3.0.8 has been released, and hopefully by now you’ve been able to experience the joy of crashing servers and the pain of watching your friends all go offline while you sit safely in an instance server.
Or something like that, anyways.
I’ve talked about this before, but the patch is here now, so it’s all official “this is how it works” now, until the next patch anyways.
The easiest way to think of it is that Arcane now functions off of a combo point system. I’m sure everyone out there is familiar with what, exactly, the ABlast buff actually does.
In case you don’t, here’s a recap:
Arcane Blast now increases the damage of the next Arcane spell by 15%. However, using Arcane Blast itself does not consume the charge itself. Each time you cast Arcane Blast, the damage of Arcane spells is increased by 15% and the mana cost of Arcane Blast is increased by 200%. This effect stacks up to 3 times and lasts 10 seconds or until any Arcane damage spell except Arcane Blast is cast.
It’s actually extremely intuitive if you play around with it.
There are many reasons why this change is awesome, but only two really matter.
First, it sticks to the heart of what Arcane, as a spec, is: trading mana for damage. With this system, you can spend as little or as much mana as you want, and your DPS will fluctuate accordingly.
Second, it obeys the principle that Arcane doesn’t really have a spell rotation. What spells are cast when is completely up to the mage and the variables in his/her environment.
This is how Arcane differs from the other specs. It has the ability to dump mana to pump out a lot of damage. Frost does not possess a mana dump at all, and fire kind of does via Living Bomb and instant Pyroblasts.
If mana is tight, a fire mage can just drop those two spells from his rotation, see an according drop in DPS and mana consumption.
The major difference being that a fire mage can sustain those two extra spells if the situation is right. If there’s a source of Replenishment in the raid, maybe a Shaman kicking around, that fire mage is going to have more than enough mana to keep his/her optimal rotation going.
Not so for arcane mages. An arcane mage cannot maintain the high DPS cycles for very long. Simply put, mana is a very serious concern for arcane.
It isn’t a question of “do I have enough mana to cast these spells?”, it’s a question of “what spells do I need to use to deal the most damage with the mana I have?”
“Mana”, here, is a deceptive term. Arcane mages get to play around with the idea of theoretical mana, thanks to a little thing called Evocate.
Evocate, you see, is on a 2 minute cooldown now (arcane mages only, of course). This conveniently allows arcane mages to assume that, at any given time, they have 60% of their mana bar hanging out just waiting for the opportunity to be spent.
You say your mana bar is at 15%? Why, that’s just an illusion. Your mana bar is actually at 75%.
Before this patch, Evocation was one of those things that a mage used if it was needed, preferably at a time when it wouldn’t cut into DPS.
Now, arcane mages have the ability to use Evocation in a more aggresive manner.
Consider the mana gem. One of the most basic difference between “bad” mages and “good” mages is the use of the mana gem. A “bad” mage only uses the gem once his/her mana bar runs dry. A “good” mage uses the mana gem as soon as the mana bar has dropped low enough to benefit fully from the mana gem.
This way, the gem is ready to be used two minutes later, and the mage hasn’t run OOM in the time being.
Evocation can now be treated the same way. Rather than using Evocation as an emergency mana restorative, plan on it’s use. Use it as early and as often as you can.
For instance, arcane go go full burn mode when a fight is starting, and keep it up until the mana bar has reached the 30-40% level. Then, use Evocate, and plan the next two minutes accordingly.
Do you have Blessing of Wisdom, a Ret Paladin judging the crap out of the boss, a Resto Shaman spamming Mana Tide, and a druid willing to toss you an Innervate? Spend spend spend!
Is the only mana you’re getting from your own spirit value? Frugal is the name of the game.
One other major thing about Evocate.
Remember how it benefits from haste? And with the current standard Arcane build, you have Icy Veins.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
First, yes, stacking Icy Veins and Evocate together for very fast mana regeneration is very important. When a mage is using Evocate, they aren’t dealing damage. Shaving off a second or two from Evocate is dreadfully important.
There are two ways to use Icy Veins and Evocate, and which one you use depends on the fight in question.
For fights with little AoE damage, where you can count on not taking damage that can mess around with a channeled spell, you can start using Evocate during the very last second Icy Veins is active. The haste boost will count for the entire channeled duration.
For fights with a lot of AoE damage, where channeled spells get messed with on a regular basis, you’ll have to use Evocate in time so that the entire channeled effect takes place during the course of Icy Veins. The spell pushback immunity is extremely important.
You cannot afford to miss even a single tick of Evocate when you are playing aggresively with it. It’s extremely hard to recover from a wasted Evocate when you’ve planned around having all that mana.
Rotation, and the Arcane “Shatter” Bug
As mentioned before, arcane has the unique ability to burn and conserve mana according to their environment, raid makeup, and current mana levels.
A simple ABlast -> ABarr rotation doesn’t deal very much damage, but it does conserve very nicely on mana.
ABlastx2 -> ABarr spends more mana, and deals more damage.
ABlastx3 -> ABarr spends a high amount of mana, and deals a lot of damage.
Basically, these are the three modes of spells that an arcane mage uses. The use of where to put Arcane Missiles is up to the discretion of the mage in question.
Generally, you’ll want the ABlast buff to be as high as you can support it before using AM to get the most damage out of the spell. In addition, AM should only be used when Missile Barrage procs. Without that major hasted effect, casting AM doesn’t deal enough damage fast enough.
That last paragraph would be completely true if it weren’t for one little bug.
The ABlast debuff is “consumed” when another arcane spell completes it’s cast. In the case of ABarr, this happens immediately, as the spell is instant. In the case of Arcane Missiles, this happens once the final missile is fired.
If one were to, say, cast ABarr right before that final tick of AM, that ABarr would consume the ABlast debuff. Thus, the ABlast debuff would have boosted the damage of most of AM and an ABarr, rather than just one or the other.
This is what people refer to when they say “arcane shatter”.
Right now, the optimal rotation for arcane is simplistic. ABlastx3, to get the buff stacked to maximum, hit AM, regardless if Missile Barrage has procced or not, and hit ABarr before the final tick of AM fires off.
Of course, lag can bugger this rotation something fierce.
Most importantly with the new arcane, it requires the mage to be alert and paying very close to attention to basically everything.
If you’ve gotten lazy or even become comatose with FFB spec, now might be a good time to try out a spec that will throw you down a flight of stairs if you stop paying attention.