Arcane Brilliance: 5 abilities that keep me playing my mage

A female human mage standing with her Mirror Images

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. Christian Belt is the normal archmage, but rumor has it that he's currently trapped in one of many hell dimensions. The Simbul has gone to investigate, leaving Senior Understudy and Last Surviving Student Josh Myers to cover this week's article.

I am a gigantic nerd. I love math, and science, and testing. So when a new beta comes out and there's testing and theorycrafting and video game science to do, that's my focus. I go, "Hey, look at this shiny new spell, and what are the rotational ramifications of its existence?" And then I forget that I have work in the morning and am up till four in the morning running around Jade Forest trying to get the perfect screenshot of Nether Tempest.

I'm on vacation visiting my parents in Michigan this week, and I promised myself that part of that vacation would be to eschew plying beta for the week, since we've been pretty inseparable for the past month. Also, I'm using my significant other's laptop, and I'm not sure even my rep level would support downloading another massive file onto it. As a result, I've been playing a lot on live, and I've taken some time to remember why it is that I love playing the mage class.

There are a lot of reasons (none of them are the fire spec in PVE at the moment, but that's another post entirely), but the main one is the repertoire. Mages have a ton of abilities, and a lot of them are chock-full of flavor and awesomeness. I had to narrow this list down to my five absolute favorites, but everything from Mirror Image to Invisibility to Cone of Cold are eligible contestants too. The abilities I chose are my favorites, ones that fit the classic mage archetype while having mechanics that make sense in WoW. Also, they're shiny.

5. Pyroblast Fireball is a classic mage spell. In some games such as Dungeons & Dragons, it's a small bead of energy that explodes into a massive ball on impact. In WoW, it's an actual small ball of fire of fire, conjured in the hands and thrown at the enemy like a magical fastball of pain.

Mage casting Pyroblast!

If Fireball is a baseball, Pyroblast! is what happens when you feed the pitcher copious amounts of steroids and convince him to throw basketballs at the batter instead. Also, he's a giant. And he breathes fire and plays in a metal band. Because he's awesome, and Pyroblast! is a gigantic molten boulder that you throw into the face of your enemies, without bothering with those pesky cast times that other spells seem to need.

Also, it has an exclamation point. Everything is made more awesome with an exclamation point in its name, and Pyroblast! is no exception.

4. Shatter Shatter is just a cool idea. It's also one that's been to death by a lot of other games, such as Champions Online. This makes sense, because the idea of making your enemies into a beautiful ice sculpture and shattering it into a billion tiny icicles should make anyone want to play a mage. Shatter is the perfect blend of World of Warcraft mechanics and full-on frost mage flavor, particularly when you catch an unwary opponent in a Deep Freeze and Ice Lance them to death.

The Lich King frozen in a block of ice

Of course, the flavor isn't the only cool part. There's also the fact that there's an immense feeling of pleasure that comes with repeatedly and consistently hitting for incredibly large numbers. There's something visceral about seeing giant yellow text popping up on your screen, and being able to use Fingers of Frost and Deep Freeze to control that text makes Shatter super cool.

Ha-ha, "super cool." I amaze myself sometimes.

3. Frostfire Bolt If you're scratching your head right now, wondering why on earth I included Frostfire Bolt on this list, it's time I let you know something: Frostfire Bolt is my favorite mage spell in the game. Before you question my sanity, let me clarify. I know it's not the most amazing, or shiniest, or even most useful ability in the game, which is why it's third on this list.

My love for Frostfire Bolt comes from the fact that it is basically what would happen if a fire mage and a frost mage did the Dragonball Z fusion dance and started casting spells. It's a slow that isn't as good as Frostbolt. It procs Ignite like Fireball (and has a glyph to do minor damage over time as well), and it has the coolest spell effect of any nuke in the game in my opinion. Yes, even cooler than Pyroblast!


The downside is that it currently isn't very useful. Frost mages us it with a Brain Freeze proc, and I use it for casting at random mobs and target dummies when I'm bored. It could be useful for fire PvP due to the snare attached, but standing still and casting is not a way to stay alive in PvP, and Fireball does more damage anyway.

My hope is to see this spell shine more in Mists of Pandaria; ideally, to me, we could glyph if to take the place of either Frostbolt or Fireball in their respective rotations. For now, it keeps me playing in the hopes that it will rise again.

2. Polymorph When my boyfriend was first trying to get me into WoW, he made me watch the cinematics. My favorite scene in The Burning Crusade cinematic is when the human mage and the tauren shaman are fighting against the backdrop of the floating rocks of Nagrand, and the mage Polymorphs the tauren while the tauren bleats plaintively.

A warlock caught in a Polymorph: Monkey.

Polymorph is fun. I won't even speak to its power as a CC, but the ability to harness arcane powers to turn your foes into adorable farm animals is a skill I wish I had in real life. Not that I'd always use it maliciously -- I'd also win the Nobel Peace Prize by using Polymorph proactively to save lives by Polymorphing hurt people and allowing them to heal back to full hit points. In game, I generally use it to turn creatures in Uldum into Penguins and then mock them for being in the wrong climate. That's mainly because CC isn't needed in heroics anymore, and I don't PvP much, but I'll sure be glad to have Polymorph when Mists of Pandaria releases.

1. Blink As I've mentioned before, there are a lot of great reasons to play a mage. Most of them pale in comparison to the fun of Blink. I know there's a lot of mobility abilities like Charge and Disengage in the game, but none of them involve sundering space and time to teleport you a short distance. You're like Nightcrawler, except less blue and without the weird accent. (Unless you're a draenei, in which you're just like Nightcrawler.)

An orc mage casting blink.

And then, of course, there's the added benefit of being able to use Blink to escape pesky stuns and roots such as Kidney Shot and Earth's Grasp, not to mention its usefulness in escaping evil boss AoE effects -- or, to be honest, its usefulness in day-to-day leveling and getting around capitol cities is unparalleled. It's the perfect ability for moving in between the auctioneer and the mailbox, for one.

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start out with our recent beginner's guide to being a mage, then check out our three-part State of the Mage columns on arcane, fire and frost. Don't forget to look at some of the addons your mage should probably be using.