World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade: Mage Talent/Spell Preview

| 8 Dec 2006 03:03

Mages In the Expansion

Hello there. You may know me from such forum threads as "Jayne(z) goes to Outland" and "Jayne(z) goes to Outland III: The Revenge." I'm the Mage They Call Jayne(z), and I'm here today to talk about the new talents and abilities that everyone's favorite fire-slinging, sheep-poking, water-conjuring casters will be getting in The Burning Crusade. Since the talent changes have gone live with patch 2.0, many of you have been testing them for yourselves (which is great, keep it up!) I'm just here to provide some insight on how I feel they stack up, especially at 70 with ten more talent points and a slew of new abilities.

Let's get started, shall we? Keeping in line with the format started by my comrade Slycne in his rogue preview, I'll start with the talents, rating them from 1 (crummy) to 5 (superb).

Arcane Tree

Changes to existing talents: The Arcane tree remains mostly the same, except Arcane Mind (Increases Intellect by 3->15%) has been unlinked from Arcane Resilience, which is a good thing. Improved Arcane Explosion has been renamed Arcane Impact, and grants the 3-4-6% crit bonus to Arcane Blast as well as Arcane Explosion.

Improved Blink - Reduces the mana cost of your Blink spell by 25/50%. Requires 20 points in Arcane Talents.

This isn't a bad talent per se, but there are better. Blink costs just under 700 mana for yours truly, which is hefty but not unreasonable, especially for such a crucial spell. I don't know how many times you'll be blinking in the course of a single battle, though-and otherwise, you can just sit and drink outside of combat. This might be worth it if you get an add (player or NPC) after finishing combat and need to escape, but it's situational. I'd have much rather seen a talent "Reduces cooldown on Blink" or even "Makes Blink work properly."

Score: 2 - Not the worst, but I don't see why you'd take this. Ever. You can get 40 or 41 points in Arcane without it just fine.

Prismatic Cloak - Reduces all damage taken by 2/4%. Requires 25 points in Arcane Talents.

Again, not bad, but... questionably worth it. Probably better than Improved Blink as it confers extra protection against casters instead of just melee, but 4% damage reduction doesn't really jibe with the rest of the Mage class-kill fast, die fast. If it were in the more defensively-oriented Frost tree, it might fit better, but I can't see myself ever taking it.

Score: 2 - Better than Improved Blink and you might actually make a case for taking it, but still not worth the investment.

Arcane Potency - Increases the critical strike chance of any spell cast while Clearcasting by 10/20/30%. Requires 5 points in Arcane Concentration and 25 points in Arcane Talents.

This one's pretty nice, actually. Mathematically, it's a simple 3% crit boost (10% to proc Clearcast, 30% increased crit chance) which on its own is fairly nice. However, in practice it's actually more useful. Instead of an increased crit chance on any of your spells, you can choose which spells you'd rather crit. For instance, a Scorch-spamming Mage who procs Clearcast can then switch to Fireball or Pyroblast to get a harder hit. You can also then pop a trinket or Arcane Power to further enhance the damage. Of course, it's not guaranteed, but it's about a 50/50 chance. At the moment, if you cast an Arcane Missiles while Clearcasting, all five waves get the bonus, so that's pretty damn good.

Score: 4 - Not the best we've seen, but a solid investment nonetheless. Clearcast is now a DPS buff as well as a DPM one.

Empowered Arcane Missiles - Your Arcane Missiles spell gains an additional 15/30/45% of your bonus spell damage effects, but mana cost is increased by 2/4/6%. Requires 30 points in Arcane Talents

The "Empowered" spells are interesting, to be sure. While certainly not worth it if you've not got much +damage gear, they'll get more effective as your gear quality increases (and it WILL increase from simple leveling / questing / dungeon gear in TBC). While Empowered Frostbolt and Fireball only gain an additional 10% and 15% of your damage respectively (though with their own additional benefits), 3 ranks in EAM will give almost half again of your spell damage to Arcane Missiles. At level 70 with regular gear from quests, etc. I have about +660 Arcane damage. This means that my Arcane Missiles get an extra 297 for a whopping +957 spell damage. Even without the coefficient bonus enjoyed by spells like Pyroblast, that's still a world of hurt.

As far as the additional mana cost goes, our highest rank of Arcane Missiles (685 mana) will cost an extra 41 MP per cast. That's really not that much for almost 300 extra spell damage. If you use Arcane Missiles only while Clearcasting, that disadvantage is gone (and you gain the +crit from Arcane Potency if you have it for MORE pain). While not everybody will pick up this skill (it's very plausible to take a 40/21/0 or 40/0/21 build and simply have the arcane talents as enhancements to a primary fire/frost damage setup) it definitely gives the Arcane Tree its own potential for damage rather than simply being a support tree.

Score: 4 - Probably the best of the Empowered spells, with the one drawback being the weakness of the Arcane Missiles spell itself-short range, long casting, interrupted if you don't spec for it, and inherently mana inefficient.

Spell Power - Increases critical strike damage bonus of all spells by 25/50%. Requires 30 points in Arcane Talents.

Oh HELL yes. The Arcane tree suffered from, among other things, the lack of a +crit bonus found in the Frost and Fire trees. Not only does this talent remedy that and give your Arcane crits a bit more punch, it affects all three of your spell schools as well, making it a formidable support talent. It's not a full 100% increase like Ice Shards or the Warlock's Ruin, and only boosts the crit damage on Arcane spells to 175% of normal, but it's still rather impressive. It also stacks with Ice Shards and Ignite in their respective trees, FURTHER increasing the critical bonus. With this, your Frost and Fire crits (if you take Ice Shards or Ignite 5/5) will pack some serious pain.

Score: 5 - One of the best talents we get in the expansion, and further makes a Arcane-focused damage build more viable.

Mind Mastery - Increases spell damage by up to 25% of your total Intellect. Requires 35 points in Arcane Talents

Finally. We finally get the ability to enhance our damage through stats-about time, too! This is a great talent any way you look at it, and helps while leveling to 70, since you can increase your mana pool rather significantly while maintaining equal or better spell damage. Especially nice when paired with Arcane Mind lower in the tree (15% increase in Intellect). At level 70, self-buffed with AI, I have 503 Intellect, which grants me an extra 126 spell damage. That's pretty damn nice, and helps to offset the losses you take by foregoing talents like Fire Power, Piercing Ice, etc. Unlike those, it also applies to every single school, which is, yes, freaking awesome.

Incidentally, the tooltip isn't correct-it doesn't increase ALL spell damage, just Fire/Frost/Arcane damage. It's a moot point since we don't actually do any other damage, but the increase isn't visible on the character pane until you mouse over and see your individual school damage.

Score: 4 - 5 points for ~126 spell damage is certainly nothing to sneer at, and it does help all schools. However, it is rather high up in the Arcane Tree (as it should be), limiting your access to other talents in the other trees. While being able to get both Mind Mastery and, say, Fire Power / Empowered Fireball simultaneously would be rather overpowered, the latter does more for a pure Fire spec than the former does. Still, it's a not-insignficant increase, and I can easily see Mages flocking to 40/X/X builds come expansion in droves.

Slow - Reduces target's movement speed by 50%, increases the time between ranged attacks by 50%, and increases casting time by 50%. Lasts 15 seconds. Slow can only affect one target at a time. 30 yard range, 861 mana, instant cast. Requires 40 points in Arcane Talents.

