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Arcane Brilliance: Blinking into the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator, part 1

Christian Belt

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we have all kinds of talents to talk about. New talents, old talents, old talents with new talent scent, talents that look new but smell old, old talents that kill warlocks in new ways, cupcakes that taste like cranberry sauce, skillets that cook pastries that look like this ... I may or may not have eaten too much pie this week.

OK, we'd better get started. Lots to talk about and not much time or space with which to discuss it. I assume you've all had a chance to fiddle with the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator Blizzard just put on the official site? If not, go look, then come back.

It's interesting stuff. It's important, I think, that I stress that even though this is an official, Blizzard-sponsored reveal, all of this information is pre-pre-pre-alpha stuff, and it absolutely will change substantially before any of it goes live. So don't get married to the mechanics of any of these talents and skills as they're presented here. Don't squint too hard at the specific numbers, either. This is being presented so we can mull it over and give constructive feedback, and so that we can get a more detailed sense of the direction MoP's major talent overhaul will be taking our beloved mage class.

So let's get busy mulling.

Baseline mage abilties

First and foremost, we get our first real look at what the baseline mage abilities will be. These are the spells we'll all be getting as we level, regardless of spec. You'll notice some very interesting inclusions and some even more interesting omissions. Here's the list, with some brief commentary:

Level 1 Frostfire Bolt Our first spec-agnostic ability, and holy fusgesticks, it's going to be Frostfire Bolt. So no matter what kind of mage you want to be, you're going to start out hurling the old slushball as your first primary nuke. Such a pretty spell, it'll be good to see it have some relevance, even if it ends up only mattering for the first 10 levels. Largely unchanged, this spell is still a 3-second nuke that does frost and fire damage and applies a 40% snare.

Level 3 Frost Nova We get our always-handy AoE root spell early, which is nice for the solo playstyle of leveling. Like most of these baseline spells, this spell is essentially unchanged.

Level 5 Fire Blast Here's our high-mana, instant-damage mouth punch spell. So even by level 5, we've got a good set of damage options in our repertoire.

Level 7 Blink Always good to know that even early on, we'll be able to cast this spell in a time of need and hold our breath to see if it actually goes off as planned. 75% of the time it works every time.

Level 8 Counterspell Our first interrupt, far earlier than we really need an interrupt. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Level 9 Evocation Again, unless our mana regen at low levels gets nerfed unexpectedly in the new expansion, this is quite a bit earlier in the game than we'll be in the market for a quick mana return ability. At this point, sitting and eating for 6 seconds is about as effective.

Level 14 Polymorph After spending a few levels gaining spec-specific spells, we get one of our signature abilities. Frankly, I'd like to see our main CC spell swap places with Counterspell or Evocation in the leveling process, but in the end, I suppose it doesn't matter all that much.

Level 17 Shatter Holy crap, guys. We're all getting Shatter. It still triples crit chance against frozen targets, which for non-frost mages means targets affected by Frost-Nova, which means we'll all have a fantastic reason to get close to our enemies, root them with Frost Nova, and then pound them with something powerful. Frost mages will still benefit most from this ability, both because they have ranged options in their normal rotation for freezing enemies and because Shatter will add 20% extra damage to Frostbolt's base. This is extremely interesting, and I'm sure we'll see some forthcoming tweaks and rebalances as arcane and fire mages adjust to the inclusion of Shatter combos to their rotations.

Edit: Shatter will triple crit chance, not damage. I'm terribly sorry. I was tired and travel-lagged when I wrote this, but yuck.

Level 17 Teleport spells Also at level 17, we get almost all of our teleport spells, without having to travel to the locations to learn them, apparently. Interestingly, we get Teleport: Theramore here, but not Teleport: Stonard. Why? Well clearly Blizzard has made its talent calculator with a clear Alliance bias, just like everything else in this game blah blah nerdrage nerdrage. Also, no reagent in the tooltip? Looks like Santa really does answer prayers.

Level 18 Cone of Cold In the incarnation of the MoP talents revealed at BlizzCon, this was a talent. Now it's a baseline spell. Which is good, I guess, because while it's a good spell, it made a boring talent.

Level 22 Arcane Explosion Here's arcane's current AoE spell. Thankfully, with the removal of the extra spec damage masteries, arcane will no longer be limited to this as its only real AoE option. This will simply become the AoE spell every spec uses when they need an instant multi-target damage burst at close range.

Level 24 Improved Blink So this is a baseline now? Nice. Everybody's a bit more mobile. I'm all for spreading fun talents around, and Improved Blink has always been a good time.

Level 26 Ice Block Nothing really different here. Still a fantastic self defense spell, baseline as it should be.

Level 28 Ice Lance And this is pretty much intact too. With Shatter being available to all specs, maybe this'll see some use outside of frost specs.

Level 29 Remove Curse Good, good. We can start helping our parties by removing curses at level 29. Now if only we could convince every mage to use it ...

Level 32 Slow Fall Slow Fall still slows falls. No mention of a reagent, which is good.

Level 34 Frost Armor Our first armor spell doesn't show up until level 34, and it's of the frost variety. Why so late? Why do we need Evocation so early and not this? Important note: All of our armor spells now have a 3-second cast time. I assume this is to make on-the-fly armor-spell-switching more trouble than it's worth.

Level 36 Burning Soul Now this is good. We now have a baseline spell pushback reduction ability. About time.

Level 38 Conjure Refreshment Pie!

Level 42 Portal spells A whole crapload of them at once. It's a plethora of portals.

