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Mage - Warlords of Draenor Alpha Patch Notes Analysis

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Posted 02 May 2014 - 10:30 PM

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Icy Veins asks the experts' opinions on their favorite class changes!

The Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes have been out just over a week now, but millions of players have already voiced strong opinions of the direction Blizzard is headed with the game in this coming expansion. Some class changes have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, while others have left many a player scratching their head. A few changes have even caused a substantial outcry of rage!


We've invited a handful of our class MVPs to share their opinions on the changes made to their respective top class. For this patch notes analysis topic, we have requested feedback from our resident experts on the projected changes being made to the Mage class. Vykina and Kuni have all been kind enough to share their thoughts on the upcoming Mage changes!

Vykina is one of the best Fire Mages and he raids in Method. Kuni reviews our Frost mage guides, raids with Midnight Sanctuary and is one of the best Frost mages around!

Blizzard Icon Mage WoD Alpha Changes

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Ability Pruning

  • Arcane Barrage now replaces Fire Blast for Arcane Mages.
  • Arcane Blast now replaces Frostfire Bolt for Arcane Mages.
  • Arcane Explosion is now available only to Arcane Mages.
  • Blizzard is now available only to Frost Mages.
  • Combustion now replaces Deep Freeze for Fire Mages.
  • Deep Freeze is now available only to Frost Mages.
  • Dragon’s Breath now replaces Cone of Cold for Fire Mages.
  • Evocation is now available only to Arcane Mages.
  • Flamestrike is now available only to Fire Mages.
  • Polymorph's cosmetic variants are now all learned as spells instead of having some as a Minor Glyph that alters the visuals of Polymorph: Sheep. All of these variants (except for the automatically learned one, Polymorph: Sheep) are now grouped in a Polymorph variants flyout in the Spellbook.
  • Pyromaniac has been removed.
  • Frost Armor is now available only to Frost Mages and is now a passive effect.
  • Ice Lance now replaces Fire Blast and is only available to Frost Mages.
  • Mage Armor is now available only to Arcane Mages and is now a passive effect.
  • Mana Gem has been removed.
  • Molten Armor is now available only to Fire Mages and is now a passive effect.
  • Shatter is now available only to Frost Mages.

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns

  • Dragon’s Breath’s Disoriented effect now shares Diminishing Returns with all other Mesmerize effects.
  • Ice Ward’s Frozen effect now shares Diminishing Returns with all other Root effects.
  • Improved Counterspell has been removed.
  • Presence of Mind can no longer turn Polymorph into an instant-cast spell.

Buffs and Debuffs

  • Slow no longer slows the target’s casting speed by 50%. Additionally, Slow can now affect more than one target at a time.

Raid Utility Balance

  • Amplify Magic is a new spell available to Mages. Amplify Magic amplifies the effects of helpful magic, increasing all healing received by 20% for all party and raid members within 100 yards, and lasts 6 seconds with a 2-minute cooldown.

Class Changes


The Mage class has good specialization distinction when it comes to their single-target rotations, but utility and area-of-effect spells were heavily shared between specializations. Commonly, these spells were redundant as well. We made many of their spells specialization-specific (as described in Ability Pruning above). And probably most significant, we made changes to several existing Talents.