After some solid deep Arcane talents, the final exclamation point on the tree is... more like a semicolon, or an ellipsis. It's thoroughly "meh." Slow is an instant cast snare that slows attack and cast speed as well as movement. While a no-cooldown, instant-cast spell that snares is certainly an asset... we've got snares. The entire Frost tree is built around snares. And the only people who are going to be trying to close distance with us are Rogues, Warriors, and Paladins-we've got plenty of tools to deal with Rogues and Warriors, and Paladins can just Cleanse it for far less mana than it takes to cast, so what's the point? A 1-second rank 1 Improved Frostbolt snares just the same, and Ice Armor has the added effect of increasing time between melee strikes.

While the theorycraft of giving us another tool against casters (who we're generally weaker against) and Hunters may be sound, it just doesn't hold up in practice. This won't slow down Mind Flay, nor will it make instant-cast spells like Deathcoil, Earthshock, or the vast majority of Warlock DoTs take any longer to cast. It might be nice against Druids (can they shift out of it? I don't know...) and Shamans as a way to offset the troubles with Counterspell on the Global Cooldown, but the difference is miniscule.

Score: 3 - Meh. I'd expect more from a 41-point talent. Lots more. Though it's not exactly "bad," it really just seems mediocre at best. Disappointing.

The Arcane Tree as a whole: While the Arcane tree has historically been the "support" tree for Mages-and can continue to function so rather well in the expansion-it finally has some tools to make it its own viable damage tree. There's a synergy between talents like Arcane Mind, Mind Mastery, and Empowered Arcane Missiles, or talents like Arcane Potency and Spell Power. It's far more cohesive than it was before, while also remaining a very valuable and potent support tree for the Fire and Frost schools.

And hey, there's still always the ol' 3-minute Mage build. With cooldowns reset at the beginning of every arena match, there's definitely something to be said for that...

Fire Tree

Changes to existing talents: The -threat reduction from Burning Soul was reduced from 30% to 10%. Ouch. Blastwave's cooldown is down to 30 seconds instead of 45, though, so that's nice.

Playing With Fire - Increases all spell damage caused by 1/2/3% and all spell damage taken by 1/2/3%. Requires 20 points in Fire talents.

...why? Why would you take this? 3% isn't all that great (though it does apply to other schools instead of just Fire) ... especially when you take 3% more IN. Increases the glass, and not enough of the cannon. There's MUCH better in this tree.

Score: 1 - Don't get it unless you want to do a 0/61/0 build for some bizarre reason.

Blazing Speed - Gives you a 5/10% chance when hit by a melee or ranged attack to increase your movement speed by 50% and remove all movement impairing effects. This effect lasts 8 seconds. Requires 25 points in Fire talents.

Certainly not a bad talent, though it further enhances what advantages we have over melee classes. The removal of snares is a great one (g'bye hamstring/crippling poison/conc shot/earthbind) even if it isn't an immunity and we can be re-snared immediately after. This talent is great at helping us close range with Hunters and putting range on melee, and means that Mages are actually decent flag runners in WSG/Eye of the Storm. All in all, it's an effective Blink (minus the stun removal, but with a snare removal) that's less bugged and costs no mana, though it's random. A good escape tool.

Sometimes, though, it just doesn't proc, sometimes it procs all the time. Not great and limited use in PvE, but decent in PvP (though it still doesn't help against casters, only melee).

Score: 3 - It's solid, and if you enjoy PvP there's certainly no harm in picking it up. Very situational, though.

Pyromaniac - Increases your chance to critically hit and reduces the mana cost of all Fire spells by 1/2/3%. Requires 30 points in Fire talents.

Thanks to the mechanics of Ignite, the Fire tree values crit% more than the other two (even after the reworking of Ignite, just not as much). This spell is a solid benefit for 3 talent points. 3% crit isn't much, but it's not insignificant. The mana reduction is fairly negligible (5 mana off Scorch, 12 off Fireblast and 16 off Pyroblast, 30 off Flamestrike at highest ranks) but does add up over time and certainly doesn't hurt.

Score: 3 - Not astounding, but a solid talent that seems more aimed at PvE than PvP (though I wouldn't turn down 3% crit in PvP, either...) If you're going deep Fire, you might as well.

Molten Fury - Increases damage of all spells against targets with less than 20% health by 10/20%. Requires 30 points in Fire talnets.

At first glance, this seems to only be effective in PvE-raiding, at that. Don't get me wrong, it'll certainly shine there brighter than all else... enemies with high HP totals will be at 20% life or under for a while, and it's usually around then that they bust out some harder hits (Ouro, Chromaggus, etc) so killing it quickly is key. Combined with Fire Power, this is basically a perma-AP vs. a wounded target, and trinkets etc. will take full advantage of it (WTB PI-spec Priests). However, it's surprisingly effective in PvP as well-with the new increase of stamina across the board, 20% life can still be as high as 2000 HP remaining, and this will help you finish him off before he finishes you off. Since it's a bonus to all spells, if your Fireblast or Blastwave is on cooldown, you can use a spell like CoC, missiles, or jump around and spam AE and still get the effect.

Mathematically, it's just a 4% damage increase (20% damage a fifth of the time), but, as we know, that doesn't give us the whole picture. Honestly, I'd rather have a spell hit 20% harder infrequently than 4% extra damage all the time, especially in PvP where burst damage is king.

Score: 4 - Great talent, especially for raiding, but certainly has its place in PvP as well.

Empowered Fireball - Your Fireball spell gains an additional 3/6/9/12/15% of your bonus spell damage effects. Requires 40 points in Fire talents.

Not as "empowering" as its counterpart in the Arcane tree, and lacking the extra benefit of the Frostbolt version, I'd call this the weakest of the Empowered spells. 99 spell damage (with 660 +damage) isn't bad at all, of course... but really not worth the effort. When the corresponding 35-point 5-rank talent in Arcane grants a quarter more damage to ALL schools (and all spells in the Fire school instead of just Fireball), it's hard to really take this. Due to the new coefficient on Pyroblast, it might be more effective there-but since it only adds to Fireball, that's a moot point. I'm sure the straight-raiding crowd will prefer this over PvP talents like Blazing Speed, but I don't really see it as being all that good. You can certainly go 41 points in Fire without it.

Score:
2 - Too little reward for five points, the weakest of the Empowered talents. Your points are probably best spent elsewhere.

Dragon's Breath - Targets in a cone in front of the caster take 680 to 790 Fire damage and are Disoriented for 3 seconds. 700 Mana, Instant cast, 20 sec. cooldown. Requires 1 point in Combustion, requires 40 points in Fire talents. (Above stats are for Rank 4, learned at level 70)

In a welcome change from the lackluster Arcane 41-pointer, Dragon's Breath is pretty damn awesome. It's the Fire answer to Cone of Cold, and outdoes its arctic brother in almost every way. It only costs a tad more mana, does almost double the damage, has an awesome effect, and just looks damn cool. This adds another instant-cast damage spell to the Fire Mage's repertoire along with Fireblast and (potentially) Blast Wave. It's certainly a powerful spell in its own right and you might find yourself using it just for the damage, but the effect is great. It can get a Rogue or Warrior off of you, and more importantly, it interrupts spells. Which, of course, can mean the difference between victory and horrible Fear-y DoT death. 3 seconds isn't a lot of time, and you'll never get a Fireball off, but that does buy you time for a valuable Polymorph. In a tree that seems to exemplify the Mage lifestyle of killing fast and dying fast, this is an excellent defensive tool.

