Mages sometimes get a bad rap. Some say we whine too much, while others claim we stink at PvP, or pull aggro too often from the tank. Here at Arcane Brilliance, we ignore these people, because we know the truth. You see, it's a well-known fact that while people tend to like awesome, they simply can't handle too much of it. When people see Mages in the back row, flinging giant balls of flame and ice from their fingertips, landing ridiculously large crits on everything, or plucking delicious magical food out of the air before them, their sense of what is and what isn't awesome gets skewed, and this makes them feel weird. They don't like it. They fear it. The awesome that Mages bring to the table is just too much for most folks to handle. Remember this the next time you get yelled at over voice chat, or someone posts a nasty thread on the forums. We Mages are just too awesome. It's our curse. Luckily, we can remove curses.
Last week, we hit level 60. A long time ago, this was the end of the line, the top of the heap. Once you hit level 60, your experience bar disappeared, and only by improving your gear could you continue to advance your character. That all changed about 18 months ago, when Blizzard introduced us to the world beyond the Dark Portal, 10 more levels of experience, and level 57 greens that were better than level 60 purples. Last week, we brought ourselves to the brink of level 60, to the doorstep of Outland, and this week we'll explore that vast and dangerous new frontier and see where it takes us. Join us after the break for a look at what to expect from the last ten levels of the current game.
Level 60 is huge. As milestones go, Level 20 is big, level 40 used to be bigger, but once the new patch hits and mounts become obtainable at level 30, it won't be as big, but level 60 is just plain enormous. Once you've made it here, congratulations, the hard part is behind you. Post-60 content was designed much more recently than the content you've trudged through to get here, and is thus far more streamlined, user-friendly, and, well, fun. You'll run into people who prefer the old game, but most of that preference is based more on nostalgia than quality. The fact of the matter is that the Burning Crusade is just a more well-designed leveling experience, and you should notice the difference almost immediately.
Quests are organized so that many can be done at the same time, with objectives that are closer to the hubs they came from, and with multiple hubs in each zone, you'll spend very little time looking for the next thing to do because you'll be far too busy actually doing things. Quest rewards are far more well-thought-out, with clear choices for each class, so that by the time you've quested out the first zone, you'll have been able to almost completely outfit your Mage in superior gear. You'll encounter mobs that hit harder than you're used to, so better gear is a good thing, but you'll also notice these mobs give significantly more experience points than their counterparts in Azeroth.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's review what level 60 brings us.
New ranks of old spells include Arcane Missiles, Blizzard, Conjure Food (and water), Dampen Magic, Fire Ward, Fireball, Frostbolt, Frost Ward, Mana Shield, and Ice Armor. There a few new spells available, but all require some special effort. A trip to Shattrath, the capital city of Outland, will allow you to purchase Teleport: Shattrath from the portal trainers there. Tired of sheep? Visit Archmage Xylem again in Ashzara to begin a pair of quests that will eventually earn you Polymorph: Pig. If you can somehow manage to gather a raid together for Zul'Gurub (a sad near-impossibility these days), you have a 14% chance of seeing the boss Gahz'ranka drop the tome that teaches Polymorph: Turtle. Good luck with that.
Level 60 also allows you to visit your race's home city to purchase your epic land mount. This is a big deal because not only do the epic mounts get you around far faster than your old mount, they also look cool. I hope you've been saving your pennies, because the cost of the training and the mount itself is going to be around 640 gold. If you aren't quite there yet, don't let it trouble you; money comes fast and furious in Outland, trust me. Many things you can obtain in Hellfire Peninsula alone will sell quickly and for a good price at the auction house, including Netherweave Cloth, Motes of Shadow or Fire, Fel Iron Ore, Arcane Dust, Felweed, or Knothide Leather. Resist the urge to buy things, sell everything, and you'll have the money in no time.
There are two very nice level-appropriate instances in Hellfire Peninsula to help you gear up and augment your experience gains. The first of these is Hellfire Citadel: Ramparts, and the second is the Blood Furnace. Both are generally easy to find groups for, and are well worth the effort. You should notice a difference in game design here as well, as these instances are quick, straightforward, but still challenging when compared to the old-world instances you may be used to. Keep your sheep hand strong, young mageling, and your Fireballs hot.
