Netherwind Presence has been changed to make it more useful, and has been moved up the tree one tier. It now increases your spell haste by 2/4/6% instead of giving you a fairly insignificant chance to get an occasional instant cast spell. A flat 6% spell haste buff is a far more consistent across the board DPS boost, which makes the talent an absolute must-have for all Mages everywhere. This is a clear buff, and very welcome if it makes it to the live servers in its current incarnation.
Taking its place on tier 10 is a talent called Missile Barrage. This spell is geared toward the Arcane Mage who likes to use Arcane Missiles a lot. With this talent, every time you cast Arcane Barrage, Fireball, Frostbolt, or Frostfire Bolt, you have a 15% chance to halve the channeled time of your next Arcane Missiles spell to 1.5 seconds, making the spell release a missile every .3 seconds. This effectively makes Arcane Missiles a very quick burst damage spell and if it procs once every 7 times (give or take) you cast your primary nuke of choice, it's a substantial burst DPS ability. Imagine You're chasing a Druid around a pillar in Nagrand Arena. You pump out an Arcane Barrage at the Druid and proc this talent. Now imagine you've talented into Improved and Empowered Arcane Missiles, have Arcane Power up, and proc Clearcasting ( and have Arcane Potency) when you trigger your Arcane Missiles spell just as the Druid goes out of line-of-sight. Over the next 1.5 seconds, you'll be unleashing 5 missiles that will almost all be critting for ridiculous amounts of damage and be unaffected by LoS, and even that Druids preposterously overpowered instant cast HoTs won't be able to save him. I know that seems like an awful lot of variables, but the potential to have all of those buffs working together at once is actually better than you think. I have to say, I use Arcane Missiles a lot in Arena and though I'm not sure this talent is quite worth it's spot on the 10th tier of the Arcane tree, I have to admit I'm excited at the potential benefits.
The change I'm most excited about takes place far earlier in the tree. There is apparently a new talent on tier 8 called Arcane Floes. For 1 talent point, this talent grants a reduction of 30 seconds from the cooldowns of three of our most useful Arcane spells: Arcane Power, Presence of Mind, and Invisibility. Very, very nice. Being able to use Arcane Power and PoM every two-and-a-half minutes is going to be fun, and I'm not even going to try to mask my enthusiasm for it. The Arcane tree is looking better and better the further into the beta we go.
This is the point at which my enthusiasm dies, though. That's right, it's time to talk about the Fire tree.
Let me preface this by saying that I love the Fire tree. It is my favorite of the three trees and has been since I first hit level 10 and sat around Brill trying to decide where to put my first talent point. I was a Fire Mage from then on, well into level 70, and still think fondly on the tree even now, after speccing deep Arcane for PvP purposes. Impact and Ignite and Combustion, how I bless thy hallowed names.
Now, I don't know what goal Blizzard has in mind for the Fire tree, but if it isn't "make it suck" they are failing. Let's pray there is a "polishing" in the works for this tree along the lines of the newly shiny Arcane tree, or else fond memories will be all I have left of this tree come level 80. What follows is a look at each forthcoming change in turn, and a marked lack of anything even remotely resembling excitement. Imagine, if you can, that I am typing this in a Ben Stein-style monotone.
Continuing Blizzard's tradition of making Fire Mages do damage to attackers but not have any actual protection from them whatsoever, this spell (at max rank) buffs the damage caused by Molten Armor by 20% and reflect 50% of any instant damage a spell would have caused back to the caster whenever you fully resist one. Ok. So I'll do slightly more damage as I die. This still gives no actual survivability, and doesn't do much for a PvE Mage any way you look at it. For a tree that is incredibly weak in PvP and geared toward PvE, this helps neither aspect.
World in Flames
Ok, I can see what you're doing here, Blizzard. Mages should be the kings of AoE, blah blah blah. This talent certainly does help with that, potentially. At max rank, it gives a flat 15% increase to any damage done to 3 targets or more with any Fire spell you cast. It will affect Flamestrike, Blast wave, and Dragon's Breath. Very nice. For those of us who are just frothing at the mouth over the idea of being AoE kings, this is a godsend. I'm sure some of us are. Positive.
This pile of crap does the following: when you chance to score 3 crits in a row your next spell within 10 seconds will have a 33/66/100% chance to crit as well. Whooo! Four crits in a row! I don't know about you, but I get 3 crits in a row all the time! In case my sarcasm isn't apparent enough, let me just emphasize that I'm being totally sarcastic. My sarcasm, in fact, knows no bounds. If my sarcasm were tangible, you could see it from space. Unless your crit rate is somewhere around 50% (which is pretty preposterous) this talent simply won't proc enough to matter. With Combustion, the chances go up quite a bit, I suppose, but the benefits of this talent will still be felt far too rarely for it to be a viable DPS boost of any sort.
This steaming turd gives your Fire spells' crit damage bonus a 25% buff at max rank at the unfathomable cost of 1% of your total mana EVERY TIME YOU CRIT. Yes, my fellow Mages, you will do siginificantly more damage when you crit with this talent. You will also run out of mana with a speed impossible to track with the naked eye. I'm sitting here trying to think of a worse talent. Here's what I've come up with:
Requires 45 points in Fire Talents
Instant cast, 30 second cooldown, costs 75% of total mana
Instantly summons a felhunter which will then chew on your face, silence you repeatedly, and eat all your buffs for 1 minute. Once summoned, felhunter will also take a giant dump on your feet, rooting you in place for the duration of the spell. Nondispellable. Also, we at Blizzard hate you.
Left Click to Learn
Nobody seems to know for sure what this spell will actually do, so I'll try to reserve judgment on it for now, and instead focus on its potential. Here's what it currently offers at max trainable rank: The caster becomes a living bomb, causing 130 Fire damage to all enemies within 10 yards every 2 seconds. After 1 second, a fiery explosion occurs causing an additional 520 Fire damage to all enemies within 10 yards.
There are just so many things we don't know here. What's the damage coefficient on the various parts of this spell? This alone could determine whether this spell is useful or crap. The rumors from the beta suggest that this spell is off the global cooldown--in fact has no cooldown, meaning it can be spammed--and has a knockback effect attached to the final explosion. If those two things are true, this could be a very powerful PvP ability, very nearly the game-changer we've been waiting for. Imagine how often Impact would proc on a melee attacker with both Molten Armor and this spell active for the duration of the fight.
The problem, of course, is that the Fire tree offers so little otherwise in the way of PvP viability that very few PvP Mages will ever go this far into it. It's possible that a few PvP-viable builds will find a way to incorporate going deep Fire for this spell, but I'm very skeptical. Until we get some actual data on how much damage it does and how exactly it works, this spell remains an enormous unknown. It could be good, it could be fairly useless.
So there you have it. That's the future shape of the Fire tree, in all its glory. I'm not thrilled. I'm holding out for this tree to receive some "polishing." The Fire tree has long been designed for high single target DPS, but I see nothing in the new talents that will reliably improve that aspect of our class. Instead, Blizzard seems to be focusing on improving AoE DPS with this tree, and ignoring the single-target variety. Without some drastic changes, Fire will likely be replaced by Arcane as the PvE spec of choice for Mages. If that ends up being the case, all of Blizzards lofty plans for Mages to become the new AoE DPS kings will be in vain, as there simply won't be enough Fire Mages left to make it happen.
Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at the potential of the new Frostfire Bolt spell, or our recent look at 10 things Mages should know before entering the Arena. If you're sick and tired of all this Mage-talk, there's a veritable treasure trove of guides and tips related to all of the other aspects of WoW over in the WoW Insider Directory. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.