Arcane Brilliance: I still don't like spirit

Christian Belt
C. Belt|03.21.09

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Arcane Brilliance: I still don't like spirit

Each week Arcane Brilliance delivers a column about Mages to you, and you, in turn, deliver Mages to the column. Thank you, Mages. Some of you deliver Warlocks to the column. Screw you, Warlocks.

Wow. Just a warning: I got done watching the series finale of Battlestar Galactica like 5 minutes ago, and I cried like a little girl like 12 times throughout. I'll try to keep it together long enough to successfully complete this column, but holy crap. That was some pretty stirring stuff right there. Let it be known that I'm not too big a nerd to completely lose it during the final episode of BSG. Wait...maybe that actually makes me a bigger nerd? I don't know. I'd like to think there are bigger dorks than me out there, and they're probably twittering about plot holes and scientific inaccuracies and how Ron Moore is the antichrist or whatever as we speak. At least I'm not doing that. I'm bawling like a baby, but I'm not nerd-raging about a sci-fi show on the interwebs, right? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to write a column about the latest nerfs to the Mage class in World of Warcraft.

Seriously, patch 3.1 can't come soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. You know why? Because when it arrives, it'll mean Blizzard is finally done nerfing us.

Now, granted, Mages on the live servers are definitely on the good side of the class-balance pendulum right now, so it makes a certain amount of sense, given Blizzard's never-ending quest to make everything in the game identical, that we were going to see a few nerfs. Knowing that doesn't make watching it happen any more fun. It's sort of like having a gangrenous limb amputated, only having to be fully awake throughout the operation, and having it take place bit by bit over the course of several months. For frak's sake, just knock us out and don't wake us 'til it's over. You can find the details on this week's chopping--along with my feelings on it--after the break. Bring some novocain, won't you?

Here are the skill changes the latest PTR build has brought us:

  • Molten Armor now causes 170 Fire damage when hit for all ranks (Up from 75/130/170) and also increases your critical strike rating by 25% of your spirit.
  • Improved Scorch now increases spell critical strike chance against the target by 1%.
  • Winter's Chill now increases the chance spells will critically hit the target by 1%. (Down from 2%)
Since we already knew about the changes to Winter's Chill and Improved Scorch (and went over them in last week's column), I won't belabor those particular points anymore here. The change that concerns me here is the one to Molten Armor. The glyph for this spell has been similarly altered, and we'll talk about it further down.

So on the PTR, instead of the flat 3% crit increase we currently enjoy from this spell, we now gain 25% of our spirit as crit rating. Everything else about the spell remains essentially unchanged; we still get a 5% defense from critical strikes from it, and it still does 170 fire damage to attackers. Interestingly, this holds true for all ranks, meaning that all three ranks of the spell are absolutely identical on the PTR right now, leading me to believe Blizzard isn't quite done tinkering with it yet. My guess is that we'll see this spell reduced to a single rank before all is said and done.

How does all this break down? Well, for the majority of Mages, this will be a nerf. For those who have advanced deep into the current end-game content, it will be a small buff. If you have more than 550 spirit while fully buffed, your Molten Armor will provide you with a higher crit percentage after the patch than it does now. If you do not have that much, your crit percentage will go down. If you have Glyph of Molten Armor, the numbers are slightly worse. More on that in a minute.

Mages who have cleared a significant amount of the current raid content will likely have a high enough number in the spirit category that they'll gain crit percentage with this change. Mages who haven't, or who have itemized away from spirit, will suddenly discover that a stat they didn't need before is now necessary.

Now, not every Mage uses Molten Armor. A significant number of Arcane Mages raid with Mage Armor up, and a lot of Mages stick with Ice Armor in PvP. But for pure DPS purposes, assuming that mana regen isn't a huge issue, Molten Armor is the best armor spell we've got at the moment. This is a significant nerf to a lot of Mages.

The positive way to look at this is that now the spell will scale, and since almost every piece of gear we pick up in Northrend is lousy with spirit, this spell will become pretty good after awhile. A couple expansions from now, Molten Armor will be pretty crazy, right? I like that idea, I really do.

