It's not that I dislike casting non-Arcane spells due to the color of the graphic on the screen, but more that I would dislike the 25% damage hit I will take while casting non-Arcane spells due to Arcane Specialization.
Either a VERY convincing mechanic would be needed to encourage the casting of cross-school damage spells, or the Specialization bonus would need to be changed.
For some insight on the Specialization bonuses. I decided to check out what Warlocks, Elemental Shaman, Shadow Priests, and Boomkin were getting. I immediately noticed how incomplete the mage specializations seemed in comparison. I mean every other class/spec combination, not just dps casters, have 2-3 specialization bonuses. Also every other caster spec has pushback protection as a specialization. All hybrid classes get their 100% crit damage bonus via specialization, and all casters get some kind of school/spell specific damage and a third effect. Though the other bonuses vary a little:
25% school damage - Affliction/Destro Warlocks, Shadow Priests
25% dual school damage - Boomkin
15% dual school damage - Demo Warlocks
20% dual school damage on only 3 spells Ele Shaman
So given this information, I think it's safe to conclude Burning Soul is going to be replaced and given to all mages as a specialization. Arcane could potentially gain multi-school damage for it's specialization, but it might come with a drawback. It's also pretty plain that each spec is going to get a third passive specialization bonus. Affliction seems to be the only "pure" dps caster spec that has a bonus, but I think we can safely assume it's a good example of how the third bonus will work. I mean the bonus is likely to be a re-purposed utility talent.
So whatever else might have been said about how far along mages are. As specializations go, mages seem to be the least finished.
It would be quite ironic if Arcane went back to a model where non Arcane spells became a standard part of the rotation. Towards the end of TBC, one of the Arcane community concerns (and complaints) was that mages wanted Arcane to be an independent spec - which didn't need to rely on casting cross school spells such as Frostbolt to fill in rotation gaps.
If we suggested to a Fire Mage that they should cast Arcane or Frost spells in their normal rotation, the response would be one of bemusement. If we asked Frost mages to cast pure Fire spells, the response would be similar. However, Frostfire bolt (together with Brain Freeze) did find a nice thematic solution to this - and Frost mages generally accept and welcome a Fire+Frost spell as a cool part of the rotation. Not some unusual, weird outlier tacked on which exposes poor design.
If Arcane were to cast non Arcane spells in rotation, there needs to be a more elegant solution than the equivilant of simply telling a Fire mage to cast Arcane or Frost spells. It just doesn't make much sense, and helps diminish the feel of being that spec. The mechanics and interaction between Frostfire Bolt and Brain Freeze is a good example of how something like this could be done.
Going with the Frostfire multischool logic, one example would be to give Arcane two new utility spells: "Spellfrost Bolt" and "Spellfire Bolt". Spellfrost bolt could be a mana management tool (Restores mana, which fits the frost/water theme well) and snares a target. "Spellfire bolt" could be a mean burn/nuke spell, costing tons of mana and letting you push out burst dps - or perhaps a ranged AOE spell (hits a target like a Fireball, then explodes with an Spellfire Arcane Explosion). Mana Restored/Damage would of course be related to number of Arcane Blast stacks, and consume them in the process. Suddenly having (4) stacks of Arcane Blast doesn't mean you automatically hit Arcane Missiles - you've got some choices with how to shed the stacks: For Burn damage? Mana regen? Aoe?
The idea of Arcane playing with magic by fusing different schools, could work quite well - especially since it might let said spells keep the benefits of the Arcane Specialisation.
Ideas like the aforementioned would be more likely to be welcomed by the community, whereas 'just cast fireball/frostbolt in the rotation' would likely eventually get the same sentiment it got in TBC. Arcane mages want to feel like Arcane mages. Cross spell schools for Arcane could work, but implementation is key.
To be fair to Blizzard the Arcane Mage in Cataclysm is a new and albeit counter-intuitive concept.
Every other dps caster is designed around the concept of putting as many spells on target, with the goal being that you run out of mana, just has the encounter ends. When you do this, and use all of your mana recovery abilities at the most optimal time, you have put as much damage on the target as possible for your character. The arcane mage appears different. It appears that rather than run out of mana, that the arcane mage will be rewarded for having the highest amount of mana possible while still casting dps spells.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a brand new concept. Arcane has the ability in WOTLK to do short powerful mana burn sequences by spamming Arcane Blast, past 4. This is an on demand ability to push a phase of an encounter or really lean into a boss in the final few percentages. It ruins our mana pool, but with so many other ways to replenish it is not hypercritical to the mage. What appears to have happened, is that Blizzard is not going to reward this style of play and instead will reward the more steady, AB X2 --> AM (Procced) or the myriad of alternative spam routines, all the while encouraging the mage to not go into a constant run of AB X4 --> AM/Arcane Barrage. It will require more control. It will require more mana management. It will penalize the player who decides to slip in a couple unwarranted Arcane Blasts, lowering his mana pool when it was not necessary.
