Arcane Brilliance: Random impressions from the beta

Christian Belt
C. Belt|08.07.10

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Arcane Brilliance: Random impressions from the beta
It's time again for Arcane Brilliance, your one-stop shop for weekly mage columns. Seriously, any time you want a weekly mage column, you can come here and obtain one. We do one thing here at Arcane Brilliance, but we do it well. Or if we don't do it well, we at least do it hard. Or maybe just adequately. Pick an adverb. Any adverb, really. Insert it at the end of the phrase "we do it." Chances are -- at least some of the time -- that's probably how we do it.

Good news everyone!

I'm in the beta. It is awesome. I have been thoroughly impressed, and because I like you people, I would like to share some of those impressions with you. As you may have guessed from the title of the column, they will be fairly random. Most will be related in some fashion to mages.

I've come to understand that there exists a sizable contingent of folks who play this game but would prefer not to know about future iterations of it in advance of actually playing them. I respect that. I'm not sure, really, what beta information would be considered a "spoiler" and what beta information wouldn't (is talking about new talents a spoiler? UI changes? The new launcher? I don't know!), so I'll go ahead and bury all of my scattered thoughts behind the jump. That way, those of you who came here to this WoW news site in an attempt to avoid WoW news can turn back now, your virgin eyes still pure and unspoiled.

And yet, part of the purpose of placing text in front of the jump is to whet your appetites, leading you on to the meat of the article, so I feel obliged to mention two things before we adjourn and retire to the page beyond this one.
  1. Earlier today, I set fire to a bomb-throwing monkey.
  2. Prior to that, I ran over a pirate with my car.

Ok, I assume all of you still here are okay with my rambling spoilerific mage-related miscellany?

Good. Let's begin.

The new and improved Arcane Missiles

Alright, here's the deal with this: You know how now this spell is something you can cast whenever you want, but only Arcane Mages ever want to, and even they only want to do it when Missile Barrage procs, and sometimes not even then? It doesn't work like that anymore. In fact, the only things it sill has in common with the current form of Arcane Missiles is that it is still considered an arcane spell, and it still produces missiles.

It's trainable at level 3, making it your second spell, after starting out with Fireball. It's still a channeled spell, hurling three missiles out over three seconds, one each second. Taking damage while channeling it still shortens the channeled time, meaning you likely lose at least one of those missiles.

The main difference is that it's no longer a spell you can cast at will. It's a proc. Every spell you cast has a 40% chance to make Arcane Missiles available to you, and I mean every spell. I had it proc yesterday when I sat down to eat. That probably won't last. The ability to cast Arcane Missiles lasts for 20 seconds or until you cast it, at which point you will need to get another proc before you can cast it again.

It's available to every spec, though it'll be most useful to arcane mages, and not very useful at all to frost or fire mages once they make it to the endgame. Missile Barrage still speeds the thing up, launching a missile every .5 seconds at max rank, or twice as fast. Improved Arcane Missiles adds 2 missiles to your salvo, meaning that a fully-talented, uninterrupted Arcane Missiles will fire out 5 missiles in 1.5 seconds, giving it the same gatling gun effect it has in Wrath when Missile Barrage procs. The best part? It costs exactly zero mana to cast. That's always, for every spec. So if nothing else, fire and frost mages will enjoy having it on their action bars for those occasions when they run out of mana.

Once you add the new Arcane Barrage to the rotation, though, things get interesting. You see, Arcane Barrage does a couple of new things, both of which I will now tell you about:

The new and improved Arcane Barrage

Aside from being an instant nuke on a short (slightly less short than it is currently -- the cooldown is 5 seconds on the newest build) cooldown, Arcane Barrage also triggers Arcane Missiles. Even better, it no longer consumes your Arcane Blast stack, which is awesome.

So here's how your arcane rotations goes in the Cataclysm beta:

You stack Arcane Blast to four. If Arcane Missiles has procced by that time, you cast it. If it hasn't, you fire out an Arcane Barrage, which benefits from the damage buff but does not consume it. Then you cast Arcane Missiles. If you need to move at any time during your rotation, you cast Arcane Barrage while you do so, doing a pantload of damage and triggering Arcane Missiles, but leaving your Arcane Blast stack unspent. Once you get where you're going, you resume the rotation.

It's not a huge change, but it feels massive. It adds just enough interactivity and a few much-needed options to the rotation, and allows you to stay active while on the move. Most importantly, it's fun, and I hope it makes it through to the live servers more or less intact.

If you were worried about reforging, you can stop

I know some of us were sitting around, thinking the ability to swap one stat for another on an item would spell the end of everything, that death knights would somehow end up stealing our robes and reforging them into plate, that a hunter would roll on that sweet staff that just dropped because he can turn the massive pile of intellect on there into agility, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Well now that reforging has hit the beta, let me assure you all is not lost. In fact, I think reforging will end up being quite nice.

