June 23rd has been announced as the official release date for patch 6.2. Along with the new zone Tanaan Jungle comes the new Tier 18 raid citadel, Hellfire Citadel. The patch introduces very few core class changes in terms of mechanics and gameplay, but adds some new elements to the class with new T18 set bonuses and a unique class trinket from Archimonde. In this post, I plan to summarize some of the 6.2 Mage analysis.
Similar to the last few times I did this, most of the following is just a recap of all the discussion and testing from the last few months. You probably won't find much new in this post if you've been reading every forum post, hanging around IRC, or actively taking part in PTR testing.
Disclaimer: This post is a personal opinion piece, reflecting extrapolated conclusions from 6.2 SimulationCraft, individual spreadsheet-based analysis, feedback from PTR testing, and general Mage discussions that are spread over the internet.Read the follow-up to this post at http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1694" target="_blank !
As of 6.2 launch, Doom Nova from the Prophecy of Fear trinket is no longer triggered by Icicles. The bug has been fixed.
There have been some discoveries in the last few days since this post was published. Notably, Frost with the Archimonde trinket and 4T18 is extremely strong, and Arcane has very strong (but unreliable) AOE with the Prophecy of Fear trinket. I will make another write-up just before Mythic HFC is released, near the end of the week.
Simulations are performed with the latest version of 6.2 SimulationCraft based on PTR Build 20157 (Post hotfix). Charts are meant as suggestive data, and not meant to represent absolute differences for any comparison. There are known inaccuracies with the sim, and I will try to mention them to give perspective on charts.
Gearing and Stats
Interesting talent/spec Combos
Single Target: Arcane > Frost >> Fire
Due to a bug with Icicles triggering Doom Nova from the Prophecy of Fear trinket, currently we are seeing Frost ahead of Arcane on PTR. This is most likely a bug, is not modelled with simulations, and will most likely be fixed. It adds a substantial amount of DPS (~7%) to Frost.
450s Patchwerk, Single Target
Frost received ~20% buffs to all 3 core spells (Frostbolt, BF-FFB, FoF-IL). Nothing has changed much for Arcane, with the Mastery nerf and Arcane Missiles buff balancing each other out. Fire on the other hand, is substantially weaker on single target due to the removal of 2T17's double Inferno Blast. Keep in mind that with the heroic chart, Frost is usually higher than you would expect; This is because PC-Frost and high duration Water Jets are very hard to fully utilize in practice. On a non Patchwerk fight, Arcane is likely to pull farther ahead.
Frost also won't stay strong for the entire tier. As gear improves and we progress into mythic, Arcane will pull further ahead. While T18M sims cannot be considered anywhere close to accurate due to the ring, they do show an increased margin between Arcane and Frost:
I am aware some streamers were quoted as claiming that Fire is the best spec for everything in HFC. Unfortunately, I see no reason for this to be the case. Earlier during PTR testing, Fire numbers were heavily bolstered by usage of the overpowered healer trinket, Intuition's Gift (http://www.wowhead.com/item=124232/intuitions-gift" target="_blank). That is no longer available to us. Now, the removal of double Inferno Blast, high itemlevel crit trinkets and innately weaker spellpower scaling, all contribute to Fire lagging far behind on single target.
Low target cleave: Frost >= Fire >= Arcane
450s, 2 target
450s, 3 target
It is quite hard to evaluate cleave fairly. On 2 targets, Frost has an edge - especially so, if the Doom Nova bug is taken into consideration. The Archimonde trinket also adds to this, by buffing Ice Lance. Arcane performs strongly on low target numbers as well, due to a mix of single target strength carrying over and the Prophecy of Fear trinket. As numbers increase, Fire becomes capable of abusing Living Bomb, and starts to pull ahead. Overall, I would consider Frost as having the edge on cleave fights - at least for now.
Mass AOE: Fire >> Frost > Arcane
450s, 8 target
Not much has changed since BRF in terms of AOE. Fire is still far and away superior, due to a mix of Pyroblast/Ignite/Combustion/Living Bomb spreading with Inferno Blast. Frost suffers slightly compared to BRF, due to AOE capability not benefiting from mastery, and the set bonuses do very little to help. Arcane's AOE weakness is more mechanical than numerical in nature; Arcane Explosion continues to be a troublesome spell, due to dangerous effects preventing the Mage from being within melee range.
