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Arcane Brilliance: More questions than answers

Christian Belt

Each week Arcane Brilliance endeavors to bring you all the latest news and notes from the land of Mages. This week, the subject is questions and the answers they conjure forth. The way it works is this: you wiggle your fingers for a while, ask some questions, and then poof! Blizzard gives you a cinnamon roll and a glass of water and sends you on your way.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, really, when Blizzard proposed this whole "class Q&A" series over on the official forums. When the initial post showed up, asking us to pose questions of the development team, Mages everywhere seized the opportunity to air grievances, request clarification, and make suggestions. The thread quickly swelled to epic proportions, and I waited, intensely curious, for Ghostcrawler's response. How many of our questions would be answered, and in how much detail? How much concrete information would we get? Which of the issues raised in the thread would be addressed, instead of just glossed over?

We got our answer post last week, and it turns out the answer to almost all of those questions appears to be: "Not a whole lot."

Join me after the break where we'll break it down Hammer-style.

In the interest of space, I'm going to condense the wall of text the development team gave us down into discreet bullet points, and then comment on each one.

  • Blizzard is pleased with Mages as a class. "By and large, the class works."
Ghostcrawler spends several paragraphs in the post spent basically congratulating the development team on a job well done with Mages. As the recent lack of any significant changes to our class signifies, Blizzard thinks we're good, and doesn't much care whether we agree.
  • They no longer consider us the premiere AoE class, and in fact no longer consider that particular role a very desirable one for any class. "That's not a great niche for anyone."
Finally. This was a role we never wanted, and it always irked me when Blizzard would use our status as "AoE kings" to console us when Warlocks, Hunters, Rogues, Resto Druids, Mountain Dew Battle Bots, and level 1 kobolds in Elwynn Forest were out-DPSing us in raids. It's good to see them abandon the concept.
  • Mages and Warlocks are more similar than Blizzard would like, but the plan is to move Warlocks farther away, because Mages are in a good place right now. "Warlocks suck hard."
Cough. Okay, so I'm paraphrasing a little on that quote. But only a little. It's exciting to me to finally hear Blizzard admit this is a problem, because it's something I've long resented. In fact, it may have something to do with my deep-seated Warlock hate.

Mages and Warlocks are both cloth-wearing, pure ranged DPS caster classes. We use the same gear, die in raids just as quickly, and both hurl balls of flaming death for similar results, DPS-wise. The differences are largely aesthetic -- we do more direct damage, they do more DoT-based damage... they have pets, we, um, make food...they can turn health into mana, we just run out of mana... it's not exactly night and day we're talking about here.

While I'm all in favor of our classes moving farther away from each other, I'm not so keen on the whole "Mages are fine, let's fix Warlocks" vibe they're giving off there. Mages have issues that need to be put right, and though I am largely satisfied with the overall concept of the class, we still need some work. By all means, screw around with Warlocks. But don't sit on your hands when it comes to Mages.
  • Mage itemization isn't good. "Mages are being asked to focus too much on some stats."
This is a huge issue, and while it's nice that Ghostcrawler didn't ignore it completely, he also offered very little by way of solution. The drops in Ulduar are frequently questionable sidegrades at best for many Mages over the stuff we already have from Naxx, and the stats these items are stacked with often make a potentially nice piece undesirable to certain specs. Though he stated that the design team wants to make all specs value the same stats, I simply don't see that happening anytime soon. It's a nice idea -- that a Frost Mage and a Fire Mage would want the same items -- but it would require a pretty major overhaul in the mechanics of how those two specs work. I'm not holding my breath here.
  • Robes vs. Tunics: we don't care. "This is not a huge priority for us at this time."
Ah yes, the age old conundrum of Robes vs. Tunics and NOBODY CARES ABOUT THIS CRAP. I'm glad it isn't a priority for you. It isn't a priority for anybody. Thank you for spending an entire paragraph discussing it, though, instead of, you know, answering a different question.
  • The Blizzard design philosophy is that DPS classes generally have enough mana, while healers have to spend time managing theirs (?). "If you are being reasonable about what you're should have enough mana."
Hoo boy. Anybody else feel kinda angry about this answer? Essentially, in Blizzard's eyes, if you are a Mage, and you are running out of mana, you aren't being reasonable. Stop sucking so much. L2P, noobs.

There's a reason mana efficiency is the single biggest issue Mages asked about when given the opportunity to do so. It's because we run out of mana. A lot. We run out of mana, and then we use Evocation like we're supposed to, and we get smacked by some random AoE damage the second we start to channel it, and poof, we're wanding for the next two minutes or longer. Though skill and knowledge of the best times to evocate in certain fights is certainly a factor, there are times even with careful planning that Mages get screwed out of their mana. It's a design problem, and needs to be dealt with.

