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Arcane Brilliance: Stealing spells for fun and profit

Arcane Brilliance is back this week, better than ever, and with 100% fewer warlocks.

Holy crap, right?

It's good to be back. I have to say, I feel a little dirty. I've got warlock stink in my clothes. Not only that, but they kind of trashed the place. There's felhound poo everywhere (not to mention voidwalker poo -- shudder), Soulwells in the bathroom, summoning portals littering the lawn ... I won't even tell you what they did to the pool. There was a succubus passed out in the backyard when I got home who had no idea where she was; her eyes looked haunted.

Oh well. My lawyer advises me not to speak publically about what the mage party was like over at their place. I will say this: I totally didn't flush the toilet before I left. And strudel? So tasty, but not entirely kind to my intestines. Just saying.

Anyway, things are relatively back to normal now, and hopefully we can move on and have a productive mage column this week. Still, you have to admit ... that was kinda fun.

This week, we'll be talking about what I firmly believe to be the single most underutilized ability in the mage spellbook: Spellsteal.

I don't know about you, but when I first learned Spellsteal, way back at the old level cap, I looked at it, thought "cool," tried it out a few times and basically forgot about it. I forgot about it for a very, very long time. It sat there on my action bar, looking cool, collecting dust. I'd wager that many of you have had the same experience (or lack of experience) with the spell. It's a substantially difficult spell to use well, and its true value isn't immediately obvious.

The tooltip for Spellsteal is remarkably brief: "Steals a beneficial magic effect from the target. This effect lasts a maximum of two minutes." That doesn't tell you much. What can it steal? Who does it work on? Which effects will last two minutes, and which will be of shorter duration? Will the effects stolen function the same way for the mage who stole them as they did for the enemy they were stolen from?

Spellsteal does two things:
  1. It dispels a buff on your target.
  2. It gives you a similar buff.
It costs a significant amount of mana and blows a global cooldown. If your target has more than one stealable buff, the buff stolen is selected at random, meaning you may need to cast the spell multiple times to get what you want. The duration of the buff is a maximum of two minutes, but will never be more than the duration left on the target it was stolen from. That means that if you're stealing a buff that had 30 seconds of duration left on the mob when you stole it, you'll get it for 30 seconds, but if it had 30 minutes left, you're only getting it for two minutes.

Other notes about Spellsteal to consider:
  • The buff stolen will sometimes overwrite your own buff, but only if the buff stolen is of the same type as the buff overwritten, and only if the stolen buff is more powerful than the current buff. When the effect expires after a maximum of two minutes, you will need to reapply the original buff.
  • You can absolutely steal more than one buff at a time and benefit from multiple stolen buffs at once.
  • Casting it will never break crowd control. Yes, you can sheep that warlock and pick him clean. And you should. I encourage it.
  • At level 80, the mana cost is 654 mana.

PvE uses

In PvE, you're stealing from NPCs: bosses and trash mobs. There are only three reasons to do so:
  1. The mob you're stealing from has a buff that will increase your DPS.
  2. The mob has a buff that will otherwise assist you during the encounter.
  3. The mob you're stealing from has a buff that needs to be dispelled.
In order to be worthwhile, the benefit of the spell must outweigh the benefit of whatever else you could have been doing with that mana and global cooldown. There are a lot of buffs out there that more than meet this criteria, but the trick is knowing which ones and recognizing the opportunities to steal them.

PvP uses

Here, the benefits are more varied. Just about every class has something they'd either hate to lose or you would love to gain, and many times both.
  1. Since increasing your overall DPS isn't as big a deal in PvP's brief, intense battles, Spellsteal's main use is as a dispel. You want to get rid of a buff your opponent needs.
  2. Gaining the benefits of that buff can range to mildly useful to game-changing. In PvP, the most valuable buffs to steal are those that increase your survivability or those that allow you to do something you ordinarily wouldn't be able to do.
  3. One of the best types of magic effects you can steal in PvP -- not only for their benefit to yourself but for their cost to your enemy -- are heal over time spells.
So which spells can be stolen?

