The arcane ball has been thrown, the nerf bat is in mid swing, and it’s looking to hit very hard. Let’s hope for a curve ball, or at least a foul. Maybe, if it curves upward, the batter might duck. Get it? Duck? Foul? Eh? Eh?
You people have no sense of humour.
Arcane right now, as was mentioned earlier, is suffering roughly the same way paladins are. Fact is, there is one aspect of the spec that is amazing (some would consider overpowered) while pretty much everything else about it is garbage.
For now, I am going to largely ignore the PvP aspect of arcane, and look at where it is from a PvE standpoint.
Arcane, as a raid spec, is currently in a very bad position. It’s currently in a very real danger of being a “spare parts” tree. That is, it’s talents are only used in conjunction with the mage going deep into another tree. For instance, a fire mage stands to gain a lot from spending 13-18 points in the tree.
Arcane is suffering from Arcane Barrage throwing blinders around the rest of the tree. Arcane Barrage is an excellent spell, there is no denying that. Problem is, the rest of the tree is pretty awful. Arcane has never had it’s own unique, spammable nuke; no equivalent to frostbolt or fireball. And it has suffered greatly because of it.
The tree has very few straight up DPS increases, like the fire and frost tree does. This isn’t a problem in itself, so long as the spec is built around that, as arcane was until very recently.
It may not have had a lot of percentile or crit modifiers, but that was where Arcane Blast stepped in. A major feature of the tree was that it had more mana generation talents than the other two, and so could make up for a deficiency in base line DPS with raw power.
To put it bluntly, the arcane tree had more mana than the other two, and then was given a mana dump that took direct advantage of that. How well Arcane Blast scaled, or how much percentile damage increases it had, was irrelevant.
Rather than improving the quality of the main nuke, the tree simply increased the quantity of its main nuke. And so the arcane mage was grouped with a leatherworking resto shaman, was smacked up the side of the head with Innervate, and all was well in the world.
Now, the mechanics of the tree is changing. Arcane is trying to become a more quality based tree, with more percentile increases and proper nukes with a proper rotation.
Therein lies the issue. Arcane doesn’t want a proper rotation, and never has. A true to goodness nuke, yes, but not a rigid rotation. It has always been the more interactive tree mages had, depending more on raid makeup and judgment calls than actual built in mechanics.
Look at it in Starcraft terms. The arcane tree is basically the zerg. Picture the Terran. If they want to use siege tanks in an attack, it needs to be properly supported with (at the very least) some anti-air units. If you play zerg, just build a bunch of Hydralisks – strategy be damned. FOR THE SWARM. Hydralisks not working? Giant swarm of Mutalisks then!
The other two specs have more rigid and specific strategies. Again comparing to fire: fire needs to cast Scorch five times, then chain fireballs from there. And that was that. There was no casting X spell to throttle DPS to conserve mana, then switch to this spell once Mana Tide was dropped, then swap over to this spell when X happened. It was, generally, always the same and couldn’t adapt.
By comparison, arcane could, thus creating a level of interactivity. Obviously, chain casting AB for infinity was the best option, but arcane wasn’t limited to that. It could use frostbolt if mana was tight, rotate between frostbolt and AB once AB was at a full stack to control mana consumption, or any number of spell combinations depending on changing circumstances.
Arcane also had the advantage in that it could change its DPS target faster and more efficiently than the other two.
In LK, arcane appeared to be building on that, until AB was changed.
Now, arcane has no mana dump. The changes to AB completely morphed the way arcane can play by (despite adding in a new spell) severely reducing the number of ways the spec can be played.
AB cannot be spammed. It just can’t. In fact, there literally is no reason to cast it more than twice in a row. The AB “buff” itself is so short that it is impossible to rotate AB with… well, anything; even if you could, you wouldn’t want to thanks to the exorbitant mana cost. And, of course, arcane is now sbjected to a rotation.
Basically, ABx2, then ABarr, repeat. Hit AM when Missile Barrage is up. Repeat. And that is that. There isn’t room to change the spell sequence according to changing circumstances. If you have less mana… ABx2 then ABarr. If you have lots of mana… ABx2 then ABarr. Ho hum.
Thankfully, there’s still the option to use frostbolt, and honestly, raiding arcane mages should spend 18 points in frost anyways (take a good, hard look at Frost Channeling). Even that, though is diminished, in that you can’t use it as simple filler when you need to keep the AB “buff” at full while still holding onto mana.
So with the new, static rotation, you’d expect arcane would now simply match fire cast per cast. Of course that isn’t the case, and arcane is currently enjoying being the crappiest raid spec available to mages. Again. At least frost has a raid wide mana restore.
We shall see what Blizzard does to address this. And they most certainly will.
We think we know how to adjust Arcane to make their rotations work better in PvE (which will also help the PvP burst at the same time). It involves changing a couple of spells though so it will take some time and isn’t the kind of thing easily hotfixed (as it will make tooltips incorrect).
We don’t think Arcane is so broken that it’s useless to take raiding. We just want to make the rotations a little smoother and perhaps bring up PvE damage a little bit.
There’s that damn rotation word again. Oh well.
Arguably, arcane not having a proper rotation is what caused the issues in the first place. Not having a fixed sequence of spells means that it is much harder to actually get solid numbers on what the spec is actually capable of. The previous sentence was complete BS. I have no idea why Blizzard felt it necessary to force arcane into a rotation.
You’ll notice that a lot of high end mages want more interactivity in the use of their spells. We don’t want to be locked into a specific rotation; it gets boring. Adding in random procs certainly helped that (Pavlov would be proud), though it isn’t the same.
Fire, as it stands now, is very solid rotation wise. The main nuke is still fireball, and the go-to spell for DPS purposes. Rotating with Scorch to keep the debuff up has always been a staple, and now the tree has its very own PoM Pyro on a proc, and a DoT that it can keep up (or not) based on how mana seems to be doing. Even AoE is different now, with a rotation between Flamestrike and Blizzard being the best option.
Frost is easily the most boring spec right now, as there really isn’t anything to do besides frostbolt spamming. You don’t even really need to time your elemental summons anymore, due to a minimum of 50% uptime. You are getting the Water Elemental glyph, right?
Enough rambling for one day. Suffice to say, arcane could adapt and shift its priorities, and thus spells, depending on changing conditions. It can no longer do that, and thus I am sad.