21 Jun 2010

The Flaming Boomerang

Ever since patch 3.3.3 was released I’ve been thinking of switching back to my Fire spec. It made me  feel nostalgic about the early days of Warcraft, where I originally levelled as a fire mage. I only deviated from this spec for parts of both Molten Core and Naxxramas, sticking with fire throughout Burning Crusade. When I started raiding in Wrath I only went to Arcane due to the hitcap benefits. The spec then received an almighty buff, propelling it to become the must-have raiding spec for nearly all mages. I’d been stuck as Arcane ever since.

As a result my fire spec has been largely abandoned until earlier this week when I decided that I had to change. There’s only so much I can take of going through the same instances as the same character casting the same spells until something snaps inside. Not wanting to go all medieval on my keyboard, I dusted off my old fire spec and went down to the target dummies to practice.

The first challenge to face is gearing – even though +hit gear is thrown at you so that you can comfortably make the Arcane hitcap, it’s not quite sufficient to reach the 446 that a fire mage needs. Luckily I’d kept back Dying Curse for just such an occasion. Couple that with the fact that I usually raid with a Draenei for Heroic Presence plus either a shadow priest for Misery or a balance druid for Improved Faerie Fire, and all I have to reach is a manageable 342 hitrating.

The next trick to master is keeping up a solid set of debuffs. The fire spec is slightly more complex than an arcane one in that Living Bomb always needs to be on the target. Each fire mage needs to cast their own Living Bomb, making debuff watching that little bit trickier if you’re not the only one in the party. Once you’ve got that down, you can happily Fireball away at the target until Hot Streak procs. When Hot Streak goes off, cast your instant-cast Pyroblast then go back to Fireballing. Just make sure that Living Bomb is constantly on the target.

The complication sets in when working out Improved Scorch. Even if you’ve got other effects in your group to provide the critical strike chance by 5%, you’ll still want to apply it for the 3% crit chance buff to your Fireballs. This one works slightly differently though in that one mage can apply the debuff for all the others in the group. This means that you need to coordinate with others about who will apply the debuff. Luckily the chance of encountering another fire mage in a raid is fairly rare, so you can usually apply anyway. Again, like with Living Bomb, this always needs to be applied on the target.

UPDATE: The above paragraph is wrong. Have a look at this article for an update on Improved Scorch

There are various tricks you can use to alert yourself to various spell procs as well as tracking when debuffs need to be applied, and I’ll be talking about some related addons in the near future.

Things can get even more complicated when you start looking at converting gear from an Arcane spec focus to a Fire spec focus. The reason being that haste benefits Arcane mages tremendously – the more haste they have, the more spells they can cast. For a fire mage with Burnout and Hot Streak, crit strike rating has more of a part to play. Not only do you deal more damage from your spell critical strikes, but you have an increased chance to trigger Hot Streak as your chance to crit increases. For me it’s not currently clear if haste is the better stat to go for above crit for fire mages, but it’s something I’m looking at closely.

At the end of the day though it doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m having fun, and going back to Fire is something that’s hitting all the right nostalgia buttons for me. I’ve also been able to “prove” it’s a viable raiding spec after managing to pull aggro during phase 2 of Lady Deathwhisper and topping the damage and DPS meters on Saurfang. These are inconsequential though, as long as I can cackle like a maniac while smacking my buttons.

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10 Responses to The Flaming Boomerang

  1. Spolli says:

    I raided as Fire throught TBC. Archimonde quaked in fear at my puny frostfire crits. It was great fun though, but when I come back for the expansion I think I’ll have to attempt other specs, if only because I’m going to level with a friend (druid). Some sort of “whoops I really pulled aggro there, didn’t I?” button might be useful…

    • Gazimoff says:

      Playing around with other specs is always fun, but don’t be afraid to go back to your roots every once in a while!

      • Spolli says:


        I remember there being an addon I used for keeping tabs on the ticking spells on mobs (like scorch and living bomb and the dots from fireballs etc) but can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. Which isn’t useful in the slightest, sorry. I have been trying to remember too! I’ll keep trying.

  2. firedispenser says:

    a small addendum to the scorch part:
    if you are lucky enough raiding with a warlock skilled with improved shadow bolt (http://www.wowhead.com/spell=17803/improved-shadow-bolt), or a frost mage skilled with winters chill (http://www.wowhead.com/spell=11180/winters-chill) the fire mage can skip the scorching because the debuff will just be overwritten by the other ones.

    • firedispenser says:

      ok, i overread the “Even if you’ve got other effects in your group to provide the critical strike chance by 5%” part in your post. but the overwriting debuff point is still valid. i have a addon telling me when a debuff timed out and when im raiding with said frost mages or demon locks i keep getting the “timed-out signal” immidiately after i applied it.

      • Gazimoff says:

        It’s something I need to look at in more detail – I know that Warlocks and Frost Mages both apply a 5% debuff on their primary nuke, while mages have to use their offspell (scorch) to apply it and get the added benefits of doing so. As I don’t raid with frostmages or warlocks a lot (I’m into strict 10s with my guild) I need to get a feel for how the mechanic works. If Winter’s Chill or Improved Shadowbolt are pushing off the Improved Scorch debuff then there’s an issue.

        I’ll do some further testing over the next few days and let you know what I find.

        • Tebla says:

          I am trying to find that out as well. I am making the switch to fire for some fights but my damage isn’t as good yet as arcane. Mostly because I feel clunky playing fire. I leveled and have raided for my whole time as arcane. My fingers hit the buttons without thinking.

          Anyway, the scorch thing has been bugging me. I always have a lock with improved shadow bolt with us, so I just assumed that I didn’t need to cast it.

  3. Prelimar says:

    come back, come back, come back to the fire — it’s toasty and cozy here!

  4. Jabarj says:

    Gazi, one thing that i have to point out is that you got it wrong about the scorch debuff. Speccing into the improved scorch talent gives you a passive 3% crit chance to your fire, the improved scorch debuff only applies 5% to the target, it’s exactly the same buff as improved shadowbolt and/or winter’s chill.
    As long as you get an Aff or Demo Lock in your group casting improved scorch is just a loss of dps and is pointless.
    And besides, with one of those, it’s simply impossible to keep your imp. scorch on the target as it’s going to be replaced evrytime they cast their main nuke.

    For timers i use ForteXorcist as it let’s me see timers in multiplemobs and has a highlighted mark on each dot telling me when it’s gonna tick. For Procs, i really don’t like power auras nor tellmewhen, i use Mik Scrolling battle text and i have all the buffs that are of my interest highlighted.

    Best Regards

    • Gazimoff says:

      Yep, I’m going to be putting up a new article covering this, hopefully later today. As for timers, I’ve been having some great success with Power Auras. I’m hoping to cover it in an upcoming post.