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Arcane Brilliance: Mages hate Warlocks, and then Warlocks drain our hate and kill us with it.

Christian Belt

Every week Arcane Brilliance strives to deliver a tiny parcel full of Mage-craft to your doorsteps. Not your real doorsteps, that would be creepy. Your virtual interweb doorsteps. This week, in addition to its usual magey goodness, that tiny parcel is pulsating with warlockian evil. You've been warned.

In case I haven't been clear on this in the past, I hate Warlocks. I've hated them since I was a child, when a Warlock ate my family. Just kidding, that didn't actually happen. My family is alive and well. In fact, I would say my Warlock prejudices originated as recently as last year, when I hit level 70 and took my first wide-eyed look at the brutal world of end-game PvP.

When our own V'Ming Chew (the only decent Warlock I know) suggested that we engage in a little back-and-forth in yesterday's Blood Pact column I was at first reluctant. I worried that halfway though the series of emails we sent back and forth to each other I might realize that I had 8 different DoTs hovering above my head, and a felhound might at some point end up eating my face. That didn't happen. Well, a felhound did eat my face, but that was in a completely unrelated Arena match last night. In fact, I thought the dialog went quite well: we agreed on a few points, agreed to disagree on other points, and nobody got killed. Or had their souls drained from their bodies.

Still, and not just because as a Mage it is my job to QQ more, I felt there was more to say. Last week I promised you a look at the Mage/Warlock rivalry, and after the break, I will try to deliver on that promise.

Mages didn't always hate Warlocks. Once upon a time, when we were young and Onyxia was only a gleam in the eye of some fresh-faced developer, back when PvP was what happened when the Alliance in Southshore got bored, Mages only disliked Warlocks. It was a sort of friendly competition: we tried to out-DPS each other in instances, and outroll each other when cloth gear dropped. Warlocks envied our raw damage output, and we coveted their Healthstones and pets.

Then came The Burning Crusade. Ten more levels. A whole new endgame. We all quested our merry way through Outland, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. One by one, somewhere in Shadowmoon Valley or Netherstorm, we began to ding 70. Mages everywhere visited their class trainers and learned exciting new spells, saved up some money and bought a flying mount, and then looked around for something to do. Some of us went raiding. Some of us kept questing. And God help us, some of us took a wrong turn and ended up in Arena.

I firmly believe that this is where the rivalry really came into its own. We toted our spellbooks into small-scale, matchup-driven PvP and began to discover something.

We sucked.

Ok, to be fair, there are some classes Mages had the upper hand against. Alright, just Warriors. And maybe Hunters. And possibly a Pally or two, if they went afk or something. Most of the time, though, Mages entering Arena felt like they were essentially strapping a giant "Kill Me" sign to their foreheads. With time and gear, we found ways to at least hold our own against many other classes. A skilled Mage could be an asset to many team configurations, providing powerful burst damage and reliable CC when not being killed by Rogues. But not when a Warlock came out the other door. What should have been a good old fashioned caster-on-caster duel usually ended up a shamefully lopsided travesty that even when looked at in a very generous light could not be considered anything even remotely in the same neighborhood as a fair fight.

Warlocks had apparently been designed to be the perfect counter to Mages. At 60, it had been hard to beat a Warlock, but at 70 it was nearly impossible. Mages became discouraged. We whined. The official forums reverberated with howls of magey anguish.

Raiding Mages discovered a whole other side of the issue. Suddenly our DPS wasn't good enough. Hunters, Rogues, and worst of all, Warlocks, were eclipsing us on the damage meters. Mages had always known going in what their role was, and what the trade off for it would be. We were the kings of back-row DPS, but the single most fragile class in the game. At 70, we were still the most fragile class in the game, but suddenly not the highest DPS anymore. Conversely, Warlocks had eclipsed us as the new kings of caster DPS, and yet had evolved into the single most durable DPS class in the game, outliving even Rogues and Hunters. We QQed on the forums, and our hatred for Warlocks grew.

The rivalry itself evolved into something that could hardly even be called a rivalry anymore. In a true rivalry, both sides have to compete, and victory must alternate in some fashion. In almost every meaningful facet of the game, Warlocks were absolutely owning Mages. As it stands now, yes we hate them, but do they feel anything similar for us? Not really. Warlocks are more tired of our whining than anything else. They have nothing to fear from us, know that their position is secure in the class hierarchy, and in many ways think it's funny that Mages have fallen so far below them. Warlocks are Nintendo, and Mages are Sega. It's only a matter of time before Mages begin making crappy Sonic games for the Wii.

So where are we heading form here? I choose to look forward with optimism. As I said in yesterday's Blood Pact, endgame WoW is all about roles. As the game is designed now, there are three major roles (Tank, Healer, DPS) and one minor role (CC) of any significance. If you are not exceptional at one of these roles, you fail at endgame, regardless of skill level in many ways. Mages bring Polymorph to the table, and a food table to the table, and so-so DPS to the table. Warlocks bring PvP dominance to the table, exceptional DPS without sacrificing survivability, Healthstones, pets, CC, and probably 18 other crazy-awesome things I don't have room for. In short: Warlocks fill Mages' role better Mages do, only they don't have to sacrifice anything to do it. There is no trade-off for Warlocks. This breeds resentment.

If roles are required at endgame, and this game would cease to function if they weren't, then those roles need to be clearly defined and evenly distributed among the classes. There simply can't be two classes that fill a specific role if you're going to make one of them so much better than the other. You dilute the value of the lesser class, and alienate the many who play that class.

Here is what I propose, even though it won't ever happen. Blizzard needs to create a greater need for a debuff class. Shamans could fill this role, and in my heart of hearts I feel that Warlocks were made to fill it. Tone down Warlock DPS a bit (not a lot, let's not get crazy here) and upgrade their debuffs. Allow them to work on more bosses. Tweak balance so that every raid will need a debuff spot or two filled. Suddenly everybody has a role to fill. Instead of 16 different classes vying for 2 DPS spots in every five man group, now every class has a role to fill. It seems simple right? Makes perfect sense? Maybe? Ok maybe just a little bit? If you think about it the right way? Ok, you're right. I'm totally wrong. It sounded good for a second, though, right? No? Fine. Well, have fun flaming me!

Arcane Brilliance will return next week with a hard look at...something. I haven't decided what it'll be yet, but I'm sure it will be the greatest thing you have ever read in your entire life up until that very moment, and will remain so until you read the next Arcane Brilliance the following week. And so the cycle will continue for ever and ever, amen. Or not. I might talk about PvP. Arena or something. I'll get back to you.

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