And so we find ourselves at the threshold of another Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that conjures the very best the world of magic and mystery has to offer, then sets it on fire and hurls it at a warlock.
Something I wanted to throw out there before we begin:
I'm lazy. It's difficult to find pictures every week for this column. Thus, I no longer wish to do it. Therefore, I am extending an open invitation to you, my fellow mages everywhere, to do my job for me. I formally request--nay, demand--your screenshots. That's right: if you ever had the desire to see your mage featured prominently at the beginning of a sentient, warlock-hating mage column, this is your chance. Ground rules:
- Mage-pictures only. If you try to slip in a picture of a warlock and pass it off as a mage, I will hack your Twitter account and then make a series of embarrassing tweets on it, like "My genital fungus really burns today...I wonder if I've been scratching it too much," "Quick tip, everybody: bacne + shaving back-hair = an awful way to spend a weekend," or "I firmly believe that Michael Bay is the genius of our time."
- In-game screenshots that you personally captured only.
- No character names visible, and no hud, please. Use Alt-Z before you take your screenshot.
- Nothing vulgar. No matter how much I'd like to see a picture of you doing something obscene to the corpse of that warlock you just killed, I can't use it. Also, I have a wife and two small children. Try not to send me anything that will scar them permanently should they be in the room when I open it.
- Send all screenshots to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, title them with something simple and appropriate, like "mage screenshot," so I don't think they're spam.
- Other than the above limitations, I don't care what you send. I can use just about anything. Low-level mages, high-level mages, cool looking spells, action shots, funny stuff...chances are I can find a use for just about anything you send me.
You'll notice from the title of this week's installment that we're covering a bit more this week than we have in previous weeks. You can safely head for Outland as early as level 58, meaning that instead of covering 10 levels, we'll be attempting to guide you through a full 18 levels in this column. Why? Because at this point, the new spells and noteworthy milestones are spread a bit thin, and this stretch can feel more grindy than any other in the game. To be quite honest, the levels between 40 and 60 are, without a doubt, my absolute least favorite levels to slog through. The quest hubs spread out, some of the zones become a little less fun to tool around in (I'm looking at you, Felwood.), and the instances tend toward the extreme end of the "long, difficult and kinda boring" spectrum (cough...Maraudon).
This isn't to say there isn't fun to be had, it's just that it's very easy in this stretch to find yourself grinding for experience instead of enjoying the journey. So how to make it fun? Here's a list of...wait a second...
...what's that...is that...that's Bullet Points' music! They're headed for the ring! And they've got metal chairs in their hands! Noooooo! Oh, the humanity! Why, of all the times, did the referees pick now to be distracted and/or unconscious? Nooooo!
(Special thanks to Bill Simmons for that joke. He uses a variation of it in pretty much every column he writes, and it's always funny.)
- Mix things up. Don't just go from quest hub to quest hub, and unless you hate yourself, don't just AoE farm your way to Outland. Do some battlegrounds, run a few instances (if you can find a group), or just go exploring and see the sights.
- Focus on the lore. Though things can become a bit of a slog in this stretch, and many of the quests can be needlessly difficult, complex, or require far too much travel, the storylines start to become quite gripping, and the lore rich. This used to be the climax of the game, guys. Spend some time in places like Eastern Plaguelands. Get a high-level buddy to run you through Blackrock Depths or Stratholme. Actually read the quest text. Seriously. Enjoy the plot of the game.
- See the sights. For the love of god, don't spend 10 levels in Felwood. It's ugly, depressing, and judging by the amount of felpuppy poo I stepped in while I was there, I'm pretty sure it was designed by a warlock. Only do the quests you want to do in a place, then move on to someplace else. It's incredibly easy to skip zones now, but there are a couple nice ones in this stretch that warrant a visit. Spend some time in Winterspring (pretty snow!), Searing Gorge (pretty volcanoes!), Ungoro Crater (what is it with Blizzard and volcanoes in this level range?), and Azshara. In fact, we'll be talking a bit more about Azshara in a bit.
- Don't spend the entire time waiting for Outland. Trust me. You be seeing plenty of Outland. You'll be taking your next character there. And your next one. And the one after that. Enjoy the old end-game--and the relative freedom it offers--while it's still relevant. Because the moment you hit level 58, it ceases to be.
Sadly, there are no new spells from 41-49, at least not the ones you can learn from trainers. Use this as an opportunity to perfect your mastery of the skills you already have, I guess.
Instances to run in this range include:
- Uldaman (out-of-the-way, but full of good lore, and to an improbably large lady)
- Zul'Farrak (desert trolls, good loot, loads of quests to complete, and on my server, at least, it's one of the few old-world instances I still see people looking to group for...just be careful not to kill the goblin before he blows up the door to the last boss encounter)
- Maraudon (Incredibly long, and full of plants. Plants that want to eat you. I hate this place. But it does have some good loot.)
New spells: Portal: Darnassus or Thunder Bluff
Mages hit several milestones at level 50. First, we get our second major glyph slot. There are a lot of good choices at this point to fill that slot, so take a look at what's affordable in the auction house and pick something that you like.
