21 Jan 2011

Mages and Patch 4.0.6

It’s about a month and a half since Cataclysm was released. In that time we’ve seen a flurry of tweaks, changes and hotfixes to some of the biggest bugs in the game. Not everything can be fixed with a hotfix though, which is why patch 4.0.6 is bringing some pretty serious changes.

Why 4.0.6 though? Blizzard will never admit it, but patch 4.0.4 could not be found anywhere. Patch 4.0.5 was desperately trying to be an expansion in it’s own right, but this method was not allowed. It was last seen on the hills outside Irvine, howling to the other feral patches that never made it and living off stale internets discarded by open wi-fi outlets.

This leaves us with Experiment 4.0.6, a patch designed to bring union and harmony to the classes, restoring balance throughout the playerbase. Or something.

Before We Begin

Despite there being some great changes on the horizon, I wanted to first mention a couple of bits of interesting information that I’ve managed to dig out that can be used in-game right now! For example, did you know that there are a couple of enchants in Cataclysm that aren’t as good as their predecessors in Wrath?

Exhibit A are the new gloves enchants – either 65 Mastery or 50 Haste. It looks like someone at Itemisation didn’t get the memo about rating decay, as there’s a solid chance that the old 28 Spellpower enchant from Wrath will be better for you.

Next up are weapon enchants. Although there’s no disputing that Power Torrent is the enchant you should be going for, the materials costs prohibit you from using this on anything less than an epic quality weapon. That leaves us with Hurricane or (after 4.0.6) Avalanche. There is a very good chance that for a 1-hander you’ll be better off using 63 Spellpower. For staves it’s even easier – use 81 spellpower.

I’m not sure this will last, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new gloves enchant to become available from the Twilight Highlands vendors or similar at some stage in the future.

Those Sneaky Hotfixes

As well as the patch there’s been a number of crafty hotfixes sneaking into the game since Cataclysm’s release. There’s a full list of changes available if you’re interested, but I’ve pulled out a few of the recent and relevant ones for your perusal.

We all knew it was too good to last, and Pyromaniac has finally been fixed to stop giving fire mages a 5% passive haste bonus. As a result this probably makes the talent very situational – unless you’re going to be dealing with packs of mobs on a regular basis you can safely skip it.

There’s been a bit of tweaking around mana cost as well. Arcane Barrage, Arcane Blast and Fireball all use less mana when cast, although interestingly they still require the original amount of mana to be able to cast them. This mana amount is being changed in the full patch to match the amount the spell uses. It just goes to show there’s only so much that can be hotfixed.

Mana costs are important because of the way the Arcane and Fire rotations work. You start off with a Burn phase where you generate high DPS and drain your mana down to about 35%, using mana gems and potions as you go. From there you either regenerate mana through evocation or hover in a “conserve” phase until your evocation comes off cooldown. By reducing the amount of mana the spells use, you can have a longer burn phase and keep your DPS up.

Fire mages should also be pretty pleased that Darkmoon Card: Volcano can now trigger from periodic damage. The ability to get this card to proc every time the 45 second global cooldown is up is hugely improved considering the DoTs that fire mages usually have ticking. The only snag is the big bucket of Mastery rating, but that’s what reforging is for!

The Patch

It’s likely that the patch will hit live servers sometime in the next two weeks. There are hints that the level of changes being pushed into the patch are slowly shifting from spell changes and tweaks and moving on to other areas.

Bear in mind though that this stuff is related to PTR Build 13529, so it might not be completely accurate by the time the patch finally hits. At this stage though it’s unlikely for anything significant to change. As always, check out the full patch notes for further information.

Apart from the changes I’ve already mentioned from the hotfixes, there are a couple of really interesting changes. The big one is that Molten Armor, Mage Armor and Frost Armor no longer cost mana. This means that we can swap armours much like a Warrior would swap stance or a hunter would swap Aspect. A fire mage with Molten Armour could switch to Mage Armour during his conserve phase and sit at a much lower level of mana.

Fire has also been singled out for further love. Flame orb no longer targets critters, meaning that it’ll actually starget something useful instead of chasing after those pesky squirrels. Firestarter will let us cast scorch whole moving even if we’re not using Molten Armor. Flashburn has also been boosted to give us 12% more bonus for each point of Mastery.

With the buffs come the nerfs, and it’s unfortunate to see Frost get hit with the nerfbat in the name of PVP Balancing. Deep Freeze damage gets dropped by  20%. Ring of Frost is being shrunk as well as having a stack of PVP exceptions piled on it. The Frost Specialisation is also being clobbered to provide a smaller Mastery boost, weakening the damage done to frozen targets. Yes, Frostbolt and Fingers of Frost get buffed, but is it really needed?

Overall it seems to be a win for Fire, with Arcane getting a slight boost but Frost really losing out. Was it really needed though? We’re heading from a situation where the classes were fairly close for PvE and into one where there’s greater disparity. We’re going back to the situation where Frost isn’t recognised as a worthwhile PvE spec and where people say you should spec Arcane or Fire to play optimally.

For further reading, check out Roxton’s point-by-point analysis or the coverage over on WoW Insider.

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