Lhivera’s Library

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A Quick Look at Water Jet

Tuesday, October 23 2012 at 11:00pm CDT

Water Jet is the new Water Elemental spell being introduced in patch 5.1. It's the answer to a longstanding complaint about the Frost PvE rotation: the awkwardness and strangeness of using a pet-based reticule-targeted AOE control spell against a single target that the Mage knows full well cannot be controlled in order to force a buff to appear on the Mage.

Improved Freeze was added in Cataclysm to introduce some additional interactivity with the pet, and some additional control over Fingers of Frost charges. Frost Mages had been asking for both since the Water Elemental became permanent, and since Fingers of Frost was introduced. While Improved Freeze was very popular in PvP, where using Freeze was already a very natural part of controlling opponents, the mechanic was widely (though not universally) considered strange and clumsy in a PvE rotation.

My own personal wish list for a replacement was:

  • The spell should be single-target. When my Mage is concentrating damage on one target, my pet should be doing the same — not throwing out superfluous AOE spells.
  • The spell should have a damage flavor, not a control flavor.
  • The spell should give me a feeling of interacting with my pet. This is something Freeze does well, and I didn't want this element to be lost from the PvE rotation.
  • The spell should not replace Freeze, but should probably share a cooldown with it so that you need to choose between control and damage every cooldown.

Water Jet meets all these criteria, and based on my limited testing so far on the PTR, it does so quite nicely. It requires timing to execute properly; you can't simply macro it to Frostbolt and expect good results. It is also possible to set it on autocast, but as with the macro solution, you won't see the best results if you let the pet use it automatically.

Basic Mechanics

First, a basis for comparison: Waterbolt deals 416 damage plus 40% of your spell power with a 2.5 second cast time. With 20,000 spell power, a Waterbolt is going to hit for 8416 damage. This is before taking Mastery and various buffs and debuffs into account, but since those are all multipliers, we can ignore them for the sake of this simple comparison.

So two Waterbolts will take about five seconds and deal 16,800 damage.

Water Jet is a little bit funky. It involves a one-second cast, followed by a four-second channel. The Water Jet deals periodic damage once per second, starting at the beginning of the channel, so the sequence of events is like this:

0 seconds: Begin cast
1 second: End cast, begin channel, first damage tick
2 seconds: Second damage tick
3 seconds: Third damage tick
4 seconds: Fourth damage tick
5 seconds: Fifth damage tick, channel ends

Each damage tick deals (as of the time of this writing) 333 damage plus 32% of your spell power. With 20,000 spell power, that's going to be 6733 damage per tick, or 33,665 damage over the course of the full channel.

In other words, Water Jet deals just about twice as much damage in five seconds as two Waterbolts would in the same time. Now, some of that is going to be lost because there's a high probability that you're going to interrupt a Waterbolt while using Water Jet (more on that below). But you're never going to lose more than one Waterbolt's worth of damage, so you're always going to come out ahead by at least 50%.

Now here's the interesting part: during the four seconds that the channel is active, any Frostbolts that hit the target are guaranteed to generate a Fingers of Frost charge.

So the intended use here is as follows:

  1. Clear any Fingers of Frost charges you currently have.
  2. Begin casting a Frostbolt.
  3. Just before completing your Frostbolt cast, cast Water Jet.
  4. Follow up with a second Frostbolt.

Unlike most things Shatter-related, Water Jet is checked when your Frostbolts hit the target, not when they are cast. You may need to adjust the timing of the Water Jet cast to account for range; you want the one-second cast finished and the channel started before the Frostbolt hits your target. If you time it correctly, both Frostbolts should hit the target while the Water Elemental is channeling Water Jet, and you should end the combo with two Fingers of Frost charges.

Water Jet's cast time and channel time are reduced by haste, but of course spell flight times are not, so you may need to adjust your timing a bit when your haste levels change.

When to Use Water Jet? When to Use Freeze?

I've seen different people asking two opposing questions since the spell was announced: "When would I ever use Water Jet instead of Freeze?" and "When would I ever use Freeze instead of Water Jet?" Each spell has its place. The simplest rule is simply this: use Freeze for control, use Water Jet for damage. Water Jet does more damage directly, and unlike Freeze, will generate two Fingers of Frost charges even against a single target. But if you're actually trying to hold a target in place, Freeze can do that, and Water Jet can't.

Freeze will still have a place for DPS, however. If you need to be moving for a while, you can use Freeze to generate a charge, but unless you want to use your Ice Floes cooldown, you're not going to be able to do it with Water Jet. And if you can actually hit two targets with Freeze, you can get two charges instantly rather than executing the Water Jet combo (though at a small loss of direct damage from the pet).

