On the 16th, the demons of the Burning Crusade invade shopping malls and Walmarts everywhere, slaughtering millions of innocent humans as they stand in line to buy oversized pretzels and name-brand electronics. Ok, none of that actually happens. What actually does happen is in some ways the exact opposite. Millions of WoW players brave the horrors of server crashes and horrible, horrible latency issues to march through the Dark Portal. Demons die by the thousands at the hands of those players, most of them only having time to spawn and then die again while players loot their corpses for random green gear to replace their purple epics with.
Mages in particular find many new and exciting things to do in this strange and violent place. From new spells, to new gear, to new quests, to still more mobs who are COMPLETELY IMMUNE TO THE SCHOOL OF MAGIC SOME OF US HAD SPENT ALL OF OUR TALENT POINTS IN, the Burning Crusade offers a mind-boggling amount of new things for us to turn into sheep and new ways in which to bend space and time for our own benefit. The possibilities are simply staggering. To celebrate, I set something on fire. I think it may have been an orc.
Mages begin to hit level 70 in droves. Along the way we discover new toys: Spellsteal and Invisibility. I for one am very excited about Invisibility. Then I use it. Imagine my dismay when I discover it's almost entirely useless. Really? It was designed as an aggro drop...but it has a 5 second wait time and can be interrupted by any kind of damage? Thanks, guys. That...that just sucks.
Spellsteal, though. Just...wow. Yes, it burns mana. Yes, it's random. But the first time you get it to work on another Mage using Slow Fall? Priceless. Stealing Blessing of Protection from a Pally and then destroying him from inside his own bubble? Beyond awesome.
As we delve deeper into the expansion's content, we discover a couple things.
#1: Mages are made of paper in Arenas.
#2: Mages aren't the best DPS class in raids anymore.
After going 0-10 my first week doing 2v2, I curl myself into a little ball and cry a lot. Basically, my matches go something like this:
1. I click Fireball.
2. I die.
I'm nowhere near doing the new endgame raid content at this point, but I see the forums are rife with unhappy Mages who keep getting upstaged on the damage meters by Rogues, Warlocks, Shadow Priests, Warriors, Boomkin, Hunters, Hunters' pets, Hunters' cosmetic pets, and even sometimes Ret Pallies. I listen to it all with growing dismay. Weren't Mages designed to be the premiere DPS class in the game? Isn't that why we have all the longevity of a bug on an expressway? To trade off for our uber-magical powerz? With the advent of Arena PvP, suddenly class balance becomes an ongoing, throbbing, pulsating, rotten abscess in the tooth of every player who isn't a Druid. Mages discover that almost every class is better suited to killing them in one-on-one situations than they are suited to kill other classes, and to add insult to injury, they realize that other classes outperform them in PvE as well. Needless to say, Mages are displeased.
On the eleventy-third of this magical month--a month created beneath the shield of Dalaran by a secret enclave of the Archest of Archmages inside a mystic crease in the fabric of space-time, a month that exists only for Mages, where down is up and up is left and 1+2 = cats--Mages convene a massive conference. Gathering from around the known universe, they combine their powers and rewrite the laws of physics and game mechanics. By the end of the month, Blink actually works when you need it to, Invisibility actually becomes useful, Fire and Arcane become viable specs for both raiding and PvP, Slow Fall no longer requires a reagent, Ice Armor grants enough armor to keep melee classes from chewing Mages up, and Mages can now do enough damage to get raid invites again.
Blizzard nerfs Magitember.
For one brief, shining moment, Mages think Blizzard has heard their cries. In what seems at first to be a ridiculous buff but turns out to be a bug, Mages discover that on the PTRs, Polymorph no longer heals its targets. Yes, for just a few days, Mages on the PTRs can sheep, Pyroblast, sheep, Pyroblast, over and over until their targets die. When this is fixed, we slink back into the Arena to die quietly again.
Yes, I know I skipped May. the reason is because nothing happens in May. Also, not much happens in June. We play a lot of Burning Crusade. We learn to adapt to our PvP role of glass cannons and our PvE role of second fiddle. That's about it. I also plan to skip July, so if you're particularly attached to that month, consider this fair warning.