First, you can't swap primary stats. That means stamina, agility, strength, and intellect are out. The only stats you can change are secondary stats, which basically means everything with a rating. Second, you only get a 40% conversion on whatever stat you're trading out. In short, you're never going to be able to make a rogue dagger into a mage dagger. Say a staff drops that has 100 crit rating on it. Your crit is plenty high enough, and your spec values haste far more anyway. Reforging will allow you to trade your 100 crit for 40 haste.

Edit: Aaaand again I'm a moron. It's actually not a straight swap, it converts 40% of a stat into another, meaning 100 crit would turn into 40 haste and 60 crit. You don't actually lose anything. Thanks to Sumanai for bringing my mistake to my attention.

Reforging isn't going to be ruining anything. It'll simply be a way to tweak a piece you already wanted into something slightly better. One interesting thing is that for now, mastery rating is one of the reforgable stats. We'll have to see how valuable a point of mastery is at endgame before we draw any conclusions, but I could foresee a situation where the only stat anybody ever reforges to is mastery, since every point of mastery is supposed to always be valuable to every class, every time.

Mages can stunlock now

Improved Polymorph turns us into rogues. I'm not kidding. You can basically lock any opponent down indefinitely with your sheep spell. You find a warlock. You sheep that dirty demon-lover. They break out, you sheep them again. Then you break your own sheep with an Ice Lance or something while you run away. They get stunned. Then you re-sheep them. Then you start making out with their girlfriend in front of them. Then you do it all over again some more forever.

No way this makes it live, and frankly I don't want it to. Doing it feels dirty and wrong, unless an actual warlock is involved. It's like taking a little kid's lunch money every day just because you can. How can rogues look at themselves in the mirror? Oh that's right, Stealth.

Arcane Brilliance is no longer an actual spell

Yes, the namesake for this very column is no more. Enjoy it while you can, because once Cataclysm launches, Arcane Brilliance the spell will be nothing more than a footnote on Wowhead, a forgotten relic of a bygone age.

I knew about the changes to our signature buff on an academic level, seeing what other people were writing about the beta. Seeing them firsthand, though ...

We still have Arcane Intellect. But instead of having a version of that buff that affects everyone in the raid, Blizzard has done the smart thing and rolled that raid buff utility into the single player version. When you cast it, it'll not only buff you, but buff everyone else too.

Unfortunately, that isn't the only change to the spell. For one thing, mages don't learn it until level 58, meaning you'll be in Outland by the time you can use your class buff. Worse, instead of granting intellect, a far more useful stat in Cataclysm, it'll increase your max mana. Mana is good, but not nearly as good as intellect. Also, the spell is called Arcane Intellect. Come on, Blizzard. Work with me here.

Flamestrike is as big as Blizzard now

Finally. It's a tiny change, really, but it makes me super excited. The area of effect for Flamestrike was always a little dinky, but no more! Now you can stack your Blizzard on top of your Flamestrike with symmetry, knowing anything you're hitting with one spell is also getting nailed by the other. Good times.

Piercing Chill is kind of awesome

Really, I love it most of the time. You cast your Frostbolt at something and it smacks whatever's standing next to it with a chill effect. It's pretty nice. The effect is pretty wide, too. I've had several occasions on which I'm casting at a mob and his second cousin from the next town over wanders in, all angry at me for freezing him, and I don't even see the other mob until my first target's already dead and I realize I'm still getting whacked. I'm exaggerating, but only a little

Still, it's a great way to exert some control over packs of mobs without having to try very hard, and it's one of those things that's far more impressive in actual practice than it is reading a tooltip. It causes the occasional problem with unintentional aggro, and I'd like to see it tweaked for PvE purposes a bit before all is said and done, but the PvP applications seem just delightful to me.

I'm warming to the new talent trees

I resisted it at first, but lately I'm beginning to see the genius in the philosophy behind the new talent trees. We've spent our raiding careers getting the concept that PvE players should never ever take any talent that doesn't directly improve their DPS drilled into our heads that it's a little bit wonderful to actually be forced to step outside that box. By reducing the number of options we have, the class designers have actually forced a strange kind of freedom upon us, and I'm loving it.

My short list of talents I love having that I would absolutely never be able to take in the current environment includes:
  • Improved Blink
  • Improved Polymorph
  • Piercing Chill
  • Molten Shields
  • Cauterize
  • Improved Cone of Cold
  • Ice Shards
  • Reactive Barrier
That's a lot of fun stuff I can now choose between that I would have turned my nose up at in Wrath. They're adding choices by removing choices. My head hurts.

So that's it for this round of news and notes. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go play some more of my goblin mage. I'm not even kidding when I say you should all make one. Those little green men make robes look sexy. Also, Town-in-a-Box. I'll say no more. And if you're wondering about the monkeys and pirates I mentioned before the jump: also from the goblin starting area. It's more than worth the price of admission.

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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