I have been raiding on my mage for all of Mists of Pandaria thus far. I really enjoyed the mage class leveling up from 89 to 90. However, as succinctly discussed on a youtube video by MikePreachWoW, the level 90 mage talents are the exact opposite of fun. The level 90 talents are largely a management problem that reduces the fun of the mage class, adds needless complexity, and goes against everything in the game’s encounter design. Lhivera’s Library has tried to fight against some of these types of critiques in posts, but this doesn’t change the fact that every raid day, I dread having to manage my mage’s level 90 talents when I’m learning new boss encounters.
Lets look at why all 3 of these talents (at least for PvE) work against me in raids and spoil my fun:
This is currently the talent that I use in raids. The goal of this talent is to use Evocate (a 4 to 6 second channel). If you are able to successfully complete this Evocate channel, then you get a massive damage buff that is the difference between sucking and being the worst mage ever, or actually being competitive. Mages who are able to maintain maximum up-time (note, by this I don’t mean casting evocation before the buff ends, but in starting your evocation cast as soon as the buff drops since evocation doesn’t do damage) on this 25% Invocation damage buff are able to be incredibly powerful. Here is why Invocation is the one thing I hate in raids but do anyway:
- Invocation causes me to die more often than I otherwise would die in raids. It encourages risky behavior. If I have 2 seconds left in my invocation channel and I’m standing in something likely to kill me in the next 3 seconds, sometimes I will choose to not interrupt my evocation cast and hope for the best. On bosses when I know I will have a period of time when I can stand still, I can try to time my evocation – but this often means evocating early before the buff has fallen off and costs me DPS.
- Forcing you to complete a long evocation cast works against encounter mechanics: When bosses have random spells that make you have to move randomly, then more often than not, you will get randomly selected to move half way through your evocation. Your choice then is to take a huge damage loss or potentially blow up your raid. Any mechanic that encourages you to “stand in bad” just to have equivalent DPS of other players is a crappy mechanic. Interrupting your evocate means you end up having more downtime when you are not doing any damage to the boss, and this can be problematic if you are in a burst phase or heroism was used and you are losing out on precious damage time.
- Managing Invocation is a giant pain in the neck and works against encounter mechanics and causes needless stress. While Llhivera argues that we’re not balanced around having maximum up-time on things like invocation’s damage buff, the fact is that if the best performing mages in the world can have close to the maximum up-time on invocation’s damage buff, then the class has to be balanced around maximum up-time. As these buffs from our level 90 talents are multiplicative, they are going to be stronger and stronger and stronger as the expansion goes on. Llhivera argues that the level 90 talents are burst cooldowns, but they aren’t used as burst cooldowns – they are used as constantly maintained buffs where the goal of any reasonable person is to keep the buff up as much as possible, and it goes against human nature to do otherwise. When my buff falls off, I do everything in my power (including standing in bad stuff) to keep the buff up longer. Claiming not to balance this buff around maximum up-time is turning out to absolutely not be true, as seen by the fact that mages are actually pulling this off and causing the class to get massive damage nerfs every patch thus far this expansion. The up-time of a burst cooldown should be determined by having a cooldown on the burst (eg. icy veins) rather than having that burst come from overcoming mechanics that set you up to fail.
- A passive damage buff is boring and was the type of talent they were trying to get rid of in Mists talent trees. A passive damage buff that is obnoxious to maintain is the opposite of fun. While arcane mages always used evocation in their rotations, it doesn’t work well in frost and fire rotations because they were never designed to take 5 second breaks when trying to ramp up all the different procs and such that fire/frost relies upon. The psychological effect of the talent is more problematic than the math theorycrafting side of the talent.
Rune of Power
Rune of power has similar problems to Invocation, only these problems are so much worse because this talent requires you to not ever move in raid boss encounters, which is an impossible task. Rune of power is actually my least favorite thing I’ve ever dealt with in the entire game.
- Rune of power requires you to stand still for 35 seconds to fully benefit from this talent. There is not a single encounter in Mists of Pandaria raiding where using Rune of Power is a fun decision because every encounter is designed based on forcing the players to run around and move all the time. Being able to cast rune while moving is unhelpful because we’ll still have to move again in 10 seconds after we put down the rune. I had to abandon rune of power (a spell that does no damage when you cast it) when I was having to re-cast rune of power every 10 or 20 seconds because of constantly having to move in raid encounters.
- Rune of power encourages you to stand in bad stuff and die. First, Rune of power covers up bad things on the floor so you can’t see them, and you can’t see your rune of power when all the other spell effects in a 25-man raid are covering it. Since my other option is Invocation (another talent that requires me to stand still often during the fight), this is the option between death by a thousand needle pricks versus death by being stabbed with forks. There’s no fight where either Evocation or Rune of Power make sense to use – they don’t interact well with encounter mechanics. Instead, raid encounters require you to spend more time managing either rune of power or evocation than you spend on anything else you do in the encounters. Anything that a DPS class is casting and managing that would be a DPS loss if it wasn’t for the huge DPS buff attached to using the ability, is a huge annoying burden that every class has had issues with (eg. improved soulfire for warlocks, every time they try to put Faerie Fire in the moonkin DPS rotation).
Gives you a passive buff when you don’t cast anything (boring) and then if you cast Incanter’s Ward right before you are about to take a huge amount of damage, that damage can be absorbed to give you an even bigger damage buff. That damage buff is contingent on you taking damage, and if you screw up, you lose both the effect of the burst damage and the passive bonus for the entire 25 second cooldown.
- While this talent has PvP uses, this turns out to be absolute crap in most raid encounters. The passive damage buff alone isn’t as strong as spending all your mental energy to maintain Invocation or Rune of Power. So, you end up being better off standing in bad stuff and relying on your healers to keep you alive while you DPS than taking the passive bonus from this. Even if you benefit regularly from the “use” effect, you still get better (and more reliable) DPS returns from Invocation, even if casting evocation regularly ends up being a giant burden, as well.
- The DPS cooldown requires you to take damage and increases your number of PvE deaths. The cooldown effect requires needless management in PvE. The cooldown use effect requires you to be psychic about when you are going to take 24,727 damage in the next 8 seconds (the current size of my absorb bubble). The most reliable way to make sure I get my full 30% damage is to actually stand in bad stuff until the bubble is absorbed. This killed me often enough in PvE that I had to stop taking the talent.
So, of the 3 talents, I’m currently using Invocation all the time right now. Why? Well, I have some control over it and the two other talents caused me the most deaths in raids compared to invocation. I’m not going to propose fixes for these talents because I honestly don’t believe there are fixes. The point of these talents are to encourage you to play poorly by standing still too often or taking needless damage to increase your DPS - and it turns out that this actually hurts the ability for me to enjoy the mage class. If I was level 89, and didn’t have any of the level 90 talents, I would love playing the mage class far more than I do as being at level 90 and having to manage my needlessly overcomplicated level 90 talents. These talents are marketed as being “fun” and “optional choices,” they fail at being either. While they were marketed as being things that you should choose for encounter-specific things, none of them work with any of the encounters, so this ends up being a false choice and impossible to figure out – so most mages pick the one that provides the most damage most of the time and just stick with it across encounters.
EDIT: after I wrote my post, a new version of invocation showed up on the PTR patch notes. While I like the idea of the 5.2 invocation version a lot better (it’s a significant quality of life improvement if it reduces the amount of time you have to stand still), this doesn’t solve the problem of that I feel the whole talent tier is not living up to Blizzard’s overall design standards for talents.