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Arcane Brilliance: The changing face of Frost

Christian Belt

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Welcome to this week's Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that insists that tragic teleportation accident that left you with a polearm instead of an actual arm does not entitle you to a refund.

Yeah, I should have known better than to start a multi-part leveling guide during a PTR cycle.

Barring more huge news, we'll come back to the leveling guide next week, but this week we need to discuss the fact that Deep Freeze is awesome. Don't believe me? Stop reading this right now. Download the PTR client. Transfer your mage over. Spec Frost. Go find a training dummy. Use Deep Freeze on it. Giggle. Then come back here, because holy crap.

Here's how the spell works currently on the PTR:

Deep Freeze: This spell now deals a large amount of damage to targets permanently immune to stuns.

The base damage is 1469 to 1741. The spellpower coefficient appears to be rock solid, something in the neighborhood of 2-2.5. It doesn't currently benefit from Ice Shards or get an increased crit chance from Shatter, but I expect both of those things to change before this goes live. When it hits the PTR, it'll be the single most powerful damage-dealing spell Frost mages have.

It'll be like a Pyroblast made of ice. Only better.

For those of you with a short attention span, here's the tl;dr version:

After patch 3.3 hits, in a raiding spell rotation, you will use Deep Freeze every time it's off cooldown, and you will see a substantial DPS increase because of it. Read on for the longer, more text-intensive version.

It's official, mages. This change, along with the others coming in the same patch, means one thing: patch 3.3 gives mages 3 distinct and wholly competitive raiding trees. I say we all get together after work, go out, have some drinks, and then set a warlock or two on fire in celebration. I mean freeze them solid. Then set them on fire. Or whatever works. I'm flexible.

Let's look at each of the major frost tree changes in turn.

Frozen Core

This change was interesting at first, but testing has revealed it to be fairly useless. It's a great idea; getting Ice Lance involved in a PvE rotation is something I think we'd all love to see. The problem is that this particular method of accomplishing that only resulted in an almost insignificant DPS increase at best. In fact, as I'm writing this, a new build is hitting the PTR that appears to have removed the change entirely. Oh Ice Lance Shatter combos...we hardly knew ye.

I hope Blizzard hasn't given up on this idea entirely. Ice Lance is a fun spell. There has to be a way to involve it in a PvE rotation without upsetting PvP balance (such as it is). My personal favorite is the idea that the cast-time reduction to Frostbolt could be shortened, but apply to more than one cast. Don't yank this just because it didn't work immediately. You aren't Fox, Blizzard. This isn't Firefly. Or Dollhouse. As far as I am aware, Joss Whedon has never had anything to do with Ice Lance. Give this one a little room to grow. Tinker with it a little more. See how it pans out. It's the Public Test Realm, for crying out loud. Test it a bit.

Glyph of Eternal Water

This hasn't changed since the last time we discussed it. It's still completely awesome. You take this glyph, you get a permanent water elemental. His Waterbolts have had their mana cost reduced so drastically that he should be able to cast pretty much indefinitely in a raid environment. The trade-off is that he can no longer cast Freeze, a spell that had extremely limited raid utility anyway. PvP mages will avoid this glyph's phone calls (I know several of you guys suggested in the comments last week that you'd take this for PvP anyway, but I think you're crazy), while raiding mages will invite it over for dinner and then try to make out with it during Glee.

Having a perpetually casting pet out all the time is a rock-solid DPS increase. It's been a couple of weeks since we heard about this, but I'm still peeing down my own leg in anticipation, pretty much all the time. It's like my own personal Glyph of Eternal Water. Get it? Ha! Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Deep Freeze

Hey, remember when we first heard about this spell? Remember how I was so excited about it when I first tried it out in the Wrath beta? And then they took away the damage component, and I got angry and resentful? And then I devoted an entire column to whining about it? And then today happened and I wrote the first part of this column? What a fun year that was.

Well, now the damage component is back and better than ever. Combined with the DPS increase of a permanent water elemental, this change brings Frost to where it belongs: right along-side Arcane and Fire. If you are a raiding mage, you can now choose the spec you like best, play it well, and do just fine. A patch ago, top raiding guilds had fire mages and really no other kind.

Not any more. Frost mages can raid. Arcane mages can raid. We have flexibility in how we spec, and perhaps more than ever before, we can play the way we enjoy playing, instead of playing the one "best" spec. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria.

Anyway, this is the way this will work:

Your new Frost spec will look something like this:

Frost 18/0/53

This will probably change, because I can't see Blizzard leaving Enduring Winter as is. The only useful component to the talent after getting the Glyph of Eternal Water is the replenishment buff, and one point (33% per Frostbolt cast) is enough to keep that up constantly. The other two would be essentially wasted. That gives you one point for Deep Freeze and one for whatever. If Blizzard tweaks Enduring Winter to make those other two talent points necessary again, the point for Deep Freeze will have to come from somewhere else. We'll have to wait and see.

Your rotation will function as normal, with the exception that when Fingers of Frost procs, you'll now be using one of the charges on Deep Freeze instead of a second Frostbolt. Assuming Deep Freeze ultimately is affected by both Ice Shards and Shatter, It'll be more than twice as powerful as a Frostbolt in that scenario. That's sexy.

Oh, and one more thing: with your new permanent water elemental, you'll never need to blow a Cold Snap on re-summoning him. That frees Cold Snap up for other things, like a fresh Icy Veins or another Deep Freeze. This should result in another, minor DPS increase for most Frost mages.

So, on a scale of "meh" to "peeing down your leg," how excited are you for the new and improved frost mage? My bladder has already betrayed my level of enthusiasm. Where do you rate?

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent two-part look at what Cataclysm will mean to Mages, or our ongoing series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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