This post focuses on arena PvP.
Mage lost a significant portion of its skill cap as well as an overall increased skill floor with the redesign of each of its specs in Legion. Unfortunately, the class hasn’t seen much change in its design since Legion’s launch. These changes drastically affected the enjoyment of PvPing on a Mage, and is the primary reason I haven’t actively played Mage in such a long time. It’s a disheartening issue, but not one that can’t be fixed.
Since we’ve seen some willingness from Blizzard to make adjustments to PvP through new PvP talents, I wanted to try to address the primary issues Frost Mage has in PvP, as it doesn’t have a strong place in the current meta. Understandably, a total redesign of a spec is unrealistic during the middle of an expansion, so I’ll stick with smaller changes.
To preface this, I don’t want to start a discussion on strictly buffing Frost, as I don’t want to unintentionally push certain comps beyond a reasonable state. I know it just received some tuning changes, and it may be too early to tell how those changes will affect the state of Frost, but my guess at the moment is that not much will be different since the changes haven’t addressed the issues the spec faces. My goal is to adjust the spec in a way which will ideally improve Frost’s skill cap, viability, and overall enjoyment.
The problem with Frost in Shadowlands
Frost plays a fairly passive role in PvP compared to Fire. Fire has Dragon’s Breath, a low-CD instant CC, as well as incredibly high instant-cast and on-demand burst with Combustion and off-GCD Fire Blasts. This allows a Fire Mage to play more actively, landing CC chains from their own instant CC or quick kills using its high damage output. Conversely, Frost has no instant CC outside of roots, its optimal DPS involves chain casting, and its damage takes significantly longer to push out than Fire’s. This combination forces the spec to play more passively, where the Mage intentionally plays in such a way as to slow the pace of the game down.
The slower-paced design of Frost may be an intentional alternative to Fire’s playstyle. However, the current state of high-burst PvP in Shadowlands tends to limit the diversity of comps a Frost Mage can play. To my knowledge, the only comp considered to be good for Frost is MLD, while Fire can play with a significantly larger pool of DPS partners and perform well. Ideally, Frost could receive some tuning which enables it to play a more active role in arena, perhaps allowing it to play similar compositions to Fire.
What changes could be made to Frost?
I suggest reintroducing Deep Freeze. This iconic ability enhanced a Mage’s skill potential drastically due to its versatility as well as its room for error. Unfortunately, over time, other Mage abilities and some enhancements to Deep Freeze pushed the ability over the edge of being reasonable in PvP. Such combinations included off-GCD Deep, PoM Poly/RoF, Frostjaw, and strong instant cast damage. I propose reintroducing Deep Freeze as it existed originally:
- 5 second duration magic stun
- Triggers full GCD
- 30 second cooldown (this can be adjusted, as such a low CD may be too strong)
- Does not break on damage
- All of the Mage’s damage into the Deep Freeze activates Shatter
How should Deep Freeze be implemented?
While it would make sense to include Deep Freeze on the level 40 talent row for Frost, along with other CC-related abilities, there’s an immediate balance concern with a Mage having access to both Shimmer and Deep Freeze. This combination is almost certainly too powerful, so it makes sense that the abilities should be mutually exclusive.
There’s also a general issue of snares in PvP being excessive, and the level 40 Frost talent Frigid Winds (all snare effects increased by 10%) adds to that.
To address these issues, I suggest that the Glacial Insulation and Frigid Winds talents swap locations, and replace Frigid Winds talent with Deep Freeze (they even have the same icon!). This should have a few positive impacts:
- Deep Freeze and Shimmer will be unable to be used together.
- Glacial Insulation may receive more use cases, as it’s currently rarely/never taken over Shimmer in any content.
- Frost’s snare effects should avoid becoming too strong.
Re-balancing Frost with Deep Freeze
The addition of such a strong CC ability poses the problem of Frost having too much potential CC, namely with the amount of slows and roots the spec has. I suggest that the PvP talent Frostbite be removed entirely to help even things out. Frost already has two instant-cast roots available on a fairly short cooldown, so Frostbite adding additional roots is somewhat redundant. Also, Frostbite’s roots are random, which is generally unhealthy in PvP.
If Frost becomes too strong with Deep Freeze added and Frostbite removed, then some or all of the following changes could be considered:
- The strength of Frost’s snares could be capped, possibly at 50%
- The duration of Frost’s snares could be capped, possibly at 6-8 seconds
- The stun immunity from Ice Form could be removed, as the Mage having access to a stun immunity as well as a stun break (Blink) could be too strong
- The cooldown and/or duration of Deep Freeze can be adjusted
What other adjustments could be made to Frost?
It’s hard to say for sure how adding Deep Freeze alone will affect Frost. It’s entirely possible that the current state of the game wouldn’t allow Frost to be good even with Deep reintroduced. Still, I think it’s at least worth a shot to give back some of the playmaking potential the spec used to have.
I feel the above changes may be enough for now. Beyond that, the way Frost and Fire deal damage doesn’t have the level of interaction it should have in PvP. The methods of generating and dealing damage doesn’t invite enough room for counterplay, while previous iterations of the specs did. This issue isn’t strictly specific to Mage, however, and would likely need a fairly large overhaul of general class design, which is unlikely due to the effect it would have on PvE.
Give Frost a stronger place in the meta by reintroducing Deep Freeze, remove some of Frost’s other utility to compensate.