Disclaimer: the solutions I offer were all thought of by me in the past few days. I do not claim any of them to be original ideas. Maybe I invented them, maybe I read a suggestion on some forum somewhere a year ago, maybe I just borrowed a mechanic from another class.
Problem: unpredictable and unreliable burst damage.
Generally speaking, when a class wishes to burst, they push a couple buttons which massively increases the damage they are capable of pumping out. A warrior pushes Bladestorm, a frost mage pushes icy veins, arcane mages push arcane power.
Fire does not have such an option. Fire has Combustion, which essentially creates guaranteed crits that crit harder than normal. This is going to become a common theme in the rest of the post here, the core problem here is too much RNG.
When a warrior pushes Bladestorm, he is dealing tons of damage immediately, possibly to multiple targets. When a frost mage pushes Ivy Veins, he is casting much faster, resulting in a huge increase to effective damage output. He can also use Deep Freeze and shatter combos. This is all immediate, on demand burst damage.
When a fire mage pushes Combustion, this means that he will be producing burst damage at some point in the future that the mage has absolutely no control over. Worst case scenario, you lose a charge to a weak LB crit. Best case, of course, would be a Hot Streaked pyroblast for 14k. But who’s to say Hot Streak would even proc? Hot Streak is exemplary of the RNG that plagues the fire tree.
Thematically, this fits with the idea of fire being a random, chaotic element. A real fire is unpredictable and largely an uncontrolled force. The fire tree in game seems to reflect this, so stylistically fire being random and uncontrollable is a good idea.
However, this makes it a terrible tree to use for PvP. It’s not so much unpredictable as it is unreliable.
Solution: leave the RNG burst alone, make fire better at sustained damage.
Combustion and Hot Streak are large sources of damage, but cannot be relied on to score kills. I propose fire mages follow the example set by elemental shamans and warlocks, namely high, predictable damage that requires some set up to pull off.
I suggest increasing the damage Scorch deals, but requiring various debuffs to be present in order to enjoy this damage boost. Add an additional effect to Living Bomb, for example, that increases the damage and critical strike chance of Scorch by 10%. The Improved Scorch effect could also provide a further 5% damage boost to Scorch damage.
Overall, this would provide a fairly significant boost to fire mage damage, but it is damage that can be mitigated. There would need to be some protection against dispels, something more than an explosion effect. Consider affliction warlocks and shadow priests. Dispelling against them is dangerous at best, catastrophic at worst.
What if dispelling Living Bomb caused the mage to immediately gain a Hot Streak proc? Dispelling against a fire mage would therefore be dangerous, as whatever happens the dispeller’s side is going to be hurt by doing so.
Another possible route would be to revamp Combustion again. Even a change as simple as guaranteeing your next three casted spells automatically crit would give it a stronger purpose than the current implementation. This would allow the mage to Scorch twice, or Scorch/Fireblast to force a Hot Streak proc, which would also be guaranteed to crit.
Another idea would be to allow Molten Armor to translate a percentage of resilience rating into critical strike rating. Besides encouraging fire mages to use Molten Armor (which I view as a good thing), it would also provide a significant boost to critical strike chance, thus leading to (in the long run) more reliable damage.
Problem: terrible, RNG reliant survivability.
Fire actually has some very solid defensive abilities. They have a snare dispel, a passive anti-execute mechanic, even a disarm. Problem is, the big ones are all heavily reliant on the RNG. Whether or not you survive is entirely dependent on whether the virtual dice like you or not. I shouldnt have to elaborate on why this is bad.
Blazing Speed is a good defensive talent, but the mage has no control over it. There’s also the eensy little problem that it doesn’t proc from spells. The disarm is also a good defensive talent, but again with no control over when it procs the talent is unreliable at best.
Again, this adds to the whole schtick that fire has going. The whole “nobody knows what happens next!” thing features prominently in the fire tree, but having some of fire’s strongest defensive tools follow the same design is problematic. There is nothing wrong with RNG, but cases like this are far too egregious.
It probably doesn’t help that these random defensive options, even if they were fully controlled, aren’t nearly enough survivability for the fire mage anyway.
Solution: not terrible, not RNG reliant survivability.
