So now we know when the expansion is coming (Sept. 25), and we also know when patch 5.0.4 is coming (Aug. 28). That means we'll be living with this patch and all of its sweeping changes to the systems and mechanics we're currently used to for the better part of a month before we get a whole bunch of new content to distract us from how different everything just became. That's a substantial amount of time to play with the new talent system, new spells, and ... erm ...pet battles that the pre-expansion patch will bring. I think this is a good time to discuss those changes and prepare ourselves mentally for all the shiny new bounty we are about to receive.
New talent system
This is by far the biggest change on the docket. Forget everything you currently know about talents. Gone is the 72-tier tree of talents that until now defined your mage's effectiveness. Gone are cookie-cutter specs that you had conform to or lose damage. Instead, we get six successive choices that are balanced pretty much equally.
Most of the talents we're used to now have either become baseline spells, been rolled together into current spells, or vanished entirely. Every 15 levels, we get to select from three talents. None of these talents are obviously better or worse than the others, freeing us to to choose the one at each tier that suits our playstyle or the needs of a particular situation.
Tier one (level 15) is our movement spell tier. Whichever talent you choose here will become an integral part of the rotation you use when the warlock makes you chase him.
- Scorch Spammable, short-cast fire spell that can be cast while moving.
- Presence of Mind Gives you a single instant-cast spell that would ordinarily require a cast time every 90 seconds. Off the global cooldown.
- Ice Floes Enables you to cast your next two spells that have a 4-second or less cast time or are channeled while moving. Off the global and can be cast while casting another spell.
- Temporal Shield After triggering this spell, you'll still take damage over the next 4 seconds but then returns that damage to you as healing over the following 6 seconds. Usable while crowd-controlled, and off the global cooldown.
- Ice Barrier Tried and true, this spell still absorbs a chunk of incoming damage for you on a 25-second cooldown.
- Blazing Speed No damage mitigation here, but this gives you an escape mechanic. Whenever you get smacked particularly hard, you can trigger a speed boost and drop any movement-impairing effects. Off the global and can be cast during other spells.
- Ring of Frost No more coalescing; this spell now just plunks down an instant 10-yard ring that will freeze any enemies that enter it in place for 10 seconds.
- Ice Ward You can throw this spell on any friendly target (say, the tank) and the next time anything strikes that target, every enemy within 10 yards of him will earn a 5-second freeze.
- Frostjaw Single-target freeze and silence. Instant-cast, lasts 8 seconds, has a 30-yard range, and only lasts 4 seconds in PvP.
- Cauterize Prevents death once every 2 minutes. Any attack that would otherwise have killed you instead restores you to 50% health but applies a fire DoT that burns off 40% of your max over the next 6 seconds. Keeps your healers on their toes.
- Greater Invisibility Reduces all threat, removes up to two DoTs, and makes you invisible for 20 seconds. You can't be targeted and any splash or AoE damage you might run into is mitigated by 90%.
- Cold Snap Every 3 minutes, you can instantly restore 30% of your max health and end the cooldown on Ice Block, Cone of Cold, or Frost Nova. Off the global and can be used while CCed.
- Nether Tempest Puts a 12-second DoT on a primary target, and with every tick fires off a little half-damage glob at a secondary target within 10 yards of the primary.
- Living Bomb 12-second fire DoT on up to three targets. When the 12 seconds expires, it explodes and damages up to three additional targets within 10 yards. It's still Living Bomb, guys.
- Frost Bomb Basically a 5-second time bomb that you stick on a warlock, then watch as he wanders over to the skate park or the mall or the AFI concert or whatever and blows up. Damages all enemies within 10 yards and applies a 70% snare to them for the next 2 seconds.
Significant spell changes
I won't list every spell change here, since almost everything in our spellbooks is changing at least a little bit. These are the things I think will take the most getting used to when the patch hits. A ton of spells that used to be spec-specific will now be baseline spells, available to all mages, from Shatter to Burning Soul to Deep Freeze.
- Frostfire Bolt has become our level 1 nuke, used while leveling and then used again near max level for Brain Freeze procs or as a replacement nuke for Fireball via Glyph of Frostfire Bolt.
- Arcane Blast no longer generates its own charges, instead being affected by new spell Arcane Charge, which we'll cover in a minute. Cast-time main nuke for Arcane. Generates one Arcane Charge. Each charge increases Arcane Blast's damage and mana cost.
- Arcane Missiles is still a channeled missile-launching spell and now has a chance to trigger after any damaging spellcast. Generates an Arcane Charge and costs no mana. Each Arcane Charge increases damage.
- Arcane Explosion now has a chance to also generate an Arcane Charge.
- Arcane Barrage now consumes all your stacked Arcane Charges. Acts as a release valve. Fires out one additional 50% damage bolt per stacked Arcane Charge, which is indescribably awesome. Still super-pretty.
- Brain Freeze now only triggers from damage done by your tier 5 bomb talent. It grants you a free instant Frostfire Bolt that also acts as if your target were frozen.
- Deep Freeze no longer deals damage. It's back to just being a stun. Which is, of course, incredibly sucky.
- Pyroblast now has the proc effects of Hot Streak rolled into it.
- Burning Soul is now a baseline passive for all mages, reducing spell pushback by 70%.
Shiny new spells
- Arcane Charge is your new arcane stacking mechanic. Arcane Blast, Arcane Missiles, and Arcane Explosion all generate a charge, and those charges stack up to six times. Arcane Barrage consumes all charges. As detailed above, all of those spells are buffed differently by your charge stack. Well, except for Arcane Explosion. It just generates charges.
- Frozen Orb is a new frost specialization spell. It functions as a frost version of Flame Orb, which is now gone.
- Nether Attunement is our new mana return mechanic. Since spirit doesn't help mages and our mana is now capped at 300k, this is our only way of gaining mana regen. It allows your haste to increase your mana regen and increases the amount of mana gained back from all the various mage spells and talents that grant any kind of mana return.
- Inferno Blast replaces Fire Blast in fire mages' spell books. It does instant damage, is a guaranteed critical strike, and spreads any of your fire DoTs on the target to up to two additional targets within 10 yards. It also instantly triggers the secondary effects of Frost Bomb or Nether Tempest, if you are the one fire mage who wants to pick those over Living Bomb at tier 5.
- Conjure Familiar gives you a stone that summons a little non-combat pet, which is a tiny elemental. Cosmetic only.
- Illusion is a fun little cosmetic spell. It randomly changes you to look like another character model and breaks when you do almost anything.
I will be covering the basics of the new expansion next week. See you then, and in the meantime, let's all do our part to help control the warlock population. Spay or neuter any warlock you see!
(See what happens when you accuse me of not including enough warlock hate in my columns? Things get creepy.)
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.