Presence of Mind was extremely strong for instant CC, which we wanted to curtail. Rather than completely remove Presence of Mind or make it not affect CC abilities, we made it a base Arcane spell, where we don't expect that it will be a problem, since Arcane has less CC than the other Mage specs already. In its place, we've added a new talent, Evanesce.
  • Presence of Mind is no longer a Talent, and is instead learned by Arcane Mages.
  • Evanesce is a new Talent available at level 15. Evanesce: Fade into the nether, avoiding all attacks against you for 3 seconds. This spell may be cast while a cast-time spell is in progress and is not on the global cooldown. Replaces Ice Block. 45-second cooldown.
Going along with our goals to reduce cooldown stacking across all of the classes, we decided to remove Alter Time's DPS contribution. Alter Time has a number of clever movement and utility uses, but in practice it was mostly being used for additional uptime of offensive cooldowns. Mages also had many redundant forms of survival utility, so we moved a utility-only version of Alter Time into the Talent tree, replacing Temporal Shield.
  • Temporal Shield has been removed.
  • Alter Time is now a level-30 Talent, replacing Temporal Shield.
    • Alter Time now lasts for 15 seconds (up from 6 seconds), has a 90-second cooldown (down from 3 minutes), and no longer affects the casting Mage’s mana, buffs, or debuffs.
A few of the abilities reset by Cold Snap were made spec-specific, or could be overridden with Talents, so we expanded what it can affect to compensate.
  • Cold Snap now also resets the cooldown of Presence of Mind, Dragon's Breath, and Evanesce.
The Mage Bomb level-75 Talent row, the Bomb row, was also problematic. We chose to add the Bombs to all Mages' rotations in order to spice them up a bit, to provide rotational variety. That succeeded, and we're overall happy with how they interact with your rotation in a single-target situation, but they also came with the prospect of multi-dotting (applying your damage-over-time spell to many enemies, individually), which we don't feel is an appropriate fit for Mages. Additionally, in order to make all 3 Bombs useful to all specializations, we had to lose some of their spec-specific perks. And, even more importantly, many Mages did not like DoT gameplay at all.

In order to solve all of these problems, we decided to merge the 3 current Bomb Talents into one that changes based on spec. That allows us to reintroduce spec-specific perks to each Bomb, and makes room for some non-DoT alternatives.
  • Nether Tempest, Living Bomb, and Frost Bomb are now available to their corresponding specialization only, and share the left Talent slot.
    • Nether Tempest can now only be on 1 target at a time (down from unlimited), but its secondary damage now hits all targets in range (up from only 1), and deals 100% of the primary damage (up from 50%).
    • Living Bomb can once again be applied to multiple targets, can be spread by Inferno Blast, and has a normal 1.5-second cooldown. More of its damage has been moved into its explosion.
    • Frost Bomb has been redesigned. It now lasts 12 seconds, has no cooldown, and explodes every time the target is hit by the Mage's Ice Lance while frozen. The damage per explosion has been reduced by 75% to compensate.
  • Unstable Magic is a new Talent available at level 75, in the middle Talent slot. Unstable Magic: Arcane Blast, Fireball, and Frostbolt have a 25% chance to explode on impact, dealing an additional 50% damage to the target, and all other enemies within 8 yards.
  • The right level-75 Talent slot is now filled by a new Talent that varies by specialization.
    • Supernova: Cause a pulse of Arcane energy around the target enemy or ally, dealing Arcane damage to all enemies within 8 yards, and knocking them into the air. If the primary target is an enemy, they take 100% increased damage. Replaces Frost Nova. 25-second cooldown. Instant cast.
    • Blast Wave: Cause an explosion of fiery force around the target enemy or ally, dealing Fire damage to all enemies within 8 yards, and dazing them, reducing their movement speed by 70% for 4 seconds. If the primary target is an enemy, they take 100% increased damage. Replaces Frost Nova. 25-second cooldown. Instant cast.
    • Ice Nova: Cause a whirl of icy wind around the target enemy or ally, dealing Frost damage to all enemies within 8 yards, and freezing them for 4 seconds. If the primary target is an enemy, they take 100% increased damage. Replaces Frost Nova. 20-second cooldown. Instant cast.
One of the most problematic Talent rows in the game has been the Mage level-90 row. The primary theme of the row was mana, which only Arcane Mages actually cared about. Bonus damage was added in, making it functional for all Mages, but muddled in its goals. Additionally, some of them just weren't fun to play with. We've revised the row to be purely about damage, and made them have less maintenance cost. Arcane Mages will have enough mana regeneration without these Talents to perform well.
  • Invocation has been removed.
  • Mirror Image is now a level-90 Talent, replacing Invocation.
    • Mirror Images now inherit 50% of the Mage’s Spell Power (up from 5%).
    • Glyph of Mirror Image has been removed and its effects have been incorporated into Mirror Image.
  • Rune of Power no longer replaces Evocation, no longer increases mana regeneration, and now lasts 3 minutes (up from 1 minute).
  • Incanter's Ward has been removed.
  • Incanter's Flow is a new level-90 Talent, replacing Incanter's Ward.
    • Incanter's Flow: Magical energy flows through you, increasing all spell damage done by 5% per stack. While in combat, the magical energy builds up to 5 stacks over 5 seconds and then diminishes down to 1 stack over 5 seconds. This cycle repeats every 10 seconds.
Frost Mages enjoyed newfound PvE viability in Mists of Pandaria, and we intend to continue that into the future. However, we do want to clean up some rough spots, especially around their valuing of secondary stats, and the amount of instant-cast spells in their rotation. The Frost Armor and Shatter changes increase the amount of Haste/Critical chance that they can acquire on gear before they start hitting soft caps. The Shatter change also lowers the value of Critical Strike for a bit. The changes to the level-75 Talent row meant that having a Bomb spell is no longer guaranteed, so we changed the way that Brain Freeze is triggered. We also changed Brain Freeze's effect, in order to give Frost mages another cast-time spell in their rotation.
  • Frost Armor now grants 15% chance to Multistrike instead of 7% Haste.
  • Glyph of Frostfire Bolt is now available only to Fire Mages.
  • Glyph of Icy Veins now causes Icy Veins to provide 75% chance to Multistrike, instead of 20% Haste.
  • Shatter now multiplies Critical Strike chance by 1.5 (down from 2).
  • The Brain Freeze effect no longer makes Frostfire Bolt instant, but it can now stack to 2. It also no longer triggers from the Bomb Talents, and instead has a 10% chance to trigger from Frostbolt casts. Each Multistrike of Frostbolt increases that cast's chance by an additional 45%. (Total of 100% on double-Multistrikes).
In order to make room for more Haste effects to apply to Arcane Blast, we raised its cast time and damage slightly. We also made Arcane Charges last longer, to aid in questing and encounters.
  • Arcane Blast's cast time has been increased to 2.25 seconds (up from 2 seconds), and its damage has been increased by 12.5% to compensate.
  • Arcane Charges now last 15 seconds (up from 10 seconds).


