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Arcane Brilliance: Mage versus everyone, part 1

Every Saturday, Arcane Brilliance opens a portal to the wonderful world of Mages and encourages one and all to step through. This week, we'll be taking a hard look at Mage PvP in the Arena combat era, specifically two all-important questions. First, who can a Mage kill? And secondly, who can generally kill a Mage? The answer to the second one--and this may surprise you--is not "an AFK Warlock." Of course, I've never found an AFK Warlock to test that out on, even though I pray every single night that I will. Every...single...night.

In days of yore, before the Burning Crusade brought us Arenas and Blood Elves and approximately 974 new factions to grind reputation with, 1-on-1 match-ups (besides the occasional random ganking over a mining node) tended to only happen in meaningless duels outside Orgrimmar or in Goldshire. Back in those wild, crazy times, before diminishing returns and 41 point talents, most of the meaningful PvP took place in the Battlegrounds, and for Mages, it usually involved hiding behind a tree casting Blizzards down at the bridge in Alterac Valley. When a Rogue unstealthed behind us and planted a dagger in our backs, we died quietly, with a spell on our lips, and revenge in our hearts. Then we rezzed, ran back to our tree, and started the cycle over again.

When the expansion dropped Arena combat into our lives, everything changed. Suddenly, some of us found ourselves in a 2-man team with a Druid or a Shaman, facing off across Blade's Edge Arena against a Warrior and a Paladin. Dying in a blaze of flaming glory after three seconds of combat was no longer going to cut it. Mages adapted. We stacked on the new PvP gear, jacking up our stamina and resilience in the process. We fell in love with Blink, Ice Block, and Frost Nova. We respecced Frost. We learned how to survive, and soon found that we were living six, seven, and sometimes even eight seconds before dying quietly with a spell on our lips.

We also quickly learned that there were some classes we could consistently defeat, as well as several that made us curl up into the fetal position and rock back and forth, weeping softly. Several patches and multiple class-balancing tweaks later, some things have changed, but one thing still holds true: In Arena combat, it's all about the match-ups.

Join me after the break to find out who we can kill, and who we can't.

This week, we'll cover Warriors, Hunters, Druids, and Warlocks. Keep in mind that this isn't a hardcore strategy column, though I may tackle that in the future. What you have here is a look at which match-ups you should be hoping for when you step out onto the Arena floor, and which opponents might make you wish you'd never come out of the starting chamber.


What we like:

What's not to like about Warriors? They go down fast to our spells, they're easy to kite around with Frostbolt/Frost Nova, and they can't heal themselves. Some classes struggle against Warriors, but not Mages. Warriors are our friends. If you happen to have Flame Throwing, the range on your Fire Blast out-ranges his Charge, so you can throw it out as soon as he gets in range, putting him in combat and preventing him from Charging you. His stuns can all be Blinked out of anyway, so try to keep your distance using other spells--Frostbolt, Cone of Cold, Blast Wave, Dragon's Breath, or of course, Slow, and save your Blink cooldown for when his Intercept is up. Frost spec has an easy time keeping Warriors at bay, and Fire/Arcane specs can usually burn them down before they become a danger.

What we don't:

Hamstring or Piercing Howl/Intimidating Shout. Kiting is hard if you can't run. Also, I don't know if you've noticed but you're wearing a flimsy dress. It isn't going to hold up well if the Warrior gets close enough to whack you with his giant spiked mace. A well-geared Warrior can take a Mage down very quickly, if you let him get close to you. Don't let him get close. Just don't. Watch out for a skilled Warrior reflecting the occasional spell at you. It isn't fun, and it isn't pretty.

Can we kill them?

Yep. This is one of the best match-ups for Mages. In an Arena setting, you may find that you can sometimes kill the Warrior before his healer can even get a cast off. In fact, I think that may be on the list of my favorite game-related things to do ever, right up there with killing that first Metal Slime in the original Dragon Warrior, or winning a game of Herzog Zwei by dropping a single lowly infantry unit behind the other guy's base and letting him deliver the final shot.




What we like:

Again, Hunters tend to die quickly. They have very few ways of negating or mitigating the damage we can dish out, and can't heal themselves. Line-of-sight affects a Hunter just as much as it affects a Mage, so whenever they can do damage to us, we can do damage to them. Slow works very well on Hunters, gimping their DPS and making it more difficult for them to kite you.

