Well, I finally managed to beat the queues and get back onto the Public Test Realm and do some more mage dps testing. Let me first say that these “tests” were by no means scientific and were done under uncontrolled circumstances. The only thing that was the same from test to test was the buffs I had, which were simply Arcane Intellect and Mage Armour. I was testing on the target dummies in Darnassus because they were the least likely to be debuffed by other players, but there were still others there with the same idea, so any numbers I produce are not to be taken as gospel, but rather as a rough guide to what sort of dps you can expect.
In addition to the above, you should also bear in mind relative gear levels. Calli has six pieces of the Tier 6 Tempest set and various Black Temple, Zul’Aman and badge loot items. Self-buffed she’s looking at 1300-ish fire damage, 171 spell hit, 30% crit (depending on spec) and around 134 haste (the Armoury doesn’t show haste rating, so I’m going from memory). Take that into cosideration and adjust accordingly for your own stats.
So, on with the numbers!
Frost still seems to rule the show. While I was unable to duplicate the 2k dps I pulled off on the previous PTR build, I still managed to achieve a very impressive 1800dps. Rotations were a simple Frostbolt spam with Cold Snap used to maximise Improved Water Elemental and Icy Veins cooldowns. I’m undecided as to the merits of using Frostbolts over Ice Lances whenever Fingers of Frost procs, but both seem have their place. Being able to fire off Ice Lances on the move and still get a 2k crit out of them is obviously useful for mobility fights, but I think continuing to spam Frostbolts would have the edge in straight dps. This is likely to depend heavily on how much spell haste you’re stacking. 1800dps is still very impressive at level 70, especially alone, ungrouped and unbuffed. As a point of comparison I currently manage 1900dps on Brutallus in a good caster group, fully raidbuffed with all possible consumables, so 1800dps all on my lonesome is pretty mind-boggling.
First of all, I’m very disappointed with the nerf to Scorch. On live, fully stacked, it boosts your fire damage by 15%. It’s the one talent that allows Fire Mages to scale into end game with gear. On the PTR it simply boosts everyone’s spell crit by 10%. Now I realise it’s hypocritical of me to complain about this as I’ve argued passionately for mages to bring more raid utility and this change to Scorch does exactly that, but it still hurts our potential to remain competitive into end game at level 80. Reports from the beta right now are all about how amazing Fire mages are for dps, but this is at entry level raiding. I’m reminded of how everyone complained about how OP mages were in Karazhan, which resulted in our 10% damage tax, totally failing to take into account two things:
1. Mages in Karazhan didn’t have to waste dps time doing Crowd Control
2. Kara isn’t end game raiding
It’s obviously far too early to say how well we’re going to scale with our gear into late end game at 80, but this nerf to Scorch is worrying. Time will tell.
So how does Fire do? Not too bad at level 70, actually. 1500dps was the best I could do, which is a significant buff over my current performance with Live talents. I’m the standard Fire/Icy Veins raiding build on Live, and on PTR I went for a Living Bomb spec which didn’t allow me to include Icy Veins. I’m dubious as to Living Bomb’s practicality as a raidboss damage booster, and there are doubtless other specs I could choose which would include Icy Veins that may or may not boost dps further, but being able to zap off an instant cast Pyroblast is nothing if not fun, even if it’s not the monster dps booster it might appear on paper. The problem with Pyroblasts is that while they’re fun to fire, they don’t benefit from as many of your talents as Fireball, so they really don’t do that much more damage. The fact that Hot Streak makes them instant cast is what’s good, since aside from the mana they’re only costing you a Global Cooldown. The good thing about Improved Scorch that I can’t deny is the way it synergises with the rest of your Fire talents. Crit is becoming more and more powerful a stat for Fire mages, it procs Hot Streak, Ignite and Master of Elements and all sorts of Good Stuff. This is the sort of thing that makes testing Fire alone and unbuffed a slightly unrealistic prospect, as raidbuffed and in a proper caster group I could easily have over 50% fire crit. Yes, that’s right. Over 50% Fire Crit. Just think about that for a second while I link you my Nexus Key and Sextant of Unstable Currents.
In summary, Fire could use a lot more testing with different talent builds but it has the potential be absolutely awesome.
