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.