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Roxanne Flowers

Arcane Spirit Power (exploiting the 5 Second Rule)

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This is going to be another one of my (series?) of self-indulgent off-meta spec theorycrafting builds optimized for something other than producing yet another cookie cutter of highest damage output in the shortest amount of time.  In this case, I'm looking to cross-pollinate my experiences with using Starshards (on a Night Elf Priest) as a primary damage output spell to what ought to be the Mage equivalent in Arcane Missiles.  Specifically, I'm looking towards a specific spell rotation to enable what I think might be an overlooked possibility ... which might have been what Blizzard was intending for us to discover with the Arcane talent spec to maximize its mana efficiency, thereby enabling additional options when it comes to down ranking of spells to save mana for long duration PvE fights.

If all of this sounds too Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to you for comfort, feel free to ignore everything that follows below about using Damage Per Mana spell rotations.

 

So the first thing I've learned from playing a Starshards oriented build is that having a casting time interval of longer than 5 seconds is VERY advantageous to builds relying on heavy Spirit investment, mainly because the amount of mana recovered beyond the 5 Second Rule is considerable, particularly after 2-3 recovery ticks.  This results in a much lower net mana cost over time than chain casting an alternative spell with a much shorter casting time (1.5-3.5 seconds, for example) where you never 'escape" from the 5 Second Rule for spell casting.  In this regard, Arcane Missiles is ALMOST THERE at a 5 second channel duration, but not quite.

The second thing I've learned from using a Starshards oriented Priest build, where the emphasis is on Spirit rather than on MP/5 for mana recovery, is that casting time spells charge their mana cost at the END of the spell casting, while channeled spells charge their mana cost at the BEGINNING of the spell casting.  This means that, in the case of a Priest, casting Holy Fire (3.5 second casting time, no projectile flight time, 10 second DoT) immediately followed by Starshards (6 second channeling) is EXTREMELY friendly to the 5 Second Rule of mana recovery from Spirit, since the two spells can be cast practically back to back and the mana costs for both spells happen very nearly simultaneously.  This yields a performance in which a LOT of time spent casting spells is happening outside of the 5 Second Rule.  In fact, my usual "go to" rotation on my Priest is to Power Word: Shield/Holy Fire/Starshards/Starshards and then either repeat or switch to Wand to finish.  Even without 3/3 Meditation, with a Spirit heavy build, I'm seeing a LOT of mana recovery on my Priest using this spell rotation, such that downtime is substantially mitigated.

Now I'm wondering if something similar was the design intent for Arcane specs to take advantage of the inter(re)action between Arcane Missiles and the 5 Second Rule to make an Arcane heavy spec relatively mana efficient on net compared to the alternatives of simply spamming Frostbolt/Scorch/Fireball without ever getting out from under the 5 Second Rule.

Specifically, I'm looking at a rotation of either Fireball/(wait for impact)/Arcane Missiles/(repeat), Scorch/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) or Frostbolt/(wait for impact)/Arcane Missiles/(repeat).  Waiting for the combined casting time plus projectile flight time to target will EASILY allow for exiting from the 5 Second Rule during the rotation at the end of the Arcane Missiles channeling meaning that mana is being recovered from Spirit at full value during the casting time spent on either Fireball, Scorch or Frostbolt.

The casting time for a Fireball/(wait for impact)/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) casting would be 3-3.5 seconds (plus projectile flight time) plus 5 seconds of channeling, with all of the mana costs happening "around" the flight time of the projectile.  The reason for waiting to begin channeling Arcane Missiles is in case Arcane Concentration procs and you get a clearcasting rebate on Arcane Missiles, which will then maximize the mana recovery from Spirit during the rotation quite dramatically.  Obviously this means that the intended rotation will be "faster" at shorter ranges, due to projectile flight time, but no matter what the minimum time between launches of Fireballs will be 8 seconds (3+5) minimum, meaning no loss/clipping of Fireball burn DoT damage, even at melee range with no projectile flight time spent.

The casting time for Scorch/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) would be 1.5 seconds plus 5 seconds for a total of 6.5 seconds, with all of the mana costs happening back to back and thus making it possible to gain a "full" mana recovery tick from Spirit when casting a follow up repeat Scorch.

