I have been playing primarily Arcane Mage since Nighthold and I feel like I have a solid grasp of the identity of the spec and enjoy it immensely. I have always understood the glass cannon gameplay and it is definitely one of the things I enjoy the most about Arcane. Shadowlands has obviously taken further steps to tweak the feel of that gameplay and while I really have enjoyed my time on beta thus far, there is feedback that I would like to provide on the components that I do not like.
1. Covenant Equity
There is a decision I have to make as a Mage to invest in one spec or be able to multi-spec, however that decision has never felt so meaningful as it does in Shadowlands currently, I will focus on the covenant abilities since I believe soulbinds are still being implemented fully.
Necrolord is a no-brainer decision for Arcane, it shores up the largest weakness the spec has had since Legion began, low target count and ranged cleave. It’s actually a complete joy of a button to press and because of it’s cooldown syncing with AP it feels like a true moment of power.
The same cannot be said for the other covenants, Kyrian simply does not play well for Arcane, it comes up too frequently in the rotation and at inopportune times for Arcane to leverage. Adjustments in play-style for Radiant Spark are awkward and do not mesh well with how the spec is played normally, this makes it sometimes not even desirable to use Radiant Spark from moment to moment.
Mirrors of Torment sounds so cool on paper and the animation looks great as well, however there is one major problem, it’s simply too situational, whereas the alternative 3 abilities are always something you want to use, the Venthyr covenant ability is something you’ll be saving for uninterruptible casters, perhaps even losing casts of this ability in a raid or dungeon due to how fight timings or pulls are aligned. While this spell has the benefit of being uniquely interesting for Mages in PvP situations, in PvE it is too situational to merit considering over Necrolord in many situations. And as we have seen with Fire and Arcane this tier, if you can do comparable ST damage and get free cleave, you’ll end up being the choice 99% of players want to migrate towards.
Yet again, Shifting Power is a beautiful graphic and has an interesting premise for how it’s implemented. The problems arise when you weigh the potential cost of the spell being in your arsenal. This means a six second channel time (reduced by haste) and an AOE radius of only 15 yards, this latter point is perhaps less an issue for Arcane Mages in dungeon content where you’re locked into melee for AOE damage.
2. The Setup
Charged Up, Mirror Image, Skeleton, Rune of Power, Arcane Power, Touch of the Magi
I will spend the least amount of time lamenting why the setup for Arcane is a problem because I feel like this has been echoed enough, both on these forums as well as within the community. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed playing Arcane on the raid testing bosses this past week, despite the setup, I feel like Skeleton, Touch of the Magi and Arcane Power’s cooldown work very well together to shore up some of Arcane’s weakness while also providing more flexibility in how we use our burst. However, 9 seconds of casts and GCDs are simply too many to remain viable in the competitive world of raiding or M+. During testing AP was not resetting on boss combat reset, I assume this is a bug, however I also noticed Skeleton was being cancelled on combat start, meaning I could not precast it to offset some of Arcane’s setup to precasts.
Assuming those 2 issues are addressed as I hope they will be, there is another major barrier to the setup feeling acceptable to play in competitive environments, specifically Charged Up and AP. Both of these GCDs need to be reconsidered in what they add specifically to the Arcane gameplay. CU specifically has no counterplay, the animation is trivial (and observable even without the GCD) and CU represents a massive barrier in the Arcane setup being offloaded onto precasts. Without CU’s GCD, you could cast everything precombat except TotM (again, assuming the skeleton doesn’t purge on raid combat in the future). AP on the other hand does have a counterplay and is a powerful cooldown, however it does not add anything outside of just being a GCD in the setup; you don’t necessarily feel AP anymore, especially when it’s being sandwiched between RoP and TotM. This is a GCD that could be cut without anyone caring, but I would propose a different idea to alleviate this as well, what if after the huge setup of Charged Up, Mirror Image, Skeleton, Rune of Power, Arcane Power, Touch of the Magi, you were rewarded by Arcane Power giving you the ability to cast while moving or making AB an instant cast spell. Preferably some action, almost any action, would be taken here to address the opener as it is simply too punishing as it stands right now. With how it is now, the glass cannon feels like it’s rolling down a hill.
This spell is unique and is a major factor in why I changed to playing a Mage in Nighthold. It sets up moments of glory and allows for a lot of high octane gameplay. I currently run the Arcane Dream, a discord for Arcane Mage discussion, and I can say without a doubt that the removal of this spell is most likely the thing that bothers the most people and has the greatest negative feedback associated. This is even so despite the addition of Altered Time, which, while similar, is simply no replacement for Displacement.
I cannot say much more for Displacement, it’s a big feels bad exchange for Altered Time and I would argue that, if anything, it should be converted into a talent to compete with Shimmer and Slipstream.
I will likely continue playing my Mage in Shadowlands Beta and probably when the game goes retail as well. My primary goal is to see Shadowlands be revered the way Legion was, and ultimately this effort must start with gameplay. Shadowlands has made a few bold changes for Arcane and some of them I welcome with open arms. But I would also like some focus to be put on the above concerns.
Thanks for reading!