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An Analysis of Legion Mage Changes

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Today, our Mage reviewers share their thoughts on the Mage changes for Legion that were announced last week by Blizzard. Hopefully, this provides an insight into what you can expect from your favorite class in the next World of Warcraft expansion.


Blizzard Icon Arcane Mage Changes

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Arcane Mage abilities and gameplay already deliver on the spec's fantasy quite well, so most changes are in the vein of polishing what's already there. First, for added mechanical clarity, Arcane Charges are now an actual resource located underneath your Mana bar instead of a stacking debuff. The functionality is still very much the same, but this change should make their accumulation and use more distinct. The one significant gameplay change is that Arcane has a new Mastery, which increases your maximum Mana by a percentage, and increases the damage bonus from Arcane Charges. This should make the Mastery feel a bit more interesting by allowing more aggressive Mana usage as your Mastery improves, and feel more empowering, ultimately giving you much more control over your rotation.

Here's a basic look at the core combat abilities for Arcane Mages:
  • Arcane Blast
    • 5% Mana, 40 yd range, 2.25 sec cast
    • Blasts the target with energy, dealing moderate Arcane damage and generating an Arcane Charge.
    • Arcane Blast's damage is increased by 50% per Arcane Charge, and its Mana cost is increased by 100% per Arcane Charge.
  • Arcane Missiles
    • 40 yd range, Channeled
    • Launches five waves of Arcane Missiles at the enemy over 2 sec, causing minor Arcane damage per wave. Generates an Arcane Charge.
    • Arcane Missiles' damage is increased by 50% per Arcane Charge.
    • Arcane Missiles has a chance to be activated after each of your damaging spell casts. Limit 3 charges.
  • Arcane Barrage
    • 0.5% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant, 3 sec cooldown
    • Launches bolts of arcane energy at the enemy target, causing strong Arcane damage. Consumes all Arcane Charges.
    • Arcane Barrage's damage is increased by 50% per Arcane Charge, and it hits 1 additional nearby target per Arcane Charge for 50% damage.
  • Evocation
    • Channeled, 1.5 min cooldown
    • Gain 25% of your total Mana instantly, and another 75% of your total mana over 6 sec.
  • Mastery: Savant
    • Increases your Mana regeneration rate and maximum Mana by 20% (with Mastery from typical gear).
    • Arcane Charges increase the damage of affected spells by an additional 10% (with Mastery from typical gear).
  • Displacement
    • Instant, 1.5 min cooldown
    • For the next 4 sec, casting Blink will not trigger its cooldown
Additionally, to give you an idea of how some talents may build upon this, here's an example of one of their Arcane-specific talents:
  • Quickening
    • Passive
    • Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles also grant 2% Haste for 6 sec, stacking.
    • This effect is cleared when you cast Arcane Barrage.

Here are some thoughts from our Arcane Mage reviewer. You can find a more in-depth analysis on Altered Time.

With Legion, here are the main changes to Arcane:
  • New Mastery called Savant, replacing Mana Adept. Increases max mana, mana regen, damage bonus from Arcane Charges;
  • Evocation now always gives 100% mana, no longer tied to Arcane Charges;
  • Arcane Charges now a resource;
  • New ability: Displacement;
  • Sample talent: Quickening.
First and most important is the new mastery, Savant. With Mana Adept removed, our mana level no longer affects our damage. We don't need to stay at high levels of mana anymore. Arcane's rotation won't alternate between short burn phases and long conserve phases anymore. Instead, the new rotation will be about budgeting mana around Evocation's cooldown, aiming to spend all of it right as Evocation becomes available.

The new mastery is very interesting, because it allows us to do "miniburns". We can choose to spend extra Arcane Blasts to kill a dangerous mob, or react to enchant/trinket/other item procs. Casting an extra Arcane Blast by mistake won't be as punishing as before. However, with Arcane Blasts's mana cost being much higher than before, it will be challenging to avoid running OOM. Will the new mastery be easier or harder to play with? We'll have to wait for beta to find out.

The Evocation change is because of the new mastery, Savant. Savant makes us want to burn to zero mana, so it makes sense for Evocation to fill up the bar regardless of Arcane Charges.

The third change, Arcane Charges becoming a resource, is mostly cosmetic. It still works exactly the same way. There are minor perks with it being a resource: if an encounter has 15 seconds during which you can't attack, you no longer need to worry about losing charges.