The casting time for a Frostbolt/(wait for impact)/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) casting would be 2.5-3 seconds (plus projectile flight time) plus 5 seconds of channeling, with all of the mana costs happening "around" the flight time of the projectile.  The reason for waiting to begin channeling Arcane Missiles is in case Arcane Concentration procs and you get a clearcasting rebate on Arcane Missiles, which will then maximize the mana recovery from Spirit during the rotation quite dramatically.  Obviously this means that the intended rotation will be "faster" at shorter ranges, due to projectile flight time, but no matter what the minimum time between launches of Fostbolts will be 7.5 seconds (2.5+5) minimum, which once again gets your Mage out from under the 5 Second Rule.

 

Now, where things start getting interesting with this is when you start getting into talent specs.

 

If building an Arcane/Fire spec, one option that quickly becomes apparent is investing in both Improved Arcane Missiles and Burning Soul so as to maximize your resistance to pushback while casting your spells.  And if you're going 31 talent points deep into Arcane and at least 12 points deep into Fire, you might as well orient your build around use of Scorch, for fast casting, rather than around use of Fireball.  Speculatively speaking, I'd be looking at doing something like this as an Arcane/Fire "battle mage" sort of build that is designed to resist pushback: 33/18/0

This gives you not only Arcane Power for "die in a double meteor strike" 3 Minute Mage performance using back to back double castings of (super juked) Pyroblast for impressive spike damage potential against a single target ... while also maximizes the power of Scorch through investments in Impact, Ignite, Incinerate and Improved Scorch, in addition to including Burning Soul and Pyroblast.  Both Arcane Power and Presence of Mind have 3 minute cooldowns, which works out nicely with a spell like Pyroblast (go figure, eh?).  This is a build that would be good for solo leveling where you can use a rotation of Scorch/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) in a way that yields at least 1 "full" mana recovery tick from Spirit every 6 seconds due to the 6.5 second rotation cycle for casting it while being highly resistant to pushback on spellcasting and which is able to make full use of any fire damage DoTs that get applied to the target without clipping their duration(s) with overwrites.  So long as you're not fighting Fire Immune (or heavily Fire Resistant) enemies, this doesn't look like it would be that bad of an option in a PvE setting.

 

If building an Arcane/Frost spec, the obvious option is to angle for Shatter in the Frost tree so as to maximize the critical hit potential of your spells.  In the context of a Frostbolt/(wait for impact)/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) spell rotation, this then means that investment in Frostbite becomes necessary in order to "set up" the benefits of Shatter, and furthermore that investment in Permafrost rather than in Ice Shards actually might have some merit.  That's because between the Frost Bolt flight time, the Arcane Missiles channeling time and the casting time for a follow up Frost Bolt (and its flight time) it's easy to start reaching 8-10 seconds worth of time between Frostbolt impacts on target to refresh any Chill effects on movement reduction.  If you're wanting to keep things Chilled (as opposed to Frozen) for the entire spell rotation, investing in Permafrost would be prudent to avoid any gaps in duration coverage.  The result winds up looking something like this and has a bit more "wiggle room" for moving talents around to suit personal preferences: 31/0/20

The downside to this build is that it doesn't have any pushback protection during the Frostbolt portion of its spell rotation cycle, but that's mitigated by use of Cone of Cold and Frost Nova in order to continue to play Keep Away from targets to kite them.

This build also makes possible two different methods of AoE beatdown ... either using Frost Nova on a herd to Freeze them and then apply "crit happy" Arcane Explosions (generating damage at almost a 1:1 damage per mana spent ratio PER TARGET when critically hitting for +50% damage at max rank before even including any spell power bonuses) to everything present until killed at close but still out of melee range ... or ... using "standard" Frost AoE farming strategies of using Frost Nova on a herd to Freeze them, step away from melee range, blink to open range, turn around and cast Blizzard (which does NOT critically hit anything ever!) from a distance to whittle things down while they trudge slowly towards you.  Additionally, a mix of these strategies would also be possible, where the rotation then becomes herd/Frost Nova/couple steps/Arcane Explosion/Blink/Blizzard and then reassess what needs to happen next (if anything) to mop up the stragglers.  Although it's hardly exact, 2-3 Arcane Explosions effectively equal the damage and mana costs of 1 Blizzard at any given Level.  Have a look ...