Each spell has its uses, and those of us who hated using Freeze in PvE rotation now have a strong alternative. The spell still needs testing and feedback — in particular, I want to put it through its paces with Time Warp up to see how it feels with high haste — but the concept looks sound on paper and, so far, feels well-executed.

Let me (or better yet, Blizzard, on the PTR forum) know what you think!


Submitted by Nathyiel on

It's a good news even if I still don't know where I will bind it on my keyboard.

It will be possible to use it with Ice Flows for a while moving 2 Frostbolt.
For a pratical use, a 5s channel instead of the 1+4 can allow some easier timing.

Submitted by Graylen on

First, a small disclaimer to the following comments. I am a fire mage and have been for a very long time. As such I have been at the mercy of Ignite munching and the insidious RNG for just as long and this makes me a little defensive of my spec.

And this elemental change has been long overdue, I honestly cannot disagree, nor would I attempt to do so. However....

As it stands, Frosties, based on current helter skelter and optimal simulcrafting outputs, are already ahead of their former masters (Arcane = Single, Fire = Multi) in PVE. Somewhere in the region of 2-4k DPS depending on the usual variables (latency, fight length, etc).

The revamp of the elemental spell set based on your analysis, indicates a damage output buff of up to 50% for the Elemental and so my question is where is the trade off?

Is there going to be damage reduction to the Ice Lance or a rework of the mechanic of the Fingers of Frost to account for this scaling?

I have no issue with the revamp, as I said, long overdue, but without some form of trade off, this is another buff, to put the frosties further ahead.

The developers intent has always been to improve the balance of the 3 specs so that they can be used in BG, Arena, PVP and PVE (WOOT!). They have for the most part, done an awesome job (Inferno Blast to combat RNG - GENIUS),however, the rebalancing of Frosties has seen the pendulum swing from the extreme left (PVP) to the extreme right (PVE).

So I return to the question? Where is the trade off?

Submitted by Lhivera on

The Water Elemental isn't getting a 50% DPS increase; what it's getting is a ~50% increase to the damage it deals over the course of two GCDs. It's an increase, but not a big one. It's intended to make Water Jet the preferred cast over Freeze for DPS. The tradeoff is that, unlike Freeze, executing it means you need time to remain stationary, and if you fail to execute it, you don't get your charges; Freeze carries no such risk.

It should improve Frost's scaling a little bit, which is good, because currently it's going to fall behind Fire by full T14H.

I think that Arcane, frankly, is suffering from a perception problem. People decided at the outset that it was going to be bad, and decided not to play it, so it's not putting up numbers, and that reinforces the perception. It may need a little help, but I think the spec is better than people are giving it credit for.

Submitted by Graylen on

My apologies on the misinterpretation of the change to Elemental.

I find your comment on Arcane interesting - it is ranking 2nd in the specs (yes us Fire types get to live in 3rd at the start of an expansion - shock! :P ) and still in the top 20 overall (if I recall correctly) for DPS output. However I think that discussion requires its own topic.

Given the 5 sec cast/channelling time on Water Jet there are going to be limited opportunities where the frosties will need to first make the decision to have the Elemental channel and then be aware of that any movement will cost any frostbolt FoF charges + the lost damage ticks. So I understand the trade off to that extent.

However, in stand and deliver boss encounters (Feng, Gara jal (voodoo targets), Will of the Emperor, etc), where there are significant opportunities to plant your feet and burst DPS it provides 50% DoT plus additional FoF charges to the Frosties armory for Ice Lance. Surely this represents a fairly significant scaling of DPS output.

Off the cuff quick question I didn't see any indication of a CD on the Water Jet?

Submitted by Nathyiel on

On yesterday's raid, I just found out something interesting: there's time when we cast near zero frost bolt, like on the execute phase on Elegon.

This fight is a good example where both Water Jet and Freeze will have a good utility.

On a burn, I'm actually doing :

  • Frostbolt stack to 3
  • FFB from BF proc
  • Ice Lance from Frozen Orb proc
  • Freeze to proc FoF when there's a hole in proc from Frozen Orb/Mage bomb

In fact, I cast frostbolt only for stacking/maintaining the debuff, particularly with bloodlust..

After the change, if I still cast Freeze, I lost a potential 2nd FoF proc. If I use Water Jet, I have to cast 2 Frostbolt with a potential DPS loss.

Proposition: make BF-FFB also interract with Water Jet. Like with Frostbolt's debuff, why FFB don't stack it also ?