Arcane Brilliance: Patch 5.1 preview for mages

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C. Belt|11.17.12

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Arcane Brilliance: Patch 5.1 preview for mages
Ice Barrier
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we realize there's a significant patch coming out any minute now and we haven't even mentioned it yet. Seriously, didn't we just get a whole expansion like yesterday? I'm still trying to figure out what a Shado-Pan is. I hope it's something I can use to make pancakes.

So the build of patch 5.1 that's currently up on the PTR is tagged as a release candidate, which means that the patch could legitimately drop any week now. It's time we discuss it.

We're getting new factions, which thank God, because I keep saying to myself "Self? I sure wish we had more daily quests to do," which my self responds to by punching me in the damn mouth. We're getting a fight club Brawler's Guild to distract us from all those dailies. They're bringing back Wintergrasp and Tol'Barad! We can solo all the old raids without being in a raid group! And of course, we're getting the requisite bunch of tweaks and fixes and quality of life improvements that always come with a patch like this.

But as always, I'm more focused on the changes that specifically affect mages. And while there's nothing here that will make or break the class, there are some class changes in 5.1 that will have a definite impact on the mage class as we delve further into Pandaria.

Arcane Charge buffed slightly

The stacking damage buff granted by Arcane Charge is going from 22% to 24%. This adds up to be a pretty solid damage increase as the stacks go up. It has seemed like every successive build of the PTR has tweaked arcane's damage either up or down as this testing cycle has evolved, and I'm extremely glad that the current iteration has apparently settled on a slight buff. I feel like arcane's damage is in a good place right now, and don't feel like any major changes are needed.

Deep Freeze freezes less deeply

The duration of Deep Freeze's stun is dropping from 5 seconds to 4, which sucks enormously. I understand that Deep Freeze is a powerful control spell. I do. It has always been that way. Maybe now that all mages can use it, Deep Freeze's potency is flying farther above the radar, and Blizzard felt they had to nerf it. Still, this seems like it should be a PVP-only change to me. The spell's usefulness in PVE isn't just as a stun, it's also one of the best ways for non-frost mages to take advantage of Shatter, giving us five seconds of a frozen target that won't break on damage. The loss of that fifth second will often mean the difference between getting two solid damage spells off that get the benefits of Shatter and only getting off one before the target's no longer frozen. And as long-time readers of Arcane Brilliance can attest, I'm not a fan of nerfs to Deep Freeze. If I had my way, the spell would still deal damage.

Rune of Power buffed, Ring of Frost nerfed

Rune of Power no longer has a cooldown, which is really nice. It was always a pain to lay down a rune only to be forced to immediately move and know that you'll be sans rune while you were waiting out that 6 second cooldown.

On the flip side of the buff/nerf teeter-totter, we have the increased cooldown for Ring of Frost, which is going up by a whopping 15 seconds, from 30 to 45. In addition, the spell can now only affect 10 enemies at once. This is no bueno. Just when I felt Ring of Frost was finally a truly useful control ability in raids, it drops severely in relevance.

I'm going to say this once more, for the benfit of any class developer who might stumble across this column while drunk-surfing the internet:

When nerfing control abilities, unless the spell is somehow breaking PVE encounters, you should be nerfing the ability in PVP-only.

Mage Armor and Ice Barrier providing less protection

One of the most pleasant surprises for me in this expansion has been how unusually durable mages have become. Unfortunately it seems we have proven to be too durable in the eyes of the class devs, which means Mage Armor is now only reducing the duration of harmful magic effects by 25% instead of 35%.

The most crushing loss here, though is the nerf to Ice Barrier, which now absorbs 25% less warlock emo rage incoming damage. That's a serious chunk of defense gone for those of us who were enjoying the survivability and spell pushback protection, all at once. Of all the nerfs we're getting in this patch, this one hurts me the most personally. We've played the glass cannon role for so long, it was nice to feel like we had some real survivability options there for a little while. I'm sad to see the pendulum swinging back the other direction so quickly.

Combustion further simplified

Remember when we needed mods to help us calculate the perfect time for a quality Combustion? Then we lost some DOT effects, and then Combustion only took the periodic damage from Ignite and Pyroblast into account. Now, the only effect that Combustion encompasses is Ignite. So yeah. Here's the criteria for a good Combustion post-5.1:
  • Do I have a good Ignite DOT going?
  • That's it. That's the only criteria.

I guess this does free up Combustion to be used in more situations, allowing it to be most effective more often, and eliminating more of those moments when you'd like to have the stun and damage, but need a Pyroblast DOT in there to really feel good about hitting the button.

Blazing Speed usable more often, Spellsteal no longer a steal

Blazing Speed continues its move toward being a spell you'll actually have available when you need it, becoming triggerable after taking any damage in any amount. This makes it a far more attractive escape talent on that level 30 tier, especially now that Ice Barrier is becoming so much less potent.

Conversely, Spellsteal's becoming so costly as to make it almost prohibitive to actually use, but only for fire and frost mages. The mana cost is going up from 7% to 21% for fire and frost, but staying at 7% for arcane mages. So fire and frost mages are truly going to have to pick their spots for using this spell. The buff stolen or dispelled has to be good enough to offeset the massive mana cost. For arcane mages, the cost stays the same, which allows the spell to retain relevance in a rotation that is highly dependent upon staying at or near max mana.

A few words on Water Jet

This was a truly elegant solution to problem of being forced to use Freeze, a reticule-based pet crowd control ability on raid bosses just to raise your frost mage's DPS. It was a channeled spell with a one-second cast time that you would have your pet cast in a PVE environent while you cast Frostbolts at the enemy, since every Frostbolt cast while Water Jet was active on your target would generate a charge of Fingers of Frost. It would have allowed those of us who detested having to use the awkward-in-PVE Freeze in our raid rotations a good DPS alternative.

It was well-designed option that popped up on the PTR, went through a brief testing preiod, and then was removed. I was sad to see it die so quickly, mostly because it left such a depressingly beautiful corpse. It was a genuinely good idea and would have improved frost mage quality of life significantly.

The good news is that the concept isn't being scrapped. Blizzard has stated that the spell will likely return after some "polish" at some future date. So while we aren't getting it in this particular testing cycle, we can anxiously await its return, like Gandalf from the east at dawn.

What do all of you think of the changes? The nerfs are solid, and the buffs don't fully make up for them in my opinion. It seems like frost mages are bearing the brunt of the negatives. At least the Pyroblast nerf doesn't seem to be going live. How do we feel, mages?

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. We have you covered for Mists of Pandaria info, including our recent mage talent spec guide, and our guide to glyphs. And be sure to check out our list of reasons to still love our mages after all these years.

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