The new ability is Displacement, which adds a bit of flavor to blinking as Arcane. Displacement will let us blink 4 times in a row, once every 1.5 minutes. Since major glyphs such as Rapid Displacement are being removed, multiple blinking might become exclusive to Arcane.

The previewed talent is Quickening, which grants a stacking haste buff when we cast Arcane Blast and Missiles. It's reminiscent of the Tier 10 set bonus, which grants a haste buff when Missiles is cast. Things have changed a lot since then, but haste buffs for Arcane Mages are still a welcome sight. Since Arcane Barrage removes the stacking buff, the best way to use of it is to burn for long durations. It will be interesting to see how that works with the new mastery.

Blizzard Icon Fire Mage Changes

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Similar to Arcane, Fire already exudes its core identity, so our changes are focused on gameplay adjustments. Ultimately, you will have more freedom in what buttons you press and more control over the Heating Up mechanic, which is core to Fire Mages. In particular, the Inferno Blast ability was trying to fill two roles: spreading Ignite, and forcing a Hot Streak from a Heating Up. We've opted to move the spreading to an innate property of Ignite and have taken Inferno Blast off the global cooldown so that you can more freely and intuitively use it to trigger a Hot Streak.

Another major change is the redesign of Combustion. It's an incredibly complex skill, hard to understand for most people, and has the potential for either ridiculous success or critical failure, with the odds being extremely random and very hard to gauge much of the time. We're redesigning it into something that fits into the Fire rotation in a clear and consistent way.

Here's a basic look at the core combat abilities for Fire Mages:
  • Fireball
    • 4% Mana, 40 yd range, 2.25 sec cast
    • Throw a fiery ball that causes moderate Fire damage.
  • Hot Streak
    • Passive
    • Getting 2 direct-damage critical strikes in a row will make your next Pyroblast or Flamestrike spell instant cast, and cause double the normal Ignite damage.
    • Developer Comment:
      • You may not start a new streak (aka, gain Heating Up), while a Hot Streak is already active
      • It was never our intention for players to sit with a Hot Streak active, then keep fishing for another Heating Up before throwing instant Pyro out—in general, we don't like the game telling you to press a button when you shouldn't
  • Inferno Blast
    • 2% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant, 12 sec recharge, 2 charges
    • Blasts the enemy for moderate Fire damage. This damage is always a critical strike.
    • Inferno Blast is not on the global cooldown, and can be cast while casting other spells.
  • Pyroblast
    • 5% Mana, 40 yd range, 4.5 sec cast
    • Hurl an immense fiery boulder that causes massive Fire damage.
  • Combustion
    • 10% Mana, Instant, 2 min
    • Engulf yourself in flames, increasing your critical strike chance by 100% for 10 sec.
    • Also grants you Mastery equal to your Critical Strike stat.
  • Mastery: Ignite
    • Your target burns for an additional 30% (with Mastery from typical gear) over 9 sec of the total direct damage caused by your Fireball, Inferno Blast, Scorch, Pyroblast, and Flamestrike. If this effect is reapplied, any remaining damage will be added to the new Ignite.
    • Every 2 sec, your Ignites may spread to another nearby enemy.
Additionally, to give you an idea of how some talents may build upon this, here's an example of one of their Fire-specific talents:
  • Cinderstorm
    • 1% Mana, 40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast, 8 sec cooldown
    • Throw a spread of 6 cinders that travel in an arc, and each deal minor Fire damage to enemies they hit.

Dutchmagoz, our Fire Mage reviewer, shared his thoughts on the Fire changes on Altered Time. With his authorization, we are reproducing them here.

Pyro camping seems gone, or at least the developers are intending for it to be gone. Assuming they implement it properly, I'm fine with this. If it means we will lose out on Heating Up procs if we don't react very fast, I'm not, since a lot of people will have issues doing this properly.

YAY, Inferno Blast no longer does 2 very separate things! Really like this change. IB being off-gcd and being able to be cast should be pretty nice as well, but will see how it works out in practice, combined with the issue I've described above about losing heating up procs.

Combustion seems really strong. It makes Fire have a lot more on demand burst instead of RNG burst. This addresses one of the biggest issues I've always had with fire: unpredictable damage you can't control properly. Happy they did this change.

