Playing an arcane mage in the beta feels very similar to playing one on the live realms. We're still mostly concerned with stacking Arcane Blast to 4, then firing out an Arcane Missiles. The differences are in how that tried-and-true playstyle has been refined.
The new Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage I've gone into this before, but allow me to rave about it once more briefly. Arcane Missiles procs all the time, meaning it's up pretty much every time you want it to be. It's always free, and for arcane mages, it's always fast and powerful. And on the odd occasion when it hasn't procced, the new Arcane Barrage solves that problem, and it does so without wasting your Arcane Blast stack. This is also awesome because it gives us something to do when on the move that will give us a chance of preserving that same Arcane Blast stack for use when we stop running around. What I like to do is save Presence of Mind for those situations. When I'm forced to move, I fire out a fully stacked Arcane Barrage, then wait until my stack is on its last second; then I fire out an instant Arcane Blast to renew it, then fire out another Arcane Barrage if need be. If timed well, that gives me a comfortable buffer of about 10 to 11 seconds to move without losing my stack. Then, when my mage is back standing still as God intended, he's still got a fully stacked Arcane Missiles waiting to be unleashed.
Improved portals When you look for your portal spells in the beta, you notice that you only seem to have two: one button that says "Teleport," and one that says "Portal." You place those on your action bar and click them, and they unfurl into an extended list of all your teleport or portal spells. That's functionality you had to install an addon to get previously. I always enjoy seeing Blizzard catch up a little bit with the modding community.
We're getting a new teleport/portal spell in Cataclysm, too: Tol Barad. That's the new Wintergraspian outdoor PvP zone, located off the west coast of the Eastern Kingdoms. So that'll be nice.
No subheading here, because I'm only discussing one thing: Bar none, the coolest thing about being a mage on the beta right now is Firestarter. I'm not even kidding. Casting Scorch on the move sounds fun in theory, right? I want you to picture in your head how fun it might be. Now multiply that amount of fun to the power of awesome, and you'll be about right.
Seriously, I can't stop casting it. I spam it constantly, every time I'm forced to move. Sometimes, I'll move just to give myself an excuse to cast it. I strafe around for no good reason, sprinting from side to side and Scorching. Critter crosses my path while I'm running someplace? Scorch. Innkeeper's cat? Scorch. Cockroach? Scorch. Warlock? Living Bomb. And then some Scorches. While I run circles around him and shout "Wheeeeeeeee" at the top of my lungs.
Now picture using it in conjunction with Blazing Speed, Fire Blast, Living Bomb, Hot Streak procs and Blink, and fire mages have suddenly become the most mobile ranged casters in the game. PvP is so fun with a fire mage, it's ridiculous.
A couple of things I love about this spec:
Glyphless water elemental permanence This is a big deal for me. Removing the expiration date for your big blue buddy without stealing away half of his functionality by removing Freeze is simply marvelous. I've campaigned for a permanent water elemental for so long that I almost don't know how to respond to actually getting my wish. The glyph was a Band-Aid, and I'm glad to see it go away.
The only limitation on the pet now is the 3-minute cooldown, which begins counting down from the moment you summon (still an instant cast), meaning that the only place you'll worry about not having your elemental is in arena, if the opposing team swiftly dispatches it. You may have to wait a minute or so to resummon the thing. Since PvP is the one area where having a permanent water elemental becomes a balance issue, I have zero problem with that.
Ice Lance: a big part of the rotation now I love this. You really can't make the argument anymore that any of the mage specs have a boring, "spammy" rotation. Every spec has more interactivity to it, more spells involved, and honestly, more fun inherent in the playstyle. Frost is a major example of this. Each spell has its uses: Frostbolt gives you the chill effect, triggering Fingers of Frost, and grants replenishment for the raid. It's still the major nuke. When Fingers of Frost procs, Ice Lance becomes your best damage spell. It's also your main mobility spell. Deep Freeze is your awesome PvP control spell, and you'll still be casting it on bosses for one of your Fingers of Frost charges whenever it's off cooldown, doing absolutely obscene amounts of damage. Brain Freeze procs are still excuses to throw out a free Frostfire Bolt, just for fun.
You spend your time spamming Frostbolt, watching closely for various procs and cooldowns, and adjusting your rotation accordingly. It's fun and just varied enough to keep things interesting without becoming overwhelming. Once the numbers get sorted out, I'm really hoping frost's DPS is competitive enough in this expansion that more mages can justify speccing frost for raiding, because the spec really is a blast to play.
Well look at that! I made it to a thousand words. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with some baby poop to get to, and if I'm late, the consequences will be stinky.
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'.