Arcane Brilliance: The mage survival guide, part 2

Christian Belt
C. Belt|02.13.11

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Arcane Brilliance: The mage survival guide, part 2
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we continue our discussion of ways to avoid dying horribly. This week's tip: Roll a death knight.

Yes, the sad reality of being a mage is the ever-present threat of a swift and ignominious demise. We're like every character in The Walking Dead: We could go at any time, and our only consolation is that God willing, we'll be able to blow up a few zombies on our way out.

Last week, we discussed a few methods for surviving to pew pew another day, namely aggro drop and damage mitigation. This week, we turn our attention to two other lifesaving techniques: movement and crowd control. Just remember as we go forward that every time a mage survives a fight, an angel punches a warlock in the face. Have I used that joke before? I may have. Doesn't make it any less true. Angels hate warlocks. So does Jesus. And me. And, I pray, all of you.

Read the Mage survival guide, part 1.


I know. I know. We're mages. All of our highest damage rotations require us to stand still and waggle our fingers. It's counter to every damage-dealing instinct in our bodies to stop casting our best spells, hitch up our skirts, and run. But almost every fight requires it at some point. Blizzard designed our entire class around standing in one spot and casting, then immediately set about dreaming up a billion reasons we can't do that. Luckily, we have a couple of tools at our disposal that assist us in moving from point A to point B effectively.

Blink Our best movement tool, buggy as it still might be, is Blink. It gets you out of snares and moves you instantly away from trouble if it works properly. When paired with Improved Blink in the arcane tree, it also gives you a very nice temporary movement speed buff, helping you get to safety that much faster. When you think of the time you save in moving as more time that can be then spent standing and casting, Blink can even be considered a DPS-boosting ability.

Blazing Speed This movement-speed-increasing fire talent has a chance to proc on damage and thus isn't very dependable alone. I prefer to use it in conjunction with Cauterize and Molten Shields. When Cauterize triggers, I cast Mage Ward, which then absorbs a portion of the fire DoT and then dissipates and triggers Blazing Speed, which allows me to run my flaming, magey butt to safety, Scorching all the way. I still need a heal or I'll die, but if one is not forthcoming, well, that's why God gave us Ice Block.

Learn when to move As we discussed last week, learn the fights. Do your homework. The most effective movement ability we have is knowing when to move and where to move to. In many fights, nothing is more important that knowing where to position yourself and where to stand and shoot, and where to go when standing there is no longer a healthy lifestyle choice. I don't know any other way to learn those things except to read up prior to taking part in the fight and then to learn from the mistakes you will inevitably make. Prepare well, and learn quickly, or die. It really is that simple.

Crowd control

Sometimes, the best way to stay alive is to simply take the thing trying to kill you out of the equation. It isn't always an option, but when it is, it's often the best option.

Polymorph Most of the time, you'll be using our signature CC spell not to protect yourself, but to protect the group, and that's the way it should be. Even so, there may be a time when you find yourself needing to switch CC targets in order to peel a mob off a teammate or yourself. Still, the better option in most cases is probably ...

... this. Instead of taking your sheep off your initial sheep target and healing a mob you probably don't want healed, you might want to consider switching from full DPS duty to full crowd control duty. Start kiting the wayward mob until it either dies or the tank can pick it back up.

Mages may very well be the most versatile kiters in the game. We have multiple single-target snares across all three specs, including Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt, and Slow. All are powerful, easy to use, and usually a part of the normal DPS rotation for each spec. By continuously applying these snares, we can quite easily kite any mob that's susceptible to such effects around the battlefield almost indefinitely.

We also have several multi-target CC spells in our arsenal, from AoE snares like Blizzard coupled with Ice Shards and Blast Wave to disorients and freezes provided by the conical Dragon's Breath and Improved Cone of Cold, respectively. Frost even has a very nice targetable multi-target freeze in Ring of Frost, extremely useful when a jailbreak occurs and suddenly you have a buttload of untanked adds running amok.

These spells can and should be used slow down, root, or otherwise occupy mobs that are intent upon killing someone else besides the tank. As mages, if we see something running free that shouldn't be, we absolutely ought to be doing our best to remedy the situation. Free mobs are looking to kill somebody, and the vast majority of the time, that somebody is us. We're pretty, and fragile, and dressed in fancy evening wear. Frankly, I'd probably kill us too. Well, I take that back. I'd kill us right after I killed that goth-looking douche hiding behind the imp.

Frost Nova Here's one we need to be a bit more careful about. As we level, Frost Nova is a godsend. We use it whenever we get overwhelmed, and it does a great job of rooting in place all the bad things that were trying to eat us, giving us time to hitch up our skirts and flee. Solo, the spell is all upside. But in a group dynamic, issues arise. The problem with root spells is that the mob you freeze in place is still free to attack as it pleases, so long as its target is within range of the spot it's stuck in. That means that while you're escaping to a safe distance, that angry monster you left frozen to the ground behind you is now waling eagerly upon the healer you were standing next to when you cast Frost Nova. Be very, very mindful of positioning when casting these kinds of spells.

There are other issues to consider when kiting, rooting, or otherwise CCing mobs. Is the mob you're controlling something that the tank would prefer to regain control of? Does he appreciate your efforts to play keep-away with your new friend, or is he pissed that he now finds himself unable to taunt that mob back into tanking range? Communicate with your group beforehand, and find out whether they want you kiting adds, or if they'd rather you did something else, something like ...

Redirection ... this. Sometimes the best way to control a free mob that's taken a sudden, violent liking to you is to simply run toward the tank, guiding that mob back into a place where the tank can easily reacquire its affections. We don't have a spell to redirect aggro like some classes do, but we can always manually accomplish the same task by simply moving correctly. It's like when the ugly chick in the bar starts hitting on you, and you introduce her to your buddy -- except this actually works.

In closing, let me just say this: Stay alive, mages. I want you to live. I'm close to the Force, and when one of your magical voices is silenced, I sense a disturbance, like millions of uncast Fireballs suddenly cried out at once. It's a pretty crappy sensation, on the whole. So don't die! The world needs mages. All those warlocks aren't going to set fire to themselves, people.

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent Cataclysm 101 guide for new mages or our mage Thanksgiving spectacular. Until next week, keep the mage-train a-rollin'.
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