Every week, Arcane Brilliance works its way into your spell-rotation, right between Fireball two and Fireball three. It has a zero second cast time, doesn't trigger the global cooldown, costs no mana, does ridiculous amounts of damage, creates no threat, and is entirely unresistable. Yes, I'm aware that's not a word. Yes, I understand that "irresistible" is the grammatically correct alternative. Yes, I like to make up words. Also, apparently Arcane Brilliance is the greatest spell ever, and should probably make up your entire spell rotation, and not just a part of it. The good news? I just saved you space on your action bars.
If forced, at gunpoint, to identify the most daunting aspect of the World of Warcraft experience, I know exactly what I'd say. It wouldn't be starting the game, as Blizzard has done a wonderful job of making entry into the game itself incredibly user-friendly. It wouldn't be beginning to raid, as hopefully when you go into your first raid, your guild will be fully aware that it is your first raid and won't expect too much of you, so you can participate without pressure.
No, I'd have to say the single most daunting part of the game happens at a very specific point, and that point is the moment you ding level 70.
Perhaps you don't realize it at that exact instant. For most, the moment of realization comes later. Perhaps it happens when you hop into your first Arena match and die two-and-a-half seconds later. Perhaps it happens when you get thrown into a Karazhan pick-up-group and notice half of your spells are being resisted by Attumen the Huntsman. Perhaps it happens while walking around Shattrath, and you notice a Gnome Mage, ostensibly at the same level as you, wandering around in full tier 6 gear, sporting a mana pool twice as large as yours and around a kajillion spell damage. Perhaps it happens when your guild leader tells you no, you can't come help on Gruul, because you have no spell hit rating, and you don't even know what that means.
So what are you to do? How do you turn your mismatched greens and quest-reward blues into gear that will get you a raid spot? Read on after the jump, and find out how to start down the road to becoming epic.
A giant gulf exists between a newly minted level 70 Mage and a level 70 Mage decked out in sweet sweet purples. Hitting level 70 is a little like graduating from high school and beginning college. You've worked your way through years of educational hell to reach the pinnacle, spend what feels like about thirty seconds at the top of the heap as a mighty Senior, only to enter your university of choice and discover you've descended all the way to the bottom of the totem pole yet again. Hitting level 70 essentially turns the 69 levels of advancement that came before it on their head. Your long climb to reach the highest experience level has only taken you to the bottom rung of yet another long ladder. Discouraging? You could say that, yeah.
To further complicate matters, level 70 opens up what many consider to be the "real" game. There is more to do after reaching 70, more opportunities to pursue, more choices to make, more freedom to explore and evolve, than there ever was during the leveling process. This freedom can be exhilarating, but also extremely daunting.
So let's make the process easier. What follows is an attempt to distill the vast expanse of opportunity presented to you at level 70 down to a few important first steps. These are a few quick, relatively easy ways to quickly beef yourself up, to close the gap between you and that gnome wandering around Shattrath with all the uberness.
- First: Choose a direction
The straight and narrow path you've followed through 70 levels forks quite suddenly when you ding that final time in Blade's Edge Mountains or Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley. You need to identify your endgame goals, if you haven't already. Do you want to take your Mage into the endgame raid content? Do you want to focus on PvP? These two main routes are not mutually exclusive, but excelling at them requires very different choices.
- For PvP: Get your tier 0.5 gear
This set is likely better than anything you already have, even for PvE. You can equip it the instant you hit level 70, and picking it up requires only that you be honored with a few of Outland's factions. Plus, it looks spiffy. Here are the specifics:
Evoker's Silk Amice
This requires honored reputation with Honor Hold if you're Alliance or Thrallmar if you're Horde, and can be purchased from the quartermasters in those towns for just less than 14 gold. Go do a daily quest and you've paid for it. Chances are you've already hit honored with these factions, just through the leveling process. If for some reason you haven't, go run the Hellfire instances, or complete the daily PvP quest a few times. Honored rep doesn't take long.
Evoker's Silk Cowl
Honored with Lower City is only a few Arrakoa Feather turn-ins away, if you aren't there already. Fork over around 13 gold to Nakodu in Shattrath and this beauty is yours.
Evoker's Silk Handguards
You'll need to be honored with The Sha'tar to purchase these. If you need to improve your standing with this faction, you can easily do so by turning in Scryer/Aldor items, as those net you reputation for both factions until you hit honored. If this isn't appealing, you can make a few runs through any of the Tempest Keep instances. To pick this, up you will need to provide Almaador in the center of Shattrath with a little less than 9 gold.
Evoker's Silk Raiment
The Keepers of Time will provide you with this once you become honored with them. If you aren't there yet, run any of the Caverns of Time instances once or twice. Alurmi, located near the entrance tunnel to the caverns, will sell this to you for about 17 gold.
Evoker's Silk Trousers
Pick these up for around 17 gold from Fedryen Swiftspear in Cenarion Refuge in Zangarmarsh once you've hit honored with the Cenarion Expedition. If for some reason you haven't managed that reputation level yet, it can very easily be obtained by turning in a few Unidentified Plant Parts, by running a Coilfang Reservoir instance, by killing a few naga, or by doing a few of the quests you should have already done while leveling in this zone. Seriously, you barely have to log into the game to get to honored with the Cenarion Expedition. They just about hand it to you when you walk into town. It's sort of like an A for effort.
