I'm going to assume that most of you are well into leveling your Mages through Northrend. A lot of you will likely be sitting on level 72, 73 or 74ish, and some of you more crazy Mages might even be closing in on level 80. If you've already managed to cap your Mage, wow. I don't know whether to congratulate you or stage an intervention. Either way, I'm afraid this week's column isn't going to be of much interest to you. It's directed more at those of you still in the early-to-mid range of the 70-80 leveling stretch.
In my opinion, there are three main kinds of talent specs in WoW. End-game raiding specs (of which I listed a few in last week's Arcane Brilliance), end-game PvP specs (of which I plan to make list at some point after I actually reach the end-game and do a bit of PvPing), and leveling specs. The way you organize your talent points while leveling is often fundamentally different from the way you will re-organize them upon reaching the end-game. At end-game your talent points are strictly rationed out and tightly focused on whatever your goals happen to be. If your goal is high-end raiding content, you'll take only those talents that will help you maximize your DPS output, control your threat generation, and manage your mana pool. If you're focused on PvP, you'll sacrifice a lot of those same talents for survivability/escape options, and sustained DPS will take a backseat to burst damage potential
Leveling builds are wholly different animal. While leveling, your main goal is functionality. You still need DPS talents and you still need survivability talents, but while leveling you need a healthy mix of both, including some talents that don't quite fit into either category. The idea behind these builds is not "will this talent increase my DPS," or "will this talent help me avoid getting killed," though both of those concerns still factor in. Instead, when putting together a leveling build, the concept behind picking each talent should be "is this talent useful?" If it is, take it. A close secondary concern, for me, would be "is this talent fun?" I don't know about you, but for me the fun comes in the journey, not in the destination, and I intend to enjoy my trip to level 80.
These builds will be level 70 to start with, with some recommendations for where to put the ten extra talent points as you progress. As always with me, these are only intended to be basic templates--jumping off points for you to adapt to fit your own playstyle. If you absolutely cannot live without Arcane Fortitude, god help you, but do what you like.
I am seriously having so much fun playing an Arcane Mage in Northrend. This spec is all about mobility, utility, and slipperiness. By firing out Arcane Barrage and the occasional Fire Blast, and Arcane Missiles whenever MIssile Barrage procs, your damage is high, and you almost never need to stop moving. When things get rough, you have instant-cast Invisibility to fall back on, Slow for kiting, and the innate survivability provided by Prismatic Cloak and Magic Absorption.
Since your primary damage spell (Arcane Barrage) is instant and on such a short cool-down, there isn't a more mobile Mage spec in the game. You can run around, Slowing and Barraging away, and even tough fights can often end without you even getting touched. Instant Invisibility, talented down to a two-minute cooldown, is a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you find yourself plagued by DoTs that would otherwise break your Invisibility, Ice Block them away prior to making your escape. I've already made liberal use of a macro to break Ice Block and cast Invisibility at the same time. It's an almost fool-proof panic button.
As you make your way to level 80, good talents to pick up include the other two ranks of Arcane Mind, because intellect raises DPS for this spec, and then I'd go for Ice Floes to lower the cooldown on Frost Nova and Ice Block, Incineration to make Arcane Blast and Fire Blast slightly more useful, and then two points are left over for Improved Counterspell, which should probably have been taken earlier if you intend to do any PvP on the way to 80.