15 Nov 2010

Mage Tier 11 Preview

With the new Cataclysm raids comes a new set of armour for Mages to drool over. The Firelord’s Vestments have certainly won praise for their looks, but how does it stack up as a fully-fledged dungeon set? Will the complete outfit be worn by most mages, or will the bare minimum be used?

Firstly, it’s worth putting things in perspective. We’re three weeks away from the release of the next expansion. It’s going to take at least two weeks after that to get levelled up and geared up to enter raids – going through normal dungeons to get ready for heroic 5-mans, then using the gear from that to prepare yourself for raiding. By early January most raiding guild should be back in the saddle following the Christmas break. As a result, a lot of this will remain theory for a good few months.

Getting the Gear

As with Wrath there’ll be two flavours of Firelord’s Vestments. Normal raids will provide Valour Points which can be used to buy the leggings, robe and gloves. There’ll also be tokens from the final bosses of Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent for the helm and shoulders. Heroic difficulty dungeons will reward additional tokens to upgrade gear in much the same way that Icecrown Citadel currently works.

Don’t expect to be marching round in Tier 11 any time soon though – you’ll need a stack of justice points to buy all the pieces and it’ll take a while to earn them:

  • 75 points for completing the daily heroic
  • 75 points for defeating a 10-man difficulty boss
  • 105 points for defeating a 25-man difficulty boss

With 13 boss encounters available each week when you include the Throne of the Four Winds and Baradin Hold, as well as daily heroics, it’s likely to take over a month to complete a set. And even that’s assuming that you can clear all the dungeons in the first week. Considering the other goodies that will be competing for your Valour Points, it’ll probably be two months before you have a completed iLevel 359 epic set.

A Closer Inspection

Once assembled, the completed Firelord’s Vestments presents an interesting set of stats:

  • 1349 Intellect
  • 367 Crit Strike Rating (approx. 2%)
  • 783 Haste Rating (approx. 6.1%)
  • 337 Hit Rating (approx. 3.3%)
  • 377 Mastery Rating (approx. 2.1)
  • 1 Meta Socket, 3 Red Sockets, 2 Blue Sockets, 2 Yellow Sockets

The first shocker is Hit rating. At level 85 you’ll need to reach 1742 rating in order to hit that elusive cap. Now although there are 12 remaining item slots that can help you reach that goal, it’s likely that you’ll fall short. Even a fully gemmed and enchanted gear set from an iLevel 359 beta character will leave you roughly 300 rating short. Alchemy solutions like the Elixir of Impossible Accuracy and food buffs like the Grilled Dragon might help fill the gap, but expect to be using +hit stat trinkets  to reach that magic number.

Other than that, the ratings all tend to be at the low end of the spectrum once levelling decay is taken into account. It’s worth remembering that this set isn’t supposed to be a continuation of Tier 10, but should instead be considered as the new version of Hero’s Frostfire Garb.

It’s not clear at the moment which spec will benefit the most from this gear set – Arcane would work well with more haste, while Fire could do with a strong dose of Crit. Either way, expect DPS figures to be around the 10k-15k mark on a target dummy.

The Set Bonus

The 2-piece and 4-piece set bonuses for tier 11 come from the “keep it simple” school of design.

  • 2-Set Bonus: Increases the critical strike chance of Arcane Missiles, Ice Lance, and Pyroblast by 5%.
  • 4-Set Bonus: Reduces the cast time of Arcane Blast, Fireball, Frostfire Bolt, and Frostbolt by 10%.

The set bonuses feel like they’ll benefit Arcane and Fire mages more than Frost, if only because of the complexities of the Frost Mage priority system. The 4-set bonus will especially appeal to Arcane Mages with the 1-button Arcane Blast burn phase, as it’s a pure DPS boost. For other specs it’ll be a case of trial and error in order to maximise the value of the bonus. Frost mages in particular may find they get more benefit from non-set items with better stats than trying to complete the set bonus.

The Pros and Cons

Ultimately it’ll be the role of theorycrafters and spreadsheet gurus to calculate if the set bonuses of Tier 11 make it a worthwhile investment for mages to spend their Valour Points on. Don’t be surprised if it works out better to spend your points on incidentals like trinkets and neckpieces, and instead hoover up non-set armour pieces as you find them. Chances are you’ll gear up quicker and improve your damage output more rapidly.

Just remember, raiding isn’t all about loot.  If all you raid for is to gain epic items then you’ll be sorely disappointed. Raid for the fun of it or raid for the challenge and the epics will flow to you. Don’t try to force epics – that way, madness lies.

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