In general, most of our set bonuses offer 6-8% increases.
450s single target. Note that 2T18 is slightly overvalued due to pet delay not being modelled
450s single target and 8 target.
450 single target and 2 target. Note that 4T18 is currently not modelled well, because longer Water Jet duration requires APL updates.
Simply put, there is no reason to hold onto any T17 bonus. Get T18 as soon as you can. All T18 set bonuses are intentionally balanced to be stronger than T17 bonuses by a measurable margin, for all specs. This applies even more with itemlevel gains. It is also worth noting that the tier bonuses provide fairly strong benefits for the spec niches.
For Arcane and Fire, the set bonuses can be considered as passive bonuses that don't change our rotations at all. For Frost, the 4T18 bonus causes a huge disruption by increasing the duration of Water Jet by 2.5x. This will lead to a lot of undesirable proc munching, and force many BF/FoF usages during Water Jet. The optimal way to play with this bonus is still being discussed, and there is no consensus as of yet. The class trinket (which will be discussed later) further complicates things.
A notable effect of the Arcane set bonus is that it increases the DPS variance considerably. This is due to the pet summoning mechanic, which is a 35% chance on casting Arcane Missles, which is itself a 30% proc on all damaging spells. Due to how each Temporal Hero not only does damage but also adds a multiplicatively stacking damage buff (http://ptr.wowhead.com/spell=190623/temporal-power" target="_blank), Arcane will see harsh DPS swings from Temporal Hero RNG.
Patch 6.2 includes some exotic trinkets worth of mention. Before that though, there are a number of traditional ones:
Iron Reaver Piston: http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=124227/iron ... on&bonus=0" target="_blank
The Piston was originally one of the strongest trinkets on the PTR, but a very late 25% nerf to its itembudget causes it to fall out of favor with all Mage specs. It is still decent for Fire Mages, but pales in comparison to other options.
Desecrated Shadowmoon Insignia: http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=124228/dese ... ia&bonus=0" target="_blank
As might be expected, mastery trinkets in general work well with Arcane Mages. Being an RPPM buff trinket, this can also be subjected to double-trinket-proc tricks on pull. Unfortunately, the low itemlevel causes it to fall behind its elder siblings, especially since they have strong mechanical synergy - which I will mention later.
Chipped Soul Prism: http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=124545/chip ... sm&bonus=0" target="_blank
The prism is a world boss drop, and has a very high amount of stats due to how the itembudgeting formula works. Unfortunately, as a world boss drop it only comes with one difficulty version. This trinket is actually very strong, and is very attractive to players who do not have access to heroic HFC drops. Fire Mages in particular benefit a huge amount, due to their strong secondary stat scaling.
Unblinking Gaze of Sethe: http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=124229/unbl ... he&bonus=0" target="_blank
The Unblinking Gaze is a deceptive trinket. It has an AOE effect, but is actually one of the strongest single target options. The "laser beam" effect is capable of hitting both Prismatic Crystal and the enemy, benefits from haste scaling, is affected by player multipliers such as Incanter's Flow, Arcane Power and Mana Adept. As of this moment, it is considered best-in-slot for Fire Mages.
Prophecy of Fear: http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=124230/prop ... ar&bonus=0" target="_blank
Similar to the Unblinking Gaze, the Prophecy of Fear is an extremely strong single target trinket with an AOE effect. Again, it can impact Prismatic Crystal and is affected by all player multipliers, including Mana Adept. Currently, there is a bug with Icicles triggering the explosion effect. This greatly inflates the value of the trinket for Frost, and is almost certainly a bug.
The Prophecy of Fear is by far the strongest trinket for Arcane, and there is likely no other class that benefits nearly as much, aside from the currently bugged Frost. Even without the icicle bug, it is still considered best in slot Frost Mages, holding a slight edge over Gaze. If you're Arcane or Frost, you will want to get your hands on this trinket as soon as possible. Fire on the other hand, cannot benefit much from it, due to their low spell impact frequency.
