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Arcane Brilliance: Mage versus everyone, part 2

Each week, Arcane Brilliance is conjured out of thin air after a three-second cast, and then handed over in stacks of twenty to everyone who cares to have some. Actually, it's usually written over the course of a few hours by a half-asleep father of two after the kids have gone to bed. It may or may not be written while eating Cakesters and listening to a giant, largely embarrassing playlist of 80's music that includes Jan Hammer, Joe Esposito, and the illustrious Ronnie James Dio. So in a way, I suppose, perhaps magic is involved in the creation of this column. How else can you explain my ability to right-align a screenshot or create hyperlinks to Wowhead under those conditions? I'm some kind of sorcerer, that's how.

This week we continue our look at who Mages can kill, and who we can only kill if the other guy spills Red Bull all over his keyboard mid-fight. Just like every other class (except Druids) in this game, there are some good match-ups for Mages, and some incredibly bad ones. Last week we touched on several of these, and this week, we'll go over the rest. To review, according to the unscientific and largely arbitrary rating system I invented for the purposes of this column, it was decided that Warriors were very killable, Hunters were killable with some skill and luck, but Druids and Warlocks were not very killable at all.

So who's on tap for this week? Priests, Pallies, Shammies, and Rogues. Just for fun, I think we have to throw in some hot (or cold, depending on spec) Mage on Mage action, too. Join me after the jump for all the good stuff.

Rogues


What we like:

Rogues go down fast. I mean fast. If you can get off a good burst combo with your spec of choice, a Rogue's meager health will vanish (no pun intended. Ok, so it was totally intended. I'm a terrible liar.) quickly, even allowing for the cheapness that is Cheat Death. The problem is getting out of stun-lock long enough to put the hurting on them. Rank 1 Arcane Explosion works well here, or having a partner with some stealth detection abilities. If you can manage to keep the Rogue from getting the jump on you, and have Mana Shield or Ice Barrier up to take some of the sting out of the initial front-loaded crits they tend to be fond of, Rogues make fun targets for big, meaty crits. If you can DoT them up with a Fireball, Pyroblast, or an Ignite proc, it makes it harder for them to re-stealth and keeps them right where you want them, in your crosshairs. Blink is an invaluable tool against Rogues. Try to avoid wasting it on the initial stun, as the Rogue will likely just Sprint after you and lock you down with Cheap Shot/Kidney Shot. Save your Ice Block for when the Rogue pops Cloak of Shadows, which makes them nearly unkillable for a good 5 seconds against a caster like you. Might as well wait it out with the Ice Block, let your cooldowns reset, and get rid of any nasty poisons he might have put on you, all in one fell swoop. Once you've got a Rogue out of Stealth, survived the initial attack, and managed to get yourself out of range via Frost Nova and Blink, this fight becomes nearly identical to one against a Warrior. If you can keep them at range, you can kill them without much fuss.

What we don't:

Cloak of Shadows, for the reasons mentioned above. Also, Cheat Death, because it sucks hard. You think you've got the Rogue dead, and then he pops CoS or Cheat Death and he's invincible. It's so tempting, when you see such a tiny amount of health left on your opponent, to keep pumping instant casts out to finish them off, but you have to resist. When you realize the Rogue has triggered either of these abilities, Ice Block. The problem with Rogues is similar to the problem with Warriors. They die fast at range, but they like to get close and insert sharp objects into our soft cloth-armored bodies. The major difference, though, is that Rogues have a much easier time getting close to us than Warriors do. Do what you can to keep them at bay, and then set them on fire. One fun thing for those willing to put a few points into the Fire tree is the combination of Molten Armor and Impact. Rogues hit so fast, it's nice to know that each time they thrust cold steel into your stomach they have a 10% chance to stun themselves for a couple seconds. It's often just enough to break that stun-lock.

Can we kill them?

