[WoW] Mage Ability Flow in MoP III

Posted on November 23, 2011


Excerpt from Blizzard's official Mists of Pandaria Mage talent calculator

Last night, Blizzard released the first rough version of the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator, complete with ability progression, for each class and spec.  While the information released is far from what will ship with 5.0, it is an incredibly valuable insight into how things will be changing in the new expansion and, of course, the first official information I have to compare to my speculations in the first and second installments of my Mage Ability Flow series.

Changes to the Blizzcon-Revealed Talent System

Blizzard's Mists of Pandaria Mage talent calculator

True to their word, the dev team has already made several changes to the talent system in the weeks between Blizzcon and now.  Referring again to Christian Belt’s talent system analysis for WoW Insider for tier nomenclature and captures of the original talents:

Tier 1: Still the “freezy/CC tier”.  Ice Ward, a new ability, replaces Cone of Cold which has returned to baseline status.  Ice Ward fills Shattered Barrier’s functionality with the added bonus that it can be cast on any ally.

  • Ring of Frost (30 yd range, 1 min cooldown): Summons a Ring of Frost, taking 2.50 seconds to coalesce.  Enemies entering the fully-formed ring will become frozen for 10 sec.  Lasts 12 sec.  10 yd radius.
    • Coalesce time reduced from 3 seconds to 2.5 seconds.
  • NEW: Ice Ward (20 sec CD): When an enemy strikes the target, all enemies within 10 yds will be frozen in place for 5 sec.  1 charge.  Lasts 30 seconds.
  • Frostjaw (30 yd range, 20 sec cooldown, 1.5 sec cast): Silences and freezes the target in place for 8 sec.  Lasts half as long versus Player targets.

Tier 2: Switched with Tier 4, this is now the position of the “Ice Barrier tier”, named for Belt’s strong opinion that out of the choices available, most mages, PvE or PvP, regardless of spec, will choose Ice Barrier.  This is even more likely now that Ice Barrier’s cooldown has been reduced.

  • Mana Shield (12 sec cooldown): Absorbs 1734 damage, draining mana instead.  Drains 1.0 mana per damage absorbed.  When your mana shield is destroyed, all enemies within 6 yards are knocked back 12 yards.  Lasts 1 min.
  • Blazing Speed (1 min cooldown): Suppresses movement impairing effects and increases your movement speed by 50% for 4 sec.  May only be activated after being affected by a movement impairing effect.
  • Ice Barrier (20 sec cooldown): Instantly shields you, absorbing 9050 damage.  Lasts 1 min.  While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be delayed by damage.
    • Cooldown reduced by 10 seconds

Tier 3: Still the “movement/DPS tier”.  Arcane Flows was given a duration, preventing it from being cast during a stationary rotation to get a jump on the cooldown before a movement phase, possibly allowing for two uses in the same short period.

  • Presence of Mind (1.25 min cooldown): When activated, your next Mage spell with a casting time less than 10 sec becomes an instant cast spell.
    • Cooldown reduced from 1.5 to 1.25 minutes (-15 seconds)
  • Scorch (40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast): Scorch the enemy for 866 Fire damage.  Can be cast while moving.
  • Arcane Flows (1.25 min cooldown): Invoke the flow of Arcane magic, allowing the next two non-instant Mage spells cast within 8 sec to be cast while moving.  The spell may be cast while a cast time spell is in progress.
    • Cooldown increased from 45 seconds to 1.25 minutes (+30 seconds)
    • Now only lasts 8 seconds
    • Can now be cast while casting a spell

Tier 4: Now the “defensive/survivability tier”.  Cauterize now activates only half as often, while Cold Snap’s cooldown was reduced by almost 40%.