1. What is your overall impression of Blizzard's changes to the Mage class?


Vykina (Arcane/Fire): It's nice that they are finally looking into the issues Mage's have with a majority of their talent tiers, however I'm still not convinced that there will be much of an improvement, especially on the level 90 tier, but hopefully this will be made apparent throughout the Alpha+Beta. For me personally it's a bit of a disappointment that we will no longer have multidot capabilities since almost every other caster has some form of multidot, it feels like a bit of a disadvantage so I'm hoping for some AoE improvements across the Mage specs. Since a majority of our changes are talent based I can't comment too much on the gameplay direction of the Mage specs until we are able to test them for ourselves.

Kuni (Frost): From a Frost Mage standpoint, these are some of the best notes we've had. Blizzard has publically stated that they're going to push Frost to work in PVE, and I see a lot of that. Their work on making sure our stats don't cap out, the changes to the level 90 talents, and granting us some interaction with the Water Elemental address most of our complaints. On top of that, we seem to be getting some work done on our visual aspects, as seen in the new Frost Nova animation.

2. Which changes do you think are the best and why?


Vykina (Arcane/Fire): My favourite change is the changes to AoE spells, currently all specs have access to every AoE spell which never made much sense, I think it's good for both spec identity and balancing for each spec to have it's own AoE spell rather than just using the one of three that does the most damage. I'm also very happy with Living Bomb being reverted to having most of it's damage in the explosion and not in the ticks as well as being spreadable again via Inferno Blast. It's also interesting to see that they gave us a defensive raid cooldown, although I still believe it would have been better to cut more of other DPS' raidwides than add a new one.

