Arcane Brilliance: A glimpse of the future

Stacey Landry
S. Landry|11.22.13

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Arcane Brilliance: A glimpse of the future

Every other week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. Stacey Landry is the resident mage here, bender of space and time, conjurer of delicious confectioneries and expert at dressing well while setting things on fire.

The dust has settled from BlizzCon and everyone is buzzing with excitement about Warlords of Draenor! A few items of note came out of the reveals shared at the convention, and we're going to take a look at some of them today.

Gear and Stat Changes
Just after expertise had been changed to allow us to use it in addition to or in place of hit rating, both of these stats are going away in WoD. If your mage is a race that grants an expertise or hit increase as a racial bonus (i.e. draenei, gnome, etc.) you can expect a revamped racial with the expansion.

With the removal of hit and expertise we also say goodbye to reforging and meta gems. Honestly, I think this is mostly good news. Hit was never a very interesting stat, and constantly having to juggle it on your gear to a set cap and then ignoring it doesn't add much to game play. Expertise was just another way for mages to chase hit if they needed it. Meta gems were another road bump on the way to outfitting your character. There's always been one gem that's best for us, period, and so this wasn't presenting us with interesting options either.

Another big thing of note is the changes to itemization for various gear types. All cloth wearers will now be able to make use of the same drops. Spirit will not be present on pieces of gear other than rings, neck, trinket, cloak and weapons. This is actually pretty great news for us, despite meaning we have to share cloth gear with every cloth-wearer, it also means you won't have a night where the only thing that drops has spirit on it even though you still need upgrades as a mage.

Finally, the only change I have reservations about is the removal of reforging. I liked the ability to take gear with sub par secondary stats and make it into something at least more useful than it had been. But I won't miss the hit cap juggle that reforging turned into. We'll also have to see how the intriguing new tertiary stats work out. Supposedly they're going to be quite rare so they might be fun additions to gear if you're lucky enough to get a piece!

Talents at level 100
The real meat of what was revealed at BlizzCon is the level 100 talents. I know it's still very early days and they might change several times before the expansion is here, but I'd like to take a look at them now in their infancy.

The thing I like best about these talents overall is that at least two of them behave completely differently depending on which spec you're playing. This is a nice acknowledgment of the flavor differences between specs rather than giving us talents that do the same thing regardless of what type of magic you dish out.

Prolonged Exposure
First up is the talent Prolonged Exposure. If you're an arcane mage, the talent Arcane Overpower makes it so that casting Arcane Missiles extends your Arcane Power by two seconds. For fire, the talent becomes Kindling: your Fireball, Pyroblast, and Inferno Blast critical strikes extend Combustion by one second. Finally, for frost the talent becomes Thermal Void, and casting Ice Lance extends your Icy Veins by two seconds.

So with this first talent what we have here is a straight up DPS boost to each spec. It's simple, fairly unobtrusive and should benefit all mages. The talent plays upon something you're going to be doing anyway and just gives you a reward for doing it. If you're fire, you were already planning on critting, arcane mages will be casting Arcane Missiles and frost mages will be casting Ice Lance. I'm assuming that the way it will work is that each beneficial time effect will just be rolled into your next Arcane Power, Combustion, or Icy Veins. It remains to be seen whether there will be a cap on the number of times you can derive this benefit for a single given cool down.

Focusing Crystal
The next talent in the tier is called Focusing Crystal, and it's a really interesting concept. It's pretty simple: You summon a focusing crystal at a specific location. For the next ten seconds you can load it up with spells by attacking it. It absorbs the damage that's dealt to it, and after the ten seconds has expired, it releases bursts of damage equal to 130% of the damage it had stored, over six seconds to all enemies within 8 yards. This promises to be a powerful AoE cool down if used correctly. It's available once every minute.

I can also see it being really frustrating. It'll be best for encounters that are predictable in terms of positioning and you can estimate exactly where tanks will be. In the right situation, though, it should really pack a whallop. Imagine loading it up with a combustion that's then increased by 30% and splashed to everything within range? I'm cackling just thinking about it. The tricky aspect of it is going to be the timing. Unless you're using it to do damage to a single target, if there are adds you'll need to be paying attention to when they join the fight so that you can prepare the Focusing Crystal and have it explode when you want it to (and not before). This will take some of the same finesse that is currently needed to manage Alter Time - you've got to think a little bit into the future - but fortunately unlike Alter Time it will never drop you back into one of Lei Shen's Thunderstruck (not that I'm bitter).

Falling Stars
The overall theme of this talent is "dropping things onto/through other things." It behaves pretty differently depending on spec. For arcane, it grants the ability Arcane Orb, which launches an Arcane Orb forward from your position, traveling up to 40 yards, dealing 1000 arcane damage to enemies it passes through. It grants an Arcane Charge every time it deals damage. As fire, you gain Meteor, calling down a meteor that lands at the target location after three seconds, dealing 10K fire damage split evenly between all targets within 8 yards. It also burns the ground, dealing an additional 2000 fire damage over 10 seconds to enemies in the area. Finally, this talent gives frost the ability Comet Storm, described as calling down a series of 7 icy comet on and around a target, each of which does 2000 damage, split between all enemies within 5 yards of its impact point.

I really appreciate the flavor of each of these three versions of the talent. I'm reserving judgment on Arcane Orb until I see it in action, but I keep remembering my Flame Orb of old shooting off uselessly into oblivion, or getting stuck on a floor tile, or going in the opposite direction. If this orb behaves even remotely the same way, it might not be very great for arcane. In ideal circumstances, it seems like it'd be a very nice buff for any arcane mage. On a fifteen second cool down, it should give the opportunity to gain many arcane charges very quickly. For fire, the Meteor talent is also a very nice direct damage and cleave ability. It's on a 45 second cool down. The initial hit is split between targets and it sounds like it will leave a kind of Flamestrike where it landed, old Blast Wave style. This talent has great potential! In the world of increasingly complex fights that often include adds instead of just one big bad boss, I can see these cleave talents having many applications.

Finally, frost's version of the talents, Comet Storm, seems pretty much like an icy version of Meteor without the resulting DoT. The comets themselves add up to more damage, though, so it should balance out in the end, especially given that the cool down on Comet Storm is only 30 seconds.

This latest iteration of talents is full of really promising things for us. What it tells me most of all is that Blizzard has been listening to our feedback about the tier six talents. Each of these proposed talents either grants a boost or an interesting new ability that results in frozen/charred/magicked enemies. At least we can rest easy knowing that our talents at level 100 won't be a chore and will be something to look forward to! There's still no definitive word yet on what changes might be coming to the talents at level 90, but I'm staying hopeful that we'll hear more as we creep closer to 6.0.
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