Preparing your Mage for patch 3.0.2, part 2

Christian Belt
C. Belt|10.13.08

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Preparing your Mage for patch 3.0.2, part 2

So...tomorrow's the big day, huh? When you log in tonight, be sure to open up your talent interface. Take a long look at your talents. Give them all a nice, long, figurative kiss goodbye. Do this because the next time you see your talents, you won't recognize them at all.

Since we have 8 billion things to talk about and substantially less than 8 billion words with which to talk about them, we'd better get started.

Patch 3.0.2--the pre-expansion patch that we're almost certainly getting tomorrow--changes a crapload of things. We went over the more general Mage-related changes in Arcane Brilliance on Saturday, so if you haven't seen that yet, take a look and then come on back.

Today, we'll look at the vast, sweeping modifications our talent trees have undergone. Trust me when I say a lot has changed. Did I mention the changes were sizable? Well they are. Come back after the jump for a massive review of new and remodeled Mage toys.

This post is already going to be massive, so I'll I won't be listing talents that haven't changed substantially. Below are those talents that have been altered in a significant way.

Arcane Tree

Arcane Focus: This used to cost 5 talent points and reduce your target's resistance to your Arcane spells by 10%. It wasn't very good. Now it's a must-take for any Arcane Mage. For three points, it gives you 3% extra chance to hit (much better than a lowered chance to resist) with your Arcane spells, plus it does double duty by reducing their mana cost by that same 3%. Huge upgrade.

Edit: Apparently I'm wrong here. 10% lowered chance to resist is the same as 10% increased chance to hit. Thanks to a number of commenters for the correction. The spell hit portion of the talent appears to be a nerf, but adding the 3% mana cost reduction brings it in line with Elemental Precision. Sorry for the mistake, as always.

Arcane Subtlety: This still provides the same Arcane threat reduction, which is great in PvE, and now provides a 30% chance your spells won't be dispelled instead of a fairly useless lowering of your opponent's spell resistances by 10. That 10 wouldn't scale, and was never very good to begin with, so the lowered chance to dispel your spells (picture that felhunter having a harder time eating your buffs) is better.

Arcane Stability ( formerly Improved Arcane Missiles): The only change here is that the talent now applies to Arcane Blast as well. If Arcane Blast ever becomes less of a mana drain and can be relied upon as a nuke again, this talent will make two of Arcane's primary damage dealers unpushbackable. Spellchecker tells me that isn't a word. Don't argue with me, spellchecker. I will destroy you.

Arcane Fortitude: This has been moved to take the spot vacated by Wand Specialization (so long, Wand Specialization! You sucked, but you did it with flair.) and has been changed to require 3 talent points instead of just one and increase your armor by 150% of your total intellect rather than 100%. It's still a very situational talent, useful only to PvP Mages, and then only marginally. For three talent points, I'm going to be passing.

Magic Absorption: This talent, on the other hand, is a thing of beauty. Though the mana return mechanic has gone from 5% on a full resist to 2%, it almost had to be nerfed because of the frequency with which Mages resist spells with this talent. Instead of a flat 10% increase to all resistances for 5 talent points, this talent now grants 1 resistance point per level at the cost of only two talent points. That means a whopping 70 resistance in every category at level 70, and 80 when we all hit 80, and then 120 when we reach level 120 four expansions from now and we're all fighting Arthgeras, Arthas' illegitimate love child with Sargeras. This is a very nice talent.

New Talent - Focus Magic: Here's how this works: You cast it on a friendly target (only usable on one target, and can't be self-cast), and they get a 30-minute buff that grants them a 3% extra chance to crit with spells. Every time they crit, you get a 10-second buff that does the same thing for you (3% spell crit chance). Use it on a class that casts a lot of spells and crits frequently (though I haven't confirmed it works on healing spell crits, I'd go Holy Paladin here) and your 3% crit buff will be up most of the fight. It doesn't stack, instead overwriting the old buff each time your friend crits. If used properly, it's a two-person buff that isn't bad at all. For just one talent point, it's worth a pick-up.

Magic Attunement: The change here is quite nice. In addition to its old effect, it also increases the range of your Arcane spells by 6 yards. Yes, please.

Spell Impact (formerly Arcane Impact): This used to only affect Arcane Explosion and Arcane Blast. Now it works on a lot more spells. A lot more. I can get behind that.

New Talent - Student of the Mind: Nothing flashy here; it does what it says. 10% extra spirit is nice if you have a lot of spirit already, less nice if you don't. If you don't, wait to pick this one up until you start picking up all the caster gear you'll run into in the expansion. It has a ton of spirit on it.

