The future of the Arcane Mage

The other day there was a blue post from Ghostcrawler:

We would like to get Arcane back up there. The Living Bomb change is just going to be another reason not to play Arcane — we get that.

I’m not sure it’s possible to get Arcane to within 5% or 1% of Fire, but if we get it close enough then players who just really love Arcane will still be able to play it without feeling they are making a bad mistake. Frost is even more challenging to get up there, but we aren’t giving up on the idea.

On Monday there was a response in the form of a new thread from a gnome mage name Luph. As much as I would prefer to punt her, I have to admit she’s got some good thoughts and Ghostcrawler took the time to respond to some of it. For those behind the filters at work, here’s the meat of her post followed by my disjointed ramblings:

  • Scaling
    The major reason behind why arcane is falling behind is scaling. The living bomb change certainly hurts, but it is not the end-all-be-all of this situation.
    Arcane scales worse than fire with pretty much every stat (other than intellect). You look at the damage modifiers and coefficients behind each spec and the winner is obvious. But the most pronounced weakness is critical strike rating. Fire mages have high critical strike damage bonuses, sitting at a 245% multiplier between just burnout and ignite. Whereas arcane sits at 175% with just spell power on normal arcane spells, and 187.5% on arcane missiles (glyphed). This is pretty low when you consider most casters can talent up to a 200% multiplier. Furthermore, the critical strike component on hot streak makes critical strikes that much more valuable for fire mages.
    As you can see fire gets a lot more out of their crits than arcane does. It doesn’t help that the molten armor change made spirit scale with critical strike rating as well. I understand that just throwing some higher crit multipliers on arcane may not be the best route (pvp), but as with hot streak there are definitely ways to make crit more valuable.
  • Itemization
    Blizzard says they don’t want huge gear differences between similar specs. That makes sense, after all this expansion did homogenize a lot of gear. The problem is arcane still gears vastly different from fire. Arcane mages gear for haste because crit is such a poor stat for them. In addition, with maximum hit talents arcane only needs to gear for 7-8% hit rather than fire’s 13-14%. That is a massive difference in hit rating, and it frequently leaves the arcane mage in a tight spot for picking up gear. Frequently arcane has to give up hit talents (which also have a mana component to them) just so they aren’t overdoing the hit cap because there is just so much hit gear these days.
  • Arcane Barrage
    Arcane barrage had its coefficient nerfed by 10% because of pvp reasons. This (in conjunction with the AM glyph being introduced) ultimately dropped arcane barrage from the arcane mage’s standard rotation. But was this nerf necessary at all? Let’s consider pvp for a moment here. Arcane’s burst was already hit down significantly between the AP/PoM changes. A couple hundred extra damage on this spell wasn’t making the burst that much more powerful—and especially not now with everyone in higher stam/resil plus the damage nerf tacked onto resilience.
    Take the sweet nothings from Affix out of your ear for a moment and think about it. Reversing the coefficient nerf could potentially accomplish three things. Increase our scaling, our mobility (which is now much worse than fire with its multi-cast living bombs), and get our 51 point talent back into our main rotation.
  • Raid Utility
    I’ve hammered on this so many times before. Arcane is the only spec in the game other than Subtlety with no real talented raid utility. This is a huge problem, especially in 10-mans. Just because raid utility has been homogenized doesn’t mean the gaping imbalance doesn’t hurt.
    Ghostcrawler often talks about how people will play the spec they love regardless of a small increase in damage by taking up another spec. But this is so much harder to do when you don’t bring any raid utility. Raid utility is generally not a “small difference,” it’s something every raid considers—even the more casual ones. So when your damage is poor and you don’t bring any raid utility it becomes very difficult to justify recruiting this spec.
    I really don’t like having to dual spec fire so I can bring scorch every time the other mages aren’t present. Worse yet, I’ve been in guilds where I need to be fire just so I can stack up improved scorch faster. That’s just not cool. I would like to be arcane on every fight that isn’t some sort of whacky gimmick, so please give me something to work with here. Even something that isn’t the 5% crit debuff would go a long way for arcane mages.
  • Evocation Reliability
    When I look at the differences between fire and arcane mages I see one stark area that I happen to like. Arcane mages are built around managing mana, having to use evocation much more frequently than fire. Fire mages are built around managing threat, not having the high passive threat reduction that arcane does.
    But to many mages evocation is an endless fountain of frustration. With Ulduar the number of fights with random interrupting damage going out has only increased. Ghostcrawler recognized this problem months ago but more recently dismissed evocation as something that needs to be “timed.” I understand the skill component that blizzard wants to preserve here, but arcane has very little room for “timing” an evocation. Worse yet there are still tons of interrupting effects you just have no control over.
    Something really should be done about this. I’ve suggested just giving evocation some way to talent for pushback resistance. That way you still have to time evocation around having to move, but random effects won’t screw you—and the pushback could easily be removed by the evocation glyph in pvp. This also goes in line with the recent change to invisibility, where damaging effects will no longer interrupt the fade time.
  • Bloated Talents
    Yet another point that gets brought up time and time again, albeit a much more “quality of life” issue than anything else. Regardless, it’s still something that contributes the frustration of being an arcane mage.
    At 81 points, Arcane has more points in its tree than any other spec. You can argue what precisely that means all you want, but the fact is arcane is a bloated tree and we need to cut down on that bloat. This is not a “we’d like to get every spec to a point where they can pick up fun talents” issue. This is an “I can’t get all the basic single-target dps talents without making sacrifices” issue.
    There are numerous places where we can cut bloat. But mind mastery/arcane intellect are great places to start. These talents were nerfed during the wrath of the lich king beta (they used to be 25% fully talented during TBC) so it would do us great justice to at least reduce the talent point costs.
  • She also had a point about Incanter’s Absorption, but that’s just a gimmick in PvE that requires too much reliance on having a priest watch out for you that it isn’t feasible for most groups to effectively pull off.