Here's what I don't like: spirit. Spirit sucks. It's a stat that other classes need, but Mages really don't. Only now we really do. Instead of finding a way to make it a more "interesting and useful" stat for Mages, Blizzard has tethered it to a buff that already works, made that spell's effectiveness dependent upon how much of it we have, and essentially forced us to stop avoiding it. In essence, Blizzard has had the following conversation with Mages (For no explainable reason, I've substituted the word "pie" for "spirit," but I think the analogy is still valid):

Blizzard: "You don't like pie?"

Mages: "Not really."

Blizzard: "How can you not like pie?"

Mages: "We just don't like it that much. It's cool, though...Priests like it a lot. Go give it to them."

Blizzard: "But we want you to like it, too. Ok...we'll make pie better."

Mages: "Whatever."

Blizzard: -slips something into Mages' drinks-

Mages: "I don't feel so good..."

Some time later:

Mages: "...What the...where are we? What have you done to us? Seriously, this is creepy."

Blizzard: "We patched you. You're gonna love pie now."

Mages: "Why would we...oh holy crap guys. Our Molten Armor doesn't work anymore."

Blizzard: "No, it totally does...if you have a bunch of pie. See what we did there?"

Mages: "Yup. Fantastic. Give me that pie, I guess."

So, yeah. Now we all like pie spirit. Whether we want to or not. Well played, Blizzard.

Glyph changes in PTR build 9704
  • Glyph of Molten Armor -- Your Molten Armor grants an additional 15% of your spirit as critical strike rating. (Old - Your Molten Armor spell grants an additional 2% critical strike chance.)
  • Glyph of Mirror Image -- Your Mirror Image spell now creates a 4th copy. (Old - Your Mirror Images gain the Winter's Chill talent, granting their Frostbolt spell a 100% chance to apply the Winter's Chill effect, which increases the chance spells will critically hit the target by 2% for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times.)
The change to Molten Armor's glyph simply brings it in line with the change to the spell itself. The problem is that even with 550 spirit--which is enough to make Molten Armor grant you 3% crit at level 80--the change to the glyph is still a nerf. The glyph, at 550 spirit, will give you an extra 1.8% crit. It gives 2% now. If you commonly raid with Molten Armor and use the spell's glyph, you will need 574 spirit in order to avoid losing crit percentage.

It also looks like they're still monkeying with the new glyph for Mirror Image. The previous Winter's Chill application is gone, replaced by the spell conjuring four copies instead of three. I'm okay with this, I guess. No sense in crying over losing something we never really had anyway, right? This is a new glyph, and Blizzard just hasn't figured out what they want to do with it yet.

I've always been a proponent of more me, so a fourth copy of myself is an idea I can support. In practice, I'm not really sure what kind of impact this will have. Theoretically, the DPS of the spell increases by a third when you add a fourth copy casting the same spells, but that's assuming the new guy manages to not wander off and attack some random mob, or get himself killed, or something. If we've learned anything from Michael Keaton's masterwork, Multiplicity, it's that a copy of a copy is never a good idea.

That's fine, but the spell's DPS--and really, its PvE viability altogether--is dubious at best anyway. Mirror Image really only shines in PvP, and if you're going to use a glyph slot on it, that glyph should probably be PvP-centered. Having a fourth copy will help in PvP, but not enough to warrant the slot, in my own, humble opinion. A fourth copy makes it slightly more confusing for your opponent to find you while the spell's active, and provides a marginal amount of extra damage. Those are both good things, to be sure, but not really glyph-worthy. We'll see if this is the final version of the glyph, or if further testing prompts another change.

Before I end, let me link you to a recent post from Ghostcrawler in which he answers a lot of questions Mages commonly have right now, to varying degrees of my own personal satisfaction. I won't comment much on it right now, other than to recommend that you all read through his posts in this thread and let me know what you think. Do his answers do anything for you? Comfort? Worry? Joy? Nerd-rage? Sudden urge to play Warhammer?

If anything comforts me, it is this: if you count up the major class changes listed on the latest official PTR patch notes, Death Knights have the most with 57, followed closely by Hunters, Paladins, Priests, and Warlocks, whose changes all number in the 40's. Mages are dead last, with a whopping 9 changes total.

There are several ways we can choose to look at this. The way I choose is this: Warlocks are way more broken than Mages. As a class, we're still on the back-burner. Blizzard isn't even really working on Mages yet. Maybe this just isn't our patch. Blizzard is too busy with other classes, and when they get to Mages, we'll see some positive change. Maybe. Bring on patch 3.2, please.

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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