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Arcane Brilliance: Mages in the beta

Christian Belt

Each week, Arcane Brilliance conjured up a sizable serving of delicious Mage cookies for everyone to enjoy. This week, special thanks goes out to a very generous reader who wishes to remain anonymous, but was selfless enough to donate his beta key to Arcane Brilliance, for the the benefit of all who read it. To that wonderful reader, I say thank you, thank you, and every time I kill something, I will kill it in your name. When I Cannibalize the corpse, though, that's all for me.

Let me begin by saying the beta is awesome.

After six hours of downloading and installing, several more hours of patching, and approximately seventy-three different server crashes and shutdowns, I've been able to spend a solid four hours on the beta so far. In those four hours, I've respecced no less than 8 times. I've cast Living Bomb on rabbits on multiple occasions. I've gotten a whole two bars of the way to level 71. I've been impressed with or disappointed with but always amazed by almost everything I've seen and done. There's such an overwhelming sense of newness that pervades the entire experience, it's difficult to adequately describe.

Four hours may not be long enough to do a lot of things (I swear it took me like a half-hour to navigate from the top of the zeppelin platform at Vengeance Landing to the bottom), but in experimenting with the new talents I've had plenty of time to formulate some strong opinions. There are things I like, and thing I don't, but in both cases I'm almost embarrassingly excited.

Join me after the break for the all the highs and lows four hours can deliver, and I promise not to spoil any plot points. If you don't wish to find out which talents seem to work well and which don't then stay away, but otherwise you're safe.

Arcane Barrage

I like this.

I'm a fan of this spell, as anyone who might have seen that last Skill Mastery might already know. Just understand that I wrote that before I actually tried the thing out. Having spent a bit of face-time with this spell, I have to say that I like it even more. I've killed more than a few mobs by simply alternating this instant cast and its 3 second cooldown with Fire Blast or Arcane Missiles. It really is incredible how much damage it does for an instant cast spell, especially when you take into account the reasonable mana cost.

Deep Freeze
I also like this.

Whoa. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with this spell. Even after learning that they'd added damage to the stun effect, I wasn't entirely sold. I was mainly concerned that it wouldn't be available often enough, that frozen targets wouldn't be in a plentiful enough supply for the spell to be worth picking up at the very bottom of the Frost tree.

I was wrong, ok? With all of the new ways to freeze a target, you'll be able to use this spell at least once in every fight, and the only real downside is the lengthy cooldown, which is the only real limitation on how often you can use this. It does a very meaty amount of damage, especially when you consider that you'll only be using it on frozen targets, and it will be critting most of the time. You'll find yourself using this instead of Ice Lance as the capper on a lot of your Shatter combos, and then using the 5 second stun to refreeze the poor sod you're attacking and repeat the whole process. It increases your control, increases your DPS, lets you keep your opponent at bay almost indefinitely, and makes you feel suspiciously overpowered.

Improved Water Elemental
I'm sad.

This spell wasn't working at all before last night's new build was implemented. It works now, but has been hit pretty hard by the nerf stick. Yep, the big blue mana battery we were so excited about has been drained of much of its power in the latest build. It now only restores .6% of the raid's mana every 5 seconds. That isn't terrible, but isn't nearly as wondrous as it could have been. The mana gain, in practice, is still worthwhile, especially coming from a pet that already ups our DPS and adds to our control capabilities, but a nerf is a nerf.

The good news is that the spell is clearly still unfinished even now, as the range of the mana restoration effect is incredibly small. It won't work even at normal following range. To feel its effects, you have to tell the elemental to stay and then stand almost right on top of it. Here's hoping that when they revisit this spell they find it in their hearts to up the mana regen effect a bit. We all suspected it would be nerfed from its original description, but this seems like an overcorrection.

Living Bomb
I don't like this.

Wow, I have to say I was expecting a bit more from the knock-up effect. When a boss or mob knocks you into the air with one of their attacks, it's a devastating, powerful thing. You go high into the air, take fall damage, lose several seconds of cast-time, and the attack has a significant impact on the battle.

Not so with Living Bomb. The knock-up takes your opponent a good two or three feet into the air, then delivers them gently to the ground a beat later. You gain almost no real advantage with this. Your opponent would be interrupted in any spell they might have been casting when the effect went off, which is nice, but they never really get far enough away to stop attacking you, no extra damage is done, and you gain virtually no time or distance to escape. To make things worse, that final explosion doesn't even work in the new build more often than not. The 12 second duration frequently expires without so much as a whimper, let alone a bang.

The good news is that the spell does a decent, if not impressive, amount of damage. Each tick of the 12 second duration was doing about 500 damage for me, which makes it a pretty nice DoT spell, especially being instant cast. It's worth casting, but not nearly as good as the other 51 point Mage talents. If the final boom were a bit more explosive, I'd be a lot happier with the spell.

Prismatic Cloak

The 1 second fade-out on Invisibility feels, well, it feels like it only takes one second. And that, my fellow Mages, feels wonderful. An opponent's timing would have to be just about perfect in order to interrupt this. This is the Invisibility spell we should have had from the start. It's too bad we have to use up talent points deep in the Arcane tree to make it work the way it always should have.

Missile Barrage

I mentioned this in Skill Mastery earlier, but let me tell you why I like it so much. On paper, it doesn't sound like much. It certainly isn't anything as flashy-sounding as Living Bomb. But when it procs, and you let loose those 5 missiles in 2.5 seconds, and then follow it with an Arcane Barrage, it just looks and feels incredibly painful.

With the deep Arcane build I was using to try out the new Arcane talents, I would engage a mob by spamming Arcane Blast until Missile Barrage procced. I would then hit them with an Arcane Barrage, a 2.5 scond Arcane Missiles, and cap it with another Arcane Barrage if necessary. The proc generally only took two or three Arcane Blasts to go off, and the mob was pretty much dead in seconds.

A final note while I'm thinking of it:

Like many of you, I was underwhelmed when I learned of the new spells Mages would be getting in the expansion. We had nothing as exciting and new as a demon form, the ability to tame a Devilsaur, or wield a two-handed weapon in each hand. All of our new spells seemed to be repackaged versions of abilities we already had, and I simply wasn't very excited about that prospect.

As I've blissfully blasted my way through the new content, I've noticed something. Though not flashy, the new Mage spells almost universally carry with them a sense of power, a real feeling of weight and substance that truly makes you feel like you're dishing out pain. This, my friends, is what we have been missing throughout the Burning Crusade. In the beta, Mages feel powerful again. Our damage is high, our spells pack a punch, and we have multiple options to hurt things fast. Though it isn't perfect, and almost certainly still won't be when patch 3.0 hits the live servers, this is what we've asked for, what we've wanted for a very long time. We Mages covet power, and in the beta, it feels like we actually have it.

Next week we'll go over some build ideas to use when patch 3.0 hits, a few ways to integrate these new talents into the world we currently inhabit. Believe me when I say that everything we know is going to change for the better. I wasn't terribly excited before, but trust me, I am now.

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 analysis of the WotLK beta changes to the Arcane, Frost, and Fire trees. 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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