Monthly Archives: July 2013

Frost Mage 5.4 PVE perspectives

With the chance to do some PTR testing for the most recent frost mage build, I wanted to highlight some of the changes. Since I don’t PVP, I will really focus on PVE aspects of the frost mage 5.4 changes. Since this is still on the test realm, it is likely that some aspects will change before the patch goes live.

New Mastery: Icicles

The biggest upcoming change is the removal of the original frost mastery (increased frost damage to frozen targets), and replacement with a new mastery (a portion of the damage from frostbolt and frostfire bolt is stored as icicles that will launch at the target when you hit ice lance. If you have 5 stored up, extra icicles will auto-fire at the target).

WoWScrnShot_072813_123542 Why a new mastery? The original mastery tended to be great in PVP, where your crowd control abilities allow for freezing your targets and unloading burst damage on your target. However, since bosses can’t be frozen, this proved to be problematic where mastery is not currently a great PVE stat. Since frost mages have easy-to-attain soft caps on both critical strike and haste from gear, this left PVP mages too powerful in high levels of gear, and PVE mages not powerful enough.

How do you increase the PVE value while decreasing the PVP value of the mastery? The only way to do it was to change the mastery.

 

What is Icicles? Lhivera has a nice two part series on both the original implementation of icicles and the updated version that addressed many of our original concerns.

Briefly, the current version of icicles does this:

  • Our pet gets a flat damage increase from mastery as a stat, and does not generate icicles. This is because the pet could generate a lot of low damage icicles that made icicles feel awkward.
  • So, only two spells generate icicles: Frostbolt and Frostfire Bolt. With PVE mages spending a lot of time hard-casting frostbolts, this won’t be problematic for PVE purposes. We will generate fairly frequent icicles and always benefit from the pet buff portion. This means that if Blizzard balances the numbers out correctly, mastery could increase in value for PVE frost mages in the next patch.
  • The icicles will auto-fire if you have a 5-stack. This means that under most circumstances, you should not be casting Ice Lance to launch icicles unless you have a FOF proc that increases the damage done by Ice Lance. The icicles will last in your storage “bucket” for up to 30 seconds before they will fall off unused. This should reduce the amount of wasted icicles in PVE compared to the original version.
  • Glyph of Ice Lance is being replaced with a new glyph that allows for icicle damage to also be split to a second target, increasing the value of mastery on cleave fights compared to the original version. This makes icicles valuable on cleave fights (though it is still important to note that none of our AOE spells generate icicles).
  • The changes to our mastery created a problem where we now had multiple ramp-up times, due to the combination of charging up both icicles and the frostbolt debuff. To address this, the frostbolt debuff was removed. Now, the debuff that reduces the target’s movement speed will stack, but it doesn’t impact the damage of our spells. The baseline damage of spells were adjusted as needed. This will ultimately help in target-swap fights where frost mages had the problem of having high ramp-up time.

In the end, icicles doesn’t really impact the PVE rotation in its current form. It isn’t really something you should have to worry too much about managing outside of situations where you may want to choose to delay Ice Lance casts to make the timing work with the rest of your rotation and allow for the ~3 seconds it takes for all 5 of the icicles to launch. If the number balancing is done well, this can also make mastery a valuable stat for PVE frost mages.

The bigger concerns now about icicles is how it impacts PVP play styles, where they are unlikely to want to hard-cast frostbolts to generate icicles.

Cosmetic Changes for Frost Mages

WoW_frost_mage

There are currently three major cosmetic changes for frost mages in the next patch (two of which you can see in the picture above).

  • First, the icicles mastery has a graphic. The 5 stored icicles show above your head, and fire off from above your head when launched or auto-firing.
  • Second, we got a new glyph that changes the water elemental pet into a new “unbound water elemental.” This is the first time we have been able to adjust the look of the water elemental pet.
  • Third, you can control how big your pet is. The glyph of water elemental no longer increases the size of your pet. Instead, you can choose between three pet sizes. The regular unglyphed size, the glyph that makes your pet smaller, or the glyph that makes your pet bigger. I find this set of changes to be really important to me, since my water elemental pet feels too big even though PVE encounters force me to take the water elemental pet glyph so my pet can cast while moving.