  • Greater Invisibility (3 min cd(?)): Instantly makes the caster invisible, reducing all threat and removing two damage over time effects.  The effect is cancelled if you perform any actions.  Lasts 20 sec.  Replaces the Invisibility spell.
    • The new version doesn’t list a cooldown.  The Blizzcon reveal stated a 3 minute cooldown, while the Mists of Pandaria iteration of standard Invisibility has a 5 minute cooldown.  I believe the 3 minute cooldown is more likely as it provides more incentive to use this tier to upgrade Invisibility.
  • Cauterize: An attack which would otherwise kill you will instead bring you to 60% of your maximum health.  However, you will burn for 10% of your maximum health every 1.50 sec for the next 6 sec.  This effect cannot occur more than once every two minutes.
    • Internal cooldown increased from 1 minute to 2 minutes (+60 seconds)
  • Cold Snap (5 min cooldown): When activated, this spell finishes the cooldown of your Ice Block, Frost Nova, and Water Elemental spells.
    • Cooldown reduced from 8 minutes to 5 minutes (-180 seconds)

Tier 5: The “fiery AOE/slow tier” has been bumped down from tier 6.  Blast Wave was indirectly nerfed by the current system, as Flamestrike is no longer listed as a baseline ability, meaning Improved Flamestrike (Blast Waving multiple targets automatically Flamestrikes the same location) is no longer an ability either.  While it is possible that Flamestrike was accidentally left out and Improved Flamestrike is folded in to the baseline version, only activating if Blast Wave is taken, it is also possible that Blizzard intentionally removed Flamestrike to emphasize this tier.  Time will tell.  (That was a mage joke.)

  • Blast Wave (40 yd range, 15 sec cooldown): A wave of flame radiates outward from the target location, damaging all enemies caught within the blast for 1043 Fire damage and are slowed by 70% for 3 sec.
  • Dragon’s Breath (20 sec cooldown): Targets in a cone in front of the caster take 1454 fire damage and are disoriented for 4 sec.  Any direct damaging attack will revive targets.
    • Cooldown reduced from 30 seconds to 20 seconds (-10 seconds)
    • Disorient reduced from 5 seconds to 4 seconds (-1 second)
  • Slow (35 yd range): Reduces target’s movement speed by 50%, increases the time between ranged attacks by 30%, and increases casting time by 15%.  Lasts 15 sec.  Slow can only affect one target at a time.

Tier 6: The aptly named “Polymorph tier) is now the final tier for mages.  Double Polymorph has been changed to affect both targets for an equal but reduced duration, making it far easier to manage.

  • Sickly Polymorph: Your polymorphed targets regenerate life at 10% of the normal speed.
  • Heavy Polymorph: When a target you’ve polymorphed is damaged, that target is stunned for 3 sec.  This effect cannot occur more often than once every 10 sec.
  • Double Polymorph: You may polymorph an additional target, but your polymorph spell lasts 75% of the normal duration
    • Instead of Polymorphing a second target for 50% the normal duration, this spell now reduces the duration of Polymorph to 75% but the second target suffers no duration loss.

Comment: In terms of ability flow, the most important change is that Cone of Cold was returned to baseline status and Ice Ward was created.

Mists of Pandaria Ability Flow

The general “abilities at even levels, talents at odd levels” framework was eliminated, making it impractical to continue my old system of observing which levels were expected to grant bonuses but failed to do so.  I instead divided the bonuses into combat abilities and other bonuses and highlighted dry spells in between combat abilities as well as any spots that lacked a bonus within the past two levels.

Levels 1-10

  • Level 1: Frostfire Bolt
  • Level 3: Frost Nova.  Moved up from level 8 and taking the place of Arcane Missiles, which is now an Arcane-spec ability.
  • Level 5: Fire Blast
    • Range increased from 20 to 30 (+10), integrating the range bonus of Improved Fire Blast (rank 2)
  • Level 7: Blink.  Once level 16, it replaces Frostbolt.
  • Level 8: Counterspell.  Moved up one level from 9, replacing Frost Nova.
    • Range increased from 30 yd to 40 yd (+10 yd)
  • Level 9: Evocation.  Formally level 12, now occupying the space Counterspell once held.
    • Integrates the cooldown reduction of the current Arcane Flows (rank 2) from 4 min to 2 min (-120 seconds)
  • Level 10: Arcane Blast/Fireball/Frostbolt
    • Arcane Blast stack damage bonus increased to 20% from 10% (+10%) and now affects all Arcane spells, but no longer decreases Arcane Blast cast time.  Can now only be cleared by Arcane Barrage.
    • Frostbolt slow increased from 40% to 50% (+10%)

