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Arcane Brilliance: Speccing for AoE

Amanda Rivera

Last week in the leveling 1-20 guide I promised that we would spend some time today talking about the specifics of the AoE spec here on Arcane Brilliance. AoE grinding is a skill that I have only recently put to good use, namely in my desire to raise some cash for an epic flying mount. A mage friend of mine spent some time sifting through Bangy's guide on the European Forums, and built a spec that maximizes talents for AoE grindage. He pointed me to the core talents required for the build, and explained that he routinely is able to gather large crowds and burn them down with ease. Intrigued, I tried it myself, and was surprised and happy with the results.

We've been told that mages are supposed to be the kings (and queens) of AoE damage, so why not take advantage of our strengths to maximize our potential for destruction? There are several talents that are very important in this particular spec, but more interesting are those talents that can completely ruin your build. First, let's look at the talents that will help you own with AoE:

Must Have Talents

These are the key points in the AoE build. You'll notice that you have a lot of room elsewhere for customization, so once you get these talents feel free to spend your points as you please as long as you stay away from those talents that will hurt your build.

Elemental Precision: Reduce the chance that you will have mobs resisting your spells, thus reducing those times when you will have one guy beating on you while the rest of the group is frozen neatly in place. These should be the first three points you spend in the Frost tree, and along with 2 points in Improved Frostbolt will allow you to move on to the second tier talents without wasting points. Only add the last three points to Improved Frostbolt when you need to push further down the tree to get access to more essential talents.

Improved Frost Nova: Grab this talent to shave off 4 seconds from the Frost Nova casting time.

Permafrost: I have found that this talent is great for getting a little more time out of the chill effects created by Blizzard. The added benefit is of course slowing the group more, which means more breathing room available for casting your spells.

Cold Snap: While this talent is great for multiple uses of Ice Block in single target fights, in AoE battles you will use it primarily to get a fast Frost Nova down in an emergency.

Improved Blizzard: If you take no other talent in your AoE spec, take this one. The added chill effects are the central core of the build, and the techniques mentioned below cannot work without them.

Arctic Reach: Additional range is very key to AoE grinding. Placing two points in this skill will enable you to get two Blizzard casts before you have to Blink behind your unsuspecting group of victims.

Frost Channeling: With mana being drained so fast in an AoE fight, reducing the mana cost of frost spells by 15% can mean the difference between their death and yours.

Ice Block: Protect yourself from an angry group of mobs while at the same time allowing them to collect into a nice, tight group in preparation for a rain of ice from the sky.

Ice Barrier: Ice Barrier is one of those spells that you will hit whenever you have the chance, since in addition to its long duration, this shield spell allows you to cast without interruption as long as it is up.

Improved Cone of Cold: Cone of Cold is one of those spells that you will use often in an AOE fight when the enemies are packed closely together. And honestly, who doesn't want to do more damage?

Must Miss Talents

As I mentioned before, what you leave out of this spec is just as important as what you put into it. The following talents will destroy your spec, as they will severely inhibit you from the ultimate ownage you are capable of:

Frostbite: While freezing groups of mobs with Frost Nova is an essential part to AoE fights, the chance to freeze one mob in place means the chance to split up your grouping. When the group breaks up, you will have some mobs out of range of the Blizzard and the entire process of AoE grinding breaks down. In summary, Frostbite = bad.

Shatter: Blizzard will never crit, so wasting points on a talent that increases spell crit chance is just that, a waste.

Ice Shards: This is another talent that will have no affect on your AoE grinding since it improves critical strike damage. Save these points for something more useful, for instance Arcane Subtlety.

You'll notice when you first start out trying this kind of game play that you will die. A lot. It's not easy to do, and with talents like those listed above, your single-target DPS will be pretty sad. But if you are the kind of person that prefers to grind their levels rather than quest them, AoE grinding is the best way to go. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your AoE grind time:

  1. Picking a fight: AoE grinding works best on non-ranged enemies, so if you can, select groups of mobs that are exclusively melee-oriented.For specific suggestions on locations primed for AoE farming, I refer you once again to Bangy's guide.
  2. Playing tag: When gathering your group of mobs, tag the one furthest from your original position first and circle around to those that will be closest to you.If you have a mount this will be infinitely easier to accomplish, however you don't have to wait until level 40 to begin your grinding.Just make sure to be careful when collecting your mobs together.You may have to circle a couple of times.
  3. Targeting circle placement:The first time you cast Blizzard on your group of enemies, place the green targeting circle so that the back edge is on the mob furthest from you.This will give you the first needed chill for the entire group.When you cast the spell again, however, place the back edge in front of the mob closest to you.Since the group is walking toward you, they will again be slowed by the chill of the Blizzard as they walk into it.
  4. Use Ice Barrier and Ice Block (if you have it), but not Mana Shield: Your first position is standing inside your group of mobs, therefore until you Frost Nova and Blink away from the group, protect yourself with Ice Barrier.Mana Shield is not recommended because AoE grinding will use every ounce of mana you have, and Mana Shield will drain a substantial amount of your power before you get a chance to use it.
  5. Blink towards, not away:It sounds crazy, but once you have cast your second Blizzard and dropped another Frost Nova, Blink towards your group of mobs in order to get behind them rather than bamfing further away from the group.This will prevent accidentally running into something behind you, and will give you an extra bit of time as the group reorients itself to your new position.
  6. Love your mana gems and pots: AoE grinding is very mana intensive, and so you might consider making or buying a few mana potions to keep in reserve. In any case, make sure you have a full supply of mana gems at your disposal at the beginning of every grind fight.There will be times when you will have to use Evocation in order to burn a particularly tenacious group down.In that case either use Ice Barrier or a Frost Nova/Blink combo to create a safe space for you to recharge.

Variations on this theme are definitely out there, as are mages that AoE grind completely differently. I have also heard of Fire and Arcane mages getting their AoE grind on, but Frost seems to be the most popular spell school for this sort of thing. If you have any suggestions for those looking to AoE grind, let us know. I'm always looking for ways to improve my magocity, and I'm sure there are others like me out there as well.

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