Arcane Brilliance: The first things your mage should do after patch 4.1 drops

Christian Belt
C. Belt|04.23.11

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Arcane Brilliance: The first things your mage should do after patch 4.1 drops
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we'll be discussing the sparkliest ways to blow things up. Turns out there are a lot them.

Let me begin by saying that as of this writing, we don't know for sure when the patch will actually drop. What we do know, however, is that the build that's on the PTR right now is flagged as a possible release candidate build, meaning it could be the final build of the patch. That usually means the release of the patch is imminent. It may not happen this week or next (we can sometimes go through several "release candidate" builds before Blizzard finally drops the thing), but my guess is that it totally will.

So when the patch does hit, whenever that may be, what are you going to do first? You know, besides go hunting for warlocks to stuff and mount on your wall? I find it's good to have a plan when new content drops. Otherwise, I just end up only hunting warlocks, which -- while awesome -- doesn't really involve any of the new content.

So what to do? Fear not, I've compiled a handy list of the new features that apply directly to mages so you'll have something to channel your arcane energies toward once all the warlocks are dead.

Snag some new gear

So new patches generally mean new magic dresses and sparkle-sticks to gear up with, and 4.1 is no exception. Two ancient mage gear locales are getting epic facelifts in this patch, and those of us who are ready to face the challenges and stiff gear requirements those new/old dungeons bring should definitely be planning on hopping in as soon as possible.

Both Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub require a minimum average gear level of 346, meaning you'll need to be decked out in current heroic-level gear to even enter them. Trust me, though: the high bar for entry is totally worth it. The gear you'll be getting is nearly raid-quality, the instances are as gorgeous as you remember, and the encounters are challenging and fun. Also: loads of trolls to kill. And mounts!

A brief sampling of the new shinies we want to get our hands on:

If your gear isn't quite up to snuff, now may be the time to fill any holes in your setup so that you're ready to hit these new 5-mans the moment the patch hits.

Dust off your arcane mage

While you're exploring new/old territory and grabbing up some of that sweet new/old loot, you might want to consider shelving your still substantially kickass fire spec for a couple of runs and giving your newly kickass arcane spec a try. Arcane mages are receiving more love than any other mage spec in this patch, and the changes are well worth experimenting with.

From increased base spell damage to most of our nukes, to lowered mana costs and faster cast times, every tweak arcane mages are getting is focused on increasing our damage. The change in your raw DPS numbers from pre-patch to post-patch will be immediately noticeable. So feel free to break out your old arcane spec and let the Arcane Blast spam begin!

Check out PvP improvements to frost

Frost was, admittedly, already quite good, but this patch still holds a few improvements for the mage who enjoys the control and survivability of the frost spec. Additions include a reworked Frost Armor (including a new glyph that adds a mana-return component to the spell), improvements to Ice Lance, and a superior Ice Barrier. All of this should help to balance out the fact that frost mages got almost zero love on the PvE side of things, even though they desperately need that kind of loving.

See if the Ignite-munching "fix" does anything

More of a soiled Band-Aid than a fix, the attempt at staunching some of the DPS fire mages lose to the almost eternal Ignite-munching bug should increase your fire mage's damage numbers a bit. What the fix boils down to is a change to Ignite that renders it incapable of triggering off of periodic effects, which should mean fewer crappy Ignites munching good Ignite procs.

We've been told that the current design of the game prevents a real solution to this issue, so this will have to do for the time being. It's worth logging on to your fire mage to see if the change (and the nifty removal of Combustion from the global cooldown) help your numbers by a noticeable amount.

Blow things up

Yes, our AoE abilities are receiving some much-needed attention in 4.1. Blizzard is getting a fairly massive damage buff, and the mechanics of how Arcane Explosion interacts with Arcane Blast are also seeing an overhaul. We're still not going to be wreaking mass havoc like we were in Wrath days of yore, but at least our AoE abilities should pack a bit more of a punch.

Check dungeon finder queue times

The major change to the dungeon finder in this patch is the addition of a "Call to Arms" feature. This means that the most underrepresented role (read: tanks) queuing in the finder at any given time will be getting some sweet incentives for queuing solo and sticking out the instance. They're being offered everything from non-combat pets to mounts to the firstborn child of a random developer, simply for not being DPS.

So how does this affect us? Well, it's hard to say until the patch actually hits and we see how the system works on the live servers. One thing's for certain: Mages will never, ever be getting any of those rewards, unless you earn them on your tank alt and mail them over. I'm starting a petition here and now to let frost mages queue as tanks and just kite everything around. I think it will work. We'd need to be able to kite bosses, but that'd be a small change. In order to qualify, you must first pass a few tests to prove you aren't a moron, and then you're good to go. I also advocate a similar system for childbearing. We'd have fewer warlocks in the world if morons couldn't procreate, I believe.


Anyway, here's how I think this will play out:
  • Every tank ever will queue early on, to see if they can get some sweet rewards.
  • Too many might queue, and from time to time the rarest role mantle will pass to healers, at which point tanks will stop queuing and healers will all jump into the fray.
  • With any luck, DPSers will become disenchanted with the fact that they have no shot at any of the rewards and either switch to their tank/healer alts or just give up and do archaeology.
  • Mages will step into the void left by their absence, and god willing, our queue times will be shorter.
So yeah, best case scenario, our queue times are shorter than they are now -- which, I guess, is the whole point of this exercise. Damn, Blizzard, you guys are freaking geniuses.

Here's the other way it'll affect us, though: We're going to have to suffer through a whole lot more incompetent/undergeared healers and tanks. So put those talent points into Cauterize, kids, and learn to corpse run with a smile on your faces.

Can you tell I'm not tremendously optimistic about this?

There you have it. When the patch hits, you now know what to do in between warlock-murdering sprees. So keep an eye out for patches on the next few Tuesdays, and I'll see you in Zul'Whatever.

Looking for more mage info on patch 4.1? Here are a few handy links to previous coverage throughout the development process:

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start off with our Cataclysm 101 guide for new mages, then find out which spec is best for raiding, get advice from the poor mage's guide to enchants, and learn how to keep yourself alive.

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