I would like to begin this odyssey into the world of magic with an unlikely topic: armor. When I first began playing the class, unlearned in stats as I was, I admit I tried my best to get items with as much armor as possible. But honestly, that's not the sort of armor I'm talking about. Each mage walks around with instant protection, and no, I'm not talking about meat shields either.
As we gain levels we attain various armor spells to help buffer us from the aggro we will inevitably pull from the tank. It's these spells that although not often talked of, give mages endurance to go along with their substantial power. As a caster class, mages are the only class to receive damage dealing armor in addition to protective shields. The shadow priest can bubble, the warlock has their Fel and Demon armors, but only the mage has a combination of both.
First, lets look at the armor spells available to mages. They come in three types, and each has very useful effects depending on the situation.
Frost Armor: The first armor spell any mage has in their bag of spell tricks is Frost Armor. Attained when you first roll your spanking new mage, this spell gives a mage an extra 30 armor. In addition, you have the added bonus of a chance to slow any attacker's movements by 30%, and the time between attacks by up to 25% for three seconds. The advantage is obvious; because a mage is naturally weak against melee attacks, slowing the rate of the blows from such attacks becomes very important. This spell lasts 30 minutes (I'm noticing a lot of 30's here) and I recommend you do your best to keep this baby up and running, refreshing it often. There are three ranks of Frost Armor, each with an amplified set of these effects, and you receive them at levels 1, 10 and 20.
Ice Armor: This second spell is added to your arsenal at level 30. The nice thing about this spell is that not only does it increase your armor by 290 at its base level, it also adds +6 to your frost resistance. This is on top of the chance for slowing effects that you came to love with Frost Armor. Ice Armor is pretty powerful, powerful enough with its added armor to replace Frost Armor as your buffer of choice, and is definitely recommended for the mages out there who love to solo (you know who you are.) Look for upgrades at levels 40, 50 , 60 and oddly enough, 69.
Mage Armor: Four levels later you'll receive the appropriately named Mage Armor. Now don't make the mistake I did when I first received this spell and assume it is a replacement for your Ice Armor. It is not. Instead, this is a spell meant to supplement your armor needs. I say this because although it is called armor, Mage Armor actually gives no additional armor points. Instead Mage Armor increases resistances to all schools of magic (shadow, nature, fire, frost, and arcane), and allows 30% of your mana regeneration to continue while you are casting. It's a sneaky way to get around the 5 second rule (of casting, not of dropped food), but keep in mind this spell is best used when you can feel confident that you will not receive melee damage. At the lower levels I prefer to use Mage Armor in groups where there is a strong tank, and Ice Armor when fighting alone. This spell receives upgrades at levels 46, 58, and once again 69.
Molten Armor: It's like Thorns, but for mages! At level 62 make sure to spend the gold and train in Molten Armor. Because of its proc (which after the most recent patch can also proc when sitting now) in conjunction with the additional damage output, this is my favorite of the armor spells. What kind of damage output are we talking about here? How does 3% additional spell crit sound? I know its music to my ears. Once again, this is not a replacement armor spell, but rather a supplement, as it gives no additional armor points. It does however decrease an attackers chance to crit against you by 5%. Causing 75 fire damage to melee attackers is definitely fun, and I admit I have giggled more than once when I saw their skin begin to crackle. For this spell there is no current upgrade, but I expect one to be added as the level cap gets raised.
In addition to the upgrades available for the spells themselves, there are a few ways to beef up your armor spells, mostly through talents. For those interested in the Frost talent tree there is Frost Warding, a 2-point talent that in addition to adding to the armor abilities of your Frost or Ice Armor also gives you a chance to reflect frost spells and effects. Further down the Frost tree is a talent called Arctic Winds which is arguably the strongest talent for a mage looking to increase their resilience on the battlefield. The base level of this spell increases frost spell damage by 1%, at the same time decreasing the chance that melee and ranged attacks will hit you by 1%. Arcane lovers will want to look into a talent called Arcane Fortitude, which increases your armor by an amount equal to half your Intellect. This potentially could add a great deal depending on the amount of + intellect gear you collect.
But Amanda, you say, there are plenty of other ways that mages protect themselves. There are the shields, and the wards, and the bear druids. You're right, and next time we sit down together we'll talk about the additional tricks that mages have to keep their clothing pristine.