It's not without drawbacks, though. It will break on any damage-including the tick from Ignite if it crits. The range is actually shorter than that of Cone of Cold, and there are no ways to extend it (letting Flame Throwing apply to Dragon's Breath would be a great change, I think). Using DB will put CoC on a 20-second cooldown, while using CoC will put DB on a 10-second cooldown; you can't use them together (which I suppose makes sense).

The main use is clearly in PvP, and raiders will probably want to eschew this talent. However, I've personally found that it can be a lifesaver in small group dungeon-crawling-if there's an add or a mob decides to go attack a healer, a well-placed Dragon's Breath can give the tank time to pick the enemy up safely in ways that no other spell in the Mage's arsenal can. (Except for Frost Nova, but you'll probably have some nub who stands right next to the nova'd monster and gets beat on in that case) ...with the enhanced emphasis on small-group content in the expansion, you may find yourself using this in PvE more than you'd think.

Score: 5 - Not perfect, but an excellent tool in our arsenal that not only packs a respectable punch but carries an incredibly useful side effect as well. It's also one of the most fun abilities we get.

The Fire tree as a whole: Not as improved as the Arcane tree, Fire Mages should nevertheless see some increases. Molten Fury and Pyromaniac are respectable PvE talents, while Blazing Speed and Dragon's Breath will serve you well in PvP (with Molten Fury and Dragon's Breath also being decent in the other part of the game as well). The change to Ignite is certainly unwelcome, but Fire Mages do have the tools to adapt.

Frost Tree

Changes to existing talents: Elemental Precision is down to 3% to hit at its max instead of 6% to hit, which is certainly a bummer (though there's plenty of easily-available gear to make up the difference). Likewise, the -threat reduction nerf from 35% to 10% is a pain.

Frozen Core - Reduces the damage taken by Frost and Fire effects by 2/4/6%. Requires 20 points in Frost talents.

Fits with the "survivability" theme of the Frost tree, but still nigh-useless. The only people who this really effects in PvP are other Mages (or the rare Fire-based Warlock), and while it might have been useful in the days of Molten Core / Blackwing Lair, it really doesn't have that much purpose in the expansion. I've never found myself thinking "Gee, I wouldn't have died if only I'd had -6% Frost/Fire damage." Hell, we have spells like Frost and Fire Wards, on 30s cooldowns, that probably offer MUCH more protection from those two schools than this talent ever could.

Score: 1 - Don't get it. It's a waste of three points. We have the elemental wards for a reason, you know.

Ice Floes - Reduces the cooldown of your Cone of Cold, Cold Snap, Ice Barrier, and Ice Block spells by 10/20%. Requires 25 points in Frost talents.

Again, a pretty useless skill, though not quite as bad as Frozen Core. With two points in this, CoC becomes an 8 second cooldown (equal to Fireblast), Cold Snap is down to 8 minutes, Ice Block to 4 minutes, and Ice Barrier to 24 seconds. I suppose it might help, especially with CoC and Ice Barrier, but the effect feels pretty damn minimal. If this effected the Water Elemental, it'd be pretty nice, but... it doesn't.

Score: 2 - I suppose you could get this, because a 8s CoC and 24s Ice Barrier are certainly nice, but... there are better places to spend points in the Frost tree earlier on, and this isn't a requirement for anything, so why bother?

Arctic Winds - Reduces the chance Melee and Ranged attacks will hit you by 1/2/3/4/5%. Requires 30 points in Frost talents.

More survivability, but look at it logically. As a Frost Mage, you have more tools to stay out of melee range and slow them down than any other class in the game. If a melee class does get in, that's why you have Ice Barrier. I suppose it's nice against Hunters in theory, but don't those guys have enough +hit to minimize, if not eliminate, this skill entirely? Pretty damn worthless.

Score: 2 - Ho-hum, this talent is a waste of 5 points. If there were spell resist, it might be nice, but there isn't, so it's not.

Empowered Frostbolt - Your Frostbolt spell gains an additional 2/4/6/8/10% of your bonus spell damage effects an additional 1/2/3/4/5% chance to critically strike. Requires 35 points in Frost talents.

Though it grants the least bonus damage out of the three Empowering talents (66 +damage to Frostbolt with 660 spell damage), the 5% crit certainly isn't anything to sneeze at. If you grab Winter's Chill (or are grouped with a Mage who has it), that's a +15% for your Frostbolt to crit at pretty much any time. In addition to which, Frostbolt is pretty much your only damage spell most of the time (particularly versus bosses or in raids, when Ice Lance's bonus damage on Frozen targets will be all but useless)... whereas a Fire Mage might mix it up with Fireblast, Scorch, or Pyroblast, you'll pretty much be chaincasting Frostbolt.

Score: 3 - More useful than the Empowered Fireball, less useful than Empowered Arcane Missiles, but certainly not a bad talent. Raiding Frost Mages might as well pick this up, because +66 (and higher) damage to what is essentially your entire arsenal is certainly decent.

Summon Water Elemental - Summon a Water Elemental to fight for the caster for 45 seconds. 492 mana, instant cast, 3 minute cooldown. Requires 41 points in Frost Talents.

Oh, the Water Elemental. This is certainly a huge can of worms and I'm reluctant to get into it, but I'll try to be brief. The Elemental has two abilities, a 2.5 second cast that does ~600 damage (taking into account a fraction of the master's stats), and a ranged, targetable Frost Nova. Just nuking, that's a straight 240 DPS increase (that isn't attributed to you and fades when the Elemental despawns, so it's relatively aggro-free) which is certainly nothing to scoff at. I've personally found that having a second Frost Nova not tied to your cooldown (and targetable, no less) is a huge asset. Not only does it make corralling melee enemies much easier in a pull gone awry, but it's a rather big damage buff if you have Shatter (and what competent Frost Mage doesn't have Shatter?), particularly after training Ice Lance-you can probably get off two before the nova breaks, and for me Ice Lance crits for 1.8k. Very respectable damage increase.

However, the Water Elemental suffers from a lack of HP (very easily killable in PvP), and the 3 minute cooldown is rather annoying. In short: the Elemental is great while it's up, but provides no benefits while on cooldown whatsoever. In this regard, it's kind of like how Arcane Power was. The other 41-point talents have no cooldown and a very short cooldown, respectively, so they'll pretty much always be available if you need them. While the Water Elemental is arguably the most powerful of the three, there will be times when you find yourself in a situation where it would help-but you can't summon it due to the cooldown. Due to its power, wanting an increased duration or reduced cooldown would infeasible and threaten balance... but on the other hand, it's certainly no fun to feel weak 75% of the time.

Score: 4 - A respectable talent, but the cooldown and short duration make it very frustrating.

The Frost tree as a whole: With the exception of the Water Elemental spell, the new talents in the Frost tree are extremely lackluster and offer minor survivability increases that, in most cases, the Frost Mage doesn't need. Somewhat amusingly, the ten new talent points may be best spent in the earlier part of the tree, building on the synergy that low-level Frost has with itself until you can get your Elemental. Frost Mages will find that their playstyle changes very little from 60 to 70.

New Spells

Arcane

Arcane Blast - Blasts the target with energy, dealing 668 to 772 Arcane damage. Each time you cast Arcane Blast, the casting time is reduced while mana cost is increased. Effect stacks up to 3 times and lasts 8 seconds. 30 yard range, 195 mana, 2.5 second cast. Requires level 64.