Second, you can finally complete your collection of old-world portals by traveling to either Darnassus or Thunder Bluff and snagging the appropriate portal spell there.
And third, more mage quests.
I've written about Archmage Xylem before, on several occasions. He hangs out in a tower high in the mountains of western Azshara and just oozes wizardry. At level 50 he'll hand out the first part in a quest chain to your mage that will eventually lead you to the depths of Sunken Temple, pit you against a pair of giant dragons, and reward you with your choice of a dagger, necklace, or trinket.
Every class gets a similar quest to kill the same dragon, so finding a group for Sunken Temple isn't as hard as finding one for other dungeons in this range. It's a difficult and lengthy instance, to be sure, but I'm of the opinion that doing this chain is an essential part of magehood. Plus, that trinket is nice. Don't waste your reward on either of the other two items. You'll be replacing them almost immediately. But that trinket...it'll serve you into Outland and beyond. Unless you're not a Fire mage, of course. In which case, the trinket sucks. Three cheers for old-world itemization!
Lastly, level 50 opens up the ninth tier of your chosen talent tree, and all of the awesome talents contained therein. Seriously, this tier is stacked.
Fire mages now have access to Dragon's Breath, which is a fantastic short-range, instant AoE spell. It strikes everything in front of the mage in a cone and dazes them all, in addition to dealing rock-solid damage. Also opening up at this level are Hot Streak, which hands out instant Pyroblasts when you crit twice in a row, and Firestarter, which triggers an instant Flamestrike whenever you cast Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath. All of these talents are sweet.
Frost Mages can learn to summon their big blue buddy. Summon Water Elemental becomes one of the hallmarks of the spec from this point on. He does damage, he freezes opponents at range, and he gives great back rubs. Brain Freeze is also fun, giving you a reason to put Fireball back on your action bar. Nothing says "Frost mage" like throwing out the occasional free, instant ball of flame.
But perhaps no spec benefits more from the ninth tier than Arcane mages. Slow is the ultimate kiting tool. Though its mana cost is a bit high, it's one of the best PvP spells in the game, and once you start applying it to mobs effectively, you may never be hit by a melee attack again. Also, you get access to my single favorite talent in the game: Missile Barrage. Take a moment and soak in that tooltip. That's right, starting now, your offensive spells give you a chance to fire out a mana-free, short-channel, super-cool-looking gatling missiles. Now, finally, being an Arcane mage starts to actually feel like a good thing.
New spell: Arcane Brilliance
Yes, you read that correctly: level 56 brings you the ability to summon a sentient, overly-wordy, weekly mage column that hates warlocks...wait...I'm being told that's not what the tooltip actually says. What's that? Oh, ok. It's actually just a version of the Arcane Intellect buff that costs more mana, requires a reagent, lasts longer, and affects your entire party or raid. Well, that's still nice, right? Convenient?
One final note: this level range is really the last gasp for the old world. Enjoy it while you can. See the zones you want to see, and visit the instances that appeal to you while they still hold some benefit for you. I always advise a trip to Blackrock Depths at this point if you can manage it. It's really the last dungeon in the old-world in the pre-Burning Crusade level range. Those that follow it aren't really feasible before you're high-enough level to go to Outland, and the green-quality loot that drops off the first boar you kill there will absolutely crush almost anything that drops in them.
Plus, Blackrock Depths is one of my favorite instances. It's a vast, Dungeons & Dragons-esque, old-school rpg experience, with a wide array of bosses, interesting mechanics, and excellent lore. Put together a like-minded group, or find a willing level 80 comrade to run you through. It's worth the trip, and the loot will set you in good stead when you make the leap through the Dark Portal.
This is it. Though you can stay in Azeroth for a few levels if you wish, you're really best-served heading straight to Outland at this point. It's actually much easier to get there in this enlightened age. The major capital cities now have portals situated near the portal trainers that deposit you about two feet from the Dark Portal. Once you step through, you're in Outland. Start picking up quests and let the massive gear-upgrade parade begin.
Be wary, though. In your mismatched old-world gear, you'll discover that the mobs in Hellfire Peninsula are fairly formidable. They have significantly more health and hit much harder than their similarly-leveled Azerothian counterparts. Be cautious, fight tactically, and be prepared to die a few times. And watch out for the Fel Reaver. He can be seen from much farther away now, but he can still be quite stealthy, which is somewhat improbable for a giant robot. If you hear that distinctive mechanical roar, drop everything and flee. Blink, go invisible, whatever you need to do. It's no fun to be eaten by a giant, stealthy robot.
This drastic upswing in difficulty will even out rapidly as you complete quests and upgrade to Outland gear, but at first you may find yourself longing for the cupcakes you were blasting through in the old world.
Keep pressing forward, and get yourself to level 60. What's so great about level 60, you ask? Two words: Flying Mounts.
Send in your screenshots, and come back next week, when we start our burn through Outland.
Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent two-part look at what Cataclysm will mean to Mages, or our ongoing series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.