With the Onyxia patch hitting either this week or next, we stand on the cusp of arcane’s third or fourth facelift. Honestly I’ve stopped counting, poor girl’s had more tweaks and fixes done than a ret paladin.
In case you missed it, the tweaks are as follows:
- Arcane Blast buff can now stack to 4, increasing mana cost by 175% per application.
- Missile Barrage now has a 40% chance to proc from Arcane Blast, and causes Arcane Missiles t0 cost no mana.
- Arcane Blast buff only lasts 6 seconds.
Alright, not that we’re all up to speed here, let’s start talking consequences.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, these changes render arcane dead even with the standard fireball spec. On a patchwerk fight, considering perfect play and BiS gear, arcane is actually 1% ahead.
Realistically speaking, there is no appreciable difference. Fire is better at movement and AoE, arcane has way higher burst potential and can change targets far faster.
In other words, which one you choose to play is the one you want to play.
A bright, fantastic day for mages everywhere! Except frost mages.
In theory, anyway.
I’m one of those old fogeys who really liked arcane back when it didn’t really have a true rotation. I mean, it sort of did, in that you cast Arcane Blast anywhere from one to four or five times, then used a finisher, either AM or ABarr, depending on MB procs.
The arcane of today is pretty much set in stone. You stack up the ABlast buff, then hit AM, regardless of MB procs. A rotation, if you will, but an immutable one.
Alase fore thee, olde arcane, Ie hardley knewe thee.
I suppose sadness here is pointless; the arcane I mourn died before the world first kill of Yogg-Saron.
These new arcane changes buff up today’s version of arcane. The immutable ABx4AM rotation has changed not at all, it is simply more potent.
Blizzard had aimed to do several things with this arcane tweak, only one of which they’ve been successful with.
Buff arcane to fire’s levels? Check.
Create two rotations (3xAB and 4xAB) to give arcanists a burn mode and a not-so burn mode? Woops.
Make ABarr the clear choice for when arcanists have to move? Oopsie.
Right now, arcane being able to match fire is contingent on being able to use the ABx4 rotation for all of a given fight. To put it another way, ABx4 is equal to fire, ABx3 is not.
In order to remain competitive, arcane must be able to maintain a rotation of ABx4.
Currently, it can. The 175% mana is not quite high enough to prevent an arcane mage in a raid group from using the ABx4 rotation, but still high enough to require the mage to pay very close attention to their cooldowns.
It is on the very precipice of being unplayable. A mana increase of, say, 190% per stack would outright kill arcane as a viable raiding spec.
What Blizzard wants to do is create a situation where arcane mages move between the ABx4 rotation and something that consumes less mana when there’s less mana around. That way, a skill gap is created between those mages who mana dump and mana conserve at the right times.
However, to do this, arcane’s damage cannot be balanced around either extreme.
Take hunters. If hunters were balanced around always being in Aspect of the DPS, then they would be underpowered as they must spend time in Aspect of the Not DPS.
On the flipside, if they were balanced around always being in Aspect of the Not DPS, they would be horrifically overpowered.
The sweet spot, therefore, has to be somewhere in between.
This has not yet been done with arcane. Honestly I expect there’ll be more big changes in 3.3.
Moving to ABarr.
ABarr fell out of favor when it got nerfed harder than ret paladins and DKs combined. To be blunt, it sucks. It’s terrible.
And now, all of a sudden, the AB buff duration gets nerfed to make ABarr the clear choice for movement, whilst ABarr receives absolutely no buffs to make it actually worthwhile to cast.
Interestingly, it will be this change that creates the skill gap for arcane mages.
Moving is a fact of raiding life. It has to be done. Combined with the rather stringent six second AB buff, the mark of a good arcane mage will be how efficiently and correctly they can move so that an MBAM is always their finisher.
Hilariously this means that arcane is now the worst possible spec to be for heavy movement fights, when it was, by far, the best less than a year ago.
We’ve come a long way, dearest arcane.