Dead talents, especially talents that have little to no impact on your rotation or are tuned so poorly that they are never selected, are a major point of frustration in the past few expansions for Arcane. Throughout the entirety of Shadowlands the only talent Arcane Mages will change is the level 35 row to select either Resonance or Arcane Echo. This includes some very beautiful spells like Arcane Familiar and Nether Tempest as well as some more interesting items like Reverberate and Time Anomaly. In my view, dead talents rows can also be the result of tuning, like Overpowered eclipsing Time Anomaly and Enlightened, and unfortunately some of the dead talent rows result in you picking the most boring option, also like Overpowered. The hope is that these should no longer be the central focus of the talent tree with a more dispersed investment of points.
Among these dead talents are a few favorites in the community that I would like to be reimagined in a way that can compete in the modern game, while you may not agree with some of these ideas, I hope you understand that the idea is that they’re currently not useful and in need of some attention:
- Nether Tempest: The 12-second duration of this spell is annoying in the best situations, the single-target limitation on the spell also does not really make sense given the design of the spell and the options it has historically competed with. Nether Tempest should be redesigned to be the spread-cleave option for Arcane, this would also give Mages in general an option for this incredible useful niche.
- Supernova: Overall this spell should be good, however it has some unintuitive interactions with the knock-up that prevent it from actually interrupting some spellcasts in PvE. Many people, myself included, have suggested that this spell be changed into a vacuum spell akin to Sigil of Chains or Gorefiend’s Grasp. A simple AoE stun would be more than enough as well. It would be a welcome gift to move this towards being a fully utility spell rather than a rotational spell that has a weird pseudo-crowd control tied into it.
- Master of Time : Please just make this Displacement. Removal of this spell was extremely unpopular and trying to move it into a talent based around Alter Time just has not really worked out. With the new talent tree revamp, I think most people would like to see the return of this spec favorite.
- Arcane Familiar: While Arcane Familiar does not add anything rotationally nor is the effect particularly interesting, the spell is still cool for its graphical representation – I would like to see this changed to do AoE damage around the target, something to make it a competitive option in dungeons.
- Chrono Shift & Slow: I would really like to see it be the case that Chrono Shift applies Slow; it would also be an interesting utility if Slow applied an attack/cast speed or damage reduction similar to Curse of Weakness or Curse of Tongues.
- Rune of Power: This has eclipsed other options and while it is a controversial spell with some of the community, I think overall it’s a very iconic component of the Arcane toolkit. However, there is one large issue of how it functions in the Arcane toolkit, currently with 1:30 Arcane Power timings, you hold Rune of Power for 45 seconds, every 1:30 cycle. Not only is this awkward, it just feels really off putting, especially to people who learn they’re losing damage not doing this. A return to the charge-based Rune of Power where Arcane Power drops one charge instead would be extremely welcomed in a general sense (for all specs) but especially for Arcane Mages.
New Talents, Old Ideas
There have been many great powers for Arcane over the years, I’m just going to list out some of the most requested repeat visitors!
- Radiant Spark & Arcane Harmony: In Shadowlands, Arcane Mages found a very strong niche as a burst funnel spec, this especially played well in Sanctum of Domination on the last few bosses as well as in Sepulcher of the First Ones on Anduin Wrynn. There are some very valid complaints about tying the really big Arcane Barrage hits to Arcane Missiles and the issue of spellqueueing or not around the 5th spell of Radiant Spark.
- Mirrors of Torment (Clearcasting Generator): This spell isn’t so much the wish so much as a spell that generates Clearcasting procs – this is a MAJOR pain point of Arcane as non-Kyrian in Shadowlands, having to blow all of your mana on a low chance proc, with a decent chance that you don’t get the procs you need in order to do your burst rotation correctly does not feel good and leaves Arcane with an additional layer of punishing rng. There is also a big issue with having to hold your cooldowns for ~20 seconds at the start of a pull since that is usually when mechanics really begin happening in encounters of all difficulties.
- Mantle of the First Kirin Tor: This is probably the biggest fan favorite for Arcane Mages from Legion. Artifice of the Archmage tried to emulate its success but the satisfaction of the Arcane Orb hit just was not there.
- Siphon Storm/Brain Storm: While this power has been poked fun at for tuning reasons over the last couple of expansions, its original implementation felt amazing; you were rewarded for turning the rotation on its head, however after the initial nerfs to it in Battle for Azeroth it became a terrible option until 9.0.5 when Venthyr and Necro became viable covenant options for Arcane. I believe with better emphasis on this being a shorter buff with more strength this would be a welcome return.
- Arcanosphere: Simply put, Arcanosphere is amazing. Not only is it amazingly fun to use and an effective tool in our arsenal in PvP, it is also pretty and could encourage some interesting gameplay in PvE. To have a spell like this gated behind PvP, especially for Arcane Mage which is notoriously terrible in PvP, is a disservice to the game.
