Preface and Resource Links
This thread is an opportunity for a consolidated discussion to explore all aspects of Arcane in Cataclysm: Talents, Mastery, design direction, playstyle and concerns. You'll quickly notice that the tone and sentiment of Cataclysm Arcane discussion, is very different to that of Cataclysm Fire or Frost. Arcane currently has many issues, and many people are quite frustrated or disappointed by the spec. With that in mind, this is still not a place to mindlessly whine or play armchair designer, but to constructively discuss Cataclysm Arcane in detail. Some resources pertinent to Arcane Mages:
- Cataclysm Talent Calculator: Mage
- World of Warcraft - English (NA) Forums -> Cataclysm Class Preview: Mage
- World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Beta - (English) Forums -> [Mage] Arcane suggestions
- World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Beta - (English) Forums -> Mage
- World of Warcraft - English (NA) Forums -> Arcane Mages in Cataclysm
Key Blizzard Quotes
Because much of recent Arcane discussion and concern stems from several key Blizzard quotes, these are pasted in full below.
Arcane Missiles is being redesigned to become a proc-based spell. Whenever the mage does damage with any spell, there is a chance for Arcane Missiles to become available, similar to how the warrior.s Overpower works. The damage and mana cost of this spell will be reworked to make it very desirable to use when available. This change should make gameplay more dynamic for the mage, particularly at low levels.
Arcane Focus will now return mana for each spell that fails to hit your target, including Arcane Missiles that fail to launch. We want Arcane mages to have several talents that play off of how much mana the character has and give the player enough tools to manage mana.
Mana Adept: Arcane will deal damage based how much mana the mage has. For example, Arcane mages will do much more damage at 100% mana than at 50% mana. If they begin to get low on mana, they will likely want to use an ability or mechanic to bring their mana up to increase their damage.
On Arcane Missiles, the basic spell is pretty cool. The problem is the way the spell works makes the current design hard to balance. It.s either too expensive and low damage or the opposite problem. This is particularly true at low level, and meanwhile we think the mage experience at low level is also a little too repetitive. The change is that you can.t hit Arcane Missiles whenever you want. The icon is just grayed out. However, when you deal damage, you have a chance to get Arcane Missiles to light up and then you definitely want to hit it. At higher levels Fire and Frost may eventually phase it out in preference for other spells, or if we like the mechanic, it may be something even Fire and Frost do, just less often than Arcane.
The intent behind Mana Adept (Arcane mastery) is that Arcane currently has a pretty fun mana management game going, at least at relatively high level. We thought it would be fun to extend that concept even further to where Arcane mages that use the mechanics to keep their mana high would do higher dps.
Key At-a-Glance Cataclysm Changes Relevant to Arcane
Most Recent Beta Build Changes (12942)
- Arcane Blast new tooltips reads, "Blasts the target with energy, dealing X to Y Arcane damage. Each time you cast Arcane Blast, the damage of Arcane Blast is increased by 20% and mana cost is increased by 175%. Effect stacks up to 4 times and lasts 6 sec or until any Arcane damage spell except Arcane Blast is cast.".
- Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage no longer receive the damage bonus from Arcane Blast stacks. Only Arcane Blast itself benefits from the damage bonus.
- Improved Arcane Explosion reduces the GCD of Arcane Explosion by 0.5 seconds and reduces threat generated by 80%
- Arcane Specialization increases the damage of your Arcane spells by 25%.
- Mana Adept increases all spell damage done by up to 12%, based on the amount of mana the Mage has unspent. Each point of Mastery increases damage done by up to an additional 1.5%.
- Arcane Missiles is now a % based proc, learnt at level 3, which has a 40% chance to activate after casting any mage spell. It longer gets a damage bonus from Arcane Blast stacks.
- Arcane Barrage has a 5 second cooldown. It no longer gets a damage bonus from Arcane Blast stacks.
- Nether Vortex interacts with Slow by passively applying the debuff to unafflicted targets
- Improved Mana Gem allows a Mana Gem to act as a DPS cooldown
- Mage Armor allows the Mage to regenerate 3% of maximum mana per 5 seconds
- Molten Armor no longer scales with spirit. Selfish Crit bonus reduced to 3%.
- Torment the Weak applies only to Arcane spells, has been reduced to 6% damage
- Icy Veins is no longer available for Arcane Mages to pickup
- Arcane Barrage: In one beta build, Abarr gave a 100% chance to proc Arcane Missiles and not consume Arcane Blast stacks in the process. To clear up confusion: This implementation was completely scrapped during the Beta. Arcane Barrage functions the same way it does on live, except it has a 5 second cooldown and its damage is no longer modified by Arcane Blast stacks.
Arcane in Cataclysm
Concerns: Concise Bullet Point Summary
The following points summarize the majority of Arcane Cataclysm concerns in a concise and easy to understand manner. These points are quoted from a post originally authored by Zeldyrr here.
Mana Adept: The design of this mastery (have more mana = do more damage) seems counter to arcane blast (spend more mana = do more damage). Balancing these two quickly becomes beyond the capabilities of a player just trying to pick up the game. Relying on simulators and out-of-game fan sites is something GC said he wanted to curb.
