I get a lot of questions like “should I get Imp. Scorch?” or “is Incanter’s Absorption worth it?” “or “where should I put point X and Y? Is it worth dropping Z?”
The answer is short, and may be disappointing to some of you:
I don’t know.
How can I know? I’m not you, I’m not in your shoes, I have no idea what your raiding environment is like. I can’t tell you, flat out, how to play. All I can offer is pointers and some rather basic rules.
Just for a fleeting moment in time, picture WoW as real life, and this as an advice column. I receive many questions such as “should I eat oranges or apples? Is there even a comparison?” but those questions I can’t satisfactorily answer.
I could say “eat apples!” but what if you’re allergic to them? What if apples are really expensive, or people with your hair colour are arrested and beaten for eating apples?
I can offer advice like “jumping off buildings will have a negative impact on your health”, or “it is unwise to lick predators larger than you”; you know, basic stuff.
When I get asked “should I get Imp. Scorch, or just let a warlock do it?”, all I can really say is “Well… should you?”
In an effort to try and answer many of these questions all at once… here’s me… uhh, answering them. All at once.
To Scorch, or not to Scorch
Consider the following:
Every time you Scorch, you are reducing your personal DPS from it’s potential. However, the loss of DPS from not having the Scorch debuff up outweighs this loss.
Magnified over the raid, losing the Scorch debuff is a very large loss of DPS.
In order to effectively Scorch for your raid, you need to invest 3 points into the talent and pick up the corresponding glyph.
Someone has to have it. Someone in the raid has to be able to provide this debuff, whether it’s a warlock, a frost mage, or a fire mage of some sort. It must be there to truly min/max the raid.
In an ideal situation, a fire specced mage will have Glyph of [Nuke], Molten Armor, and Living Bomb, and someone else will have “Scorch” duty, even another fire mage.
With this in mind, consider the following:
Can you depend on someone else to Scorch? Is there a warlock/frost mage/another fire mage there, willing and able to provide it instead?
Are you able to depend on them every raid? Are they going to not show up sometimes and force you to respec? Even if they do show, is the raid willing to continue a fight without the debuff if they die? Is it able to continue (in a hard mode fight)?
Perhaps you’d be willing to carry around two specs for explicitly this reason? You could have one spec with the talent and glyph, and one without. Switch between the two as needed.
If you PuG a lot, how often do you need to Scorch? Do others typically show up with the requisite talents? Are you willing to risk doing a PuG raid without the debuff?
Look at your raiding environment, take all this into account, and then decide. The answers should be easy.
(Dear Blizzard: please roll the Glyph of Improved Scorch into the base talent itself. It would be deeply appreciated.)
Consider the following:
A raid must have Replenishment. Every fight, every class with mana, is designed around the assumption that everyone will have access to Replenishment.
Many specs bring the Replenishment buff; it is actually hard to participate in a raid that does not have it. Survival hunters, retribution paladins, destruction warlocks, shadow priests and frost mages all bring the buff.
In order to bring the buff, you will need to spec frost, which is inferior to other mage specs in terms of pure DPS output.
Once again, the decision is up to you. Both survival hunters and ret paladins are very popular specs; it isn’t a stretch to simply assume that one of them will be present in a 25-man raid.
But again, look at your own raiding environment.
If you’re in a small guild running 10-man content with no hunters in sight, only one paladin tanking, two priests dedicated to healing, a warlock who refuses to spec anything but affliction, and you as the only mage… it’s a very good idea to spec frost and nab replenishment.
Like the Imp. Scorch thing, somebody has to have it. It is not optional, but it does not need to be you who brings it.
What about talent X, Y, or Z?
Nearly every question of this style is directly questioning the early arcane tree. Let’s get this straight:
For any of those 18/XX/XX specs, the only important part of the arcane tree is Torment the Weak. Those first 15 points you put into the tree? Stick ’em wherever you want, it barely matters.
Picture it like a car. TtW is the engine, without it, you’re going nowhere. Everything else is cosmetic details, like what colour it is, how shiny the hubcaps are or whether the rear-view mirror is oval or rectangular.
But hey, discussion is what we do best here, so let’s discuss!
(The following is from the perspective of a non-arcane mage.)
The entire first tier and Arcane Fortitude are essentially useless. Your first five points can go anywhere, it’s really not important at all.
You’re never going to use Arcane Missiles or Explosion, and you’re not going to need the extra hit for Counterspell and Polymorph, as you’re never going to be casting those spells at a (mathematically) level 83 mob. 80, 81, 82, sure, but you should have more than enough hit to cover that.
Magic Absorption and Arcane Concentration are both quite useful.
The first one will give you a flat 80 spell resistance, which will resist a substantial amount of magic damage. As long as magic damage (that is resistable) is being thrown around, that is. This will feed you more mana and make your healer’s lives easier.
On fights such as, say, Patchwerk it’s utterly useless. But on, say, Sapphiron or Malygos phase 2 it’s extremely powerful.
The latter is an improvement to the depth of your mana pool, nothing more. Worth the points if you are playing a mana intensive fireball spec, but you can afford to not take it if you’re frost specced.
Note: It gets said a lot that frost is very easy on your mana pool. Please note that Arcane Concentration is partially responsible for its incredible mana efficiency.
The third tier of arcane starts getting a little more interesting.
Generally speaking, don’t bother with Magic Attunement. It provides very little.
Fireball specs are going to want to pick up all three points Spell Impact, and frost mages utilizing Brainfreeze and Ice Lance should consider it too.
Note: this is the exception to “whatever”. Fireball based specs should have Spell Impact.
Focus Magic is a solid buff for both you and whoever you cast it on. Just make sure you get it on someone who is constantly casting and critting, such as an elemental shammy or a holy paladin.
Student of the Mind is just somewhere you put points if you’ve run out of ideas. It will give you a tiny boost to your mana regeneration and crit, but it is, point for point, a very low DPS talent.
And, of course, you can’t go wrong investing a couple points in Arcane Meditation if you’re there and have two points to spare.
Pick whichever ones you want.