- Arcane Bombardment/Arcane Pressure: Arcane Bombardment was extremely fun to use in early Shadowlands prior to Kyrian taking over the meta for us. This effect gave us some really useful damage for some situations (looking at Stone Legion Generals), felt very impactful in dungeons, and had some interesting effects on our rotation in AoE execute scenarios.
New Talents, New Ideas
Lastly there are some issues Arcane has as a whole that could use this opportunity to address either through a new talent or just changes to the spells themselves.
- Arcane Barrage cleave logic has been particularly painful on fights where a target has an extremely large boss model. For those who do not know, Arcane Barrage cleave logic is based off the center of the target’s hitbox, not the edge nor the model. This means that for a boss like Nzoth and Eye of the Jailer cleaving is nearly impossible, while for bosses like Soulrender and Vigilant Guardian it just becomes a point of yelling at your tanks to pixel stack mobs underneath the boss. Overall, this could use some attention, even if it’s in the form of a talent that extends the cleave radius, optimally this entire logic would just be changed to work on the same rules of Ice Lance which cleave logic is based on the edge of the hitbox. This could also be an opportunity to improve Arcane uncapped AoE by adding targets to get hit per charge.
- Clearcasting should buff Arcane Explosion, the fact that our big damage proc has us using a single target spell in AoE just feels bad, it feels even worse when Clearcasting is accidentally consumed by an Arcane Explosion while AoEing. Currently Clearcasting removes the mana cost of Arcane Explosion, however mana is nearly irrelevant for Arcane as discussed above, but this is even more true in AoE where Arcane Barrage is used very frequently. Clearcasting proc rate is also reduced by Arcane Power currently which is likely a bug that hasn’t been addressed in a very, very long time.
- Arcane Explosion could very much use an option to use it at range, this has been a large limiter of Arcane in PvE over the past few expansions and having to play in melee as a ranged spec has opened us up to risks most other ranged specs are unaware of such as mob frontals or the types of ranged mechanics that cannot be brought into melee range for various reasons. Personally, I think this should just be castable on an allied target as a baseline effect. As for a talented solution to a problem we have, Arcane Explosion feels incredibly weak in uncapped AoE situations despite being the quintessential spell for it, a talent that increases the damage as we go up in targets could help with this issue, maybe even in conjunction with being able to cast it on enemies as well.
- Conjure Mana Gem was a neat little return to RP for Arcane Mages, however there are a couple of points that could really use attention. First and foremost, recasting Conjure Mana Gem does not refresh charges, currently we have to delete Mana Gem to make a new one and with a 2-minute cooldown, we frequently have to do this. Currently community members have solved this with addons and macros, however this is functionality that existed for Conjure Mana Gem] in previous expansions. Second, Conjure Mana Gem is just kind of bland and could use something more flavorful added, some ideas that have been passed around in the community recently is that Mana Gems should be distributable to raid members (akin to Healthstone) or redesigned to offer some more noticeable benefit like a magic absorb or damage buff.
There are many more suggestions and ideas that exist within the community at large, many of them are spectacular ideas, and I would urge Blizzard to listen to the community on this, Arcane has been in a state that has been largely overlooked by the meta scene and as such the community has designated this as a weaker specialization. Some much needed tuning and love to our upcoming talent tree options could do a lot to reshape that community perception and get people to really enjoy playing Arcane again.
Thanks for reading!
With Dragonflight now stated as a 2022 release, now is a good time to consider what talents we may see for Fire and Frost Mage.
To be clear, this is not an article where I will try to guess the talents that we will end up with. Looking at the Druid and Death Knight talents, there seems to be a clear and predictable way that Blizzard is creating these talent trees. This is instead a wish-list for talents I would like to see for Fire and Frost Mage, because I think it is more fun to think outside the box in cases like this. These are also my own subjective opinions.
Hopefully we see the actual talents soon, and have adequate time to provide feedback.
To start off, I’d like to point out the current failures of the current talent system. Talents that are never used, or have little to no impact on your character are referred to “dead talents”. Many of the current talents that could be considered useful end up as dead talents because they are greatly outshined by the other options on the same row. Rune of Power is a good example of this, since Incanter’s Flow and Focus Magic aren’t bad but don’t get much use due to the strength of Rune of Power.
To illustrate this point, here is a graphic made using data from Warcraft Logs showing the distribution of talents in Sepulcher of the First Ones Raid. Keep in mind that PvP and Mythic+ add a little more variety, but not much. Talents in red are considered dead talents.
0-1% distribution in WCL
2-10% distribution in WCL
11-100% distribution in WCL
Many of the talents in red are interesting and could find use when detached from the row they are a part of such as Ray of Frost and Glacial Spike. I expect many of them to come back in some form, hopefully with some slight changes.