Arcane Blast is an interesting spell. It ranges from a slow-ish spell with ludicrously high mana efficiency to a very high DPS, quick-casting spell that guzzles mana like nothing else. With good +damage, it hits for around 1.2 - 1.3k... and just shy of 200 mana for 1.3k damage is fantastic... however, since each successive cast of Arcane Blast renews the time on the buff, you can't spam the efficient one like you could Frostbolt or Fireball. At 3 stacks, the same spell is a 1.5 second cast, and does the same damage-which is quite a bit of damage for such a quick spell. However, it costs more damage than even a Pyroblast, and you can just imagine how quickly casting a Pyroblast every second and a half would drain your mana.

It can be good for "KILL THIS NOW" moments if you're not low on mana, and thanks to its efficiency will likely work well in a raid rotation, casting Arcane Blast and then shifting to another spell for the buff to wear off. However, it'll really never be a primary damage spell, and suffers from a short range and vulnerability to interrupts through damage.

Score: 3 - Not awful, not great, pretty mediocre. Could really benefit from a +range talent (actually, so could the whole damn Arcane tree) as well as a Burning Soul / Improved Arcane Missiles-esque talent to reduce the chance that damage interrupts casting time. It'll be on my bar, but I can't ever see me having this hotkeyed.

Invisibility - Fades the caster to invisibility over 5 seconds. The effect is cancelled if you perform or receive any hostile actions. While invisible, you can only see other invisible targets and those who can see invisible. Lasts 20 sec. 263 mana, instant cast, 5 minute cooldown. Requires level 68.

Oh, Invisibility. Long the trademark of the Warcraft Mage, it was removed in the WoW beta because, frankly, opening from invisibility at 41 yards with the then-overpowered Pyroblast was imbalanced as hell. However, this version really doesn't live up to the name. The fade is annoying, because if ANY hostile action catches you during this time, the spell breaks but is now on cooldown for five minutes. This includes taking DoT damage, direct damage, having ANY sort of debuff placed on you... there've been times when I've popped Invisibility to try and avoid a wipe, but the boss randomly targeted me with his random target moves and I just stood there. I've been running from an angry group of mobs and popped Invis, but because one of their melee got in range (Blinking breaks the effect, so that's out of the question) or one of their casters got off a cast, the cooldown was wasted. This'll be impossible to really pull off against a Warlock, who can just slap any of their instant-casts on you as soon as they see you start to fade. Hell, even a Rogue or Warrior can hit you with ranged to break the effect.

It can't really be used to sneak past combat, either, due to the fact that you can't see any mobs around you. For all you know, you could be walking into a pack of murlocs, or the opposite faction city (okay, not really THAT bad, but still). The limited duration dampens both its use as an escape skill and its ability to bypass content as well-if there were no time limit, you could /follow a druid or rogue party member to know where you were headed, and safely put distance between you and your pursuers... but since you can't use Blink or any speed effects while "dark," it's hard to get out of their sight range within 20 seconds. And hell, you can't see-you could be walking right into a trap.

If Invisibility does successfully go off, it IS a full aggro wipe-so the 5-minute cooldown makes sense, akin to the Vanish cooldown. The fact that the cooldown will still trigger even if the fade gets interrupted, though, means that often we won't get the chance to take advantage of the full wipe. Since the nerf to our threat reduction was a result of us getting Invisibility, it really doesn't seem fair that we don't get a chance to take advantage of it.

Score: 3 - Invisibility seems like it could be a worthy addition to the Mage's spellbook if even just ONE of the conditions-duration, fade, inability to see non-Invis things-were removed. As it stands, though, it's far too conditional to be useful. I'm not going to say it's useless-I've avoided wipes that I'd previously have been caught in, and I suppose it's helped me escape a poor PvP situation at times, but overall... it's just weak.

The invisible world looks hella cool, though.


Spell Steal - Steals a beneficial magic effect from the target. This effect lasts a maximum of 2 minutes. 474 mana, instant cast, 30 yard range. Requires level 70.

In a welcome contrast to the lackluster Arcane Blast and Invisibility, Spellsteal is pleasantly awesome and useful-and gives us a nice weapon against enemy casters for once. Not only does it remove the effect from them, it gives it to you. So, if that pesky Priest throws up his shield, you can strip it and get it for yourself with a cast of Spellsteal! If a Paladin uses Blessing of Protection to save himself from a friendly Warrior or Rogue, you can take it away and grab it for yourself for some nice immunity to physical damage. It IS random, though, so sometimes you'll get Power Word: Fortitude when you meant to get Power Word: Shield, or Mage Armor when you meant to grab Ice Barrier... but it doesn't have a cooldown, so you can just cast it again.

Not only is it useful, it's also fun to use-and I think many Mages will enjoy the opportunity to do the Purging for once instead of getting Purged or Dispelled. Its effects in PvE thus far are limited (though there's a nifty +295 damage buff off some Blood Elves in the Botanica...), but Kalgan has said that there will be encounters designed to make use of the skill later on-and as the raids aren't really open yet, I'll have to take his word for it.

Score: 5 - Fun, a tool against enemy casters, versatile. What's not to love? Sometimes it's fairly situational, but in those situations it really shines.

Fire

Molten Armor - Causes 75 Fire damage when hit and reduces the chance you are critically hit by melee attacks and spells by 5%. Increases your chance to get a critical strike with spells by 3%. Only one type of Armor spell can be active on the Mage at any time. Lasts 30 min. 630 mana, instant cast, requires level 62.

Rounding out our trifecta of Armor spells is this little beauty. While 75 damage to melee attackers (which can crit, and yes, proc Ignite) is certainly nice, 5% crit avoidance is also huge-and helps us survive against spellcasters as well as melee. You can't go wrong with a 3% crit self-buff, though. You just can't.

Score: 4 - Solid new skill, and probably the Armor of choice for PvP. Nothing too special, but it's just good overall... and the cast sound rules.

Frost

Ice Lance - Deals 146 to 186 Frost damage to an enemy target. Causes triple damage against Frozen targets. 150 mana, instant cast, 30 yard range. Requires level 66.

Ice Lance, all things considered, is a welcome tool to the Mage arsenal. By itself, it's a horribly weak spell, and even with good +damage it'll rarely hit for more than 350, lacking the slows or ability to proc Frostbite found in the other damage spells that Frost Mages have at their disposal. However, when a target is Frozen-via Frost Nova, Water Elemental Freeze, or a Frostbite proc-this spell really comes through. Its damage is tripled, and it's now a 900+ damage instant cast for a tiny mana cost.

Since most Frost Mages worth their while will have Shatter, this also effectively means that you'll crit most of your Ice Lances for upwards of 1.7k very frequently. Since it's instant cast, you may even be able to get off two before Frost Nova/Freeze/Frostbite fades... and unlike a Frostbolt, which requires you to root yourself in place for 2.5 seconds, you can use jump-turning to blast Ice Lances while putting some distance in between you and your foe.

It is, in effect, a powerful Frost instant cast with a 20-24 second cooldown, since it's all but worthless against non-Frozen targets. Of course, with a Water Elemental and the Frostbite talent, the "effective cooldown" of Ice Lance goes down. It does not slow the opponent in any way (which would be a tad overpowered), so it can't proc Frostbite off of itself like Frostbolt can. Nevertheless, Frost Mages should really enjoy their shiny new toy.

Score: 5 - Lots of damage when applicable, instant cast, low mana cost. Very, VERY good skill that makes up for the lackluster new Frost talents by virtue of being awesome.

-TMTCJz

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Darshade:
Mages, mages, mages. Why is it always MAGES! Can't we get a lock in there somehow? Maybe found out, oh i dont know, about our new summonins?

