23 Jun 2010

Scorched Fingers

Earlier on in the week I put up an article about going back to my old fire spec on my mage. It was basically a brain dump – this is what I’m doing, this is how it works, this is what I remember. Unfortunately, mid dumpage I got something wrong.

To be fair, it isn’t just me that has trouble with how Improved Scorch works – there seems to be a whole rash of confusion out there. Luckily though, there are some great resources as well to help put people on the Right Path.

Now, I can imagine that some of you are thinking “But Gaz, how can you get something like this wrong? You’ve been playing the class for five years, surely you should know something as basic as this?”. And it’d be a fair criticism. I’m just glad to have readers who will point out when I get something wrong so that I can go back and correct it.

Getting back to Improved Scorch, the devil is in the detail. The tooltip is as follows:

Increases your chance to critically hit with Scorch, Fireball and Frostfire Bolt by an additional 3% and your damaging Scorch spells have a 100% chance to cause your target to be vulnerable to spell damage, increasing spell critical strike chance against that target by 5% and lasts 30 sec.

Wait, what?

Let’s break it down. The first part of Improved Scorch is a passive bonus that you get to your Scorch, Fireball and Frostfire Bolt spells. For fire mages, this means that your Fireball has an extra 3% chance to crit, making Hot Streak more likely. Worth having.

The second part of Improved Scorch is the vulnerability debuff that you apply on targets when you cast Scorch. This debuff makes spells 5% more likely to crit against them. This debuff acts independently of the passive bonus and benefits the entire raid.

That’s not the end of it though. The Scorch debuff doesn’t stack with Winter’s Chill, so if you’re raiding with a frost mage it can lead to complications where one debuff prevents the other from being applied. It also doesn’t stack with Improved Shadow Bolt, although crucially this debuff will overwrite Improved Scorch.I think that the difference in behaviour is due to it being hotfixed rather than implemented by design.

It’s managing this 5% spell crit chance debuff that’s the biggest difficulty with this spell, especially once you scale up to 25-man raiding. It’s also the source of a lot of confusion which isn’t helped by having an unclear tooltip, as well as different behaviours for resolving debuff conflicts.

Historically you’d resolve all this by having discussions within your raidgroup, but with so much raid content being tackled by Pug groups these days a slicker solution is needed. As a kind of stop-gap I’m having a look at what addons like Power Auras can do to help. Longer term, I can’t help but feel that this is somethign Blizzard need to fix.

Maybe Cataclysm will hold the answers? Let’s hope we don’t have to wait long to find out.

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