Improved Counterspell: The only difference with this one is that the first talent point gives 2 seconds of silence, rather than a 50% chance to silence for 4 seconds. The second talent point does exactly what it used to do.

Arcane Shielding (formerly Improved Mana Shield): Much nicer. It reduces the amount of mana drained by Mana Shield by 33% (up from 20%) with the added bonus of buffing your Mage Armor resistances by 50%. Combine Mage Armor with this and Magic Absorption and you'll be resisting spells like a person. Or something.

New Talent - Torment the Weak: This spell works really well with Slow, finally giving Arcane Mages a reason to use that spell in PvE. Apply Slow, and then do 12% more damage with spells you'll be using a lot, like Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage. Reapply Slow as needed. It's as simple as that.

Improved Blink: This has been buffed nicely. It now reduces the mana cost of Blink by 50% as well as giving a 4 second buff when you Blink that makes you 30% harder to hit (up from 25%). Even nicer, the talent only costs 2 talent points instead of 3.

Arcane Potency: Same spell as before, but now only costs two talent points and also applies to the first spell cast after activating Presence of Mind. For fewer talent points, this spell will now also be useful more often. That's not shabby.

Prismatic Cloak: This talent costs 3 talent points now instead of 2, but the benefits far outweigh that drawback. It decreases all damage taken by 6% instead of 4%, and has the added effect of reducing the fade-out time for Invisibility by 3 seconds. That makes Invisibility instant. This is a must-have for PvP, no question.

Arcane Empowerment: This talent still buffs your Arcane Missiles by 45% of your total spellpower, but now also affects your Arcane Blast spells (only by 9% though). Blizzard also opted to remove the stupid mana penalty for Arcane Missiles. Thanks, Blizz!

New Talent - Incanter's Absorption: Ok, let me explain this one as best I can. Say you have Fire Ward up. You get hit by a Fireball and your Fire Ward absorbs 1125 damage. 15% of 1125 is 169 rounded up. For the next ten seconds, your spell damage will be increased by 169. If your Priest buddy were to then cast Power Word: Shield on you and you were to absorb an additional 1265 damage (15% of which is 190), your new buff of 190 spell damage would overwrite the old buff, lasting for another ten seconds. This spell works fairly well if you're skilled at throwing up ward spells and Mana Shield at the right times, or you're in an encounter where you're absorbing lots of damage for some reason.

New Talent - Arcane Floes: Like Ice Floes...only for Arcane Mages! Taking a minute off the cooldowns for Presence of Mind, Arcane Power, and Invisibility is something I would think every Arcane Mage ever would like, especially for only two talent points.

Mind Mastery: Nerfed. Instead of increasing your spell damage by 25% of your total intellect, this talent now increases your spellpower by only 15%. I'm not sure why this talent was deemed too powerful, but now it's a questionable value for 5 talent points.

Slow: Buffed. 12% of base mana instead of 20%, slows movement, casting time, and ranged attack speed by 60% instead of 50%. Add in the value of Torment the Weak and this spell is now useful in both PvP and PvE. Worth a pick-up for any Arcane build.

New Talent - Missile Barrage: A very fun talent. It was more valuable back when Arcane Blast was more spammable, but it's still a great time had by all. This talent is essential to make your Arcane spell rotations more powerful, as that occasional double speed Arcane MIssiles is a substantial DPS increase, and looks awesome when it pops out. I'm a big fan of this talent, especially now that it procs off of Arcane Barrage.

New Talent - Netherwind Presence: This is well worth your talent points. 6% spell haste is a flat DPS increase, which is what talents this deep in the tree should provide.

Spell Power: This has moved from tier 7 to tier 10, but it still does the same thing it always did, and deep Arcane Mages won't care about the move. Arcane/Fire or Arcane/Frost Mages might, but we can't have everything, I guess. No matter how much we may want it.

New Talent - Arcane Barrage: By now, you likely know of my torrid love affair with this spell. If not, go read my steamy, gushing Skill Mastery on the subject. In short: Instant cast, 3-second cooldown, high damage nuke. I love it. It gives Arcane Mages a way to do damage and still remain mobile. It fits nicely into every spell rotation. I love it. Again, if I were to describe my feelings for this spell in one word, that word would be "love." I hope I've been clear about this.

Fire Tree

Improved Fire Blast: This talent has moved to tier one, costs two talent points instead of three, and provides a 2 second reduction in the cooldown of your Fire Blast spells instead of 1.5. I like when Blizzard makes my talents better in every way, don't you?

