By now if you’re paying attention, you know that fire mages were ignominiously and capriciously nerfed to the ground on Thursday. The damage from our big cooldown spell was reduced by 50%, and our crit rate on direct damage spells (the ones that make up or are otherwise responsible for about 90% of our dps) was reduced by 17%. Lower crit would ripple through our playstyle, reducing chances for the essential Pyroblast! buff and buffed Pyroblasts! that make up over 30% of my damage total. It was an impending disaster, one that would take me from being one of the leading dps in my raid crew to someone who could barely keep up with the tanks and who would need to be replace if we expected to progress.
On Sunday night we ran T11 content: Bastion of Twilight on normal for an achievement on Chogal, and Throne of the Four Winds for the final achievement to get our T11 drakes. Predictably, I did horribly on these fights, but in fact I was depressed about the nerf and I didn’t really care about the content. On one fight I was 8th on the damage meters, ahead of only our second tank. Perhaps there were mitigating circumstances there, but it felt horrible. I was certain that I would be all but useless in our normal raids.
Mogu’shan Vaults began auspiciously. I was hit with nasty lag on the first pull, of the sort that made Ventrilo feel like I was talking to people on the moon, and where I could stand up from my computer, get a drink, sit down, and still not have finished the fireball I cast about ten seconds earlier. I restarted my computer.
And then we did the Stone Guard. We had several abortive attempts as the tanks, one of whom had switched to another character, relearned the encounter with new abilities. A few attempts in, we downed them as we should have at first.
And it didn’t really feel so bad.
I felt like I wasn’t critting as much, and my combustion amount addon was giving me lower numbers than I was used to. But it wasn’t the sort of unplayable frustration I had feared.
We breezed through the entire instance without further incident, and then went to Heart of Fear, where we downed the second boss for the first time. My raid lead posted the World of Logs report, one that I was very curious to look at.
It wasn’t so bad.
I compared this week to last week, using the sum of the boss kills as a reference. The result was that my dps went down, from 63.6k to 60.9k, a drop of 2.7k dps or a little over 4%. It’s not good, but it’s not the horrible 20% nerf I had feared. (In fairness, I do have slightly better gear now than I had then, by one item level. I don’t think it was a huge difference in gear.) The damage breakdown confirmed the nerf:
- My Pyroblast damage percentage fell from 31.4% to 30.7%, and my pyroblast crit rate fell from 44% to 36%.
- My Fireball crit rate fell from 42% to 38%.
- Overall Combustion DoT damage fell from 17.3 million to 11.9 million.
And yet, well, a comparison of individual bosses tells a different story:
- On Stone Guard, my dps increased this week from 69.6k to 78.7k. I finished second in my group, behind only our rogue who apparently was channeling Wrathion or something.
- On Feng, my dps increased from 61.4k to 66.8k. I finished fourth in my group, but I wasn’t too far behind the leaders.
- On Gara’jal, my reported dps fell from 60.2k to 57.3k, but because of phasing with the totems, our WoL report isn’t really reliable and I don’t really put much weight into the report for this fight.
- On Spirit Kings, my dps fell from 56.0k to 55.8k. This is well within any sort of margin of error.
- On Elegon, my dps fell from 106.7k to 97.8k. But my active time also fell from 99.2% to 96.1%, and I didn’t really feel like I had done as good a job this week. From previous Elegon attempts, my dps could vary by at least 15k depending on how things went.
- On Will of the Emperor, a fight that is admittedly horrible for fire mages, my dps increased from 43.0k to 46.2k.
The overall numbers were likely skewed by several attempts on the second boss in Heart of Fear, with which I am admittedly unfamiliar. On bosses that we have down, three times my dps went up, and only one time did my dps go down by a significant amount (excluding Gara’jal). This is despite a real observed drop in crit rates and combustion damage.
So what happened to the nerf?
Honestly, I don’t know. Moving from 5.0.5 to 5.1 prior to the hotfix nerf did not seem to offer any buffs to a fire mage. In my LFRs before the hotfix, combustion seemed to have been buffed, but as stated in the patch notes that was not intentional. My gear did improve a bit, bumping my crit rate up a few fractions of a percent, but not by nearly enough to offset a 17% nerf.
Did I step up my game? I don’t feel like I did. If anything, I felt in a worse mood, and my performance should have suffered from that.
I honestly don’t know what went on there. But it’s fair to say that from my experience, the nerf that I thought would reduce me to not being raid viable didn’t really affect me all that much. On no fight was I worthless, and in several fights I was still among the dps leaders.
edit: After reviewing my activity log, I found one thing that did offset the nerf. Between the pre-nerf raid and post-nerf raid, I upgraded my necklace, chest, and weapon from ilvl 476 to ilvl 489. According to Ask Mr. Robot, those three upgrades were worth a total of (3810 + 1012 + 1830) or 6652 dps on what I assume is a Patchwerk style fight. I had thought the nerf would amount to about twice this.
It wasn’t that bad.