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Arcane Brilliance: Post-patch madness

Christian Belt

Each week Arcane Brilliance shows you what happens when Mages stop being polite and start being real. This week, Arcane Barrage gets all up in Living Bomb's face, and fireworks ensue when Hot Streak hooks up with Combustion. Can Netherwind Presence and Missile Barrage learn to live together? Will Arcane Blast come to terms with the fact that it got raped? Will Deep Freeze finally reveal that it has Aids? Find out in this week's Arcane Brilliance.

Anyone else's head spinning like that chick in The Exorcist? I'm not saying I need a priest to come and cast patch 3.0.2 out of my body or anything, I'm just saying that holy crap. That was a lot of stuff, all at once. Even though I've been playing the beta, and constantly scanning this site and various others for information to prepare myself for all that was changing when the patch finally went live, it was still overwhelming to log in when my server finally came back up late Tuesday night and see how crazy everything had gotten. To be quite honest, I'm still adjusting.

In a ton of ways, what we're logging into today is an entirely different game than the one we logged into five days ago, even though our levels are still the same, we're still doing the same quests, and playing the same end-game content. Our mounts are still there, but in a different place. The bosses we're fighting still look the same, but are now way easier to kill. Many of our talents have the same names, but now do completely different things. Spells that were previously good are now bad, and some that were useless on Monday are perfectly serviceable today.

With the information overload we've all been presented with, I have found it best to focus on one or two things at a time, instead of attempting any sort of larger view. I look at each change as I notice it, rather than trying to address them all at once, purely out of fear of my head exploding. If you missed them in all the chaos, Arcane Brilliance did a two-part preview of the major changes, and you can find those here and here. After the jump, I'll go over some of the sparkly newness I've noticed but haven't covered yet in this space, both documented changes that managed to surprise me as well as those that flew a bit more under-the-radar.

Hot Streak is awesome

This talent went through so many changes on the beta that by the time it became really good, I wasn't Fire-specced and didn't get to properly test it. It took me by surprise when I took it into an instance with my second attempt at a PvE Fire build (my first attempt took Living Bomb, which I will address farther down, and went into Frost for Elemental Precision, which I will also talk about later) and I realized that I was critting all the freaking time, I was never in any real danger of running out of mana, and my DPS was rock-solid. With a good tank (and all of the wonderful ways in which they can generate threat these days), the extra crits weren't pulling aggro, and life was pretty much as it should be.

This is a very effective talent. I'm still learning to watch for when it procs, but with a combat log mod of your choice set to alert you when it does proc, you should be alright. The Fire tree in general seems very well balanced. It flat-out dishes up damage in large, meaty chunks. One part of the tree that I haven't been impressed with, though...

Living Bomb is not this. It isn't terrible, I suppose. It is a fairly powerful AoE DoT, and is likely quite nice in Battlegrounds. The thing is, I simply haven't found a worthwhile use for it in PvE yet. It will probably be fun to have while leveling in Wrath, but for the next month, I'm just not seeing a viable purpose. The global cooldown and mana used casting this in a boss fight is really wasted at the moment. Why? Quite simply, it doesn't do enough damage yet. At higher ranks in the beta, this isn't quite as much of an issue, but I'd still like to see the damage of this spell raised across the board. If it isn't, the spell will go into the same category as Deep Freeze: a 51 point talent that isn't worth 51 talent points. The extra point is better spent right now on Focus Magic (more on this later).

Arcane Explosion is bigger?

It's entirely possible that I'm crazy. I'm not ruling it out. But I've seen a few scattered reports of similar experiences in various other places, so I'm just going to throw this out there.

Is Arcane Explosion bigger now? I never noticed this on the beta, but on the live servers it seems to be hitting things it never hit before. The radius seems to be significantly wider these days. I'm not complaining, mind you. If there's one thing I think we can all agree on, it's that explosions should be big. If I'm being stupid on this one, feel free to let me know.

Don't bother with Arcane Blast

Seriously, it sucks. The PvE Arcane build I'm tooling around with at the moment is this one, and I only use Arcane Blast when Presence of Mind comes off cooldown, to use it on something with a cast-time. In fact, I've tied it to a macro with PoM, and the spell by itself doesn't even warrant a spot on my action bar. The most effective spell rotation I've settled on is Arcane Barrage-->Arcane Missiles-->Arcane Barrage-->Arcane Missiles, with AB thrown in only when PoM is up, as I already said. It's sad, really. The class designers over at Blizzard didn't want us to spam AB anymore, and well, they got their wish. Their stated intent was to make it awesome to cast once, less awesome to cast a second time. Now I find it's best to not even cast it once. Thanks guys, really. I know the class tweaks are nowhere near finished, so I hold out hope for better days ahead for this spell. Sort of. Bleah.

