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Arcane Brilliance: Statistical battle of the clothies


One thing I've noticed while playing my warlock, and now my mage, is that many WoW players can't seem to tell one cloth-wearing class from another. Anyone wearing a dress is fair game to be asked for healing, water, or (in extreme cases of dumbness) a soulstone.

But there's reason behind their madness. Warlocks, mages and (shadow) priests are all meant to be damage classes with some utility added in. They compete for the same clothes, weapons, trinkets, and often the same raid slots. So, when it comes down to it, what's the difference between mages, warlocks and shadowpriests? Who has the most raid damage? Who's the most wanted in arenas? Who do you fear most in world PVP? Join me and my Azgalor-killing mage pal Skwisgaar for ... the BATTLE OF THE CLOTHIES!

Raid/Group Damage

This is the latest complaint in the ongoing fight between mages and locks. An Illidan-killing lock I talked to suggested I check out two fights for comparison: Shade of Akama for burst DPS, and Teron Gorefiend for sustained DPS. After spending some time on WoW Web Stats looking at the two fights, I came up with a few ideas about damage.

Raid/Group Damage, ctn'd

On Shade of Akama, warlocks and mages were in the top three damage dealers about the same percentage of the time. Shadow priests were much lower, but they often had a seriously lower percentage of time spent DPSing -- and a very high DPS rating for the time they were doing damage. Teron Gorefiend was similar, with the exception that neither warlocks nor mages were top DPS as much as they were on Akama. For Gorefiend, that spot tended to go to rogues or fury warriors. There were also less overall shadowpriests brought to the Gorefiend fight.

So what does this mean? It looks that among top guilds, whether mages or warlocks do more DPS depends on the fight, gear, individual skill and pure luck. Shadowpriests do seem to do less damage than the other two casters, but after talking to both mages and warlocks, it seems that the grass is always greener on the other side. Warlocks envy the mage's greater choice in talent specs and playstyle, and mages envy the lock's mobility and synergy with shadowpriests. It's very hard to generalize this to small groups because they vary so widely in composition.

Skwisgaar says: Shadow priests can DPS like hell but not for a very long period of time. Their spells slurp mana. I'm not sure what the rotations are, I've never played one in a raid situation, but I've seen them go OOM really fast when they were going all out. That might get better with gear, we don't have any t6 s-priests yet. I think warlocks contribute the most in a raid damage environment right now, on average. The main reasons are that their dots allow them to move around a lot while still maintaining some damage, they have a functionally unlimited mana pool as long as they remember to bring bandages, and they synergize with s-priests better than mages do with either class.

Raid/Group Utility

Oh, so THAT'S why we take shadowpriests! The spriests are the post-BC kings of raid utility. In the early days of MC or BWL, priests would be mocked and left aside if they respecced shadow; now, one is practically a requirement in every raid. Vampiric Embrace and Vampiric Touch can keep your group a) alive and b) with mana. Misery and Shadow Weaving also let the shadowpriests drastically improve the damage of other casters, particularly warlocks.

For the runner-up of raid utility, I'd take mages, although I know Skwisgaar disagrees with me. AI, Polymorph, food and water seem to be altogether more useful than soulstones and the healthstones that everyone in my guild always freaking forgets to use.

Skwisgaar says: Shadowpriests are useful otherwise, but VT makes them indispensable for any serious raid guild
Not to be a self-hating mage or anything: Ritual of Refreshment is great, but regenerating the group's mana out of combat just doesn't hold a candle to doing so actively with one of your damage spells. A warlock can only restore a finite amount of health, whereas a shadow priest can restore his group's health and more importantly mana, which by extension either heals for a lot more than the stone or eats through the boss' health faster. As far as synergizing with members of your own class for damage output, i'd say destruction warlocks; a title that belonged to fire mages until they nerfed rolling ignites. Shadowbolt-oriented destrolocks with lots and lots of crit rating on their gear do immense amounts of shadow damage. Usually 3 of them in a raid is enough to keep the improved shadowbolt bonus up the entire fight.

Solo PVP

Both mages and locks can be beasts at world PvP. AP-POM-Pyro mages used to be famous for their crits. But in today's stamina-oriented world, frost mages can kick some serious behind due to their increased survivability. Fire and arcane mages might get a boost with the introduction of trainable ice block in 2.3.2. For warlocks, full affliction is the ... well, the thing that everyone complains about, but my lock compadre tells me demonology is actually a superior PVP tree due to Soul Link and resilience working with DOTs. Affliction is still a great tree for warlocks if you enjoy watching your enemy die while trying to run away. Shadowpriests are excellent in duels and such, but Skwisgaar remarks that he doesn't fear them nearly as much as locks and other mages.

Skwisgaar says: 17/0/44 is probably the best spec for solo PVP. I prefer elemental just because it's fun to play, but in terms of sheer effectiveness, it's hard to match the defensive capability of frost. For mages vs. locks -- tough call. I think that would come down to individual skill, assuming roughly equal gear. I've never had much trouble with shadowpriests, even as a raid-spec fire mage. I was probably fighting crappy priests, but they seem so reluctant to leave shadowform, as though that 15% damage boost does anything if they neglect to heal themselves when they're low. I worry more about a lock or another mage than a priest. Priests tend to skimp on stamina since they can self-buff. Spellsteal is a wonderful thing.

Arena PVP

Much has been made of the dominance of warlocks in arena, but are there facts behind the complaints? has done a wonderful chart and writeup about arena stats for different brackets. For 1850+ teams in 2v2, mages seem to be extremely unpopular. Warlocks make up 16% of top 2v2ers, with affliction/demonology being the most popular spec, and they're commonly teamed with druids and priests. Mages are only 6% of 1850+ 2v2 teams, while priests (shadow and non) make up 14%. Shadowpriests and affliction/demonology locks make a potent combo in 2v2.

Mages come into their own a bit more in 3v3 -- the top combo there is mage, priest and rogue, and 12% of 3v3 players are mages. Most of the mages are 17/0/44, cementing its place as the best arena PVP spec. Warlocks and shadowpriests are still potent gladiators, but the popularity of locks is beginning to drop as we move to 3v3.

5v5 is where mages truly come into their own. Most of the top 5v5 teams involve a mage (or even two mages, in the mage/mage/lock/priest/warr combo.) Shadowpriests suffer a drastic drop in effectiveness due to their generally low survivability. Frost mages and aff/demo locks show up in about equal numbers here, so if you're burning for a 5v5, it shouldn't be too difficult to find one.

Skwisgaar says: I'm pretty sure locks are more desirable for either 2v2 or 5v5 due to their ridiculous longevity
That is, unless the 2v2 consists of two AP mages which can be pretty brutal. I'm really not the person to be asking about anything arena-related. I'm only doing them to get the dagger because it's good for PVE and i'm way down the list on the sword off Archimonde.

Would you like to become the new writer of Arcane Brilliance? You've got twelve more hours to apply for our mage columnist job at our LFM page. Please apply. The Pyroblasts are beginning to hurt.

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