For us over in Europe tomorrow is Patch Day, while those players in the US are already downloading, installing and waiting for servers to come back online. Regardless, the theorycrafters have been out in force, pouring over every talent change and glyph update. But while some classes get some interesting updates, the changes for mages seem bland by comparison.
Before I get into my opinions though, let’s look at what’s been changed in the patch.
- Arcane Empowerment: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc off of critical strikes. The self damage buff remains unchanged.
- Incanter’s Absorption: This talent now only grants additional spell power when damage is absorbed by Mana Shield, Frost Ward, Fire Ward, or Ice Barrier. The limit of 5% of the mage’s health on the spell power buff has been removed.
- Burning Soul: Threat reduction is now 10/20%, up from 5/10%.
- Combustion: The cooldown on this spell is now 2 minutes, down from 3 minutes.
- Empowered Fire: This talent now also applies to Pyroblast damage.
- Torment the Weak: This talent now also applies to Pyroblast damage.
- Frostbolt: Spell power scaling on this spell has been increased by approximately 5%.
- Brain Freeze: This talent now allows your next Fireball or Frostfire Bolt to be instant and cost no mana. There is a small internal cooldown to keep the Frostfire Bolt from immediately triggering Brain Freeze again.
- Glyph of Fireball: No longer increases critical strike chance of Fireball. Instead, it now reduces the cast time of Fireball by 0.15 seconds.
- Arcane Empowerment: Fixed a bug preventing Rank 3 from granting 3% damage.
- Burning Determination: This talent will no longer sometimes have its effect removed by the same spell that triggered it.
- Dragon’s Breath: Druids can no longer remove the disorientation effect from this spell by canceling their current shapeshift.
- Enduring Winter: Tooltip corrected to match actual Replenishment mana regeneration numbers.
- Fingers of Frost: Mages with Molten Armor active who have the Shatter talent will no longer lose Fingers of Frost charges when Molten Armor causes reactive damage. In addition, the effect from this talent now displays the number of charges on the buff icon.
In a nutshell, Arcane mages get a flat-rate buff instead of one that relied on crits, but lose out on the Incanter’s Absorption trick. Let’s be fair though, only the high-end mages were using this trick – for the average mage it’s no great loss. Fire mages get some interesting changes in the form of threat reduction, more crits and more damage when they crit often. It means that hitting the Hot Streak proc and getting that Instant-cast Pyroblast is becoming even more important. Frost mages get some slight love, mainly from the Fingers of Frost bug fix and the Frostbolt scaling changes.
Will this change anything? I’m seeing a lot of talk from the high-end about Arcane mages going back over to Fire, but the difference I’m seeing is marginal at best. I’m more worried about the practical rather than the theory, and how it’ll translate into bossfight combat.
While theory is great for when you’re standing still and just tapping your hotkeys, most Wrath bossfights involve some kind of movement or rhythm. Looking at the relative casting time of Arcane Blast versus Fireball, I think that Arcane will still win out for most fights where movement is important. It might be that the extra range from Flame Throwing will compensate for some of it, but I’m thinking more about encounters like Blood Princes or Marrowgar.
I also think that a fair chunk of mages just won’t bother. We ditched a ton of hit gear when Arcane became the spec to have and I reckon that there are several who can’t be bothered to collect the additional hit gear again just to go back. This is another one of those reasons why Hit modifiers really need to come out of the talent trees.
Frost will still be the spec for PVP mages, but the buffs still don’t push it up next to Arcane and Fire for raid suitability. It also feels like the tweaks and bugfixes are tinkering around the edges. I don’t think that Frost players will be on a level playing field until much later.
I think the real excitement will hit with 3.9, when the talents get their full revamp along with the Cataclysm stat changes. Until then, it feels like we’re just waiting for people to run the numbers before we go out, change our specs and regem our gear.