Spoiler Alert: Discussion of the latest changes to fire mages in build 12694. Also covering a few general and mage related UI changes and some speculation around what they indicate.
The latest beta realm patch was recently released, bringing with it a range of changes to the Mage fire tree (full notes in the forums). I’d been holding off doing any serious work on my level 80 transfer because these changes were inbound, and it’s definitely been worth the wait. The subtle playstyle changes have livened up the spec, both for PvE and PvP fans alike.
First up, let’s look at the baseline. Comparing my mage to his Wrath counterpart, his health pool has crept up almost 10k hp while his mana pool has remained flat at around 25k. Spellpower, haste, hit and crit percentages are also broadly in line with those in the current live game (although Spellpower is slightly higher in beta). Making the transition should be fairly smooth. The biggest issue will be the wasted spirit statpoints on non-set or filler gear – reforging or replacing may be the best way to deal with these items.
The spellbook has been completely overhauled, with spell ranks being removed and additional abilities creeping into the spellbook. Skills such as Guild Perks can be found on the general tab, alongside weapon and armour skills. This is useful if you quickly want to know what perks you have enough guild reputation to be able to use.
Looking more closely at Mage changes in the spellbook, it seems like the teleport and portal UI is going to be redeveloped in Cataclysm. There’s a new test teleport spell in the back of the spellbook, which pops out a Teleport-Dalaran icon when clicked. The number in the bottom-right corner is the number of teleport runes remaining.
When this is dragged onto the actionbar, it works in pretty much the same way as a totem – just click the button to expand out the list of teleports available. Again, currently only Dalaran is included.
It looks like Teleports and Portals will be merged into a single spell with a collection of options in order to reduce space on both actionbars and spellbooks. It also means that addons that were normally used to manage portal menus are eliminated, reducing the overall addon load. I’m also hoping that Polymorph also gets added to the set of spells that receive this treatment.
It’s worth taking the time to look over MMO-Champion’s updated talent calculator, as it really helps to show the changed ethos behind how fire talents are laid out. For a raiding mage, it’s beginning to feel as if you’re being forced to take the bad talents in order to get at the ones you want.
By placing Blazing Speed as a pre-requisite for Molten Shields, or Dragon’s Breath for Living Bomb, it feels as if I have to waste talent points on “fluff” in order to get to the stuff I really want. It’s not such a big deal – you end up having to take a lot of these talents anyway in order to reach Living Bomb, but it’s still annoying.
The big news though is Cauterise – the talent that heals the mage from a killing blow, only to kill them again. It’s a really interesting concept as a “buying time” talent, in order to get rid of some of that squishieness that fire mages typically suffer from.
It’s currently really hard to use properly, partly because the old Fire Ward animation is used to show when it kicks in, along with a ticking debuff. There’s no audio alert or combat text, which means you have to quickly deal with the situation before you burn to death. A PowerAuras config or audio alert is going to be compulsory to use with this.
Recovering from Cauterise has a couple of options. You can iceblock through the debuff, but that still leaves you with mobs pounding at your fragile skull. Mage Ward can also be used to absorb some of the fire damage. Molten Shields can also be used when Mage Ward dissipates to give you a movement speed boost – handy for when blink is on cooldown to get away from those mobs or out of the bad stuff.
Mage Ward won’t absorb that much damage though. Considering that at 80 you’ll have about 25k-30K HP, you’re looking at around 2700 damage per tick. Mage Ward will probably eat one tick, leaving you on about 4% health once Cauterise finishes burning. You buy yourself a bit of time, but you’ll need to act fast to make the best use of it.
The other big change is the introduction of Firestarter. This simple talent allows you to cast Scorch while moving as long as Molten Armour is up. The excellent news is that fire gets a further mobility boost, both for PvP (Scorch can trigger ignite) and PvE (being able to DPS while moving out of the bad stuff). It’s come at a cost though – Improved Scorch now feels like a waste of a talent spot, while Fire Blast is relegated to being either a finishing move or a way to consume Impact procs.
Fire Mage AoE has also received a boost in the beta, although I’m struggling to make the best use of all the tools available at the moment. Pyromaniac increases spell haste if three or more targets are taking DoT damage from my spells, while Improved Flamestrike reduces the casting time while under Pyromania. The two talents are designed to work together, yet I’m struggling to get them to mesh properly at the moment.
Blast Wave has also changed – it ‘s now a ranged AoE with a slow effect added on, much like Blizzard. It’s also instant-cast. The removal of knockback gets rid of one of the biggest problems with the talent for raiding and dungeons, but also removes it’s usefulness for PvP. It’s possible that a glyph will arrive to remove the slow component and add the knockback, but it’s uncertain at present. It’s also not clear if this AoE is really needed when compared with Flamestrike.
Once the AoE playstyle is nailed down, I’ll be looking to record some videos to demonstrate exactly how these new abilities work. I’ll be also looking at mage rotation changes now that the Spell Vulnerability part of Scorch has been pushed out into Critical Mass.
I’ll also be trying to look at how mages feel when levelling from 80 to 85, as well as having a bit of a closer look at the interplay between Flamestrike, Blast Wave and Flame Orb. This should really help with AoE farming and rapid-instance clearing, but getting the balance right should be interesting.
I’m also still working at the other end of the scale with the Worgen mage. I’ll be releasing an update on the early mage experience soon.
As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see or find out more about, please ask.