Arcane Brilliance: Mage leveling guide 31-40

Christian Belt
C. Belt|11.08.09

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Arcane Brilliance: Mage leveling guide 31-40
Welcome to the latest Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that is your absolute best source for all things mage. Leveling guides? Talent spec guides? Loot guides? PvP guides? Profession guides? Random, vindictive, mean-spirited, and wholly superfluous warlock-bashing? Check, check, check, check, check, and CHECK. Arcane Brilliance has all your mage needs covered.

And the leveling parade continues! Your mage is level 30 and you've grown in your mastery of the magical arts. Your Fireballs are now significantly more likely to set your enemies aflame than they are to go off in your face, you now arrive at your teleport destinations with your extremities more or less intact, and small children no longer cry at the sight of the pastries you conjure.

In celebration of our new-found competence, we'll be changing the content of these leveling columns a bit. We'll no longer be giving each two-level gap its own blurb. Instead, we'll be covering each new spell as it comes, and every major milestone at the appropriate point. If that means that more than two levels go by without a specific shout-out in the text, so be it. Enough preamble. Read on and we'll see how it goes. If it's terrible, we all know I'll just blame warlocks.

Level 30 is the approximate point at which I believe the way you've been allocating your talent points begins to define you as a mage. You have 21 talent points under your flimsy cloth belt and (unless you've been employing some wacky and ill-advised hybrid scheme in which you feel it's important to have both speedy Fireballs and uninterruptable Arcane Missiles) have access to the fifth tier of your chosen tree.

If you've chosen the path of the Fire mage, you now likely have fast-casting Fireballs, powerful Pyroblasts, large, meaty crits, and the fifth tier brings you Blast Wave, introducing you to your almost unparalleled ability to set multiple targets aflame at once. Fire mages are one of the truly premiere AoE class/specs in the game, and Blast Wave is a significant factor in that designation. It knocks enemies back and dazes them, all while causing a lot more damage than any Arcane Explosion ever could. Later, it will become the catalyst for many an instant Flamestrike, but for now, it's merely a taste of AoE greatness to come. Pick it up as soon as possible, then head for Arathi Basin and use it to hurl members of the opposing faction to their deaths at the Lumber Mill flag.

Frost mages now have access to full on Shatter combos, and should be enjoying freezing everything in sight, critting the crap out of them with lightning fast Frostbolts, and then Frost Novaing them place and sprinting away cackling madly. Level 30 opens up a very important weapon in a Frost mage's arsenal: Cold Snap. This wonderful spell instantly resets the cooldown on your Frost spells, meaning that if you need a second Ice Block, or repeat performance of Icy Veins is called for, or even if you just need an emergency Frost Nova, Cold Snap basically resets the fight for you. The cooldown is long, but don't let that keep you from using Cold Snap when it's called for. It's too powerful to let languish on your action bar.

Arcane is finally starting to come into its own now, and though it still falls behind the other two specs as a standalone tree at this level range, speccing Arcane is no longer the horrible idea it once was. Your Arcane Missiles are a force to be reckoned with, you have the potential for high mana efficiency and return, incredible resistance to magic, and now level 30 opens up a signature Arcane ability in Presence of Mind. This grants you an instant spell of your choice. At this level, it's probably wise to use it for a Fireball, or possibly a Frostbolt if a snare is called for. This is another spell that becomes more useful as you gain more powerful spells to cast with it, but for now it can still cause some major damage.

If you haven't been putting all your talent points into a single tree, now is a good time to rethink that strategy. The talents in the fifth tier are too powerful to put off having access to, and believe me when I say that whatever the talents were that you couldn't resist taking in another talent tree, you will be better off waiting to pick them up when you've already taken everything you want in your primary tree. Find a mage skill trainer and pay them to let you relearn your talents. You'll be glad you did. Your dream of a master of elements who can cast both Fireballs and Frostbolts with ease is a fine one, but better put off until level 75 or so, when you get access to a little spell called Frostfire Bolt.

