Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Think Ghostcrawler is a Pretty Cool Guy.

eh buffs Arcane Mages and doesn't afraid of anything.

I'm sorry, dear internet, for having to stoop to the lowest common denominator for that remark. But whether or not you enjoy the digital cesspool that is 4chan, there is some grain of truth in the humor and sarcasm that can be found there, especially when you apply it to WoW (which in some cases, can contain the same content up on the boards from time to time).

Yes, what I mean to say is that Ghostcrawler is indeed a guy to keep your eye on. One day he's nerfing hunters to the ground without remorse, and the next day he's being so nice to Arcane Mages that everyone turns a suspicious eye towards him, wondering with the fullest extent of paranoia if he's going to bat us to the ground too. Let's take a look at the 6-step program, shall we?

1) Evocation – cooldown reduced to 4 min.
2) Arcane Flows – now also reduces the cooldown of Evocation by an additional 1 / 2 min.

If by chance you misread Arcane Flows, the Evocation cooldown is not reduced by half a minute, but rather by one or two minutes, depending on how many points you invest in the talent. This means that fully talented, your purple funnel of delicious mana is reduced to a 2 minute cooldown. Great for all Arcane mages, but specifically for PvP. With the Evoc glyph, you're looking at considerable HP and mana regeneration every 2 minutes, coming from an mage built for increased mobility over his Frosty counterpart.

Sounds very threatening to the PvP balance, but good ol' ghosty is quite aware, saying "If every PvP mage invests in this glyph and you find they just never die then we can chill out the amount healed." So not only is he pretty cool, but pretty chill as well. Excellent!

3) Arcane Blast – overhauled. Will now increase the damage of your next Arcane spell by 15%. However using Arcane Blast itself does not consume the charge, but instead increases the mana of your next Arcane Blast, up to a maximum of 3 stacks (and a 45% buff). You can alternate Blast and Barrage to keep buffing Barrage, or you can build Blast up higher for a heavy mana cost.

Euripides over at Criticl QQ has a very spot-on analogy regarding the overhaul of Arcane Blast and the new Arcane mage playstyle in PvE (but moreso in PvP). Claiming the mage to be a caster version of a rogue, you use arcane blast as a means to build up combo points, and use your Arcane Barrage or Arcane Missiles as your finishing move, potentially doing massive damage if you land a crit, or have cooldowns boosting the spell damage.

Yet at the same time, the rotation comes back to the old BC days, where the purple mage can once again cast a certain amount of stacks of ABlast depending on the his or her current mana pool, the enemy's health bar, the mobility conditions, and many other things. The decision tree aspect is restored, and it looks like Arcane is getting some love once again.

4) Torment the Weak – now works with Arcane Blast and does bonus damage to targets afflicted by any kind of slowing effect (e.g. Thunder Clap).

The question that remains now is whether or not bosses will be affected by Torment the Weak through means other than Slow when the patch hits. Having read through both the actual topic posted and the blue post watcher on MMO-champion, there hasn't been a clear-cut answer.

If it is a yes, then Deep Frost will really have to take some consideration into investing in the Arcane Tree. Unlike Fire mages, who are already investing in this talent for the cookie cutter build, Frost doesn't need a "Slow slave" to apply the snare effect to boost damage.

And besides, it's never a bad thing to be able pick up clearcasting and Focus Magic along the way for increased damage and mana efficiency. With Spell Impact increasing your Ice Lance and Fireball damage during Brain Freeze and Fingers of Frost procs, you get one free point to invest to your discretion. I've noticed that I'm taking a lot of raid damage, and despite having the convenience of Ice Barrier to buffer the hurt, the 40 resistance from rank 1 Arcane Absorption is a personal decision, and is probably the right choice for many mages for survivability purposes.

So, if the answer to the original question is yes (and my frosty intuition leads me to believe it to be so), then expect to see me use a 18/0/53 build for raids. I lose my blizzard grindy goodness, but I gain a significant amount of damage and mana efficiency.

Suddenly, that dual-spec idea doesn't sound as useless to mages as it used to be.

5) Elemental Precision – renamed Precision and now works on all spells.

This has two main implications. One, it removes the double-dipping hit bug that Frostfire Bolt used to have. Due to being both a fire and frost spell, it would often reduce the hit rating for the spell by six percent instead of three. This change essentially brings FFB back to three percent. At first glance, bringing the this would appear to be a nerf, but in reality, FFB mages were gearing up for 3% anyways, because while slushbolt was affected by the "bug," Pyroblast and Scorch were not.

Instead, you're looking at an additional three percent reduction to all spells, meaning that Precision and Arcane Focus will stack and lower the hit cap for Arcane Mages by a considerable amount. Since they are already going so deep into the frost tree for better itemization freedom due to less points needed in hit rating, they can might as well go the full eleven points for Icy Veins, thus reliving the good old days of 40/0/21 Arcane in the Burning Crusade, except with an overhaul to Arcane Blast as warranted by Ghostcrawler and the development team.

Larísa, you might want to consider coming back to them, I kinda miss the old spec wars. They made for some excellent posts, and some really nice traffic. Wait, did I say that out loud? Moving on! :3

6) Improved Blizzard – snaring effect reduced to 20/40/50%.

At first glance, the change is inconsequential as far as raiding or instancing goes, but when it comes to AoE grinding, we end up with less snare than we originally did before Chilled to the Bone was introduced. Fully taleted, the current snare effect of blizzard is 85%, 75% if you ignore CttB. With the change to Imp. Blizzard, the total snare effect of Blizzard, including CttB will be 70%, five percent less than what it was before 3.0 was even released!

What this means for AoE grinders out there is that we have to revert to the pre-3.0 methods of grinding, before CttB. This means that once again, we cannot use Frostbite in our spec because of the separation created by the snare and root effects, and we will once again have to blink out of Frost Nova range to gain adequate space for our blizzards to do the full duration of its damage. But with the ability of Blizzard to hit, we will still only have to do one iteration of Blink->Blizzard to kill them off. Any survivors will simply be Cone of Colded or Arcane Assploded for style points. Fine by me, it will make for more entertaining youtube videos.

As an AoE purist, I welcome the change, since it brings back the finesse required to do the elaborate channel-dance known as Blizzard. The learning curve will be even worse for those who want to try it out for the first time, but will make it much more exciting to those with experience. The only thing I don't like is having to edit my Northrend grinding guide once again. Damn you ghostcrawler! *shakesfist*

Closing Thoughts

Despite these great changes to the arcane tree, as well as the somewhat deserved nerf to AoE grinding, things still look very great for mages everywhere. With the adjustment of Hunter DPS, it is now more viable for mages to compete with them on the DPS charts with a multitude of specs. Some will say that mages will come out on top with this round of changes, and I'm inclined to agree.

We will now have to look out over our shoulders with a paranoia. As Ghostcrawler stated, "Mage PvE damage in general is something we are keeping a close eye on. With the recent hunter changes, many of which were nerfs to PvE damage, we want to make sure mages now don’t break away from the pack of damage-dealing specs."

Even as Frost, we will have to watch out, because any possible chance that the frost tree is indirectly affected by nerfs to frostfire, the current king of mage dps, will cripple us as well. Ghostcrawler won't hesitate to make the call. He doesn't afraid of anything.


Larísa said...

It surely looks interesting and I'm going to consider it... I've got kind of used to frostfire already, but with dueal specs upcoming you don't have to choose really. I could have arcane AND frostfire...

Fish said...

So, um yeah, where is the aforementioned huntard nerf? I guess they're afraid if they nerf them, the huntards would all quit. . .