Mana Management: The mana management theme could be very interesting, if arcane mages had new tools with which to do the management. Right now you mana gem every time it comes up and evocate every time your mana reaches 40%. These are the same tools available to the other specs.
Rotation: The current expected rotation is AB-AB-AB-AB-MBAM, 11112. This is pretty much as it has been for all of wotlk. While effective, it's boring and repetitive. A more dynamic rotation that includes other spells like ABar would be a welcome change.
AOE: Because of the way the specialization bonuses work for mages, casting off-tree AOE spells can be ineffective. Arcane Explosion is the only choice from the arcane tree. Is it intended that arcane mages are the only caster without some sort of ranged AOE? And if this is an "only" that Blizzard is happy with, can AE's coefficient be adjusted? Right now it can't compete DPS-wise with fire or frost AOE capabilities.
Talent Interplay: Other trees have a "theme" in their talents. For example, some fire talents boost crit chances and other talents proc when spells crit. Arcane talents have less of this interplay. For example, Torment the Weak boosts damage and that's it. No other talent can play off of "6% more damage".
Arcane Barrage: This is the iconic arcane spell granted at level 10 when the choice of specialization is made. However, it currently has no place in an end game raiding rotation. It would be nice if the "iconic" spell (which has a cool flavor and graphic associated with it) be useful to raiders as part of the standard rotation.
Limited Spell Choice: The more recent Arcane tree spells (Mirror Image, Timewarp) don't provide options that enter a raiding rotation. Current choices are Arcane Barrage (no reason to cast atm), Arcane Missiles (available only on proc), and Arcane Blast. From this is easy to deduce the only possible rotation is spam AB until the only useful other spell (AM) procs.
Nonsensical Pre-level 34 Levelling Experience: Arcane mages don't receive Arcane Blast until level 34, which is the core part of the Arcane rotation and playstyle. Not having access to AB means cross-school filler spells need to be used, because of the two Arcane spells available early: One is a proc and one has a CD. Cross school spells cast do not benefit from Arcane Specialisation. All this seems counter-intuitive to Blizzards new levelling vision, aimed at letting players feel like their spec as early as level 10.
What's wrong with Cataclysm Arcane: Discussion
The short version: Arcane is boring.
The longer version: The 'fun factor' has gone missing from Arcane. The rotations are too static. There's not enough opportunity for dynamic or adaptive rotations. The ranged AOE rotation relies exclusively on other spell schools, Blizzard and Flamestrike, both of which forgo Arcane Specialisation. Furthermore, neither of these spells have compelling Arcane talents to compensate or modify them. Arcane mages lack fun, innovative tools and mechanics to control and manipulate their most important resource: mana. Too many Arcane talents lack thematic synergy, nor add much depth or flavour to the Arcane playstyle. We're not empowered with enough ways to manage the Mana Adept mastery.
Cataclysm doesn't appear to be doing much to remedy any of this - and this the reason many are concerned by the current state of Cataclysm Arcane: Where is the thematic, fun synergy that encourages us to mix rotations up and gives the opportunity for added depth and control?
Talent Synergy and Depth
Fire AOE takes advantage of Fire Specialization, excellent thematic synergy, and talents giving the opportunity for depth to skilled players who wish to take advantage of them. (Pyromaniac, Impact, Combustion, Hot streak). The only interaction between Arcane talents/spells and AOE is either very minimal, or just plain boring. Arcane Explosion takes advantage of the Arcane Blast debuff, Arcane Potency might give you a crit after a Clearcasting Proc, and POM can give an instant Flamestrike. What Arcane lacks is more talents that offer depth.
While adding another Arcane ranged AOE spell would be a good step, it wouldn't necessarily solve anything. Mindlessly casting AOE spells (the current Arcane AOE rotation) isn't a particulary inspiring, or fun, design. Adding more spells to mindlessly cast won't change that. Fire is a good example of how talents and spells can thematically work well together to not only add more depth to the tree, but make it much more fun.
Cataclysm Fire has the theme of Dots (The ingame representation of something 'burning'). Do the Fire talents really expand on that theme, and add depth? Yes! Frost has an emphasis on chills and freezes. The question is - do the talents do much to expand on this, give you reasons to care about chills/freezes - and give you fun tools to manage all of this ? Yes! To see examples of how the Fire and Frost talent trees accomplish this, expand the spoiler tag below:
Now finally, lets look at Arcane. It has themes of Mana Management and Magic Manipulation. Lets assess whether the tree expands on that, or adds any depth:
Clearcasting: Free spells, indirectly gives you a chance to passively reduce mana consumption (Boring, no player input)
Arcane Flows: Alters CD on Evocation
Improved Mana Gem: Ties mana gem use into granting +dam bonus based on mana (Using a Mana Gem qualifies as mana management, and this talent is mathematically quite good, but that doesn't necessarily make it innovative design)
Arcane Blast: Increases the damage of Arcane spells, at the cost of extra mana.
