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Arcane Brilliance: Mage changes (or lack of) on the PTR

Christian Belt

Each week, Arcane Brilliance reports on Mages and the ever-changing game they inhabit. This week, Arcane Brilliance has discovered, before anybody else, a couple of notes from the next build of the PTR:

New spell: Anti-Anti-Magic Shell - Conjures a shell that makes a Mage's spells actually go through that cheap Death Knight Ability, Anti-Magic Shell, making it possible for a Mage to actually kill a Death Knight.

Death Knight:
New Spell: Anti-Anti-Anti-Magic Shell - Conjures a shell that counteracts the new Mage spell, Anti-Anti-Magic Shell.



Disclaimer: Arcane Brilliance is totally lying. These patch notes could not possibly be more fake. But Arcane Brilliance can hope, right?

When I posted the Mage changes on Tuesday night, I was hoping that as the week went on we'd get some new information, perhaps some clarification or updated patch notes. Though other classes have gotten those things, Mages have not. I was also hoping that perhaps I'd be able to get my Mage on the PTR to test some of this stuff out firsthand, but that hasn't happened either. I keep checking my empty PTR character list (on the rare occasion that I can actually log in and the servers are up) with my fingers crossed and my brow furrowed, willing my bald, undead buddy to show up there, to no avail. Maybe next week.

In the meantime, I'm stuck doing what I imagine 99.9% of the rest of are doing: waiting and wondering and scouring the interwebs for info. This patch is far from finished, with the testing process barely underway. Some of the changes announced so far won't make it live in their current form, if at all, and there are undoubtedly other changes to come in future PTR builds. Today I'd like to discuss what we were told to expect, what we actually got, and what we hope for, with as little wild, unsubstantiated guesswork as possible (Actual amount of wild, unsubstantiated guesswork may vary). Follow me through the jump, won't you?

What we were told

A few weeks back, Arcane Brilliance posted a list of things we'd been told to brace ourselves for in this patch. You can find the full column here. You can find a brief, conveniently bulleted list below.

What we we've been given so far

Three of those things are live on the PTR right now. Three of them are not. You'll find the complete list of documented and undocumented changes here.

We got the spirit nerf, as did every other class. 5-second-rule spirit regen was slashed by 40%, meaning that on the PTRs right now, your Mage would only be gaining back 60% of the mana from spirit that he currently does on the live realms.

The good news, though, is that we also got the buffs to our while-casting mana regen spell and talents to help even things out. Here's how it breaks down:

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you have some spirit, but not a ton, and certainly not enough to enable you to perform a high-kick or backflip on the sideline of a high-school football game. Your mana regen from the current spirit/intellect formula is in the vicinity of 200 per 5 seconds while out of combat. Assuming you have Mage Armor up and have taken Arcane Meditation or Pyromaniac, your mana regen from spirit while casting would be 60% of that 200 per 5 seconds, or 120.

If patch 3.1 were to go live this very instant, your mana regen out of combat would be reduced by 40%. It would be 120 mana per 5, the same as it would have been pre-patch while casting. The spirit-based mana regen allowed by Mage Armor and Pyromaniac/Arcane Meditation has been increased from 30% to 50% (making a total of 100% if you have both), meaning that your mana regen both in and out of combat is identical. You'll be gaining 120 mana per 5 whether you're casting or not.

So basically, I just spent 4 paragraphs explaining why the spirit nerf really hasn't changed anything at all, at least not for Mages. That's what I do, people. I state the obvious in as long-winded a way as humanly possible. Tune in next week for a detailed study on the connection between water and getting wet.

Edit: As pointed out by Xodin below, Blizzard hasn't buffed Glyph of Mage Armor to match the spirit nerf, so we are actually getting a bit of a nerf to our full potential mana regen. If you have the glyph, your mana regen is going down by 10%. If you don't, it isn't. Confused yet? Perhaps a future build will correct this oversight.