Yes, absolutely. This is a fight we can easily lose, though, if things don't go our way. A lot depends on the initial jumping by the Rogue, and how the Mage responds to it. Use your Blinks, Frost Novas, and Ice Blocks judiciously, and things should work out. Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that two of a Rogue's best abilities start with the words "cheap" and "cheat." Just thought I'd throw that out there. Yes, I lost my last match with a Rogue team. Yes, I'm still bitter.

Killabillity:

6/10

Priests

What we like:

Ah, now here's an interesting fight. Frankly, this is what a counter-class should be. Mages and Priests almost seem designed to fight each other. Each class has spells and abilities that seem tailor-made to counter each other, making this match-up more a test of skill and resourcefulness than almost any other in the game. They have Psychic Scream, we have Polymorph. We Ice Block, and the Priest can dispel it. He casts Power Word: Shield on himself, we can Spellsteal it. We burst damage him to nearly the point of death, only he's burned all our mana and now we have to watch him heal up while we scramble for a place to drink. He starts to cast his big heal, we can Counterspell it and lock out his holy spells. For Mages, this match-up turns on timely burst damage and impeccably timed Counterspells. Whittle the Priest down as best you can until you see him start one of the big heals, Counterspell it, then pray you have enough burst capability to bring him down. Slow is also a useful spell against Priests, as it is with all casters.

What we don't:

The most frustrating thing about fighting a Priest is that they can frequently seem far less squishy than they should. Most Arena Priests these days seem to take talents in the Discipline tree that make them very difficult for a Mage to bring down as quickly as he wants to. Combine that with the fact that a good Priest is likely burning off your mana and doing his best to out-heal your DPS, you might very swiftly discover that he has full health and you are out of mana. If the Priest is specced Shadow, his DPS is on a par with your own, and he can do several almost Warlockian things to you.

Can we kill them?

You bet, but this is truly an even match-up if gear is relatively similar. Spellsteal is your friend, use it early to turn the battle slightly in your favor. Remember that Ice Block can be dispelled so use it proactively, as a way to get rid of DoTs and break out of fear, or avoid that incoming mana burn. Time your burst damage well, and save your Counterspells for heals.

Killabillity:

5/10

Shamans

What we like:

Once upon a time, back when it was still possible to find a PUG for Dire Maul, Shamans used to be an incredibly dangerous class to face in individual combat. There was a time when the Alliance was very sad that they couldn't roll a Shaman, and complained that Shammies were over-powered almost as much as the Horde complained that Pallies were over-powered. Remember those days? I do, the same way I remember the days when gas cost a buck-fifty a gallon. Those days are gone. In that bygone era, Shamans were a true hybrid class, capable melee fighters, range casters, and powerful healers. Now they're like an under-powered Warrior, Mage, and Priest rolled into one. They're like a Druid's inbred second cousin, the one with an extra appendage and three teeth that they don't allow to appear in any of the family photos at the reunion. I'm not trying to insult Shamans, I'm just trying to paint it like it is. Blizzard need to fix Shamans, moreso than any other class in this game, and that's all there is to it.

Shamans are prime Polymorph targets. Once they trinket out of the first one, they have absolutely no way to break the next one. Or the one after that. Counterspell is your best friend against Shamans. Almost every notable spell a Shammy has is a Nature spell. Lock that out and you've effectively neutered the Shaman. It's interesting to note that even if a Shaman has a Grounding Totem up, an Improved Counterspell will still silence him. The totem will eat the Counterspell, but the improved part will still reach the target, silencing him anyway. Ridiculous, but true. If the Shaman runs out of mana, or is specced Enhancement, he has to get close to you to do much damage, which is fabulous because of any class in the game, a Shaman is easiest to kite. Shamans run out of mana fast, and all their heals take time to cast, making them sitting ducks.

What we don't:

Now, having said all that, let me add a very large disclaimer: Shamans are still dangerous. My regular 2v2 partner and long-time best buddy is an Elemental Shaman. He can dish out a lot of pain in a hurry. Nothing is quite as satisfying as walking out next to him, watching him plant a bunch of totems, open with a giant Elemental Mastery/Nature's Swiftness/Chain Lightning insta-crit pain explosion, then follow it up with a Lightning Bolt/Lightning Overload proc kill hit. We've had fights where all his spells crit, and my Arcane Power/Presence of Mind/Pyroblast crits and the fight is over in about three seconds. Of course we've also had fights where everything gets resisted and I send my keyboard sailing across the room, but that's a whole different issue.

