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Arcane Brilliance: Ch-ch-changes

Christian Belt

Each week, Arcane Brilliance fills your head with as much Mage-related information as it can. You may have wondered how our signature buff works--how exactly does a Mage make you smarter for an hour? Well there you have it: we shoehorn this column into your brain with a flick of our fingers. That's how awesome Arcane Brilliance is, not only does it entertain, it also actually makes you more intelligent. For an hour. Or until a felhunter eats it.

It's Saturday again, and you know what that means: you guessed it, everything I'm about to write will be completely obsolete in about 15 minutes.

I'm not even sure where to begin this week. I was planning to turn this column's attentions to the Frost tree, but how can I ignore the vast and fairly sweeping changes the other two trees have undergone in the past seven days? The answer? I can't.

Still, I don't want to short-change the Frost tree. So here's the plan. I'm going to deal with the most drastic of the changes to the other two trees this week. Next week, barring another giant list of new craziness, we'll lay our hands upon upon that new Frost tree and wring it dry.

So what's new, you ask? Lots of things. Come back after the break for more newness than you can shake an epic wand at.

This isn't going to be a full list of the changes in the current build of the Wrath beta, because it's a sad fact that I simply don't have room here to go over all of them. Check the updated Mage talent calculator to find out the full breadth of what's in store. Today, we'll be going over what I consider to be the most interesting changes to the Arcane and Fire trees.

Here's the thing. Like many other Mages, I've spent the weeks following the Wold-Wide Invitational feeling bitter, confused, a little bit betrayed, and increasingly pessimistic. For so long, it seemed as if every other class was getting an unending buffet of pure awesome, while Mages were being served the Living Bomb pu-pu platter. We got little to no information on the direction Mages would be taking in the new expansion, and what we did get was decidedly underwhelming.

In the past couple weeks, the floodgates have apparently been opened. I don't think any of us can still argue that Blizzard is still ignoring us as a class. Whether or not you agree with how things are shaping up, it's apparent that our class is getting a substantial overhaul. To be frank, I'd been feeling so negative for so long that it has actually been difficult to allow optimism to take root. After two weeks of constant change, I'm actually going to allow myself to become excited, and whether you share my growing positivity or not, it may be time for all of us to stow our pessimism for awhile and allow our class to take shape. Then, of course, we'll likely still complain (we are Mages, after all), but at least it'll be educated complaining.

Here are the changes I'm most interested in, both good and bad:

Fire Tree Changes

This talent was a pretty clear-cut stinker in previous builds, but no longer. Here's what it does now: At max rank, and only when below 35% health (yikes), it reduces all physical and fire damage taken by 20% (yawn) and reduces the casting time of Pyroblast by 3.5 seconds (whoa). Now, when I asked to be a glass cannon again, this wasn't exactly what I meant. I'm not thrilled about the prospect of having to sit below 35% health to do my best DPS, but I have to admit the concept of spamming 1.5 second Pyroblast casts (after the overall change to Pyroblast to reduce it to 5 seconds normally) in a raid is pretty exciting.

As mechanics go, the idea of purposefully pulling aggro early in a fight to get our health knocked down to the optimal range then casting Ice Block to drop aggro and telling the healers not to heal us so we can then pump out Pyroblasts at the speed of a Scorch spell and pray we don't get hit again...well that idea is certainly interesting. We signed up to be Mages to be glass cannons. I'm not sure any single talent could possibly make us more glass and more cannon at the same time than this one does. The 20% reduction in physical and fire damage taken isn't likely to make us any less vulnerable to being one-shotted when sitting around 35% health, but the sheer DPS potential if this mechanic is exploited properly may offset that risk.

This talent finally gives us a way to mitigate the single most damaging effects to Mages in the entire game: silences and interrupts. It comes early in the talent tree, which means it can be taken with a great majority of builds. The way it will work, as I understand it, is that whenever you are hit with any effect that silences or interrupts you, you become immune to any other silencing or interrupting effects for a full 10 seconds. Combined with the new Mage Armor, which will reduce the duration of all harmful magic effects (including silences) used against you by half, Mages will no longer be able to be completely crippled by well timed silences and interrupts. This will really help in PvP, and I can't wait to see the look on that felhunter's face when he can't silence me. Is it possible to look frustrated when your face consists mainly of teeth?

