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).
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
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.