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Arcane Brilliance: News and notes from Cataclysm beta build 12604

Christian Belt

It's time again for Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that strives to bring you all the latest in Flame Orbs and Deathfrosts, Arcane Missile Barrages and Frostfires, Arcanefireflamefrostfreezes and Iceflamefrostfirecanebolts and everything in between.

Well guys, we just got our second pass.

The arcane tree is finally beginning to resemble something semi-coherent, and the other two trees have gotten a spot of polish applied to them in this build. The mage talent situation in Cataclysm is finally beginning to take shape, and now that things are beginning to come together, it's time to pick apart that embryonic shape and see what makes it tick. Because that's just how we roll.

Grab your blowtorches and put the kids to bed, we've got some deconstruction to perform.

A note on organization:

There will be none. We're going to be playing fast and loose here, hitting the ground running, playing by nobody's rules but our own, and also several other clichés I'll probably think of later. We have a lot of changes to discuss here, so we'll basically be shooting from the hip and asking questions later. (See? That was two clichés in one! Suck on that, warlocks.)

Spell ranges

You may have noticed in the previous build that all of our range-increasing talents had gone the way of Wand Specialization, and yet the range of our spells had remained the same. This was problematic, but worry not, for this build gives our spells a new baseline range.

Arcane and fire appear to have had their baseline ranges moved back to 40 yards, while frost still lags behind (or in front?) at a baseline of 35 yards for most spells. There are some notable exceptions, like Fire Blast being set at 30 yards (which is actually an improvement), but this new baseline holds for virtually every other rotation spell.

Arcane Repulsion, we hardly knew ye

Gone. It was always a strange talent, providing passive knockback against melee attackers on a 1 minute cooldown, and now it is no more. I would have liked to see a bit more work put into it -- keep the cooldown, but maybe make it an activated defensive ability? -- but I won't miss it too terribly much.

It has been supplanted by a brand new talent ...

I, for one, welcome our new Nether Vortex overlord

Mmmm. Yum.

No, not that Nether Vortex. This is a new tier 5 talent that applies Slow to any target we hit with Arcane Blast, as long as we don't already have Slow up on a different target. This does several awesome things.

  1. It ensures that Slow will always be up on our main nuke target.
  2. It will be quite nice in PvP (mostly in battlegrounds, where you might actually have time to get an Arcane Blast off), essentially making Arcane Blast a slower Frostbolt for arcane mages.
  3. It makes Torment the Weak a buff we can keep up ourselves without interrupting our rotation. Finally.
And it fits well with the next change:

Torment the Weak is now arcane-only

This one's moved all the way from tier 1 to tier 5, so while the talent and it's 6% damage buff is still going to be mandatory for arcane mages, it will no longer be mandatory for everybody else. It has been removed as a subspeccing option, and that frees up three talent points for other, less boring things. I heartily support these two changes.

Everybody can now Improve their Counterspell

... which is nice. I heard a great amount of complaints about frost and fire having no access to this vital PvP talent, and it appears Blizzard heard those same complaints. And listened! Which is always a pleasant surprise.

Also made available to everyone?

Invocation sort of makes sense now

This was an interesting mechanic, and I'm glad to see it seems to be sticking around. Whenever you interrupt a target, you gain a fat 10% damage bonus for the next 8 seconds. It's been moved to tier 2, making it a pretty attractive options for PvP builds, and frankly, the 10% damage buff is damn tempting even in PvE builds. You can potentially gain 8 seconds of 10% increased damage every 24 seconds or so? That's a pretty solid buff.

The problem, of course, is squeezing your interrupt in between the rogue's and warrior's and death knight's and the death knight's undead mom's interrupts. I can't think of much that would be more consistently frustrating than to always have to compete with your raid-mates for interrupt priority, just so you can get a temporary damage buff.

And here's where I'd like to submit a humble request. Change Invocation to trigger both on interrupts and silences. This way, you can couple Invocation with Improved Counterspell, and basically enjoy the buff frustration-free every time Counterspell is off cooldown. Explain to me why this won't work and I promise to tacitly ignore you. Seriously, I will put my fingers in my ears and sing nonsense words as loudly as I can.

Incineration doesn't suck any more

The devaluation of crit chance made this talent hardly worth the points in previous builds, but after this pass the talent has been reworked to increase damage. And we all want damage. And since this is a tier 1 talent, we can all get that damage we crave. 4% of it -- to a major rotation spell for every spec -- to be precise. It's kind of boring, but at least it's worth the 3 points now.

Burning Soul should be baseline for the love of all that is holy



This is priority one for the next pass on the mage trees. Every other ranged caster class (hunters too!) has this pushback protection as a baseline now.




I'm not sure how to emphasize this any further. Moving the talent to tier 1 means the developers clearly understand the talent is necessary to every spec. So why, in this new age of freedom and choice and wolf-people, are mages forced to spend 3 talent points to get pushback protection?

Oh, and in case you're wondering what priority two should be, it involves the implementation of a little spell I like to call "Improved Warlock Explosion."

And thank you for listening about the water elemental

It's apparently permanent now (no glyph required) on the beta. More on this after we can confirm this is intentional.

Cold as Ice and Ice Floes are now one and the same

This unholy union is just a great idea. Why have two cooldown reducing talents in the same tree, especially when trimming and slimming the talent trees is the name of the game these days? Ice Floes now lowers the cooldown on everything it used to, plus all the stuff Cold as Ice did, except Summon Water Elemental, the absence of which is further evidence that our new permanent elementals are intentional. Please excuse the excessive comma use.

And speaking of our big blue buddies:

Fingers of Frost is now a pet ability

... well, not just a pet ability, but a pet ability nonetheless. A new tier 5 frost talent, Improved Freeze gives your water elemental's Freeze spell a 100% chance to apply Fingers of Frost. This is a huge damage increase, and an excellent buff to our water elementals in both PvE and PvP. You can't see it, but I'm peeing down my leg right now and I don't even care. No word yet on whether the design choice to remove Freeze as a trade-off for permanent elementals for the purposes of PvP balance is still going to be a concern going forward.

Cone of Cold can be Improved

It now also freezes its targets for 4 seconds, instead of just slowing them. What a fantastic change this is. The spell was looking to essentially fade into obscurity the way things were looking, but now it's a mandatory part of our PvP repertoire.

We now know what our bonus for wearing cloth armor will be

Spoiler: It's intellect.

So these are my initial impressions, and I've only touched on some of the changes. Frankly, I'm of a mind to give a big, full-body, crotch-to-crotch hug of inappropriate duration to any class developer who has the misfortune to cross my path. This is by no means the final pass on the mage talent trees, and I certainly have my quibbles, but by and large these latest changes are evidence of some very positive intentions for mages on the part of the development team. I'm highly, highly encouraged. What do you all think?

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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