My suspicion is that Blizzard is not going to try to balance the class around the 100% mana concept. Lets face it the first Arcane Blast is going to shave about 7% anyway (according to the tooltip). Instead the goal will be the be more controlled, and keep the mana hovering around another percentage, say 80-70%. A mage that can keep this percentage higher while still casting a rotation will be rewarded. A mage that averages 40-50% of their mana will be penalized.
Until we see how the mana balancing tools are implemented, I doubt that we can really see if the spec is balanced correctly. If evocation and mana gems are not up to the task, I would prefer a change to invisibility so that it mimics the shadow priests dispersion ability, (with a slight change that the longer you stay invisible the more mana you gain).
I also think that Blizzard is trying to find a way to make Arcane Barrage relevant. The spells implementation in Wrath was "chunky" and ultimately it was relegated to "use on movement" spell and/or utility fill in spell. This really is not saying much for the "51 point now 31 point" class defining ability. Forcing arcane mages to use the spell in a variety of different ways to maintain the mana pool makes it relevant. (Whether we want that to be the case or not)
Now to the question of whether it will be fun. Arcane will not be for everyone. If you like micro management of your mana pools and you are good at controlling your game play, then it might be the highest theoretical spec. My sense is however, that it will penalize loose play, will encourage pre-emptive Arcane Barrages to clear the stacks, and will play very completely differently from the other two specs. Overall I think this is good arcane was and still is the utility tree and now it is the mana control tree. Given the push in beta to make choices, arcane with a risk versus reward model balanced around mana consumption makes each choice relevant. The jury is still out on whether it is fun, or whether it is viable, or whether it is too hard to play. I am betting on a Love / Hate relationship, that might not lead to an easy mathematical style formula or optimal rotation.
One conclusion we can draw is that the Arcane Mage will favor short burst encounters, where you cast, pop a gem to 100% mana, cast, pop a mana pot to 100% and cast. Arcane mages may want to be Alchemists, with the ability to gain more mana from potions.
A few people here have skirted around this idea but I haven't seen it stated explicitly - perhaps having a small handful (or one) spell(s) not be influenced by mana adept could lead to the more engaging gameplay people are looking for. The spells could be from the arcane tree or from another tree, and a few possible directions could be taken, including:
1. Have your biggest burn-mana-for-max-dps spell not be influenced by mana adept: this would allow you to dump all your mana if you really need a burn or at the end of the fight, but obviously isn't sustainable and thus using it at the wrong time would kill your sustained dps.
2. Have your "regen" or low-mps cycle consist of these spells. This would allow you to do at least half-decent dps if you got into mana trouble, no matter how bad, while you wait for your evo/gem/whatever. Maybe at some point as your mana dwindles this rotation even becomes higher dps than those involving spells influenced by mana adept.
It may not solve all the problems, but having mana adept not influence everything may be an extra variable useful for hitting a sweet spot.
With the Spellfrost/Spellfire idea, it could just be a talent (or talents) that add that functionality to Fireball and Frostbolt, rather than adding new spells. New spells would work fine, of course, but I don't see them adding something like that baseline, and I'm not sure they want to add more spells in general.
Focus Magic and the selfish bonus of Arcane Tactics are both good places for something like this, if they went the route of adding that functionality to the current nukes. If they wanted to add it as a new spell in the talent tree (which I doubt), they could put Spellfire in place of Focus Magic, and Spellfrost... in place of Improved Mana Gem? Both of those are pretty boring, and the benefits gained from the spells could easily equal or surpass those talents, while giving the same benefits of damage/regen (as much as you could call Imp Gem as giving "regen").
Perhaps they could even have it where "Spellfrost" and "Spellfire" aren't affected by the mana increase of Blast, as they technically aren't Arcane spells, but benefit from the stacks and specialization because they do Arcane (+base element) damage? Then they could make it where blast did better dps than those spells, but had worse dpm (of course), so the most powerful rotation would be pure arcane spells, but using (spell)frost would give better regen and using (spell)fire would give better sustained, giving a pretty good theme.
