The Great Mage Experiment

As alluded to in one of my comments in the previous post, my mage reached 80 about a week ago. So yay me on having 4 level 80s now.

Gnome Army

Some of my friends have asked why I even bothered levelling a mage. After all, I had a perfectly good level 70 warlock with t5/t6 gear. There were a couple of reasons.

Firstly, my wife already had a 80 warlock with decent gear. Despite the fact that warlocks were the first class I ever wanted to play in WoW, there didn’t seem much point for us to have 2 gnome warlocks. If I wanted to, I could always play Rethreth since she isn’t really playing anymore due to the lack of challenge.

Secondly, there is a bit of emotional baggage with my warlock Plik. He was the character I raided with from ZG,MC, BWL, AQ20/40, to Kara, Gruul, SSC, TK, BT. There were ups and downs in our guild, but eventually the drama and stupidity among the officers lead to us quitting WoW for a period last year before WotLK. He’s still in our old raiding guild, idling away at level 71 in Borean Tundra. Since we stopped raiding, it felt like a cleaner break to start with a new main character.

The third big factor why I decided to level up a mage was the absolutely incredible amount of fail displayed by most mages we have met in instances. Most of the sub-1000 dps players were mages. At that point, I thought that 800 dps from a mage was the new low since my warlock could do that in Kara gear at level 70. I’ve since been proven wrong by the legions of huntards showing up in VoA, but our experience showed that most mages were horrible. So I decided to play one for myself to see just how difficult it was to play a mage, especially since a lot of reports showed that mages actually topped dps at high level raids (followed by warlocks).

So, what are my impressions now that I’ve done a few heroics and raids as a mage?

Mages suck.

Well ok, not totally. When I hit 80, I immediately equipped the Wintergrasp head and boots (cost 55 marks in total) with hit rating, equipped a titanium spellshock ring crafted by a friend, pvp crit/spell power ring for 38k honor, chain of latent energies from the AH for about 900g, ebonweave gloves from AH for about 300g. So I wasn’t exactly that poorly geared. After equipping my shiny loots, I respecced frostfire along with the necessary glyphs and eagerly stepped into a heroic VH.

I did about 1600 dps. Admittedly, I was really bad at playing since this was the first instance I had done since respeccing. I let Living Bomb drop off all the time, and missed a lot of Hot Streak (instant Pyroblast) procs. I wasn’t used to watching dottimer since none of my other 3 80s had any debuffs worth tracking. I didn’t use Mirror Image and Icy Veins consistently. And I had to drink all the goddamn time.

So ok, maybe this isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I went to a few more heroics and VoAs. I started getting the hang of the rotation and learning a few tricks like popping Mirror Image far away from other people so they don’t get 1-shot from random target AoEs, eating mana gems more regularly, etc. My dps improved to about 1800-1900 on trash to 2200 on simple tank and spank bosses.

However, my ret pally and my wife’s warlock was easily doing this same level of dps with much less effort and much less gear. My ret pally did 1600 dps in his first heroic VH using the Kaluak polearm and blues and greens. I think Rethreth did 1600 dps at level 76…

Part of this is that the situation for melee and casters in TBC has been turned on its head for WotLK. In TBC, many melee dps classes were screwed in early instances and raids due to the lack of availability of good weapons. For casters, spell power is spell power, regardless of whether its on a sword, a trinket, or a pair of boots. Thus the lack of weapons could be made up from other slots, whereas melee had no such option. The lack of weapons was so bad that many people specifically did arenas for the t5 level weapons for use in PvE. My warlock used the season 2 merciless gladiator’s spellblade all throughout Kara to BT because Prince Malchewhatever refused to drop Nathrezim Mindblade (of course it dropped the day after I bought the arena weapon).

In WotLK, almost all melee classes have easy access to amazing weapons through the Blacksmithing Titansteel epics. Even if for some reason you’re not willing to fork out 1000g for these epics, the blue quest reward weapons and rep weapons are perfectly usable at 80. This allows melee classes to completely bypass their disadvantage, whereas caster classes still have to deal with cast times. Every time my mage moves out of AoE, I have to spend 3 seconds doing nothing before my next frostfire bolt spews out. In that same time, my ret pally could have pressed Judgement + Crusader Strike for 5k damage each, not counting the auto-attack + Seal of the Martyr damage occurring at the same time.

Mages also seem to suffer from weak AoE right now, which is a strange disadvantage. The problem stems from the fact that both major dps specs, Frostfire and Arcane/Fire, do not have enough points in Frost to get shatter or other talents to improve Blizzard. And Blizzard remains the best AoE spell as it’s spammable/channeled with no cooldown, and from a longer range than Arcane Explosion. In contrast, a felguard/emberstorm warlock has a really really mean Rain of Fire as it is improved by all fire damage talents, which they are already taking. I’m talking crits of easily 3k+ compared to puny 1.5k crits for Blizzard. And after that I have to spend time drinking while warlocks happily flounce off, pressing lifetap as they go.

I’m still having fun playing my mage though. At least I’ve seen for myself that any mage with half a brain should be able to do 1500 dps as a fresh 80. Hit rating definitely isn’t an issue at all since I’m actually way over the hit cap, especially for heroics where you only need something like 8%. I’ll be continuing to try to gear up through heroics and hopefully some OS and VoA as well.

As a side note, I’ve gotten exalted with Kaluak and can run around with Pengu again!

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