As a result of the comments on last week's article, I tried a little variation in the use of the three armor types in my gameplay. You were right when you said that Mage Armor can actually give more punch than Molten Armor in instances; my addiction to crit was blinding me to the amazing damage that can be done when you don't run out of mana half-way through a fight. See, that's exactly what this column is all about, learning from each other how to become better mages.
Now, when we talk about protection for mages, the armor does go a long way toward keeping us alive, but there are other spells that help us survive, namely the shields and wards. These spells help us by absorbing damage and providing resistances to various schools of magic. You're a mage, at some point during the fight if you're doing decent enough damage you will pull aggro. But it's a combination of these spells that will help you survive long enough to dump aggro.
Let's look at the shields first. As a mage you get access to the Mana Shield at level 20. When I first started using this spell I had no idea it drained mana, but it does. The shield absorbs 120 damage at its base level, instead draining your mana. You're level 20 at this point though, high enough that your gear should last you a few levels. A good way to counteract this mana drain is to start building up +int gear. The more mana you have, the less you will see the effect of the shield on your mana. The spell receives upgrades at level 28, 36, 44, 52, 60 and 68.
For many mages, regardless of spec, this is the shield only option available to you. However, if you decide to spec heavily into the Frost tree, Ice Barrier is there awaiting you as a nice reward. The Ice Barrier spell is a talent you can pick up with 31 points, and if you're on your way to the water elemental, you'll definitely want to spend a point to learn this one. Not only does this shield absorb 438 points of damage, but you can cast uninterrupted as long as this baby is up. The caveat with the Ice Barrier is that it lasts 60 seconds, but has a 30 second cooldown. Technically you can first get this spell at level 40, and then receive upgrades at levels 46, 52, 58, 64, and 70.
I have used both these shields over my history with my mage. For a long while I was a pure frost mage, all the way down to my Squishy. Ice Barrier was definitely my friend. Uninterrupted casting is a lovely thing. But now that I have a blended spec, I admit that the lack of a cooldown on Mana Shield is also very useful. I don't use the shield as often as I should. I could say that I do this because I want to be as mana efficient as possible, but the truth is many times I forget to use the spell until I'm getting whacked on by some baddy. These days I am doing better about aggro management, and so I find that unless I am soloing my dailies I can get away with not using my shield.
I'd love to hear your recommendations on the use of Mana Shield versus Ice Barrier. I realize that for those of us that are Arcane or Pyro we don't have the option of Ice Barrier, but I also find that even though a mage doesn't have the spec, chances are they know enough about said spec to discuss its merits intelligently. And like I said I'm here to learn how to play my class better.
And now onto the wards: In your 20s you will receive two spells that absorb spell damage from the fire and frost schools. Think of them as a free protection potion but only for us mages. At level 20 you receive a spell called Fire Ward. The base level of this ward absorbs 165 fire damage and lasts 30 seconds, with a 30 second cool down. As you train in higher levels of the ward the amount of damage it absorbs goes up exponentially. By the time you hit Rank 6 of the spell it is absorbing 1220 fire damage. Look for upgrades to this spell at levels 30, 40, 50, 60, and 69.
Two levels later, at 22, you will get the chance to train in Frost Ward. Like the Fire Ward it absorbs 165 damage, only this time it's frost damage you're protected against. Again the spell lasts 30 seconds and has a 30 second cooldown. Upgrades to the spell are available at levels 32, 42, 52, 60 and 70.
Okay mages, help me out here. These are two spells I really don't use at all (I might have used Fire Ward in my few runs in MC, but it's been so long I don't recall.) I see the benefit of wards, I do, but I am not sure the amount of damage absorbed is enough to warrant a space in my already crowded UI. Part of my challenge is, I think, that when I first got the spells I was using them all the time, and didn't really learn that I had to anticipate another mage's spell usage first. Perhaps these spells are something that would help me in PvP? How useful do you find the wards?
Alright well, we've gone over the ways a mage can protect themselves in battle (although I still vote as Bear Druid for my favorite mage armor.) We have the armor, the shields, and the wards. As we embark on our continued discussion, I am definitely open to suggestions as to topics. I have plenty of ideas, but this is your column too. As a mage, what discussions would you find most helpful? Feel free to drop me a line at amanda [dot] rivera [at] weblogsinc [dot] com and let me know if there is a topic you would like discussed on a future Arcane Brilliance. Until then, happy casting.