A long, long time ago, the rogue class had this concept called “combo points”. And druids, too, I guess, though who cares about druids?
Since then, the whole “combo point” thing has spread to every corner of the WoW game. You can even ride around on dragons that are obsessed with combo points.
At it’s most basic tenet, a combo point system is where you cast something, which stacks something, so you can cast something else. The higher the second something stacks, the more powerful the final something becomes.
Sometimes, the first something stacks easily without any required input from the user, as in Enhancement Shamans. All they need to do is wait for it to build up, and the only decision is what the final something is.
Sometimes, the first something stacks rather easily, but requires input from the user, as in Rogues. They build up combo points using a small amount of abilities, and then choose what the third something is based on spec and current needs.
Sometimes, the first something stacks at cost; the higher it stacks, the more it costs to continue adding to the stack. Arcane mages are exemplary of this.
It’s an extremely basic mechanic system, representing real time decision making at the next step up from a simple “Yes/No” option.
Confronted with a “Yes/No/Maybe” option, this forces the player to be responsible for their success and failures. Rather than just pushing a couple buttons and letting their talents do all the work, the player must actively plan and manage resources wisely.
They might still be pushing a couple buttons, but at least they need to think, however rudimentary it might be, about what they’re doing.
Ideally, every tree and spec in the game would be constructed in such a way that the user needs to think. Tanks and healers already have this, almost by default. It’s all the DPS classes that get to slide.
Let’s look at warlocks, they show this better than any arbitrary example I can come up with.
In TBC, Destruction warlocks were so amazingly simple, they could be played by carrot suspended above the keyboard.
Now, in LK, Affliction warlocks are so amazingly complex, a program is required to simulate how it’s played.
Ideally, all mage specs would be roughly halfway between these two extremes.
A Fire mage (frostfire or not) uses four spells in a standard raiding rotation. Three of those require direct input, one of them is a proc, though the choice to use it or not is up to the mage in question.
An Arcane mage uses three spells in a standard raiding rotation. All of them require direct input, even if one of them is technically a proc. It costs so much mana, the mage can’t afford to not be alert.
A Frost mage uses one spell in a standard raiding rotation.
The Water Elemental is basically a powerful trinket. I’d count it as a second spell if there was any pet management involved, but sadly, the poor thing is basically summoned then ignored. The only real input from the player here is when to summon it.
To me, frost is seriously lacking as a spec. Frostbolt is good and all, and I heartily agree that frostbolt should be the what the spec is primarily about. But it shouldn’t be the only thing it’s about.
I don’t want to see frostbolt rendered obsolete or anything, it’s core to the play style.
Frost needs something else. It doesn’t matter too much, just something to make it a little more complicated. Conveniently, the spec also needs a buff to it’s raiding performance, hence the whole discussion these past few days.
I mean, even hunters have to push at least three buttons in a raiding scenario now, in addition to pet management.