Mischief: Water Elementals No Longer Nameable :(

So besides the stealth nerf to mages in patch 4.0.3, we also had another change come into being for a "known bug" that made a lot of Frost Mages pretty excited after patch 4.0.1.  Yesterday I log into my mage and go about doing my dailies and killing elementals to run the special invasion bosses, and I notice my water elemental's name is gone and has reverted to "Water Elemental" again.  Immediately, I looked up the command for the rename and I get an error that tells me I cannot rename my pet.  I'm distraught.

So immediately I scour the patch notes for any comment and see nothing.  I try right clicking.  I ask my mage friends, who are just as stunned and disappointed as I am.  I even went so far as to put in a ticket and petition to a GM to find out what was going on.  Due to a high volume of petitions, I didn't get my answer till today and I was told that the ability to name your water elemental in 4.0.1 was a "known bug" and was fixed in the patch this Tuesday. 

I can tell you I'm more disappointed than angry.  Naming your water elemental gives you a little spark of uniqueness in a world where that is rare.  The number of Frost Mages that popped up after the changes was astounding and I'd like to think that each one put forth a good bit of effort and thought to name their pet, since you were unable to change it once it was done.  I won't say that I thought for hours about the name I chose, but it was special and unique to me and my water elemental had a little bit more personality because of it.

I think what bothers me the most is why Blizzard went out of their way to fix this, when there are a number of other bugs that need addressing.  I'm not complaining that we got a little nerf (all our spec bonuses are down from the 25% they were before to 10% for fire and 15% for Frost and Arcane).  After the patch hit, we needed it frankly.  Mages shot up into the realm of ridiculous DPS, taking over the charts and leaving a lot of other classes in the dust.  But this just seems so unnecessary.  Does it really take up that much data room for a water elemental to have a unique name assigned to it?  It seems to me that any other pet class with a permapet has a pet with a name instead of a generic identifier.  Though warlocks and Unholy DKs don't get to pick the name directly, there's still a little unique flavor there.  And if it's such a bad thing to have to juggle, why do hunters get to name 20 unique pets?

Sure when our water elementals were not permapets, it made sense not to let us name them.  I get that.  It was a temporary summoned creature.  But now we get one from level 1 all the way up to cap.  So why not just let us name it?  Those of us who RP get a chance to tell a story with the name, something that's indicative to the elemental's personality.  We bond with it after 85 levels, so why wouldn't it have a unique moniker?

Rather than whining, bitching, and yelling, I'm asking, Blizzard.  Please give us our Water Elemental names back.  To my readers, consider this an open letter to Blizzard, a petition for a little twist of individuality in a sometimes dull world.  If you agree with what I've written here, please follow up with a comment and a /signed.  Feel free to put your character name and server if you like.  Even if this gets us nowhere, we can at least say we tried.
The most common question I have asked me as a blogger is actually a number of questions that fit a single template:

"Gypsy, with all your excessive intelligence and spectacular good looks, it is clear to me that you're an expert in *BLANK*.  Please share your thoughts and wisdom with me:  I like to *BLANK* and *BLANK* and sometimes *BLANK* when the feeling hits me.  Which spec should I play?"
Those of you who did not ask this question, rest assured: on MMRS, there are no stupid questions, only stupid warlocks.  As for those of you who asked this very question, well generic person who may or may not read my blog, this post is for YOU!  Congratulations.  In 5 easy steps, we can get you playing a spec that you love, that works for you, and that will make people want to play with you.

Step One:  Learn your Class
I know what you're thinking.  Why would we not know our class?  Well, young grasshopper, take a trip through the Random Dungeon Finder at any level, run a couple dungeons of any type and I can assure you that you will find at least 1-2 people in your endeavor who have no idea how to play their class.  To be honest, mages kind of have it easy.  We don't have to figure out how to keep other people alive; we're DPS all the way.  Classes like Paladins and Druids have to figure out how to do 3 different roles and classes like Shaman and DKs have to figure out how to do 2.  Hybrids do have it harder in some cases, so we'll break this down into a question:
"What is your role?" 
Are you a tank, healer, physical DPS or caster DPS?  Physical DPS could further be broken down into hunters and melee if you like.  For each role, there are ground rules.  Caster DPS, hunters, and healers stand at range in most cases.  The rocket science behind this is that there's a magical range at which aggro is drastically decreased, so standing at range = less threat = happy healer = less death.  Melee DPS and Tanks obviously have to stand close to the target cause they can't swing their weapons that far.  Yes, this also exposes them to higher threat levels, but that's probably why most of them wear plate or have some pretty big threat reduction.

Besides range, there's the obvious point of each role.  Tanks take damage and keep the bad guys from pwning the rest of the group.  Healers keep everyone alive.  DPS kills stuff.  Sometimes these roles aren't as concrete, like when a healer is struggling a DPS who has the ability to heal can toss out a heal to help or when a healer gets bored, maybe they'll put some DPS on something, or sometimes DPS end up tanking like on Prince Keleseth in ICC for a shadow priest or warlock.  Beyond that, everyone pretty much stays in an assigned role and doesn't deviate.

An important part of knowing your class is knowing your buttons.  And by buttons I mean your cooldowns, escape tricks, and fun little abilities that benefit your role or the group/raid as a whole.  Some of these are essential to staying out of fire.  Others are important to prevent a wipe.  Others just make you do your job a little faster or harder, essentially better.  Figure out what those are and the ideal time to use them.  

