Counterspell is an amazing spell interrupt ability. Relatively, it does have a long cooldown, but it also has a very long lockout, a significant silence if specced for it, works independent of the GCD, and has a very long range relative to other interrupts.
Remember that you have 24 seconds between counterspells. That may not seem like a lot, but trust me. When you’re in the arena, this is a bloody long time. Make it count! Never, ever waste your counterspell, it will hurt you far too much.
The key here is wisdom. More often than not, you will be presented with an opportunity to use counterspell, and more often than not, it will be something like a frost mage casting Scorch, or a Shaman using his hearthstone. These are collectively known as “fake casts”, wherein your opponent casts a spell in an effort to make you counter something utterly pointless. Or start casting spell, then immediately cancel it so that you counterspell… nothing.
If you counter a rShaman’s Hearthstone… congrats! Here’s a dunce cap.
This is easy to avoid. You must have whatever UI you have, or some other addon, enabled to show what your target is casting, preferably a painfully obvious cast bar. I have one located almost right next to my own cast bar, that says in huge letters “HOLY LIGHT” whenever a paladin casts… well, Holy Light. It’s big, it’s obvious, you can’t miss it, which is exactly the point.
Note: Shields that absorb damage, such as Ice Barrier and Power Word: Shield, will not stop Counterspell. Shields that provide immunity, such as a Paladin’s Divine Protection, will.
Unless the Paladin is bubbled. In which case you wasted Counterspell again. Yes, put that dunce cap back on.
Healers casting Heals are ALWAYS your number one priority. Locking them out of their healing ability for eight(ish) seconds is terrifyingly powerful, and allowing them to get a heal off when it could have been prevented is often fatal.
I say “ish” because Counterspell won’t always do quite as advertised, thanks to some downright sneaky talents that exist in certain healers talent trees. Namely, Paladins and Shaman. Paladins have this Improved Concentration Aura which decreases Silence/Interrupt mechanics by 30%, and Shaman can for 20%.
So Counterspell won’t quite do precisely what you expect it to, but it will still work just fine against priests and druids. And Paladins that aren’t running Concentration Aura, I suppose.
Whenever you successfully counter someone, they will be unable to cast that school of spells for some time. Most of the time, they will be locked out of the school for 8 seconds. Shaman and Paladins will be locked out around the 6 second area. It’s still a long time, and you, as an individual and a team, need to make good use of this time.
Obviously, this is where communication comes in. Again, due to Counterspell’s long cooldown, you will have few chances to use it. When it does come along, abuse it. A priest who is unable to cast any holy spells for 8 seconds is a priest who is terrified beyond belief. Make that terror real.
Note: All of a Shaman’s spells count as the exact same “school”. If you interrupt Lightning Bolt, that locks out their heals too.
Depending on your team, you may have Improved Counterspell for the Silence effects. It is not needed, of course, to have it for all teams in all brackets. Regular counterspell can work just fine.
Where Silence really shines, however, is against targets that cannot be crowd controlled in ways that you, as a mage, can easily perform. Such as druids. You cannot polymorph them, and you cannot root them. (Ok, that’s kinda an exaggeration, you can do both of those things, but only for as long as it takes the druid to hit the shapeshift button.) You also cannot root them for any length of time.
For a druid, there is no escape from silence. They are well and truly screwed. For other classes, it’s simply a kick in the shins. “Gee thanks. I already have to stand here and twiddle my thumbs, but now I can’t whistle while doing it!”
Note: Paladins CAN bubble out of Silences.
Global Cooldown Independence
It’s true. If you are currently in the GCD, you do not have to wait to cast Counterspell. So long as you are not currently involved in another action (such as Frostbolt) you are free to cast Counterspell at whomever you like.
Allow me to put it this way: as a Mage, you must be able to Counterspell someone who is not your current target as soon as you are aware of the need to Counterspell, if not sooner. You have approximately 1 second of leeway time, as the fastest heals have a base cast time of 1.5 seconds. Accounting for lag, spell haste, your own reaction time… you need to be fast. Real fast.
Bind Counterspell on a key which you can get to, if need be, almost instantly. Let’s say you use the WASD movement configuration. Counterspell should be no further than your “F” button, or the Caps Lock button. That close. I’m talking close enough that it could go off accidentally if you yawn.
Also, you need a macro. You just do. Ok?
A solid macro, it’s utility is simple. It Counterspells your target. If you are currently casting something, you’ll stop and immediately Counterspell.
With a Counterspell macro, the /stopcasting part is the most important part of it. You need to be able to drop whatever you’re doing and get that Counter off.
Feel free to add a /focus line to your Counterspell macro as well.
/cast [modifier: shift, target=focus] Counterspell
/cast [nomodifier: shift] Counterspell
You can also use a mouseover clause in your macro, so that you can Counterspell whatever you are hovering your cursor over without changing targets whatsoever.
/cast [target=mouseover,harm] Counterspell, Counterspell
These are just suggestions. If you have a macro you are particularly fond of or find some horrible syntax error in the ones I have here, leave a comment! It’d be great to have, you know, functional macros in a macro section.
All pictures from Stock Exchange.