Arcane Brilliance: Inscription and the common Mage

Christian Belt
C. Belt|11.02.08

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Arcane Brilliance: Inscription and the common Mage

Each week Arcane Brilliance gathers energy from the nether, spinning it from the bowels of the universe itself, then threads that dark matter together into a tapestry of destruction. This is a fancy way of saying that Arcane Brilliance summons up a column about Mages each Saturday. Then, over the course of a 5 second cast-time, it balls that column up into a giant ball of flame and nukes your face with it.

Patch 3.0.2 hurled a new profession into our little virtual pond, and like Jewelcrafting before it, Inscription has plunged beneath the surface like a cannonball. We'll likely be sorting out the various waves and ripples that splash has created for months to come, but having spent the better part of three weeks with it, we can begin to see some results of the impact. Some of us have dived right in, picking up the profession and leveling it with gusto. Some of us only know that we saw a big splash, and that we are now very wet.

As a Mage, this profession intrigues me more than most. Several of the glyphs for Mages are quite powerful, the Scribe-only shoulder enchants are pretty spectacular, and the off-hand weapons Scribes can create and equip seem like an attractive leveling option going into Wrath. What are the pros and cons of this new profession? Is it worth dropping old standards like Enchanting or Tailoring for? As a Mage, is Inscription worth learning, or am I better off just buying glyphs when I need them?

Though we're still in the early stages of learning about this new tradeskill, we're at a point now where we can start to weigh its costs and benefits. After the break, we'll evaluate Inscription as a profession for Mages, and go over the glyphs available to us both now and after November 13th.

Scribe-only benefits
  • Master Inscriptions
These don't actually come into play until after the expansion hits, but once leveling Inscription to 400, a Scribe can enchant their own shoulders with some very powerful and unique enchants. For Mages, the choices would be between Master's Inscription of the Crag and of the Storm. These compare very favorably with the faction-specific shoulder enchants available in Wrath, and require no reputation grinding to obtain. I'm going to put this one squarely in the "no-downside" category.
Essentially a second hearthstone, these little wonders are always nice. Granted, they're a bit less wondrous for Mages, for whom transportation has never been a problem, but being able to set a scroll for instant travel to out-of-the-way inns in zones like Badlands or Un'Goro Crater would be a pleasant convenience even to us portal-bots.
  • Darkmoon Cards
Though the creation process is still randomized, Scribes can create these formerly world-drop-only cards. This will make it far easier for a Mage with Inscription to obtain the useful trinkets obtainable through collecting the various decks, including the new and more powerful WotLK versions. This is nice, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised to see a proliferation of cards once people really get going with Inscription, driving down prices on the AH and generally making easier for everyone to build their decks easier. In other words, you likely won't really need to have Inscription for your Mage to benefit from this.
  • Off-Hands
If you eschew a staff and instead prefer to barbecue Murlocs whilst sporting a 1H-weapon and an off-hand frill, Inscription appears to be the profession for you. The leveling options created here are quite powerful, and require only a certain Inscription level to equip instead of a level requirement. Those who have leveled with a profession like Engineering can tell you how awesome being able to equip high-level gear at a low level can be. For example, your level ten Mage, if you power-level his Inscription, could equip the Tome of the Dawn. Another option at that level? Behold the mind-blowing splendor of the Journeyman's Stave. As early as level 35, you could be rocking a Stormbound Tome in your off-hand. Or, if you're lucky, you could be slumming it with a Rod of Molten Fire. Tempting, right?


Every Mage can benefit from these, regardless of whether they have Inscription or not. Your Mage can obtain his/her first glyphs at level 15. At level 70, you have room for three minor glyphs and two majors, and you should absolutely be trying to fill those slots as soon as possible. In this column, for the sake of space, I'll only be talking about the glyphs available currently on the live servers.

So what glyphs can we get now, and which of those are worth the getting?
  • Major glyphs
Glyph of Arcane Missiles

For PvP Arcane Mages, this isn't bad. Those extra five yards can be a life-saver in Arena, and in theory, being able to cast from farther would help even in PvE. The fatal flaw with this idea is that the other DPS spells you'll be casting as an Arcane Mage (Arcane Barrage, Arcane Blast) are still stuck at a shorter range, meaning this glyph isn't realistically going to allow you to stand any farther back that you would otherwise be able to.

Glyph of Ice Armor

Meh. If you're fighting a lot of melee opponents or a Frost Mage, having a bit more armor and frost resistance isn't a bad thing to have, but otherwise this seems a waste of a glyph slot.

Glyph of Frost Nova

Not too shabby. That 20% is significant. What this basically translates to is an extra Ice Lance or so before your Frost Nova breaks. More control, more damage, more killing, right? Who doesn't want more killing? Wait...that came out wrong.

Glyph of Arcane Explosion

As major glyphs go, this one is of limited value. Unless you're planning on spamming AoE a whole lot all of the time, I wouldn't burn a glyph slot on this.