To be honest the best way to learn a class is to play it from 1 to 80 (or 85 come cataclysm) but there's some things you won't learn just questing or just doing dungeons or just PVPing.  It's really a mixture of these that makes you aware of all the skills you have available to you and where you belong in the scheme of things.

Step Two:  Research the Specs Available to Your Class

We'll use mages as an example here because that's what I blog the most about.  Every class has 3 available specs.  Each one has a specific role assigned to it, sometimes two in the case of feral druids.  For mages, all 3 are DPS, so you get a choice of DPS or DPS... or DPS.  And we're always caster DPS, despite how much fun it may be to stab someone with your Quel'Delar or crack them over the head with your Abracadaver.   Anywho, Mages get a choice of Fire, Frost, and Arcane.  If I were to research the aspects of each spec, here's what I'd look for:
  • Talents and where to spend them for whatever your primary playstyle will be (Soloing, Groups, Raids, PVP).  
  • Glyphs
  • Rotation
  • Stat Priorities (This includes Gems, Enchants, and Reforging)
  • Nuances like when to blow your cooldowns and tricks you can use on multiple targets
Knowing these things is a big step to getting a good spec down, but by no means does it make you an expert.  It's the proper execution of these things that makes for a good mage (or whatever).  It's successful creativity and expansion beyond these things that makes for a great mage (or whatever).  But this isn't a guide to making you a Great Whatever.  That's a blog post for another day.

Step 3:  Choose Your Spec and Test It

When I say test it, I don't mean in one single medium or situation.  When I get a new spec, I first like to try it on a training dummy so I can get a hang of the rotation without any distractions like fire to stand in or things to dodge or threat that gets pulled.  The problem with training dummies is that they don't always give you an accurate read of your DPS.  When you're playing with a dummy, you're standing still, DPSing with no downtime.  There's no raid mechanics to make your DPS higher or lower.  There are also things about the dummy that are going to throw off about your DPS.  For example, frost mage DPS is actually slightly lower than it should be on a dummy because they are susceptible to stuns, so the big hit of Deep Freeze isn't a bit hit.  It's a stun with no damage.  Because of this, if you have the Deep Freeze glyph, your frostbolt is also going to hit harder than it actually would on a boss, since bosses don't retain the Deep Freeze debuff. (This glyph is changing to be more useful and more appropriate to a prime glyph in the Cataclysm Beta.)

After you've fiddled around with the dummies for a little bit, go out and solo.  Play with a few mobs you know you can kill and compare the timeframe it took you before and after.  Try some that were more difficult for you before.  Put yourself in some situations where you have to move and fight and maybe use some of those special buttons.  

After you've done all this without endangering the life bars of your fellow players, take it into a heroic, either with friends or a PUG.  Don't just run one, run several.  The nice thing about the variety of heroics we have at 80 is that it's never the same instance twice: the pacing is different, the boss gimicks are different, and the levels of difficulty are different.  Once you've messed around enough in an instance, you can try a raid, but if I were you I'd make it a raid with friends or a raid like VOA that's short and sweet.  Never ever ever take a new spec you're not completely comfortable with into a progression raid where you're expected to perform your best.

Step 4:  Choose a Second Spec and Test it

You're basically going to do all the stuff you did in step 3, but in a different spec.  For some classes, this may require a whole different set of gear, but if it's generally the same thing, you can share it.  Keep in mind that testing healing and tanking is very different from testing DPS.  You can't use a dummy to check healing where rotations are completely useless.  And dummies don't have threat, so while you can check your tanking rotation, it won't be as accurate as doing it on something that actually does damage back to you.  But even with tanks and healers, the don't raid till your comfortable with your spec rule stands.
Step 5:  Pick What You LIKE to Play and Tweak It

I can almost guarantee you that playing a spec you enjoy is going to give you better results than playing something you don't like at all.  In some cases this may change (ie Old Frost Mages) and you may have to pick your second favorite thing to do.  In the cases of raiding guilds, you may not have a choice because in those kinds of guilds they're allowed to tell you what to play.  But if you don't like it, then don't be in that guild or try a different class that can fill the role that they need.  A good guild will be patient with a player who hasn't found their niche yet and will understand that in the end they'll get better performance out of a happy player than someone who's miserable.

The tweaking part of this step is not always easy, but no two players play alike, so following a guide to the letter is not always your best bet for maximum performance.  Beyond that, we all play on different machines with different connections in a variety of different real life situations, so that's going to affect your performance too.  You really do have to pick what works for you.  Do you have any motivation to play something that you hate?

My best advice for someone who is being pressured into something different is to try it first, especially if changes have been made or you're character has changed.  I used to hate fire with a passion and had no desire to do anything with it.  Now that the specs have changed so much since pre 4.0.1, I actually enjoy Fire again and have put Arcane on the back burner so that I can play with it or Frost as my heart so desires.  Because I made that decision for myself, I'm a happier player and it's important to remember that WoW is a game, so all other things aside, it should be fun.

Mischief: A CRITical Comeback

So the big warning with the onset of patch 4.0.1 was that our mana was going to be a big problem; and as I'm certain most of you have discovered (in any caster class), that is not so yet.  The only class I've seen with active mana issues is Arcane mages, and that's just their niche.  Even then, it can be overcome by effective use of cooldowns and a creative rotation.  But all the theorycrafting sites or buzzing about how crit (critical strike rating) is going to become even more important in Cataclysm because of the mana problems that will likely manifest themselves when you hit 85 and start doing 5-man heroic dungeons and raiding.  Apparently Blizzard intends to turn the tables on us and make your crit rating less valuable to the actual percentage of spells that will critically hit.  On top of that, the general theory among the think tanks is that rather than haste being more useful since more spells per time period = more dps, crit is moving up instead because more big hits in a time period = more dps and less mana used.  With the talent Master of Elements, those crits will help restore your mana as well, giving your casting time more longevity.  (Although rumor has it, MoE isn't as effective either come Cata.)  Most of these number geniuses are calling for Crit as the tertiary stat after Int (Spellpower) and Mastery after hit-cap is achieved.