Level 30

I know we covered this last week, but I neglected to mention something (er...someone) important: Tabetha. Thanks are due to reader Brian for pointing this out in last week's comments section, because in all likelihood, I would have forgot about good old Tabetha without the prodding.

And that would have been tragic.

Tabetha is a witch who lives in Dustwallow Marsh and hands out mage quests. Way back in the dark ages when I was leveling my first mage, her tiny hut was a million miles from anywhere and incredibly difficult to locate. Now, you just follow the road. You young whippersnappers don't know how good you got it. In my day, we had to march uphill in soggy boots through miles of swamp, fending off crocolisks as best we could, hoping against hope that at some point, we'd find that stupid hut and our miserable sojourn would finally end. Now, you can just mount up, /wave to the crocolisks as you pass, and if you get tired along the way, Mudsprocket's like 10 feet to the south. Damn kids.

The first of these quests is handed out at level 30, and can be picked up from the mage trainer in any of the major cities. The mobs in Dustwallow are a fair bit higher level than that, making the trip slightly more perilous than I may have let on a paragraph ago. But don't let that dissuade you. The chain of quests this leads to have a very nice reward, namely your choice of three blue-quality wands. Hint: They're identical except that this one is better. Do with that information what you will.

Down the road, at level 35, another small chain opens up that leads to a trip to Uldaman and eventually a choice between a frankly awesome off-hand item and a staff you'll likely be replacing in like five minutes. Hint: take the off-hand frill. Chances are better than average you won't be finding a better one until level 60ish.

I point out these quests for two reasons:
  1. The rewards are nice.
  2. Every mage should do the mage quests. This isn't even remotely an opinion. It's a fact. Doing the mage quests is part of being a mage, and I'll hear no arguments on the matter.
Level 34

New spell: Mage Armor

Finally, a new armor spell. From this point forward, until you get a little spell called Molten Armor, this is your instance armor spell of choice. The extra armor and slowing effect of Ice Armor is probably still more useful for solo play, but when you're in a group and have a meat-shield up front taking the beating for you and a healbot standing behind you keeping that meat-shield alive, the extra mana return Mage Armor gives you is far more important. It's also handy for spots when you know you'll be fighting enemy casters, as the extra spell resistance it grants will slow the rate at which you die to their spells.

Also, this is as good a time as any to mention an alternate method of farming experience several of you have pointed out in previous installments of this leveling guide. It's not as optimal as it once was, due to all the streamlining traditional leveling methods have undergone of late, but it still holds a certain grindalicious appeal for some. I'm talking, of course, about Frost AoE grinding.

Here's my patented in-depth instructions for how to do it:
  1. Spec Frost.
  2. Take Improved Blizzard.
  3. Gather up as many mobs of an applicable level as you can, then kill them.
  4. Repeat over and over until you begin to bleed from your eyes and your soul withers within you like a piece of rotted fruit.
  5. Ding!
There's a bit more to it than that, of course. Go do a Google search for "mage AoE frost grinding" or something similar and you'll find a bunch of more complex explanations than I care to give. They will be complicated and use terms like "mob anchor radius," list optimal grinding spots for each level, and argue the merits/drawbacks of taking Frostbite as part of a grinding build. Basically, this is a method of leveling that allows you to methodically and efficiently eliminate giant packs of mobs at once, using Improved Blizzard, Frost Nova, Blink, etc.

You can do this if you like. Go forth. Head over to the Dabyrie Farm in the Arathi Highlands. Slay. You'll make it to level 80 eventually. I'm not sure what kind of fun you'll have, but you'll make it there.