Incineration: Though it now requires three talent points instead of two, this always quality talent has moved to tier one, making it more accessible, and that extra talent point pushes the crit chance bonus from 4% to 6%. If that isn't enough, the crit bonus now applies to two extra spells, Arcane Blast and Cone of Cold, making the talent valuable to more builds.

New Talent - Burning Determination: This is an interesting passive ability, providing 10 seconds of silence and interrupt immunity any time you become affected by either mechanic. The silence or interrupt effect that triggered the immunity will still run its course, but any additional Kicks, Earth Shocks, Counterspells, or whatever that get attempted during the ensuing ten seconds will bounce right off of you. It's a great PvP ability, but of limited use in PvE.

New Talent - World in Flames: This is part of the whole "Mages are kings of AoE" movement Blizzard insists on foisting on us. It's a good talent, though, applying to just about every AoE spell Mages have, in all three trees. That extra 6% chance to crit is adds up quickly when you're nuking 18 targets at once. One thing that puzzles me, though, is the name. If we're casting Blizzard, how exactly are we creating a "world in flames?" I'm confused.

Impact: Moving this talent from tier one to tier three sucks for Frost or Arcane hybrids, but the talent itself is now only three talent points for the same value. It could be worse I guess.

Pyroblast: Takes 5 seconds to cast now instead of 6. Well ok, then.

Improved Scorch: This has gone from a self-buff to a raid buff. Instead of getting 15% extra damage to Fire spells when fully stacked on the target, this now provides 10% extra crit chance for every caster. Anything that makes us more valuable to the raid, I guess.

Master of Elements: Instead of only refunding 30% of the mana cost of your Fire and Frost spells, this now applies to any spellcast.

Blast Wave: The big change here is an awesome one. The tooltip says it'll knock targets back, and it isn't kidding. One of the first things I'd advise doing after the patch hits, those of you who intend to spec Fire, is to walk into a crowd of enemies and set this thing off. Watch your enemies go flying. Giggle with glee.

The introduction of knockback effects to the game will end up being one of this patch's greatest legacies, in my humble opinion, especially in PvP. Picture using this to help defend towers in Alterac Valley, or keep people off the flag in Warsong Gulch. In Arena, this'll be a godsend for escapability purposes, or just as a control method. Either way, it's just a silly amount of fun to use, and fun is something of which I think we could all use a bit more.

Molten Shields: Instead of a 20% chance to reflect spells the spells they ward, this talent now grants a 30% chance. Sadly, your Molten Armor will now top out at a 50% chance to affect ranged and spell attacks, down from 100%. This is still a PvP only talent, really.

Molten Fury: This has been buffed and nerfed. It now affects mobs that are at 35% health or under (up from 20%), but only increases damage done to them by 12% (down from 20%). This makes the talent useful more often, but at the price of doing less damage. Overall, this is still a very useful talent for burning bosses down.

Empowered Fire (formerly Empowered Fireball): This still grants the same damage boost it always did, but now it applies to both Fireball and Frostfire Bolt (which we'll be getting at level 75), and does so for only 3 talent points instead of 5. A very welcome change.

New Talent - Fiery Payback: I'm still not sold on this one. Any mechanic that requires our already meager health bars to be at 35% or lower to work is never something I'll feel entirely comfortable with. Still, there's no denying the value of what it does do: 1.5 second Pyroblasts on a 5 second cooldown? That'll be nice to sandwich into my Fireball spamming. The whole impending-death thing is countered a bit by the 20% reduction in damage taken, making this a great PvP talent, but being a deep Fire Mage in high-level PvP is still inadvisable anway. I'm just not sure how often this'll be worthwhile in PvE, which is what this tree is designed for.

New Talent - Firestarter: The instant-cast Flamestrike this will provide after casting Dragon's Breath or Blast Wave is undeniably a big AoE damage boost. The problem? If you've just cast Blast Wave, your targets have been knocked away from you in all directions, making you have to wait for them to re-converge upon you to hit them all with this anyway. A small complaint, but bothersome.

New Talent - Hot Streak: After going through a lot of changes in the beta, this spell is now thoroughly splendid. Every time you score two crits in a row with any of your Fire tree single-target nukes, you get a instant Pyroblast. Considering how often Fire Mages can crit with things like Combustion...mmm, delicious.

New Talent - Burnout: Another one that started off "meh" and has since become much more "yeah!" I like this talent a lot now. It gives a flat 50% spell crit damage boost at a very reasonable cost. Each crit will run you 5% more of the base cost of the spell. That's a very good trade-off.

