Arcane Brilliance: Mage leveling guide, the thrilling conclusion

Christian Belt
C. Belt|11.30.09

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Arcane Brilliance: Mage leveling guide, the thrilling conclusion

It's time again for Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that wishes each and every one of you a magical holiday season. Arcane Brilliance would also like to point out that it is writing this immediately following three days spent alternating between being in the company of in-laws who like to discuss politics and on the road for 12 combined hours with a five-year-old and a two-year-old possessed of mind-bogglingly small bladders. Arcane Brilliance cannot be held responsible for any grammatical errors or disturbingly homicidal thoughts you might find herein.

So how was your Thanksgiving? And if you don't live in the United States, how was your Thursday? Ready to get down to business? We've got a leveling guide to finish!

What's that, you say? Finish what? You've been otherwise engaged for the past couple of months and have no idea what I'm talking about? Fear not! On the interwebs, you can find anything. Here, for your convenience, is the complete compendium of Arcane Brilliance's mage leveling wisdom, such as it is:
Part 1: getting started
Part 2: 1-10
Part 3: 11-20
Part 4: 21-30
Part 5: 31-40
Part 6: 41-Outland
Part 7: 59-68
Part 8: keep reading, because this is part 8.
Part 9: completely revised Cataclysm mage leveling guide I'll probably be writing in six months or so...TBA
Part 10: (after the great zombie apocalypse of 2011) Brrraaaaaaiiinnnnssssss.....
Join me after the break as we head for Northrend and level 80.

So you've boarded a ship or zeppelin and headed north to battle the Lich King's armies. Some general tips for starting out in Northrend:
  1. As with Outland, you'll find a fairly steep difficulty curve increase here, especially if you've taken the advice I gave last week and come here at level 68. The monsters hit harder and have more health than their similarly leveled counterparts in Outland. The gap isn't as drastic as it was when jumping from Azeroth to Outland at 58, but it still could prove a bit of a shock. Be prepared.
  2. You'll find the quest design here to be improved even over that found in Outland. The hubs are all over the place, and multiple quests will send you to the same place. The quests themselves are largely a vast improvement, having relatively clear objectives and being routinely very fun to complete. Clear your quest logs of any leftovers from Outland so you can pick up anything and everything you come across here. Trust me.
  3. Quest upgrades are, as with the last expansion, by and large a pretty vast improvement over whatever you've got on from Nagrand or Blade's Edge Mountains. Unless you overstayed your welcome in Outland and managed to get yourself some level 70 epics somehow, you're going to find upgrades at every hub here. Have fun watching your spellpower, intellect, spirit, and stamina skyrocket. Also, you don't have to worry about the whole "Hannah Montana back-up dancer" gear aesthetic we talked about last week rearing its hideous head here. Instead, you'll soon find yourself dealing with the "awesome, now I look exactly like every other clothie on this continent" gear aesthetic. You'll upgrade gear in Northrend only to discover that the only part of your appearance that has changed is that you've gone from one ugly shade of brown to another, slightly uglier shade of brown. Oh well. Maybe the gear reset will be more pleasing to the eye in the next expansion.
  4. Go to the instances early. Seriously, Northrend instances are short, fun, and simple. They reward excellent gear, and folks are always looking to group for them. Even DPS can find a group in Northrend, so don't wait.
  5. And while we're on the subject of instances, I have some sad news to relate: your sheeping services will no longer be needed. Seriously. Thanks to the preponderance of AoE tanking at this point in the game and the overall design of the instances found in Northrend, crowd control has sort of gone the way of the dodo, guys. Have fun pew pewing, though. Every once in awhile you'll run into a group that requests an occasional Polymorph, in which case you can dust off your sheep hot-key, but most of the time you'll find that you can just focus on burning things down while the Death Knight holds six different groups of mobs at once. Must be nice.
  6. Start raising your reputation with the various factions as soon as humanly possible. Though I won't be spending much time talking about them in this leveling guide, the Northrend factions will prove to be of vital importance to you once you hit max-level, and a little time spent now completing their various quest lines will make things so much easier to top off at 80. Doing the occasional daily quest can be a nice experience boost as you go along, and the reputations rewards can be very nice gear-slot-fillers at the appropriate levels. So be nice and help those hideous seal-things mate or whatever. It sounds gross, but later on, you can buy a sweet fishing pole and a penguin.
  7. Oh, and one huge bummer: No flying mounts. That's right, the mount you purchased a mere 8 levels ago and have been happily soaring around on through all of Outland is now grounded. To use it again, you'll need to jump through one of two hoops. If this is your first character, you'll have to wait until you hit level 77 and then purchase Cold Weather Flying from the trainer in Dalaran (or Sholozar Basin...or the Storm Peaks) for a cool 1,000g. Until then, you're stuck with your land mount. If your mage is an alt, and you have a level 80 main, you can purchase an heirloom item called the Tome of Cold Weather Flight from the flight trainer in Dalaran for that same 1,000g cost. You can then mail it to your mage the moment he hits level 68, and viola, your mage can fly around to his or her heart's content.
Choosing a Starting Zone

