In a nutshell, the dual spec system will allow us to create two different talent specs for our Mages once they've reached level 80 and paid a one-time, as-of-yet-unspecified fee to a trainer. We will be able to switch between these specs pretty much at will, at a Lexicon of Power in town and via a Scribe-created one in raids and elsewhere. The switch should be relatively hassle-free since hotbars and glyphs will be saved along with each spec.
What you choose to do with your extra spec will largely depend on what you like to do with your time in-game. Hardcore raiders will likely take two DPS specs that complement different group compositions or are tailored for different kinds of encounters. PvPers may take a spec for Battleground combat and one that fits their Arena comp. Those who like a spot of PvP with their raiding may set up a durable Frost spec and offset it with a lean, mean Frostfire build. Still others may have a build they take for questing/soloing, and one for PvE or PvP. There are a million possibilities, and Mages are a pure DPS class. If I were a Druid or something, I think my head might explode.
It would be frankly impossible to list all of the possible combinations here, so I'll limit myself to the options I personally find most intriguing. No doubt you will all be able to think of your own dream combos, but maybe these will help give you a jumping-off point as you plan for patch 3.1.
Frost 20/0/51 + Frostfire 0/51/18 (+2)
This is a best-of-both-worlds kind of thing. You get the classic awesomeness of the Frost/Arcane PvP build for Arena and Battlegrounds, and can switch out to the incredible single-target DPS of the Frostfire build for raids.
Arcane 55/16/0 + Fire 20/51/0
Here you have the flexibility and (slightly nerfed) burst damage capability of Arcane in PvP, but can swap out for the pure punch a deep Fire build with Torment the Weak. Make sure there's somebody in your raid keeping slowing effects up on the boss (and with just about any group, there are going to be several snares up pretty much constantly), and this spec can rival Frostfire for single-target DPS in the hands of a skilled Mage.
Fire 0/56/15 + Frost 18/0/53
I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong! The Fire spec here is for PvP, and the Frost build is for PvE! Crazy! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria!
As several commenters pointed out in Arcane Brilliance's glyphs column, I often neglect to recognize Fire as a viable PvP option. That's because as the game is presently constituted, in most cases it simply isn't. The survivability just isn't there. On the other hand, Frost is often overlooked as a viable PvE spec because other specs can outpace it in the DPS department.
The reason I list these two much-maligned specs together now is because once patch 3.1 hits, all of that could very well change. All we have right now are vague promises, but if Blizzard finds a way to successfully implement their ideas for "more survivability" for Fire Mages and "Ice Lance 'Shatter combos' in PvE" for Frost Mages, both of these builds could be very interesting in the near future. I for one can't wait to see how this shapes up.
Though it's tempting to use this new system to take two wildly different specs, a lot of you may find yourself taking two builds that only vary by a few points. For raiding Mages, this might be done to maximize DPS with very small situational tweaks in the build.
Frostfire 0/53/18 + Frostfire 0/53/18
For example, you might use the first build most of the time, but switch to the second in groups where another Mage has the Improved Scorch debuff covered, to gain AoE options without sacrificing any DPS.
You could do similar things with a Fire, Frost or Arcane spec, making small alterations depending on your group's needs, but keeping an optimal spec for situations where the group makeup isn't what you're used to.
Arcane 56/3/11 (+1) + Arcane 57/3/11
The only change here is taking a point away from Student of the Mind in order to take the massive extra resistances of Magic Absorption for encounters where a great deal of AoE spell damage is dished out. It's just an example of how a small change could help from encounter to encounter. Of course, if Blizzard follows through on their desire to make spirit a more interesting and useful stat for Mages, Student of the Mind may be the last talent you'd want to take points away from. Ah...vague promises...how you scare the living crap out of me.
Still other Mages may find it more useful to use that second slot for a dedicated talent/glyph setup that helps them do the things they tend to do alone. You could use a flat DPS build like Frostfire 0/53/18 and swap it for an AoE grinding build like Frost 0/0/71.
The dedicated PvP player might want a different spec for the open, large-scale combat found in Wintergrasp or the various Battlegrounds than the one they take into Arena combat. I know I would, and I'm not even that dedicated.
Arcane 55/16/0 + Fire 0/68/3
Here, you might take the awesomeness of Arcane for your 5v5 Arena team, and the blowupability of the Fire spec for the sole purpose of wading into crowds in the Wintergrasp courtyard while you've got Tenacity and vaporizing them all like a tiny, squishy nuclear warhead. Yes, "blowupability" is a word. Says me.
Frankly, I could go on all day. There are combinations upon combinations floating about inside my head, running into each other and splitting like amoebas into still more combinations. I'm sure my respeccing bills will go up significantly for the first few weeks of the patch, but oh, the fun I'll have!
We haven't even talked about glyphs. Holy crap...two sets of glyphs. Finally I can stop hiding my forbidden love for Glyph of Evocation because it's not a "raiding glyph," or whatever. It's going to be on my second build's glyph set, I'm going to totally make out with it in public, and I don't care who sees!
The sheer flexibility of having easy access to two specs, two hotbars, two sets of gear, and two sets of glyphs simply boggles my mind. What are your plans, fellow Mages?
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 glyphs to pick for each spec. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.