What we don't:

Hunters have a lot of things that make Mages sad. Silencing Shot is horrible, but can only be used every 20 seconds, and only lasts 3 seconds. Viper Sting can make your mana disappear even quicker than Arcane Missiles can. Feign Death frequently makes me very angry, as it did last week when I managed to use my Presence of Mind/Arcane Power/DPS Trinket/Pyroblast I-Win Button on the Hunter's pet because he'd Feigned Death at the perfect moment and the pet, who'd been chewing on me for quite some time, popped up as my target just as I hit the key I'd bound the macro to. Speaking of pets, having one eating your face is a pain, turning all of your spellcasts into an infuriatingly slow ordeal.

Can we kill them?

Yes, this is a winnable fight for Mages. You'll lose if they manage to time their Silencing Shots/Feign Deaths/Scatter Shots well, but you can even the odds by using Improved Counterspell, Slow, or just massive amounts of meaty crits to your advantage. Most of the time, a well-specced PoM-Pyro Mage can simply burst damage a Hunter down, while a Frost Mage has just enough survivability to outlast him.




What we like:

Feral spec. We like Feral Spec. If we Blink out of that initial stun and then burst them down, a cat-form Druid might die, if they haven't put any significant points into the Restoration tree and forget to heal themselves in a timely fashion. Also, stealing Mark of the Wild or Lifebloom is fun.

What we don't:

Everything else. Druids are almost invincible in the Arena, especially in 2v2. They can shift out of Polymorph, they're very difficult to kite, if they're Resto (and sometimes even if they aren't) they can out-heal your DPS with ease, and you can't Blink out of Cyclone. Druids have a counter for almost anything a Mage can do to them, and their mana pool will almost always outlast yours. The good news? Almost every class loses to Druids in small-group situations. Mages aren't alone.

Can we kill them?

Yes if they don't know what they're doing. Yes if they're Feral. No any other time.




What we like:

Um...they have a few nice buffs to Spellsteal? That's...that's it. That's all I've got.

What we don't:

Yeah. Warlocks are designed, apparently, to be the perfect counter to Mages. If they have a felhunter for a pet (and they should if they're serious about PvPing), the felhunter might be capable of killing you all by itself. I'm half-kidding there, but only half. If they have Nether Protection, they can become immune to your fire spells any time you hit them with one. If you see them pop that particular buff, you should probably try to Spellsteal it. When you think you might almost have them dead, they can heal themselves with a Healthstone. They will almost never run out of mana, and they can drain yours. They can turn your health into their own in no less than three different ways, with Siphon Life, Drain Life, or Death Coil. They can make your spellcasts last forever with the combination of having their pet chew on you and casting Curse of Tongues on you. Their felhounds can silence you repeatedly and eat all of your buffs. They can interrupt you and keep you CCed with constant Fear. Mages have almost nothing that can counter any of these things. I'm also probably forgetting about 18 other nasty things that Warlocks can do to us.

Can we kill them?

Yes, and here's how: To win against a Warlock you need for the Warlock to not have a felhound for a pet, you need for him to be under-geared, and you need for him to be paying attention to your teammate. It also might help if he's AFK, or if his computer is stricken by a giant spike of lag just as the fight begins.

In all seriousness? It's possible to beat Warlocks, but you need to get lucky. Improved Counterspell helps, but needs to be first used at the beginning of the fight, before he has put a wide range of strange and wonderful DoTs and debuffs on you. It's vital to get the jump on the Warlock, damage-wise, since you will have to do a great deal more damage to them than they will to you. You need to get some crits to land at the right times, like before he gets his Healthstone off. And you need to use your Ice Block proactively, and not just to prolong death at the end of the fight. When you're feared, and have a host of nasty effects floating next to your mini-map, and see the Warlock cooking up a giant serving of Shadowbolt, that'd be be the time to use your Ice Block, negating the effects of all of those things at once. The simple truth, though, is that in Arena, unless you're in a two-Mage team, you should almost always be letting your team-mate worry about the lock, while you expend your energies fighting his companion. Unless his companion is another Warlock. In which case...the aforementioned fetal position might be in order.



Next week we'll be back with the remaining four class match-ups. I'm interested to see how you might agree and disagree with the above assessments. Different specs can change things up a bit, and skill-level does come into play, so your experiences might differ significantly from mine. Which match-ups have you found to be the easiest, or the most difficult?

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at the new patch 2.4 Mage gear, or our slanderous, vindictive look at the Mage/Warlock rivalry. If you're sick and tired of all this Mage-talk, there's a veritable treasure trove of guides and tips related to all of the other aspects of WoW over in the WoW Insider Directory. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

Filed under: (Mage) Arcane Brilliance, Druid, Classes, PvP, Analysis / Opinion, Warrior, Warlock, Mage, Hunter, Arena

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