Northrend offers a choice of two zones to start out in. A lot of folks apparently agonize over this decision. Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord? For the love of god, which do I choose?

Here's the answer: both. Pick one to do first. Do it. Then go do the other.

One will get you to level 70, and then the other will get you to 72ish, high enough to head to Dragonblight. You'll want to have done both zones anyway by level 80, due to the faction rep to be gained in both places, so why not do them while the rewards and experience are still relevant? If you're still having trouble selecting which zone to visit first, here's how they break down:
  • Howling Fjord
Best quest rewards: Horn of the Herald, Strike of the Seas

Entry-level instance: Utgarde Keep

Aesthetic: gorgeous scenery, sweet celtic tunes
  • Borean Tundra
Best quest rewards: Tower of the Infinite Mind, Activist's Signet of Blasting, Chain of Vigilant Thought, or its Alliance equivalent

Entry-level instance: The Nexus

Aesthetic: ugly scenery, bring music. Also, mechanized gnomes abound.

See? Now you want to visit both zones, right?

Level 70

New spells: Ritual of Refreshment, Spellsteal

68 and 69 should go extremely quickly, whichever zone you hit first. Just do the normal questing thing and put together a nice set of upgraded Northrend gear and you should be sitting pretty by the time you ding 70.

The new spells here are a bit underwhelming. Ritual of Refreshment will make you even more popular in instances, as it allows you to provide chow for everybody with one click. Convenient, to be sure, but not especially thrilling.

Spellsteal is more exciting in theory than it is in practice. I mean, look at that tooltip. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it is...and it isn't. There are a lot of nifty effects you can swipe from folks with this spell. Imagine yoinking a Priest's Power Word: Shield from them right when they're counting on it to stop that incoming Pyroblast. Sexy, right? And in instances, there are a few truly impressive places to use the spell. Wowwiki has a list of the effects you can steal, and though it needs to be updated to reflect Wrath of the Lich King instances, you can certainly see the potential here.

The problem is threefold: first, the spell costs too much mana to cast as often as necessary to be a truly effective PvP spell. Second, the effect stolen is random, again hurting the spell's PvP viability. And third, because its usefulness is so incredibly situational, chances are good that you'll almost never remember to use it. Seriously, Spellsteal will probably end up sitting there on your action bar, one of those icons you remember being interesting enough to put on the bar, but overlook almost every time a good opportunity to use it arises. Still, you'll hear stories of times this spell did something awesome for someone, and with a great deal of practice, it can indeed be very cool.

The big news at level 70, of course, is the ability to train in epic flight. This is just like regular flight, only epic-er. It's incredibly fast, and will speed up every aspect of leveling so much it's ridiculous. Of course, if this is your first character, epic flight won't help you until you hit level 77 and can re-learn the ability to fly. Also, it costs a freaking bunch of money. I'm not even kidding. Epic flight will be your single biggest purchase yet. Without faction discounts applied, the cost is 5,000g. That honestly won't take you long to earn in Northrend, where the mobs crap money, but it's still probably more cash than you have on hand. If your mage is an alt, buy it ASAP. It's totally worth the money. If your mage is your main, there's no point in buying it until you can buy Cold Weather Flying also.

