How to Melee While Casting Instant Spells (Video and Written, plus a little Theorycrafting)
GideonAI last edited by Melderon
Casting most Spells will block you from meleeing, but when you cast an instant ability it merely resets your melee to its base weapon speed timer. So, if your weapon is 1.5 speed or faster, then you get a free melee attack before your next spell cast. This usually doesn't deal a ton of damage, but against low-armor enemies (such as casters) or for causing extra spell pushback (again, against enemy casters) this tactic will give you a valuable edge in combat. It may also become the basis for some very interesting new builds and fighting techniques...
Now, Venruki applied this melee tactic as a Mage to great use in the epic Horde Dueling tournament a couple weeks back, and I highly recommend watching his highlights video. But as he was going into his penultimate fight against Snutz, the Warlock, he starts talking about how he thinks he can "just rush him down" and "go aggro". For those of you who aren't familiar with Mage, this "aggressive" strategy revolves around spamming Arcane Explosion, Fire Blast, Frost Nova, and Cone of Cold as rapidly as possible. As a level 30 Frost Mage, this deals the most damage in the shortest amount of time. He even used Blink to get into melee range of his opponent so that he could successfully land his spells (because most of those spells are very close-range). However, being in such close range, he was able to land several melee hits adding up to around 130 total physical damage for free, and over the span of only a few seconds! And in his final fight, he ended up dealing roughly 75 bonus physical damage in 5 seconds almost coincidentally. The weapon he was using at the time was the Swinetusk Shank, which is exactly 1.5 weapon speed and therefore he can just barely squeeze in a swing before he gets to cast another spell.
So how about other classes besides Mage? Well, Sodapoppin used this technique a little bit when he was spamming Moonfire to finish off an enemy clothy in the same tournament, and Holy Priests have access to Holy Nova, which is also a spammable instant-cast damaging ability that pairs well with a fast melee weapon for some bonus damage. And both Priests and Druids might find themselves spamming Renew or Rejuvenation or other instants in large Raids. But this "free melee attack" works any time you cast any instant spell at all, so I think it's relevant for all casters if you're trying to make the absolute most of your combat situations (and if you just so happen to be in melee range).
Choice of Weapon
Now, about the weapon itself, there remains a few questions. First and foremost is optimization. 1.5 speed is technically the best, because any faster weapon speed is simply wasted stats - you can't attack any faster because your instant spell casts reset your melee timer anyway. Faster weapons also usually have lower damage per hit, which usually lowers the damage you're doing. Although, I personally wouldn't worry too much about this point, because the difference between 1.5 speed weps and the faster ones are only slight.
Secondly, what about weapons that are slower than 1.5 speed? What if you're equipped with a 1.6 speed weapon, or a 1.7 speed weapon, or one slower than that? Would you ever intentionally hold off on spell casting for a tenth of a second just to get a melee swing in? To give a brief answer: it depends. For example, if you're fighting against enemy mobs in PvE that have high armor values and your melee attacks are barely tickling them anyway, then you probably don't want to do it. Just keep in mind that while a 1.5 speed attack is free, a 1.6 speed attack is not, and a 1.7 speed attack is twice as slow in comparison to a 1.6 speed attack. It's all about the frame of reference. While we're on the topic though, I should mention that all casters can increase their melee attack speed by 3% passively through various enchantments, and can go even further than that using temporary consumables. If you get enough melee attack speed bonuses, your 1.6 speed weapon will be able to strike at 1.5 speed or faster for maximum efficiency, but the slower your weapon, the more buffs you'll need to get the "free" hit. If your weapon is already 1.5 speed or faster, melee attack speed bonuses are a waste. Unless you can somehow get your attack speed to .75, then you get two free attacks before your next spell cast.
Also very important is that the "Caster classes" of this game have what is called a "glancing blow penalty", meaning that there is a higher chance for a "Caster" to do lower damage on a successful melee attack. There's a ton of big math behind this system which I've already forgotten, but the gist of it is that Mages, Warlocks, and Priests are gonna do less damage with the same weapon doing the same attacks against the same enemy when compared to a Paladin or Shaman or any other class who aren't considered to be "Casters" technically. I haven't figured out if the Druids' so-called "Caster Form" or Moonkin Form are also penalized, but I know that Cat Form and Bear Form are not.
