It's time again for Arcane Brilliance, the weekly mage column that come rain or shine, snow, sleet, hail, netherstorm or cataclysmic event is always delivered to your electronic doorstep by a mysterious robed man with a strange affinity for sheep. Perhaps you have wondered why Blink is distanced at exactly 20 yards? Because that's the exact number of digital yards between your internet yard and your neighbor's internet yard. This strange wizardly paperboy blinks onto your e-porch, unfurls this week's Arcane Brilliance, magicks it under your internet door, turns your internet yard gnome into an internet yard sheep, then poofs his way next door and repeats the process. He does this whether you've actually subscribed to Arcane Brilliance or not. It's all a bit creepy, but at least it's free.
Let's take a moment and talk about utility, shall we?
This week, I'm going to present the case for mages as the single best utility class in the game. Sure, druids bring their gifts of the wild, death knights bring their horns of winter, shaman bring their bloodlust/heroism, warlocks bring their evil little cookies and their obscene body odor, and rogues bring ... a tendency to stab things in the back ... but mages -- I think you'll agree after I pound it into your heads for the next thousand words or so -- are the kings of utility.
You may think of us (and many of us may think of ourselves) as simple purveyors of arcane destruction. We trade in damage, humble merchants of death, standing behind someone wearing more substantial attire, churning out our fireballbolts and frostmadoodads and whatnot until the boss keels over, like any good ranged DPS class should. While this is our essential function, I'd like to spend this week's column shining a spotlight of sorts on the other things we bring to the proverbial table.
Protip: one of the things we bring is a literal table.
I know what you're thinking --
-- and I concur. Huh, indeed.
But believe it or not, crowd control (and specifically, the mage variety of crowd control) was once, in the not-so-distant past, a highly valued commodity. It used to be quite impossible to complete even a 5-man without some form of it, and it may be that those days return in some form or fashion once Cataclysm drops. I'm not anticipating a complete about-face in Blizzard's dungeon design, but I do foresee some sort of happy medium between the absolute necessity of crowd control and the absolute marginalization of the same utility.
Once upon a time, dungeon pulls were balanced around the idea that a group would need to render at least one of the enemies impotent until at least one of the other enemies was dead. You were always pulling slightly more than your party could comfortably handle. You needed someone with a stun, or a freeze trap, or a charm, or something to remove one of the mobs from the equation for as long as possible, or the pull was likely to go very south, very fast.
This is an area in which mages excelled. While other forms of crowd control were unreliable at best, mages brought a spell to the table that could be depended upon. It could be counted on to last roughly 30 seconds -- an eternity -- kept the affected mob in one spot, and was only breakable upon damage. Plus, it turned that scary monster into a cute, fluffy and highly flammable farmyard mammal.
I'm speaking, of course, of Polymorph.
We still have this spell. And though we no longer have a great need for it in the area of AoE tanking, it still has its uses.
in PvP situations, it is perhaps the most powerful offensive and defensive spell we possess. It is still an incredibly reliable means of controlling a foe, and nothing is more valuable in PvP than the ability to lock down an opponent. I've been running a lot of random battlegrounds lately and noticing a disturbing trend.
We've forgotten about sheep.
Many a mage tends to charge into combat, flinging fire and ice hither and thither, unleashing death and destruction upon all who cross their path, forgetting that they possess the ability to completely remove a single enemy from the battle with a single button press. This is valuable to ourselves, and valuable to our teammates. I could write a whole column about this, but won't. Yet.
- As a defensive spell. Often, we rely solely upon aggro-diminishing mechanics when we draw the attention of a mob away from the tank. I've found success, though, in simply controlling the aggroed mob instead of going invisible or iceblocking. Lock that impertinent beast down, keep it focused so that you can-re-sheep when the first sheep breaks, and remove the mob from the fight. Of course, in this post-crowd-control age, one of your teammates is likely to break your sheep prematurely, but you can always kill that teammate later.
- To lock down a ranged mob. Maybe your tank hasn't noticed that enemy spellcaster. Maybe he just isn't bothering to pull him in. Sheep him. You'll display a rare sense of situational awareness and negate an unimpeded source of incoming damage.