Level 22 Arcane Explosion Rank 2 = 57-64 Arcane damage for 120 mana (85.5-96 Arcane damage on critical hits)
Level 20 Blizzard Rank 1 = 200 Frost damage over 8 seconds for 320 mana (does not ever critically hit)

Level 54 Arcane Explosion Rank 6 = 243-264 Arcane damage for 390 mana (364.5-396 Arcane damage on critical hits)
Level 52 Blizzard Rank Rank 5 = 936 Frost damage over 8 seconds for 1160 mana (does not ever critically hit)
Level 60 Blizzard Rank Rank 6 = 1192 Frost damage over 8 seconds for 1400 mana (does not ever critically hit)

Without critical hits, Arcane Explosion scales poorly in relation to Blizzard in terms of damage production per mana spent before including spell power into the equation.  At Level 20-22, the damage per mana ratio is approximately 1:2 and 2:3 (against a single target) for Arcane Explosion and Blizzard respectively when neither spell crits.  But critical hits markedly improve Arcane Explosion's damage per mana ratio up to 3:4 (against a single target), which is rather dramatic, especially if you can "guarantee" that a target will be Frozen for (up to) +59% chance to critically hit (+6 from Improved Arcane Explosion, +3 from Arcane Instability and +50 from Shatter on Frozen targets).

Comparing the damage per mana against a single target when using Rank 6 of Arcane Explosion and Blizzard, the ratios look more like 2:3 for Arcane Explosion and 5:6 for Blizzard before including spell power into the equation when neither spell critically hits.  But again, critical hits markedly improve Arcane Explosion's damage per mana ratio up to 39:40 ... which is just barely shy of being 1:1.  So the "real power" of Arcane Explosion (not to mention its mana efficiency) lies in its potential to critically hit, and with Shatter offering +50% chance to critically hit Frozen targets, it becomes a relatively simple 1-2 combo of pairing Frost Nova with Arcane Explosion to unleash this power in an Shatter spec build.  At the same time, the option to Blink/Blizzard still remains available, granting additional opportunities and AoE strategies of engagement.

The loss of a single talent point from Permafrost yields a loss of 3% of movement slowing (72% instead of 75% on Blizzard use, or 47% instead of 50% on Frostbolts) which should hardly be noticeable, as well as a loss of 1 second of Chill effect duration (+2 seconds instead of +3 seconds) which ought to be within the parameters of durations needed by the build.  A 2+2=4 second Chill duration ought to be perfectly workable for Blizzard, since every hit reapplies the movement speed debuff.  Likewise a 7+2=9 second Chill duration on Frostbolt Rank 5, increasing to a 9+2 second Chill duration on Frostbolt Ranks 8+ ought to be adequate for a spell rotation lasting 8-9 seconds long (depending on projectile flight time and Player impatience) ought to be quite adequate for the intended purpose.

The overall intent of the Arcane/Frost build using a Frostbolt/(wait for impact)/Arcane Missiles/(repeat) spell rotation is to use Frostbite procs to enable extreme damage volleys from Arcane Missiles while simultaneously maximizing the mana recovery from Spirit offered by the rotation of spells.  In this context, Frostbite procs (5 seconds) are essentially entirely "spent" on making Shatter available to Arcane Missiles (5 second channel) rather than to follow on Frostbolt spells while at the same time optimizing for kiting potential thanks to Permafrost and making for an extremely efficient mana recovery from Spirit performance possible.

 

This sort of theorycrafting makes me wonder if these sorts of spell rotations are what Blizzard's Devs had in mind (over a decade ago) when they formulated the Arcane spec in the fashion that they did, where the design intent was to "mix" the spellcasting schools so as to yield an efficient use of mana on net through deliberate "weaving" of spellcasting around the 5 Second Rule.  Of course, we now know that the Players essentially REJECTED that approach in favor of simpler strategies to just repeat spam a single spell endlessly (Scorch, Frostbolt, Shadowbolt, etc.) in order to achieve the maximum production of damage in the shortest amount of time expended, so as to satisfy the Need For Speed when running through content.  So even if this winds up being a sort of "dead end" in terms of theorycrafting, it's still fun to meander through the "what if" scenarios of attempting to do something as odd as build a Mage for Spirit instead of Intellect (say wha?) and structure your gameplay strategies around producing maximum damage for minimum (net over time) mana spent, rather than structuring around maximum damage for minimum time spent.

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Must say, I have no input to further your theory, but do I find this type of rotation much more interesting/satisfying or even 'realistic' in terms of how a truly magical creature such as a priest or mage or warlock would think of their spells and abilities. I doubt an actual spellcaster would want to burn through their entire mana pool ASAP with one type of spell (frostbolt, firebolt, shadowbolt, etc), but rather would think of their tool kit in terms of longevity and efficiency. So, from a character fantasy point of view, which is one I think developers considered with greater weight back in the early days, your take on it makes a lot of sense.

This was a great read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.
 

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Certainly seems more challenging, but less in the realm of reality. I don't believe people would care so much about spell weaving and whatnot (or if they even knew about the 5 second rule back in 2005) to abide by such specs.

