But I’ll get to that.
For now, some ruminations.
Everyone is getting three new excellent buttons to push. But look at them from a categorical point of view. Us Mages, for instance, got a major DPS utility ability (Time Warp), a skill bragging DPS button, and a major AoE control utility ability.
Look around at what other people got. Death Knights got a DPS utility button and two major PvP utility buttons. Feral druids got a movement utility button. Hunters got two new utility buttons. Shamans have a cooldown that lets them cast anything they want whilst moving. Utility. Utility. Utility.
Sure, there are straight up DPS buttons or healing buttons here and there, but the majority of new things Cataclysm is bringing are centered around utility. That word will lose all meaning so, so I’ll try to avoid utilizing it again. Damnit.
Look at it this way. Every class has a toolbox. Inside that toolbox are tools. (NO SHIT SHERLOCK.) DPS classes open their toolbox to find a series of hammers. Healers have bandaids, gauze and pepto bismol. Tanks have those incredibly annoying safety whistles. (To make things hate them more! eh? eh?) What Blizzard appears to be trying to do is add more variety to everyone’s toolbox.
Sure, we DPS guys are still going to wave around our massive ballpeen hammers, healers are still going to be able to cure cancer with bandaids, and tanks will continue to blow their safety whistles right in your ear while you’re sleeping seriously cut that crap out or I swear to whatever gods will still listen to me I will cultivate an ant farm in your colon. But that’s not all we’re going to be bringing into play anymore.
This is a general trend that started a long time ago, most noticeably moving into Wrath, and continued throughout.
Consider. An arcane mage, in TBC, brought the following things to a raid:
Today’s arcane mage brings the following things to a raid:
- 3% increased damage aura
- 3% crit to any individual caster
The arcane mage of Cataclysm will bring:
- 3% increased damage aura
- 3% crit to any individual caster
- The bloodlust/heroism effect
- Huge AoE snare thing regardless of spec
This is the same trend no matter which mage spec you look at, and I dare say no matter which DPS class you look at. With the possible exception of shamans. Those guys have always been useful. Point is, the amount of things any given class brings to the table beyond the basic “i can kill stuff reel good like” is increasing, and this is a trend Blizzard is more than happy to continue.
More and more, the line between a “pure” class and a “hybrid” class is blurring. I mean, even rogues can heal themselves in Cataclysm as a base line ability, leaving mages and hunters as the only ones who don’t have a base line heal of some sort, and mages can always glyph for a pretty damn good one.
Which should bring to mind the obvious question: why the hell does the hybrid tax exist? Is it still going to? If so, WHY?! It makes absolutely no sense to have a hybrid tax in this game anymore.
Hybrids one claim to fame was their utility, something pure DPS classes lacked. Note the use of past tense. Pures have a lot of utility now, for any purpose you can think of. Sure, mages can’t raid heal, but through blink and ice block they can trivialize some raid mechanics, bring massive snares and rock solid CC, bring multiple, excellent raid wide buffs, and so on. Utility is simply not a hybrid only thing anymore, and hasn’t been for quite some time.
But wait! The strawman cries out. Why would a raid bring, say, a mage if a boomkin could do exactly the same damage? The boomkin, being a druid, can shift out and heal, or even respec to tank and heal! The mage can’t do that! Therefore, to best optimize a raid, the mage would get sat due to being a single purpose class!
First, who was it that unintentionally set the motto “bring the player, not the class”? What’s that? The same guys who are penalizing a bunch of classes for being hybrids?
Second, how many raid encounters do you think are balanced around the assumption that there will be hybrids capable of offhealing? Do you think, say, Festergut is specifically designed with the intent that an elemental shaman will help heal during certain phases? No, of course not. That’s ridiculous.
Third, how many raid encounters do you think are balanced around the assumption that a fury warrior will strap on a shield an tank something? Or a druid shift into bear and grab a few mobs? Once again, none. No current raid content is designed this way.
Fourth, how many so-called hybrids are still designed like shadow priests in TBC? As in, whatever DPS they do is irrelevant because their raid buffs are so good they’re going to be brought anyway. Still, the answer is none.
Encounters are designed around things like “we require two tanks for this fight and, say, three healers? Yeah, so balance for five DPSers and set the enrage timer to that.” Fights where developers actually design the encounters around hybrids doing hybrid things simply do not exist in today’s World of Warcraft.
Can you do those things to save a fight if the proverbial excrement hits the proverbial ceiling mounted cooling device?
Well, yeah. That’s called skill. Have you heard of that? I talk about it sometimes.
Suffice to say, the hybrid tax is a nice idea for a World of Warcraft that stopped existing some years ago.
