Fire vs Frost is the Wrong Question

So Cynwyn is in Shadowfang Keep, right? She’s spamming Frostbolts and her DPS is really sucking. I mean, say what you will about DPSers looking at Recount in the middle of a fight, but really, the tank shouldn’t be out-DPSing me here. I’m like, listen, little Frost Mage, have some Mage pride and do some damage, and she’s all, I’m casting them as fast as I can, STOP JUDGING ME. And I’m all, cast faster! And she’s all, you didn’t give me Improved Frostbolt, so unless someone pops Heroism, this is as good as it gets.

No, really. Don’t you have these conversations with your characters? No?

Hmmm. Likely story.

So I start searching around for something to make up for Frostbolt’s dismal performance. Arcane Missles are there, but they suck mana like blood elves at a mana picnic. Fire Blast has too much of a CD, but wait… didn’t I use to have something that hurled big balls of fire… I’ve got that mapped somewhere, right? On the … T key? Odd. Why is it over there? Let’s give it a try.

Woah. Boom! Heh.

Suddenly, the worgen were dying a LOT faster. Wow. Those Fireballs might have been slow, but they sure packed a wallop. Cynwyn’s DPS soared along with her renewed Mage pride, and she was gracious enough to not call me a noob.

There was an important lesson in that episode for me, and it wasn’t just that Fire burns. It was that I’d brought a concept from later in the game — talent tree specialization — and applied it waaay to early. Level 19 is too soon to have invested enough points in any tree to have picked up their defining features.

Furthermore, a leveling character is working towards a specialization and doesn’t want to respec every few levels to optimize for this set of abilities. A twink, however, has her full set of abilities right now, and will never get past the second level of talents.

In other words, a leveling character is looking down the talent tree, picking some goals and working towards them. A twink needs to look across the trees at just the first two rows and take those talents that suit their current roles. The view must be horizontal, not vertical.

So my real mistake was thinking Cynwyn was a Frost Mage. She’s not. She’s a Mage. Period. Frostbolts, Fireballs, Arcane Explosions — I have to start using all the tools available to me and not get stuck in an endgame mindset. Just as there are no Destruction or Demonology Warlocks at this level, the Frost, Fire, and Arcane labels do not apply yet.

I started experimenting on that SFK run with spells I didn’t use that often. For AoE mobs, hitting them with Arcane Explosion until my mana ran low, followed by a Frost Nova and hasty retreat, gave me huge DPS numbers on trash mobs. (It also left me /oom, but it was worth it.) Arcane Missles or Fire Blast worked well on mobs who were dying quickly, and Fireballs were the way to go on bosses. Frostbolts – especially level 1 Frostbolts – were great for stopping runners.

When I teleported out of that dungeon, my first stop was to the Mage trainer to unlearn my current talent build and look at the trees, sideways. I’m not sure if I’m happy with the build I have right now (2/2 Improved Fire Blast, 3/3 Frostbite, 2/3 Ice Floes, 3/3 Permafrost) but I’ll take her back in to the Gulch and let you know how it works out. I want to see if Permafrost is as potent as I think it is.

And as for Fireballs?

Expect to see a lot more of them in the future.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Fire vs Frost is the Wrong Question

  1. Nice analysis. Can’t wait for the results

  2. A mage is pretty well simply a mage until you get to about level 30. That’s when there’s enough difference going on that you can start to differentiate between them, and then level 40 is where you’re pretty well defined as one or the other.

    I’m running 5/5 Improved Frostbolt, 2/3 Frostbite, and 3/3 Permafrost on my mage twink because 0.9 second cast Frostbolt (rank 1) is great for throwing snares on everything that moves. I’m running a +10 Haste enchant that drops it below the 1 second cast time for me.

    My current question on Permafrost is whether it would be better to leave it as is or move up to 3/3 Frostbite, and 2/3 Precision or Ice Flows instead. I know the extra slow from Permafrost has screwed me more than once on my other toons while I was chasing the EFC, if it’s a big enough boost that reducing my Frost Nova cooldown would be more beneficial. It’s a good question worthy of analyzing further I think.

    Which spells I cast in dungeons depends on which type of tank I’ve got, and how big his pulls are. If he’s not an AoE tank then I stick to Fireballs until I’m pushing his threat limit and then I back down to Frostbolts or my wand. If he is an AoE tank then I’ll start off with Flame Strike for an AoE burst with a DoT effect and then rush in with Arcane Explosion until I steal agro, then Frost Nova and run out to focus cast Frostbolts and Fireballs on the mobs that I drew agro on. If the tank doesn’t pull more than three mobs then I don’t bother with the Explosions and instead go with Flame Stike followed by Fireball spam.

    When I’m questing though I find that Fireball > Frostbolt (Rank 1) > Arcane Missiles > Fire Blast will kill pretty well every mob that I face before it manages to hit me with a single melee attack.

    Even at low level AoE is still the king of trash pulls, so whatever you can contribute in that respect is what’s going to help the group the most. With a decent sized pull I don’t mind nearly going /oom on a fight and then drinking while everyone else loots and starts the next pull. Giving the tank a few seconds to build up his threat while I restore my mana actually means that the group dies faster because I don’t have to worry so much about stealing agro.

    And at this level all runners are taken down with Arcane Missiles since it’s a channeled spell that will go through walls as well. My Arcane Missiles hit for about 250 damage on average and about 350-400 when I crit. If something’s low enough on hp to run, then it’s most likely low enough to die from my missiles.

    • Interestingly, i’d respecced again into 3/3 Frostbite, 4/5 Improved Frostbolt, and 3/3 Permafrost about a day before your comment. I think you have the right of it though, and the extra point should be in Improved Frostbolt. I haven’t tested it out much yet, but we’ll see how it goes.

      Arcane Missles are incredible at 19. The shoot-through-walls component is awesome – I cackled with glee when I discovered that one. Getting the killing blow in a different room is very sweet – and almost warlock-like. :-)

      My only complaint about going oom with Arcane Explosion is that it takes so long to refill your mana pool with conjured water. It takes me nearly two full drinking sessions to top up. Is there something better at this level? I haven’t found anything to restore 750-1000 mana until higher levels.

      • With 5/5 Imp Frostbolt and the +10 Haste to gloves, I’m firing off FB(1) at 0.9 seconds per cast. It’s pretty sweet for throwing slows all over the field.

        I’m building a +SP/+Arcane SP set for an arcane glass cannon build to use from time to time just to see all of the numbers. I had a troll mage pounding my face last week with 90+ AM crits and every single missile crit when it hit. Two casts of that and I was dead. And yeah, I picked up on the warlocky feel of that one myself. And I liked it.

        The conjured water sucks, I only use it when I know I’ve got the time to sit there. Stick with Mellon Juice. A mage’s conjured food/drink suck compared to what we can buy except for the first 2-4 levels when we first get it. I keep 3 stacks of Mellon Juice and 3 stacks of the level 15 food in my inventory at all times and have a macro that uses both at the same time.

        I still have more mana than I can restore with a single drink, but at least it gives enough that I can either go with a single drink or a partial drink and still have enough to take on whatever the tank is pulling.

        SFK is the only instance the mage has drawn in the random LFG, and I’ve done fine with Flamestrike, Spam ArcExp every time with or without being able to get full mana between fights.

        The tank usually has to wait for the healer to get mana back after the big pulls anyway, so if he charges ahead then he’ll be dying from his own stupidity anyway, so it’s not been an issue.

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