    In response to the scaling and itemization issue, I understand the necessity of homogenizing gear.

    It’s actually really nice to see a piece of cloth drop and be able to consider it as a viable upgrade because it has + spellpower not + heal. More items are usable by more classes which makes it harder for the RNG to fuck you over in drops. Easier for other players to screw you, but harder for the game to do so. MP5 may not be the best stat for everyone, but I’ll take it if the item is a clear upgrade and no healers are rolling on it – better than sharding it out of the gate and still running around in blues.

    But then we run into the issue where each spec makes use of different stats and some stats are more prevalent or more powerful than others, namely crit for mages.

    I understand that caster cloth needs to have crit on it. The healers need it. I guess the warlocks might like it? Fire mages rub it on their naked bodies.

    Arcane? Meh. We video tape the fire mages and blackmail them. But we don’t have a whole lot of use for the crit.

    Now haste? Ooooh, baby, let’s do it faster, you know I like it like that.

    My suggestion number 1 is to provide more choices in tier and badge gear. Give us a second tier choice (not like they would have to spend a lot of time developing the art, it will look just like the priests and warlocks). Have one be Sunstrider’s Critical Regalia of Triumph and the other be Sunstrider’s Hasted Regalia of Triumph. Or something.

    If mucking with the tiers is too much to ask, how about offering off-tier pieces with options from badges? A little variety in bracers, rings, etc.

    Suggestion 2 – If we’re going to get stuck with crit, make it interesting for arcane. Just more interesting than spirit was made.

    Speaking of spirit… how about making the Student of the Mind talent also contribute additional spirit to the crit multiplier? Might have to move it down in the tree to keep fire specs from completely raping their crit rating.

    What if we get 2 crits in a row an arcane mage procs a hefty haste buff? Maybe include some push-back resistance in there? It could act like a free Icy Veins. Or haste and spellpower? Your next Arcane Power increases the damage but does not increase the mana cost of spells?

    We won’t be critting constantly, but it would be fun to get something beefy for when it happens.

    Luph also makes an excellent point about arcane being over hit cap. I am self-hit capped for a raid. I don’t need no stinking shadow priest or boomkin.

    I would love to be able to take some of my points out of hit talents since I can easily make up for it with all the fire-itemized pieces that I’m collecting, but all those talents either lead up to something tasty (Icy Veins) or they reduce my mana costs (Arcane Focus and Precision). I just can’t give up the reduction in mana costs.

    So we need more mana or mana recovery and she mentions that we don’t bring much to the table for raid buffs. Other than the strudel table, which all mages can bring anyway.

    Someone later in the thread suggested giving the arcane tree a replenishment ability. I don’t really like this idea. It’s the one saving grace of frost (although it isn’t enough to make it raid viable) and I would hate to see replenishment just be scattered willy nilly across the classes and specs more than it already is.

    From a class design standpoint it doesn’t really make sense either. Arcane is all about consuming mass quantities of mana. Now, maybe if our Evocation acted like a Mana Tide totem… perhaps with a glyph (how about giving us a useful minor for once?)… THAT would be pretty cool. But a “just cast some spell and everyone gets mana back” sort of mechanic doesn’t fit well with arcane to me.

