You see that thing up there in the picture? That tiny little legless flaming elemental from vanilla WoW? That's one of our three new familiars. That's right: familiars.
I've actively campaigned for mage familiars in the past, even as far back as this crusty old post from 2008, in which I also wished for more portals, a Blink spell that actually worked, and a rumored new ability called Mirror Image, which I believed would prove to be a combination of a bacon double cheeseburger, the second coming of Christ, and a double rainbow out of a leprechaun's butt. So young! So naive.
I always imagined my mage running around with a tiny furry minion, maybe mouse with glowing eyes, or an ominous crow, possibly animated by Don Bluth, that would do my bidding and tell me which cottage in the forest Princess Aurora was hiding in. I imagined a wizardly pet that would be always by my mage's side, part of the persona, perhaps conferring a passive buff or something.
Well that isn't quite what we're getting here.
Here's how Conjure Familiar works. It's a new minor glyph, and when applied, it gives you a new ability which can be mapped to a hotkey and placed on an action bar. When you cast this spell, it conjures one of three different familiar stones, a fire one, and ice one, or an arcane one. The stone is consumable, has a single charge, and disappears when you log out, just like the delicious baked goods we mages can conjure. When used, it gives you a noncombat pet, that replaces any other noncombat pet you might have following you around. The pet is a tiny fire, ice, or arcane elemental, and has one of the old vanilla elemental models. The pet functions exactly like any other noncombat pet, and does nothing more.
So yeah, we're pretty much just getting access to three extra noncombat pets, is what I'm saying. They don't show up in your pets list, and they can't be used to fight pet battles.
Enjoy! I'm sure we'll all have a super lot of fun with this for like ten seconds.
The bright spot, to me, is that this shows the designers are open to the idea of mage familiars. Maybe the concept will get fleshed out a bit more in the future. I'm not looking to be a pet class. The less we have in common with warlocks, the better, as far as I'm concerned. I don't even care if having a familiar ends up being purely aesthetic, with no bearing on actual gameplay. But it would be nice if having a familiar was a little more, I don't know, substantial. There has to be a better way to implement it than this. Pretty much any other way. Ideas, mages?
Continuing on in our theme of things that have no practical application, we're getting another Polymorph option! The awesome part, though, is that it's a damn porcupine. This is a minor glyph that changes your sheep spell into a porcupine spell, and though I will always love me some sheep (that came out wrong) porcupines are undeniably cool.
They're really cute, they waddle around in adorable fashion, and when you try to bite them they stab you in the mouth with their fur. And now we can turn warlocks into them. And then set them on fire. I can't not look forward to the prospect of flaming warlock porcupines.
So yeah, a new Polymorph model.
Finally a change with actual bearing on gameplay! This is a few beta builds old, admittedly, but I've been away for awhile. I need to catch up a little.
Basically, though it doesn't yet reflect in the tooltip, your Frostbolt can now be cast on your water elemental to heal it for exactly the same damage it would do to an enemy target. That's actually pretty cool. It isn't the best heal option, as it will requires you to spend mana and time healing your big blue buddy instead of spending that same mana and time dishing out damage, but when you absolutely need to extend your elemental's life, at least now you have a highly controllable way to do so.
In other elemental news, there's a new minor glyph called Glyph of Freeze that, should you choose to apply it, would tie your elemental's Freeze spell to your current target. The effect would center around whatever your mage is currently attacking. You would essentially trade the freedom of being able to place your freeze spell wherever you want for the simplicity and speed of just having it always land right smack on your current target. I imagine this will mostly appeal to PVE mages, since this would allow the spell to be cast automatically without regard for a second button push. PVP mages will likely still want the utility of being able to root whatever target they want without having to switch off of their kill target.
More mana changes
Now, I haven't had a chance to really deal with the new mana paradigm coming in Mists in this space yet, but I imagine I'll spend the better part of a column discussing it at some point in the near future. The most recent change is this: our passive mana regen, embodied in the ability Mana Attunement, used to improve our base mana regen by 300%. This was necessary to offset the fact that Mage Armor no longer grants any mana regen, and spirit isn't a regen stat for us, or really any kind of stat at all.
The latest beta build reduced that mana regen bonus to 150%. At first glance, that looks bad.
The thing is, Blizzard has also increased base mana regen for all classes in order to balance healer longevity. So essentially, though our passive regen buff has been reduced, our base mana has been increased to the equvalent amount. So our actual mana regen is the same. We haven't gained or lost anything as a result of this rebalancing. We still get the same mana back over the same amount of time, Blizzard just fiddled a bit with the on-paper source of that mana regen.
So what I just spent two paragraphs and an orphan sentence explaining is this: Don't panic. Nothing has changed.
That just about catches us up on the latest beta changes. I'm telling you guys, the more I play of the Mists beta, the more excited I feel about our class. And the more I play of my wizard in Diablo III, the more I desperately want Disintigrate for my mage in WoW.
Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start out with our recent beginner's guide to being a mage, then check out our three-part State of the Mage columns on arcane, fire and frost. Don't forget to look at some of the addons your mage should probably be using.