Earth Shock is a pain, and can be used every 6 seconds, so it's wise to use instant casts against a Shammy. Grounding Totems are a Mage's arch enemy, so be observant. If one is up (and in Arena, one almost always will be), preface your nuke of choice with an Ice Lance. In fact, against a Shaman, this might be a good strategy to use throughout the fight, just to avoid losing a powerful, mana-intensive spell to one of these totems. A good Shaman will Purge your buffs near the beginning of the fight, but note that Purge is fairly easy to resist, so it's not as big a threat as it could be. Bloodlust can make things very difficult, as it makes a Shaman's heals much faster casts, as it does with all of their spells. If you can manage to Spellsteal it, you'll be a happy Mage.

Can we kill them?

Yes, but be wary. A skilled Enhancement Shaman can kill you very quickly if you let them get close to you, and a good Elemental Shammy can crit you to death before you can say Lightning Overload proc.

Killabillity:

8/10

Paladins

What we like:

Pallies are fun. As with Shamans, all of their heals take time to cast, and make them stand still while they cast them, so Counterspell is just priceless against a Paladin. All of a Paladin's spells are in the holy school, so even a normal Counterspell renders a Paladin entirely useless. They can't even bubble out of it. If the Pally has more dangerous teammates, it is fairly simple to set the Paladin as your Focus target and keep them in check with sheeps and Counterspells. Pallies have almost no innate or talented spell resistance of any kind, so their health disappears rapidly. They have auras that can raise their resistances against frost or fire spells, but in Arena combat they will almost always keep Concentration Aura up unless they are Retribution specced.

What we don't:

It is slightly more difficult to kite a Ret Pally than it is to kite a Warrior due to Blessing of Freedom, but not impossible. Most of the time, it is far easier to simply burst the poor Pally down, preventing the bubble with a well-timed Improved Counterspell, instead of trying to keep him at bay. Also, it can become frustrating when fighting a Paladin if you fail to keep him from healing his companions. In large teams, a Mage's role against a Pally is pure CC. Don't even waste mana on DPS, just keep that Pally from healing and you've won.

Can we kill them?

Not a chance. Just kidding, we totally can.

Killabillity:
9/10

Mages

Ah...the mirror match-up. So you see another Mage coming out of the opposite starting area. As in every mirror match-up, if all things are equal (gear, spec, server lag) this is a pure skill contest. The problem is that this is almost never the case. Are you a Fire or Arcane Mage? Most of the Mages you'll be facing in Arena combat will be Frost Mages. Keep Frost Ward up, time your Counterspells well, cast Slow on them if you have it, and pray your bursts can outdo their bursts. A really effective way to start a fight against a Frost Mage is with an Improved Counterspell, a sheep, a re-sheep if they trinket, and your best nuke. Spellsteal their buffs, and pray you get some lucky resists and lucky crits.

Are you Frost, and they aren't? Remember your Fire Ward, and then outlast them. You can control the fight much better than they can, and your survivability options are far better, so focus on outliving the burst damage. Negate what you can with Counterspells, annoy them with your elemental, keep Ice Barrier up, and Ice Block whenever you see a big spell coming your way. Sandwich in DPS where you can, and when you see them getting low on mana, shatter-combo them into oblivion.

What we like:

Everything. Mages are awesome.

What we don't:

Nothing. Mages are awesome.

Can we kill them?

Why would you want to kill a fellow Mage? Oh right, Arena points. Ok, then yes, but only if you're really, really good...because Mages are awesome.



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 Arena Combat, 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, Battlegrounds, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance, Classes, PvP, Tips, Analysis / Opinion, Shaman, Rogue, Priest, Paladin, Arena

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