15 Aug 2010

Beta Patch – The Pyromaniac’s Impact

Spoiler Alert: Discussion of Mage changes in patch 12759. In this article, I’ll also be focusing on Impact, Pyromaniac and AoE talents and how they’ll work together in a solo, dungeon and raid environment.

A whole slew of mage changes came out in the most recent patch. The main ones were around armour specialisations and talent masteries. Wearing our normal gear (complete cloth armour) nets a handy 5% increase in Intellect. For fire mages, Mastery now gives us a tasty bonus to the DoT component of our spells. Both the specialisation and mastery appear in our spellbook once we’ve learned them from the trainer.

The new teleport bar that I mentioned after the previous patch has now been fleshed out with all teleport spells. The only snag is that only the Dalaran and Shattrath spells work now, meaning that for most mages it’s now a two-hop trip to wherever we want to go. Even so, it’s still better than catching a boat everywhere.

Apparently there are new teleport and portal spells available to the new Tol Barad PVP zone, although I haven’t had a chance to test these yet. There are currently no teleports or portals to Vash’jir, Deepholm or Uldum, although there are static portals at Stormwind and Orgrimmar.

The other big change is that creature damage has been heavily ramped up from level 65 onwards. Level 82 outdoor creatures now do four times as much damage as they used to, which is horrendous news for cloth classes with little to no damage mitigation.

Currently, solo questing involves constant use of mana shield, counterspell and frost nova. And that’s for every single pull, just to stay alive. Going toe to toe with mobs in Deepholm is an excruciating experience – you have to work hard to take down a single mob. If you have anything add to the fight, you’re toast. Don’t forget that Polymorph won’t help you there as almost everything you fight is an elemental of some description.

Making An Impact

In terms of talents, Impact finally found a purpose outside of PvP. It’s main purpose now is to be used as a DoT spreader, pushing any periodic spell effects to other nearby creatures. It’s something that feels limited to fights where the tank is trying to hold a number of mobs, but where you’re unable to open up with AoE spells. In this case you’d mix Fire Blast into your rotation when impact procs in order to get a boost to your overall damage output. It also increases the likelihood of triggering Pyromaniac, but more on that later.

The AoE Speciality?

Way back in the mists of Wrath, mages were told what their particular niche was. Rogues were supposed to be the single target damage dealers of choice, while mages were intended to be masters of area-of-effect damage. At the end of the expansion, it doesn’t feel like that design philosophy has rung true – there seems to be little point being able to do high AoE damage when you aren’t given the opportunities to use them. Most dungeon and raid bossfights tend to rely on single target damage with fast target switching. It’s only the trash in heroic modes that work with AoE, unless you’re out farming on your own.

So what happens in Cataclysm? Well, mobs now hit like a truck, so taking on a single one is a tough act. Trying to use your AoE talents outdoors isn’t going to happen unless you like being the centre of a truck sandwich, and we all know how much that appeals to cloth classes. AoE grinding is definitely off the menu.

A Different Dungeon Approach

I’ve kind of alluded to it before, but a mage’s standard role within dungeons is changing. Previously it was all about dropping down Blizzard on trashmobs and helping the party get through the experience as fast as possible. With the expansion, your role changes much more to one of crowd control and placement. You’ll need polymorph (and I’m really hoping they bring out a glyph that allows you to control two targets for half the duration).

Part of the reason for this change is because of crosshealing mobs that will just keep eachother up while you waste mana trying to kill them. The other side is that a tank’s ability to keep aggro on multiple targets is being severely nerfed. A paladin in Wrath can quite happily keep a number of enemies stuck to him like glue. In Cataclysm that drops to maybe one or two, with only about a quater of the aggro on other mobs nearby. That means that dropping spells like Flamestrike on a group of mobs are a sure way of making lots of friends. And by friends I mean creatures that want to kill you.

Fiery By Design.

So let’s look at Pyromaniac again. Basically, the idea is to get your fire DoTs on as many targets as possible so that you can get the spell haste bonus. Sounds lovely, right? More spell haste equals more DPS, while more mobs affected by your DoTs means more bonus from your mastery talent. It’s all beginning to tie in together.

Except there’s a snag. As I’ve mentioned earlier, you’ll only be taking on one mob at a time without help. For solo questing and PvP, talents like Pyromaniac and other AoE enhancers are pretty much a lost cause – you’ll never get to use them outside of artificially unbalanced situations because you’ll be torn to shreds before you manage to kill anything. You won’t be using it in dungeons because the tank will lose aggro on most of his mobs the second you drop a blastwave-flamestrike, leaving him like some kind forty-something accountant watching his hair all escape and trying to keep hold of the little that remains.

Sharing The Love

We’re mages. We like to ensure that as many creatures as possible get to experience the wonder that our spells have to offer. It doesn’t matter if it’s Fire, Frost or Arcane, we love to share. But currently it’s only really our Frost-laden types that can manage to pull it off.

There’s a couple of adjustments that can be made in order to make Magecraft more successful in Cataclysm again, particularly in making AoE useful.

  • Make Mana Shield soak more damage. Currently it feels like a cardboard coating on the tissue paper that is mage cloth armour. With the amount of damage that mobs are doing, it would be nice to have a spell that would soak more than a single hit.
  • Add a debuff to mobs under AoE to reduce their damage output. Call it something like Crippling Flames, but basically make sure that mages don’t get pummelled into paste when they try and take on more than a single mob. Otherwise, there’s very little point in having AoE abilities in the first place.
  • Make Frost Nova a bit more flexible in non-frost specs. If you’re going to force us to go down the root-blast-root-blast path, at least improve the rooting ability so that it doesn’t break if we so much as tickle the mob.

I’d like to think that we can start to have a bit more utility around AoE. Right now, it feels like those talents are the ones not to take.

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