The thing I don't understand is why you'd want to. Anymore, this method isn't noticeably faster than good, solid questing. I'm not opposed to it, mind you. I just think you'd be better served by leveling almost any other way. This method can be useful, especially if you're coupling it with the type of quests that ask you to go to a place and kill "X" number of mobs there, or simply need to clear an area to get to an objective. Use it wisely, and sparsely. Just don't grind unceasingly. Your eyeballs and your soul will thank you.

Level 35

New spells: Teleport: Stonard or Theramore, Portal: Stonard or Theramore

Yes, for some reason, your first portal spell is to either Theramore, a small dock town on the edge of a filthy swamp, or Stonard, an even smaller town in the middle of an even filthier swamp. Before these little portal/teleport spells were implemented last year, your first portal spells were to the major cities at level 40. Now you can get this one five levels early. I'm not sure what kind of sense that makes, but whatever. Though relatively out-of-the-way, both of these zones are fairly level-appropriate right now, so feel free to take a trip to the one that your faction favors, pick up your new spells, and stick around to quest a bit if you like. Dustwallow, especially, is a very high-quality place to spend 5-10 levels, what with the newish quest hubs introduced a few of patches back and the close proximity to Tabetha's mage quests.

Level 40

New spells: Portal: Exodar, Stormwind, Ironforge, Orgrimmar, Undercity, Silvermoon

Portal spells are just like the teleport spells you've been using to whiz around Azeroth for some time now, only these conjure a portal that members of your party can also use to whiz around Azeroth. From now on, you will be conjuring one (or more!) of these at the end of every instance you ever run. Keep the reagents stocked, and have fun teleporting back to all of your faction's capitals (except Thunder Bluff or Darnassus...apparently those places are much harder to port to) to pick these bad boys up.

But the big news about level 40 is, of course, that you can now upgrade your slow and pathetic mount to a shiny epic one. It'll cost you 45g if you've managed to hit honored with your home faction (and by now, unless you've not been questing much at all, you should have) for the training, and 10g for the mount itself. If money's a problem, spend a bit of time making some. For the love of god, don't be the douche that hangs around in the bank in Orgrimmar, whispering everyone for gold to buy a mount. Just go out and skin a few things, or mine a bit, or herb...alize...something, and then sell that junk at the auction house. 55 gold shouldn't take you that long to put together. And it's totally worth your while. That fast mount speeds everything up enormously. Plus it's epic.

At this point, your talent trees should be filling themselves out quite nicely. You've reached tier seven of your chosen tree, and even more of the eventual flavor of your spec should be starting to shine through.

Fire mages have access to several talents that increase the crit chance of their Fire spells, and should now be walloping their enemies with big explosive crits in grand fashion.

Frost mages can now pick up Ice Barrier, which is one of the best defensive spells in the game. It's a shield spell, but unlike Mana Shield, it actually absorbs a healthy amount of damage and--even more importantly--doesn't drain your mana to do so. Keep it up whenever you're in a position to get smacked.

Arcane mages are finally getting to the good stuff in their tree, including several talents that flat out increase the damage of all your spells, and the awesomeness that is Arcane Power. If you've been secretly wishing to be an Arcane mage, now might be the time to respec.

One last thing, before we adjourn for the week:

You've reached the midpoint of the leveling process. It is time you turned your attentions to one of the great callings of the mage class. It is time you learned to hate warlocks.

In case I haven't been clear enough about this in the past, let me restate my position on warlocks: I hate them, and I want them to die horrible, horrible painful deaths. To any warlocks out there, I would like to address you using the immortal words of Sue Sylvester, and tell you my secret desire:

"I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night I will steal away into your home, and punch you in the face."

I feel it is the right...nay, the duty...of every mage to hunt down and commit pixellated acts of atrocity against as many warlocks as possible. I'm not advocating bigotry. I'm just saying that warlocks, as a class in a game called World of Warcraft, are a crime against nature and should be put down like a sick animal...and it is a mage's job to do it. The sooner a leveling mage learns this, the better.

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent two-part look at what Cataclysm will mean to Mages, or our ongoing series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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