Level 43 Improved Counterspell Ooh, so one of our most potent PvP spells is going to become baseline. I mean every spec can get it right now too, but only if they talent into the arcane tree. This is another instance of Blizzard making good on its intention to make every spec start on equal footing in both PvE and PvE. We all get to silence with our main interrupt spell, just like God intended.

Level 47 Mirror Image This seems early, but that's probably just that I still think of this as Wrath's cap talent. It still works the same way, which is to say not nearly as well as you want it to.

Level 49 Living Bomb Yeesh. Well I guess now we know when we'll all be picking up this formerly signature fire spell. Hey, it's a powerful DoT spell, and I'm happy to have it, no matter what kind of mage I choose to play. Having this in every mage's rotation is a pretty massive game-changer. I'm interested to see how it factors in after the dust settles.

Level 52 Teleport and Portal: Stonard And now the Horde gets their small-town teleport and portal spells. This is about the right level for the zone, too, which probably explains the otherwise inexplicable disparity in when each faction gets their mid-range quest hub teleport spells.

Level 52 Blizzard Oh, and at the same time, we get one of our best ranged AoE spells. And apparently, it'll also be our only ranged AoE spell, since Flamestrike is apparently missing. I suppose if both spells were spec-agnostic, they'd be a bit redundant, and making Flamestrike a fire spec-specific spell might also be kind of a waste. So now we'll all be relying on Blizzard at range and Arcane Explosion point blank. Interesting.

Level 56 Invisibility We all get the baseline of this ability, which fades us out over 3 seconds, and we can all choose to make the spell instant and add DoT removal functionality to it by selecting the Greater Invisibility talent at level 60.

Level 58 Mage Armor Our second armor spell is completely changed. It no longer has anything to do with mana regen. Instead, it reduces the duration of all harmful magical effects on your mage by 25%. This will come in extremely handy in PvP and PvE, and I assume we'll be switching pretty liberally between this and the other armor spells, depending on the attacks being used in a given fight.

Level 60 Polymorph: everything but sheep Remember when this was the level cap? Me neither. After MoP drops, level 60 will be the level at which your mage gets a bunch of cosmetic alterations to your Polymorph spell. Yep, that includes all the ones you shelled out a bunch of gold and/or time to obtain, from Black Cat to Turtle. And oh hey! Polymorph: Turkey! So that's where that spell's been hiding all this time. I kept expecting it to be a Thanksgiving seasonal item or something.

Level 62 Teleport: Shattrath And just in time for our anachronistic trip back in the game's chronology to Outland, we get the port spell to deliver us to the main city therein and promptly forget all about five levels later.

Level 64 Spellsteal This is still, as of right now, a powerful and fun dispel and steal mechanic that you can spam at the cost of an exorbitant amount of mana. This is one I worry about, though. Blizzard has talked too much about reworking dispel mechanics. I'm hoping it doesnt add a cooldown, but I'm definitely not holding my breath.

Level 66 Portal: Shattrath Can't see this spell getting used a whole lot. I just can't.

Level 66 Deep Freeze But this one ... yes. Again, frost mages will get a whole lot more opportunities to use this one, but I'm excited about the possibility of my arcane or fire mage being able to Frost Nova some warlock, pump a couple of Ice Lances into him, take him right to the point of breaking free, then freeze him completely with Deep Freeze and resume blasting him mercilessly with my most powerful nuke for the next five seconds with triple crit chance from Shatter until he explodes into tiny smoking chunks of sadness. I think I just peed a little.

Level 68 Conjure Mana Gem Nothing changed here but the level.

Level 71 Teleport: Dalaran Level-appropriate.

Level 72 Ritual of Refreshment More pie! For everyone! And again, no reagent.

Level 74 Portal: Dalaran Yep. If I sound bored by the baseline abilities we're learning on this trip through Northrend, it's because snore.

Level 82 Time Warp We do pick up a couple of nice spec-specific abilities in the eight-level gap there, so at least we have something to look forward to as we enter the Cataclysm zones. Here we get our raid haste buff that we'll only get to use when a shaman's not around. It's also interesting to note that after level 80, we all stop getting any spec-specific spells. It's all baseline from here to 90.

Level 85 Teleport and Portal: Tol Barad Aaaand I'm nodding off again.

Level 86 Molten Armor Here's the first spell we'll get after dinging in the new expansion. Gone is the damage component of this armor spell. A counterpoint to Mage Armor, the effect of Molten Armor in MoP will reduce the duration of all physical effects used against you by 25%.

Level 87 Alter Time OK, this one's entirely new and pretty exciting. It purports to send your mage back in time 4 seconds. You cast it, it takes a snapshot of your current condition, including health, mana, and any other effects on your mage at the time of casting, and then after 4 seconds pass, your mage reverts back to that snapshot condition. The only catch is that if you die during that 4-second window, the spell is cancelled.

So how will this spell end up being used? It has a lot of possibilities, and I'm sure the larger mage community will come up with even more as time goes on. It could be used as a preemptive defensive maneuver, for those times when you know you're just about to get a bunch of DoTs put on you or when you know you're about the get hit hard and will need an incoming heal. I see it being used to great effect in conjunction with Ice Block. I see it being used as a mana conservation tool, perhaps just prior to an arcane mage's burn phase. I see it as a powerful DPS increase tool, maybe 4 seconds from the end of a Time Warp's duration. Some really good potential there, and for those of us who were waiting for some new and exciting mage spells to coalesce in all this MoP talk, I'd say this is a pretty good start.

So there you have your new baseline, mages. Next week, we'll go more specifically into the various spec-specific spells and the changes that the talent tree has undergone since last we saw it. There's a lot to chew on here. I'm excited to see what you guys make of it.

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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