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5 hours ago, Funktion1 said:

This was a great read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

All part of the service ... ^_~

23 minutes ago, Sabre said:

Certainly seems more challenging, but less in the realm of reality. I don't believe people would care so much about spell weaving and whatnot (or if they even knew about the 5 second rule back in 2005) to abide by such specs.

To be scrupulously fair, the Path Of Least Resistance rarely makes use of the more challenging permutations of possibilities.  It's why the "simplest" answer is often the one adopted to become the Conventional Wisdom™ that everyone cites as their touchstone reference for how things "ought to be" in both games and real life.

I'm not sure when the 5 Second Rule of spellcasting was "discovered" by the Players, let alone thoroughly understood and incorporated into spell rotation strategies to optimize mana recovery from Spirit.  I know that it was realized at some point (by TBC perhaps?) because I remember running across a thread about it in Blizzard's official forums in the Druid section (of all things) detailing the relationship between Spirit and MP/5 stats when accounting for mana recovery while spellcasting, and that this was of particular interest to both Balance and Restoration Druids (since they were spellcaster subclasses, unlike Feral Druids, for the most part).  This may have been late 2005/early 2006 when I saw this (time blurs details like this after more than a decade) but it was starting to become appreciated.

The thing is, I'm the sort of person who looks at "The Box" of conventional thinking and decides to go hunting for other containers.  It's what led me to the (radical?) conclusion that Starshards for Night Elf Priests might have some overlooked potential in it (in vanilla PvE) which has gone underappreciated for more than a decade, since the Conventional Wisdom is that the spell is worthless trash ... and that assumption has never been seriously challenged.  Of course, the only "real" test of such an assumption is Combat, so I set out to make a build to test the theorycraft, and so far (through Level 32) it's been working just fine.  That experience of playing an "Arcane Priest" (since Starshards is an Arcane school spell) then made me, as already mentioned, start wondering if the same sort of playstyle might work for an Arcane Mage too.

Short answer: ... maybe?

Slightly longer answer:
There's enough structural differences between a Night Elf Priest using Starshards and a Mage using Arcane Missiles that it's really starting to feel like "A Horse Of A Different Color" once you finish translating the Lessons Learned from one class to another, especially since some things just don't translate all that well.  Stuff like how Priests can get Spell Power from Spirit by investing 25 talent points into their Holy tree ... but Mages have NOTHING even remotely similar.  Additionally, Priests have Spirit Tap which can double their Spirit for 15 seconds after making an honor/XP kill, which can "supercharge" their Spirit in some rather synergistic ways.  Mages get NONE of that action.  But what we have instead is Mage Armor, which lets us recover mana while casting at a pretty decent +50% rate, which is NOT peanuts.  Combine that with Arcane Meditation and you're actually recovering mana way better than any other class while continuing to cast spells.

The thing is, most Players look at Spirit as a "dump stat" for their characters, since the only "purpose" the attribute serves is to reduce downtime between fights and is therefore of remarkably little use DURING a fight (except for Spirit Tapping Holy spec Priests as mentioned above).  Consequently, the presumption is that the One True Path to combat endurance is to have as big of a mana pool as possible and just be a complete mana HOG at spending it as quickly as possible (so as to sit down and drink all the time).  Plenty has been written about gearing for MP/5 to sustain combat spellcasting and the attribute point equivalents when it comes to sustainment, but you almost never read anything about using the 5 Second Rule advantageously as a Mage to enhance mana endurance.  There's plenty of advice to healers about how to use (and abuse) the 5 Second Rule so as to keep their mana bars from depleting too quickly, but really nothing comparable for (direct) damage dealers ... which makes sense if you assume that healers are conventionally thought of as being "intermittent" casters, while damage dealers are thought of as being "constant" casters who simply never stop casting spells until their target is dead.  Under such a scenario, depending on your "uptime" of being able to get out from under the 5 Second Rule, Spirit as an attribute becomes more or less desirable in relation to MP/5.

Which is a longwinded way of saying I'm wondering if maybe we've been "doing Arcane wrong" as Mages for a really long time now, which would then explain why the spec is derided as being (decidedly?) inferior to both Fire and Frost in common parlance and multiple guides found in this forum.  After all, if you just "1 button spam" Arcane Missiles (even if they're improved) you're really not getting all that much of an advantage over doing the exact same thing with a "1 button spam" of either Firebolt, Scorch or Frostbolt.  But if we start thinking of the Arcane tree as being something "larger than just itself" and start looking for synergies in places that have previously been overlooked, some interesting edge case possibilities start to emerge ... and in this case the one that I'm looking at is a Damage Per Mana metric in which Spirit can play an unusually significant part in offsetting the costs associated with spellcasting, which presumably would relieve pressure on the need to downrank spells being cast in order to achieve a necessary benchmark of endurance when chain casting spells constantly.

