Hi, I'm s1qs, I’ve been playing the game actively for 10 years, and have been maining mage for 6 years. I’ve been raiding at a high level for the past four years, where I've been playing mostly in Reason. I’ve been an officer for multiple guilds in the past and that's also my role right now in Method.
Strengths of the spec
- Arcane is really strong at pure single target damage.
- Arcane is really good at bursting a priority target down.
- Arcane can also absolutely melt any type of stacked cleave with CDs.
- Kit wise, arcane can shine in many areas, such as burst AoE, sustained AoE, single target and 4-5 Target cleave.
- Very durable caster, with 2 damage reductions, immunity, shield and alter time.
- Good mobility, especially if you pick Night Fae as your covenant.
- Uncapped AoE with arcane explosion.
- Two threat drops (mirror images, invisibility).
Compared to the other mage specs, Arcane suffers heavily from movement on single target fights. If you are close to the boss you can Arcane Explosion while moving during mechanics, but if you are well out of melee, then the movement screws you over. Luckily you can toss an Arcane Orb now while moving. On AoE and cleave movement doesn't really matter as you should be in melee in these situations, and can therefore use Arcane Explosion.
Have to commit to the situation. If you are doing single target, your legendary would be Temporal Warp, which is fine on AoE, however, currently the BIS AoE legendary is shoulders and heads above everything else, which is Arcane Bombardment. Meanwhile, specs like Fire play the same legendary in every situation.
While Arcane brings the niche of being insanely bursty, they don’t offer much outside of CDs. However, the damage profile has become smoother in Shadowlands.
Limited by mana, but with mastery stacking, leading to increased maximum mana and mana regen on top of having mana gems it's better than previously.
What has changed
For Arcane, Blizzard managed to better the traditional issue Arcane has always had, It’s damage profile. In BFA, you had to basically choose to either do single-target or AoE, and never both at the same time. With the introduction to Touch of the Magi being an active baseline spell, it definitely helps on that issue.
Also, the removal of traits is very good, as you would previously play equipoise/heart for single target, and explosive echo/arcane pressure on AoE. The fact that traits are removed opens up for much more diversity during the fight. Like on Sun King you can burst the shade in P2, and when adds spawn again you can also AoE and not feel like you’re missing a crucial part of your damage.
Displacement will be missed as it allowed for insane mobility due to the reset on blink.
Mana gems - Good addition that lets you restore 10%mana on demand every 2 minutes, has 3 charges. It definitely allows you to burn that extra cast of AM more occasionally, or if you play with Enlightened, you can use it when you go just below 70% mana to regain enough mana for the Enlightened damage buff.
Focus Magic - Don't play this talent. However you can trade Focus magic with another mage buddy to give each other 5% crit, which adds up to 10% when your buddy crits, which should have 100% uptime
Mirror images - Not a new spell, however, reworked into a defensive baseline cooldown. Arcane, in particular, had a lot of defensive cooldowns already and with images being a defensive cooldown now, you will survive most raid encounters without an issue. This spell also drops aggro, as the mobs will hit the images until they all dissipate.
Alter Time - Like images, this spell was changed, however, re-introduced as a new baseline addition. Alter time is incredibly overpowered defensively. There have been so many occasions during testing that this spell has been useful. For me the biggest use of Alter Time was actually the healing, however, I’ve also used it in some encounters for movement.
I’ll be honest, I don't understand why they nerfed the actual cooldown of the spell to be 2 minutes now. It could be that the extra duration was the reason. Although, there are ways to make this cooldown shorter, and I'll be covering that in the Conduits and Covenant section.
Rune of Power Changes
Built into Arcane Power when selected
This is such a good change, makes the opener require less global cooldowns, since you don't need to press Rune of Power anymore in the opener.
Charges changed to a 45 second cooldown
Overall I'd say this has lowered the skill cap, but I also like this change due to the fact that Night Fae reduces the cooldown of Rune of Power. So basically the drawback of removing the Rune of Power charges kind of gets nullified with Night Fae.
Duration has been nerfed to 12 seconds
I am speculating this is a nerf targeted at Frost and Fire, and also made it to Arcane. This is a big hit to your burst, as you’ll lose 3 spells with the 40% modifier within your Arcane Power, or 1 if you Rune of Power right after the rune ends. If Blizzard reads this, please put Rune of Power back to 15 seconds for Arcane.
Equipoise baked into the Enlightened talent
Also improved so that it increases all Arcane damage instead of just Arcane Blast above 70%.
Touch of the Magi is now baseline
This is my favourite change so far in shadowlands regarding Arcane for the following reasons.
No longer have to use charged up (removed), instead having Touch of the Magi grant 4 charges and also is a good chunk of damage in itself.
Single target, that cleaves after exploding
I had high expectations for touch when I saw it got baked in as a baseline spell.
If you remember the meta for the past 2 tiers, it's basically been Fire Mages bursting a priority target, and then spreading Ignite to surrounding adds. (Carapace, Nzoth, Raden, Aszhara, Zaqul, etc).
I was hoping Touch of the Magi would make Arcane do what Fire did in BFA to a lesser degree of cleave, but better on bosses due to Arcanes single target nature. However the cleave from this is not in any shape comparable to what other specs can do in terms of priodamage whilst cleaving.
45 Second Cooldown
The fact that it lines up with Rune of Power is really nice, and it smoothes out the damage curve much more. Traditionally it’s basically been burn, nothing for 90 seconds, then burn. However, you actually have some decent burst windows with rune and Touch of the Magi.
Arcane Echo Talent
I like this talent addition a lot, for the same reasons as I like Touch of the Magi. The idea behind single targeting to cleave.
Presence of mind now has 3 charges
Nice change, gets you towards the top of the DPS meter faster in the opener.