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Arcane Brilliance: Leveling your Mage, 40-60

Christian Belt

Each week, Arcane Brilliance endeavors to distill the vast and complex world of Mages into a thousand words or so. How does Arcane Brilliance do it?
Magic. Yep, it's an 81 point talent, learnable at level 100 and only available in the upcoming 5th expansion, tentatively titled, "World of Warcraft: The Burning Scarlet Crusade of the Lich King." This is leaked straight from the very early Alpha Beta Alpha Gamma of that expansion, and Arcane Brilliance is the sole invitee. In fact, It's so early that the game doesn't technically exist yet, which may explain why most of these columns end up being closer to three thousand words than one. Blizzard's working on a patch.

Level 40. You've burned and frozen your way through 39 levels of experience and two whole columns worth of leveling guides to get here, and now you're level 40. Have a party, invite your friends. It'll be fun. If it isn't, turn somebody into a sheep. Just trust me. Works every time. Well, unless your friends aren't humanoids, beasts, or critters, in which case I can't help you, and perhaps no-one can.

Level 40 is a milestone of such epic proportions that it's probably only rivaled by dinging 70 as far as stages in WoW progression go. When you're done celebrating, it's time to get going. You've got a lot to do. After the break, we'll talk about level 40 and all the wonderful new toys it makes available to you, and do our level best ( pun totally intended) to cover the 19 levels that follow, stopping only when we hit 60.

The first thing you'll want to do, if you're anything at all like me, is go get your first mount. Not only is having a mount a nice status symbol, it's a way of speeding up the game's single biggest time-sink: traveling. Sure you can teleport to the capital cities, but having a mount lets you go places much faster once you're there. Check WoW Insider's own mount guide to see what your race's choices will be. Be sure you have enough money to buy both the riding skill and a mount before you go, however. Unless you've been grinding the right faction reputation (a thankless task in most cases), you'll need 91 gold total. If this is your first character, that may seem like a mind-boggling sum. Believe me, I understand. When I hit level 40 on my Mage, I believe I had like 5 gold to my name (mostly due to ill-advised gear purchases on the auction house). Don't despair! It isn't as hard to gather 91 gold as it sounds. Here are my two best tips for raising money quickly. These work at all stages of the game, and I give them to you freely. That's right, no charge. You don't have to buy my Uber Gold Making Guide for $19.99 or anything like that.

1. Sell everything.

Seriously, a lot of mid-range tradeskill items you may have sitting in your bank are worth quite a bit of cash on the market right now. If you don't immediately need something, sell it. Things like Mithril Ore, Lesser Moonstones, Wool and Mageweave Cloth, Heavy Leather, Goldthorn, Greater Mystic Essence, and many many other common items are as good as gold on the AH and sell quickly. Pack-rats don't make money. Get rid of anything and everything. If you aren't confident about playing the fluctuating AH market, just check how much stacks of your item are currently priced at, and undercut that price. You may not be getting as much as you could get, but selling fast is often better than selling high.

2. Don't buy anything.

You need your money now more than you ever have before, so save everything you have and don't buy anything for awhile. Seems obvious, but nobody follows this advice. Trust me, you don't need that blue bind-on-equip staff on the AH. You'll out-level it in 2 levels, or find a nicer one in Uldaman or something, and then you'll wish you had your 25 gold pieces back. You might be surprised how quickly you begin to accumulate money once you start severely limiting your expenditures.

Do both of these things and you'll have your mount money in no time, I promise. Just please don't be one of those dorks who spam the trade channel or stand in the bank asking everyone for money in broken, garbled pseudo-English. Everybody hates people who do that, and even if somebody does give you something, they are only doing it to shut you up, and you should absolutely hate yourself for it.

The other really nice thing about level 40, as with level 20, is the wealth of new spells you get to indulge in. You get new ranks of Arcane Missiles, Conjure Water, Fire Ward, Flamestrike, Frost Nova, Ice Armor, Polymorph, and Scorch. If you've been talenting exclusively in any of the three schools of magic, you can now learn one of three very nice spells. In the Fire tree, Combustion is available. This is a spell that basically manufactures three fire spell critical strikes in a short amount of time, and effectively turns Fire Mages into killing machines (albeit very fragile killing machines). The Arcane tree provides Arcane Power, which does for spell damage what Combustion does for crits. For a short time every three minutes, all of your spells will do a ton more damage and cost more mana and all the ladies will love the fact that it makes you look like you could fry an egg on your shoulders. In the Frost tree, we find an incredible survivability spell called Ice Barrier. It can be cast every thirty seconds and provides a strong damage absorbing shield that also prevents your spells from being interrupted as long as it's up. Take it into a battleground and watch everyone wonder why they can't kill the clothie. Good times.

The other nice additions are portal spells. Return to all of the places you bought your teleport spells from and buy the portal versions of them. The reagents are more expensive for these spells, but they allow you to create portals that can teleport your entire party to any of the major capital cities. Everyone will love you for making them at the end of an instance, and you can actually make a bit of money selling them to people who request them in chat, although if you're nice, you'll just do it for tips, which can still end up being lucrative.

Levels 40-45

It is at this point that leveling truly becomes a grind. Patch 2.3 made this much better, but the time it takes to level from 40-60 is still a lot longer than the time it took to level from 20-40. Questing is still your best option for gaining experience efficiently, so find a good hub and settle down for the long haul. Quests have become even more complex at this point, with long chains to complete, terrible drop rates, and multiple objectives required.

