Arcane Sanctum: The future of Mages in Legion
BlizzCon has come and gone and we’re now seeing a deluge of information! The official Mage class preview was one of the first to be available and we’ve received some details about where Blizzard is going with our design for Legion. I’ll give you the good news first: It’s all pretty good news! Although Mages weren’t mentioned very much at the BlizzCon panels themselves, this class preview is reassuring and welcome.
As we’ve discussed previously, Mages already have a strong class fantasy for each of our specs. We’re not seeing any major changes in that regard. Instead, we have some mechanical and quality of life adjustments to bring certain gameplay elements more in line with what we expect from playing a Mage. Each of the spec previews also includes an example of a spec specific talent, and we’ll be taking a look at those as well.
We’re going to talk about Arcane first because Arcane is the spec that is seeing the most dramatic changes of all the three specs. For several expansions now, ever since the introduction of Mastery: Mana Adept the meta game for Arcane has been mana management. This manifested itself in a very specific series of actions and spell casting designed to maximize damage through the output of mana in “burn” and “conserve” phases. While some Mages enjoyed this mini-game, others found it onerous or boring and were less engaged in the spec as a result.
This is a major change. The old Mastery is gone. Arcane’s new mastery is called Mastery: Savant. It increases your maximum mana by a percentage, and increases the damage bonus from Arcane Charges. Functionally, this should allow Arcane Mages to be more aggressive with their mana usage as their gear (and Mastery levels) increase. In this way it has the potential be more engaging, because we’ll have the ability to choose the emphasis placed on mastery in our gearing as well as how our rotation plays out, rather than ever feeling as if we’re playing by rote and must stick to a rigid burn/conserve rotation or else see our DPS fail to measure up. This promises to be both more fluid and rewarding and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out in practice.
Arcane Charges are still going to be central to the gameplay, but rather than being a buff, they’ll be tracked as a resource underneath your mana bar. For most Mages this will just mean an adjustment to however they were tracking the charges before, but functionally they’ll remain the same. Arcane’s gameplay is going to continue using many of the same core spells. We’ve been given an example of an Arcane only talent in the form of Quickening, a talent that adds a stacking 2% haste buff to Arcane’s primary nukes. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this has some serious potential. Just how many times can we get this to stack before needing to cast Arcane Barrage, and how much haste percentage are we talking about? We’ll have to see this talent in action along with any other new ones, but currently the future of Arcane’s gameplay becoming more dynamic and less restrictive looks very bright.
I’m optimistic about the Fire Mage preview for Legion. First of all, the description of the spec abilities is really on point. “Mistake their affinity for watching things burn as a lack of self-control at your own peril.” The devs get it. Fire Mages enjoy devastation but not in a wild, unhinged way – it’s more a question of scale. Fire isn’t seeing any change quite as sweeping as Arcane, but changes to two of our major abilities will still alter a core focus of Fire Mages previously.
First of all, Combustion is being changed completely. The explanation for why it’s being changed makes sense. Although a great Combustion could feel exceptionally rewarding, a poor one could send your overall DPS straight into the toilet. That’s not the kind of RNG that feels fun, especially when often the factors that went into lining up a good Combustion were largely out of your control and RNG dependent as well. Instead of being a damaging ability itself, the new Combustion is being redesigned as a cooldown. The description says “Engulf yourself in flames, increasing your critical strike chance by 100% for 10 seconds. Also grants you Mastery equal to your Critical Strike stat.” Now, we’ll see if this makes it live in its current form but I’m not going to spare much of a backwards glance for the old Combustion if this is what the new one does. It will be strange to no longer need CombustionHelper or its equivalent, but hopefully it will lead to more reliable and less random damage output.
Inferno Blast is also being redesigned. Instead of using Inferno Blast to generate a Hot Streak as well as spreading Ignite, the new Inferno Blast will no longer spread Ignite. IB will be off the global cooldown, castable while casting other spells, and its primary purpose will be triggering Hot Streaks so you can use it more readily for that. Your Ignites will be changing as part of an overall different approach that allows Mastery: Ignite to spread automatically to nearby enemies every two seconds. The range on this isn’t specified currently. I like that it retains some of the RNG element that Fire has always had but it takes on a more minor role and should feel like a bonus rather than punitive like a poor Combustion could be.
Finally, we have a glimpse at a Fire specific talent that’s being added: Cinderstorm. I like the sound of it already but it’s hard to judge without seeing it in action. Is a “spread” of cinders going to be a directed cone? Honestly, I’ll never say no to another spell that burns people, but there’s nothing revelatory here just yet.
The major change here for Frost Mages is the removal of Frostfire Bolt and a renewed emphasis on using Frozen Orb in its place, as Brain Freeze will reset the cooldown on Frozen Orb rather than triggering an instant cast FFB. Although I’ve always thought Frostfire Bolt was one of the nicest graphics, it’s true that it doesn’t make much sense from a practical standpoint. It’s fire, but also ice – it’s a Slushbolt? In any case, it’s going away and we won’t be throwing an ice ball that’s on fire at our enemies anymore.
The only potential issue I have with this change is my continued dislike of mechanics and spells that rely on traveling across the ground. Every iteration of this has been problematic in the past. I remember in Cataclysm there was a particular place on the floor in Maloriak’s room where if you cast any sort of orb it would just hang there uselessly. Occasionally orbs shoot off in a completely different direction, apparently intending to have a holiday of their own. I have definitely yelled “Where is my Frozen Orb going?!” on many occasions. So I have some reservations about this change, and overall I prefer targeted spells. We’ll see how this shakes out; I really hope that some of the issues with this mechanic will be addressed if it’s going to form an even more core component of Frost’s gameplay.
Last but not least, we have a glimpse of one of Frost’s spec-specific talents, the all-new Glacial Spike. This talent is interesting because it plays with Mastery: Icicles in a way that no other talents or abilities have previously. The description says “Conjure a massive spike of ice, and merge your current Icicles into it. It impales your target, dealing massive damage, plus the damage stored in your Icicles.” With a three-second cast time, it’s not a spell you can cash in on immediately but it sounds like it will deliver some serious punch in the burst department. It also freezes an eligible target in place for up to four seconds.
Taking this talent will mean that your Ice Lance no longer launches Icicles, so it’s effectively changing the way a Frost Mage uses Icicles. Whether you take this talent or not will be affected by if it’s more valuable to you to deliver Icicle damage instantly when you want to, or if you’d like a more calculated method of delivering a heavier spell and using your Icicles that way. It’s a really clever way of using an existing mechanic to give Frost Mages more choice in their playstyle.
Mages in Legion
This first reveal of Mage information is quite promising. Although things always change between development and launch, the direction and aim of quality of life improvements for all specs is definitely the right direction to be moving in. If Legion ensures that all Mages can enjoy playing their most preferred spec, we’ll be in a really good place as a class.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!
Join the Discussion
Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our commenting and community guidelines.