Level 71

New spell: Teleport: Dalaran

It's time to take a short detour into Dragonblight. Completing a very simple quest there will earn you the ability to teleport to Dalaran, the capital city of Northrend, and the mage capital of the world. Seriously, this place is mage heaven. I'm suprised they don't kill warlocks on sight here. In fact, I find deeply offensive that they don't. Which is why, in 2010, I'll be putting my name on the ballot for Mayor of Dalaran. I'm offcially announcing my candidacy here, and I hope I can count on your vote. Warlock extinction...yes we can!

Level 74

New spell: Portal: Dalran

By this point, you should be finishing up Dragonblight and heading off to Grizzly Hills, home of daily PvP quests and the soundtrack of Braveheart. Take a pit stop at Dalaran and snag your final portal spell (and the only one you'll be casting at the end of instances from this point on).

Level 75

New spells: Frostfire Bolt, Conjure Refreshment

Oh baby, FFB. This little spell caused quite a stir when it popped onto the scene a year ago. It's a spell that basically combines Fireball and Frostbolt into one giant ball of slush. The remarkable thing about it is that it benefits from every talent that applies to either Fire or Frost, opening up the potential for a fourth mage spec: the Elementalist, or Frostfire spec. In a nutshell, the spec entails building your mage around using Frostfire Bolt as your primary nuke, taking every talent you possibly can that the spell will benefit from, and spamming the crap out of it at every opportunity. There was a time when Frostfire was the premiere DPS spec in the game. Though deep Fire has since eclipsed it, the spec is still a viable top-tier build. And whether you use it or not, Frostfire Bolt looks pretty.

Also, mana pies. Mmmmm. Delicious mana. So tasty. This is cool, because you never again have to worry about hanging on to both a food and a water type. These mana pies will restore both health and mana, so get conjuring.

Levels 76-79

No new spells in this range, but this is a massive chunk of leveling to just gloss over. You should be spending your time here in Sholozar Basin and Zul'Drak. Though I probably should have mentioned it in the blurb for level 75, Zul'Drak is home to Northrend's answer to the Ring of Blood questline from Nagrand we talked about last week. Gather a few friends (or just hang out in the zone for a minute and join up with whoever's looking...there's always somebody looking) and head to the Amphitheater of Anguish for a string of boss fights, a bunch of experience points, gold, potions, and a sweet, sweet staff. You won't find better prior to level 80, so don't wait.

Once you're done with those two zones, you can advance to Icecrown and the Storm Peaks. Don't forget to pick up Cold Weather Flying at 77, or you won't be able to do anything in either of these zones, as the design of both assumes you are able to fly.

Your PvP options are also good in this range. You're high enough to not be a massive liability in Wintergrasp, so feel free to spend some time gaining honor and experience there, or hit the Battlegrounds. You have the fun PvP daily quests in Grizzly Hills. The honor gain in Alterac Valley is still impressive, and though Eye of the Storm can be incredibly frustrating (because people are stupid, never forget that), it can still be a good experience-gainer, along with both of the other two old Battlegrounds. You have a lot of choice now, so switch things up, have some fun. PvP leveling doesn't feel like so much of a grind now, and though it still isn't on a par with pure, efficient questing, it is a perfectly viable way to reach 80.

Speaking of which...

Level 80

New spell: Mirror Image

So here we are. After eight columns, over 20,000 words, 79 levels of experience, a million or so quests, and hopefully more dead warlocks than you can wave a wand at, we've reached our goal. Congratulations! Now the game begins.

I'm not even kidding. If you've been here before, you know the drill: gear up, get your mage ready to raid, chain-run heroic dungeons, figure out how to play your class all over again...the end-game, in many respects, is the real game. If this is your first character, I have four words for you: Trial of the Champion. Get a group and go. Return with epics, or not at all.

Not too long ago, Arcane Brilliance discussed gearing up at 80, getting ready for raiding, so I'll link those columns now. But don't stress out. Trust me, this is the fun part.

Oh, and Mirror Image is neat. It's more fluff than substance, to be honest, but is an effective threat management tool, slight DPS increase, and a truly splendid PvP spell. Plus, as I've said before: More mage is always good.

So, this concludes our handy-dandy warlock-hating mage-leveling guide. For those of you who've been eagerly awaiting a return to end-game mage topics, next week should prove to be a welcome reprieve. I don't know what I'll be writing on yet, but rest assured, it will not be leveling. I think. You know what? I bet I could probably squeeze at least 5 more columns out of this...

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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