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Arcane Brilliance: Why I still love my mage

Raistlin Majere
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we take a short break from talking about pandas and mists and the delightful Asian-flavored turtle-nation where the pandas and the mists combine to form a giant kung fu turtle panda Voltron super expansion of glory. But don't worry, the break will indeed be short. Because pandas.

Let's all join hands, cast Alter Time together, and journey back to the halcyon days of early 2008. George Walker Bush was nearing the end of his time as the leader of the free world, a visibly checked-out Britney Spears was auto-tuning her way to the top of the charts while simultaneously losing custody of her children to this guy, we were all playing the first games in the Rock Band and Mass Effect series, and the Hollywood screenwriters strike was nearing its end. Which, thank god, because the world needed Ron Swanson.

And in February of that year, I started writing for this wonderful website, beginning with a column titled Why we Mage. In that column, I endeavored to crystallize my deep and abiding affection for the mage class in World of Warcraft. A dash of my deep and abiding loathing for the warlock class may have seeped in there, too, as warlock loathing tends to do.

A great deal of time has gone by since then. Over four years, to be precise. I just finished Mass Effect and I still play Rock Band, mostly for the Iron Maiden songs. It's 2012. We've killed Arthas and Deathwing, Ron Swanson just got renewed for a fifth season, and somebody's remaking Herzog Zwei.

And oh yeah, I still love mages.

Confession time: There have been time periods during those intervening four years where I've played less WoW than I have during other time periods. My desire for constant Warcraft waxes and wanes, as I'm sure it does with all of you. I've never left, precisely, just stopped playing as much from time to time.

The thing that always brings me back, in all honesty, is my vested interest in and unrequited love for my mage main. And my Alliance mage alt on a different server. And my various low-level mage alts. It occurred to me the other day, as I was leveling up a worgen mage for no other reason than because I could, to wonder what was behind my love for mages. Why, even four years hence (six full years since I started playing the game), do I feel so much more attached to this particular class in this particular game?

What follows is the subsequent list I made for myself, annotated, of course, for your edification. (I now desperately want to see that on a condom box: "Annotated for her edification!")

Spellslinging

There are other ranged caster classes in the game, but none captures the feeling I'm talking about here quite so much as a mage. I rolled the class because I wanted to be the guy in the back row, slinging spells at my enemies like a gunfighter in the old west, only with Fireballs. I wanted to hurl bolts of arcane energy and frozen shards of deadly ice, one after another, until the thing I was hurling them at ceased to be a thing anymore.

And that's the feeling I got when I was playing my mage. I got it then, and I still get it now, three expansions and many many patches later. And I still get it just as strongly when I play my mage on the Mists of Pandaria beta. The day I stop feeling like a wizard, like a warlock-slaying spellslinger, is the day I stop playing this game, I think.

Glass cannon

In my opinion, a wizard should be two things:
  1. Immensely powerful
  2. Terrifyingly fragile
My template for what a mage should be was formed early in my life, when as an adolescent I read the original Dragonlance trilogy. Raistlin is such a great character and a mighty wizard, but he's constantly on the verge of death. His lust for power has shattered his body, and it almost seems as if his magic is the only thing holding him together.

That's how I want my mage to be. I like that sense of power, offset by the knowledge that if anything ever gets close enough to me to lay its claws or tentacles or fangs or what-have-you on my soft, fleshy form, I'm a dead wizard. I want to stand behind the guy with the muscles and the armor and the giant sword and know that my ability to deal death is tempered by legitimate physical weakness. That just feels right to me, and I'm very glad that even after all these changes to the game, my mage is still a glass cannon.

Frankly, nothing should be able to get that close to me anyway. That's what all the spellslinging is for.

The actual spells

Spellslinging is no fun, though, unless you have the right batch of spells in your spellbook. And that's one thing I truly feel like Blizzard has gotten right with their design for the mage class. For the most part, we're hurling straight damage spells at our foes, and they look the way I want them to. Some are certainly prettier than others (I'm looking at you, Arcane Barrage -- every time I cast you, a tiny tear trickles down from my eyes ...), but they all pretty much universally adhere to my vision of what a Fireball or a Frostbolt or an Arcane Missile should look like.

And then there are the utility spells. We can turn things into sheep and then those sheep into pigs and then those pigs into steaming piles of ash. We can teleport at will, crossing vast distances or just blinking forward (or sometimes backward) a few yards. We can shield ourselves in various ways or grant our parties more intelligence. This is the opposite of real life, where when I enter a room, the intelligence level actually goes down.

Massive AoE

This deserves its own blurb. Because if there's one thing I love more than slinging spells at a demon, it's slinging them into a whole crowd of demons. Or a mascara-applying workshop full of warlocks. Either way, mages have the tools at their disposal for the job.

I know other classes have AoE spells, but nobody does mass destruction like mages do. We call down fire and ice from the skies and rain it down upon the heads of all who oppose us. We call forth the flaming head of a dragon to spew forth at everything in our paths. We explode in torrents of arcane energy, and all of it is super fun.

The gear

I know I've probably mentioned this before now, but I do love me a pretty dress. And this game lets mages wear some truly fancy-looking dresses. And ridiculous staves. And wands. And cowls. I mean, look at some of this stuff:

Tier 11 set
Tier 3 set
Arena Season 2 set
Volcanospike
Blade of Wizardry
Legacy of Arlokk
Frostscythe of Lord Ahune
Merciless Gladiator's War Staff
Dragonwrath

And that's just the first five minutes of things that fell under my eye during a Wowhead search. We have some sweet gear, guys. We're mighty wizards, and this stuff helps us look the part.

Pie

Second confession: This was not the last thing on my list. When I made it, this was the first thing I wrote down. I absolutely love that we can conjure our own pastries. I sometimes wonder, how does magical pie taste? And then I answer myself: like magic.

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start out with our recent beginner's guide to being a mage, then check out our three-part State of the Mage columns on arcane, fire and frost. Don't forget to look at some of the addons your mage should probably be using.

Filed under: Mage, Analysis / Opinion, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance

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