First and foremost, I’d like to see fire mages using Molten Armor for all occasions, not Mage and Ice. Molten Armor already provides a 5% decrease to your chances of being critically struck, which means it has always been intended to be used in PvP. Problem is, Mage and Ice are, by far, the more valuable armors to use in any situation.
I have several propositions to make that happen, but first let’s address the current survival options we have.
Blazing Speed needs to become an on use cooldown. A new, single talent point ability on a 45 second cooldown. Removes all snares, and increases your movement speed by 50% for 8 seconds. By itself, this might not be a strong enough change for fire. Perhaps allowing the mage to be immune to all snares and roots for those 8 seconds? Basically a self only Hand of Freedom. Alternatively, activating Blazing Speed also immediately refreshes the cooldown of Blink.
As for that disarm… well, that leads me back to using Molten Armor.
See, fire has this talent called Molten Shields. It used to be really good, now it’s somewhat lackluster. I propose a series of changes to this talent to force fire mages to use Molten Armor and increase their survivability to boot.
First, all of the effects Molten Shields provides requires Molten Armor to be active. This way, fire mages only have access to their awesome survival mechanics as long as they are using their armor.
Second, the reflection effect only applies to Fire Ward, but is changed significantly. When Fire Ward is activated, the next spell cast against the mage is reflected, no matter what school it’s from. Essentially this gives fire mages a 30 second spell reflect.
Taking Fiery Payback in addition to Molten Shields would provide additional effects. Rather than the disarm being random, the next physical damage attack to hit the mage after he activates Fire Ward causes the disarm effect. In addition, Fiery Payback could also increase the damage Molten Armor deals, something like doubling it, and an Eye for an Eye effect (i.e. whenever you are crit, the person who crit you takes 10% of their crit in fire damage) could be added for good measure.
The net effect is to give fire mages controllable survivability that is distinct from that of the other mage specs. Arcane and frost survive based on avoiding or absorbing incoming damage, so fire should get something different.
A disarm, a spell reflect, and the whole risk of taking lots of damage whenever you attack the fire mage gives a whole new kit to fire mage survivability. The fire mage, essentially, becomes a highly unattractive target to attack.
To prevent non-fire mages from having access to a spell reflect, Molten Shields would need to go deeper into the tree.
Problem: wtf is this I don’t even
Overall, fire is a very odd spec. Being a mage, it is squishy and relies on kiting and staying as far away from it’s targets to survive. Being a fire spec, it’s most powerful offensive and defensive tools all require the target to be in melee range.
This means the current fire implementation cannot kite properly, relies on melee range for most of it’s powerful moves, but is the weakest class in the game at surviving in melee range. Even Holy Priests are better at surviving melee than a fire mage is.
Solution: wtf is this I don’t even
Personally, I quite like the dual aspect of being a fire mage. Trying to balance staying at range and yet being able to use powerful, near melee moves is a large part of what makes it enjoyable to be a fire mage. However, there does need to be a few changes.
Flamestrike should provide a snare effect. Whether it’s ground based, as in a DK style Desecration effect, or is ground based, but simply inflicts everyone with a dispellable effect, as in earthbind totem, or simply applies a snare upon being hit with it (dispellable or not, whatever) isn’t really too relevant. Fire needs a snare, and Flamestrike is an excellent place to put it.
Having the snare attached to Firestarter procs also prevents the mage from simply spamming Flamestrike to keep a snare up. Which might actually be too underpowered by itself.
Blast Wave should be brought in line with Typhoon and/or Thunderstorm, in terms of knockback effectiveness. Blast Wave is an extremely weak knockback effect, a pitiful five yards to be precise. Why?
Impact should be slightly longer. It’s effective enough against other casters as an interrupt, but bumping the stun time up to 3 seconds would make it stronger and more versatile of an effect.
In addition, some extra things to help us survive better in melee range would be great, even if it is something simple like taking the physical damage reduction effect of a shadow priest’s shadow form and attaching it to Molten Armor as well (via Molten Shields).
Blizzard needs to decide where they want fire mages to be in PvP. If we’re supposed to be at range using Blast Wave and DB as defensive tools, then we’re going to need things like snares and better defensive and offensive options against enemy casters. If we’re supposed to be in melee or close range, then were going to need far, far better defensive options to allow us to survive at melee range.