450s, single target
Tome of Shifting Words: http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=124516/tome ... ds&bonus=0" target="_blank
The Tome of Shifting Words offers a different effect for each spec, and also holds different value. Currently, it is considered best-in-slot for Arcane and Frost, while Fire can mostly forget about it.
For Arcane, using the trinket means intentionally using extra Arcane Blasts during Arcane Power, as long as your mana can sustain through the buff duration. It increases your burst damage greatly during these periods, but comes at the expense of your normal sustained damage. Combined with Prismatic Crystal, this allows for extreme controllable burst damage. It is also speculated that the trinket will have very strong synergy with the Legendary Ring, Nithramus. Note that you will want to unglyph Arcane Power with the trinket; otherwise, you will run into mana issues.
For Frost, the trinket offers little in terms of burst damage, but instead bolsters regular rotation damage by a large amount. It causes gameplay disruption, making the player want to cast a Frostbolt before each FoF-IL, which can be rather painful when player with talents such as Frost Bomb and Thermal Void. Due to Ice Lance being the main source of Frost cleave damage, this trinket bolsters this niche very strongly.
Stats and Gearing
With the new boss-tiered itemlevel system in Hellfire Citadel, gearing is a little bit more complicated than previous tiers, where you would just look for ideal secondary combinations. Itemlevel dictates overall itembudget, which most importantly determines the amount of intellect on the item. In most cases, higher itemlevels will still indicate stronger items due to increased intellect. Players should avoid focusing too heavily on having "the right stat".
For Fire and Frost, stat priorities are very similar to previous tiers. Exact priority is still dependent on your gear/talents/fight scenarios, but as a rough outline:
450s, single target
Fire: Crit > Mastery >= Haste/Multistrike > Versatility
Mastery's value for Fire decreases slightly due to double-spread Combustions no longer being a thing. It is still very strong on cleave/AOE.
450s, single target
Frost: Multistrike >= Haste/Crit > Mastery >= Versatility
Multistrike value was reduced slightly due to Brain Freeze proc rate nerfs. Notably, Crit's value is inflated when Frost equips the Archimonde trinket. This is due to increased amount of Ice Lance damage, which benefits from Shatter.
For Arcane, stat priorities are heavily affected by T18 set bonuses. Without set bonuses, it is similar to previous tiers where Mastery is our strongest secondary stat, followed by Haste/Multistrike/Crit, followed by Versatility.
450s, single target
Arcane (without T18): Mastery > Haste/MS/Crit > Vers
Once we obtain T18 set bonuses, Haste is now our strongest secondary stat. This is due to Temporal Heroes not benefitting from our Mastery, and Haste also increasing the number of heroes summoned, along with the coverage of the damage buff they offer. There is also an interesting breakpoint-like effect where Temporal Heroes get an extra attack within their 10 second lifespan, when you obtain enough haste. Unfortunately, due to server delay effects, this breakpoint cannot be reliably reproduced.
450s, single target
Arcane (with T18): Haste > Mastery/Multistrike > Crit > Vers
Since best-in-slot lists are constantly in flux, I will not be offering any lists within this thread. Instead, there are a number of lists made by different players. Some rules are commonly agreed upon:
- Always choose the highest itemlevel weapon. The BiS weapon for all specs is the staff from Archimonde.
- All specs should equip 4T18.
- All specs should equip their Legendary Ring.
- Itemlevel gaps of 10 or above are unlikely to be overcome by better secondary itemization.
Interesting talent/spec combos
With this section I'd like to bring up some talent/spec combos that have not been popular previously, but made viable by 6.2 changes. I will not be covering obvious candidates that have been discussed to the death in previous patches, such as Supernova/Prismatic Crystal for Arcane, or Living Bomb/Kindlding and Living Bomb/Prismatic Crystal for Fire.
1. Frost: Unstable Magic/Thermal Void for cleave.
Prior to the 4T18 hotfix and a number of APL changes, UM/TV was a top contender for strongest cleave.