Focus Magic is nice

Put it on somebody who casts quickly and crits often. My personal favorite is a Holy Paladin, but it also works well on an Elemental Shaman, Boomkin, or another Mage. Pick the best choice in your group and buff them, then watch them buff you. It's actually a kind of neat, unusual, synergistic mechanic. If you're solo, just throw it on any passing caster, and watch the buff pop up whenever your new friend crits. As far as I can tell, there's no range restriction on the buff. The extra crit is a substantial, sizable buff, and having it up on two casters is a large benefit to the group.

Threat? What threat?

I'm not even kidding. For the love of all that's good and pure, fire away guys. We've always dreamed of that bright day when we could just go into a fight, guns blazing, and not have to hold back out of fear that the large monster we were pew pewing at might happen to turn its head our direction. Even while DPSing with a deep fire build, seeing some ridiculous Hot Streak/Combustion crit chains, I haven't been in much danger of pulling aggro. Tanks can generate and hold threat so well at the moment that DPS can really let loose without fear for the first time in this game's history. You'll still want to watch your threat, just in case your tank isn't quite ready for the spotlight, or you get some truly ridiculous crit chains going or something, but you won't have to watch it nearly as much as you're used to.

Get Surefooted and eat some Spicy Hot Talbuk

I'm not even kidding. These two things have suddenly become incredibly useful to Mages. Need hit rating? Can't figure out how to fit Elemental Precision into your new build? Welcome to the alternative.

Before, finding a boot enchant as a caster was always kind of a waste of time. You could take your pick of a little bit of spirit, a smidge of mana per 5, or some stamina and a bit of foot-speed. Now we have a more valid choice. 10 hit rating is quite good, it comes with 10 crit rating as a bonus, and Surefooted is a relatively cheap enchant. Go get it. And if you still could use more hit rating, stock up on Spicy-Hot Talbuk. Go kill a herd or two in Nagrand and cook up some hit rating.

Glyphs are cool

It's likely that there are already a few capped out Inscriptors (Inscribers? Scribes? Inscriptographers? Glyph-bots?) on your server. Seek them out. Get some glyphs going. They're pretty cool.

Here are the ones we Mages currently have access to, as far as I can tell:

Glyph of Improved Scorch
Glyph of Frost Nova
Glyph of Ice Armor
Glyph of Icy Veins
Glyph of Ice Block
Glyph of Arcane Explosion
Glyph of Arcane Missiles
Glyph of Blink
Glyph of Evocation
Glyph of Mana Gem
Glyph of Mage Armor

There's a little something for everybody there, and you should be able to fill your three major glyph slots with useful things no matter your spec. Pick some up. There's literally no reason not to. Unlike Enchants, you'll never outgrow a glyph. Your Ice Block will always be your Ice Block, and you'll never replace your Mage Armor. There's absolutely no reason to wait on these. The mats are relatively cheap, and though the rarity of high-level Scribes currently might mean getting gouged a bit on prices, making your spells better is still worth it. My favorites right now are the glyphs for Mage Armor, Improved Scorch, and Mana Gem.

Change, it is a-coming.

I don't know if you've seen the latest beta build yet, but most of our most-used spells have been lowered in mana cost. Everything from Arcane Missiles to Fireball to Frostbolt and most spells in between have had their percentage of base mana cost reduced by an average of 2%. Living Bomb got a whopping 6% reduction, making it slightly more attractive, while Arcane Blast yet again got screwed, receiving a paltry 1% drop. Taken as a whole, this change is fantastic. Our mana situation at level 70 is excellent on live right now, but at 80 on the beta, it was unsightly. This is an excellent change, and should help us down the road quite a bit, especially if this change represents a trend.

Enjoy this month, guys. It'll continue to be a bit crazy, but I must admit it's been incredibly fun so far. My plan this week is to try out some PvP specs (now that I can actually get into a Battleground on my server) and see how we're stacking up in these last few weeks of level 70. I'll let you know how that goes.

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 how long your gear will last you in Northrend, or our analysis of the current state of the Mage class as we move into the new expansion. 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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