Arcane Brilliance: Beta wishlist

Christian Belt
C. Belt|07.17.10

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Arcane Brilliance: Beta wishlist
It's time again for Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that would like you to know that yes, that is a screenshot from the Cataclysm beta, and yes that's a lowbie goblin mage. Also, the goblin on the right is Fizz Lighter, the goblin mage trainer. He's eternally flinging Fireballs at the goblin on the left, Evol Fingers, the goblin warlock trainer. The dirty lock is returning fire with an endless string of Shadowbolts. Even in screenshots, it's truly the most epic thing ever. I can't wait to see it live. And to assist Fizz with my own barrage of Fireballs. Stinking warlocks.

It's incredibly difficult for me to write about the beta for two reasons:
  1. I'm not in the beta.
  2. Anything I write about today is very well going to be completely different tomorrow. Or gone entirely.
So you can see my problem. I have been playing with the new 31-point talent trees almost non-stop since they were revealed. Like the crazed wizard I am, I have cobbled together approximately a billion different specs, molding them into vaguely humanoid shape and granting them life, then sending them forth to do my bidding. I call them "talent golems." I do this because I am a nerd.

Unfortunately, the next beta build will, in all likelihood, blow all of my precious creations up completely. This means that writing any sort of in-depth analysis at this point amounts to a bit of a mental merry-go-round. It's fun while it lasts, but you always end up back where you started.

So instead of wasting your time with a long diatribe on things which may or may not ever see the light of the live realms, I choose to waste it in a different way.

Here's the game-plan. I'll be listing the things I see right now that I want to keep, and the things that I want to change during this whole beta testing process. Not that I think anybody with influence over at Blizzard pays any attention to what I write, but there's always that tiny hope.

My Beta Wishlist

by Arcane Brilliance

illustrations by Larry Elmore*

music by Yuzo Koshiro**

* Just kidding--Yuzo Koshiro and Larry Elmore are too busy being awesome to be here. Still, it's a wishlist. Wishes are fun.

** While we're mentioning Yuzo the great, have you seen his wikipedia page? I mean, this is the guy who did the tunes for Legacy of the Wizard, for crying out loud! Legacy of the freaking Wizard! Also ... Y's I and II ... the Streets of Rage series ... and more recently the awesome retro sweetness of the Etrian Odyssey games ... how can one man be so awesome? I'm thinking some sort of demonic pact had to be involved. Satan must own the deed to Yuzo's soul. That's the only explanation I will accept.

First Wish: Improved Polymorph must make it through in some form

We've already seen it change -- and not, in my opinion, for the better. It began as a talent that would allow the caster to queue up 3 seconds worth of damage on the sheeped target before the sheep broke, at which time the damage would all be applied at once. It was awesome for soloing, provided a PvE buffer against our own stupidity, and was absolutely phenomenal in PvP. Probably too phenomenal, actually, which was why it was polymorphed (hehe) into its current beta incarnation: The spell now applies a 3-second stun to any sheep target that's hit by damage. It's not what it was, but it still works for me. This talent is too awesome to lose. I'll take a slightly better balanced version if it means I don't lose it altogether.

The basic concepts I want this talent to communicate when all is said and done are thus:
  1. Stupidity protection against sheep-breakage, preferably for any inadvertent damage, not just that of the mage
  2. Added PvP control on those we sheep. I want more options for a sheep target than just sheeping and resheeping until its time to kill that target. The queued damage was awesome, but a stun works pretty well too.
  3. A use for Polymorph in fights where crowd-control isn't needed or useful. You know, like every fight in Wrath.
The last of those is probably most important. Polymorph is such an inherently magey spell. It was sad to go a whole expansion without really needing to use it. Barring a return to the days when CC was a must in every dungeon (unlikely), giving the spell control-and-damage functionality is crucial. I want to enter every fight knowing Polymorph is a viable control/damage option.

Second Wish: Better level 10 specialty bonuses for the fire tree

Pyroblast is fine, and so is getting Molten Armor way, way before any other kind of mage can get it. The problem is that these level 10 spec abilities are supposed to give fire mages a unique flavor, and frankly, Pyroblast isn't a whole lot more than a big, slow Fireball. I love it, don't get me wrong. But it should probably be accompanied by something a bit more distinctive.

