Arcane Brilliance: Q to the power of Q

Christian Belt
C. Belt|03.14.09

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Arcane Brilliance: Q to the power of Q

Each week Arcane Brilliance runs out of mana halfway through a column about Mages. Seriously, Arcane Brilliance is terrible at managing its mana. And then every time it Evocates, Arcane Brilliance manages to get interrupted before it gets any mana back. It really sucks. Yep, Arcane Brilliance spends a lot of time wanding. To be honest, Arcane Brilliance is probably about one more wipe away from getting kicked out of its guild. LTP, Arcane Brilliance...LTP.

I tried my best to be optimistic last week, to look at the changes to Fiery Payback and Impact (especially Impact) as semi-good things. The Fiery Payback-disarm effect will be marginally positive, I told myself, and at the very least, Impact being triggered by Fire Blast will make the spell less random and more controllable, right? We Mages get such a reputation for being whiners that I try to steer clear of pessimism as much as a can just to avoid being lumped in with that lame generalization. I try, and most of the time I fail, but I award myself an "A" for effort.

The comments section set me straight last week. Fire Mages are not happy with Blizzard's attempt at improving their survivability in PvP. You guys were brutally frank in your comments, and I have to admit that I see your point. Nobody likes dying, but as a Fire Mage you sort of expect it, similar to the way nobody likes getting tackled, but as a football player you know it comes with the territory. All Fire Mages want is to be able to dish out an acceptable amount of pain before they explode. In fact, a lot of you proposed the idea of allowing Fire Mages to literally explode upon death, making killing one a dangerous proposition. Several of you commented that this was a Fire Mage's idea of survivability, to die, but leave a smoking crater behind. Seriously, this is an idea I can get behind.

Here's the thing, though: If you weren't happy with the changes last week, you really aren't going to like the latest PTR build. Follow me through the break and we'll talk ourselves through the changes. I'll try to keep the tears to a minimum.

Mirror Image

Mirror Image has always been a buggy mess, but it was a buggy mess that I loved. It began life as a massive aggro drop, an offensive burst, a fantastic defensive spell, a random CC, and a huge helping of confusing, butt-kickety nonsense. Since then, it has seen nothing but nerfs. The DPS put out by your mirror images was nerfed to the point of rendering it negligible. The threat generated by summoning your copies was reduced drastically. The spell lost a lot of its luster, and became something of a novelty, really only living up to its potential in PvP and nowhere else.

Since the PTR started up, Mirror Image has seen still more changes. A glyph was added for it, giving it a bit more utility. It gave the Frostbolts cast by your mirror images the ability to apply the Winter's Chill effect, a 1% spell crit debuff on the target that could stack up to five times. The latest build of the PTR has actually upped this utility from 1% to 2%, meaning that when fully stacked, the effect increases the chance spells cast on the target will critically strike by 10%. That's a fair amount of utility to add to a spell that currently has a marginal amount of it in PvE, even if it will use up a major glyph slot to get it. I'm not saying the glyph is worth that slot, but it certainly gives us another option, especially in light of the upcoming nerfs to our other talents that apply a crit chance debuff. More on that later.

Blizzard giveth, and as we all know, Blizzard taketh away. I'd say the taketh lately has been a lot more prevalent than the giveth, but I'm a Mage, and everybody knows our two favorite letters are Q and Q. In fact, I can hardly stop crying long enough to kill Warlocks these days. On the bright side: I get thristy a lot, and my tears are, indeed, delicious.

The latest nerf to Mirror Image comes in PTR build 9684. Your mirror images will now no longer cast Polymorph. Admittedly, this ability was already far too random to count on, but it was a pretty cool bit of utility, especially in PvP. And now it's gone. Your copies will now be strictly DPS, casting only Fire Blast and Frostbolt.

My feeling here--and this is just my personal impression--is that Blizzard is sort of undecided when it comes to this spell. What do they want it to be used for? Is it a PvP spell or a PvE spell? Is it both? Is it meant to increase DPS, or provide utility, or be used for defensive purposes, or a mixture of all three? The CC component has now been completely removed, and the DPS is negligible. The glyph is interesting, but I get the feeling that most Mages won't want to sacrifice a more straightforward glyph for it, especially when you consider the fact that your copies die almost instantly in a great many boss fights.

I guess I'm just worried about this spell. I still love it, but I don't like what's happening to it. It could be so good, and I hate to see it go to waste. Let's hope that Blizzard hasn't tapped out their ideas for Mirror Image. I await future PTR builds with my fingers crossed.

Improved Scorch/Winter's Chill

And the nerf train keeps rolling. These buffs have been reduced by half, down from 2% extra crit chance per application to 1%, bringing them in line with similar debuffs applied by other classes. In case you hadn't noticed, Warlocks are getting their own version of this debuff, with a stacking crit chance effect being applied by Improved Shadow Bolt. This is yet another stop on the "bring the player not the class" express Blizzard seems to be so fond of these days. I figure we're only a patch or two away from Priests being able to equip plate and Death Knights being able to conjure food and water.

To be honest, I don't hate this change, and here's why: I always hated keeping that stupid Improved Scorch debuff up anyway. It was a pain, it took up a glyph slot if I wanted to maximize its effectiveness, and having to throw Scorch into my rotation hurt my DPS. Yes, I know I'm an Arcane Mage and don't actually have Improved Scorch at all. I was trying to walk a mile in your shoes, guys. I feel your pain. Seriously, though, if the Warlock can apply this debuff for us, I say we make him do it. We can put those talent points somewhere else, thank you very much.

One last note

I don't know if you saw this recent Ghostcrawler thread on the official forums in which he commented on the fact that Blizzard still plans to make spirit a useful stat for Mages, but if you didn't, you owe it to yourself to read through it. Go ahead...I'll wait.

Okay, do any of you have any idea what he's getting at here? Here's what I get from his posts:
  • Spirit becoming "more useful" is still in the plan.
  • This does not mean that it will give us spellpower, like it does with Boomkin, Shadow Priests, and Warlocks.
  • Blizzard wants Mages who avoid spirit and Mages who don't to be about equal in regards to DPS.
  • Spirit can't provide more DPS and more regen, or else it becomes "godly." Yes, indeed.
So what, in the name of all that is good and pure, do they plan to do with spirit? "Useful" does not equal more damage, apparently. So...for a DPS class, what does "useful" equal? More mana regen? But according to Ghostcrawler's posts, not having to worry about mana regen would be "god mode." I don't understand.

Maybe you guys can explain it to me. We were told that spirit would become a "more useful and interesting stat for all Mages." If it isn't going to increase our damage, and isn't going to increase our mana regen (beyond its already meager ability to do so), what is it going to do?

PTR build 9785

  • Spirit will now make your whites whiter, and eliminate static cling.
  • Spirit will also serve as a juicer, and make delicious french fries.
  • You can now exchange your spirit points for Arena points.
  • For a nominal fee, spirit will now babysit your kids while you go out to dinner.
  • Um....chicks dig spirit? Or something?

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent guide to gearing your Mage for Naxxramas, or our look at which stats are most important to Mages and why. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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