Or to put it another way ... it's so crazy it just might work ...

Only way to know for sure is to test the proposition, which I'm in the process of doing with my own Mage that I'm playing on Darrowshire.

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Mages... do not go out of mana. Between a mage's evocation, four mana gems, robe of the archmage, celestial orb and major mana potions, you would be hard pressed to find a fight that requires actual spirit and mana per 5 second bonuses.

Equipping a spirit staff and wand during evocation makes you gain even more mana.

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So I've been intermittently playing the Frost version of the 31/0/20 build in the past 10 days or so and, I have to say ... it is frustrating/annoying as hell to play in ways that I wasn't anticipating.

Frostbite is supposed to proc 15% of the time, but as is usual for RNGesus will only do so when it doesn't do anything useful.  So I wind up Frostbolt to open, my target wanders beyond 30 yards ... and THAT is when Frostbite will proc ... to keep something beyond my 30 yard range.  Or it will seem to only proc off Ice Armor but (almost) never off Frost Bolt.

Making matters worse, it seems that Frostbite is extremely prone to breaking on damage.  I'll throw Arcane Missiles after a Frostbolt hit that procs Frostbite and ... the very first missile hit from the volley will break the Freeze effect, meaning I only wind up getting +50% chance to crit on ONE (of 5) hits from Arcane Missiles (which, of course, doesn't crit) instead of the 3-5 hits from Arcane Missiles that I was expecting to see.  So even when Frostbite DOES proc, more often than not I can't leverage it (successfully enough) to translate into a synergy with Arcane Missiles (or even Arcane in general).  I was hoping to see an increased throughput of damage from Shatter increasing the crit chances for Arcane Missiles, but ... in practice it rarely happens.  It's supposed to happen (roughly) 15% of the time, but it feels like it happens more like only 5% of the time (subjectively speaking).  In fact, the rarity of it happening combined with the (from my perspective) "early" removal of the Frostbite Freeze effect on damage just makes a lot of the assumptions I was making about the synergistic advantages between Arcane and Frost really not gel together to the degree that I was hoping for (or need, really).  Rather than the sum being greater than the parts, it's starting to play like the interaction between proc and relative positioning is turning into a "subtraction being greater than the parts" instead.

I figure then that at some point here in the next couple weeks or so I'll be paying for a respec to switch from the 31/0/20 spec, where I really wanted to believe that the talents that Frost had would be things that I could leverage and take advantage of with both Frost AND Arcane spells but which looks like the synergies just aren't there (enough) for the way I like to play ... over to the 33/18/0 spec for a using Pyroblast as an opener followed by repeating Scorch/Arcane Missiles rotation to finish.  I get the feeling that not requiring a debuff state on my target (like Freeze for Shatter) to take advantage of increased critical hit chance will make me happier as a Player.  If nothing else, I'll get way better leverage out of the Presence of Mind+Pyroblast combo than I ever could out of Presence of Mind+Frostbolt.  It'll also mean that I won't be completely reliant on Mana Shield to prevent pushback on casting (which is problematic against other casters, even in PvE).

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What is the purpose of this spec?  You say PvE but PvE can mean anything.  Is it for grinding mobs, or doing dungeons, or raiding, or all of these?  I don’t see this spec being good at all for raiding compared to the cookie cutter builds.

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3 hours ago, quasexort said:

What is the purpose of this spec?  You say PvE but PvE can mean anything.  Is it for grinding mobs, or doing dungeons, or raiding, or all of these?  I don’t see this spec being good at all for raiding compared to the cookie cutter builds.

It is literally a novelty only.

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Right now, DEFINITELY not raiding.  Raiding is its own "environment" with a very specialized set of pressures and preferences (first and foremost being fast kills by DPSers without drawing aggro onto themselves).

This is more of a thought/theory experiment than anything else, and the application I'm testing it in is Level ~30ish PvE content on Darrowshire at the present time.  Even if the spec itself is "non-viable" in a raiding environment, I'm thinking that the exploration of the game mechanics surrounding use of Spirit rather than Mp5 might have some interesting implications/applications when playing Mages ... hence why I'm bothering with any of this at all (in part because it seems that no one else has and/or no one else even wants to).

So even more specifically in answer to your question, leveling towards 60 quest progression PvE.