    How about arcane mages being able to hand out mana sapphires? (Which, by the way, in an undocumented fix no longer share a cooldown with lock candy, rejoice!) Or maybe we can process Arcane Powder with a mana sapphire and create a mana + spellpower sapphire to give out? An Empowered Sapphire.

    Arcane Flows could reduce the cooldown on our mana sapphire. We could glyph for more charges and more mana back on our sapphire (so many useful minors that could be made).

    Maybe when we’re under the influence of Arcane Power the people within 20 yards of us get the benefit of the damage boost without an increase in their mana cost?

    Can I cast FM on multiple people? Allow me to give the raid 3% crit for spells. Just limit it so that I can only have one proc at a time from it, new crits from others would just refresh the buff on me. Move Focus Magic down in the tree to make it more arcane-only.

    Make Slow useful in a raid environment. If I can’t actually slow down the casting speed or movement of a raid boss, can it act like a haste buff to people casting against the slowed target? I don’t even know if that mechanic is possible.

    How about arcane mages just bring a haste buff to the raid? Nothing so big that it becomes a “must have,” but just a little so we’re bringing something that most people appreciate.

    Jump back up to Arcane Barrage. My poor 51-point talent gets more use in a 5-man than it does in a raid.

    It was potent in PvP, OK, whatever.

    Is there a way to give it additional scaling based on the number of Arcane Blasts we’ve gotten stacked? All our arcane spells currently work that way, but can it be beefed up for Arcane Barrage?

    The debuff currently reads: “Arcane spell damage increased by 15% and mana cost of Arcane Blast increased by 200%.”

    Fine and dandy. How about add to the Arcane Barrage talent a piece that goes something like, “If 3 stacks of Arcane Blast debuff are present when casting Arcane Barrage, the spell damage of Arcane Barrage is increased by an additional X%.” Or make it a glyph (useful minors, anyone?).

    Even with PoM, it’s hard to get 3 stacks of Arcane Blast up in PvP. It might be easier in 3s or 5s, but there the opposing team probably has a healer to help off set some of that damage. This could help PvE and have very minimal impact on PvP.

    On to Evocation, and I’ll admit I’m a little confused. The only time I’ve had issues with Evocation are when I’ve been stupid and popped it right before I knew I needed to move or when I encounter something that physically moves my character, like the stomp effect from the trash between Gluuth and Thaddius in Naxx – those big giants do something that sends me flying. Other than that, I’ve been able to successfully use Evocation in the middle of XT-002′s tantrums. Yes, it was stupid timing on my part, and I may have been using Icy Veins to give me the push back protection, which would have been smart on my part.

    But I’m not seeing the problems with this spell that others are seeing. I agree with Ghostcrawler when he said somewhere that it was our responsibility to time the proper use of the spell. It’s really hard the first few times in a fight and it’s really hard when the raid composition keeps changing. How far I can push my mana pool changes drastically if I do or don’t have replenishment available, but I have yet to resort to wanding because I ran out of mana. Wanding because I’m silenced and it’s not getting dispelled… yeah, I do that.

    Bloated talents – here I agree whole heartedly.

    Do Arcane Mind and Mind Mastery really have to be 5-point talents?

    Take out Arcane Fortitude, it’s worthless as I’ve already discussed.

    Squish Magic Absorption and Arcane Shielding together.

    Add Improved Counterspell to Magic Attenement and take out the Dampen/Amplify piece.

    While we’re at it, squish those two abilities into one useful, non-confusing spell. Hell, make it a raid buff – raids takes less magical damage. I’m willing to sacrifice the improved healing aspect as that doesn’t really sound like something a mage would dabble in.

    Or… keep it a single-target spell. When the target of the spell takes magical damage, it absorbs a portion of it and channels to the mage as spellpower or mana. That could be a lot of fun.

    OK, I think I’ve rambled long enough. There’s a lot of things that could be done with arcane to pull it back up to somewhere in the vicinity of fire’s damage and it can be done without tilting PvP drastically. Not like any one is playing a mage in PvP right now, they’re all playing prot pallies in healing plate.

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    2 comments on “The future of the Arcane Mage

    1. Dark/Soth says:

      So, when are you giving fire another shot? It’s fun.

      Like this

    2. theerivs says:

      What a great post. I love the Arcane spec, I tried Fire and FFB, and I just like it.

      Something about Arcane Mages that feel more fun, I think it has to do when we rock out, it feels like we are really pouring on the gas. Like Fast and Furious of spell casting.

      Like this

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