Workin' on that :P

Mages, mages, mages. Why is it always MAGES! Can't we get a lock in there somehow? Maybe found out, oh i dont know, about our new summonins?

I agree with your points in this post. I think its a fair assessment of the abilities/talents we've gained and your insight and suggestions for changes were right on.

Thanks for a great review

Burning Crusade: Mage Talent/Spell Preview

Mages In the Expansion

Hello there. You may know me from such forum threads as "Jayne(z) goes to Outland" and "Jayne(z) goes to Outland III: The Revenge." I'm the Mage They Call Jayne(z), and I'm here today to talk about the new talents and abilities that everyone's favorite fire-slinging, sheep-poking, water-conjuring casters will be getting in The Burning Crusade. Since the talent changes have gone live with patch 2.0, many of you have been testing them for yourselves (which is great, keep it up!) I'm just here to provide some insight on how I feel they stack up, especially at 70 with ten more talent points and a slew of new abilities.

Let's get started, shall we? Keeping in line with the format started by my comrade Slycne in his rogue preview, I'll start with the talents, rating them from 1 (crummy) to 5 (superb).

Arcane Tree

Changes to existing talents: The Arcane tree remains mostly the same, except Arcane Mind (Increases Intellect by 3->15%) has been unlinked from Arcane Resilience, which is a good thing. Improved Arcane Explosion has been renamed Arcane Impact, and grants the 3-4-6% crit bonus to Arcane Blast as well as Arcane Explosion.

Improved Blink - Reduces the mana cost of your Blink spell by 25/50%. Requires 20 points in Arcane Talents.

This isn't a bad talent per se, but there are better. Blink costs just under 700 mana for yours truly, which is hefty but not unreasonable, especially for such a crucial spell. I don't know how many times you'll be blinking in the course of a single battle, though-and otherwise, you can just sit and drink outside of combat. This might be worth it if you get an add (player or NPC) after finishing combat and need to escape, but it's situational. I'd have much rather seen a talent "Reduces cooldown on Blink" or even "Makes Blink work properly."

Score: 2 - Not the worst, but I don't see why you'd take this. Ever. You can get 40 or 41 points in Arcane without it just fine.

Prismatic Cloak - Reduces all damage taken by 2/4%. Requires 25 points in Arcane Talents.

Again, not bad, but... questionably worth it. Probably better than Improved Blink as it confers extra protection against casters instead of just melee, but 4% damage reduction doesn't really jibe with the rest of the Mage class-kill fast, die fast. If it were in the more defensively-oriented Frost tree, it might fit better, but I can't see myself ever taking it.

Score: 2 - Better than Improved Blink and you might actually make a case for taking it, but still not worth the investment.

Arcane Potency - Increases the critical strike chance of any spell cast while Clearcasting by 10/20/30%. Requires 5 points in Arcane Concentration and 25 points in Arcane Talents.

This one's pretty nice, actually. Mathematically, it's a simple 3% crit boost (10% to proc Clearcast, 30% increased crit chance) which on its own is fairly nice. However, in practice it's actually more useful. Instead of an increased crit chance on any of your spells, you can choose which spells you'd rather crit. For instance, a Scorch-spamming Mage who procs Clearcast can then switch to Fireball or Pyroblast to get a harder hit. You can also then pop a trinket or Arcane Power to further enhance the damage. Of course, it's not guaranteed, but it's about a 50/50 chance. At the moment, if you cast an Arcane Missiles while Clearcasting, all five waves get the bonus, so that's pretty damn good.

Score: 4 - Not the best we've seen, but a solid investment nonetheless. Clearcast is now a DPS buff as well as a DPM one.

Empowered Arcane Missiles - Your Arcane Missiles spell gains an additional 15/30/45% of your bonus spell damage effects, but mana cost is increased by 2/4/6%. Requires 30 points in Arcane Talents

The "Empowered" spells are interesting, to be sure. While certainly not worth it if you've not got much +damage gear, they'll get more effective as your gear quality increases (and it WILL increase from simple leveling / questing / dungeon gear in TBC). While Empowered Frostbolt and Fireball only gain an additional 10% and 15% of your damage respectively (though with their own additional benefits), 3 ranks in EAM will give almost half again of your spell damage to Arcane Missiles. At level 70 with regular gear from quests, etc. I have about +660 Arcane damage. This means that my Arcane Missiles get an extra 297 for a whopping +957 spell damage. Even without the coefficient bonus enjoyed by spells like Pyroblast, that's still a world of hurt.

As far as the additional mana cost goes, our highest rank of Arcane Missiles (685 mana) will cost an extra 41 MP per cast. That's really not that much for almost 300 extra spell damage. If you use Arcane Missiles only while Clearcasting, that disadvantage is gone (and you gain the +crit from Arcane Potency if you have it for MORE pain). While not everybody will pick up this skill (it's very plausible to take a 40/21/0 or 40/0/21 build and simply have the arcane talents as enhancements to a primary fire/frost damage setup) it definitely gives the Arcane Tree its own potential for damage rather than simply being a support tree.

Score: 4 - Probably the best of the Empowered spells, with the one drawback being the weakness of the Arcane Missiles spell itself-short range, long casting, interrupted if you don't spec for it, and inherently mana inefficient.

Spell Power - Increases critical strike damage bonus of all spells by 25/50%. Requires 30 points in Arcane Talents.

Oh HELL yes. The Arcane tree suffered from, among other things, the lack of a +crit bonus found in the Frost and Fire trees. Not only does this talent remedy that and give your Arcane crits a bit more punch, it affects all three of your spell schools as well, making it a formidable support talent. It's not a full 100% increase like Ice Shards or the Warlock's Ruin, and only boosts the crit damage on Arcane spells to 175% of normal, but it's still rather impressive. It also stacks with Ice Shards and Ignite in their respective trees, FURTHER increasing the critical bonus. With this, your Frost and Fire crits (if you take Ice Shards or Ignite 5/5) will pack some serious pain.

Score: 5 - One of the best talents we get in the expansion, and further makes a Arcane-focused damage build more viable.

Mind Mastery - Increases spell damage by up to 25% of your total Intellect. Requires 35 points in Arcane Talents

Finally. We finally get the ability to enhance our damage through stats-about time, too! This is a great talent any way you look at it, and helps while leveling to 70, since you can increase your mana pool rather significantly while maintaining equal or better spell damage. Especially nice when paired with Arcane Mind lower in the tree (15% increase in Intellect). At level 70, self-buffed with AI, I have 503 Intellect, which grants me an extra 126 spell damage. That's pretty damn nice, and helps to offset the losses you take by foregoing talents like Fire Power, Piercing Ice, etc. Unlike those, it also applies to every single school, which is, yes, freaking awesome.

Incidentally, the tooltip isn't correct-it doesn't increase ALL spell damage, just Fire/Frost/Arcane damage. It's a moot point since we don't actually do any other damage, but the increase isn't visible on the character pane until you mouse over and see your individual school damage.

Score: 4 - 5 points for ~126 spell damage is certainly nothing to sneer at, and it does help all schools. However, it is rather high up in the Arcane Tree (as it should be), limiting your access to other talents in the other trees. While being able to get both Mind Mastery and, say, Fire Power / Empowered Fireball simultaneously would be rather overpowered, the latter does more for a pure Fire spec than the former does. Still, it's a not-insignficant increase, and I can easily see Mages flocking to 40/X/X builds come expansion in droves.

Slow - Reduces target's movement speed by 50%, increases the time between ranged attacks by 50%, and increases casting time by 50%. Lasts 15 seconds. Slow can only affect one target at a time. 30 yard range, 861 mana, instant cast. Requires 40 points in Arcane Talents.

