Arcane Brilliance: Six things I love about being a Mage in the beta

Christian Belt
C. Belt|09.13.08

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Arcane Brilliance: Six things I love about being a Mage in the beta

Each week Arcane Brilliance takes a quick peek into the world of Mages. The peek has to be quick indeed, for to look any longer into that world is to invite madness. I mean, have you looked in there? There are people making copies of themselves, then their copies are turning people into penguins, then those penguins are getting set on fire and frozen, all at the same''s not right. I don't know what it is, but it isn't right, people.

So...the giant nerf-patch of doom came down this week. It hit everyone. Except...Mages? Huh?

I had myself all braced for the nerf-bat to hit us, and well, I guess it whiffed? I dunno. Our Mirror Image is still awesome, our Deep Freeze still stuns, does good damage, and is instant, our Arcane Barrage is still on a glorious 3 second cooldown, and our Frostfire Bolt still benefits from every talent that affects either Fire or Frost spells. Surely Blizzard can't be happy with Mages being the actual, genuine kings of DPS in a physical universe that actually exists.


And only in beta form.


We'll get a nerf in the cursed name of "balancing" eventually, I'm sure, but for now we get a reprieve. And I couldn't be happier.

This week, I'm going to list a few things--some of them big, some of them small--that I love about being a Mage in the beta right now. If even a few of these make it live, there is cause for rejoicing, and any that we lose in all of the class-polishing hobnobbery that goes on between now and that glorious day in which we install Northrend onto our hard drives will be cause to mourn. Join me after the jump for the list.

1. Our mana gems don't disappear anymore.

This may not seem like a big deal on paper, but brother, it is. The second time I logged into the beta and saw my little Mana Emerald still there, waiting for me with two charges left, my heart did a little dance. That's three seconds of my life I don't lose to a button press each time I log in.

Frankly, it was always stupid that these vanished, anyway. It isn't as if you can give them to anyone else like food, so why make them disappear? What did we ever do to you? Huh?

2. Dalaran

Really, it's like our own little Mage city. It really does feel like a kind of home for us as a class, in a very different way than the home cities of our races. Playing this game, we tend to identify ourselves far more with our class than any other aspect of our character, and for us Mages, places like the Mage Quarter in Undercity or the Mystic Ward in Ironforge have always felt like a small haven for our own kind. Now take that feeling and expand it to a whole city.

Dalaran is full of wonder, a place of magic and mystery, and even though there are sections of it that cater to the other classes, it is above all a city of Mages. Many of the most famous Mages in Warcraft lore are NPCs there, and all sorts of fun magical details keep appearing as Blizzard continues to flesh the city out. Mages can go there before anyone else can (by completing a Mage-only quest at level 71), and once we hit level 74 and learn the Portal: Dalaran spell, we will be able to gleefully extort outrageous sums from everybody else who can't go there until we allow them to. But don't do that--it's not cool, and once everybody sets their Hearthstone or Scroll of Recall to there, they will hate you for having done it. You can extort from Warlocks, though. That's totally acceptable.

3. Missile Barrage

I've talked about this before, I can't stress enough how much fun it is to cast Arcane Missiles when this procs. Seriously, I wasn't expecting it to be this much of a blast. Unless you're a deep Arcane Mage, you'll never know the raw, unadulterated joy of firing 5 missiles out over a short 2.5 seconds (or even less with all the crazy haste gear in the expansion) and watching them just tear something apart. It looks and sounds really rapid-fire, and if you can manage to time it with a Clearcasting proc or pop Arcane Power just before casting it, and just about all five of those babies crit? Sweet fancy Moses.

Frankly, I like a lot of the mechanics like this that they've introduced in the expansion, from the free, instant Fireball from Brain Freeze to the instant Pyroblast two crits in a row will grant you if you take Hot Streak. They add a small dash of extra interactivity and spontaneity to a class that in its current form can feel so static. Here's hoping the days of one-button Mages are soon behind us, never to return. Spamming Fireballs was never anyone's idea of fun.

4. There aren't nearly as many Frost-immune mobs as we were afraid there might be.

I mean, with the exception of a few obvious ones, like the Crystalline Ice Elementals of Dragonblight, I haven't run into much that shrugs off a Frostbolt or can't be frozen in place by a Frost Nova. Even things with names like "Arctic Ram" or "Reanimated Frostwyrm" still go down to a well-placed Shatter combo, so Frost Mages won't have to worry going into the frigid north and being rendered useless. I was as concerned about this as the next Mage, I admit. I thought the introduction of Frostfire Bolt was a sign of things to come, that being a Frost Mage in the expansion would be akin to being a Fire Mage in Molten Core. I'm glad to discover that such is not the case.

5. MIrror Image is still awesome.

I know you're probably sick and tired of hearing me yammer on about this spell, but I forgot to mention a couple neat things in the Skill Mastery post.

First: When you cast the spell, you get a buff that periodically switches positions between you and one of your copies, selected at random. This can be very confusing to an opponent, as they might be attacking you one second, and the next be attacking one of your duplicates. Though the spell is primarily an offensive ability, this little bit of subterfuge can truly help you defensively. It can also be very disconcerting, as you have no way to control which of your copies you will switch with, or even which direction you will be facing when you switch places with them. The nice thing about it, though, is that you can click the buff off if you're in a situation where the cons of switching places outweigh the pros, such as when raiding. It's a neat little effect that's a little buggy at the moment, but has potential.