An important thing to note about life past level 60 is that new skills become available every level, instead of every other. Level 61, for instance, brings a new rank of Fire Blast. It isn't much, I know, but it's better than the pile of nothing you got at level 51.
Level 62 allows you to upgrade Fireball and Arcane Explosion, as well as bringing you a brand new weapon to add to your arsenal: Molten Armor. This new armor spell should quickly replace all others as your DPS armor of choice. Adding a flat 3% to spell crit for offensive purposes and defensive utility in the form of fire damage to every attacker on every attack, and a lowered chance to be hit by a critical strike (and 5% is a giant amount, your resilience rating at level 70 would have to be 200 to lower your chance to be critted by 5%), this spell is very, very nice, and should serve you well from here to 70 and beyond. Mage Armor and Ice Armor will still have their uses, but this spell will likely be your mainstay from here on out.
By the time you get to level 62ish, you're probably about done with Hellfire and ready to move on to Zangarmarsh. This zone introduces you to two more good leveling instances, both located at Coilfang Reservoir: The Slave Pens and The Underbog. You can easily stay in this zone until around level 63-64.
Your up-ranked spells at level 63 are Amplify Magic, Arcane Missiles, and Frostbolt. Level 64 brings you a new rank of Flamestrike, as well as a new offensive spell: Arcane Blast. This may seem at first to be a strange spell, but used as part of a rotation, it can help an Arcane/Fire specced Mage to do immense amounts of damage. There are multiple ways to do it, but the basic strategy is this: start your rotation with an Arcane Blast, which gives you a debuff that makes the next one cost 75% more mana but have a shorter cast time. This debuff lasts 8 seconds, giving you time to sandwich in some other high-damage spells of your choice (Fireballs, Scorches, Arcane Missiles, whatever your spec calls for) before casting Arcane Blast again. If you cast it with 2 seconds or less left on the debuff, you'll get the shorter cast-time, but the mana cost debuff will expire before the spell goes off, giving you a shorter spell at the original low mana cost. Experiment with it, find the rotation that works best for you, and you may find it helps your DPS substantially, especially in long encounters.
At level 65 you should probably be well into questing in Terokkar Forest, or even Nagrand. The instances for this level range are found in Terokkar, at Auchindoun: Mana Tombs and Auchenai Crypts.
Your new spells at this level include new ranks of Cone of Cold, Conjure Water, and Scorch. You can also pick up your last portal spell at Shattrath, and forevermore create that portal at the end of every instance you run.
When you hit level 65, I'd advise taking a trip to Nagrand, even if you aren't finished with Terokkar. The reason for doing this is to find a group for a quick and dirty quest chain there called The Ring of Blood. This chain involves a 6-quest series of 5-man boss fights in an arena located in northern Nagrand. It rewards you with a ton of experience points, a lot of gold, and a hefty windfall of potions, as well as your choice of very nice weapon rewards. The Mage choice? Battle Mage's Baton. This staff will likely last you to level 70. A good group can iron this chain out in a very short amount of time, and you can't argue with the rewards it offers.
Level 66 brings an upgraded Fireball, and another new spell, this time one that should make Frost Mages very happy: Ice Lance. This spell is an instant cast, low-damage spell that does a whole lot more damage against frozen targets. It works well as a finishing move or as part of a Shatter combo, and can even be of use to Fire or Arcane Mages as an additional instant cast against a Frost-Nova-ed target, or as a low-mana spell to throw out against grounding totems in PvP.
Nagrand is the next zone to visit after Terokkar Forest. There are some fantastic quest rewards here, like the above-mentioned Battle-Mage's Baton, including but not limited to the Spell-slinger's Protector, Ogre-slayer's Cover, Earthen Mark of Power, Burning Blade Cultist Band, and Nesingwary Safari Stick. You'll need groups for a great many of the quests these items come from, but somebody's always looking for group in Nagrand.
