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Arcane Brilliance: New Year's resolutions for mages

winter veil
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we leave 2011 behind and look toward 2012, which I predict will be the magiest year ever!

A new year is upon us, my wizardly cohorts. It is a time for reflection, a refractory period when we bask in the afterglow of the year that was and then take a quick shower to rinse off the stink of it. But most importantly, it's a time to look forward, to set new goals, to examine ourselves and determine how best to progress, to improve, and to somehow avoid ending the world in a fiery apocalypse that only John Cusack can save us from.

In that spirit, I thought this eve of the new year might be a good time to take an honest look at the mage class, examine our weak points, and conjure up some ways to shore them up in 2012. I figure we still have a at least a few months before Armageddon, and I can think of no better way to spend those last few moments of our existence than by killing as many warlocks as possible.

I'll do a full column on gearing up in 4.3 in the coming weeks, but for the time being, suffice it to say there is some phat, epic mage loot out there right now, and all you need to do is take it. Preferably from a warlock's smoking corpse, but we'll take it however it comes. We're at the point now in this expansion where the epics are flowing with almost ridiculous ease. If you've been waiting to level a mage, it has never been easier to get that mage fully kitted out in purples than it is right now. And if, for some reason, you've been neglecting your mage, now is the time to get him up to speed.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Guide to leveling a mage in Cataclysm

Mage character creation screen
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. this week, we seek to aid those of you who have made or will make the noble decision to level a mage in the coming months.

In the past, we've done our leveling guides here at WoW Insider as sprawling, multi-post epics, spanning 10 or 20 levels a week over the course of a month, covering every aspect of every facet of everything you could ever want to know about leveling each class in the game. The problem with that approach is that you could probably just go in blind and level your mage from 1 to 85 faster than I could tell you how to do it. The simple fact of the matter is that the leveling game just isn't terribly difficult. The process has been streamlined over the years to the point that I don't believe such detailed leveling guides are really necessary anymore. Most of this game is intuitive and user friendly now, and the part of the game that really requires in-depth strategy doesn't really start until after the experience-gaining part of it has stopped.

Knowing this, I won't be filling this guide with talent analysis, ways to optimize your level 45 boss fight rotation, or a detailed travelogue of every quest hub you'll be traipsing through along the way. This will be a more stripped-down endeavor, focusing on the parts of leveling that I think are important -- not the spell coefficients and spreadsheets, but the basic concepts your mage needs to learn while leveling, not only to make the process easier and more enjoyable, but also to help them step from mage adolescence into mage adulthood so they can shoot Deathwing in the face with a Fireball of wisdom and maturity.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Blinking into the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator, the epic conclusion

MoP mage talent build
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we finish our conversation about things that may or may not ever happen, and even if they do, they won't for a very long time. Man, I love wild speculation.

This week, because they hate me, and because I actually had something written in advance for once, Blizzard went and stealth-updated the MoP talent calculator with no warning whatsoever. I submit that from here on out, Blizzard needs to give me at least a week's notice before it makes significant changes to the game or any of its future versions. I think it's only fair, since mages are getting the ability to Alter Time, that we get just a little bit of a jump on the future. I have deadlines to meet, people! Work with me here.

The good news is that the majority of the changes appear to have been made to the part of the talent calculator we haven't discussed yet: the actual talents. If you missed them, here are the first two parts of this discussion:
And now, if you click the link below, you'll magically teleport to part three. No, I won't port you to Org. Stop asking.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Blinking into the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator, part deux

mage MoP talent calculator
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we teleport ourselves back into the thick of the newly revealed MoP talent calculator, and this time, we aren't teleporting out until we get that calculator down and it drops phat loot.

I trust you're all knee-deep in patch 4.3 by now, snatching up sparkly new gear from the new dungeons, raid, and Darkmoon Faires and such, and then promptly transmogrifying that gear to look like something you wore five years ago.

Last week, we talked about the baseline abilities that all mages will be learning. If you skipped it for some reason, kill a warlock as penance (I'm not sure how that could be considered a punishment, but just stay with me here), go read part one, then come back and resume the conversation with us this week.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Blinking into the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator, part 1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we have all kinds of talents to talk about. New talents, old talents, old talents with new talent scent, talents that look new but smell old, old talents that kill warlocks in new ways, cupcakes that taste like cranberry sauce, skillets that cook pastries that look like this ... I may or may not have eaten too much pie this week.

OK, we'd better get started. Lots to talk about and not much time or space with which to discuss it. I assume you've all had a chance to fiddle with the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator Blizzard just put on the official site? If not, go look, then come back.

