To illustrate some of the source of my optimism, let me direct you to a post in the beta forums, in which Blizzard class designer Koraa says pretty much exactly what I've been wanting to hear since the last expansion hit. In case you aren't inclined to follow the link, let me summarize: in essence, he says that Mages are intended to be able to do a little more DPS than other similar classes, specifically Warlocks and Hunters, unless those classes spec purely for DPS, ignoring all utility talents. Perfect. I can't improve upon that sentiment. Give me back the cannon to go with my glass.
Which brings me to this week's topic: the new and improved Frost tree. Yes, that's right: I said improved. As recently as last week, I probably wouldn't have used that particular adjective when describing the changes to this tree. This week, though, I'm typing it with emphasis. Can you see it? The emphasis? I hope so, for I have typed it as markedly as I am able. The tree isn't by any means perfect, but it's certainly moving in the right direction. And though it may not be quite the offensive threat that the Arcane tree is, Frost is shaping up to be a respectable cannon in its own right.
Let's look at the major changes to the Frost tree one talent at a time:
This was never a good talent. It isn't precisely good in the beta, either, but it is considerably less sucky. The changes will give your Ice Armor spell an extra 465 armor and 20 frost resistance at max rank. It will also grant your Frost and Fire Ward spells a 30% chance to completely negate any spell they ward and refund the damage that would have been caused to you in mana. That's really nice, and far better than the small chance the old talent granted you to reflect a spell back at the caster. It has a high enough proc chance that you're getting decent odds it'll refund you a large chunk of mana each time you throw it up, assuming you get hit by the right kind of spell. The talent will definitely have its uses now, which is more than I could really say for it before.
I have to look at this as an overall positive change. Ice Floes has moved to the first tier, Improved Frost Nova has vanished, and this talent has in essence taken its place, while still applying to several other frequently-used Frost spells. At max rank, this will reduce Frost Nova's cooldown to 20 seconds, Cone of Cold to 8 seconds, Ice Block to 4 minutes, and Icy Veins to 2 minutes, 24 seconds. The cooldown Improved Frost Nova used to give was 1 second less than the new reduction, so this is a positive change in that respect, and the ability for Fire and Arcane Mages to spec into this talent without having to go deep into the Frost tree is a nice buff. Shorter cooldowns on Ice Block, Cone of Cold, and Frost Nova for a deep Fire Mage? I can see myself liking that very much in PvP, thank you.
I see what they were trying to do here--I mean, something had to move to make room for Ice Floes--but did it have to be the free spell hit talent? Now Fire Mages will have to spend at least 8 talent points in the Frost tree or seek out a lot more spell hit rating gear to hit the cap. With the current attractiveness of elementalist builds in the beta, this may not be a problem, but still, I wish this could have been left in tier one.
This talent has gotten a sort nerf--but also a very nice buff--all at the same time. It now reduces the mana cost of all your spells by 10% instead of 15%, but keep in mind that it also used to only apply to your Frost spells. This is going to be a nice efficiency pick-up for elementalist builds, as well as deep frost builds, both for the mana efficiency boost and the threat reduction.
Cold as Ice
This is the companion talent to Ice Floes. It lowers the cooldowns on Cold Snap, Ice Barrier, Deep Freeze, and Summon Water Elemental by 10%, which is going to be very nice indeed. The earlier cooldown reduction talent benefits spells that a non-Frost-specced Mage would have access to, while this one applies to the spells that it's likely only Frost Mages will have. I don't think anyone will argue with me when I say that having your water elemental up more often is a very good thing, especially with the pleasant changes that friendly fellow is getting a little further down in the tree.
Changed to match the new version of Improved Scorch I mentioned last week, Winter's Chill now applies to Fire and Arcane spells as well as Frost, making it a huge raiding debuff. Every Mage, Boomkin, and Destro Lock in the raid will love you for applying this liberally to everything. It also now only costs 3 talent points, which is nice.