After some solid deep Arcane talents, the final exclamation point on the tree is... more like a semicolon, or an ellipsis. It's thoroughly "meh." Slow is an instant cast snare that slows attack and cast speed as well as movement. While a no-cooldown, instant-cast spell that snares is certainly an asset... we've got snares. The entire Frost tree is built around snares. And the only people who are going to be trying to close distance with us are Rogues, Warriors, and Paladins-we've got plenty of tools to deal with Rogues and Warriors, and Paladins can just Cleanse it for far less mana than it takes to cast, so what's the point? A 1-second rank 1 Improved Frostbolt snares just the same, and Ice Armor has the added effect of increasing time between melee strikes.

While the theorycraft of giving us another tool against casters (who we're generally weaker against) and Hunters may be sound, it just doesn't hold up in practice. This won't slow down Mind Flay, nor will it make instant-cast spells like Deathcoil, Earthshock, or the vast majority of Warlock DoTs take any longer to cast. It might be nice against Druids (can they shift out of it? I don't know...) and Shamans as a way to offset the troubles with Counterspell on the Global Cooldown, but the difference is miniscule.

Score: 3 - Meh. I'd expect more from a 41-point talent. Lots more. Though it's not exactly "bad," it really just seems mediocre at best. Disappointing.

The Arcane Tree as a whole: While the Arcane tree has historically been the "support" tree for Mages-and can continue to function so rather well in the expansion-it finally has some tools to make it its own viable damage tree. There's a synergy between talents like Arcane Mind, Mind Mastery, and Empowered Arcane Missiles, or talents like Arcane Potency and Spell Power. It's far more cohesive than it was before, while also remaining a very valuable and potent support tree for the Fire and Frost schools.

And hey, there's still always the ol' 3-minute Mage build. With cooldowns reset at the beginning of every arena match, there's definitely something to be said for that...

Fire Tree

Changes to existing talents: The -threat reduction from Burning Soul was reduced from 30% to 10%. Ouch. Blastwave's cooldown is down to 30 seconds instead of 45, though, so that's nice.

Playing With Fire - Increases all spell damage caused by 1/2/3% and all spell damage taken by 1/2/3%. Requires 20 points in Fire talents.

...why? Why would you take this? 3% isn't all that great (though it does apply to other schools instead of just Fire) ... especially when you take 3% more IN. Increases the glass, and not enough of the cannon. There's MUCH better in this tree.

Score: 1 - Don't get it unless you want to do a 0/61/0 build for some bizarre reason.

Blazing Speed - Gives you a 5/10% chance when hit by a melee or ranged attack to increase your movement speed by 50% and remove all movement impairing effects. This effect lasts 8 seconds. Requires 25 points in Fire talents.

Certainly not a bad talent, though it further enhances what advantages we have over melee classes. The removal of snares is a great one (g'bye hamstring/crippling poison/conc shot/earthbind) even if it isn't an immunity and we can be re-snared immediately after. This talent is great at helping us close range with Hunters and putting range on melee, and means that Mages are actually decent flag runners in WSG/Eye of the Storm. All in all, it's an effective Blink (minus the stun removal, but with a snare removal) that's less bugged and costs no mana, though it's random. A good escape tool.

Sometimes, though, it just doesn't proc, sometimes it procs all the time. Not great and limited use in PvE, but decent in PvP (though it still doesn't help against casters, only melee).

Score: 3 - It's solid, and if you enjoy PvP there's certainly no harm in picking it up. Very situational, though.

Pyromaniac - Increases your chance to critically hit and reduces the mana cost of all Fire spells by 1/2/3%. Requires 30 points in Fire talents.

Thanks to the mechanics of Ignite, the Fire tree values crit% more than the other two (even after the reworking of Ignite, just not as much). This spell is a solid benefit for 3 talent points. 3% crit isn't much, but it's not insignificant. The mana reduction is fairly negligible (5 mana off Scorch, 12 off Fireblast and 16 off Pyroblast, 30 off Flamestrike at highest ranks) but does add up over time and certainly doesn't hurt.

Score: 3 - Not astounding, but a solid talent that seems more aimed at PvE than PvP (though I wouldn't turn down 3% crit in PvP, either...) If you're going deep Fire, you might as well.

Molten Fury - Increases damage of all spells against targets with less than 20% health by 10/20%. Requires 30 points in Fire talnets.

At first glance, this seems to only be effective in PvE-raiding, at that. Don't get me wrong, it'll certainly shine there brighter than all else... enemies with high HP totals will be at 20% life or under for a while, and it's usually around then that they bust out some harder hits (Ouro, Chromaggus, etc) so killing it quickly is key. Combined with Fire Power, this is basically a perma-AP vs. a wounded target, and trinkets etc. will take full advantage of it (WTB PI-spec Priests). However, it's surprisingly effective in PvP as well-with the new increase of stamina across the board, 20% life can still be as high as 2000 HP remaining, and this will help you finish him off before he finishes you off. Since it's a bonus to all spells, if your Fireblast or Blastwave is on cooldown, you can use a spell like CoC, missiles, or jump around and spam AE and still get the effect.

Mathematically, it's just a 4% damage increase (20% damage a fifth of the time), but, as we know, that doesn't give us the whole picture. Honestly, I'd rather have a spell hit 20% harder infrequently than 4% extra damage all the time, especially in PvP where burst damage is king.

Score: 4 - Great talent, especially for raiding, but certainly has its place in PvP as well.

Empowered Fireball - Your Fireball spell gains an additional 3/6/9/12/15% of your bonus spell damage effects. Requires 40 points in Fire talents.

Not as "empowering" as its counterpart in the Arcane tree, and lacking the extra benefit of the Frostbolt version, I'd call this the weakest of the Empowered spells. 99 spell damage (with 660 +damage) isn't bad at all, of course... but really not worth the effort. When the corresponding 35-point 5-rank talent in Arcane grants a quarter more damage to ALL schools (and all spells in the Fire school instead of just Fireball), it's hard to really take this. Due to the new coefficient on Pyroblast, it might be more effective there-but since it only adds to Fireball, that's a moot point. I'm sure the straight-raiding crowd will prefer this over PvP talents like Blazing Speed, but I don't really see it as being all that good. You can certainly go 41 points in Fire without it.

Score:
2 - Too little reward for five points, the weakest of the Empowered talents. Your points are probably best spent elsewhere.

Dragon's Breath - Targets in a cone in front of the caster take 680 to 790 Fire damage and are Disoriented for 3 seconds. 700 Mana, Instant cast, 20 sec. cooldown. Requires 1 point in Combustion, requires 40 points in Fire talents. (Above stats are for Rank 4, learned at level 70)

In a welcome change from the lackluster Arcane 41-pointer, Dragon's Breath is pretty damn awesome. It's the Fire answer to Cone of Cold, and outdoes its arctic brother in almost every way. It only costs a tad more mana, does almost double the damage, has an awesome effect, and just looks damn cool. This adds another instant-cast damage spell to the Fire Mage's repertoire along with Fireblast and (potentially) Blast Wave. It's certainly a powerful spell in its own right and you might find yourself using it just for the damage, but the effect is great. It can get a Rogue or Warrior off of you, and more importantly, it interrupts spells. Which, of course, can mean the difference between victory and horrible Fear-y DoT death. 3 seconds isn't a lot of time, and you'll never get a Fireball off, but that does buy you time for a valuable Polymorph. In a tree that seems to exemplify the Mage lifestyle of killing fast and dying fast, this is an excellent defensive tool.