Cold Crits in Frost

While previously haste was a higher valued stat for us than crit, as the mage stands right now, I'd still stick with a good balance of haste and crit.  There are no magic numbers or caps for either of these stats right now, but the general agreement with a spec like Frost is that 33% or more crit is ideal to get those bit hits on frozen targets.  With the Frostburn mastery, they're going to be even bigger hits since it multiplies the base damage of your spell with a percentage from your mastery rating.  Even then, none of our procs in frost are based off a crit rating, but rather an application of a chill effect, mostly by Frostbolt.  This is still applied to boss mobs, allowing for Deep Freeze and Brain Freeze to proc, even though the actual slow may not be effective.  So while you can throw out as critting frostbolts as you like and they'll be helpful to your DPS, the big hitters in our arsenal are connected to frozen targets (to which some things are immune) and procs of Fingers of Frost.  FoF has a 30% chance to proc off any chill and BF has a 15% chance.  Granted you can get around this a little by rolling your other spells that freeze, like talented Cone of Cold, Frost Nova, and your Water Elemental's Freeze, but two of those spells require you to be at closer range to use effectively, which means more threat issues or a lot of moving, and the other requires a targetted AOE spell that can be very clumsy.  Please not that by no means am I NOT telling you to roll through those spells if you're finding yourself short on procs, but limiting yourself to Freeze (and finding a way to make it less awkward) is a good way to have a much smoother rotation.  My big point here is that with more haste and more frostbolts, you're likely to get more chill applications anyway, giving you more of those procs frost mages love so much.  Until the talent tree changes to say that chill is dependant on crit, I'm not going to go so far as to say forget the Haste and start stacking crit like a holy paladin.

Critical Burn

Fire is a different story.  With talents like Ignite, you'll find yourself wanting more crit in order to apply more DOTs, which are the basis of Fire's mastery, Flashburn.  They're also responsible for your Hot Streak procs and big Pyroblast hits.  Beyond that Critical Mass is responsible for a spell crit vulnerability available to everyone in your group or raid to take advantage of (if the stupid warlock doesn't steal your spotlight.)  So at first glance, crit is pretty important to Fire.  But I don't think I'd discount haste so quickly.  Fireball and Frostfire Bolt are both long cast spells and according to the math nerds (ie theory crafters), the chance of an un-Improved Hot Streak proccing are inversely proportional with your crit chance.  Wait what?  What the heck was Blizzard thinking?  Were they trying to give the little guys a heads up on the pyroblast use or something?  The difference of course lies in the Improved Hot Streak option.  If you find yourself with a high crit chance, it's imperative that you take this talent as it's an assured proc that continues to scale with high crit.  That said, haste is still nothing to laugh at.  Sure you'll burn through mana a little faster, but take a page from the Arcane book and use your cooldowns to bring it back up to where it should be.

AB Numbers Look Bigger with Crit

The clever title eluded me, ok?  Sheesh.  Arcane has always been a horse of a different color for mages.  It's a non-elemental school that's got a unique mastery talent and an alternating but more defined rotation.  The big deal here is your mana is already limited and casting through it faster is not always an ideal way to do things, especially if you're not hitting that hard when you do so.  Now of course we have to take into account that AB has it's own damage increasing debuff, but there is a limit of 4 charges on it.  Not a single talent in the Arcane tree is based off critical strike chance, although two of them increase your crit as procs.  (So you could argue that Focus magic relies on crit, but not your own; that of another person.  And the way it's made, pretty much any caster class will give you 100% up time as it is right now.)  This is why the previous arcane school of thought was that crit didn't scale with arcane for crap and it should be disregarded as a stat for fire mages.  However, that's not entirely true anymore.  If you have a higher crit chance, you're going to hit bigger more often, making it very valuable as it has no effect on the mana cost of a spell what-so-ever.  If you're just stacking haste, you're going to find yourself at a severe disadvantage here, as you'll run out of mana before you can really use your cooldowns again if you don't manage that regen phase perfectly.  I like crit over haste for Arcane, but I wouldn't go so far as to say ignore the haste, either.  Haste applies to every single spell you cast, while crit still stands as a chance and is not assured.

Magic and Rocket Science: Back to the Elements

For a very long time I've had a love affair with Frost, despite it's short comings.  I stayed true to it until I hit Northrend with the mage and watched the Frostfire build die and Arcane rise in it's place.  The difference in damage was so drastic, there wasn't any way to argue.  I hated the simplistic rotation, but I learned the little ways to make it interesting and squeeze that last bit of damage out.  I researched and questioned and played with Training Dummies until I knew it backwards and forwards, waiting for the day when Frost was on top again.

I say to you mage friends and fanatics, that that day has come.

