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Arcane Brilliance: Magery in 2.4

Christian Belt

Every week, Arcane Brilliance endeavors to inform and entertain Mages everywhere, and also to brainwash non-Mag es into becoming Mages. This week we take a look at what's to come for the Mage class, even though last week we promised to write about newbie instances. The newbie instances aren't going anywhere, ok? We can write about them next week. Also, this is the last time we refer to ourselves in plural first person. We know we aren't part of a collective. We understand we are not Borg. We promise.

Is this whole "progressive patch" thing blowing anybody else's mind? Am I the only one? When the patch notes were first released, Mages everywhere let out a massive, unequivocated "Meh." There were no significant changes for anybody, really, much less the wizarding community at large. As it turned out, Blizzard was holding out on us. Each build of the patch brings a few new nuggets of change, slightly like when Wendy's switched from chicken nuggets constituted of several differently colored kinds of ultra-processed chicken product to all-white kinds of ultra-processed chicken product. Though we've gotten nothing as drastic as what may or may not be happening to Shamans and Warlocks, some of these changes could prove to be significant.

It's important, I suppose, that I stress yet again that none of these changes are guaranteed to see the light of the live servers, and that future nerfs/buffs could be rolling down the pipe. By the time I finish writing this, chances are it will be out of date. And the way things have been going, if we Mages see something hit the notes that we don't like, all we have to do is unite and QQ the living crap out of the official forums. You never know what it'll get you.

After the jump, rampant speculation!

Blink it, if you got it

First things first, I love the Blink change. If you've missed this particular bit of news, here it is again: Improved Blink now offers a 25% chance after casting Blink for the caster to avoid damage from all attacks for 2/4 seconds. I'm not sure I've ever seen a talent go from crap to awesome in one shot like that. The talent used to reduce the mana cost of Blink. It was awful, nobody ever took it except by mistake, and all it really did was ensure that when you tried to blink away from that Rogue, when the spell took you backward a step instead of 10 yards ahead like it was supposed to, at least it didn't cost you too much mana. Now though, if it stays in the patch, every Mage who PvPs with any sort of regularity will have to consider taking it. Blink has always been an indispensable, if buggy, way to get away, break stuns, and retain mobility in PvP. This just makes it better, providing a much-needed damage mitigation effect to a very fragile class. With a full set of Gladiator's armor, the cooldown on Blink is just 13 seconds, meaning you can have a 25% chance to avoid any incoming damage, be it magical or physical (though I don't think this applies to DoT effects that may already be affecting you), for a good portion of any Arena match. If you were to blink every time the cooldown came up during a match, for instance, in a two minute match, the buff from this talent would be up for close to 40 seconds of the match. That's phenomenal. Which of course means it'll probably get nerfed.

In an earlier version of the PTR, the mana cost of the highest rank of Blink was lowered from 21% of your base mana to a flat 224 mana, which makes this even better. Unless my math is off (which is likely), 21% of a level 70 Mage's base mana is somewhere around 500 mana, so that's a nice little buff on the mana efficiency side of things, and of course it replaces the old effect of the Improved Blink talent with zero cost to Mages. In addition to Blink, Spellsteal (always a tough cast due to the disgusting mana cost) and slow (same) were given similar reductions.

Shielding Mana since 1806

Next, there's the buff to Mana Shield. Mana Shield has always been a good, if costly, way to mitigate damage. For the price of a bunch of mana, you could absorb a decent amount of incoming damage. In its current form, I find myself using this spell mainly as a way to take the punch out of whatever opening salvo the opposing team has planned for me. It buys me an extra second of two of life, but that's really it, and at the untalented cost of 1430 mana for 715 points of damage mitigation, it's far too mana-intensive to reapply.