Glyph of Improved Scorch

Ahhh, now we're talking. This is a sexy glyph. There are a few things this glyph has the potential to do for you. First, it'll save you time on every pull, allowing you to cast Scorch twice at the start of the fight to fully stack the debuff, instead of five times. Second, when and if the debuff happens to fall off your target, two casts of Scorch will fully re-stack it. Again, time will be saved, and DPS will be increased. A third and slightly more nebulous use for this glyph is that you may now consider not spending all three talent points on Improved Scorch. I'm not advocating this, only suggesting it as a possibility, since combining this glyph with even one talent point into Improved Scorch could still apply the debuff with reasonable efficiency, now that each proc will apply three applications instead of just one. Good glyph.

Glyph of Icy Veins

This is really nice for Frost Mages in PvP. This glyph gives you another snare-removal option, and in Arena, that's more than worth a glyph slot.

Glyph of Evocation

I like this glyph far more than I expected to. It's really nice to have a quick healing option, especially now that evocation has a shorter cooldown. This speeds up leveling, PvE grinding of every kind, and is quite useful in PvP. Mages have never had many options for recovering health, so this is a welcome addition.

Glyph of Blink

I would prefer this glyph if it was minor instead of major. Blink's usefulness as an escape option has never really been about the distance as much as it has been about the instant location-swapping. The extra 5 yards does help, but not as much as it needs to to warrant a major glyph slot. This is especially true when you consider the distinct possibility each time you use it that your Blink will malfunction, making the glyph useless. 5 extra yards doesn't help much if you're going backwards.

Glyph of Mana Gem

Getting more mana each time you use your mana gem is undeniably useful, and 10% of the 2400ish mana these gems give back at level 70 is a solid 240 mana. Still, I'm not sure this is worth spending a slot on, especially given that managing mana isn't nearly the problem post-patch that it was previously.

Glyph of Ice Block

Picture this: you Ice Block, and the Rogue that you're trying to escape from cozies up to you, stabbing away at your block of ice, waiting for you to pop out and die. With this glyph, you now have a guaranteed Frost Nova waiting for him. Mmmm. Yummy Shatter combo deliciousness. With this glyph, you'll even see some Frost Mages using Ice Block offensively, as a way to instantly follow a Shatter combo with a second one. This one's useful in PvP only, but the possibilities here are very intriguing.

Glyph of Mage Armor

Nice. Mage Armor's passive mana-return is already incredibly powerful in long encounters, and this glyph makes it even better. It's essentially a must for raiding Mages, especially as we start picking up the spirit-heavy caster gear available in Wrath.

Glyph of Arcane Power

As an Arcane Mage, I like this. An extra three seconds of Arcane Power gives you an extra powered-up nuke or two, and for burst-damage-oholics like myself, that's worthwhile.
  • Minor Glyphs
Glyph of Frost Armor

I know minor glyphs aren't intended to be truly useful. They're designed to be minor conveniences or cosmetic alterations. I get that. But holy crap, this sucks. Anything else is probably a better use of your minor glyph slot than this. It gives you an extra 30 minutes on your Ice Armor spell. If my calculations are correct, that saves you one button press...once...every half-hour. Seriously, my kid just drew something in oatmeal on her high-chair that's more magically potent than this.

Glyph of Arcane Intellect

Again, not very worthwhile. At best, this saves you a small amount of mana if you choose to reapply Arcane Intellect after getting it eaten by a felhound or something. A minor convenience. That's what we're getting with these minor glyphs, I know, but there are better choices.

Glyph of the Penguin

So. Awesome. If you're going to apply a cosmetic glyph, this is the one. My only complaint is that I wish it gave you separate penguin and sheep buttons. I know I can take the glyph off if I ever want to go back to sheep, but I still feel a sense of loss knowing my sheep ability is gone.

Glyph of Slow Fall

This is actually quite nice. It frees up an inventory slot, and means that you never have to think twice about casting Slow Fall. This is great fun. Arathi Basin becomes a fantastic festival of floating Mages when this glyph makes Slow Fall a consequence-less proposal. Yes, I like alliteration. Lay off.

Glyph of Fire Ward

Of limited use, but a for PvP Mages, this is a better use of a minor slot than most. 5% chance to reflect is better than nothing at all.

Glyph of Frost Ward

Same deal here. A good collection of minor glyphs for PvP is probably this one, Fire Ward, and Penguin for the embarrassment factor, or Slow Fall if you do a lot of Battlegrounding.

All things considered, Inscription seems like a perfectly appropriate profession choice for Mages, both for leveling and at the current end-game. We'll have to reevaluate its viability--along with every other profession--as things get ironed out at level 80, but for now, any Mage would be well served with this profession in their spellbooks. It isn't anything that's going to blow the current favorites out of the water, but it can certainly hold its own.

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 how long your gear will last you in Northrend, or our analysis of the current state of the Mage class as we move into the new expansion. 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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