OLD 450s two target sims, dated June 10th
While the current talent comparison results differ slightly, this combo is particularly interesting due to the ease of execution. Prophecy of Fear and Water Jet is much easier to deal with in the absence Prismatic Crystal due to less target switching. This combination maximizes FoF and Icicle generation. With the current Icicle bug with Prophecy of Fear, it is possible that this combo is in fact the strongest cleave spec on PTR at the moment.
2. Arcane: Unstable Magic/Prismatic Crystal and Unstable Magic/Overpowered for single target.
450s single target
In 6.2, UM/PC and UM/OP are actually top single target combinations, pulling ahead of SN/PC. The reasoning is fairly straight forward: Both the Archimonde trinket and increased haste values (which SN does not scale against) benefit UM very heavily. OP allows you to use AM during AP without fear of losing out on potential ABs that can take advantage of the trinket. PC has a double dipping effect with UM, with UM hitting PC for 65% of your AB instead of 50%. With higher levels of haste, the gap between UM and SN will likely continue to grow.
3. Arcane: Nether Tempest/Arcane Orb and Unstable Magic/Arcane Orb.
450s, 4 target
The Arcane T18 set bonus is heavily dependent on the number of Arcane Missiles you cast. Due to Arcane Orb's ability to proc AM on each individual impact, the set bonus gives it a very strong boost on any fight with multiple stacked enemies. Arcane Orb was already considered a strong talent on fights such as Imperator and Beastlord, but the set bonus further boosts it. The uptime of heroes, uptime of the Temporal Power damage buff, combined with the ability to heavily the Prophecy of Doom trinket, means that these two combos might be the strongest sustained single target damage specs in the entire game, when given sufficient stacked adds to generate AMs.
As always, it is very hard to predict what exactly will happen in a tier, when there are still so many unknowns. In BRF I predicted Frost to do decently well on cleave fights, but I was quite mistaken; There really weren't any 2 target cleave fights where Frost didn't get outshined by Fire, especially with the discovery of 2T17 Combustions. That said, with limited knowledge of how raid testing has gone (since my guild died and didn't do any testing), here is my guess on how things will pan out:
T18 General Expectations: Arcane > Frost > Fire
Most of HFC is looking to be about priority (single) target damage, with very few mass AOE fights the likes of Blast Furnace. I've also previously mentioned that I never count out the strongest single target spec, because raid strats will always be developed to take advantage of that strength in one way or another. For that reason, I expect Arcane to pull farther and father ahead of the other two specs.
This prediction also implies that I expect the Frost Icicle bug to be fixed fairly soon. Right now, the trinket is being valued at well over 20% player damage. The rule of thumb for the trinket has been "anything that isn't a direct action, will not trigger Doom Nova". Icicles is a big outlier to this rule, and I cannot see any reason for them to keep things this way.
I am pessimistic about Fire. There are very few if any mass sustained cleave/AOE fights in HFC, and any burst AOE fight would be better served by having the Warriors and DKs handling it instead. If Council turns out to be two target cleave, then Frost would serve better on it. For all non-AOE situations, despite strong secondary stat scaling, Fire simply never reaches the point where it can catch up to its two siblings. Unless another weird, overpowered mechanic is discovered, I do not see Fire performing anywhere close to the level seen in BRF.
With secondary itemization being even less of an issue than before, I am expecting most progression Mages to either dual spec Arcane/Frost, or Arcane/Fire, and attempt most fights as Arcane.
As mentioned at the start of this post, much of this thread is just a compilation of data from existing threads and channels. Here are some threads that relate to 6.2:
6.2 PTR discussion: http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1565" target="_blank
6.2 PTR Testing: http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1614" target="_blank
Arcane SimC results (Frosted): http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1509" target="_blank
Fire SimC results (Frosted): http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=750" target="_blank
Frost SimC results (Frosted): http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1009" target="_blank
6.2 gear selection spreadsheet (Abides): http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1660" target="_blank
6.2 Fire Guide (Dutchmagoz): http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1135" target="_blank
6.2 Frost Guide (Melvyn): http://altered-time.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1110" target="_blank
Special thanks to Frosted, Navv, Kuni, Deathdefier, Ataxus, Altered Time forum staff, SimulationCraft project members, and all Altered Time forum members who have contributed to 6.2 discussions. Let us storm Hellfire Citadel well prepared and with confidence!