Ghostcrawler then goes on to say that Blizzard is most likely to simply reduce the mana cost of the main Mage nukes, which is a good idea and needs to be done, like, now. It won't completely solve the problem, but it's a start. And then fix Evocate. That'd be an even better start.
  • The mana cost of Mage AoE spells is pretty much where Blizzard wants it. "It's close."
I'm not really going to disagree here. To be honest, I'm just not that concerned about AoE capabilities. Ours are fine. We're not the best at it, but I never wanted to be anyway.
  • Spell Steal isn't working the way Blizzard wants it to. "We have considered a glyph to let Spell Steal take two buffs at a time."
Tremendous idea. Simply marvelous. Or, just change the spell to do that right out of the box. The last thing we need is another mandatory PvP glyph. Spell Steal costs a ton of mana, and more often than not steals something totally useless. The idea of only having it steal buffs that are useful to the Mage is a decent one, too, but still doesn't quite make the spell worthwhile. Something needs to change, because this is and always has been a spell that could be awesome but isn't. Invisibility used to fall into this same category, and Blizzard seems to be doing a good job fixing that spell. Fixing Spell Steal would be another nice change.
  • "Arcane is a little bloated."
...But we aren't going to do anything about it. At least, Ghostcrawler isn't comitting to any changes in this post. He mentions that Arcane Mages aren't alone in having a bloated, unwieldy, and clumsily designed talent if that makes it okay for the tree to be that way. It doesn't. The first step, Blizzard, is to reduce the points each of these talents require. For instance: Arcane Mind could cost 3 talent points instead of 5. I'm just saying. This isn't a difficult fix. Just sit down with the talent tree and reduce the total number of points in the tree. Bring a picnic basket. You can make an afternoon of it. It'll be fun.
  • Blizzard is fine with Torment the Weak being a talent other specs feel compelled to spec into Arcane to get. "It doesn't strike us as wierd that Frost or Fire would subspec into Arcane."
Yeah, but the only reason to do so is to get this one specific talent. That's 18 talent points gone to get one DPS increase. Should any talent really be that valuable to other specs? I'm not saying TTW should be made less awesome. Nobody wants that. I am saying that it's a huge expenditure to get it, and it would be better for everyone if that cost were lowered. Move it down in the tree. Then unbloat the Arcane tree, so Arcane Mages can actually afford to go into one of the other trees to increase their DPS too. Can you imagine actually having 18 points to spend in the Fire or Arcane tree, Arcane Mages? Can you? That would be glorious.
  • Fire Mages being viable in PvP is something Blizzard would like to do, but is absolutely not a priority. "It is more important to us though to fix classes that have no viable specs than it is to bring options to classes that already have a reasonable Arena presence."
So... up yours, Fire Mages. Seriously, though, I can understand this philosophy, even if I can't totally agree with it. Is the design team really stretched so thin that they can't focus both on making Warlocks and Hunters more viable and doing the same thing for Fire Mages? If so, I'd like to to offer my services. I can't program code, have no experience, and I know nothing about anything game-design related, but I have a lot of pluck and initiative. Where do I apply?
  • Threat-generation for Fire Mages is a concern. "Threat-generation is a concern."
Good to know. Ghostcrawler throws out two suggestions: Improve Invisibility (being done in the next patch), and using Mirror Image as a threat dump (ridiculous). Mirror Image doesn't work that way; its threat reduction utility is minor at best. Ghostcrawler has since realized this, and hopefully will fix the spell to do what he thought it already did. Since that would be really cool, and would make a fairly gimmicky level 80 spell useful.
  • The development team would still like to make Frost PvE viable, but don't know how to do it. "We'd like to buff Frost through Ice Lance."
But to do so, Ghostcrawler says they'd have to buff it "by x6 or something ridiculous like that." Yeesh. So I guess we're out of ideas, then? Oh well, it was worth a shot. Wait...there are other ideas?
  1. Permanent Water Elemental
  2. Buffing Glyph of Frostbolt's damage increase
  3. Making it possible to put freeze status on bosses more frequently
  4. Giving Deep Freeze a PvE application
  5. Having Shatter affect Ice Lance by a larger percentage than it currently does
Just... something. There are a lot of options. Pick a couple and run with them. Let us hash out the problems on the PTR, and adjust accordingly. PvE Frost needs some help, and we don't want to have to wait two or three more patches down the road to get it.
  • Mages can apparently fix Blink by reporting every time it doesn't work and where on the Bug Report forum. "Anywhere there is a change in terrain, such as entering a building, could be problematic."
Let's do this. I'm keeping a notebook near me when I play from now on, and a pencil handy. I'm writing down every time this stupid spell craps out on me, and then I'm going to report it until they get so sick of me they have to ban me from the forums. Join me! Together we will... probably accomplish nothing. But hey! At least we'll feel like we're part of the solution, right? Or whatever. Here's the link. Go forth, fail at Blinking, and report your findings!

And... that's it. That's what we got. It certainly wasn't a lot of information, and the information we got was more on the general philosophy side of things. We have a better handle now than we did before on what Blizzard wants for Mages, and that's nice to know, I guess. Essentially, here's what the Mage Q&A boils down to:
  • Mages are fine.
Well, okay then. The general feeling I get here -- and I doubt I'm alone in this -- is one of mild disappointment. We're not fine. We have a lot of problems. These problems can be fixed. We saw this Q&A as a good opportunity to voice some of these concerns, and though the development team did address a number of our concerns, we got almost nothing in the way of actual constructive solutions. Here's hoping there's more going on behind the scenes than this Q&A post would lead us to believe.

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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