It's not to say that Arcane can't hold it's own any more; it certainly can.  So what's my problem with Arcane?  Well for one, it bores the heck out of me.  There's a general agreement now that Arcane has two phases, the one button phase and the 2 button phase.  Ok, that's kind of derogatory for someone who argued that Arcane was never just 2 buttons before.  To be fair it isn't now.  You spam AB till you run out of mana sure, with all your cooldowns tossed in there, but there's a lot of other things to toss in too, depending on if you picked up the talents.  Then you have to force yourself to hold back with alternating AB and Missile Barrage till your cooldowns and evocation are back up, then it's back to blasting.  Your damage peaks can be huge if you do it right, but it's difficult to maintain and the AOE for Arcane has always been stunted.

Playing with Fire

So despite my dislike of fire, I dropped Arcane as my second spec and picked up a fire spec I'd been messing with, tweeking it a little bit.  I did some research, got a bunch of glyphs and planted myself down in front of the training dummy in Silvermoon.  (On a side note, it's important to take into consideration which dummy you're using to test your DPS.  Some boss dummies have a level 80 dummy next to them so that you can see splash damage and some don't.  Silvermoon's dummies are far enough apart, that you get true single target damage when testing on the boss dummy.)

I read up on rotations in a couple different places and most recommended a Fireball primary nuke with constant Living Bomb up time, using Pyroblast for Hot Streak procs, and Fireblast with Impact procs.  I went through this a number of times, trying different timing with Combustion and Mirror Images.  I have to tell you, the DPS I was getting was not holding a flame to Frost or Arcane.  I was about 2k lower than my frost spec and working my tail off to watch all those DOTs and keep max up time.  I was not impressed, but I had tried it and that made me feel a little better about my choice to stick with Frost as primary and Arcane as a second.

And then a guildie suggested that I try Frostfire Bolt instead.  I will admit I was kind of dumbfounded that I hadn't thought of this myself.  FFB used to be THE nuke for a short lived elementalist spec when Wrath raiding first began.  It quickly fell out of favor when Arcane usurped Frost and Fire and even when they made their comebacks, you only saw an inkling of it with Brain Freeze procs in frost.  It's used again in the Frost Rotation that I'll get into a little later, but there was no mention of it at all in all my fire research for my little experiment.  Even looking at the unglyphed spell, it seems rather lackluster.  You get less damage than what you get for Fireball, at the same cast time and mana cost.  (It's important to note here that Blizzard took away the DOT portions of BOTH of these spells in their primary form.)  So if you're looking at the flat numbers, why bother?  Look at the glyphs for them both:  Glyph of Fireball / Glyph of Frostfire Bolt.  If you've learned anything as a mage, then you must have learned that a flat damage increase is almost always better than a crit bonus.  Frostfire's glyph has that AND it adds back your DOT portion.  On top of that the DOT stacks 3 times.  Fireball's 5% crit glyph is all well and good if you're determined to use that spell instead, but that's 5% crit CHANCE and that doesn't add up to a whole lot when it comes down to consistency, plus the only DOT you'll get out of Fireball is from a talent that also works with Frostfire Bolt, so with the second spell, you're getting twice the punch for the same price.

So I changed out my glyphs and hit up the targeting dummies again.  With a complete exchange of Frostfire bolt for Fireball, I saw an easy 1.5k DPS increase, putting Fire just below Frost for my DPS and both of them right around Arcane.  Can I tell you how happy I was?  I was really happy.  One of my biggest complaints with the mage specs that more often than not lately, one spec was way ahead of the others and a clear choice.  I like these new murky waters with 3 viable choices and forgiveness for playing a little different.  You can honestly play what you like now, instead of what everyone else tells you is best and still do decent damage.

In short, here's how Fire adds up for me:
  • Spec : 2/31/3 - You can sub in Improved Flamestrike for Improved Scorch if you like.  I just like having the free spell for when my mana's low and I'm having to move.
  • Single Target Priority System : 1) Keep Living Bomb active on your target, avoiding clipping the explosion on the end if you can, but clipping a little damage is better than leaving time where the debuff isn't on your target. 2) Pyroblast with Hot Streak Procs.  3) Fireblast with Impact Procs (This is technically optional if you didn't take the Impact talent or don't have anything to splash damage onto.) 4) Frostfire Bolt is your primary nuke. 5) Scorch if you're low on mana or moving (This requires the talents Firestarter and Improved Scorch.)  With this system you want to use Combustion when you have the most DOTs active and I like to use Mirrors right afterwards for a little extra umph.
  • AOE Priority System : 1) Keep Living Bomb on as many targets as possible. 2) Dragon's Breath and Blast Wave, doesn't matter which first, but use them on cooldown. 3) Flamestrike in the middle of the fray to your heart's content. 4) If you get a Hot Streak or Impact Proc, use it!  They both have built in splash damage.
  • Glyphs : Prime - Living Bomb, Pyroblast and Mage Armor; Major - Frostfire, Mirror Image, and Molten Armor (You can sub in Dragon's Breath or Blast Wave for Mirror Image if you like, but I honestly think it's the better choice); Minor - Whatever floats your boat.
My Love Affair with Frost

If you've known me for a while, you know I love Frost a great deal.  Back in Vanilla WoW, all the dungeons seemed to be fire damage based, so Frost was the natural choice.  On top of that, it has always been an excellent choice for PVP and soloing because of the survivability, it's great for kiting, and we got a pet, even if it was temporary till recently.  I think it's safe to say every mage has their favorite spec and Frost is mine.  I'm so thrilled it's back up to par with the others, I'm loyaly devoted to proving it's worth.  Still people sneer at Frost because Arcane and Fire have potential.  But anyone who's been it's long time fan can tell you that it is a lot of fun and very versatile. 
And now the greatest news of all:  You can name your water elemental!

