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Arcane Brilliance: News and notes from the patch 4.3 PTR

Christian Belt

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we come bearing information from the patch 4.3 PTR. Many warlocks died to bring you this information. Well, many warlocks died; bringing you this information had very little to do with that.

Coming soon.

Those words have mocked me for what feels like forever but in reality was only a couple weeks. When the initial patch notes were released for the patch 4.3 PTR, other classes got changes. Other classes had new things to discuss, new topics to broach on the official forums and then engage in rational, polite discourse about. But not mages. Under our section of the patch notes, we got those two hateful words, Blizzard's dubious trademark phrase.

Coming soon.

But no more! We can cease our waiting, our trembling, anxious vigil. For the latest build of the PTR has delivered to us a handful of discussion-worthy changes. Let's all release our collective bated breath and move forward as a class. Because, my fellow mages: Soon, apparently, is now.

the daily blink buff switches
Fire is the new arcane

Or to be more correct, the new arcane. Blizzard is making some pretty clear strides toward evening out the perceived disparity between the DPS that arcane is currently capable of pumping out and that of fire. We've born witness to this never-ending teeter-totter of DPS supremacy many times before. At the start of this expansion, the king of the hill was unquestionably fire. Then it was arcane, which sparked a great many complaints from the one-button-mage crowd. Now the pendulum is apparently swinging back the other way.

  • Pyroblast's initial damage has been increased by approximately 26%, and its damage over time has been increased by approximately 100%.
  • Fireball damage has been increased by approximately 17%.
  • Living Bomb damage over time has been increased by approximately 10%, and explosion damage has been increased by approximately 120%.
So we have some pretty significant buffs to three of fire's main damage spells there. Both of the damage components of Pyroblast have apparently been ramped up by almost unbelievable numbers. 26% on the initial damage and then doubling the DOT portion? That's ... sizable. As with all things PTR-related, I expect to see that number tweaked multiple times before the testing process is done.

By the same token, Fireball's damage has gone up by a whopping 17%, and Living Bomb has seen a similarly huge 10% bump to its DOT component and a 120% increase to its final explosion.

It's important to note that the numbers in the patch notes differ greatly from the numbers mages are actually seeing on the PTR, as well as the numbers reflected on the spell tooltips on the new build. So these numbers could be anything from an authentic buff that simply hasn't been implemented correctly on the PTR yet to a patch notes error. Fire could be getting nerfed, for all we know. But my guess is that the numbers in the patch notes are correct and will be reflected in the next build. Fire's getting buffed, and I am extremely interested to see where the final numbers shake out after the testing process is completed.

Those of you who have been playing an arcane mage simply because popular opinion says it is the best DPS spec right now, hating life because you think the spec is boring, or you prefer fire, or your dad was an arcane mage and he left your mom when you were a kid and you promised yourself every day that you would never grow up to be like him ... well, now you can make plans to respec after the patch. When these changes go live, my sense is that they'll be more than enough to realign the balance of power back toward the fire side of the DPS spectrum.

My fervent hope, though, is that rather than just flinging the fire end of the seesaw back up into the air and lowering the arcane side back to earth, the developers find a way to balance the numbers so that both fire and arcane remain viable, near-equal PVE options. I don't think that's too awfully much to ask.

Strange nerfs to arcane and frost

I'm perplexed by the other two changes apparent on the PTR right now. Neither of these is in the official notes, and as I've already mentioned, the official notes likely trump any random spell changes we can see on the PTR.

  • Frostfire Orb chill effect now lasts 2 seconds, down from 4 seconds.
  • Arcane Missiles now has a 40% chance to proc from offensive spell, down from 100%.
I'm really hoping we find out in future builds that these spell changes aren't accurate. The change to Frostfire Orb is essentially a PVP nerf to one of the main components that set the frost version of this apart from its normal, original recipe fire variety. It's relatively minor but seems unnecessary to me.

And the change to Arcane Missiles is a tooltip-only change, reflecting the way the spell actually works in game. It's not an actual mechanics change, because nothing is in actuality changing.

Neither of these changes, if real, are deal-breakers. They're just odd, that's all. Again, it's going to be interesting to see what the final product ends up being.

EDIT: In the original version of this column, I mistook the changes to Frostfire Orb for changes to Frostfire Bolt, which was an error of inattention to detail on my part. Also, and I'm not sure how I missed this, but I spoke of Arcane Missiles as if it was currently functioning on a 100% proc, and it is not. I haven't been playing arcane much lately and assumed I had missed a mechanics change. Thanks to everyone who noticed my mistakes and set me right.

Tweaks to the tier 13 set bonuses
  • Item -- mage tier 13 two-piece set bonus (Haste Rating) now also procs from Pyroblast.
  • Item -- mage tier 13 four-piece set bonus (Arcane Power, Combustion, and Icy Veins) now reduces the cooldown of Combustion by 5 seconds, up from 3 seconds, and the cooldown of Icy Veins by 10 seconds, up from 6 seconds.
Stolen Time, the stacking haste rating granted by the 2-piece set bonus, now also procs from Pyroblast in addition to all of the other major nukes. This will help fire mages, who use Pyroblast almost as often as Fireball.

The change to the four-piece bonus, increasing the uptime of Combustion for fire mages and Icy Veins for frost mages, brings the bonus for those two specs more in line with the disproportionately awesome bonus for arcane mages. Now the bonus looks pretty solid for all three specs, though arcane is still the winner in that particular contest. Perhaps the apparent buff to fire's baseline spells will help temper that a bit.

So what do we think, mages? If these changes hold up, they signal a return to form for fire mages. Just in time for us to fling a Pyroblast down Deathwing's massive gullet. Excited?

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start out with our recent beginner's guide to being a mage, then check out our three-part State of the Mage columns on arcane, fire and frost. Don't forget to look at some of the addons your mage should probably be using.

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