Levels 11-20

  • Level 12: Arcane Barrage/Pyroblast/Summon Water Elemental.  The original spec bonuses learned at level 10 in Cataclysm.
    • Pyroblast has integrated Hot Streak to an unknown capacity.  The chance to proc is not listed, nor is the duration of the effect.
  • Level 14: Polymorph
  • Level 15: Ring of Frost/Ice Ward/Frostjaw
  • Level 17: Shatter (Passive)/Teleport: X.  Teleport moved up from level 24.
    • Teleport: X no longer requires a Rune of Teleportation.
    • Teleport: Theramore is currently listed as a level 17 ability, but between the upcoming attack on Theramore and the unfinished state of the calculator, this seems like a mistake.
    • Shatter (Passive): Multiplies the critical strike chance of all your spells against frozen targets by 3, and increases the damage done by Frostbolt against frozen targets by 20%.
    • Equal to the current Shatter (rank 2)
  • Level 18: Cone of Cold
    • The slow has been reduced from 8 seconds to 2 seconds (-2 seconds)
  • Level 20: Apprentice Riding

Levels 21-30

  • Level 22: Arcane Explosion
  • Level 24: Improved Blink (Passive)
    • Improved Blink (Passive): Increases your speed by 70% for 3 sec after casting the Blink spell.
    • Equal to the current Improved Blink (rank 2)
  • Level 25: Glyphs
  • Level 26: Ice Block.  Moved up from 30 and replacing Scorch..
  • Level 28: Ice Lance
    • Range increased to 35 yd, integrating rank 2 of the current Ice Shards talent.
  • Level 29: Remove Curse.  Moved up one level from 30.
  • Level 30: Mana Shield/Blazing Speed/Ice Barrier

Levels 31-40

  • Level 32: Slow Fall
    • No longer requires Light Feather
  • Level 34: Frost Armor.  Moved up from 54 to replace Molten Armor, which has been moved far, far down the leveling progression.
    • Now has a 3-second cast time and infinite duration, and no longer costs mana.
    • No longer reduces physical damage taken, but the movement and attack slow is now guaranteed.
  • Level 36: Burning Soul (Passive)
    • Burning Soul (Passive): Reduces the casting time lost from taking damaging attacks by 70%
    • Equal to the current Burning Soul (rank 2)
  • Level 38: Conjure Refreshment
  • Level 40: Journeyman Riding

Levels 41-50

  • Level 42: Portal: X
    • No longer requires a Rune of Portals
    • Portal: Theramore is currently listed as a level 42 ability, but between the upcoming attack on Theramore and the unfinished state of the calculator, this seems like a mistake.
  • Level 43: Improved Counterspell (Passive)
    • Your Counterspell also silences the target for 4 sec.
    • Equal to the current Improved Counterspell (rank 2)
  • Level 45: Presence of Mind/Scorch/Arcane Flows
  • Level 47: Mirror Image.  Moved up by 3 levels from 50.
  • Level 49: Living Bomb.  Now baseline for all specs.
  • Level 50: Wizardry (?) + Glyphs
    • Wizardry is not listed in the current calculator, but both Priests and Warlocks retain their bonuses, unchanged, and earn them at level 50.

Levels 51-58

  • Level 52: Blizzard + Teleport: Secondary + Portal: Secondary
    • Blizzard mana cost significantly reduced from 74% base mana to 30% base mana (-44% base mana)
    • No longer requires Rune of Teleportation/Portals
  • Level 54: Arcane Missiles/Inferno Blast/Brain Freeze (Passive).  Takes the place of Frost Armor.
    • Arcane Missiles has integrated the Improved Arcane Missiles and Missile Barrage talents, firing 5 waves over 2.50 seconds
    • Arcane Missiles appears to no longer have a chance to be triggered by other spells.  The lack of a cooldown indicates that it can be chain-cast, and the lack of a mana cost indicates that it will fill the role of a mana conservation tool.
    • Inferno Blast (30 yd range, 8 sec cooldown): Blasts the enemy for 1202 Fire damage and spreads and Fire damage over time effects to nearby enemy targets within 12 yards.  Your other damage spells have a 10% chance to cause your next Fire Blast to stun the target for 2 sec.  Replaces Fire Blast.
      • Integrates Impact (rank 2)
    • Brain Freeze (Passive): Your direct damage spells have a 15% chance to cause your next Frostfire Bolt spell to be instant cast and cost no mana.
      • Equal to Brain Freeze (rank 3)
      • No longer triggered by Frost damage with chilling effects, but by direct damage.  Frostfire Bolt can now trigger Brain Freeze.
  • Level 56: Invisibility.  Moved up from level 78, replacing Frostfire Bolt.