I kid you not.  There's a command in game that lets you give your wet buddy a clever moniker to impress all your friends and enemies.  That's right, warlocks.  Attached you may be to your stupid demon names, but we get to CHOOSE what we want to call our side-kicks.  The command is /run PetRename("NAMEHERE").  PROCEED WITH CAUTION however: whatever you decide to replace NAMEHERE with is permanent as of the current game build.  Perhaps later they'll put in a scroll for us to use like they did for hunters to rename, but there's no way to do it now.  In order to protect the innocent, I won't be revealing my name.
Allow me to deviate a moment from topic and give Blizzard some love.  As my readers know, I was not pleased with the initial descriptions of the spells and changes to mages for Cataclysm and I am not afraid to admit I'm still a little disappointed that they gave us a copied spell from Shaman so everyone would stop whining that shaman are required to raid.  However, with the majority of the changes implemented, I applaud what Blizzard has done so far:  They made mages versatile but similar enough between the specs that they all feel like the same class.  Each of the specs has a proc spell, they're all kiting accessible, you can change between them at your leisure and still pick your favorite way of doing things.  Bravo Blizzard.  My faith in the future of the mage class is restored.

Back to Frost.  Since Blizzard has thrown static rotations out the window (Hurray!), frost mages work off a priority system.  The DPS is comparable to that of the other two specs and in some situations even better.  Besides that, mana is not nearly as much of a problem as it is for the other two, so you can toss Mage Armor off your bar for now.  Make a note that when you're playing with Frost on a dummy, the DPS is going to look a lot lower than it is?  Why?  Because our big nuke, Deep Freeze, does not give accurate damage on a dummy to that of a boss.  Those dummies are susceptible to stuns so the big burst from the spell doesn't hit.  In raids, fully buffed, I get 45-50k hits on bosses in my ICC gear.  If that's not going to boost your DPS, I don't know what is.  Here's Frost at a glance:
  • Spec : 3/2/31 in Frost Master of Elements isn't an essential talent, but right now Frostfire Orb isn't a good talent since you don't have the spell yet.  Those two points are flexible.
  • Single Target Priority System : 1) Deep Freeze when the cooldown is up and you have a Frozen Target to hit or a Fingers of Frost proc. 2) Frostfire Bolt for Brain Freeze procs, even if you have a Fingers of Frost proc or a frozen target - the extra damage is applied to Frostfire Bolt now! 3) Ice Lance for frozen targets or FOF procs.  4) Frostbolt is still your primary nuke in Frost. 5) Ice Lance and Cone of Cold for movement, depending on your range from target.  Like we always did before, it's best to use your Icy Veins and Mirror Images in the very start of the fight so you don't lose a global from using the mirrors and to get that really nice burst right at the start along with the threat spread from Mirrors.  Now if you find you're not getting FOF procs, often, how do you get Frozen targets?  Easy, use your Water Elemental's Freeze right at the start for that initial Deep Freeze blast and another proc to boot.  You should be using this spell on cooldown during your proc downtime as it gives you 2 free procs.  Make sure you move it to a keybind for easy access as it's still a dropped AOE spell like it was before.  Make sure you have your Water Elemental active and he's spamming his Water bolt for extra damage.  Also, DON'T FORGET COLD SNAP.  It resets the cooldown of ALL your frost spells, Icy Veins and Deep Freeze included.  If there's a damage aura, it's always a good idea to have Ice Barrier up too.
  • AOE Priority System : Blizzard.  You can toss in a Frost Nova, Freeze, or Cone of Cold if you feel like it or need to put some distance between yourself and the bad guys, but you'll do the most damage from just spamming Blizzard.
  • Glyphs : Prime - Deep Freeze, Ice Lance, Cone of Cold; Major - Frostbolt, Molten Armor, and Frost Nova or Ice Barrier; Minor - Mage's Choice.

    Mischief: ARGH 4.01 Mage Inaccuracies, Additional Information, and Edits!

    So, the patch released Tuesday, as everyone expected and mages have already rejoiced and been nerfed because Blizzard tweeked us a teeny bit too high in DPS.  The day the patch hit, my guild was running randoms to try out their new specs and we came across an arcane mage doing 14k sustained DPS in Violet Hold, without running cooldowns constantly.  That was a bit insane since hunters are now struggling to reach the 5 and 6k mark with their nerfs, though I'm still sure they'll get a buff, like the whiny ret paladins and DKs. 

    However, upon opening up my talent trees and playing with specs, glyphs and reforging, I've found some of the information given pre-patch was not accurate.  So here's where I correct all that.

    We'll start with reforging since that's my latest post.  I love reforging.  It's so fun to get rid of useless stuff on my gear and make it something cool.  The good news is that I was wrong about spirit - if you pick up a piece with spirit on it, you can reforge it to something more useful, like hit or haste or mastery.  However, that doesn't mean you should be scooping up healer gear with spirit right and left.  That's a good way to put yourself on the shit-list.  If you do have some gear with spirit already, then you can take 40% of it off and put it somewhere nicer.  The problem I'm finding is that with hit being capped at good'ole 17% with no talents to reduce, there's not much to reforge.  You can take some crit off your gear, but I wouldn't recommend removing it all in place of mastery.  Right now mastery isn't as significant as it will be in cataclysm, and I wouldn't be very surprised if it was broken.  I actually reforged all my crit into hit and mastery to test how good it was and had a drop in DPS because I wasn't ever getting the big numbers.  Now this will likely be different in a raid setting where you have a number of buffs to help you out and they're significantly more widespread than before, so you don't need as many classes to get what you want.  My recommendation would be to play around with your numbers a bit, so long as you have the cash.