I have good news for Arcane Mages. Arcane spec may have its problems but it doesn’t suck as badly as I may have led you to believe in Part I. What does in fact suck, is my choice of rotations and ability to key a spell. 1400dps was what I achieved last night, and I’m sure I could get more once I get used to the rotations. The rotations are key to maximising Arcane dps, and I strongly suspect that choosing the corrrect nuke and filler spells are going to go a long way to realising your potential too. Previously I was using Arcane Blast as a nuke with Frostbolt wedged inbetween. Yesterday I used Arcane Barrage as a nuke with Fireball as the filler. In both cases I substituted Arcane Missiles for the bolt spell of choice whenever Missile Barrage popped up.
A few things to bear in mind before comparing the previous lacklustre 1000dps Blast/Frost combo with the more recent 1400dps Barrage/Fire combo.
1. At first, I sucked badly at getting the keypresses off in decent time. Last night I was better, but can do better still with practice.
2. The Fireball/Barrage combo is not forgiving of people with high latency, due to the reduced window available to get a Fireball off between Nukes compared to a Frostbolt.
3. I don’t believe Blizzard are finished tinkering with Arcane Blast. I expect it to change yet again before the patch goes live, and I expect it will probably change even further before the expansion ships.
Bearing all the above in mind, I don’t believe there’s yet any definitive “right” or “wrong” Arcane spec, but what I went with last night was Arcane Barrage with 10 points in Fire for Ignite. Thanks to Spellpower and Mind Mastery your Fireballs still pack a VERY nice punch despite not being Empowered. Arcane Barrage was critting for nice healthy 5k+ numbers, and when Missile Barrage lights up it makes me happy in my pants with individual missiles critting for 1.7k. Arcane is a very, very FUN spec. It’s also a very busy spec. No single button spam here, you constantly have one eye on which buffs are up for which spell you’re going to key next. You’re going to need to be able to keep a good eye on what’s going on around you to maximise Arcane dps, which is why I firmly believe that 1400dps from Arcane is just scratching the surface. It’s a talent tree that rewards persistence, situational awareness and skill with increased dps, 1400dps is just the starting point, things can and will get better with practice.
A quick note on Focus Magic while we’re here. It’s changed completely since the last time I looked. Now what happens is that you cast it on someone else to give them the buff. It increases their chance to crit with spells by 3%. So far, so underwhelming. However, every time they crit, you get a 3% increased spell crit chance for the next 10 seconds. Cast this on a Fire mage, Boomkin or Affliction Warlock and you essentially have Molten Armour armour more or less permanently. It only costs 130 mana and you can quite literally cast it on anyone. I stuck on some random mage at the target dummies in Stormwind and it was still popping up on me every few seconds when I’d gone back to the mage trainers afterwards to respec Fire! More raid synergy for mages is NEVER a bad thing, and this particular synergy buffs you too! Thank you, Blizzard! More like this, please!
In short, Arcane is a very complex but fun spec that will require time and effort to master, but the rewards have the potential to be very nice indeed.
One final word of caution before anyone gets too carried away. It’s vitally important to bear in mind that we’re looking at all of this from a level 70 perspective. The game is no longer balanced around level 70, and it would be foolish to draw any conclusions about level 80 end game from the next patch. You will not be balanced at level 70, you’re not supposed to be balanced at level 70. The next patch brings us our level 80 talent trees and what we’ll essentially have is not our raid talents but our levelling talent trees. Frost may be dominant at level 70 but that doesn’t mean it will remain so at 80. Having said that it seems pretty clear to me at least that speccing Frost is the way to go for the grind to level 80. It’s just such a no-brainer win that anything else is just gimping you. Also bear in mind that last night’s test were conducted with what were really raiding builds. Not pvp builds, not levelling builds. For example, I put no points in Permafrost or Improved Cone of Cone or Blizzard, which are all pretty much no-brainer talents for Frost levelling. I simply specced for whatever seemed would give the best static raw damage output. Your levelling builds, and therefore your dps, will be significantly different. Finally, all bets are off at level 75, as this is when we get access to Frostfire Bolt, which may or may not become our main nuke in certain specs.
Having said all of that, just about everyone can expect an immediate dps boost from the next patch as well as some much needed raiding synergy with other classes, regardless of how you choose to spec, so my advice to anyone reading this is simply this:
Spec whichever way you like, no matter what you choose you’re going to have fun. And that, we all too often forget, is what it’s all about.