Levels 58-68

  • Level 58: Mage Armor.  Moved up from level 68 occupying the spot of Arcane Brilliance.
    • Now has a 3-second cast time and infinite duration, and no longer costs mana.
    • No longer increases resistances or mana regeneration.
  • Level 60: Greater Invisibility/Cauterize/Cold Snap + Expert Riding
  • Level 62: Arcane Power/Combustion/Icy Veins + Teleport: Shattrath
    • Arcane Power cooldown reduced from 2 min to 1.5 min (-30 seconds)
    • Combustion cooldown reduced from 2 min to 45 seconds (-75 seconds)
    • Combustion’s effect may be altered.  The DoT effect is “based on the Fire damage effects already on the target” but it is unknown whether it combines the existing effects at the current 100% rate.
    • Teleport: Shattrath no longer requires a Rune of Teleportation.
  • Level 64: Spellsteal.  Moved up from 70.
    • Range increased from 30 yd to 40 yd (+10 yd)
  • Level 66: Deep Freeze + Portal: Shattrath
    • Deep Freeze no longer damages targets permanently immune to stuns
    • Portal: Shattrath no longer requires a Rune of Portals.
  • Level 68: Conjure Mana Gem.  Moved down from 48.
    • Only has one charge but appears to restore significantly more mana (46717 compared to 11800-12404 at 85)

Levels 69-80

  • Level 70: Artisan Riding
  • Level 71: Teleport: Dalaran
    • No longer requires a Rune of Teleportation
  • Level 72: Ritual of Refreshment.  Moved up from 76.
    • No longer requires Arcane Powders.  Mana cost significantly reduced from 80% base mana to 27% base mana (-53% base mana)
  • Level 74: Portal: Dalaran
    • No longer requires a Rune of Portals.
  • Level 75: Blast Wave/Dragon’s Breath/Slow + Glyphs
  • Level 77: Arcane Orb/Flame Orb/Frost Orb
    • Arcane Orb (40 yd range, 1 min cooldown) : Launches an Arcane Orb forward from the Mage’s position, dealing 302 Arcane damage every second to all nearby enemy targets for 15 sec.
      • Compared to its cousins, Arcane Orb damages everything in its range
    • Flame Orb has integrated the explosion effect of Fire Power (rank 3)
    • Frost Orb (40 yd range, 1 min cooldown (?)): Launches a Frost Orb forward from the Mage’s position, dealing 302 Frost damage every second to the closest enemy target for 15 secs.  Targets damaged by the Frost Orb are slowed by 40% for 2 sec.
      • Equal to the current Frostfire Orb (Rank 2) but without the bonus to Frostfire Bolt’s chill effect.
  • Level 80: Mastery: Mana Adept/Ignite/Frostburn (Passive) + Master Riding
    • Ignite is equal to the current Ignite (rank 3)

Levels 81-85

  • Level 82: Time Warp.  Moved up from 85.
  • Level 85: Teleport: Tol Barad + Portal: Tol Barad
    • No longer requires Rune of Teleportation or Rune of Portals

Levels 86-90

  • Level 86: Molten Armor.  Moved far, far down from 34.
    • Now has a 3-second cast time and infinite duration, and no longer costs mana.
    • Molten Armor no longer damages attackers, increases crit chance, or reduces the chance to be critically hit.  Instead, it reduces the duration of harmful Physical effects by 25%.
  • Level 87: Alter Time
    • Alter Time (3 min cooldown): Alter the fabric of time, causing the caster to return to their current location, health, mana, and conditions after 4 sec.  Effect negated if the caster dies within the 4 sec before the effect occurs.
  • Level 90: Sickly Polymorph/Heavy Polymorph/Double Polymorph

– – –

As you can see, many mage abilities have been modified, and the new passives fill spaces which may have otherwise been left empty.  There are currently four existing mage spells which are unaccounted for in the new system:

