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Arcane Brilliance: Grading the glyphs

Christian Belt

Each week Arcane Brilliance writes a column about the ins and outs of Magehood. Mostly, what's in a Mage's hood is the Mage's face (which may or may not have a lower jaw), and what's out of a Mage's hood is fiery death. Did you see what I did there? It's clever word-play, you see...ins and a Mage's hood...out...get it? Oh, fine. You try to come up with something witty every week! It's hard! Stupid italicized introductory paragraphs...I should have just gone with some more Warlock-bashing.

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, discretionary funds were rare and precious. There were so many toys to buy, and so little money with which to purchase them. If Grandma were to send me a card with five bucks in it for my birthday, that was a windfall of epic proportions. Each purchase had to be carefully planned, each dollar wrung for as much value as it could provide. Use the money now on a Storm Shadow action figure (with combat grip!), or save it to someday replace the NES controller that had died a premature death in the wake of a last second Tecmo Super Bowl loss to my little brother? Yes, my childhood was in many ways resource management training for later years spent playing games like Starcraft.

And games like World of Warcraft.

Do I spend my Stone Keeper's Shards on a meta gem now, or save them for that sweet Mammoth? Use my honor to upgrade my cloak now, or save it and get the trinket? Use that socket for spellpower or hit rating? Kill the Warlock, or kill the Warlock? So many choices.

All of which brings us to this week's topic: what to do with our precious and very limited Glyph slots? Follow me through the jump, and we'll discuss.

At level 80, you have available to you a total of three major and three minor glyph slots. Your choice of which glyphs to fill these slots with can significantly impact your effectiveness, both positively and negatively. A good glyph might increase your overall DPS, while a bad choice might waste the slot completely. Below, we'll look at some of the best choices for every kind of Mage, in an effort to help you make an informed decision.

The Raiding Arcane Mage

Major Glyphs: Arcane Blast, Molten Armor, Arcane Power

The first two are essentially no-brainers. Arcane Blast is your main nuke, and the glyph for it is a flat DPS increase with no down-side. Every Mage should use one slot to glyph their armor of choice, and after patch 3.0.8, mana conservation isn't nearly the issue that it once was, so many Arcane Mages can now afford the luxury of using Molten Armor over Mage Armor. The glyph for Molten Armor, again, is all upside and no downside--a 2% increase in crit chance. Though not the only choice for the final slot, Arcane Power is an overall DPS increase, with no real drawbacks. Three extra seconds of Arcane Power is a godsend during those moments when a boss has to die, and it has to die now.

Alternatives: Mage Armor, Arcane Missiles, Improved Scorch

If you're an Arcane/Fire Mage, Improved Scorch is a fine choice, and could probably replace Arcane Power, though generally only one Mage in your raid will need to have it. I like Arcane Missiles simply because it allows you to stand at max range and still use your normal rotation, though it's difficult to justify over the DPS increase of Arcane Power. Use Mage Armor if you find yourself burning through mana in longer fights too quickly. For Mages with an aggressive rotation, it can actually be a DPS increase over Molten Armor, simply because an extra 2% chance to crit does you no good when you have no mana with which to cast anything.

The Raiding Fire Mage

Major Glyphs: Fireball, Molten Armor, Improved Scorch

Fireball's glyph is an overall increase in DPS. The extra crit far outweighs losing the damage over time effect. Molten Armor should be your Armor spell of choice as a Fire Mage, and an extra 2% crit on a Fire Mage is the gift that keeps on burning, sort of like crabs. Being able to apply three stacks of Improved Scorch in one cast is also a nice DPS increase, and it's just incredibly convenient.

Alternatives: None

For the deep Fire Mage, viable glyph choices are in short supply. These are pretty much it for DPS increases. If you're having mana issues and you already have a Mage in your raid in charge of keeping the Improved Scorch debuff up, I suppose you could consider Glyph of Mana Gem, but that's about it.

The Raiding Frostfire Mage

Major Glyphs: Frostfire, Molten Armor, Improved Scorch

I know, this looks pretty similar to the glyphs for a Fire Mage. This is because in essence, Frostfire Mages are Fire Mages, only they use a different nuke. The Frostfire glyph is another wonderful, all-good, no-bad enhancement for the spec's major damage spell. It's a pretty massive straight-up DPS increase for a glyph, and no self-respecting Frostfire Mage should even consider showing his face in public without it. Again, Molten Armor is a no-brainer, and unless someone else in the raid has Improved Scorch covered, the glyph for it is a good choice for that final slot.

Alternatives: Mana Gem, I guess.

If you do have some other guy in the raid to cover Improved Scorch for you, you could possibly rationalize using that final slot on Mana Gem, but what if that guy dies? What then, huh? I say steal the glyph from his corpse and apply it to yourself, and then slip it back into his belongings when the fight is over, while everybody else is waiting for rezzes. Nobody will suspect a thing. Just be cool, man.