New Talent - Living Bomb: Since I reviewed this talent in Skill Mastery a few weeks back, it has lost its bug-ridden knock-up component. This is a loss, but it was looking like it might never be properly implemented anyway. As it stands now, this is a powerful instant-cast, AoE DoT that doesn't cost too awfully much mana and has no cooldown. It's no Seed of Corruption, but...oh screw it. I grow so weary of hating Warlocks sometimes. Wait...what am I saying? Just ignore me, my blood-sugar must be low or something.

Frost Tree

The big early changes in this tree mostly have to do with positioning, so I won't list them individually. Ice Floes is now a 1st tier talent, so that's nice. Elemental Precision is now a 2nd tier talent, so that's not so nice. The changes will mostly affect non-Frost Mages, as they'll find some of their favorite early Frost tree talents have become less accessible.

Frost Warding: In addition to moving down a tier, this talent has changed a bit. Instead of a 20% chance to reflect any Frost spells while active, your Frost Ward will now give you a 30% chance to refund any damage that would have been caused by warded spells back to you as mana. That's potentially a large amount of mana return, but not very dependable at all. Your mileage with this may vary.

Ice Shards: Same great crit damage bonus, but fewer talent points? Alright, you've talked me into it.

Shatter: Ditto here. Same for less. It's like reverse inflation.

Frost Channeling: Ah, you get me all buttered up by making me spend fewer talent points on things I like...and then you sucker punch me right in the mana bar. This talent now only reduces the mana cost of your Frost spells by 10% instead of 15%. I guess Frost Mages just had too much mana, huh? Whatever. See if I ever trust you again, Blizzard. I'm moping, just so you know. I'm moping and if you nerf anything else, I might just pout. Don't underestimate my pout potential, Blizzard. I am Mage, fear me. Rawr, or something.

Frozen Core: This has been expanded to reduce damage from all spells, instead of just Fire/Frost spells, which is mildly exciting.

Winter's Chill: This used to only apply to Frost spells, but now the 10% extra crit chance (when fully stacked) works for every spell cast on the target. This is a nice raid-wide DPS buff that Frost Mages can bring to the table now, and I think we can all agree that is a good thing. It's like Improved Scorch, only it's called Winter's Chill.

New Talent - Cold as Ice: This talent is like Ice Floes' long lost twin. It lowers the cooldown on many of the higher-level Frost spells, while Ice Floes affects the lower-level ones. A deep Frost Mage will likely want to have both of these talents maxed out.

New Talent - Shattered Barrier: With this talent, every time your Ice Barrier is destroyed (meaning absorbs its maximum amount of damage) it triggers a free, off the global cooldown Frost Nova. Your normal Frost Nova cooldown is not affected. More Frost Novas are a good thing. You'll need to be careful about when it goes off in PvE, but in PvP, this has a definite upside.

Empowered Frostbolt: For three fewer talent points, we get almost the same value. The extra crit chance has gone from 5% to 4%, but the bonus damage has stayed strong at 10%. Overall, this is a positive change.

New Talent - Fingers of Frost: This is a good idea, but still poorly implemented. It gives your chill effects a 15% chance to apply the Fingers of Frost effect, which considers the target frozen for the next two spells. This is nice, but it is ostensibly designed to provide Shatter combo opportunities in PvE, only it doesn't do this. Wasting either of those charges on an Ice Lance is a bad idea, since you'd be losing DPS from simply spending both charges on Frostbolts. The talent is still valuable, but could be so much more. In PvP it is quite powerful.

New Talent - Brain Freeze: A 15% chance on every Frost spellcast to get a free, instant Fireball? It doesn't make a lot of sense, but I'll take it. This talent provides a substantial DPS increase, and is actually better than Clearcasting, and at three talent points no less.

New Talent - Improved Water Elemental: This is an example of a talent that started off heavenly, but has since descended into far more terrestrial territory. The mana battery effect is still nice, but it'll only end up restoring 7.2% of the raid's total mana over the elemental's 1 minute duration. That's nothing to sneeze at, but a far cry from the 35% or so that it started off restoring. The extra time on your elemental is also worthwhile. All things considered, this is still a valuable talent.

New Talent - Chilled to the Bone: This is a nice DPS boost. 5% extra damage to your primary nukes and a 10% buff to your chill effects is well worth the talent points.

New Talent - Deep Freeze: Anybody who read last week's Arcane Brilliance has probably gotten their fill of my opinions on this spell. In short, here's what you're getting for your 51 talent points: an instant-cast 5-second stun on a 30 second cooldown that only works on frozen targets. It's a PvP-only control option, nothing more, nothing less. Get it if you'll be PvPing a lot. Ignore it if you won't be.

So there you have it, guys. When the patch hits, have fun spreading those talent points around, and enjoy playing bizzaro-WoW for a few weeks. I know I will.
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