Anytime you gain X mana using Mage Armor, Mana Gem, or Evocation, you gain Mana Adept buff. While Mana Adept buff is active all arcane spell damage caused is increased by Y, until Z*X extra damages were caused.
Y and Z are improved by Mastery Rating.
There has been something that has been bothering me about Arcane for a while now which I wasn't able to articulate very well, until now.
After playing through some BC dungeons on my frost mage, I realized that there is a significant hole in the Arcane mage's toolbox.
Arcane has no way to influence a battlefield apart from just damage.
How Frost does it.
I think I have lost count of the number of times I have managed to prevent a wipe on my frost mage.
I can, when needed (like when a tank goes down), exercise a level of control of the battlefield that is somewhat absurd. I can freeze enemies from range, blizzard kite them, or even stop a single enemy in its tracks (which is amazing for getting a runaway mob off of the healer long enough for the tank to taunt it).
In very hairy situations, like when the tank is getting low and the healer is having a hard time, I can use DF to take some pressure off, by preventing a particular mob from DPSing for 5 seconds.
Add to this the CoC freezes and FoF procs, and I feel pretty awesome having the ability to really have an impact on the battlefield beyond just "dpsing down the mobs".
Control as a core part of Magecraft.
I am of the belief that mages, as a class, need to bring some level of control over a battlefield. To me, it is a core aspect of the class.
Currently, Frost fulfills this purpose very well, Fire (with its new ranged snare blastwave) does ok (though it needs to be improved as well). Arcane on the other hand, has absolutely no way to influence a battlefield, especially from range. I realized that this lack of control options really causes a somewhat bland taste to playing an Arcane mage, above and beyond just the boring rotations.
So I was doing some digging on Mage Masteries, mainly Mana Adept. I'm starting to become concerned, because we seem to be discussing it without any idea of how it actually works. That's when I noticed something funny on MMO-C's DB entry for Mana Adept. It currently lists the secondary effect for Mana Adept as Spell Haste rather than % damage. So, I checked it against Wowhead's DB entry for Mana Adept. Unfortunately Wowhead seems to be a few builds out of date.
So, is Blizzard in the process of reworking Mana Adept? It could be an artifact of how MMO-C mined the data. But, then again both Flashburn/Frostburn have been changed significantly from their original version. I just don't know.
Arcane has no way to influence a battlefield apart from just damage.
I'm somewhat surprised at reading this. Do you discount classic arcane spells like Polymorph, Counterspell, Remove Curse and Slow as having zero impact on the state of the battlefield? Now added to these are a blink, its sprint, an AoE knockback, slightly more mage-centric than your proposal, hardly insignificant tools. Plus Time Warp, which isn't about mage control but does boost the power of your allies significantly, including the speed of their own control spells. You also have the gamut of tools that AREN'T arcane spells but still very much usable, like frost nova, cone of cold, and now curtain of frost. I'm really not with you on this lack of battlefield control - just because it isn't necessarily as focused as frost doesn't mean it isn't there.
So I was doing some digging on Mage Masteries, mainly Mana Adept. I'm starting to become concerned, because we seem to be discussing it without any idea of how it actually works.
What don't we know about it? It works in a linear continuous manner whenever you cast a spell at given % of mana, from 0 to its stated value bonus damage based on mastery; it's completely functional in beta right now. That secondary effect is very interesting, however such an effect might be in place only as a pre-existing mechanic that they can tweak if they ever decided to make a set bonus or another class-specific item with Mana Adept in mind. The base effect has not changed.
I'm of the feeling that the design goal of Masteries is for gear to have another stat to balance, not to make a change to rotations and class function. Certainly not quite as much as Mana Adept threatens to. Don't most other classes out there have VERY bland masteries, in terms of interaction? You do what the spec was meant to do, and mastery helps you do it better, not change it. Whether it be DoT/bleed/HoT power, or shield/block potency, or double shots/spells/swings, they're all just helping your abilities scale, not changing the ways you use them. It might be nice, as Zaldinar mentioned on Beta forums, that while theorycrafting fire he found a certain plateau of mastery we may consider weaving in FFB to benefit from its DoT. It might also be nice to plan arcane rotation cycles that optimize mana consumption. But at this point I don't want Blizzard to make mage masteries special, for the sake of complexity, and would hope they neuter these side effects to make Mastery a simple gear balancing game.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm with you on the opinion that the current arcane rotation is listless and sad. It relies on the same tools we have now on live only it is even more limited given the unavailability of unprocced AM and a longer cooldown on ABarr. To me, Mana Adept in its current form is a problem because at X mastery rating and above Y% mana(as a function of X) the bonus from it will outshine the bonus you can get from the core spell, Arcane Blast. If AB was tweaked so that Mana Adept never caught up to the benefit the AB buff provided then the mastery would not change the rotation. It would revert to an arcane flavored damage increase, less simple than others perhaps (more prone to burst and heavily dependent on fight length) but much simpler than it is now.