    Now glyphs are a tougher subject.  Some of the glyphs labeled as prime, major, or minor didn't end up as those for release:
    • Glyph of Molten Armor, Arcane Missles, Arcane Barrage and Fireball are major, not Prime.  This leaves Arcane mages with one good choice, Arcane Blast.  Pretty much every spec will be using Mage Armor, except Frost, who could take Cone of Cold instead (along with deep freeze and Ice Lance).
    • Glyph of Arcane Power resets GLOBAL cooldown, not cooldown completely, making it not as exciting of a choice as it was before.  I'd go so far as to say take Missiles, Barrage, and Molten Armor in Arcane before taking Arcane Power.
    • Glyph of Mirror Image is a major glyph not a minor.  This tells me that it's not just a cosmetic change and that hopefully your damage buffs in Arcane/Fire will apply, making this a good glyph.
    • Glyph of Armors doesn't exist yet in the game.  No scribe can make it, so save yourself the time looking for it and put something else in it's place.
    Keep in mind that gems have changed as well, but things are basically the same.
    • Your meta in ANY spec should still be a Chaotic Skyflare Diamond.
    • Instead of the Purified Dreadstones we were using pre patch to fill our 2 blue gem requirement, you want Veiled Dreadstones.  Since hit is blue, this helps fill the larger requirement you have to get to 17% without talents so you don't have to reforge something that may be more useful or get more hit from gear.  Remember that spirit is now not your friend.  Get rid of it asap.  We don't even get mana regen benefits from it, and certainly not the crit we were pulling off it before.
    • As Spell Power has now been wiped off the face of Azeroth (except on weapons, in enchants, and with gem slot bonuses), your new #1 thing to gem is pure Intellect which comes from Brilliant Cardinal Rubies.  All of your Runed Cardinal Rubies were changed over for you in the patch.  You can also use Reckless Ametrines (Blizzard switched them over for you too!) in yellow slots for slot bonuses in gear, but Brilliant Cardinal Rubies are still the preferred method of gemming.
    I know a lot of people were scared of mana regen when the patch was eminent, but I can honestly say it's not that bad at this point.  You have the choice to use a glyphed Mage Armor if you find yourself running behind, but I'd still say that Molten Armor is your preferred Armor.  The only instance where I'd really throw in Mage armor is if you were running out of cooldowns to regenerate your mana in a long fight.

    Now since the patch has hit, I've focused on two of the 3 specs.  Fire is my next endeavor, but I have to say, I really love Frost and Arcane is so powerful, it's going to be hard to spec out of it.  The thing to remember with frost is that since it's based off procs now, there's a priority system, rather than an actual rotation.  You get a free perma-elemental (Blizzard needs to let us name them!) and since the glyph went byebye, we get to keep Freeze.  On top of that, there's a talent that gives you Fingers of Frost procs when you use said spell.  Fingers of Frost is one of the two procs you should be watching for when you're casting.  I usually start a boss fight off by dropping my mirrors, blowing Icy Veins, and having my elemental freeze the target, giving me two procs to start out with.  Immediately after you want to hit your Deep Freeze for some nice burst and then your Ice Lance to use the second stack of the proc.  When you have no procs up, you're going to be spamming Frostbolt, but keep an eye on the cooldown of your elemental's Freeze and your own Frost Nova and Cone of Cold.  (Note that Cone of Cold and Frost Nova will only give you one stack of FoF, but are still useful.)  When you have procs up, your priority is thus:  Deep Freeze whenever off cooldown and available through procs, Frostfire Bolt when Brain Freeze is up, including if you have a proc of FoF since it gains the benefits, and Ice Lance last for FoF procs.  Otherwise, just keep throwing frostbolts at them and keep an eye out for procs.

    In Arcane, you're basically down to one button, which is incredibly depressing.  The (de)buff from Arcane Blast no longer benefits any spells other than AB itself, so you'll find yourself spamming a single button from now on, save for the occasional missile proc and maybe an Arcane Barrage when you're moving.  The big new thing about Arcane is that you have to keep an eye on your mana to maximize your DPS.  Besides that there's a bunch of little fun ways to get some extra spell power, requiring a little more utility from the mage.  The talent Invocation comes to mind, requiring you to interrupt someone's spell cast to get an extra boost of damage.  Set yourself up a /stopcast /cast Counterspell macro for efficient and quick use of Counterspell.  Also, belfs like myself get extra benefit from interrupting with Arcane Torrent, and on top of that it gives us a little mana back.  Incanter's Absorption is also more interesting with the combined power of Mage Wards covering all 3 trees of damage for mages.  It's a little more limited than it was before it was nerfed, but overall, I feel it's an improvement from post-nerf.  I never ever use mana shield for IA, because if you're getting hit with Mana Shield up, you're losing mana and losing DPS.  This is a personal preference and other mages may feel differently.  The last little tidbit for extra power is Improved Mana Gem.  I highly recommend taking this talent and working it into your cooldowns.  I have it set up so that for boss fights, I stop by dropping Mirrors and blowing Arcane Power, cast a couple ABs then add the extra damage from a mana gem use to my already increased damage.  There are a number of talents in the arcane tree that are situational, but fun; my favorite is Improved Blink.  (Blinkzooooooooooom!)  Aside from the fun stuff, how do you keep your mana up?  I use a combination of all the cooldowns I have:  Mana Gem, Evocation, Arcane Torrent, and Mana Potions.  If you have a druid friend who's not suffering low mana, maybe he'll toss you an innervate.  If he/she has the glyph, they get some mana back too.  So I suppose the big questions lies where you throw in your arcane missiles.  This is a tricky question, indeed.  I've found myself using it in heroics to finish off the last bit of a mob.  On boss fights, I use it right before I have to pop Evocation since with t10 2 set it gives you a nice haste boost.  It's free and costs you no mana, so use it before switching targets or right after you end up on a new target for a little more DPS.  It's also useful right after movement that made your AB stacks drop.

