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Arcane Brilliance: Top 5 things my mage is looking forward to in Mists of Pandaria

Christian Belt

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we look forward to our bright post-Cataclysm future. May it be warlock-free and panda-filled.

That Super Bowl commercial that inexplicably featured the guy from The Darkness singing that song that I loved back in 2003 reminded me of one thing: The end of the world is coming. We all know it. I mean, come on. When have the Mayans ever been wrong about anything? These are the people who invented basketball! Only instead of baggy shorts, tattoos, and millionaires who can't hit free throws, Mayan basketball features decapitations. I'm fully prepared to declare the Mayans right about everything ever.

So with the world coming to an end, what else do we have to look forward to other than a new World of Warcraft expansion? Well, Diablo III, I guess, but we all know that's not going to release before Armageddon (Blizzard's claiming Q2, which we all know is Blizzard-speak for "after the zombies rise up and civilization descends into chaos"). So let's just assume Blizzard's release schedule will somehow outpace the coming apocalypse, and set our sights on what may very well be the last game we'll ever buy: Mists of Pandaria.

As a mage, I'm incredibly excited for the possibilities this new expansion offers. Level 90. A completely revamped spell/talent system. New, exotic lands to explore. New quests and dungeons that will reward sweet new sparkle-sticks to wield and fancy, magical dresses to pretty myself up with.

But beyond those bullet points, five specific items stick out at me as if they have been bolded and italicized at the same time. Here are the top five things my mage is looking forward to in the coming expansion:

1. Panda mages I've already taken to calling my forthcoming pandaren wizard "Pandamage." I have the name sewn up on my server, so don't try to steal it. It works on multiple levels ... at least it does for me. And it will drive the roleplayers crazy.

I can't even begin to explain how much I want to reenact the cannonball throwback scene in Kung-Fu Panda 2, the one in the image I headed this column with. That's a Pyroblast if I've ever seen one. I will find a good offshore spot near a pirate ship, perhaps Stranglethorn Vale, but more likely in one of the new far eastern-tinged MoP zones. I will wait in a Zen-like state for a warlock to wander by, notice my inner peace, become jealous of it because his daddy didn't love him and now he has to wear eyeliner and cast Life Tap because he's just an unhappy person. I will wait for that warlock to attack me because he's confused about his emotions. I will wait for his tear-streaked Shadow Bolt to begin hurtling toward me.

Then I will whisper "Skadoosh" and destroy him.

I know some of the pandaren racials seem a bit redundant for mages (who needs to be "Bouncy" when you have Slow Fall or have extra cooking skill when you can snap your fingers and conjure delicious baked goods?), but I don't care. I want to occasionally touch my opponent's palm and put them to sleep. I want to get extra intellect from the food I eat. And double duration on my rest experience will help a ton when I'm leveling my umpteenth mage through the new content.

I just want a pandaren mage. God help me, I just do.

2. Double polymorph The talents revealed for mages are largely unexciting, with one exception. What's better than one sheep? Why, two sheep, of course.

I've mentioned this before, and I'm certain I will mention it again. I love sheeping things. It's perhaps the signature mage ability. It's the most reliable CC ability in the game. Always has been and -- at least until we all go to that great Mayan headless ball court in the sky -- I hope it always will be.

And with this talent, one of three choices available at level 75 for all mages, my love of sheeping things will only grow. You might say it will double.

3. Raiding as frost I went into this in more detail in last week's column, but the best thing I think the revamped talent system will bring to the game is equality between DPS specs. You might think of it as homogenization, but I like to think of it as freedom. With all three mage specs having access to the same talents, and with the developers having far more direct control over the spells and abilities we have access to, the theory is that with small and simple tweaks occurring as necessary, Blizzard will be able to keep a firmer handle on the damage output each spec is capable of doing and keep all three specs raid viable.'

Yes, for the first time since vanilla Molten Core, frost spec might be an acceptable choice for the hardcore raiding mage. And holy crap, have I missed that.

I'm 100% positive I'm not alone in feeling that way. And by the same token ...

4. PvPing as not frost With the removal some of frost's overwhelming array of control and survivability options and still other frost abilities getting spread around a bit, making them baseline mage abilities or talent choices, frost's reign at the top of the PvP heap may be drawing to a close. And though many frost mages will be saddened by this end of an era, I choose to look at this as the beginning of a new, less stagnant era.

I want to have the option of bringing a PvP-optimized fire mage into the Tol'vir Proving Grounds. I want to see how many kills my arcane mage can rack up in the Valley of Power. And yes, I still want to be able to frost it up in Alterac Valley.

I'm just incredibly excited to have the choice.

5. Alter time. More than anything else on this list, this intrigues me. Our new capstone spell, Alter Time is probably a long way from being finished. As worded currently on the MoP talent calculator, this spell promises to be an honest-to-goodness new mechanic. It looks to have multiple applications, some of which we might only discover through trial and error.

Just some of the possible uses for Alter Time:

  • A life-saving tool Prior to wading into almost certain death, a cast of this can potentially restore us to health and safety. It won't work if we actually die, though ...
  • A mana return option Just before a burn phase begins, when your arcane mage is at full mana, click Alter Time, then unleash a couple of Full stack Arcane Blasts, knowing that in 4 seconds, you will get all that spent mana back and still be at full stack.
  • A positioning aid Sort of like a Tactical Insertion in a Call of Duty game. You trigger the spell in the right spot before beginning a movement phase, and 4 seconds later, you're whisked back to square one. I can think of like 72 different fights right now where this would be helpful.
  • A buff reset Use Time Warp. Use Alter Time. Four seconds later, get 4 more seconds of super haste back. Tons of other uses spring to mind. I'm sure you're thinking of even more.
These are just the possibilities that occur to me off the top of my head. We won't know for sure what's possible and what isn't until we actually get to experiment with this thing on the beta, and I can safely say I haven't been this excited to try something out in a testing environment in a very long time. I absolutely cannot wait for the beta.

So there you have my personal short list of boner-inducing Pandaria features. What about this new expansion has the rest of you frothing at the mouth in anticipation? Anything? Nothing? You know what? If you say "nothing," I will turn you into two sheep. I don't care if the spell doesn't work that way. I will make it work that way.

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.

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