If you want to start working toward the juicy PvP epics out there, I don't blame you. I'd advise against jumping into Arena until you've upgraded some of your gear. The tier 0.5 set is a good start, but you may also want to farm some honor until you can afford a piece of Vindicator's gear or two. You can contribute in the battlegrounds, even with sub-par gear, so farming honor is far easier and less painful than jumping immediately into the Arena and losing 10 matches a week. Just please, don't go the AFK route. People who go AFK in battlegrounds are horrible, horrible people. They are parasites, worthless individuals who leech off the efforts of others. They are of no value as human beings. If you feel I'm being too harsh, well good. That's what I was trying to do.
With no diminishing returns and various daily PvP quests available, honor comes quickly these days. A day or two of concentrated work in the battlegrounds can realistically net you a very nice PvP epic. Once you've geared up a little, and have gained some resilience, you can enter the Arena and be slightly competitive as you begin your weekly quest not to embarrass yourself to gain arena points.
- For PvE: Craft some epics
If you have chosen a profession that offers any powerful, epic, bind-on-pickup gear for Mages, farm the materials and craft them. Tailoring, Engineering, and Jewelcrafting all offer very nice caster gear. Refer to the last couple Arcane Brilliance columns for specifics, but the Tailoring sets especially are well worth the effort. They can provide you with enough fire-power to begin truly bridging the gap between being a new level 70 Mage and being a level 70 Mage who warrants a raid spot. Here are a few examples:
Shadow's Embrace set
Wrath of Spellfire set
Figurine - Crimson Serpent
By spending the time it takes to put together the materials for these crafted epics, you can significantly improve your standing as a level 70 Mage, and prepare yourself to enter your first raid.
- Get some spell hit rating
This is the single most important stat to have before taking your Mage into a raid, and chances are you have none of it when you hit 70. Refer to Arcane Brilliance's earlier column on this vital statistic for lists of gear that has spell hit on it, and analysis on what it does. The bottom line here is that if you wish to go raiding with your Mage, you need to start scraping together spell hit rating whenever you can, with the goal of reaching the cap of 202 as soon as possible. If you need to sacrifice other stats to get spell hit, do it. Once you've gotten enough spell hit rating, you can shift your focus to other important caster stats, like spell damage, spell haste rating, intellect, or spell critical strike rating.
- Hit some instances
Not only is this good practice for learning your role as a Mage in a level 70 group, you can land yourself some very nice blues to fill holes in your gear. Instances you should hit and some of the gear you should hope drops to follow:
Considered one of the easiest of the level 70 instances, this may be a good place to start. You can pick up a couple nice pieces here, including a neck item and a very nice sword that grant some of that all-important spell hit rating.
Wand of the Netherwing
Silent Slippers of Meditation
Brooch of Heightened Potential
Greatsword of Horrid Dreams
The Caverns of Time: The Black Morass
Another fairly simple and extremely quick instance, there are quite a few nice drops here, including a few opportunities for spell hit rating.
Khadgar's Kilt of Abjuration
Mantle of Three Terrors
Coilfang Reservoir: The Steamvault
This is a more challenging instance, to be sure, but several nice drops are available here.
Incanter's Gloves and Incanter's Pauldrons
Sash of Serpentra
Scintillating Coral band
Vermillion Robes of the Dominant
Hellfire Citadel: The Shattered Halls
I hate Shattered Halls, but there are definitely a few nice items to be procured inside.
Bands of Nethecurse
Hortus' Seal of Brilliance
Tempest Keep: The Mechanar
Lots to hope for here, from a part of the Incanter's set to a nice one-handed sword and a decent off-hand to go with it.
Baba's Cloak of Arcanistry
Manual of the Nethermancer
Warp Engineer's Prismatic Chain
Tempest Keep: The Botanica
A lot of goodies in this dungeon, including a few more opportunities for gear with spell hit rating on it.
Warp Infused Drape
Warpstaff of Arcanum
Tempest Keep: The Arcatraz
A few interesting possibilities here, including a wand with spell hit rating on it, which is a rare sight indeed.
Lamp of Peaceful Radiance
Nether-Core's Control Rod
Ryngo's Band of Ingenuity
This is a very difficult instance for a new level 70 character to endure, so you may want to gear up a bit before entering it, but there are some very nice drops here, especially on the spell hit and spell haste rating fronts. This instance offers what amount to the best pre-raid drops available (including a good chance for an epic!) and is a perfect place to gear up prior to entering Karazhan.
Sun-infused Focus Staff
Cloak of the Betrayed
Bindings of Raging Fire
Band of Arcane Alacrity
Gloves of Arcane Acuity
- Get some rep
One of the easiest, but longest ways to get epic gear prior to raiding is to embark upon a few of the long reputation grinds various end-game factions have to offer. Just about every Burning Crusade faction offers very worthy epic rewards for Mages, and because I've already been far wordier than I should, I'll let you look up the rewards on your own, and make your own choices as to which factions you wish to devote time to. As an example, I'll note a pair of examples you can get from the newest faction grind, the Shattered Sun Offensive. This is one of the fastest grinds out there, due to the copious amounts of quick, easy daily quests associated with it, and offers a couple of very nice rewards for Mages.
Shattered Sun Pendant of Acumen
- Lastly: Nail down a spec
Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our two-part look at Mage match-ups with other classes in PvP, or our recent look at the new caster gear in patch 2.4. 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'.