Kuni (Frost): The best change is clearly the overhaul of the level 90 talents, but that's across the whole class. To Frost specifically, I think the changes to Shatter and Frost Armour are the best. The biggest headache has been the ease of which we can cap three of the four DPS stats, and these changes will go a long way towards that. Improved Blizzard is also something I've wanted for a long time. Frost's AOE was fairly bursty, but outside of those 10 seconds, you weren't too amazing. Also Comet Storm, because it's awesome.

3. Which changes do you think are the worst and why?


Vykina (Arcane/Fire): I'm still really disappointed with some of the talent tiers honestly. The 90 tier has kept Rune of Power but buffed it's duration from 1 minute to 3, duration is not the issue with this spell and they could have tweaked it in better ways. Along side this they replaced Incanter's Ward with a constantly bouncing damage modifier that is passive and averages out to be the same damage increase as Rune of Power, so yet again we are stuck with 2 boring talents that just increase your spell damage; the other choice being Mirror Image which I'm assuming will just be a straight up burst cooldown, I don't see how this fits with the design of the other two talents.

The 100 tier doesn't look too promising either, Focusing Crystal is an interesting idea but its going to end up being another frustrating positional +dmg spell just like Rune of Power. The cooldown extending talent is something you'd expect from a tier set and the 'split area damage' talent only really seems interesting for Arcane since it's integrating with Arcane Charges, just seems like a spell to press on cooldown for the other two depending on the number pass.

Kuni (Frost): The worst change, in my mind, is the loss of Alter Time as a DPS cooldown. It was a fairly neat spell, but I understand fully why it had to go. I do worry about its current incarnation in the patch notes, though. It suffers the same issue as the original Temporal Shield; it doesn't help you survive the damage currently going out, it just returns lost health after the fact. I guess we'll see how that plays out.

4. How would you alter any of the existing changes?


Vykina (Arcane/Fire): Remove or rework Rune of Power and Incanter's Flow, talents that are just increasing our damage by x% don't add anything to the gameplay, there is a step in the right direction though with buffed Mirror Image being added onto this tier, still hope? I'd also scrap Focusing Crystal completely, interesting mechanic on paper but in practice it will be Rune of Power v2. They removed Temporal Shield and put Alter Time in its place with a 90sec cooldown, I would much rather have seen Flameglow be cut over Temporal Shield, adding more thought to this tier's talent choice in my opinion.

Kuni (Frost): I'd only make a few minor changes. I'd love to see Frost Bomb go instant, despite losing a single Ice Lance worth of time on it. The ability to throw it up while moving to use up Fingers of Frost would be quite welcome. I would also like to see Rune of Power's duration only tick down if you're on that specific rune. That would at least reward careful placement before the pull that could potentially last the whole fight duration. I don't share the community's general hatred of Rune of Power. I feel it can be made to work, as long as it's not the best option outside of Patchwerk style fights, or fights you can Blink back and forth between two set placements without recasting them. The last thing, I feel Flameglow needs some help. Taking it means you have no short cooldown defensive, and that makes a lot of Mages feel almost naked.

5. What changes would you like to see in WoD?


Vykina (Arcane/Fire): I'd really like to see a true fix to Fire's scaling issues that we saw all the way through Mists of Pandaria, they tried adding Inferno Blast which barely helped in lower gear levels and then towards BiS gear you rarely use it. Now they have added as a leveling perk that causes your Fireball to gain crit chance every time it doesn't crit, I just feel like this is another band-aid fix similar to Inferno Blast rather than putting some effort into making the spec more consistent at all gear levels. Since we lost our multidotting capabilities, I'd also like to see at least one or more of our specs have a decent AoE damage output, it would be a pretty sad state for us to be just single target cannons.

Kuni (Frost): Blizzard has covered quite a number of the issues I've seen in the spec already. I'd like to see Splitting Ice and Water Elemental glyphs go baseline, as I feel it's a bit odd that Frost has to spend a glyph slot to get its cleave ability, and have the pet not act as stupid as it does currently. Other than that, just some fun cosmetic glyphs to replace what has been lost with the removal of the Polymorph glyphs.

Patch Notes Last Updated - 24 April 2014

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