Given the limited state of ABarr and AM I can't say suggesting AB ramping faster but more potently (24% stacking to 3 instead of 18% to 4) is a great idea, I like a number of the others proposed so far, but it's an option to alleviate the complications of Mana Adept.
It's not really fair to list off abilities that are classified as Arcane but can be used by any spec. To see what speccing Arcane adds to your battlefield control, you'd have to look at what it can get that the other specs can not. Currently, Improved Blink and Counterspell are in the top two tiers and accessible by any spec. Things speccing Arcane can add are as follows:
Presence of Mind to make a spell instant.
Instant invisibility instead of fading to invisible.
Polymorphed targets are stunned for 3 seconds on being damaged.
Knockback from mana shield being destroyed.
Nether Vortex for free Slow casts.
That's a decent amount of new control spells, especially the polymorph stun which can be utilized every 10 seconds, but in a bad situation you'd very quickly expend all your options, which simply doesn't happen with Frost. The Vortex idea was pretty awesome sounding, and right in line with the time/space theme. There are a ton of talented abilities that could be dropped into the Arcane tree that would really expand their toolbox and require few additions to the game that would also fit the time/space theme. Examples:
Time Stop: your next Arcane Explosion stops time for any target it hits, stunning them for 3 seconds.
Reverse Blink: You cause your target to blink 15 yards backwards.
Anti-gravity well: You create a well of anti-gravity beneath your target, lifting them off the ground and making them unable to walk or run.
Lightbend: You expand a bubble around your target that bends all light away from them, temporarily plunging them into darkness and disorienting them for 10 seconds.
Are things like that needed? I'm not sure, but the extent of how clever you can be with what has been given so far is pretty limited, especially compared to Frost.
Time Stop: your next Arcane Explosion stops time for any target it hits, stunning them for 3 seconds.
This sounds much more interesting to me than Nether Vortex. I've said it before, but I just can't make myself like the talent, because even though it makes it easier to gain the benefits of TtW as well as control the target, it turns an active talented ability into something passive. I would rather see Slow turned into something interesting to use, perhaps Nether Vortex giving a Deep Freeze style mechanic where targets immune to the slow had something else happen instead. Now, that couldn't be a damage boost, because then it'd be required, but some other utility that would be helpful.
I just can't stand behind turning our utility passive, when we have so few things to worry about to begin with. They're trying to expand the gap between decent players and good ones for more classes, but this seems counteractive to that goal. Where's the skill in speccing into Nether Vortex so you can basically ignore Slow from then on? (besides PvP of course)
Without writing a novel here are a few quick ideas to add mana management tools to the tree:
1.) A "burnout" type ability, probably a cooldown, that would either allow us to cast spells using health instead of mana for 10-15 seconds, or that makes our spells free for that time but causes us to suffer a small percentage of the damage dealt. Somehow, allow us to take a risk during the fight and hurt our health pool to save mana.
2.) Improved mana gem isn't bad but it needs to do something more for our mana pool. This could range from the simple (% more mana on use) to the more complex (gives extra mana at lower mana levels).
3.) I'm a big fan of the suggestions for some sort of energy/mana siphon, a spellsteal version of mana burn if you will, but different from the warlocks' channeled spell.
4.) Give us some sort of mana feedback from damage dealt to targets affected by our Slow.
5.) This may be difficult technically, but a talent that clones a weaker version of nearby activated mana return effects (life tap, innervate, someone else's evocation, dispersion, etc) would be interesting.
6.) New version of Focus Magic, where we give one person a damage or crit boost and get mana back when they crit.
At the risk of making arcane "too different", one idea I've been toying with is abilities that dramatically affect mana. Perhaps:
1) A spell that consumes 100% of your mana but gives everyone in the raid (except you) 50% of their mana back.
