The beginning of the end: also known as WoW patch 4.0

I know I promised a Power Auras entry, but because Patch 4.0 went out last Tuesday, a number of my current auras understandably don’t make a whole lot of sense. For “tutorial” perspective, they’re fine; but for an actual usage example, they won’t be as relevant. So I’m taking a bit of time to tweak my auras a bit and change my auras post to make sure it’s half useful for someone else.

So, in replacement of that–and because I do want to talk about it a little–Cataclysm rambling inc!

The day everyone became noobs

When I came home, ready to jump right into the game, I was devastated (alright, just annoyed and sad) to find out that Blizzard couldn’t apply the patch because I had no hard drive space left. Uber fail. So I had to restart things and fiddle a bit, and then came the uber long installation. I felt like I was going to go crazy from the wait.

I logged in to find the guild in Naxxramas and QQing discussing the changes to their respective trees, how the DPS is looking, what rotations have changed, etc. I went straight to my mage to try and get some semblance of order going. Everything was out from my action bar (even Mana Strudels!) and my key bindings disappeared (on Bar 1 no less), so I spent a good amount of time last night putting everything back, tweaking macros and auras, and finding the right rotation.

I never got around to trying it out in a raid tonight, but I did try both Frost and Arcane specs. Unfortunately my priest will have to wait for the next day.

Twitchy Arcane without the missiles

New arcane treeVery twitchy, but all is not lost. I liked the older Arcane better (the “go crazy to empty-your-mana-gauge spec”) in terms of the feel of the playstyle, but I’m willing to give this a couple runs.

Current theorycrafting points to the switch to Mage Armor for the regen, and optimally you should be staying at 85% mana and above when not in your burn phase. So my target dummy fight looked like this:

  1. Stack up Arcane Blast to 4.
  2. Hit shiny cooldown macro: Mana Gem (to bring me back to 100% mana, as well as Improved Mana Gem effect), clicky trinkets, Arcane Power, and Mirror Image. I have MI glyphed to make sure it doesn’t affect GCDs. Speed pot (or likely Wild Magic pot, going forward) is there somewhere with a modifier.
  3. Burn phase: AB spam regardless of whatever procs, right down to a bit over 40%.
  4. By this time you should have an Arcane Missiles proc. Hit it, gain the T10 haste bonus, and then hit Evocation to get mana back to as close to 100% as possible. If you don’t have an AM proc, well, you don’t really have a choice: just hit Evo directly.
  5. Conserve phase: use whatever “rotation” to keep above 85% mana. The idea is once you hit your cooldown macro, you get your mana back up to 100% at the start of your burn phase.

Rinse, and repeat. When to hit the burn phases depend largely on fight length and burn requirements on fight strategies. How you do the conserve phase also depends largely on your gear level. With Mage Armor on, and not-bad luck with AM procs, this can be fairly straightforward, but somewhat annoyingly twitchy for me. This may be due to lack of replenishment, so when raid-buffed it should be easier to stay in that range.

A friend of mine pointed out that the MI cooldown is at 3 minutes, and AP cooldown is at 1.5minutes–these sync up very nicely. However, your mana cooldowns aren’t synced up. Mana Gem is at 2 minutes, and don’t forget you’ve hit Evo separately from all your other cooldowns. Mana gem should preferably be up when you start your burn cycle. Evo should be up by the time you end your burn cycle (unless the boss is dying). So usually, by the time Evo will be up, just a couple more and MI will also be up…and so I end up waiting instead to make sure I get Quad Core in. Unless there are damage buffs for MI at level 85 raiding, you can probably hit MI separately then.

Also…only two arcane prime glyphs. Groan.

Shattering frosty things again and again and again

New frost treeAh, frost, the underdog of mage PvE specs. It doesn’t seem very promising for 80s raiding, although a number of factors may be coming into play, like my lack of familiarity with the play style (it’s very reactive) and latency (it has a lot of instants, and I feel my 200-400ms latency is horrible for such a spec). On both nights (pre-nerf and after) my Frost sustained DPS testing were both 2k below Arcane (pre-nerf: Arcane was 10k sustained, Frost 8k sustained; post-nerf: Arcane was 8k sustained, Frost 6k sustained).

My dummy test looked like this:

  1. Start out with the Frostbolt+Waterbolt macro to get the Water Elemental going, and then hit the cooldown macro. Frost doesn’t really have a burn phase like Arcane, but well, you have trinkets and Icy Veins (QQ, I miss it for Arcane).
  2. Hit the Water Elemental’s Freeze to force a Fingers of Frost proc, then hit Deep Freeze (unless FoF has already procced; it seems to proc with nice regularity).
  3. Then normal cycle starts: frostbolt normally, but if you get Fingers of Frost, you can either Deep Freeze, Frostfire Bolt if you have a Brain Freeze proc, or Ice Lance. All those three spells are instants, so it feels very twitchy. It’s possible to end up chaining FoF. Any time both Deep Freeze and Freeze cooldown is up and you don’t have an FoF charge, hit Freeze+Deep Freeze.

There are a couple challenges with this. The Water Elemental’s Freeze spell brings up a targeting circle, which means you need to be always ready to put that circle down where the boss is. PvP regulars probably have this down pat, but since I only use my mouse to move, in a boss fight it’s usually…not in the right position.

Frosty auras

Shiny frosty auras!

It’s also a little tricky making sure you’re hitting the correct buttons in your priority queue, especially when you have FoF up. A lot of times, I’d have FoF up, and would start hitting Ice Lance, when Brain Freeze would suddenly proc at my last cast. This isn’t such a big deal, but is a bigger concern when Deep Freeze comes back up suddenly.

Something to note: currently on live, Brain Freeze consumes the two charges of Fingers of Frost. Apparently this is a bug that has been fixed on Patch 4.0.3, so we’ll likely see the fix soon-ish.

Which is which?

I feel it’s a bit early to tell which spec I’ll mostly play in. Leveling would likely be Frost, as it seems likely that even with slows applied automatically, I’ll have a lot of downtime by playing Arcane (well, duh). It depends on how smooth out of combat mana regeneration is, and how fast our mage food tops us off.

Level 85 endgame raiding experience may still change, since mages get a number of new spells and there’s a lot of stat inflation going on with Level 80. For frost, the inclusion of Frostfire Orb in our rotation (we get Flame Orb at level 81, which turns into Frostfire Orb with the aforementioned talent) may give that little extra, and for Arcane, not having as much mana as we have now may certainly make burn phases considerably shorter and conserve phases more challenging.

As for Level 80 endgame raiding, either will work unless your guild requires you to be in the top DPS spec: and frost is not that.

In terms of playstyle, Arcane requires a lot more control than Frost–a different kind of control. Where Frost goes crazy with shattering things–and therefore “quicker payback” in terms of pew pew feel–Arcane is carefully managing mana so it can go freak out on its burn phase. Frost feels more frantic. (Again, I have no experience with PVP, so I can’t comment on how that feels.)

You might say Arcane doesn’t eat the marshmallow, and Frost does. A lot.