In the latest iteration of the 2.4 notes, Mana Shield has been buffed to add 50% of your spell damage to the amount of damage absorbed. First of all, that's fantastic. Secondly, yay. With my current gear, that means Mana Shield will give me around 500 more points of damage absorbed per casting. The nicest part about this extra absorbency (ha!)? It comes at no additional mana cost. I'm not sure what the numbers will end up being, but getting more for the same price is something I've never complained about. This will scale nicely with your gear too, and that's always a good thing.

Do you have enough Fortitude in your Arcane diet?

Arcane Fortitude, a cheap little pickup in the Arcane tree that gives Mages a bit of armor that scales with their intellect, is also getting a significant buff in the patch notes as they stand now, raising a Mage's armor by a number equal to 100% of their intellect, up from 50% as it stands now. For 1 talent point 11points into the Arcane Tree, it will become an increasingly more attractive talent to pick up as Mages make their way toward Improved Counterspell or Presence of Mind.

Shields. On Fire. Need I say more?

In other news, it seems we will be losing another talent nobody ever picked up, Improved Fire Ward. This talent was so forgettable that it doesn't even exist in the Wowhead database, so I had to link to Thottbot. It's being replaced by a survivability talent that might actually be worth taking, Molten Shields. This new talent retains the ability to make your Fire Ward spell reflect fire spells at its previous 10/20% proc rate, but adds in a nice new twist. If you have Molten Armor on, the new version talent will give that buff a 50/100% chance to affect ranged and spell attacks. Talenting into this will change Molten Armor from a spell crit/semi-resilience buff that helped against melee attackers into a buff that also helps against every other class. This will provide passive DPS against every kind of attacker, as when fully talented it will now cause 75 fire damage whenever you are hit by any kind of attack. At least that's how it reads to me. I'll have to spend some time on the PTR testing this out.

Looking at the larger scheme of things, what does all of this mean? Does Blizzard have something in mind for Mages, some overarching plan that makes these class changes more than just unrelated tweaks? I say yes. I say we take these new buffs (which could all be moot by the time this is published) and use them to jump to a few wild and unfounded conclusions.

The big finger-wiggling picture

Taken as a whole, it seems clear to me that Blizzard wants Mages to have more survivability available in every tree, whereas now you almost have to spec Frost to live more than 30 seconds in Arena. That's what we're becoming, my friends, slightly less fragile squishies. These are not really PvE changes, to be sure, so Blizzard is continuing its trend of focusing more on PvP balance than anything else. Obviously, this will please some and infuriate others, with very little middle ground. For someone like me, who spends a great deal of time in Battlegrounds and Arenas, these changes are welcome. But for the hardcore raider, who cares very little about survivability, or reflecting fire spells, or blinking away from danger, or robes with 75 stamina and 5 intellect, these changes could serve as a slap in the face. It's not that they hurt PvE players, it's that they don't help much either. Raiders would much prefer an increase in spell damage to itemization, or more spell haste gear, or about 50 other things before they would pick a new and improved Mana Shield. For now, at least, it continues to appear that PvE concerns for Mages are being ignored.

Perhaps some day we'll go back to what we were designed to be: the guy in the pointy hat hiding behind the Warrior nuking the living crap out of everything. For now, though, we're inching away from the glass-cannon role, and toward some new era of Warlock-like survivability. I'm not sure what to make of that, but it seems to be the trend Blizzard's perpetuating.

There is a bottom line here, though, and whether the patch notes make you cry or cheer, seethe or smile, that bottom line is that none of this is real. None of these changes are permanent. We could be stuck with all of them or none of them when the patch actually hits. So join me in speculating, gather round and drink the kool-aid, grab your torches and pitchforks, or jump on Blizzard's bandwagon, it doesn't matter.

This is a progressive patch.

Arcane Brilliance will be back next week with a look at lowbie instances, the places you really want to take your level 20 Mage and pray you get better rolls than the Warlock when the gear starts dropping. Unless I decide I want to put it off again. No guarantees. Arcane Brilliance is a progressive column.

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