One note on the more theoretical side of things is that there are 3 caster classes who are capable of going full-time into melee as parts of their own new builds/playstyles thanks to this technique. These are the Balance Druid, the Holy or Discipline Priest, and the Arcane Mage. This is because they can spam Moonfire, Holy Nova, and Arcane Explosion, respectively. These abilities are not great when spammed alone, but with melee you can actually deal an impressive amount of damage! I know I just said that there are damage penalties for casters going into melee, but even a glancing blow will still enable you to trigger your Fiery Weapon Enchant, your Shadow Oil buff, your Dragonbreath Chili, and if your melee weapon has a chance-on-hit like Alcor's Sunrazor, that'll trigger too (and the Blade of Eternal Darkness also looks pretty good with fast spells). Now, the theoretical part is whether any of these abilities scale with your +spell damage stat and what the exact chances are to get them to trigger. Confirmed information on these items is coming out slowly from the beta as players are capable of crafting or finding them.
So for the Moonkins spamming Moonfire while meleeing, the preliminary math indicates competitive dps with the standard ranged build. This is mostly because they can equip Rogue leather gear to increase their hit chance and Dagger skill. However, in addition to the above, we still don't know if the talents "Improved Moonfire" and "Moonfury" will impact the base damage of Moonfire or if it multiplies after damage bonuses are added. We also don't know whether Druids or Moonkins count as "casters" for the glancing blow penalty. (EDIT: Defcamp and Melderon confirmed Druids do not have a penalty to their melee attacks!)
Priests are awesome because they get to deal damage while healing and generate next-to-no threat for it through Holy Nova. Theoretically, a melee priest dealing 50% of the dps of a regular dps spec and healing 50% of a regular healing spec would be capable of replacing a regular dps and a regular healer. The biggest questions are the above spell damage scaling as well as mana expenditure and range - Holy Nova isn't a common healing spell because it's very expensive and restricted in range. Not to mention, healing isn't just a matter of healing the most numbers, so measuring it via a spreadsheet simply isn't reliable. I'll be testing this one myself.
And lastly you've got Arcane Mages. Looks like fun, but mages are already so good at dps (unlike Boomkins and Priests) that I doubt that a "melee Mage" would be efficient. I haven't yet touched the math yet though, so there's always a possibility!
Oh and one last thing in the "deep theory" side of things is the Undead-only Melee Shadow Priest Tank. No, I'm not kidding! The Undead have access to a racial spell called Touch of Weakness which is an instant-cast ability with no cooldown that deals a small amount of damage when you are struck in melee, making it spammable when you're tanking. It also scales (43%/1.5s) twice as well as Mind Flay (22%/1.5s) with the "+spell damage" stat, and with the right gear it'll deal more dps than Mind Flay. It can also crit while Mind Flay cannot, so in PvP Undead Shadow Priests already know to spam Touch of Weakness when they're getting rushed by melee opponents. But in PvE, you can use Mind Blast for burst threat, a talented Vampiric Embrace for a flat +15% threat modifier on your damage output, and the Shadow Oil procs from your melee swings (which should also benefit from some of your Shadow talents!). And that's without mentioning the sheer amount of incoming damage mitigation from Shadowform, talents like Blessed Recovery (which also provides threat), and the heals from Vampiric Embrace.
Anyway, for now that's all the relevant information I can think of. If you can think of some other alternate uses or things I missed then please feel free to share.
About the Author
I make videos about the lesser-known ways you can play the 9 classes of Classic World of Warcraft. I'm also a big fan of level 19 twinking. If you would like a video made about something, feel free to let me know!
@GideonAI Excellent work, as usual.
Caperfin last edited by Caperfin
Awesome video! as usual
People across multiple Discords are talking about this topic. Its great to see aspects like this being explored and further expanding the numerous possibilities in World of Warcraft.
oh my this is gold. keep testing !