2) A 'leech' mode (similar to Gilthanor's ideas above) where you steal mana instead of dealing damage.
3) "Mana bomb", where you channel a spell that consumes more mana the longer you channel it - and when you stop channeling it explodes for damage relative to how much mana you spent.
The idea is that your mana bar becomes much more erratic; the deltas are much higher. I suppose the negative is that it could be difficult to play (though some would certainly say that's a good thing). Also raid utility skills like #1 run the risk of making arcane mages a "required" role, which Blizzard is trying to avoid. But I think it would interesting to have a class where mana isn't just a slowly diminishing pool.
I'm somewhat surprised at reading this. Do you discount classic arcane spells like Polymorph, Counterspell, Remove Curse and Slow as having zero impact on the state of the battlefield? Now added to these are a blink, its sprint, an AoE knockback, slightly more mage-centric than your proposal, hardly insignificant tools.
I feel you have severely misunderstood what I mean by "battlefield control".
In your error, I think you have equated "has battlefield control" with "has non-damage spells". I guess I assumed that the term is somewhat self explanitory (after all, it is just a super set of "Crowd Control" which is a term many people understand quite clearly).
So, to correct your interpretation. Battlefield control (or influencing the battlefield) is like crowd control, but on a slightly larger scale (i.e. when the number of targets > 1). It also doesn't have as stringent of effect requirements, i.e. large scale snares can easily be classified battlefield control spells (so things like frost trap, or blizzard, or even frostfire orb).
To explain what I mean using examples, lets take your examples and prove by contradiction. You will never hear anyone say "Damn, that remove curse is a really potent CC spell", similarly, you will never hear someone classify Blink as a CC spell. However, spells like the ranged pet nova, deep freeze, blizzard slow, CoC freeze etc will easily be classified as spells that allow you to impart some form of control over an opponent or the battlefield.
With that out of the way, I hope you can see with a bit more clarity what I was getting at.
Now true, Arcane mages have polymorph, but so do all other mages. The point I was getting at is that beyond the somewhat basic CC spells that all mages (nigh on all classes now) get, there is a enormous gap between Arcane mages and Frost mages as far as battlefield control goes. This was the glaring hole in the toolbox that I wanted to address.
Furthermore, it would be unwise to just "hand waive" away battlefield control as something "frost focuses on", since given the new design in Cata, such 'focus' will not work. I.e given that all specs will do the same amount of damage, you cannot then expect spec A to be the "damage and battlefield control" spec and spec B be the "just damage" spec and expect any form of balance in spec selection.
In short, you can't just say "oh arcane can't have battlefield control since I have arbitrarily decided that such a thing is frost exclusive. Oh and frost will be able to do as much damage as arcane too, so I guess you are SOL".
Such phrases will just not work, especially given that Arcane has nothing right now which it does exclusively.
Instead of a "leech" (as suggested by Tyfon, Gilthanor, and others), which would end up gimping us on bosses that had no mana, perhaps the following:
No longer consumes the Arcane Blast debuff, but its damage (and mana cost) continues to be affected by the debuff.
As is currently implemented on Beta and Live, does not proc Missile Barrage.
Remains instant cast with a 5 second cooldown.
In addition to its damage, it places a stacking buff (to 5) that restores X mana every 2 seconds for 10 seconds, where X scales (slowly) with Mastery points. X is not affected by the AB debuff.
Provides us with an additional mana management tool.
Rewards players skilled at keeping the buff rolling, but tuned correctly, would also penalize those who simply use ABarr on cooldown as it would lower their dps.
The additional mana income would allow us to go into burst mode (i.e. Arcane Blast spam) without as much "worry" that we'll be gimping our dps for a significant amount of time when our other mana management tools are on cooldown (evo, mana gem, etc.).
Would provide us with a little bit of help for those times when our MB proc is being stubborn.
Would provide additional value to our 31 point talent.
Could no longer use ABarr to clear our AB debuff, which would mean that either we continue AB spam in hope of a MB proc or cast a couple non-arcane spells until our debuff falls off.
It doesn't address any of the other concerns brought up in this thread about AoE, additional CC, etc. but does address the central concern about the lack of tools to manage our mana in conjunction with Mana Adept.
A simple way to make it boss friendly is to give it the deep freeze treatment. If the target has no mana, health is drained but the mage is still given mana. My only concern with this is that it would need to be weak enough damage that it wouldn't be overpowered when used on non-mana players.