Also, though their primary spells still seem to be Frostbolt and Fire Blast, your mirror images also seem to randomly throw out the occasional Polymorph: Penguin or Polymorph: Chicken spell. It's nothing huge, but pretty fun nonetheless. And yes, I think it's awesome that my copies can turn things into a chicken even though I personally can't. I just wish they'd take a few of the thirty seconds they have to live and teach me how, that's all.

The spell is currently an instant win in any PvP or PvE situation, even against multiple elite enemies. While this is fun, it will almost have to be balanced. I'm just praying they leave it relevant, and that the inevitable nerfs don't rob the spell of it's current insanely high fun-factor. What we really need is for the other classes to develop a defense to it that will work within the game mechanics, so a nerf isn't necessitated. Come on, non-Mages: L2P or whatever, and hurry up about it, before they blast my favorite spell to smithereenes! There has got to be a natural counter to being able to instantly summon three devastatingly powerful copies of yourself and then switch places with them randomly while they kill everything in sight. Right?

And please, no more nonsense in the comments section about me needing to keep quiet about this spell, or that by suggesting it may need balancing, I will somehow be responsible for upcoming nerfs. It isn't as if I'm letting the cat out of the bag here. This spell isn't exactly low-profile, trust me. Blizzard will continue to design and implement spells in their game as they have always done: with a reasonable amount competence and entirely independent of my opinions. Yours too, unless you happen to post on the official forums under the name "Kalgan," or something. I try to be honest in these columns, and I certainly don't have any kind of agenda that's even remotely detrimental to Mages. I happen to be quite fond of us, actually.

6. Mages rock faces in PvP.

People (usually people who play other classes) like to tell Mages all about the good old days when Mages ruled the earth and Warlocks were terrible and DPS rained from the heavens wherever Mages went. Well, I hit level 60 on my Mage about a month before the pre-Burning Crusade patch hit the live servers, so I guess I missed out on the era of the over-powered Mage. The era I was around for was the "era of the Mage who isn't as good as other DPS classes and yet dies faster than any of them." That era is still ongoing, to be perfectly honest.

Let me just say that on the beta, a new era is dawning. Let's call it the "best era of all time."

I can't even begin to describe how fun it is to have joined the other "roll-face-on-keyboard-and-win" classes, even if it only lasts a little while. Our DPS is high, our survivability is high, and our control is still excellent. We can win one-on-one against every class, and do it in style.

While testing out Deep Freeze for yesterday's Skill Mastery, I wandered into a herd of mammoths in Dragonblight. While systematically dispatching them, I was suddenly reeled in by Death Knight's Death Grip. I was at half mana and a third of my health. I was in combat with two other mobs. I popped Mirror Image. I won.

After eating and drinking, I returned to my mammoth-slaying. The Death Knight rezzed and attacked again, only this time, Mirror Image was still on cooldown. I held the Death Knight and several mammoths off for a bit, until Mirror Image was back off cooldown, then popped it again. Here's a screenshot of the Death Knight's final moments.

If you squint, you might be able to make out my copies fighting mammoths in the distance. You may also notice that even though I'm fighting a very dangerous and magic resistant melee class that is extremely difficult to kite, I'm about to kill her without having lost much in the way of health. You may also notice that we both appear to be nekkid, but be advised that this is due to most of the level 80 armor not having been given models in the latest beta push, and not due to any fashion choices on our parts.

Why do I bring this up? It isn't to brag. I didn't win because I was more skilled that the Death Knight. I won because Mages are awesome on the beta. I could never have survived a similar situation on the live servers. I bring this up to point out in game-terms the unique position Mages find themselves in PvP-wise on the beta. We're...we're...really, really good, and not just because we can summon a table of delicious biscuits and then open a portal to Shattrath at the end of the instance!

I have to tell you, it's a strange and wonderful feeling. I'm not used to feeling like I have the upper hand in every situation. It won't last, but for now, it's pretty great.

How much of any of this stuff makes it live, and the how much of the stuff that does ends up getting nerfed into oblivion is anyone's guess. All I know is that life for Mages right now in the beta is very good. It's been so long since I felt like a real powerhouse, I don't know what the appropriate response is. I know it isn't "shhh keep quiet so Blizzard doesn't nerf us!" because that's just stupid. I know it isn't "whine on the forums about every nerf or bug, and find reasons to complain even about awesome new spells that aren't finished yet," because that's just ungrateful and generally being a prick. I think the appropriate response is probably just being happy. I'm sincerely enjoying the process Mages are going through right now, and though I expect some balancing to happen to our class to bring it in line with everybody else, I'm optimistic that at the end of the cycle, we'll still emerge in a good place. I can't wait to level my Mage to 80 for real, and that's a good way to feel.

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at the potential of the new Frostfire Bolt spell, or our analysis of the WotLK beta changes to the Arcane, Frost, and Fire trees. If you're sick and tired of all this Mage-talk, there's a veritable treasure trove of guides and tips related to all of the other aspects of WoW over in the WoW Insider Directory. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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