow for Frostbolt supposed to be equal to these?

2. Summon Water Elemental: This is the big wildcard in the spec. Maybe the Water Elemental is completely revamped, with a variety of cool new options that will make everything clear. ...If not, though, then the only thing it brings to the table is an additional way to freeze an opponent (and not even give us free FoF charges, which is currently the most important aspect of the Water Elemental).

3. Brain Freeze: Whee, an instant cast spell sometimes.

4. Icy Veins: Unlike Fire and Arcane's DPS cooldowns, which reward the class for playing smart, Icy Veins is...haste. Oh, and pushback negation...when we can already reduce it by 70% with a passive. This has always been boring, and I was really hoping that 5.0 would see Icy Veins become a cooldown which increased the rate of FoF/BF procs. Now, that seems less likely than ever.

5. Frost Orb: A GCD for additional damage, with a movement slow. Arcane Orb is obviously better since it benefits from AB, and Flame Orb at least explodes. What gives?

6. Mastery (Frostburn): Since this only increases the damage against Frozen targets, I don't see this being relevant in PvE at all unless Fingers of Frost exists in some form unseen in the spell tree.

The only explanations (except one) that I can see for the state of Frost spec also have flaws:

1. Water Ele has crazy, ballin' abilities we've never seen before

- Yeah, this could potentially be the thing that explains it all. We'll see.

2. Water Ele doesn't have anything new, and its additional damage keeps Frost competitive


2.1 Chilled (slowed) targets are counted as 'Frozen', and thus effected by Frostburn

- Both of these would still leave the spec in a boring state. If Frost is really competitive in this way, who would play Fire and Arcane? You could deal comparable damage with "1 1 1 1 Brain Freeze 1 1 1 1 Frost Orb 1 1 1 1 Icy Veins".

3. Frost Mages are expected to freeze bosses/adds in raids

- If raid bosses be snared with these kinds of spells, it will either be knocked off too quickly by incoming damage from other sources, or hold the boss in place for long amounts of time, causing potential problems with tank positioning (I could imagine a variety of potential wipes due to this).

Even if this were the case, Frost apparently only has one ability that freezes targets in place - Frost Nova. Pet Freeze may exist, that's true. This means that for optimal DPS, we'd have to rely on Ice Warding the tank for AoE and Frostjaw for single target. I don't think this could be right, though, since the talents are supposed to be for flavor and utility, without there being any "must-have" talents for a spec.

I apologize if I come off sounding overly negative - I'm just disappointed to see that Frost Mage might wind up being worse than before, become boring, or both. I really wanted to speak up and find out what's going on...and, if these things really were overlooked, I wanted to bring them to light. I mean, there's only like two Frost Mages in WoW, right? So if I don't, what are the odds that the other Frostie was ever going to speak up?