Ignite now spreading itself sounds... interesting. It starts off very slowly, but the more targets get affected, the better it becomes. I wonder if there will be a glyph or talent of sorts which allows you to increase the speed or amount of targets at which it spreads.

Blizzard Icon Frost Mage Changes

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Frost Mages are very effective casters, and there's already a lot to like about this spec. Frost's defining traits and abilities are cohesive, the mechanics are understandable, and there are plenty of opportunities for players to explore unique gameplay at a variety of skill levels. Rather than making any dramatic changes to how a Frost Mage plays, we've focused more on fixing one particular outlier in their Spellbook: Frostfire Bolt. After removing the fire portion of the spell, it began to feel like just another Frostbolt, and we started to wonder how a spell supposedly combining frost and fire wasn't just producing a puddle of water at the feet of the enemy. We've removed Frostfire Bolt and made Frozen Orb part of the core spell kit in its place, which better lends itself to the identity of the Frost Mage.

Here's a basic look at the core combat abilities for Frost Mages:
  • Frost Bolt
    • 4% Mana, 40 yd range, 2 sec cast
    • Launches a bolt of frost at the enemy, causing moderate Frost damage and slowing movement speed by 30% for 15 sec.
  • Frozen Orb
    • 10% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant, 1 min cooldown
    • Launches an orb of swirling ice forward, dealing minor Frost damage every 1 sec to all nearby enemy targets for 10 sec. Grants the Mage 1 charge of Fingers of Frost when it first reaches a target.
    • Targets damaged by the Frost Orb are slowed by 30% for 2 sec.
  • Ice Lance
    • 1% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant.
    • Quickly fling a shard of ice at the target, dealing minor Frost damage.
    • Ice Lance damage is doubled against frozen targets.
  • Brain Freeze
    • Passive
    • Your Frostbolts have a 10% chance to reset the cooldown of Frozen Orb.
  • Fingers of Frost
    • Passive
    • Your successful Frostbolt hits have a 15% chance, and your Blizzard and Frozen Orb ticks have a 5% chance to grant you the Fingers of Frost effect.
    • The Fingers of Frost effect causes your next Ice Lance to act as if your target were frozen, and deal 140% increased damage.
  • Shatter
    • Passive
    • Multiplies the critical strike chance of your spells against Frozen targets by 1.5, and adds an additional 50% chance.
  • Mastery: Icicles
    • When you damage enemies with Frostbolt, 45% (with Mastery from typical gear) of the damage done is stored as an Icicle with you, for 30 sec. Also increases the damage that your Water Elemental deals by 45% (with Mastery from typical gear).
    • Up to 5 Icicles can be stored at once. Excess Icicles that are generated will be automatically launched. Casting Ice Lance causes any Icicles to begin launching at the target.
Additionally, to give you an idea of how some talents may build upon this, here's an example of one of their Frost-specific talents:
  • Glacial Spike
    • 1% Mana, 40 yd range, 3 sec cast
    • Conjure a massive spike of ice, and merge your current Icicles into it. It impales your target, dealing massive damage, plus the damage stored in your Icicles.
    • Requires 5 Icicles to cast.
    • Also freezes the target in place for up to 4 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect.
    • Passive: Ice Lance no longer launches Icicles.

Kuni, our Frost Mage reviewer, accepted to review those patch changes for us. here is what he thinks.

Frost hasn't really changed. The only change is Frozen Orb replacing Frostfire Bolt in the rotation, which I love. Assuming they tune Frozen Orb to make up for the loss of Frostfire Bolt's damage, we seem to have pretty powerful incidental AOE now. As long as they can fix the shortcomings of Frozen Orb's pathing and hitbox collision point, this should be a very nice change.

Glacial Spike is an interesting talent. Requiring Icicles to cast is a neat direction to take, but I would like for their generation and launching to be added to the combat log for the sake of making tracking auras. It seems to be a call back to the old damage component of Deep Freeze, something that many have missed since it was removed in Mists of Pandaria.

The only negative thing so far has been that Icy Veins has been confirmed to be a haste cooldown. With Glyphs removed, there's a very real danger of hitting the GCD cap while using it since it's extremely likely Frost's new attuned stat will be Haste again. There's a very good reason we have glyphed it in every expansion we have been able to.

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