Frost Mages got their Replenishment, for better or worse. Improved Water Elemental is gone, and we have a new talent called Enduring Winter. This talent will be three ranks, and it will increase the duration of your Water Elemental by 5 seconds per rank, up to 15%, which is the same as it is now. The change is in the mana regen provided by the talent. Instead of the mana regen only happaneing while the elemental is up, the Replenishment effect will proc 33/66/100% on your Frostbolts, meaning that unless you've died or something, your Replenishment effect will be up pretty much constantly. Though there are already plenty of classes that are able to give Replenishment to the raid and these effects don't stack, this adds a nice bit of raid utility to Frost Mages, and appears to be a active attempt on Blizzard's part to make the spec more raid-viable. Overall, I'm calling this a positive change.

We got a few other changes. Arcane Blast's buff can't be dispelled, which is good but boring. Burnout reportedly now only affects Fire spells, but that change is one of those things that really doesn't alter anything in any measurable way.

We got Polymorph: Rabbit, a fun cosmetic change, but an easy target for those Mages who see this as a flimsy attempt at appeasement for a lack of real change. I can't argue with those Mages...I really can't. Oh well, I guess. All we can really do here is take the spell for what it is (sparkly new pixels) and not what it isn't (anything else).

We've gotten no word yet on how this spell is going to be available, but my money's on it being another silly money-sink, like Polymorph: Black Cat or Dalaran Intellect. I guess I just have trouble finding the need for another in-game way for players to say "Look at me! I have far more money than I know what to do with! Yay me!" I'm sure I'm not the only one. Here's hoping it's obtainable as a drop or achievement reward, or through a quest or something fun. If one of you commenters who has managed to make it onto the PTR knows, please do tell. If you tell us we have to buy it from a vendor in Dalaran for a thousand gold, I will sigh audibly.

We also got a nice number of significant glyph changes and brand new glyphs. Again, you can find the complete list here.

The change to Glyph of Ice Lance seems to be Blizzard's attempt at providing a compelling reason to use Ice Lance on a Fingers of Frost proc in PvE. It's a good reason, to be sure, but I hope this isn't the extent of their work on giving Frost Mages Ice Lance Shatter combos. As it stands now, with this glyph, Ice Lance becomes a perfectly viable option in PvE rotations, which is a distinct improvement for the spell.

Fire Mages should be excited about the new Glyph of Living Bomb, which allows the spell to crit with each tick. This is a good, crit-based DPS increase for a spec that is designed to crit with regularity and do tons of extra damage when those crits come.

Glyph of Arcane Barrage is a disappointing fix to a nerf that I still firmly believe was unnecessary. The spell doesn't do enough damage for the mana in PvE thanks to the spell coefficient nerf, but if you're willing to expend an entire major glyph slot, you can cut the mana cost down to match the damage. I guess the silver lining here is that while the damage nerf was 10%, the mana cost reduction is 20%. Whatever. I turn my nose up at this change. And I'll probably end up getting the glyph. Because I'm a sucker.

One of the new goodies I'm most anxious to try out on the PTR is Glyph of Mirror Image. I'm intrigued by the idea of my mirror images being able to apply a stackable Winter's Chill effect. This could potentially be a way to add some decent DPS to a spell that as of now has mostly defensive value. Will it add enough damage output to be worth a glyph slot? Not likely, but maybe.

Glyph of Ice Barrier is a good one, too. This one will almost certainly become a must for Frost Mages in PvP. It lets Ice Barrier absorb an additional 990 points of damage, which is significant. I anticipate this one going on my PvP dual spec gyph chart.

Frankly, as "meh" as I am about the Mage talent/spell changes, I have to admit I'm pretty stoked about some of the Mage glyph changes uncovered so far.

What we haven't gotten yet

Glyph of Ice Lance's new version doesn't equate to PvE "Ice Lance Shatter combos," at least not in the way I want it to. I hope there's still some fiddling being done with this mechanic. I'm not even sure what I want here, but I know this isn't quite it. Maybe after I see some actual numbers on this, I'll warm to it.

In other news, Fire Mages still have crappy survivability in PvP, and spirit is still neither "more useful" nor "interesting" for Mages. I await future PTR builds with optimism, but so far, neither of these promises has been addressed in any way, shape, or form. Let's hope they're still being spitballed in some Blizzard conference room or another.

Overall, Mages in 3.1 don't seem to be anywhere near a finished product. The changes so far are largely positive, but I think we all want a great deal more. I'm still waiting for something to get me truly excited about my class in this new patch, but hopefully that something is still on its way.

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'.

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