Mages got the Bloodlust/Heroism effect. We call it Time Warp (start making your clever macros now kids!). There honestly isn’t much to say about this. Somebody had to get it, and we mages were the recipients. That is really all there is to it. The shaman QQ is mildly amusing. Waaah now shamans aren’t pretty unique snowflakes anymore!
AND I DO QUOTE GHOSTCRAWLER:
The more we hear “now there will be no reason to take me over X class / spec” the happier we will be.
So you see, dear shamans, by complaining that you will lose your raid spot because you are no longer the sole provider of bloodlust, you are pleasuring ghostcrawler. You are welcome for that particular image. The disturbingly erotic dreams will soon follow.
Shamans simply aren’t a mandatory class anymore. Get over yourselves.
Far more interesting is our other two spells, Flame Orb and Wall of Fog.
The first is a ball of fire we shoot in a direction, rather than at an individual. It will shoot out little bursts of flame at everything it comes across on its trajectory, and then at some point it explodes. The little things (like it only being able to explode with fire talents, and fire being able to control when it explodes) are all up in the air, but the idea is set. The plan is to make this a whole new exciting mechanic, as this spell doesn’t have a set target.
In other words, you have to aim, and you must aim better than you have ever aimed before. We’ve been aiming things like Flamestrike and Cone of Cold for years, but Flame Orb is so much more than that. Because it fires out in a straight line, you could do anything from hitting nothing at all to burning the entire flag carrier group in Warsong Gulch.
A new mechanic, dynamic gameplay that rewards skillful play and punishes those with poor latency? Perfect! Where do I sign u… er… wait…
WALL OF FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-
Imagine a mage is casting Blizzard at you, the hypothetical you in this situation being a group of individuals. Do you stand in it? No, of course not, you sidestep around it and beat that mage to a pulp. Now, imagine that this blizzard is only five long, but thirty yards wide. You have to cross it to even get to the mage.
Now imagine that mage is casting an actual blizzard at you at the same time with icy veins and time warp cooking and a giant orb of flame is rocketing right at you while you can’t move in any direction.
Wall of Fog is quite clear in its intent. With Cataclysm putting a new focus on battlegrounds, it stands to reason that various classes would gain certain tools especially designed for use in larger scale PvP that focuses on goals and capture points rather than outright killing. This is the exact purpose WoF is designed for.
Wof. Wof. Waaaawwwwwwfff.
Area control and denial is a concept that is as old as PvP. Now, we’re seeing a sharp rise in abilities designed to do such things in a very literal way. I mean, we’ve always had Blizzard snares and hunter traps, but now there are more of these. Druids and shamans can knock entire legions of troops off bridges, mages can flat out deny access at any choke point, DKs can absorb spell damage in a given area, devourers got cut from Starcraft II and so rogues stole their Dark Swarm ability (but sadly nobody in Warcraft thought to bring a siege tank), and so on.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that blizzard is certainly pushing for a PvP viable fire spec.
More damage, boosts to haste when they have multiple people on fire, a blastwave that cools down faster if you’re struck by a melee attack, and of course the above mentioned Flame Orb and Wall of Fog.
The haste boost is interesting. As the preview says, you receive a haste boost when you have at least three enemies on fire at once. I think I’d like this more if it was more dynamic. As in, one target on fire? No bonus. Two? Small haste increase. Three? Larger haste increase? Four? Five? Haste increases grows. Six? You’ve got a passive icy veins on your hands buddy!
Whether fire becomes arena viable… that I can’t say. However, I see no reason why fire wouldn’t become a highly desired spec to bring into a competitive battleground.
Now maybe they’ll make the blastwave knockback actually, you know, knock things back rather than gently suggest they move away a little bit.
The various tree masteries all seem to fit their respective trees quite well. Arcane mages getting haste? Check. Fire mages with more crit? Check. Frost mages with bigger crits? Check.
The extra super special third tree masteries are a little difficult to comment on. We don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle yet.
Arcane dealing more damage the more mana it has does make sense, that’s kinda exactly what arcane does, technically. Obviously this change is pretty terrible if we figure that mages will only have evocate and mana gems, but you’ll note neither of those abilities were ever mentioned, nor what these mysterious mana management tools we’ll supposedly have access to. Incomplete picture, but so far looks very good.
Fire dealing a DoT with every single attack is also brilliant, and *fingers crossed* hopefully this means that Ignite will finally be fixed. No more ignite munching plox? I’ll actually be kinda sad. Ignite has been bugged since it was first coded into the game; losing such a core feature of our class will be a sad day indeed.
The sad part is I actually meant that last sentence sincerely. Says something about my old fogey mage self when I view a game breaking bug fondly.