In August, we get Blizzcon. During the class panel portion of Day 2, Mages come up frequently. It's clear that Blizzard thinks fondly of Mages, as they clearly state that Mages are intended to be the DPS kings. They refer to Mages as the "experimental" class, which I take to mean they like to try new ideas out on us. The obvious results of this way of thinking? Spellsteal and Invisibility. Sometimes experiments succeed and sometimes they fail, I guess.
Wrath of the Lich King is officially unveiled at this conference, which of course changes a whole lot of things for Mages. The most important of these tidbits for me was Inscription, the new profession. Inscription promises to affect Mages in some very substantial ways. In fact the awesome, awesome example Jeff Kaplan gives on how the new profession could work is adding a knockback effect to Fireball. The sheer, undiluted potential of the concept for Mages, who depend entirely upon their spells, is fantastic. I'd give several limbs for the ability to extend the range of my spells, or duration of the effects, or add raw spell damage or DoTs. I can't wait to see how it ends up being implemented.
Brewfest. Despite the bugginess, WoW players worldwide line up to obtain virtual alcohol from dwarves. My Undead Mage has no lower jaw, but somehow finds a way to consume his fair share. Some of us come away with silly-looking rams to ride around on.
Hallows End arrives with more impact. Mages join groups to slaughter the newly implemented Headless Horseman over and over until they all have like 3 of The Horseman's Signet Ring and about a billion pumpkins to jam on their heads. I don my most witchy-looking hat and fly about on a Magic Broom, cackling maniacally. People don't really look at me funny because this is WoW, and that's probably only the 20th dumbest thing they've seen someone doing that day.
Also, Blizzard implements voice chat. Since those of us who want it have been using it for years already on other programs, and those of us who don't want it don't care, the change is largely ignored.
Oh, the wonders of Patch 2.3. Mages get Ritual of Refreshment, which we've been waiting for ever since Warlocks got their Soulwells. At this rate, we'll get to endlessly Fear while draining health and mana from our opponents by 2010. It takes approximately 0.02 seconds for everyone else to suddenly expect snack tables from every Mage in sight. The patch also ups our DPS by taking away the "damage tax" on our signature spells, Fireball and Frostbolt, a very welcome change. Evocation becomes a much better spell when it stops being tied to spirit-based mana regeneration and starts working on a flat percentage. In short, this patch makes Mages better in a lot of ways. Sure, it does the same thing for just about every other class (sorry, Shamans!), but Mages don't care about other classes. Mages care about Mages. And we hate Warlocks. We hate them so much.
Mages everywhere rejoice when it is revealed that Mini-Me is a Mage. How awesome is that? The answer: so awesome.
The biggest change for Mages this month comes in the form of patch 2.3.2, which serves up two very welcome buffs. Ice Block becomes trainable, which goes a long way toward making it acceptable to not be a Frost Mage in PvP. Finally Fire/Arcane Mages get a small taste of the survivability that makes Frost such a wonderful PvP tree. As of this writing, I still haven't figured out the best way to use it (I usually pop it at the absolute wrong time and then don't come out of it early enough), but it's still nice to know that I can live 10 seconds longer in the Arena. Unless a Priest Dispells it. Also, though it doesn't quite make up for the giant Healthstone crits that Warlocks seem to always get when they fight me, giving our Mana Emeralds 3 charges is a very nice change. Since most other classes got nothing of significance in this patch, Mages feel fairly good about themselves.
In other news, Christmas comes and the year ends.
The new year brings vast, almost limitless potential both for Mages and for World of Warcraft as a whole. I am incredibly excited about setting fire to Kael'thas and then shaking him down for loot over and over again. I want this and these, and one of these too. For those Mages who meet the steep gear requirements and are in a progressive guild, a whole new opportunity to be 5th or 6th on the DPS boards will open up with the new 25 man raid.
Further down the line looms Wrath of the Lich King and all of the promise it brings. Ten new levels of talents, spells, gear, and um...hairstyles. At 80, will I be able to do to Zul'Gurub what I can currently do to Zul'Farrak? Will I even still want to? And will a good portion of the mobs in Northrend be immune to Frost magic, so I can finally feel vindicated about my choice to stick with my Fire spec? I'd better stop or this could turn into a whole other column. Suffice it to say that 2007 was good, and 2008 is going to be spectacular.
Arcane Brilliance will be back next week with a look at some of the best talents Mages have, and how to mix them with your favorite spec. If you've never gone deep into the Arcane tree, you might be surprised what you're missing. I just switched to a new spec and...well...let's just say I had no idea.