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WoWMar 7, 2016 1:00 pm CT

Arcane Sanctum: Arcane Mages in the Legion alpha

The latest Legion build introduced something of major importance to Mages — Arcane is now a playable spec in the alpha! As a result we’ve been able to take a look at the quest to obtain Aluneth, see how Arcane is playing after the changes to its Mastery, and check out an overhaul of AoE efficiency. Changes that have been speculated about can now be seen in action and it’s been helpful to read feedback from many Mages as they’re trying out the new Arcane.

Aluneth, Greatstaff of the Magna

The introduction of the Aluneth artifact weapon questline has created a bit of controversy, actually, since the quest itself is remarkably similar to the Discipline Priest artifact questline to obtain Light’s Wrath. Without giving specific spoilers, each quest culminates in the same place with the same goal and the end result is merely a different weapon. Some of the beginning quest givers are different. I enjoyed the Aluneth quest before it became clear the two chains are nearly identical, and now I’m not so sure. It’s not exactly fair to either spec to essentially share the scenarios wholesale.

I did a little bit of checking out the basic premise of the other scenarios for various classes and weapons, and it seems like many of them do share locations. If anything, I think the scenario for Aluneth is just fine for Mages. It might have been nice to have more lore about Aegwynn as part of the quest, but that’s a minor nitpick. It seems like an appropriate Mage mission to be sent on. If anything, it’s the Discipline Priest quest that might want to be a bit more different. It appears that right now this isn’t a mistake and it’s working as intended, although that may not be true. We’ll have to wait and see — hopefully this is just an alpha placeholder and not actually representative of how the quests will be later in development.


Arcane’s new Mastery in action

We’ve known since the initial Legion class preview series that Arcane stood to see the most changes of all the Mage specs in Legion. This is in keeping with the stated design goal to honor the “fantasy” of a spec. We’ve looked at the major changes that are happening with Arcane’s talents in a previous column, we won’t rehash them in exacting detail here.

Apart from a certain amount of talent redesign, the biggest change that’s affecting Arcane in the alpha is the major overhaul to Mastery: Mana Adept. We knew before testing even started that Arcane was in a place where the devs really wanted to take a look at how it was working and evaluate the mana-management mini game that has characterized Arcane for several expansions now. So we have the introduction of the new Mastery: Savant. Reports from the alpha suggest that this new mastery is a breath of fresh air compared to Mana Adept. The old design did have a counterintuitive nature, in a way it punished you for doing what Mages are intended to do: cast spells and spend mana. The new mastery has removed this wrinkle, instead increasing your mana regeneration rate and maximum mana by 8.0% (baseline). Arcane Charges increase the damage of affected spells by an additional 4.0% (baseline).

The easiest way to understand the impact of Arcane’s new mastery is like this: how much mana you have will no longer affect the damage you do, period. You won’t be burning and conserving the way that Arcane mages have had to do in the past. Your mana still is important to your play, of course, but in the sense that you want to make sure you have as much of it as you need, when you need it. Arcane Mages will still have access to Evocation on a 1.5 minute cooldown. Rather than being a limiting factor, your mana is now a major resource that you can burn through when you need it for burst damage. This is going to mean some very welcome flexibility about how and when you’re using your mana based on spell choice. You can let Arcane Charges remain at four stacks and just keep casting Arcane Blast during a burn phase, or fish for Arcane Missiles and reset the stacks with an Arcane Barrage as needed.


AoE Adjustments

With the addition of artifact traits like Arcane Rebound in combination with talents like Torrent, Arcane was already shaping up to have more varied options when it comes to AoE damage, an area that hasn’t been Arcane’s strength historically. The latest alpha build saw a significant boost to the damage that Arcane Explosion deals, from 54.5% of spell power up to a whopping 81.75% of spellpower. The major drawback to this is, of course, that you need to be in or close to melee range in order to utilize Arcane Explosion effectively and this has always hampered its usefulness to a certain excent.

It’s possible that the combination of AoE options including Arcane Rebound will help mitigate these issues. It’s been awhile now since Arcane Explosion has also had a 30% chance to grant an Arcane Charge when it hits. But on the alpha, it grants an Arcane Charge 100% of the time that it hits, and so its damage ramps up very quickly.


Secondary stats

Finally, this isn’t specific to Arcane exclusively but instead will impact all Mages. In the latest alpha patch notes Celestalon gives some specific values and design goals for the way that secondary stats on gear scale. He sets up the post as an optional “read this only if you like math” situation, but the takeaway is relevant to all of us. Essentially, you’ll all be familiar with the frustrations that stem from starting a new expansion and hitting level cap but struggling because the secondary stats on your gear just aren’t high enough. Celestalon even uses Fire Mages specifically in his example, because they’re probably the most obvious example of a spec that doesn’t perform well with low amounts of critical strike, and then later scale way out of control as their ilevels increase and their percentage of critical strike skyrockets.

But any spec of Mage is going to perform better with access to more of their preferred secondary stat. You can read about this in greater detail in the post linked above, but the least you need to know is that starting dungeon gear is going to be giving you more of your secondary stat than you would have had in previous expansions by a significant amount. It’s good news for all Mages as it’ll ease the transition between “freshly geared” and “geared to the teeth.” The unfortunate flip side is that you won’t see the kind of exponential growth in your secondary stats towards the end of an expansion that you would’ve seen before. This doesn’t matter as much as you might think, though, because it’s all relative. Secondary stats are changing in this way for every class and spec, and your levels of them should start to feel “right” sooner and hopefully stay that way for the rest of the expansion cycle.

That’s all of the important news from the alpha right now! Hopefully we’ll see more as raid testing continues and Fire and Arcane get a workout with their revamped talents and ability adjustments. I’m sure many of you are waiting for Frost to be unlocked, hopefully not dead last after Destruction Warlocks because I have a little bet going with Megan O’Neill about it.

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