Mage Tree (available to all Mage specs)
Right now this is a PvP talent, but I would love to see it come back as a general talent. Alter Time kind of fits the same role now, but I think having more proactive options for recovering health would be great for Mages.
Choice of Frost Bomb, Living Bomb, Nether Tempest
To be clear, I am referencing the Mist of Pandaria versions of these talents, back when there was a choice for all Mage specs to pick from one of the three. Although there were clear balancing issues with these talents back when they were available, I think bringing back this choice and making the bombs all have clear use-cases would be fun.
This exists as a talent for Frost Mage, but I would love to see it come back for Fire and Frost with a new twist. Remove the cooldown from Ice Floes and make it cost mana. Allow the spell to stack on the player but ramp in mana cost if in rapid succession (ex: Moderately high Mana cost that doubles when used again within 5 seconds, stacking). This would make Mana a relevant resource for Fire and Frost, and let mages who are skilled at managing movement and mana to really stand out on movement intensive encounters.
Spellsteal is the other other mage spell with a significant cost to Fire and Frost Mages, and the only real use for mana currently for these specs.
In the same way that Convoke the Spirits has made an impression on Druids this expansion, I feel this ability has also left an impression on Mages. Cooldown reduction is a very powerful tool for Fire Mages and allows us, especially in Mythic +, to be very flexible. If this is included, please let us cast it while moving!
Cone of Cold – old version
If you ever tried out Mage in Classic WoW, you were probably surprised the first time you used this spell and it did more damage than it does on retail (even after the numbers have been inflated now). Before Cone of Cold was gutted then made Frost specific, it was a hard hitting AoE spell on a moderately short cooldown. The damage was heavily nerfed, but they added a glyph (remember those?) to bump the damage back up to where it was worth casting. I would like this spell to come back as a talent available to all Mages with damage similar to Classic.
Firestorm aka Item – Mage T17 Fire 4P Bonus
We have had this effect as both a tier bonus and legendary in the past. There was a brief time in Shadowlands where it was the best legendary for Fire Mages (before Fevered Incantation was fixed to no longer drop stacks from Shadowcore Oil). I was sad to see the legendary left to rot in this expansion, as it was a pretty fun effect. I’d love to see it come back in some form.
Darckli’s Dragonfire Diadem
Originally a Legion Legendary effect, this talent would give Fire mages access to a longer range, harder hitting Dragon’s Breath. PvP balance aside, this would be extremely fun to have back in Raid and Mythic+.
From the Legion trinket Aran’s Relaxing Ruby. The damage on this trinket was heavily nerfed in Legion, but it was very fun while it lasted. In legion I felt this was a missed opportunity to not give this to Fire Mages as a spell. As a talent, it could either be a spell or a passive proc, but I think having it be a cast would be more interesting.
Insert cool name (Passive Ignite spread)
This talent with a really cool name would give Ignite the ability to passively spread again, at the cost of a talent point. I think giving Mages the option to turn Ignite from Manual to Automatic when it comes to spreading would do a lot to bridge the gap from BFA Fire Mage to current.
Deep Freeze – Cataclysm version
Removed in Legion, Deep Freeze was a skill that stunned and froze the target on a 30 second cooldown. It was only unable if the target was already frozen. On targets immune to stun, like raid bosses, it did significant damage making it a powerful cooldown in all modes of play.
Choice of Ice Time or Zann’esu Journey
From the Legion legendary Ice Time, this talent would increase the damage of Frozen Orb and give Frost Mage back some of its power in priority cleave. This talent would be in the same node as Zann’esu Journey, making it so you could only pick one
Zann’esu Journey is the other choice. This talent would allow Frost Mages to build damage on their next Blizzard while AoE isn’t happening, this unleash an amped Blizzard when the time is right. Frost is generally known for having consistent AoE, but this talent would give savvy Frost Mages an edge when AoE is less consistent.
Shatterlance – old version
Also from the Tome of Shifting Words trinket. Shatterlance changed the playstyle of Frost to incentivize a playstyle reminiscent of shatter gameplay, where you would freeze an enemy then cast a Frostbolt into Ice Lance to have both spells benefit from Shatter. The damage increase granted changed many times, but it generally floated between 25-38%.
I include this as a talent mainly to give Glacial Spike a reason to ever be played again. I’m not sure if I like having to take two talents to make Glacial Spike work, but maybe this could be baked into the current talent?
A new expansion is the perfect time for Blizzard to reassess the state of classes and mix things up. I hope more than anything else that the choices we get are interesting and less of a remix of current existing talents. Hopefully with a little tuning and creativity the mage talents end up interesting, and have less dead talents than the current system.