It's not without drawbacks, though. It will break on any damage-including the tick from Ignite if it crits. The range is actually shorter than that of Cone of Cold, and there are no ways to extend it (letting Flame Throwing apply to Dragon's Breath would be a great change, I think). Using DB will put CoC on a 20-second cooldown, while using CoC will put DB on a 10-second cooldown; you can't use them together (which I suppose makes sense).

The main use is clearly in PvP, and raiders will probably want to eschew this talent. However, I've personally found that it can be a lifesaver in small group dungeon-crawling-if there's an add or a mob decides to go attack a healer, a well-placed Dragon's Breath can give the tank time to pick the enemy up safely in ways that no other spell in the Mage's arsenal can. (Except for Frost Nova, but you'll probably have some nub who stands right next to the nova'd monster and gets beat on in that case) ...with the enhanced emphasis on small-group content in the expansion, you may find yourself using this in PvE more than you'd think.

Score: 5 - Not perfect, but an excellent tool in our arsenal that not only packs a respectable punch but carries an incredibly useful side effect as well. It's also one of the most fun abilities we get.

The Fire tree as a whole: Not as improved as the Arcane tree, Fire Mages should nevertheless see some increases. Molten Fury and Pyromaniac are respectable PvE talents, while Blazing Speed and Dragon's Breath will serve you well in PvP (with Molten Fury and Dragon's Breath also being decent in the other part of the game as well). The change to Ignite is certainly unwelcome, but Fire Mages do have the tools to adapt.

Frost Tree

Changes to existing talents: Elemental Precision is down to 3% to hit at its max instead of 6% to hit, which is certainly a bummer (though there's plenty of easily-available gear to make up the difference). Likewise, the -threat reduction nerf from 35% to 10% is a pain.

Frozen Core - Reduces the damage taken by Frost and Fire effects by 2/4/6%. Requires 20 points in Frost talents.

Fits with the "survivability" theme of the Frost tree, but still nigh-useless. The only people who this really effects in PvP are other Mages (or the rare Fire-based Warlock), and while it might have been useful in the days of Molten Core / Blackwing Lair, it really doesn't have that much purpose in the expansion. I've never found myself thinking "Gee, I wouldn't have died if only I'd had -6% Frost/Fire damage." Hell, we have spells like Frost and Fire Wards, on 30s cooldowns, that probably offer MUCH more protection from those two schools than this talent ever could.

Score: 1 - Don't get it. It's a waste of three points. We have the elemental wards for a reason, you know.

Ice Floes - Reduces the cooldown of your Cone of Cold, Cold Snap, Ice Barrier, and Ice Block spells by 10/20%. Requires 25 points in Frost talents.

Again, a pretty useless skill, though not quite as bad as Frozen Core. With two points in this, CoC becomes an 8 second cooldown (equal to Fireblast), Cold Snap is down to 8 minutes, Ice Block to 4 minutes, and Ice Barrier to 24 seconds. I suppose it might help, especially with CoC and Ice Barrier, but the effect feels pretty damn minimal. If this effected the Water Elemental, it'd be pretty nice, but... it doesn't.

Score: 2 - I suppose you could get this, because a 8s CoC and 24s Ice Barrier are certainly nice, but... there are better places to spend points in the Frost tree earlier on, and this isn't a requirement for anything, so why bother?

Arctic Winds - Reduces the chance Melee and Ranged attacks will hit you by 1/2/3/4/5%. Requires 30 points in Frost talents.

More survivability, but look at it logically. As a Frost Mage, you have more tools to stay out of melee range and slow them down than any other class in the game. If a melee class does get in, that's why you have Ice Barrier. I suppose it's nice against Hunters in theory, but don't those guys have enough +hit to minimize, if not eliminate, this skill entirely? Pretty damn worthless.

Score: 2 - Ho-hum, this talent is a waste of 5 points. If there were spell resist, it might be nice, but there isn't, so it's not.

Empowered Frostbolt - Your Frostbolt spell gains an additional 2/4/6/8/10% of your bonus spell damage effects an additional 1/2/3/4/5% chance to critically strike. Requires 35 points in Frost talents.

Though it grants the least bonus damage out of the three Empowering talents (66 +damage to Frostbolt with 660 spell damage), the 5% crit certainly isn't anything to sneeze at. If you grab Winter's Chill (or are grouped with a Mage who has it), that's a +15% for your Frostbolt to crit at pretty much any time. In addition to which, Frostbolt is pretty much your only damage spell most of the time (particularly versus bosses or in raids, when Ice Lance's bonus damage on Frozen targets will be all but useless)... whereas a Fire Mage might mix it up with Fireblast, Scorch, or Pyroblast, you'll pretty much be chaincasting Frostbolt.

Score: 3 - More useful than the Empowered Fireball, less useful than Empowered Arcane Missiles, but certainly not a bad talent. Raiding Frost Mages might as well pick this up, because +66 (and higher) damage to what is essentially your entire arsenal is certainly decent.

Summon Water Elemental - Summon a Water Elemental to fight for the caster for 45 seconds. 492 mana, instant cast, 3 minute cooldown. Requires 41 points in Frost Talents.

Oh, the Water Elemental. This is certainly a huge can of worms and I'm reluctant to get into it, but I'll try to be brief. The Elemental has two abilities, a 2.5 second cast that does ~600 damage (taking into account a fraction of the master's stats), and a ranged, targetable Frost Nova. Just nuking, that's a straight 240 DPS increase (that isn't attributed to you and fades when the Elemental despawns, so it's relatively aggro-free) which is certainly nothing to scoff at. I've personally found that having a second Frost Nova not tied to your cooldown (and targetable, no less) is a huge asset. Not only does it make corralling melee enemies much easier in a pull gone awry, but it's a rather big damage buff if you have Shatter (and what competent Frost Mage doesn't have Shatter?), particularly after training Ice Lance-you can probably get off two before the nova breaks, and for me Ice Lance crits for 1.8k. Very respectable damage increase.

However, the Water Elemental suffers from a lack of HP (very easily killable in PvP), and the 3 minute cooldown is rather annoying. In short: the Elemental is great while it's up, but provides no benefits while on cooldown whatsoever. In this regard, it's kind of like how Arcane Power was. The other 41-point talents have no cooldown and a very short cooldown, respectively, so they'll pretty much always be available if you need them. While the Water Elemental is arguably the most powerful of the three, there will be times when you find yourself in a situation where it would help-but you can't summon it due to the cooldown. Due to its power, wanting an increased duration or reduced cooldown would infeasible and threaten balance... but on the other hand, it's certainly no fun to feel weak 75% of the time.

Score: 4 - A respectable talent, but the cooldown and short duration make it very frustrating.

The Frost tree as a whole: With the exception of the Water Elemental spell, the new talents in the Frost tree are extremely lackluster and offer minor survivability increases that, in most cases, the Frost Mage doesn't need. Somewhat amusingly, the ten new talent points may be best spent in the earlier part of the tree, building on the synergy that low-level Frost has with itself until you can get your Elemental. Frost Mages will find that their playstyle changes very little from 60 to 70.

New Spells

Arcane

Arcane Blast - Blasts the target with energy, dealing 668 to 772 Arcane damage. Each time you cast Arcane Blast, the casting time is reduced while mana cost is increased. Effect stacks up to 3 times and lasts 8 seconds. 30 yard range, 195 mana, 2.5 second cast. Requires level 64.