    At some point in the future I'll pick up Fire and try and give you guys some good solid info on that.  Right now the top two specs are Fire and Arcane, as they have been for a while, but Frost really isn't that far behind.  The thing I really love about Frost is that it's fun and you can survive through almost anything.  I think that's going to become a heck of a lot more important come Cataclysm, and keep in mind anything could change at this point.  Happy Maging!

      Magic: Reforging and 4.01

      So it's official.  Tomorrow is the day that the big patch of change hits the server and everyone is going to be freaking out with all the new things to try.  For you mages, I've done my best to cover the specs and glyphs as I see them.  Yet, we get a new toy to play with to tweek our gear beyond enchanting and gemming.  This is going to make it interesting for gear choices.  There are a few things to note:
      • Only secondary stats can be changed, meaning no switchin up the base attributes like intellect or stamina.
      • You can only switch one thing, and it can't be changed to something that the item does not already have, so if you have hit on the piece you're changing, you can't put more hit from another stat.
      • There's a fixed amount decreased from the initial stat and added to the new stat you're applying, based on a flat 40%.
      • The item you're stat changing has to be ilvl 200 or above.
      As a mage, if you have a piece of gear with spirit on it, then you're out of luck - you can't change spirit to anything useful and with the change to Molten Armor, Spirit is utterly useless for us.  Crit will be based of Int and flat crit rating now.  So where do we put our stats?

      With the changes to talents and the removal of ALL our hit talents, you're going to find yourself in need of help there most likely, especially if you're arcane or frost.  You'll find yourself with the choice of gemming hit (which is now blue btw), or reforging hit from other stats (my first choice would be crit in most cases).  Depending on the amount you're reforging, you should take a look at the amount you'd be getting from the gem or from the reforge and compare it to what you'll need, especially in the case of hit.  I'll even go so far to say that being a tiny bit under hit cap isn't so bad, especially if you regularly run with a boomkin or a shadow priest (or a draenei).  Keep in mind that you'll also be able to forge in the valuable Mastery stat once this patch goes in, which will give you a number of other bonuses based on your spec.  Until Cataclysm and the new professions hit, this is apparently the only way to acquire the stat, since none of the gear will likely come with it pre-forging.  (From the look of the beta info that's out, Fractured will be the name for Mastery gems instead of armor pen, which is going away, and they will be red.)

      So if you don't need hit, what do your change your stats to?  Well, intellect is replacing spellpower, but it's more than likely your gear is going to have that on it anyway, so that's not going to be an option.  Most spell casters have a haste soft cap to reach for, but it's more ambiguous with mages - it's very unlikely you'll reduce your arcane blast all the way down to a second, so fairly often haste is a stat of slightly less or equal value to spell power (Int in the case of cata) and is a good choice if your piece does not already have any.  Crit doesn't scale as well with arcane as it does with fire and frost, but it's still better than being over hit cap and isn't a bad addition to the pool.  If your gear already has all these stats, you can just as easily add some mastery for those yummy bonuses we discussed.

      For the shaman, I suspect all our gear is going to have a slap of spirit on it, and we'll probably rarely see another piece with hit, with the exception of elemental tier gear for the set bonuses.  On one hand, this is great because that's only one set of gear we'll need when we change specs!  On the other hand, elemental and restoration don't always stack the same things.  While haste is an excellent stat for both specs, the soft cap is different between them and elemental CAN still benefit from being over cap.  However, with elemental, you still want spellpower, now intellect, over haste.  This deals more with gemming than reforging or enchanting, but it's certainly something to pay attention to if you're sharing gear.  With all the Mp5 changing to Spirit when the stats change over, I suspect elemental shaman will find themselves drowning in hit, so that'll be the go-to stat for reforging if you have it anywhere on your gear as a secondary stat.  Please not that spirit cannot be reforged.  You're stuck with it.  Like mages, intellect and haste are the top two stats once cap is reached and crit comes in behind.

      By  no means am I saying to take mastery last after all the other stats; in fact, due to the bonuses, it'll probably be the first thing you put on your gear once the patch drops since there's no other source.  Since all the bonuses are increased by a percentage, there will likely be a mastery cap, though it'll be pretty high I imagine.

      When you get a chance to reforge, play with the stats a little.  It costs the amount you could sell the item for to change it, each time.  However, if you screw up and decide you don't like what you did even after it's done, you can restore the item to it's original unforged stats for free.

      Magic: Mage Glyphs in 4.0

      With 4.0 around the corner, a number of changes are going to hit us in the behind, causing us to reconsider how we play the game.  With the new glyph system included in the changes, mages have a number of new things to consider to get our stuff back in order and get used to the changes before cataclysm.  With the new system, once you buy a glyph you have it available forever and can switch back and forth between them freely.  Sure this is going to put a big dent in the pocket of the inscriptionists, but to be honest, how often did you flip glyphs around as a mage anyway?  Windsoar has posted a lovely compilation of all the new glyphs come 4.0 on her blog.  If you use the nice little table of contents she has on the top, you can skip down and peruse the mage glyphs.