All of that said, in the past day (or so), I think I've come across the ultimate expression of the "stupidly long cast+channel" casting rotation that would maximize mana recovery from Spirit (5 Second Rule of casting) at the expense of just being stupidly long ... at least 11 seconds per rotation cycle.

That's right ... a Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles/repeat rotation ... which on the face of it just seems ... DUMB ... right?  I mean, it would basically be this ...

Quote

0 sec: start casting Pyroblast
6 sec: finish casting Pyroblast / start channeling Arcane Missiles
11 sec: finish channeling Arcane Missiles / start casting Pyroblast
17 sec: finish casting Pyroblast / start channeling Arcane Missiles
22 sec: finish channeling Arcane Missiles / start casting Pyroblast
... repeat until target is dead.

Incredibly stupid, right?  Lousy DPS.  Rock bottom.  Absolutely terrible!  Takes too long to deliver too little!  Corpse blasting at its finest!

Well ... yeah ... if the metric you're going by is Damage Per SECOND and not putting any value on the amount of Mana you're consuming or how fast you can recovery it.  But if you're not judging on Damage Per Second, but rather on Damage Per Mana ... things start changing, especially once you begin factoring in Net Mana Over Time costs in which mana recovery from Spirit gets factored in.

Why do I say that?  Well, consider that the typical One Button Spam rotations for Mages look like one of these options:

Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt
Frost Nova, Blizzard, Blizzard, Frost Nova, Blizzard, Blizzard
(Pyroblast), Fireball, Fireball, Fireball, Fireball, Fireball
(Pyroblast), Scorch, Scorch, Scorch, Scorch, Scorch
Arcane Missiles, Arcane Missiles, Arcane Missiles, Arcane Missiles, Arcane Missiles

There are other intermediate variations and mixtures, but you get the idea.  What do all of these rotations share in common?  Well, with the exception of the Blizzard rotation, none of them escape from being under the 5 Second Rule.  That means that between Mage Armor and 3/3 Arcane Meditation, very nearly all of these spell rotations spend 100% of their time recovering mana while casting at a 45% rate from Spirit ... and people have built their specs and geared accordingly.

But a Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles spell rotation would basically spend ~5 seconds (with Mage Armor and 3/3 Arcane Meditation) at 45% mana recovery while casting (during the channeling of Arcane Missiles) ... and spend 6 seconds at 100% mana recovery (while casting Pyroblast) ... during every rotation.

0.45 * 11 = 4.95 over 11 seconds
(0.45 * 5) + (1 * 6) = 8.25 over 11 seconds
8.25/4.95 = 1.6667 * 45% = ~75% mana recovery from Spirit (equivalent) per 11 second spell rotation

Think about that.  45% mana recovery from Spirit with "constant" casting of spells with a casting time of 5 seconds or less ... or the equivalent of ~75% mana recovery from Spirit with "constant" casting of spells (specifically Pyroblast and Arcane Missiles) where the mana costs get charged "back to back" so as to be extremely "friendly" to the 5 Second Rule of spellcasting, when looking at the same 11 second cycle time of spellcasting.  This means that the NET mana cost for casting a Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles rotation is substantially offset by the amount of mana recovered from Spirit during their LONG casting cycle.  Here ... look ...

Quote

0 sec: start casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)

1 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
2 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
3 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
4 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)

6 sec: casting Pyroblast / start channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)

7 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
8 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
9 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
10 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)

11 sec: finish channeling Arcane Missiles / start casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)

12 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
13 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
14 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
15 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
16 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)

17 sec: finish casting Pyroblast / start channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)

18 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
19 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
20 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
21 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)

22 sec: finish channeling Arcane Missiles / start casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Sprit)

... wash/rinse/repeat until target is dead.

Now, because mana recovery ticks actually occur every 2 seconds, there's going to be a little bit a "weaving" of the actual numbers that occur in-game, but you get the idea.  What amounts to "slow" casting winds up creating the opportunity to recover a LOT more mana from Spirit than would otherwise be possible with a faster/more rapid spell rotation because of the 5 Second Rule.  So even if your casting of Pyroblast and Arcane Missiles "costs" a lot of mana every 11 seconds (or so), you'll also be recovering a LOT of mana during the course of those 11 seconds.  If you factor the totality of those factors together, you shouldn't need to downrank either Pyroblast or Arcane Missiles that far (if at all?) in order to reach a sort of break even point where it is costing you very little mana to sustainably cast your spells.

The downside?  DUH!  Nobody wants to wait that long (11 seconds!) to produce a (full) damage cycle, even if doing so is incredibly mana efficient!