Arcane Blast is an interesting spell. It ranges from a slow-ish spell with ludicrously high mana efficiency to a very high DPS, quick-casting spell that guzzles mana like nothing else. With good +damage, it hits for around 1.2 - 1.3k... and just shy of 200 mana for 1.3k damage is fantastic... however, since each successive cast of Arcane Blast renews the time on the buff, you can't spam the efficient one like you could Frostbolt or Fireball. At 3 stacks, the same spell is a 1.5 second cast, and does the same damage-which is quite a bit of damage for such a quick spell. However, it costs more damage than even a Pyroblast, and you can just imagine how quickly casting a Pyroblast every second and a half would drain your mana.

It can be good for "KILL THIS NOW" moments if you're not low on mana, and thanks to its efficiency will likely work well in a raid rotation, casting Arcane Blast and then shifting to another spell for the buff to wear off. However, it'll really never be a primary damage spell, and suffers from a short range and vulnerability to interrupts through damage.

Score: 3 - Not awful, not great, pretty mediocre. Could really benefit from a +range talent (actually, so could the whole damn Arcane tree) as well as a Burning Soul / Improved Arcane Missiles-esque talent to reduce the chance that damage interrupts casting time. It'll be on my bar, but I can't ever see me having this hotkeyed.

Invisibility - Fades the caster to invisibility over 5 seconds. The effect is cancelled if you perform or receive any hostile actions. While invisible, you can only see other invisible targets and those who can see invisible. Lasts 20 sec. 263 mana, instant cast, 5 minute cooldown. Requires level 68.

Oh, Invisibility. Long the trademark of the Warcraft Mage, it was removed in the WoW beta because, frankly, opening from invisibility at 41 yards with the then-overpowered Pyroblast was imbalanced as hell. However, this version really doesn't live up to the name. The fade is annoying, because if ANY hostile action catches you during this time, the spell breaks but is now on cooldown for five minutes. This includes taking DoT damage, direct damage, having ANY sort of debuff placed on you... there've been times when I've popped Invisibility to try and avoid a wipe, but the boss randomly targeted me with his random target moves and I just stood there. I've been running from an angry group of mobs and popped Invis, but because one of their melee got in range (Blinking breaks the effect, so that's out of the question) or one of their casters got off a cast, the cooldown was wasted. This'll be impossible to really pull off against a Warlock, who can just slap any of their instant-casts on you as soon as they see you start to fade. Hell, even a Rogue or Warrior can hit you with ranged to break the effect.

It can't really be used to sneak past combat, either, due to the fact that you can't see any mobs around you. For all you know, you could be walking into a pack of murlocs, or the opposite faction city (okay, not really THAT bad, but still). The limited duration dampens both its use as an escape skill and its ability to bypass content as well-if there were no time limit, you could /follow a druid or rogue party member to know where you were headed, and safely put distance between you and your pursuers... but since you can't use Blink or any speed effects while "dark," it's hard to get out of their sight range within 20 seconds. And hell, you can't see-you could be walking right into a trap.

If Invisibility does successfully go off, it IS a full aggro wipe-so the 5-minute cooldown makes sense, akin to the Vanish cooldown. The fact that the cooldown will still trigger even if the fade gets interrupted, though, means that often we won't get the chance to take advantage of the full wipe. Since the nerf to our threat reduction was a result of us getting Invisibility, it really doesn't seem fair that we don't get a chance to take advantage of it.

Score: 3 - Invisibility seems like it could be a worthy addition to the Mage's spellbook if even just ONE of the conditions-duration, fade, inability to see non-Invis things-were removed. As it stands, though, it's far too conditional to be useful. I'm not going to say it's useless-I've avoided wipes that I'd previously have been caught in, and I suppose it's helped me escape a poor PvP situation at times, but overall... it's just weak.

The invisible world looks hella cool, though.


Spell Steal - Steals a beneficial magic effect from the target. This effect lasts a maximum of 2 minutes. 474 mana, instant cast, 30 yard range. Requires level 70.

In a welcome contrast to the lackluster Arcane Blast and Invisibility, Spellsteal is pleasantly awesome and useful-and gives us a nice weapon against enemy casters for once. Not only does it remove the effect from them, it gives it to you. So, if that pesky Priest throws up his shield, you can strip it and get it for yourself with a cast of Spellsteal! If a Paladin uses Blessing of Protection to save himself from a friendly Warrior or Rogue, you can take it away and grab it for yourself for some nice immunity to physical damage. It IS random, though, so sometimes you'll get Power Word: Fortitude when you meant to get Power Word: Shield, or Mage Armor when you meant to grab Ice Barrier... but it doesn't have a cooldown, so you can just cast it again.

Not only is it useful, it's also fun to use-and I think many Mages will enjoy the opportunity to do the Purging for once instead of getting Purged or Dispelled. Its effects in PvE thus far are limited (though there's a nifty +295 damage buff off some Blood Elves in the Botanica...), but Kalgan has said that there will be encounters designed to make use of the skill later on-and as the raids aren't really open yet, I'll have to take his word for it.

Score: 5 - Fun, a tool against enemy casters, versatile. What's not to love? Sometimes it's fairly situational, but in those situations it really shines.

Fire

Molten Armor - Causes 75 Fire damage when hit and reduces the chance you are critically hit by melee attacks and spells by 5%. Increases your chance to get a critical strike with spells by 3%. Only one type of Armor spell can be active on the Mage at any time. Lasts 30 min. 630 mana, instant cast, requires level 62.

Rounding out our trifecta of Armor spells is this little beauty. While 75 damage to melee attackers (which can crit, and yes, proc Ignite) is certainly nice, 5% crit avoidance is also huge-and helps us survive against spellcasters as well as melee. You can't go wrong with a 3% crit self-buff, though. You just can't.

Score: 4 - Solid new skill, and probably the Armor of choice for PvP. Nothing too special, but it's just good overall... and the cast sound rules.

Frost

Ice Lance - Deals 146 to 186 Frost damage to an enemy target. Causes triple damage against Frozen targets. 150 mana, instant cast, 30 yard range. Requires level 66.

Ice Lance, all things considered, is a welcome tool to the Mage arsenal. By itself, it's a horribly weak spell, and even with good +damage it'll rarely hit for more than 350, lacking the slows or ability to proc Frostbite found in the other damage spells that Frost Mages have at their disposal. However, when a target is Frozen-via Frost Nova, Water Elemental Freeze, or a Frostbite proc-this spell really comes through. Its damage is tripled, and it's now a 900+ damage instant cast for a tiny mana cost.

Since most Frost Mages worth their while will have Shatter, this also effectively means that you'll crit most of your Ice Lances for upwards of 1.7k very frequently. Since it's instant cast, you may even be able to get off two before Frost Nova/Freeze/Frostbite fades... and unlike a Frostbolt, which requires you to root yourself in place for 2.5 seconds, you can use jump-turning to blast Ice Lances while putting some distance in between you and your foe.

It is, in effect, a powerful Frost instant cast with a 20-24 second cooldown, since it's all but worthless against non-Frozen targets. Of course, with a Water Elemental and the Frostbite talent, the "effective cooldown" of Ice Lance goes down. It does not slow the opponent in any way (which would be a tad overpowered), so it can't proc Frostbite off of itself like Frostbolt can. Nevertheless, Frost Mages should really enjoy their shiny new toy.

Score: 5 - Lots of damage when applicable, instant cast, low mana cost. Very, VERY good skill that makes up for the lackluster new Frost talents by virtue of being awesome.

-TMTCJz

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