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Arcane Brilliance: Time to talk about the mage tier 13 set bonuses

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we take a look at the newly announced and quickly revised mage tier 13 set bonuses. I've provided a picture of the tier 13 helm above. Also, I am a liar.

So yeah, that isn't really the mage tier 13 helm at all. No matter how desperately I want it to be.

Still, any clothing that makes me look like a time chicken wizard is welcome. But we've spent enough time in past columns discussing the appearance of our tier 13 set. It's high time we started the conversation about the actual set bonuses this gear will provide. And what a conversation it will be ...

Mage tier 13 set bonuses:
  • Two-piece bonus Your Arcane Blast has a 100% chance, and your Fireball and Frostbolt spells have a 50% chance, to grant Stolen Time, increasing your haste rating by 50 for 30 seconds and stacking up to 10 times. When Arcane Power, Combustion, or Icy Veins expires, all stacks of Stolen Time are lost.
  • Four-piece bonus Each stack of Stolen Time also reduces the cooldown of Arcane Power by 7 seconds, Combustion by 4 seconds, and Icy Veins by 6 seconds.
All right -- let's discuss, shall we?

Stolen Time, the two-piece version

This is the new spell effect both of our set bonuses trigger. For the two-piece set bonus, Stolen Time amounts to a stacking haste buff that procs on the casting of our three primary nukes. For Arcane Blast, the proc chance is 100%, and for Fireball and Frostbolt, it's 50%.

The amount each proc will increase your haste rating by is 50, and the stack is capped at 10, meaning that at full stack, we'll be getting a haste rating increase of 500. With a 30-second cooldown that I assume resets with each fresh proc, losing your stack should never be an issue.

Still, the stack has a limit. Once you trigger your spec's major DPS cooldown (Arcane Power, Combustion, or Icy Veins), you've just set an end point for your Stolen Time stacks, because the haste buff expires when those effects do.

So with the wo-piece set bonus active, you're essentially stacking your Stolen Time haste buff until you're ready to use your DPS cooldown spell; then you're starting over as soon as that cooldown expires. Stolen Time should provide you with an almost constant source of extra haste, ramping up until it caps at 10 stacks, then gets reset by your DPS cooldown.

So how much do you like haste?

This is the question I asked myself immediately upon reading that two-piece bonus. Because that's essentially all this bonus provides: a stacking haste buff. A sizable one, no doubt, but not enough to be a game-changer. At this point in the life cycle of this game, we sort of expect these set bonuses to be more than just minor stat increases. A constantly resetting chunk of haste rating that starts at 50 and caps at 500 before plunging back down to 50 isn't all that exciting. And it's even less so for those specs that value haste less than others.

Currently haste is a relatively valued stat for all three specs and varies wildly in value depending upon gear level, spec, and which DPS spreadsheet they happen to be plugging their numbers into that day. At extreme levels of haste, the stat loses almost all of its value, such as during Bloodlust or Time Warp, when your main nuke is already at the global cooldown or close enough to it that more haste simply isn't worth having.

Still, the answer for most of us most of the time is that yes, we do like haste. We want more of it. It increases our DPS. The problem is that it isn't sexy. It isn't interesting or new.

That is, it isn't until we factor in the four-piece set bonus.

Stolen Time, the four-piece version

So once we have a full set of tier 13 gear, Stolen Time becomes far more intriguing. In addition to the stacking haste buff, each stack of Stolen Time now also decreases the cooldown on our spec's primary DPS cooldown ability by a few seconds. The reduction per stack is 7 seconds for Arcane Power, 4 seconds for Combustion, and 6 seconds for Icy Veins.

So now, not only are we steadily increasing the speed at which we sling our spells, we're also hastening the arrival of the DPS cooldown that will reset that stack. The napkin math breakdown is as follows:
  • Arcane Power at 10 stacks of Stolen Time gets reduced by 70 seconds, which makes the cooldown effectively 20 seconds. But you won't be able to cast it quite that often, of course. Even if you can stand completely still and cast Arcane Blast with that increasing haste buff, you're still looking at between 15 and 25 seconds to get back to 10 stacks. In most situations, you'll be able to hit your Arcane Power cooldown almost concurrently with reaching 10 stacks. That's assuming your mana pool can survive such a burn cycle, which we'll talk more about in a bit.
  • Combustion at 10 stacks of Stolen Time gets reduced by 40 seconds, making the effective cooldown 80 seconds. It'll take you anywhere from 30 to 40 seconds to get back to a full 10-stack, depending on your luck with procs and your ability to stand still and spam Fireballs. Most fire mages will still have to spend some time casting with a full Stolen Time haste stack, waiting on their Combustion cooldown.
  • Icy Veins at 10 stacks of Stolen Time gets reduced by a full minute, making the effective cooldown 84 seconds. As with fire, frost mages are going to spend the better part of a minute in between Icy Veins cooldowns with a full 10-stack of Stolen Time.

Why this is intriguing

For fire and frost, the bonus provided by a four-piece set is more straightforward. You're getting the full haste stack for more of the fight and still getting the straight DPS buff provided by far more frequent Icy Veins and Combustions. Since there is no real downside to casting either of those spells, most fire and frost mages won't find their playstyles altered in any significant way with the tier 13 set. They'll still be using the same rotations, only now their spells will come out a little bit faster and their major cooldowns will be available way more often. For both specs, the bonus will be a readily quantifiable damage increase.

For arcane mages, however ...

I've seen complaints voiced from more than a few arcane mages that run along the lines of "Why should this excite me when I still have to wait for my Evocation to come off cooldown?" Mana management is the major issue for arcane mages and has been since the dawn of Mana Adept at the start of this expansion. You have to know when to burn, when to conserve, and when to recover. It's a rotation-altering, proc-watching, cooldown-juggling mess more often than not. No mage spec more effectively separates the skilled from the unskilled than arcane.

Arcane Power is already a dangerous cooldown if used without care. It grants great power, yes, but at a high mana cost. Most arcane mages are used to the current cooldown and know how to fit it into their own burn phases based on that cooldown, which actually fits more or less into the whole waiting-for-Evocation paradigm.

Now we're effectively taking the cooldown length out of the equation completely. Thanks to the 100% proc rate for Stolen Time off of Arcane Blast and the already short cooldown for Arcane Power, arcane mages will find that they can now cast their major DPS cooldown pretty much as often as they want to. The question then becomes, "How often do I want to?"

How many Arcane Power casts can my mana pool withstand between Evocations? How powerful do I dare become? Will one more Arcane Power cast be worth it here, or will it force me to spend the last 10 seconds of my burn phase wanding?

And while we're on the subject, how valuable is all that extra haste going to be when I'm trying to conserve mana, anyway? I suspect that even the two-piece bonus alone will prompt some rotation tweaking. If we're spending time holding off on Arcane Power but casting at full Stolen Time haste stacks, do we need to be resetting our Arcane Blast stacks more often? Probably.

The bottom line (and I fully realize that I've spent a disproportionate amount of time jabbering on about arcane mages here, but the simple fact is that this set bonus is quite simply more interesting for arcane than for fire and frost; it's not bad for the other two specs, just less interesting) is that this set bonus adds more decision making to a spec that's already built almost entirely around making good choices. You get more opportunities to make the right decisions and more opportunities to make the wrong ones. That means more chances for good arcane mages to be better and for bad ones to be worse.

Good or bad, it will certainly be interesting.

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.

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

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