I did some browsing yesterday for wizard builds and found lots of sites that list builds with no explanation at all for why people are using the skills they use. One site seemed to data mine the armoury thing to determine 'popular' builds and every softcore wizard build it listed was a variant on the same idea. They all used the critical mass passive which has a chance to reduce the cooldown on your spells when you crit. Apparently 71.2% of softcore characters at low paragon levels use it, and 86.46% at high paragon levels use it. I don't have a drop of crit chance on my gear and had never given critical mass a second glance as a result. My gear is all int/magic find/defensive stats and the idea of branching into crit chance never really hit my radar. But can 86.46% of people be wrong? Maybe it's time to figure out what's going on there and look into how expensive some crit gear would be.
It also looked like most of the builds were running the wicked wind rune of the energy twister spell. I'd always thought that spell was abysmally bad. I tried it once, hated it, and never looked back. Now, this was all 9 months ago and I didn't really do a very thorough job of trying it out back then. So, it was probably worth giving it another look. I tried it out at MP1 yesterday, found I couldn't kill anything, and switched back to my blizzard build. Ike joined my game and his pets tanked for me and I just killed things with blizzard and hydra. It was awesome! We didn't get a key but we both gained a paragon level and got a bunch of blacksmithing recipes. Good times!
Not really knowing what abilities do and how they may have been buffed/nerfed makes me want to run a challenge James came up with where you're only allowed to use the most recent spell/rune that you've learned as you level up. This would force me to use every ability and get a feel for all of them. The only downside would be not gaining paragon levels on my 'main', but it could still be pretty fun I would think.
Another option would be to search around and try to find people actually willing to explain a critical mass build. Google was no help at all so I did something I'd have thought I'd never do... I went to the official Blizzard forums looking for coherent posts. And I found them! Someone did a very good job of explaining the goal of the popular build and what it takes to get there. In particular it seems that the energy twister/wicked wind spell ticks incredibly frequently. With a typical end game amount of attack speed every cast of the spell will tick on everything inside it 36 times, for example. That's 36 chances to crit for every mob trapped in the twister. The build then stacks up the 'arcane power on crit' mod on gear which lets it spam out twisters like there's no tomorrow. If you have 30% crit, and a twister ticks 36 times, and you get 21 arcane power back when it crits you're looking at spending 35 arcane power to gain 227 arcane power. Per mob in the twister. Yeah, I think that's pretty sustainable. But how do you keep the monsters standing in the twister for the full 6 seconds? Simple! Hit them with a frost nova. Frost nova has a 12 second cooldown so you can't keep it up all the time... Or can you? Critical mass knocks a second off the cooldown with crits. One of the above twisters will crit 11 times in 6 seconds. Per monster it hits. Yeah, that'll let you keep spamming frost nova. You also get to spam diamond skin for a pretty much permanent 10k shield. And you might as well add on a ton of health gain on hit since your twisters are hitting 6 times a second per twister per mob. Yeah.
Now, the gear to get that much attack speed, crit, arcane power on crit, and life on hit is not cheap. So it takes time and money to become an indestructible perma-stunning death machine. But it seems feasible, and like it could be a lot of fun. Of course, my current gear plan is pretty much perpendicular to the gear needed for this plan. I have the slowest weapon I can find, this spec wants the fastest possible weapon. I focus on int and magic find, neither of which this build needs to start. In fact, of the 2 guides I read there wasn't a single mention of getting magic find at all. I wonder if this means paragon magic find is considered to be good enough, or if just killing more things is better. I do have two items with attack speed on them, and my hat has arcane power on crit, and most of my gear does have defensive stats. So it's entirely possible that I can try this build out with just buying a new weapon, offhand, and cheap attack speed/crit rings. I also recently switched out my only item with life on hit and really noticed the change, so I was thinking of buying some more life on hit pieces for my blizzard spec. They fit here too!
For anyone interested, the damage focused build of this spec is here. It doesn't use a signature spell which I guess makes sense when you have enough gear to turn wicked wind into an arcane power gain!