For the sake of brevity and space, I won't be listing every single spell that can be stolen with this spell. There are a lot of them. For the most part, you can safely assume that if a magical effect can be dispelled, it can also be stolen. There are exceptions to this, of course. If a spell is only dispelable by a very powerful dispel, like a priest's Mass Dispel, something like a paladin's Divine Shield, then chances are good that Spellsteal won't (usually) remove it either.

Instead of a full list, I'll give you some of the highlights:

Hand of Protection

Stealing this when a paladin casts it will make you temporarily immune to incoming physical damage, and you can still cast through it. The problem, of course, is catching it before its short duration runs out.

Slow Fall/Levitate

There is nothing more epic than stealing one of these buffs from mage/priest who is currently depending on the buff to stay alive, then watching them fall to their doom while you float safely above. Sure, they can always recast it, but they usually don't.

Renew

Swiping this from a priest is awesome, removing a powerful heal from them or their target and applying said heal to you. A great PvE location for this is in Trial of the Champion, when Argent Confessor Paletress casts it. In heroic, this baby ticks for 22,000 healed every three seconds. In other words, if you steal it every time she casts it, you'll be basically invincible for most of the fight. It may not be strictly necessary, but it is strictly awesome.

Lightning Shield

Awesome PvE spot for this: Sjonnir the Ironshaper in heroic Halls of Stone. It provides you with a shield of lightning that does 3,000 damage per hit, lasts two minutes and has 10 charges. More importantly, though, it removes the buff from Sjonnir, which lowers the total damage he does by a massive amount for the duration of the fight. This is one fight a mage can almost single-handedly win with Spellsteal.

Haste

Any time you see this effect pop up on a mob or boss, steal it. Nothing will light up the damage meters like a sudden influx of massive spell haste. Good places for this? Eye of Eternity from the Nexus Lords, from either Ambrose Boltspark or Eressea Dawnsinger during the first encounter in Trial of the Champion, Dark Rune Elementalists in Halls of Stone ... seriously guys, this is an incredible buff. Steal it. You can thank me later.

Vampiric Might

Steal this from the Cult Fanatics during the Lady Deathwhisper encounter in Icecrown Citadel. It only lasts 15 seconds, but there are plenty of Cult fanatics around to keep snagging it from. Here's what it does:
  • 25% increase in damage done
  • heals you for 300% of damage done
So yeah. It basically turns you into an unkillable death machine. Good times.

Bloodlust/Presence of Mind/Divine Illumination/Divine Favor/etc....

Any time you can steal a powerful buff that is also a long cooldown spell for the class you're stealing it from, do it. Imagine how angry you'd be if you just hit your cooldown-blowing macro in preparation to destroy everything in your path, only to discover that the opposing mage has just stolen your Presence of Mind and Arcane Power and used them to instant-Pyroblast you. Now imagine how bad that shaman will feel when you steal Heroism from him. You get a bunch of casting speed, and all he gets is Exhaustion and a warm helping of shame.

Nether Power

This one is mandatory, really. Lord Jaraxxus in Trial of the Crusader stacks this, and you need to remove it or die trying. The good news, of course, is that in removing it, you're also gaining the stacking 20% damage increase for yourself. It stacks up to 10 times (you steal it in stacks of five), lasts 30 seconds and is 100% awesome.

Avenging Wrath

It gives you wings. Just like Red Bull, only without the heart palpitations. Any time you see a paladin sprout those wings, rip them off and steal his 30% damage buff. Works in PvE too!

That's it for my short list of potent, fun and downright wacky spells to steal. There is a truly massive amount of effects this spell can give you. Which other ones should I have mentioned?
Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at how much I hate damage meters or our lengthy series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the mage-train a-rollin'.

Filed under: Mage, Analysis / Opinion, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance

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