The only reason this sort of thing would work at all is because "cast" spells will charge their mana cost at the END of their casting time, while channeled spells charge their mana cost at the BEGINNING of their channel time.  That means that when alternating cast and channeled spells back to to back, the mana costs happen "together" in the middle of the cycle, and the longer the overall spell rotation, the more mana ticks you'll get outside the 5 Second Rule from Spirit ... which is then why a Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles rotation would be the most mana recovery efficient "perma" spell rotation you can achieve.

Okay ... but so what?

Well, the same logic applies to a Fireball/Arcane Missiles rotation ... to a Frostbolt/Arcane Missiles rotation ... and a Scorch/Arcane Missiles rotation.  Each of these rotations, when repeated, creates an opportunity to recover mana at 100% rate while continuing to spellcast ... although the longer the casting time of the elemental spell the more "efficient" the mana recovery from Spirit becomes, with Fireball/Arcane Missiles offering more mana ticks of recovery than the Scorch/Arcane Missiles rotation, and Frostbolt/Arcane Missiles lying in the middle.

Okay ... but so what?!

Well ...

One of the reasons why Frost is so widely viewed as being superior to Fire and Arcane specs is because of Frost Channeling, which can reduce the cost of Frost spells by up to -15%.  Combined with Shatter and 3/3 Master of Elements from the Fire tree and you can wind up with Frostbolt crits (retroactively) costing very little mana, making a 2/18/31 Frost Mage build something that is remarkably mana efficient for raiding.  Except ... when you're raiding, it is very common to downrank your spells to save mana, and since both Frost Channeling and Master of Elements work on a percentage basis, when you downrank the spells you're using you also reduce the amount of mana saved by your talents in absolute terms, reducing their value as ways to keep your mana pool full while continuously casting.

A spell rotation like Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles, with approximately HALF of its mana recovery ticks being outside the 5 Second Rule would not suffer this problem of downranking reducing the amount of mana saved from talents ... and would very likely be capable of sustaining much higher ranks of spells cast for the same amount of net mana loss over time as a downranked Frost spec.  Similarly, it would value Spirit a lot higher than is typical in comparison to Mp5, thanks to the 75% vs 45% mana recovery from Spirit efficiency (over 11 seconds of casting time) from pairing Pyroblast with Arcane Missiles as your primary go to spells for dealing damage.  How much "upranking" you'd be able to consistently and reliably be able to afford would be something dependent upon how much Spirit you have on your gear, and how willing you are to drink after every fight (like normal?), but you get the idea.

Anyway, I'm only blathering about this at all because it's a fun thought experiment.  After experimenting with an Arcane/Frost build and being disappointed by it the weakness of its synergistic potential, I'm now casting a raised eyebrow at Arcane/Fire and liking what I'm seeing in a net Damage Per Mana sense.

20 hours ago, Sabre said:

It is literally a novelty only.

Yup.  Totally.  But we can either play the game staying within the well worn wheel ruts of where EVERYONE has gone before ... or we can experiment with trying to break new ground a make new discoveries.  Right now, I've got the luxury of being able to explore my options better than I could a decade ago ... so I am.  Granted, what I discover might not be for everyone, but then I'm hardly looking for a "killer build" that literally trumps everything to become the new Flavor ot the Month cookie cutter for everyone else to (blindly) follow.  It's one of those "fast weapon versus slow weapon" kinds of things, where sometimes you have a situation of The Slower The Better for your build.

So as far as novelties go, I'm looking at a 35/13/3 spec that looks like this as being an interesting one for PvE leveling to 60, but with a little bit of fungibility on the allocation of the last 4 talent points (doesn't have to be 4/5 Arcane Mind).  Obviously, Molten Core and other Fire Resist heavy destinations would need something different, but as everyone keeps saying, Mages will switch from Frost to Fire in Naxx, so ... I'm not exactly worried about the longer term outlook over the extremely long haul.

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Still noodling around with this extremely oddball notion of using Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles as a standard rotation for a build, and as always I'm wondering if I've overlooked something (it's been known to happen from time to time).

In this case, I'm wondering what would happen if a short casting time spell like Scorch were inserted into the middle of the rotation, creating a Pyroblast/Scorch/Arcane Missiles rotation.  This would lengthen the overall (minimum) casting time for the entire spell rotation from 11 seconds to 12.5 seconds, which would then prevent the clipping of the very last DoT tick from Pyroblast being overwritten on the 11 second rotation cycle.