My suggestions would be Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath. Both would be of more immediate use while leveling, and both have a unique flavor.

Third Wish: Access to Icy Veins for arcane mages

This is just me being selfish. I loved the haste/burst damage orgy that combining this with Arcane Power gave to arcane mages, especially near the end of fights, when you were just Arcane Blasting through your remaining mana in the hopes that you could time your final spell to connect just as the boss toppled. I loved that. Now Icy Veins is an 11 point talent, meaning only frost mages will ever have it, and I mourn its passing. Bring it back to me, please.

Fourth Wish: Bring back the exploding Flame Orb to the fire tree

It's the ultimate fire talent. We were told that the fire tree would get talents to enhance it. The specific enhancement mentioned was a talent that would make the orb explode upon reaching its destination. Awesome.

Only now it's nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only tree that has a talent specifically affecting Flame Orb is the frost tree. That simply will not do. If it's going to be such an important and powerful fire spell, it needs some love in the fire tree. A sexy love explosion, if you will. If Chef from South Park were still alive, that would totally be one of his songs.

Fifth Wish: Fewer instances where we're forced to take a PvP talent for a PvE build

This will almost certainly be tweaked quite a bit from what we're seeing now, but there are some issues currently. Should an arcane mage who's trying to focus on DPS really be forced to take a talent like Prismatic Cloak or Improved Counterspell on their way to Arcane Power?

The arcane tree will see many more passes, but I still have worries. The design intent by the developers with these new talent trees seems to be forced choices. What I mean by that is that the simplified trees seem to provide more freedom to take flavor talents, but they do so by limiting your freedom in other ways. By forcing us to put 31 points into a tree before putting any in another, we almost have to take some talents we otherwise would in order to hit that 31 point threshold. By the same token, our options in other trees are severely hamstringed. Want something from the third tier of a secondary tree? That's simply not possible.

This isn't all bad. It does provide an excuse for those who would otherwise never touch a so-called "fun" talent to do so. A hardcore fire mage min-maxer might turn their nose up at something like Improved Fire Blast under any other circumstances, but now they might have to take it to get to Living Bomb later on, and this gives them the option of a short-cooldown, long range Fire Blast they might otherwise never have had at their disposal.

The problem arises, though, when you're forced to take a talent that has virtually no purpose in your playstyle, simply because nothing of value to you is around to meet your talent-point needs.

My guess is that further passes on this new talent system will work the vast majority of these kinks out. I'm simply stating my hope that when the dust settles, a raiding mage can choose to bypass those talents that are clearly intended for PvP.

Sixth Wish: A permanent Water Elemental

Look, either our big blue buddy is an inherent part of the frost mage experience or it isn't. Making it permanent doesn't make us warlocks. The only surefire way to do that would be to force us to wear dark eyeliner, write bad poetry about how much we hate that girl who wouldn't go with us to prom, and sit in a dark room listening to My Chemical Romance and making out with our Sephiroth pillows. Haha! Warlocks are emo! Bazinga!

No other mage trees need a familiar. We're not a pet class. But there's just not much point making frost mages say goodbye to their secondary source of crowd control and DPS every 45 seconds. Wasting a glyph slot on making the thing permanent isn't a good solution, either. If the added control of having the elemental around all the time unbalances PvP somehow (and I've always been dubious about this prospect), then just remove the control ability altogether. Frost mages will cope somehow. Or just leave it in! Here, this is my dramatic interpretation of how frost mage PvP would work with a permanent elemental:

Frost mage: "Behold! Feast your eyes upon my dreaded water elemental! Once he had a limited duration, but no more! He is by my side eternally, freezing you in place and pummeling you with unending waterbolts. Look upon your demise, and weep! Hahahahaha!"

Frost mage's opponent stabs water elemental. Water elemental dies quietly.

Aaaaaand scene.

See how different that was? People will just deal with a permanent water elemental the same way they deal with any other bothersome pet in PvP--they will kill it. End of issue.

So there's my short list of things I hope change by the end of this lengthy testing process. What's on your list?

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at how much I hate damage meters or our lengthy series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the mage-train a-rollin'.

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