I always enjoyed tanking as a DK in Wrath – you had a few different specs to play with, each of which was more or less viable – and you pulled pretty awesome threat with some excellent survival cooldowns. You could tank as Blood and get Vampiric Blood for boosted healing (and back then it increased Death Strike healing so it was amazing), Frost for Lichborne to heal yourself with Death Coil, or Unholy for Bone Shield and Anti-Magic Zone so you could get Realm-First 3-Drake Sartharion. It was great to have different options, but more importantly they were all fun to play.
Then Cataclysm showed up and fucked everything up.
I had been really excited when Blizzard had initially announced that Blood was to become a dedicated tanking tree for DKs in Cata. While the three trees offered some fun options in WotLK, DKs were missing some valuable tank benefits. We had no way reduce a mobs attack speed and you ultimately couldn’t get all the tanking cooldowns collectively, you more or less had to pick one. “Fuck yes,” I thought, “DKs are finally going to be fun AND fully viable as tanks!”
Due to the fact that we tried to raid as a 10-man guild at launch of Cata, I was called upon to fill a more or less full-time tanking role in the guild. I was happy to do so because I had liked tanking so much in Wrath and I was excited to check out how a full-blown tanking spec would perform in Cata. I quickly realized, however, that there were a few problems:
I had shit for avoidance, I sat around forever waiting for runes to be off cooldown, and Blood Shield was a steaming piece of shit
News flash, right? The only time frost was considered a good raid spec was at the outset of vanilla raiding when everything you pulled was immune to fire damage. Still though, Blizzard has made long strides since then in attempting to make all specs viable in both end-game PvE and PvP – so why is frost the seemingly lone remaining bastard child?
Anyone who has read the blog since I re-launched and cares to remember what I wrote for longer than 45 seconds might recall that I recently embarked on a new journey as a gnome mage. The intent was to give me an avenue to check out all the revamps to 1-60 brought by Cataclysm, and hopefully give me new things to rant about.
When I hit level 10, I thought long and hard about which tree I wanted to lock myself into until level 70. I ultimately decided to go with the frost tree just because my original mage had never been frost spec since the release of The Burning Crusade.
With heirlooms and a 50% slow on my main nuke, its pretty much faceroll to level as frost. The pet is next to worthless except for the extra freeze, but thats fine because that’s usually all I need anyway. I can easily down 5-6 mobs at a time with the ranged freeze + talented Blizzard slow – its mind-numbingly simple.
What I’ve realized from playing the spec though is that the same thing that makes it great for leveling is what makes it awful for end-game PvE. Frost is a spec that has a very specific “flavor” to it – it favors roots and slows, as you would expect, because frost is something that is cold. Without those mechanics, it wouldnt feel like a frost tree anymore.
The problem with it is that the damage has to suffer to give all those spells the “frosty” feel they come with. Why would you use Fireball if Frostbolt hit just as hard AND slowed an attacker? Why would you use Blast Wave for a daze if Frost Nova did equal damage and rooted? I get that, and thats probably a trade-off that people are happy with. It’s worked out for me so far in my leveling experience, and I can certainly see the appeal from a PvP standpoint.
That said, given that everything in raid content that counts (trash doesn’t) is immune to slow and root. Even the bottom tier frost talent has to have incentive to use it against mobs that are immune to freeze effects. You’re left with your gimpy damage that is being offset by utility that you literally cannot take advantage of. Fingers of Frost goes a little ways in mitigating it, but even then Ice Lance is never going to be your primary source of damage.
So what could they do to make frost raid-viable? They could probably sort it out with some creative glyphs – something that allows you to remove the slow effect from your frostbolt and increase its damage. But if they did that, what’s the point of being frost? As it stands, the slows/roots are what defines the class. Take those away and bump up the damage and you might as well be playing a fire mage – you’d be using the same basic rotation with procs thrown in (mind freeze may as well be hot streak as it is). Even then it would still be inferior because fire offers better options for getting dps on adds without having to fully abandon the primary target.
I guess what I am really saying here is that the leveling experience has given me an appreciation for something I thought was completely terrible. It’s actually fun being able to kite around elite mobs and solo shit I probably couldn’t burn down with the glass cannon approach of the other mage specs. I feel though that the aspects of the frost tree that make it unique will ultimately prevent it from ever becoming a fully raid-viable spec.
And maybe that’s fine. After all, it’s not like being the black sheep is something new to the Mage class…
Where was this shit when I had to start a paladin at level 1 in Burning Crusade?? Seriously, leveling is actually fun now.
I guess this is something most hardcore players totally write off as one of the features of Cataclysm. Hell, I did. I had already leveled all my alts to at least 70, the promise of new 1-60 content didn’t really appeal to me as a feature to list on the back of the box.
That said, the one thing I still have never done in 6 years of WoW is level a character to max level as Alliance. I noted Friday that my Gnome mage experiment had begun – and I’m not sure if it’s the heirlooms, the new faction, the new quests, or all that shit combined, but I am having a great time.
The revamped Gnome starting area was largely disappointing start (if they were going to give trolls and gnomes their own areas it would have been nice for them to last a bit longer than the 20-minute 1-6 stretch), but past that it’s been a lot of fun. Gone are the days of vanilla where you are sent back and forth between town and some random yeti cave, each time with a quest to go a little bit further in than you previously had. Gone also are quests that send you clear across the fucking world to talk to some guy and then go back where you came from.
Each now has more of its own story and quest flow, much like the Northrend and high-level Cataclysm zones. It makes for a more immersive leveling experience as you see how more or less every quest fits into the grand scheme of things in that zone, and more importantly it saves you all the hassle of going all over creation to get things done.
The best zone up to this point in my opinion has to be the revamped Eastern Plaguelands. Now a level 35-40 zone, EPL has been reclaimed by the Argent Dawn and Argent Crusade and the storyline follows two paladins aspiring to join their ranks as they ride a caravan from tower to tower. It’s designed to basically take you in a circle around the zone, and provides some cool bonus buffs to choose from as you add more and more members to your caravan. The story of the zone even culminates in a short cutscene where your fully assembled party bands together to take down a banshee. Really cool zone – nice flow, fun quests, lots of flavor.
In a way this makes me glad I no longer raid hardcore in WoW. I would likely have never taken up the task of leveling a new character from level 1 were I still committed to a full-time 5-day raid schedule. It’s nice to see this other side of the game that Blizzard assured us was so much better in Cataclysm than it was before, having previously not even seen it as a selling point.
Really the only downside I see to the 1-60 revamp (unless the upcoming 40-60 zones are a major drop in quality) is the fact that all I have to look forward to at the end of the fun is the soul-crushing wasteland known as Outland 😦