This talent no longer sucks. At max rank, the talent still gives you an extra 25% critical strike damage bonus, at the cost of extra mana. The difference--and this is major--is that the added mana cost is only 5% of the cost of the spell, as opposed to 1% of your total mana. To give you an idea of the change in real terms, if you are critting with Pyroblast, in Wrath you will be charged an extra 35 mana. That's 5% of the base 700 mana cost of the spell at max rank. Previously, assuming your mana pool is around 12000 (a very conservative estimate of it at level 80), each critical strike would have cost you an extra 120 mana. I would have to say that the extra damage provided by this talent is now worth the cost.

This talent used to only apply to Fire spells. It now increases damage done by Fire, Frost, and Arcane spells, making it a very useful debuff to apply for every type of Mage. You will want one Mage with this spell in every raid you attend, and every other Mage and Warlock in the raid will want one as well, regardless of spec. Stacked 5 times, the debuff will increase damage done by those spell types by a flat 15% at max rank (the spell hasn't been updated yet on Wowhead, so the above tooltip is incorrect). That's sizable.

This is another talent that no longer sucks. Previously it only increased damage done to 3 or more targets by fire-based AoE spells. Now it applies to just about every AoE spell in a Mage's repertoire, including Blizzard (which means it will be possible for Blizzard's ticks to actually crit now, an exciting change all on its own). This is a nice AoE buff for every spec, and though the idea of being kings of AoE still doesn't precisely thrill me, this certainly helps it look slightly more appealing.

This is a brand new talent, and it's an interesting one. I don't know about you, but I don't use Flamestrike. It takes too long to cast, costs too much mana, and by the time you get it off, your targets have likely wandered out of its area of effect. This talent appears to be an attempt to make the spell more relevant. At max rank, it gives your Blast Wave and Dragon's Breath (both far more useful AoE spells) a 45% chance to make your next Flamestrike instant cast. That could potentially be quite devastating. It'll proc about every other time you use those two spells, which means in most fights you'll have the option of an instant cast Flamestrike or two. This has some fairly intriguing potential in PvP settings, as well as certain raid encounters. It should prove to be a noticeable upgrade to Mage AoE DPS, which again isn't all that exciting to me, but may be to you, and certainly bears out Blizzard's plan to make us the best at this particular aspect of the game.

Arcane Tree Changes

My personal favorite:


This was shoved into the spot previously occupied by Wand Specialization (which we shall never speak of again), and has been buffed slightly. It will still only be taken by PvP Mages for a bit of extra survivability, but maybe not even then. Even as a fairly dedicated PvP Mage myself, I'm still not sure I'm anywhere close to being willing to spend 3 talent points on converting 150% of my intellect into armor. Estimating a level 80 intellect stat of something around 900, that's a buff of 1350 armor. It'd be the equivalent of giving us two thirds of one piece of plate armor. Whee.

They've essentially added one more rank to this talent, meaning it will now reduce all damage taken by 6% and the fade-out time of Invisibility by 3 seconds at max rank. The major change here is that fully talented, this will make Invisibility instant. That's right, Mages, we finally have the spell we wanted. It won't ever be Stealth (which is the way it should remain), but it will be an instant aggro-drop, and an instant survivability talent, and completely awesome in Arenas. I'm very excited about this.

They seem to have moved this one around a bit, connecting it to Presence of Mind instead of Arcane Concentration, and also changed it to affect PoM in addition to Clearcasting. This may seem like a small change, but for a PoM-Pyro Mage, it is a substantial buff. An extra 30% chance to crit with my giant instant cast cannon macro? If you insist.

There are other changes, but I'll let you guys discuss them in the comments. These are the ones I found most intriguing, but I'm sure there are others that piqued your interest. What say you, my fellow squishies? Are we heading in the right direction? Are you concerned? Pleased? Am I right or wrong to be optimistic?

Talk it over, and let me know how we feel, guys. Next week we really will be talking about the Frost tree. I promise.

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'.

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