Having even less time than usual this evening, and feeling a little put off by Frost after the last couple of days, I decided to experiment with a few other characters. I didn't spend long on each, just enough to try out some abilities, individually and chained together, and see how things felt.
Arcane so far doesn't feel very unfamiliar. With Arcane Blast, Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage, the priorities on them have changed, but they flow into each other very much like they have throughout cataclysm. Add in an instant Nether Tempest, and I really didn't feel like I would be uncomfortable playing the spec. Transitioning from Cataclysm Arcane to Mists Arcane feels like I need to learn and practice to play it well, but does not feel jarring and strange the way moving from Cataclysm Frost to Mists Frost does to me. There's no question that the mana management game will take work to master, but I wouldn't feel like I was fighting the basic spell mechanics in the process of learning it.
Destruction, on the other hand...I have never played a max-level Destruction Warlock. I've put in a fair amount of time recently on leveling one; he's about 73 now. I transferred him and tried him out, and I could tell right off the bat that I'm pretty much going to have to re-learn Destruction from scratch. I'm not even sure Burning Embers are going to play a role while soloing; stuff dies too fast to build even a single one up, and it decays so quickly out of combat that I wasn't able to accumulate any to try the associated skills. But monitoring them is going to take some getting used to; they aren't like Death Knight runes or Rogue combo points where they're either lit up or they aren't; you build them up gradually. So you're not just monitoring whether they're ready, you're monitoring how close to ready they are.
And then there's the fact that Conflagrate has charges now. Why? I have no idea! The reason will probably become apparent as I play, but for now, it's a mystery. And then there is a significant number of brand-new abilities that look pretty damned important that I didn't take the time to figure out.
None of this means I think Destruction is bad. Conceptually, I really like what they're doing with it, with the Warlock self-immolating to increase damage output. In practice, it's basically like a brand new spec with a vague resemblance to a spec with which I'm reasonably (though not expertly) familiar. Time will tell on this one.
The biggest surprise of the evening was Survival. Macpherson, my Survival Hunter, was my first character, though Lhivera quickly became my main while Mac was still in his 20's. I have a lot of affection for the character, but I haven't really enjoyed playing him since Burning Crusade. What I used to really enjoy about Survival was that it had a ton of utility — in PvE, it was a tremendous crowd-control spec, able to control several targets at once — and was tough enough to go toe-to-toe with a boss, briefly, in an emergency. One of my fondest memories of Burning Crusade is when I went into Aspect of the Monkey, popped Deterrence, and tanked the last 30 seconds of the Bear boss in Zul'Aman after the second tank hit the dirt.
What I liked most about Hunters in general was that they were a highly naturalistic spec. Animal control aside, they were a class that used nature and machines, not magic, to do their job. I love playing a Mage, but sometimes I want to play the Mage's mundane but highly capable friend, and that's how I always saw my Hunter.
The class has drifted away from that over the years, introducing more and more magic damage into the mix. Survival deals a ton of damage with Fire and Shadow. Poison, that makes sense, but Fire and Shadow don't sit right with me on a Hunter.
To top it off, Survival lost a lot of its tankiness, and something changed in Wrath that made its rotation just plain feel crappy.
I hopped on Mac expecting to find it no more appealing than I have for the past two expansions, and possibly even less so — and to my surprise, I found that the rotation felt smooth and comfortable. I surely was not performing the rotation optimally or even properly, but as with Arcane, the important first indication is that the individual abilities flow from one to the next without feeling like you've driven over a curb.
There is still rather more magic damage than I like to see in Survival, but I found myself thinking, as I plugged away at a target dummy in Ironforge, "Hey...I could have fun with this. I could see myself rolling this guy out again."
I'll put more time into all these characters when I get some time.
In Other News
The TheoryCraft-o-Matic Lite should now calculate damage for Frozen Orb correctly, and spell details can once again be toggled properly on mobile devices (well, at least on iOS). Play around with it, you can find some pretty interesting numbers. Frozen Orb is surprisingly powerful at large numbers of targets, but the real surprise may be the damage output of a glyphed Cone of Cold when you can hit a pile of targets with it.