Level 67 gives new ranks of Dampen Magic and Frost Nova. Your instance options around this level include Caverns of Time: Old Hillsbrad Foothills--located in Tanaris in the old world--and Auchindoun: Sethekk Halls back in Terokkar. Let me personally recommend Old Hillsbrad. It is exceptionally quick, fairly easy, and the reputation gain for the Keepers of Time is a good thing to pick up early. Plus, you get to go back in time!
At level 68 you can learn new ranks of Blizzard and Mana Shield, as well as Conjure Mana Emerald. Your new spell is an interesting one. Invisibility may seem at first to be more useful than it really is. It seems this way because it is this way. The 5 second fade-out renders it less-than-stellar for PvP, and the fact that you can't see anyone who can't see you and the 5 minute cooldown makes it difficult to use it for skipping past content the way rogues and druids can. The main function for this spell is as an aggro drop, and at that it works quite well. When under duress, you can very easily Frost Nova your assailants and run for the hills while going invisible, something that even works in instances. Since threat reduces over the course of the fade-out, this spell can even be effective as an aggro drop if interrupted before the full invisibility buff goes off. Don't expect more out of it than it can deliver, and you'll enjoy this spell. This will supposedly change in the next expansion, when the fade-out period is supposed to be shortened and can actually be talented down to an instant cast effect, but we'll see what actually makes it live.
At this point, you will probably be questing in Blade's Edge Mountains. It is in this zone that you may hit level 70, if you've been questing out each zone you've been entering. There are more than enough quests to complete here to go from level 68ish to level 70, and if you run out before reaching that plateau, you can easily finish things off in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley, the game's two level 70 zones.
Level 69 grants no new spells, but provides new iterations of Amplify Magic, Arcane Missiles, Fire Ward, Frostbolt, Ice Armor, and Mage Armor.
At this point, whether you're in Blade's Edge, Netherstorm, Shadowmoon, or deep within Sethekk Halls, take a deep breath and get ready for what's to come. Once your experience bar gets to the right side of the screen one last time, you'll be level 70, and a whole new game will open up to you. Ready? Ok, go finish those last few quests and be done with experience points forever.
Level 70 changes everything. First, your new spells, the last ones available in the current version of the game. The final ranks of, Arcane Explosion, Arcane Intellect, Arcane Missiles, Fire Blast, Fireball, Frost Ward, Frostbolt, and Scorch are learnable at the Mage trainer, while Arcane Brilliance rank 2 must be learned from a tome available only as a world instance drop. If you didn't manage to scoop one up during your adventures in the various instances of Outland, you can usually obtain one from the auction house without spending too much money. The same goes for the final ranks of Conjure Food and Conjure Water. These are all must-buys, so keep an eye out for them.
Your new spells at 70 are Spellsteal and Ritual of Refreshment. Ritual of Refreshment is pretty cool. It summons a magical table from which you and everyone in your party or raid can obtain Manna Biscuits, which act like food and water in one. Put one down in a battleground and everyone will love you for it. Spellsteal, on the other hand, allows you to steal one buff from an opponent at the cost of far too much mana. The effect only lasts for 2 minutes, maximum, but some very nice things can be stolen here, and there's a lot of fun to be had with this spell. For a list of what can be stolen, visit this wiki, and check out this old Arcane Brilliance column by our own Elizabeth Wachowski and scroll down to the bottom for some ideas for using it.
There are endless things to do at 70, things like Arena combat, new instances, and massive amounts of daily quests and factions to grind reputation with. One very cool, game-changing thing that is now available to you is your flying mount. Head to Shadowmoon Valley to pick one up as soon as possible, you won't regret it. You'll need 800 gold for the training and the mount, but fortunately making money at level 70 is a cinch. The options are endless: daily quests, finish questing in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon, farm primals or Aldor/Scryer rep items...just find a money making method that you don't hate and get on it.
Check in with Arcane Brilliance's own level 70 checklist for ways to start gearing your new end-game Mage for the actual end-game, and enjoy level 70.
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 analysis of Mage talent builds, or our recent look at 10 things Mages should know before entering the Arena. 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'.