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Arcane Brilliance: Patch 3.3 PTR mage change analysis


Welcome to Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that champions the causes of wizards everywhere, be they fiery, frosty, or arcane...y. The top issue facing the mage community right now? Warlocks: how to get the stink out of your robes after setting one on fire? Fear not, Arcane Brilliance has the solution: when killing warlocks, always stand upwind.

Since last we convened as a body of mages, no fewer than two new builds have descended upon the PTR, heralding a slew of upcoming changes for our class. Alex wrote an excellent post covering the first few of these, but a few more nuggets of newness have surfaced since then that need to be addressed. And since I'm a diagnosed (and unrepentant) completionist, we're going to go ahead and double back to analyze those earlier changes as well. The next installment of our mage leveling guide will come next week.

So without further preamble, let's look at the changes, shall we?

Fire
  • Improved Scorch: The debuff from this talent no longer stacks, and instead can apply the full effect from a single cast of Scorch.
Sweet fancy Moses. Raise your hand if you've been asking for this since the very moment Scorch was "improved." Now let's count the hands. Let's see, that's one...two...every single mage ever. This brings us in line with similar talents from other classes (Improved Shadow Bolt, anyone?), allowing us to keep that raid-wide 5% damage debuff up on the boss with only a single Scorch cast every 30 seconds. It's about time. In even better news, this change has essentially freed up a glyph spot for every raiding Fire mage out there...
Currently, this glyph reduces the number of times you have to cast Scorch to fully stack the debuff. Without the glyph, you have to cast it five times; with it, only two. It was a necessary evil that screwed us out of a glyph slot in exchange for making an unnecessary inconvenience slightly less inconvenient, and we all resented it. With Improved Scorch on the PTR applying the full debuff with a single cast, this glyph is rendered useless. In its new form, it increases the damage of Scorch, but that isn't a spell that's going to be cracking any Fire mage's spell rotation anytime soon, even with the damage buff. So happy patch 3.3, Fire mages! Have a free glyph slot. Don't say Blizzard never gave you anything.

Speaking of gifts...
  • Firestarter: When this talent is triggered, it makes the next Flamestrike cost no mana in addition to being instant.
I don't know about you, but I've always been fond of setting large crowds ablaze. After all, the only thing better than one flaming warlock is 27 flaming warlocks, right? I was always unreasonably fond of Firestarter, in that it gave the tiny pyromaniac in my soul an outlet. Throw out a Blast Wave or a Dragon's Breath, get an instant Flamestrike. Good clean fun.

But now not only will that Flamestrike be instant, it will also be free. First we get free Missile Barraged Arcane Missiles, and now we get free instant Flamestrikes. If Blizzard is starting some kind of free instant spell bandwagon here, I'm totally on board.

AoE, a niche Blizzard has always wanted mages to fill, will now be much more mana efficient, meaning more warlocks will be barbecued more often, for longer. I'm told this really brings out their flavor. And the AoE mana conservationism doesn't stop there:
  • Blast Wave: The mana cost of this talent has been significantly reduced.
  • Dragon's Breath: The mana cost of this talent has been significantly reduced.
I don't yet know by how much. But it says significantly. So when we cast Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath to get that free, instant Flamestrike, those two spells will also be easier on our mana pool. How easier? Significantly easier. My head is swimming with pleasant visions of flaming corpse-piles as far as the eye can see. Yes, I have issues. No, I don't care. If flaming death is wrong, I don't want to be right.
This talent was never as good as it should have been. This changes that. Instead of ten seconds of silence/interrupt immunity, we get twenty. Before, you'd get hit by a silence, triggering the ten seconds of immunity, but that first silence would last 8 seconds, meaning you were really only getting two short seconds of authentic silence-proof casting time. Now, though, that two seconds will become an effective twelve. That's an eternity in PvP.

Frost
This, my friends, is potentially massive.

Along with the Water Elemental glyph change below, this is a very big step along the path toward making Frost a raid-viable spec. We've asked for this kind of thing for an entire expansion, and Blizzard kept promising they were looking into the issue. Well, it seems they actually were looking into it, and these two changes are what they've come up with. Both changes are game-changers, potentially effective, undeniably creative, and highly intriguing.

Here's what the Frozen Core change figures to do:

Assuming you can find the three talent points in your Frost build to put into this formerly useless talent, you can now use Ice Lance as part of your Shatter combos again. Ice Lance's global cooldown, with a goodly amount of haste, is pretty close to one second. When it crits, it'll remove a full second from the cast time of your next Frostbolt (the spell you'd ordinarily be casting instead of Ice Lance in your Shatter combo). So in theory, throwing an Ice Lance in there doesn't cost you anything. It'll be free damage, more or less. Welcome back, fun Shatter combos. We missed you.
  • Glyph of Eternal Water - Your Summon Water Elemental now lasts indefinitely, but your Water Elemental can no longer cast Freeze.
And for Frost mages who raid, this is the great granddaddy of all PTR notes. Finally...a permanent Water Elemental. having your big blue buddy up at all times should prove to be a sizable DPS increase for a spec that dearly needs it. To help make sure your new permanent pet won't run out of mana now that he no longer dissipates every 45 seconds, Blizzard threw in this footnote in the most recent build:
  • Water Elemental: Waterbolt mana cost reduced by 80%.
The concern in making Water Elementals permanent has always been the impact this would have on PvP balance, but Blizzard has addressed this smartly. No PvP Frost mage is going to be willing to give up Freeze to have a permanent Water Elemental. PvE Frost mages will take the glyph. PvP Frost mages won't. Bravo, Blizzard. Well played.

Together, these two changes will go a long way toward making Frost mages competitive in PvE DPS. You can bet I'll be keeping a close eye on the testing process to see how this plays out in actual application. I never thought that I'd live to see the day (mostly due to my severe addiction to raw cookie dough, which I'm moderately surprised hasn't killed me already) when all three mage trees would be considered raid-viable, but this PTR has given me hope. What do you guys think? Is this going to work, or have I been bamboozled? And any Frost mages on the PTR...how are these changes treating you?


Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent two-part look at what Cataclysm will mean to Mages, or our ongoing series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

Filed under: Mage, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Features, Classes, Talents, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance

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