Overall, with the current PTR build, the frost mage feels pretty fun to play. There are still definitely problems that need to be addressed (especially related to how the mastery change impacts PVP viability). However, the developers responsiveness to fixing some of the original icicles problems makes frost a pretty fun PVE option in the next raid tier.

Posted in Mage, Patch 5.4, Written By Lissanna

Guild Leadership Corner: Can raiding guilds benefit from virtual realms?

We know that Blizzard is playing around with a virtual server technology (based off the cross-realm zones) that would have several features:

  • Virtual servers would allow for multiple realms to be virtually linked together. So, my realm of Elune would be virtually linked to at least several other PVE servers to form a mega-realm.
  • You can easily raid current content with anyone on your same virtual server.
  • For guilds, this has the benefit of being able to join another guild on your “virtual” server, without having to pay money to transfer to the actual server.
  • Resources such as auction houses are also shared across the same virtual realm.
  • This builds off the cross-realm-zone technology that is currently used for many parts of the game that allow for cross-realm grouping of quests and 5-man dungeons. PVP guilds can also benefit from changes that increase the ease of cross-realm grouping for BGs and arena teams.

So, as an officer in a 25-man guild, my thoughts are about what virtual server technology and associated game support systems need to be in place to help raiding guilds maximize the benefits of this change:

  • There needs to be an easy way to recruit guild/raid members based on your virtual realm. This includes the need for new recruitment forums for each virtual realm, a better in-game recruitment system, and other recruitment supports to make it easy to find people to join guilds and find raiding groups. The realm-specific forum is almost always a better recruitment tool for my guild compared to the general recruitment forum (where every single guild in the US is trying to recruit people). So, we will need a recruitment forum for each virtual server to have a chance of raiding guilds being able to successfully recruit new members.
  • In-game chat tools used for guild/raid recruitment will also need to work across the whole virtual realm so you can find other people to join raids and guilds. It needs to be easy to communicate with other people on your virtual realm. This includes having chat channels like General and Trade tied across the whole virtual realm – even if it attracts trolling. We may also need a  new in-game chat channel (given the failing of the guild recruitment “tool”), to keep recruitment for guilds or PUG raids out of trade/general chat (e.g., have a recruitment in-game channel for guild recruitment, and a “grouping” channel for forming 5-mans, raids, or pvp teams). Having an increased number of topic-specific cross-realm chat channels will increase the ease of connecting with other like-minded people without overwhelming general & trade chat (e.g., people wanting to join a guild can join “looking for guild”, people looking for group can join “looking for group”).
  • The cost of transferring to a new virtual (or actual) realm needs to be significantly reduced. It currently costs $25 to transfer one character to a new server. It costs an additional $30 to faction change. The $25 to $55 real money cost to transfer to a new raiding guild (and upwards of a hundred dollars if you want to transfer multiple characters) is one of the bigger hurdles that have made it incredibly difficult to recruit members into 25-man raiding guilds outside of the most hardcore raiding. Even for 10-man guilds, transferring servers has a huge cost and a huge risk. The new cost of transferring virtual realms and faction changing needs to be significantly reduced – as the physical realm becomes less meaningful, the cost needs to reflect this change. With new virtual servers, changing to a new realm should be no more than $10, and faction changes should come down to about $15 or $20 at most. With Blizzard moving to selling vanity items (toys and transmog gear) for real money, reducing the transfer costs permanently (and allowing ease of moving to new guilds) can breathe new life back into the game without hurting Blizzard’s monetary bottom line.

In conclusion, the new virtual realm technology can potentially increase the ease of guild recruitment. However, the support systems and real life monetary costs associated with joining new raiding guilds also need to be adapted to fit this shift in technology. I really look forward to how virtual servers may make my job of guild recruitment easier. I just hope that Blizzard keeps guild recruitment in mind when they polish their virtual realm implementation. What do you think Blizzard needs to do to support guilds in this time of huge changes to server technology?

Posted in Guild Leadership, Patch 5.4, Written By Lissanna

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