I need to know one thing about this talent before I call it good. Does the AoE freeze mechanic generate threat? If so: bleah. If not, good. Having an AoE effect that you can't control the timing on could be fairly fatal in PvE situations, but if it freezes without pulling aggro, I can get behind it. I somehow doubt it will generate no threat, though, so yuck. Still, this is a very nice talent for PvP, as I'm sure every Rogue who puts in the last stab on your Ice Barrier only to find himself frozen to a spot will gladly testify.
Fingers of Frost
I'm ok with this one. It'll give you a lot more chances for Frost Mages to freeze bosses who can't otherwise be frozen, and even when not fighting bosses, more chances to fire at a target that is considered frozen is always a good thing for a Frost Mage. For 2 talent points, the talent is fairly cost-effective, as well.
Note, as I was polishing this column up, I came across a post on the beta forums by my new best friend Koraa where he says that Fingers of Frost will stay up through your nest two spells, which means shatter combos will work with this. Good times, people.
I'm...not sure about this talent. A free Fireball sounds good, until you realize that you're a fricking Frost Mage. I guess they considered it a little unbalanced to give out a free Frostbolt? Or maybe they're really encouraging the whole "elementalist" thing? Anyway, the talent isn't terrible, even if it makes very little sense. It will give Frost Mages a small DPS boost, and a reason to keep Fireball on their action bars somewhere, and I can't ignore the mana efficiency of a free nuke on 15% of your Frost spellcasts. For 3 talent points...not bad, especially if you've spent enough points in the Fire tree to make the occasional Fireball worthwhile.
Improved Water Elemental
This, in my opinion, is the biggest buff and best talent in the entire Frost tree. Not only does it keep your water elemental up for 15 more seconds at max rank, it also applies what may well be considered the single best raid-wide buff ever conceived by the mind of man. I may be exaggerating a wee bit there, but holy crap. 3% of your total mana back every 5 seconds, and it works for everybody in the raid for potentially a full minute every time you summon your big blue buddy? Let's see: if your mana pool is 14000 or so at level 80, that's 420 mana every 5 seconds. If you can keep your elemental from dying for the full 60 seconds, that's a total of 5040 mana returned every 3 minutes, or if you've talented into the aforementioned Cold as Ice, every 2 minutes, 24 seconds. Who needs mana potions, anyway? If Blizzard nerfs this, I say we storm their headquarters with torches and pitchforks, people. I'm not even kidding. I have my torch and pitchfork in the trunk of my car already. I keep them there for...um...well, for when the situation warrants. Let's move on.
Chilled to the Bone
I want you to close your eyes and picture how stupidly effective your snares will be with this and Permafrost. Take Blizzard, for example. You cast an Improved Blizzard on a crowd of the opposing faction in Lake Wintergrasp, with this talent and Permafrost, you'll be slowing those poor shlubs down by 85%. That's just a ridiculous snare, right there. Also, a flat 5% more damage with Frostbolt, Ice Lance, and Frostfire Bolt is delicious.
When they added the damage portion to this spell, it went from bad to good instantaneously. The stun component was far too situational to be worth going 51 points deep into the tree. But now you have a new short-duration CC and interrupt for use on any frozen target. Between Frost Nova, Frostbite, Shattered Barrier, and Fingers of Frost, you should have plenty of opportunites to use this spell, and even if the freeze effect is no longer up by the time you cast, the high instant damage it causes means the cast will never truly be wasted. This spell will require skill and practice to use effectively, but the same could be said for a lot of things we do as Mages.
Overall, the Frost tree looks to be very nice so far in the beta. It will offer even more of the control and survivability it has been so well known for in the Burning Crusade, and yet appears to have DPS output that will compare reasonably well with the other two more damage-oriented trees. I think it looks pretty good, and am genuinely excited to see how it evolves as the beta continues.
So what do you think? Is the shiny new Arcane tree pulling you away from Frost, or do these changes offer enough to make you stay? Is my optimism warranted, or have I been drinking the kool-aid? Mmmm. Kool-aid. Great, now I'm thirsty.
Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at the potential of the new Frostfire Bolt spell, or our analysis of the WotLK beta changes to the Arcane and Fire trees. If you're sick and tired of all this Mage-talk, there's a veritable treasure trove of guides and tips related to all of the other aspects of WoW over in the WoW Insider Directory. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.