The Raiding Frost Mage

Major Glyphs: Frostbolt, Molten Armor, Water Elemental

Though it sucks hard to lose that snare in just about every other part of the game, when raiding, you don't need it. Glyph of Frostbolt is otherwise a flat DPS increase. As always, Molten Armor is the DPS armor of choice, and its glyph is quite good. Water Elemental won't gain you much by way of damage output, but your raid will love you having your big blue mana battery out more often.

Alternatives: Fireball

If you're not fond of supplying mana for the entire raid (maybe you don't like them that much), or it simply isn't needed as much in your raid, taking Glyph of Fireball is a DPS increase when Brain Freeze procs.

The PvP Arcane Mage

Major Glyphs: Evocation, Blink, Polymorph, Arcane Missiles

Yes, I'm fully aware that I listed four glyphs and that you only have three slots. The thing with PvP is that your choice of glyphs will vary greatly depending upon whether you're focusing on Battleground PvP or Arena, and what your team composition happens to be.

Evocation is a fantastic glyph for just about anybody. It gives you a way to heal with relative speed, and simply being an Arcane Mage gives you a few options for breaking free from combat and hiding long enough to actually use it. Blink is more useful than it might sound, allowing you cover large swaths of ground instantly (assuming, of course, that Blink even works properly). It's indispensable in fights against Rogues, Death Knights, or other casters, giving you a more effective way to get out of range, out of line of sight, or behind a caster quickly.

Glyph of Polymorph is a great boon when in larger groups, when the chances of your sheep breaking due to a stray DoT increases exponentially. An extra 5 yards on the end of your Arcane Missiles can mean the difference between a kill and that stinking cheetah making it behind yet another pillar and healing to max before you can catch him.

There are alternatives, of course, but these are the glyphs that I fluctuate between on my Arcane Mage, usually opting for Arcane Missiles over Polymorph due to my Arena team make-up. You may find that your playstyle works better with the added defensive option of Ice Block, or that your team needs you to play the role of de-curser, thus making Glyph of Remove Curse a must. Your healer might be so good that you don't need Evocation, or you may simply never have problems with DoTs breaking your sheep. Use what works for your situation.

The PvP Frost Mage

Major Glyphs: Icy Veins, Frost Nova, Ice Lance, Evocation, Ice Block

Again, some tough choices here, and whichever three you go with, chances are you'll be right. Icy Veins is almost as good as having another CC-breaking trinket, and definitely worth a slot. Frost Nova is a fantastic control option, and increases your burst damage by allowing more Shatter damage per Frost Nova. Ice Lance is worthwhile to keep targets in combat and just for the flexibility of having a 41 yard instant-cast spell. Ice Block can be very effective if timed well, providing you with an extra Frost Nova when it's needed, and we've already discussed the benefits of Evocation healing you.

Again, other options include Polymorph, Remove Curse, and some Frost Mages even like Fireball, to maximize those Brain Freeze procs. As before, a lot will depend on your preferred PvP forum, strategies, and team composition.

Minor Glyphs

As you may have noticed, I didn't list any minor glyphs anywhere above. The simple reason for this is that with only one exception, none of them really matter. They are by and large designed to be cosmetic or convenience alterations, and that's all they are. I'd argue that the psychological impact of being turned into a mutant penguin is significant, but I'd probably be alone. In reality, nobody cares which stupid-looking animal they've been transformed into, only that they can't control their character for a few seconds.

There are a few minor advantages to some of these minor glyphs. Fire and Frost Ward could potentially have an impact in PvP, but not enough to worry over. If you're going to do much PvPing, you might as well use a slot or two on one or both of them. I can heartily recommend Slow Fall, especially now that it's castable on others. Certain battlegrounds (Arathi Basin, I'm looking at you) make it a pleasure to cast Slow Fall over and over again, and to be able to do so with wanton disregard for worrying about reagents is simply fantastic.

The sole exception I mentioned above is Glyph of Blast Wave. If you are a Mage that has this spell, and you wish to use it in a raid, you should probably invest in this minor glyph. The mana cost reduction is nice, sure, but the main reason to have this is for its supposed "drawback." That knockback effect Blast Wave has is fun for awhile and all, and when soloing and in PvP it can be a lifesaver, but when AoE is called for in an instance, it's a pain. When raiding, you simply don't want to be sending a large group of trash flying in various directions most of the time. Removing the ability to do so is a good idea.

What glyphs are you using on your Mage, and why? If you have alternatives that I haven't mentioned, I'd love to hear about them. And yes, I know that I didn't actually grade any of the glyphs, as the title of the column may have suggested I would. Whatever. I just thought it was clever, you know...grading...glyphs...they both start with the letter "G"...alliteration and all that...sigh.

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent guide to gearing your Mage for Naxxramas, or our look at the goodies Arcane Mages are getting in patch 3.0.8. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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