  • Mage Ward (36)
  • Flamestrike (44)
  • Arcane Brilliance (58)
  • Focus Magic (Arcane tier 6)

Blizzard has expressed the desire to have all buffs fit in the categories of health, attack power, spell power, melee haste, spell haste, crit, mastery, and stats.  Arcane Brilliance will likely be reintroduced to fill the spell power role, and Focus Magic if reintroduced would fill the crit role.  I discusses Flamestrike earlier, and as for Mage Ward, it’s possible that since all mages will have access to Ice Barrier that Blizzard intends for players who depended on Mage Ward for extra survivability to “cash in” that playstyle choice in talent tier 2.

It’s fairly guaranteed that we’ll see new Teleport/Portal spells for the faction hubs in Mists, probably at 83 and 85.  Their absence can be attributed to MoP‘s ‘in-progress’ state.

The 30s to mid-40s are barren in terms of active combat toys, giving only Frost Armor which barely passes my threshold as a combat ability.  Northrend leveling suffers as well, though to a much lesser extent thanks to the “fiery AoE/Slow” talent tier and the Orb spec abilities.  Blizzard will probably pick up on this and rearrange some things during future passes that are sure to come over the next several months.

Comparing the Cataclysm Mage and the Mists Mage v.1

It’s a bit difficult to directly compare the two systems in such a graphical way, since the splitting of talents and spec really did a number on ability cadence.  Very roughly speaking, however, the Mists system does a better job of keeping things fresh in Outland, while Northrend and Cataclysm content is slightly worse for wear.  The major sticking point for me remains the stretch between 31 and 44.  Though no part of me believes Blizzard did this intentionally, this result makes sense: since Cataclysm refreshed most of Vanilla content, the oldest leveling bracket is now Outland.  In lieu of a redesign, the new talent system has alloted a bigger ability list to the 59-68 range, taking those resources from the newer areas.

In terms of conscious decisions, I think that Blizzard refused to allow the 1-20 trial experience to lose any of its excitement.  Between this and the Outland coincidence, something had to fall flat, and 31 through 44 makes sense: it’s an intermediate range where dungeons still don’t require too much especially if heirloomed party members are present.  For example, plate-wearing tanks are still in mail armor through 2/3 of these levels.  The essentials gained from 1-20 still do the job here.  It’s as players progress through what was once new or end content that they find quests and encounters that require more than the barest toolkit, and easing new mages into their more specialized tools starting at level 45 gives them ample time to grow comfortable with the new abilities before being put to the test.

– – –


It’s hard to write a conclusion for something that is 100% guaranteed to change.  For now, I’ll say that Blizzard did throw a couple new toys at us and went through with unstacking bonuses at various levels in order to spread them out more.  As a result, we’re left with about the same number of blank spaces as I had predicted, unaccounted-for abilities notwithstanding.  Once the dev team gets all its ducks in a row, we’ll come out better than I had predicted thanks to the spec system.  Three quick notes before a slightly longer spec evaluation:

  • Our armors have been significantly nerfed – Mage Armor and Molten Armor no longer confer DPS benefits to the Arcane and Fire specs.
  • Burning Soul is finally a baseline ability, giving all mages pushback protection.
  • We no longer need reagents for our non-combat utilities.

Of the specs, Arcane is receiving the most significant overhaul.  The spec finally receives its first ranged AoE in the form of Arcane Orb, while Arcane Missiles now fills a mana conservation role to offset the loss of Mage Armor’s regeneration effect.  Arcane Barrage is now the only ability that clears AB stacks and appears to be a higher DPS, less mana-efficient alternative to Arcane Missiles during a conserve phase: using Arcane Barrage costs mana and instantly restarts the Arcane Blast cycle, whereas using Arcane Missiles three times (cutting the third cast short) allows the stacks to fall off naturally and consumes no additional mana.

Fire must adjust to a world without Improved Hot Streak and level all the way through Northrend before receiving Ignite, but gains Living Bomb at a much earlier level.  Meanwhile Frost is currently without the Fingers of Frost passive ability, but otherwise retains its core rotational abilities at early levels.  The change to the “PvP spec” mentality appears to be the largest difference the third mage spec will face.

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