Switching to a Pyroblast/Scorch/Arcane Missiles rotation, in that specific order of casting, would result in ~6.5 seconds of mana recovery while casting (at 45%) and 6 seconds of mana recovery while casting (at 100%) during the Pyroblast portion of the rotation, for an overall mana recovery from Spirit rate of ~71.4% (barring Arcane Concentration procs which would bump this rate of recovery upward either not at all or only very very slightly).

Quote

 

0 sec: start casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
1 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
2 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
3 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
4 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)

6 sec: casting Pyroblast / start casting Scorch (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
7 sec: casting Scorch (45% mana recovery from Spirit)

7.5 sec: finish casting Scorch / start channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
8.5 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
9.5 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
10.5 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
11.5 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)

12.5 sec: finish channeling Arcane Missiles / start casting Pyroblast (begin 100% mana recovery from Spirit)
13.5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
14.5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
15.5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
16.5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)
17.5 sec: casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Spirit)

18.5 sec: finish casting Pyroblast / start casting Scorch (begin 45% mana recovery from Spirit)
19.5 sec: casting Scorch (45% mana recovery from Spirit)

20 sec: finish casting Scorch / start channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
21 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
22 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
23 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)
24 sec: channeling Arcane Missiles (45% mana recovery from Spirit)

25 sec: finish channeling Arcane Missiles / start casting Pyroblast (100% mana recovery from Sprit)

(6.5 * 0.45) + (6 * 1) = 8.925 / 12.5 = ~71.4% mana recovery from Spirit over 12.5 seconds

 

Now, what I find interesting about using this Pyroblast/Scorch/Arcane Missiles rotation in comparison to the earlier Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles rotation is how the change interacts with talents and DoT ticks.  By slowing the overall spell rotation from 11 seconds to 12.5 seconds, Pyroblast's 12 second DoT is allowed to run its full course and not have the last damage tick get clipped/overwritten by reapplying Pyroblast "too soon" to the target.  At the same time, an interesting inter(re)action with the Incinerate and Improved Scorch talents becomes an interesting possibility, where for long duration fights including Scorch in the rotation then makes the application of the Fire damage vulnerability debuff something easy to keep stacked on the target.  Introducing Scorch into the rotation also dramatically improves the return on investment in the Impact and Ignite talents (to get deeper into the Fire tree) with added chances to stun per rotation and added chances for additional fast DoT fire damage (which is Fire's response to Ice Shards).

Interestingly enough, doing this results in increasing damage throughput per unit of time duration, while costing very little in the loss of mana recovery from Spirit over the course of the entire rotation.  Pyroblast/Arcane Missiles yields a 75% mana recovery while continuously casting rate of return at the expense of dropping the last DoT tick of damage from Pyroblast ... while Pyroblast/Scorch/Arcane Missiles yields a 71.4% mana recovery while continuously casting rate of return, which is a loss of only -3.6% mana recovery rate (theoretically), while at the same time enabling vulnerability to Fire damage stacking.  This would seem to me to be an acceptable tradeoff in performance, provided you can afford the talent points for Improved Scorch, since it adds a bit of generosity to other Fire damage using Players, rather than being a purely selfish endeavor.

Because of this, I'm thinking that a Pyroblast/Scorch/Arcane Missiles spell rotation would essentially "demand" something like a (decidedly oddball) 31/18/2 spec if the Player is still interested in investing in Arcane all the way to Arcane Power (which I obviously am).  Definitely a "you're doing everything wrong" sort of build as far as the Conventional Wisdom is concerned, by relying on Pyroblast and Arcane Missiles as the route to achieve efficient production of damage from mana while leveling in PvE ... but I'm also wondering if the high rate of mana recovery from Spirit that a Pyroblast/Scorch/Arcane Missiles would be able to substantially offset the increased mana cost of using Arcane Power to provide "nuking" ability once every 3 minutes such that Arcane Power isn't as much of a double edged sword of OoM liability as it is in most builds.

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Interesting read. Especially interesting g for leveling and maybe useful in BWL in some scenarios.

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Haven't actually tried it out in actual gameplay yet, so everything is pure theory at this point.  But my Mage is Level 33 and as soon as I hit Level 34 and return from the "field" to train I'll be using a respec to switch into the 31/18/2 spec plan but look like a 12/13/0 build at Level 34.  Once I have something to report from that experience, I'll post it here.

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As much as I like this idea, for raiding you are giving up upto ~50% more dps for ~50% more mana recovery through spirit.

However, not raiding and 0 spell damage it ties with just frostbolt spam. Add in the free crits that frost does and you jump up in damage potential.

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