Instances that make good leveling options in this range include the later wings of the Scarlet Monastery, Uldaman, and as you approach level 45, Zul'Farrak and Maraudon.

Level 42 brings you new ranks of Amplify Magic, Arcane Intellect, Cone of Cold, Conjure Food, Fireball, and Frost Ward, while level 44 grants upgraded versions of Blizzard, Frostbolt, and Mana Shield. As you can see, by this point in the game, you've gained access to almost all of the Mage spells out there, and won't see much more before level 60. Your repertoire is as good as it's going to get for awhile, and you've got 20 levels or so to learn how best to use it.

Levels 45-50

Level 46 allows you to train new ranks of Arcane Explosion, Fire Blast, and Scorch. At 48, you get higher-powered Arcane Missiles, Dampen Magic, Fireball, Flamestrike, and the ability to conjure a Mana Citrine. Again, nothing fresh and exciting there, but you are steadily getting more and more powerful, and that's what we're here for, right?

Levels 50-55

Ah. Now we get some good stuff. Level 50 isn't the great leap forward that level 40 was, but it's pretty spectacular on its own merits. New spell ranks include Cone of Cold, Conjure Water, Fire Ward, Frostbolt, and Ice Armor. You can now get your portal spells for Darnassus or Thunder Bluff if you care to make the trip.

The best part about level 50? 41 point talents become available. Your Fire tree option is Dragon's Breath, an instant-cast Cone of Cold-style frontal AoE attack that does devastating amounts of damage and causes a disorienting effect on those caught within its line of fire. The Arcane tree gives you Slow, which delivers a 15 second debuff to a single target that slows movement speed, attack speed, and casting speed. This is kind of useful in PvE, but is absolutely fantastic in PvP. Use it on a Warrior or a Rogue and you've just ruined his day. Last but certainly not least, the Frost tree 41 point talent is Summon Water Elemental. This is the reason you specced Frost, and it lives up to expectations. For 45 seconds every three minutes, you get to have this wonderful creature by your side, casting ranged freezing spells and just generally being awesome. I can't overstate how nice this talent is. I just can't. It almost makes up for Warlock pets. Almost. Ok, it doesn't at all. It's still pretty cool, though.

Level 50 also allows Mages to complete another class-specific quest chain, beginning with Magic Dust. To pick it up, you'll need to visit Archmage Xylem atop his tower in Ashzara. After completing a few tasks there in Ashzara, you'll be sent into the Sunken Temple instance to Destroy Morphaz, a boss there. It isn't usually difficult to find groups for this instance, as every class has a level 50 quest to go into Sunken Temple. This dungeon is also your only new option for leveling until level 55 or so. It's a difficult, slightly obtuse instance, but as you can see, the quest rewards are well worth it. Choose whatever you like best, but it is generally best to pick the trinket, since it will last you into Outland (there simply aren't a lot of good trinket options pre-expansion) and you'll likely replace both the neck item and the weapon well before then.

Level 52 grants fresh ranks of Blizzard, Conjure Food, Frost Ward, Mana Shield, and Scorch, while 54 makes available new versions of Amplify Magic, Arcane Explosion, Fire Blast, Fireball, and Frost Nova.

Levels 55-60

A word of advice. Though I dearly miss the old end-game zones, quest-lines and instances, they are now almost entirely useless. As far as leveling is concerned, you are far better served going to Outland as soon as humanly possible, which is level 58, unless you want to get a higher level Mage to teleport you to Shattrath or a Warlock to summon you to Outland, and even then, you should probably wait until at least level 57 in order to reliably kill the mobs in the first zone. Use the zones from level 55 on for experience points, and don't invest too much time or enchants on the gear you'll earn at those levels. Almost everything available in the old-world at this point will begin to be replaced almost as soon as you pass through the Dark Portal, so concentrate on leveling, not gear. The last truly useful instance in the old-world is probably Blackrock Depths, and even that's pushing it. The quests in Hellfire Peninsula are designed to replace every gear slot with blues or greens that use the Burning Crusade itemization statistics, and the stats on even the first green you find can often dwarf even high-end old-world raid epics. If you choose to stay and complete quests in the old-world, you can easily do so to level 60 and perhaps beyond (and some still enjoy this, for purely aesthetic reasons), but know that it will take you longer and the gear you get will be sub-par. I really wish Blizzard would fix this, if only by tweaking the old end-game gear a bit to bring it in line with the itemization in the expansion, but what I wish for and what Blizzard tends to do are two vastly different things.

Level 56 brings new ranks of Arcane Intellect, Arcane Missiles, Flamestrike, and Frostbolt. You also get your first new spell in a while in Arcane Brilliance, which, incidentally, is this column's favorite spell, for obvious reasons. This spell is Arcane Intellect for your entire party, no more, no less. It saves time in instances and raids, which is never a bad thing.

Level 58 upgrades several spells, including Cone of Cold, Mage Armor, and Scorch, and adding Conjure Mana Ruby. As mentioned above, reaching this level also allows you to pass through the Dark Portal, so feel free to head on over to Blasted Lands and hop through.

It is here that I'll leave you for now, on the brink of new frontiers and fantastic adventures. The Burning Crusade is like a whole new game, so get ready for a bit of culture shock, but in a good way. Next week we'll take the trip from level 60 to the current cap of 70, and trust me when I say it'll be a wild ride.

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our two-part look at Mage match-ups with other classes in PvP, or our recent look at what to do with your Mage upon hitting level 70. 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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