- As an interrupt. This is more in PvP than in PvE, but I've used it there too. Even if crowd control isn't your aim, a well-timed Polymorph can interrupt an enemy ability as effectively as a Counterspell.
Mages have the most rock-solid CC spell in the game, and even if we never return to the days when groups would specifically seek out a mage for his sheeping skills, it's still a great bit of utility to have in our repertoire.
Not only can we zoom about the world on our own, unfettered by the constraints of time and space, we can also bring our friends. The random dungeon finder has eliminated much of the demand for this ability (gone are the days when every instance ended with a frothing demand by every party member for a port), but I still get plenty of unsolicited, malformed, misspelled and often poorly conjugated requests for portals. I'm usually happy to provide this service, knowing that I've assisted some wayward traveler on his or her journey. Raid groups have yet to become cross-server and/or randomized, so those are also a frequent opportunity to provide instantaneous mass-transit. Everybody has used a mage for transportation at one point in their WoW careers, and I'm happy to have been a part of that.
Fact: Strudel is nature's perfect food.
This cannot be disputed. Warlocks like to think that they also provide sustenance, but there are two things you should know about those evil little cookies before you eat them:
- The place they summon them from isn't an FDA-approved establishment.
- They give you the runs. I'm talking violent, soul-rending bowl-voiding the likes of which you haven't felt since the time you drank from the toilet that weekend in Tijuana. I'm just laying it out there.
Yes, we've spoken of this on more than one occasion. But the fact remains that mages are one of the few classes that can provide this utility to a raid, and it is an absolute necessity. If you are not decursing folks, you are not doing your job. You won't get thanked for doing it, and you will get yelled at for not doing it, but do it anyway. The seconds you lose in DPSing may save your raid.
More specifically, intellect of the arcane variety. We, as mages, can literally make the entire raid smarter. In fact, when all is said and done, we may be the most valuable class in the game, buff-wise, to fellow spellcasters. This particular buff grants a large chunk of intellect, which, depending on your class and spec, translates into such things as spell damage, crit, and mana pool size.
This only helps a single caster in the group (and of course yourself), but it helps that single caster a bunch. It's an entirely passive 3% crit chance buff, which is a fairly massive amount of crit. Put it on a holy paladin, or an elemental shaman, or a moonkin, and they will instantly become your best friend. And then it will wear off, and they will hate you again. And rightly so, because you are a jerk. I'm just the messenger.
Speaking of crit chance
Improved Scorch is an almost required buff, really. If nobody else is providing an equivalent raid buff, you need at least one fire mage to put this thing on the boss and keep it there. The debuff it applies is worth a 5% increase in crit chance for the entire raid, something no raid can really afford to be without.
Frost mages provide an identical debuff, in the form of Winter's Chill. It applies said debuff as the frost mage casts its normal rotation, meaning the buff will absolutely always be up, unless your frost mage has an aneurysm at the keyboard or experiences a power outage or something.
Arcane mages provide a raid buff too. It's entirely passive, and it grants a flat 3% spell damage to everyone within 100 yards. The arcane mage doesn't have to do anything to keep it up but stay alive, which is admittedly difficult at times.
Enduring Winter does two things. First, it keeps your water elemental around longer (an effect that's rendered useless if you happen to have the glyph that makes him permanent). Second, it provides replenishment to up to ten of your raid-mates. It triggers off of Frostbolt, which is a spell that frost mages cast approximately seventy-billion times every second, give or take. 1% mana return every 5 seconds is quite nice. Quite nice indeed.
- Dashing good looks
- Impeccable personal hygiene
- Impressive comic timing
- We always have cash on hand for tips and cab fare
- Encyclopedic knowledge of music, so when you ask "Who's that by?" we go "Anamanaguchi," and you can then hit up iTunes or whatever and set it as your new ringtone.
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 how much I hate damage meters or our lengthy series of mage leveling guides. Until next week, keep the mage-train a-rollin'.