Mana Adapt: Rewards mages for having high mana (Needs tools so we can control it to make it most effective)
The Arcane package is just not there. It doesn't tie itself together well, unlike Frost or Fire. Using evocation and a mana gem, does not really qualify as compelling mana management. Correct use of Arcane Blast requires good management, but this theme is not expanded on by the talent tree - unlike Dots to Fire. Arcane does have a bunch of 'fun, gimmicky' utility talents (Prismatic Cloak, Improved Blink, Invocation, Incanter's Abosprtion) - but there are too many of them, and too few talents that address or expand on the rest of the playstyle. Many of the remaining talents are just plain boring, or don't offer anything exciting to the tree at all (Torment the Weak, Arcane Tactics, Focus Magic).
Are these talents meant to be mutually exclusive with those that offer more depth to the playstyle? The equivilant to this would be if Fire had only 1 talent that affected dots, and Frost had one talent that played with Freezes - because the rest of the tree was filled up with gimmick talents.
What does it mean to be an Arcane mage? Does the talent tree do enough to expand upon this?
The official talent tree description reads, "Manipulates arcane energies, playing with the very fabric of time and space." Arcane is all about control. Specifically: Control over mana, control over magic, and control over time.
A skilled Arcane mage needs to exercise a great deal of control and manipulative skills over their mana / magic to be effective. The main point of contention is, with those points in mind, the current Cataclysm talent tree is moving away from that completely - even contrary to Blizzard's own comments - towards Arcane being nothing more than a bag of thematically disjointed tricks with a static, boring rotation - and having little to no control. This is counter-intuitive to what an Arcane mage is supposed to be all about.
Fire on the other hand is moving in the opposite direction: Cataclysm fire design direction thus far has been excellent, and the talents are empowering you with ways to manage and control your DOT's.
For an easy comparison, consider the following Arcane Talents: Improved Polymorph, Improved Blink, Torment the Weak, Arcane Tactics, Focus Magic and Prismatic Cloak. What exactly do they add to the Arcane tree? Do they add any depth or fun to the playstyle, do they give you more control? Focus magic gives Arcane some crit, but do other talents make you care about crit? No. Some of them are still indeed fun quirky talents. But can the real-estate scarce Cataclysm talent trees afford all these quirkly talents, when a strong running theme is lacking in the first place?
Now consider some of the new fire talents: More mobility with firestarter, regenerative rotations with Improved Scorch + Master of Elements + Hot Streak, Pyromaniac rewarding skilled players to manage dots correctly, Improved Flamestrike adding a free Blastwave which in turn will offer more Ignite crits and uptime on Pyromaniac, impact new utility can spread dots - combustion can create it's own ignite then consolidate everything else into it. Critical mass gives some crit, but do the fire talents give us a reason to care? Absolutely: Master of Elements, Ignite, Combustion, Hotstreak. Do they help make you feel like a Fire mage? Absolutely.
Arcane just doesn't tie itself together very well. Maybe that's simply because its lost sight of a running theme. Talents that play off mana and magic manipulation fit Arcane well. Improved Mana Gem is an example. Incanter's Absorption and Magic Absorption as well. Other potential good examples would be the current tier 10 bonuses. Both of those fit Arcane well. It would simply take a little rewording to give them a better thematic feel for Arcane. For example, changing the 4 piece tier 10 mirror image bonus to something such as "Your Mirror Image ability also causes you to deal an additional X% of your total mana/haste rating in damage for the next 30 seconds". The 2 piece bonus could be restated as, "Increases your haste rating by X% of your maximum mana after casting Arcane Missiles".
Pasture made an excellent post on this:
Mana management is more on point. Arcane has always been more concerned with mana management than any other dps tree, thought frankly, toward the end of WotLK this became more and more insignificant. Arcane mages didn't really have a high burn rotation that cut through the mana pool, and mana pretty much became a non-issue. Now Arcane for Cata was descibed as a spec based around mana, with lots of tools and talents that played of this. This hasn't materialised. Arcane doesn't have any new way to manage its mana. It's just mana gem when you've burned enough mana, and evocation when you've burned enough mana. There's no management there. Then of course we have our Arcane Blasts stacks that cause us to use more mana for more damage, but our overall mastery that makes us do less damage when we burn our mana. Mana management isn't a bad theme, but none of it is really tied in well.
If mana management is going to be the Arcane theme then there needs to be some actual management. Arcane Blast stacks versus the current mastery is so horribly counter-intuitive and will require spreadsheets etc to dictate what level of stacks you should be hitting at specific levels of mana. It's not something you can just pick up in game through practice. On the other hand, mana gems and evocation don't require any though at all. You use them as soon as you've used enough mana to put your mana pool back to full. Either delivery on the mana management theme or ditch it and develop the spec in other ways. Either way, add a little more complexity to Arcane. Cataclysm is the perfect opportunity to flesh the spec out into something less simplistic.
So to get the ball rolling, Blizzard has delivered the current Cataclysm Arcane package - what are your thoughts and observations? Arcane discussion is very interesting, because it isn't just about criticising talents or numbers, it's also about you asssessing what you believe it is to be an Arcane mage, and many mages are quite passionate about what that means to them. Not everyone agrees on what this means, and nobody can conclusively say that Blizzard knows either - based on the current Cataclysm model. So where do we go from here?