Arcane Brilliance: Living Bomb on the Patch 3.2 PTR is completely awesome

Christian Belt
C. Belt|07.05.09

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Arcane Brilliance: Living Bomb on the Patch 3.2 PTR is completely awesome
Each week Arcane Brilliance celebrates Independence Day in its own special way. Most people celebrate the 4th of July by setting off explosive devices of varying sizes. In similar fashion, Arcane Brilliance also enjoys blowing things up. The difference is that whereas most people tend to set off pretty fireworks, Arcane Brilliance prefers to cause Warlocks to explode. The result isn't nearly as pretty, but to Arcane Brilliance, it has its own very unique charm.

I don't know if you're trying out the patch 3.2 PTR or not, but if you are, you should go out and mess with Living Bomb. Like, right now. Go cast it on some things. That's right, I said things with an "s" on the end. As in plural. As in more than one thing. Watch those things burn to death simultaneously. Rejoice.

Yes, Blizzard's present to Mages on this day when the United States celebrates its Declaration of Independence from foreign rule is apparently the ability to blow up multiple targets with Living Bomb. On the PTR, you can now have Living Bomb up on as many targets as you can feasibly cast it on before its duration or your mana pool expires. The tooltip doesn't yet reflect the change, but Ghostcrawler has confirmed that this is not a bug, and that Blizzard is intentionally testing the idea.

How awesome would this change be? Read on after the break to hear my take on it, but let me just say that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not very awesome and 10 being more awesome than anything, this change would make the scale explode on a molecular level and then reform over billions of years into a new planet of awesome.

Why I'm excited:

Ok, maybe I'm overstating it a bit. If Living Bomb were to make it live as a multi-target spell, life as we know it is not going to end in a blazing ball of flame. The apocalypse will not be any more nigh than it currently is. The one true messiah is not going to descend from the sky and usher in a new age of peace and goodwill or anything of the sort. Still, this is a very fun change, and exactly the sort of thing I've been waiting to see happen for Mages ever since our last significant change, about thirty-seven patches ago, give or take.

A short list of things that will be 100% more awesome after this goes live than they are now:
In Ulduar alone, I can think of several other fights on which this could be a significant DPS increase (aside from the obvious and incredible implications it would have on Yogg):
Threat management is going to be an issue in some of these fights, to be sure (Thorim, I'm looking at you), but with some adjustments, these are all instances where this change would be a perfectly realistic PvE DPS buff.

But PvE is not the area where the new Living Bomb would really shine. That distinction belongs to PvP, in no uncertain terms. Fire has never been the PvP spec of choice for Mages, but this change will make it far more attractive. It still isn't going to be a respected upper-echelon Arena spec, but the havoc it could potentially wreak in open combat situations, like Wintergrasp or the battlegrounds, would be spectacular.

Picture the following scenarios:

Wintergrasp courtyard. A huge pile of the opposing faction's players stacked up in front of the door to the relic. A Living Bomb for each of them.

Alterac Valley. Defending Galv or Balinda. How many Living Bombs can you put on folks before they notice you?

5v5 Arena. 5 Mages on a single team. Each casts Mirror Image. Living Bombs all around. Chaos ensues.

Take any of those situations, now add in the following detail: There's a Priest there, and he throws out a Mass Dispel. Everybody explodes. At once. It would be a chain reaction of awesome.

The possibilities are literally mind-blowing. My mind is physically blown, oozing from my ears in a slow greyish trickle, just thinking about it. On the PTR, I threw it up on four target dummies simultaneously and just giggled as the damage ticked off.

Why I'm worried:

Ok, now I think we're all probably concerned about the same things here: is this overpowered, and what are the chances it will actually make it live anyway? The answers will come through testing, which is why this is coming in an early PTR build, and hasn't been documented yet. Blizzard wants to see how this works, and frankly, so do I. Is this going to be pre-Wrath Seed of Corruption all over again? Or can it simply be a highly effective, incredibly fun AoE option for a class that has always been known for it's AoE capabilities (but has recently fallen off the map a bit in that regard). I'm not looking for a change that results in game balance being thrown off.

The major worry I have here, and the area in which the spell runs the greatest risk of being overpowered, is how it will test in PvP. The above scenarios, while sounding incredibly cool to me as a Mage, could end up being potential deal-breakers. I would hate to see an option with such interesting PvE applications be neutered because it throws off PvP balance, but that would hardly be the first (or even the hundredth) time we've seen that happen in this game. I would suggest having Blizzard change the spell to function differently on players than it does on NPCs, but the design team has already shown a pronounced hesitance to design any significant separation of the two major aspects of this game. We can only hope that no major exploits arise that would nix the change, and that the above legitimate scenarios don't prove to be as crazy as they are in my imagination.

My suspicion is that mana will end up being the great equalizer here. Living Bomb is already a fairly costly spell; spamming it, especially in longer encounters, is probably prohibitive. Will the high mana concerns be significant enough to be an effective check on the spell? We'll have to wait and see, I guess.

My other worry here is that Blizzard decides to otherwise nerf our DPS, or the DPS of Living Bomb itself, to counteract the change. This would be a terrible idea, but not out of the realm of possibility. I'd rather not have the change at all if the designers feel like Mages would need to be nerfed in some fashion to make up for the buff.

Here's why I insist it won't be a problem:

  1. I'm a Mage
  2. It's fun to think about the whole "5 Mages on an Arena team casting Mirror Image and spamming Living Bomb" idea, but in reality, this would be a gimmick comp and more than likely an easily countered flash in the pan if anybody tried it.
  3. Without someone to trigger a chain of explosions by dispelling the Living Bombs, the spell is basically a single-target DoT, castable on multiple targets at once. This would be no more or less deadly than other DoT spells in actual practice.
  4. The whole prohibitive mana cost in long fights thing. There's a reason Mages who run around spamming Arcane Explosion and such run out of mana fast. Spamming AoE simply isn't a sustainable strategy.
  5. Probably a whole slew of issues I'm not thinking of right now.
Overall, I feel that this is a step in the right direction for Mages. Our abilities have always been focused on two areas: Strong short-term AoE capabilites, and strong sustainable single-target DPS. The Living Bomb change will allow us to do damage to multiple targets at once without crippling our single-target DPS, something other classes can do, but we've never really had options for before. Plus, this is a 51 point talent. Those should be good, and anything that makes this one better is something I'm in favor of. Now if only Deep Freeze did damage again...

What do you think, guys? Excited? Concerned? Ambivalent? Also, I'm setting the over-under for "number of times someone accuses me of somehow getting this change nerfed by posting about it on" at 37. I'm taking the over.

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent three-part guide to PvP for each Mage spec, or our look at what hit rating means to Mages. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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