      Looking at the different glyphs available , there seem to be some obvious choices in my mind as which to take for each spec.  Some are a little more obscure than others, but here are my thoughts on Arcane:
      • Prime Glyphs:  There are 5 viable prime glyphs for this spec, 2 of which I would consider the most effective for a flat dps increase and 3 that are more or less a personal choice.  The two I would say are best choices are Glyph of Arcane Blast and Glyph of Arcane Missiles.  With the changes to Arcane Blast's damage increase only applying to the spell itself and not others in the tree, your rotation will change slightly to include more Blast spamming than the 4 stacks and missile proc we were doing before.  I imagine it won't change that much as spamming Arcane Blast is a good way to run out of mana fast, so you'll want those missiles in there periodically to slow your mana drain.  This is where the second glyph comes in, increasing the crit chance of those missiles.  This goes hand in hand with the talents Master of Elements and Piercing Ice, not to mention Focus MagicGlyph of Arcane Barrage is a rather lack luster damage increase to a rarely used spell.  Should it come into play more in the rotation, it might be useful, but I don't suspect it will.  Glyph of Mage Armor and Glyph of Molten Armor are the last two glyphs that would benefit this spec.  The only real reason to take the Mage Armor regen increase is if you're burning through mana quicker than you can use your cooldowns to regain it.  Glyph of Molten armor is going to give you a better flat DPS increase.
      • Major Glyphs:  The only real essential glyph I can see in this list is Glyph of Arcane Power.  This glyph is a huge help for cooldown management.  Currently when an arcane mage starts a boss fight or is looking for burst in PVP, they use Mirror Image, Arcane Power, and Icy Veins all at the same time.  With the talent changes coming in 4.0, Icy Veins will be a purely frost talent and will be removed from our cooldown buttons leaving only Mirror Image and Arcane Power.  I suspect our cooldown management will change so that instead of blowing everything at once, we'll start using Mirror Image through it's duration and then hitting Arcane Power and using it again, similar to how Marksman hunters use their readiness ability to maximize their Quick Shots.  Following the first use of these cooldowns, I suspect we'll either work off the 2 min cooldown of Arcane Power or repeat the process after the 3 min cooldown of Mirror Image is up.  The reduced cooldown to Blink and Mana Shield are nice perks, but not quite as useful for PVE.  Now we find ourselves with two more slots for major glyphs and a few available choices for the spec, all of them seem rather a personal choice to me.  Glyph of Blink basically gives you a larger movement range and isn't a DPS increase at all, making it fairly useless.  Glyph of Evocation turns your big mana regen mechanic into a heal as well, which is frankly more useful in soloing and PVP than in a raiding or group environment as ideally, the tank is the one taking the damage and not the mage.  Glyph of Frost Nova gives you a bit more damage on a spell that's not a regular part of our rotation and would be used only in emergency situations.  Glyph of Ice Block might be useful in emergency situations as well, just in case you happen to pull aggro or your CC breaks.  Should that be the case, it might be a good choice in conjunction with Glyph of Frost Nova.  Glyph of Invisibility gives you a flat movement speed increase while invisible, making it moderately useful for aggro dump situations when you're standing in fire.  Glyph of Mana Shield decreases the cooldown on a spell I find myself rarely using in PVE group/raid situations, so might be better for soloing or PVP, unless you find yourself using it a lot for Incanter's AbsorptionGlyph of Polymorph is going to be useful in dungeons where we'll actually have to CC again for a change... now when that stupid rogue poisons your sheep because he's tab targeting and not paying attention, you can re-sheep and not worry about it.  Lastly we have Glyph of Slow, which increases the range of Slow so that it's equal to that of our Arcane Blast, meaning if we're going to apply it to something to kite, we don't have to move in any further.  With Nether Vortex, this may or may not be necessary, but that remains to be seen.
      • Minor Glyphs:  As before, the minor glyphs are only there for small changes that don't really do anything for your damage.  This remains the same after the change.  They're all based on personal preference.  Glyph of Arcane Brilliance and Glyph of Conjuring decrease mana costs in generally out of combat situations.  Glyph of Armors saves you having to recast your armors that often, though I prefer to leave mine on the same timer as Focus Magic so I can keep an eye on it's up time as well.  Glyph of Mirror Image may actually prove rather useful in PVE if the damage bonuses from your particular tree apply to those mirrors.  Otherwise it'll just make you harder to be found in PVP.  Glyph of Slow Fall removes the reagent requirement for the spell and Glyph of the Monkey and Penguin affect the appearance of your Polymorph. 


      • Prime Glyphs:  The big glyphs to take in this tree are Glyph of Fireball, Pyroblast, and Living Bomb.  All three of these are going to be regularly used in your rotation and the flat damage increase is a big plus.  The two armor glyphs previously mentioned could be used as well, but I doubt they'd be quite as useful.
      • Major Glyphs:  Unlike Frost and Arcane, there's no real obvious must-have glyph here, except perhaps Glyph of Dragon's Breath for AOE situations.  Glyph of Blast Wave is more or less for PVP or kiting purposes, but certainly not essential.  The rest of the glyphs are again situational.
      • Minor Glyphs:  See Arcane again.
      I'm looking forward to 4.0 hitting the live servers.  I took some time to test it on the PTR in all three specs and I have to say I'm intrigued about the changes.  I'm also very pleased that Blizzard has tried to make all 3 specs viable for mages in all situations, though I know we'll see some obvious forerunners on the DPS front.  See you in 4.0!