It's interesting stuff. It's important, I think, that I stress that even though this is an official, Blizzard-sponsored reveal, all of this information is pre-pre-pre-alpha stuff, and it absolutely will change substantially before any of it goes live. So don't get married to the mechanics of any of these talents and skills as they're presented here. Don't squint too hard at the specific numbers, either. This is being presented so we can mull it over and give constructive feedback, and so that we can get a more detailed sense of the direction MoP's major talent overhaul will be taking our beloved mage class.

So let's get busy mulling.

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

Arcane Brilliance: The Class Balance Q&A -- more Q's than A's for mages

female gnome mage
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we look at a few mage-related questions, and the answers to those questions, which end up raising even more questions, which then get answers that only provoke even more questions ... it's like an episode of Lost, only one in which the smoke monster was made of frostfire. I'm 99% sure Desmond was a mage, anyway.

So just a heads up in case you haven't seen it somewhere else: The latest build on the PTR is tagged as a release candidate, which means patch 4.3 is imminent. I'm expecting it some time in the next few weeks. I wouldn't be at all surprised to be eating turkey and pie while queuing for the Raid Finder. Although, disclaimer: I eat turkey and pie for every meal. In other news, my heart just stopped. No worries, though. That also happens every meal. It's nothing a good chest compression or two can't fix. Look for a mage patch prep column right here next week.

Now, on to the business at hand. On Wednesday, the developers allowed us to pick their brains with all of our most burning questions about our classes. The mage community asked some good ones, and some of them even got answered. And though the answers given are perhaps not as definitive as you or I may have preferred, there's still a great deal of enlightening information to be gleaned from what the developers did share. And no, my own question -- "If I turn a warlock into a sheep, then hit him with a Pyroblast, then add a bit of mint and some red potatoes, what should I serve for dessert?" -- wasn't answered. Though I think we all know the answer to that question is "pie."

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

Arcane Brilliance: Adventures with and observations on the Raid Finder

raiders
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we spend some time sniffing around the PTR. Which is difficult, because all I can smell right now is burnt warlock. How do you guys get that out of your robes? Maybe some Febreze.

I have to admit: Nothing in patch 4.3 excites me as much as the Raid Finder. Not transmogrification, not the Deathwing raid, not the fact that we're drawing ever closer to me being able to roll a Pandaren kung fu mage. Nope, I'm excited about the Raid Finder.

There was a time during my WoW career when I was able to adjust my schedule around my guild's raid nights, but that time hasn't really existed for some time now. My family has grown, my work responsibilities have grown, and my WoW time has become increasingly limited and far more unreliable. I play when I can play these days, and it's nigh impossible to plan a raid schedule around that. I'd wager I'm not alone in this.

So the idea of being able to see much of the same endgame content and gear up enough to help my guild on my own schedule much the same way I gear up through 5-mans now ... that just thrills me to death.

But putting together a 25-man raid is an exponentially more complex endeavor than simply throwing together a 5-man run. How does this Raid Finder tool function in practice? Well, I've taken my mage to the PTR, and I've tested it out for myself. And I'm here to tell you:

It totally works. And it totally doesn't.

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

Arcane Brilliance: A preliminary look at the Pandaria talent tree for mages

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we engage in wild, baseless speculation and make hasty, groundless assumptions based on that wild, baseless speculation. So ... just like every week.

A quick recap for those of you who have limited internet access and choose (understandably) to use each of your precious online moments reading this column each week, but otherwise ignore the internet completely:

Blizzard announced a new expansion for World of Warcraft. It has pandas. The WoW online community appears to be simultaneously overjoyed, mildly excited, meh, and borderline suicidal. Monks are the new class, and they will be able to tank while drunk, which makes them pretty much identical to every other tank I know. Most importantly, though, the design team plans to throw our current talent system into a virtual wood chipper, pick up the pieces that come out of the other side, and mash them together into a completely new, singular talent tree for each class.

The three distinct mage trees will survive, but the majority of the school-specific talents and spells we have now are slated to become baseline abilities that we'll gain as we level (automatically -- no more going to a mage trainer). Ability customization once Mists of Pandaria hits will exist as six talent choices available regardless of spec, one choice between three talents every 15 experience levels. Talent specs as we have known them since the game began in 2004 will cease to exist once patch 5.0 hits, and I expect that to occur in less than a year.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Why the one true spec assumption is a lie

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. Now, before we get started, I want you all to look at that picture and realize that at one point in my life, that kid was rad. He was cool. I was never that cool, but you better believe I wanted to be that cool. I wanted to have a sweet mullet and wear acid-washed jeans and a pink shirt and give a thumbs-up while I played Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers one-handed in my Nintendo/baseball/helicopter lair. Just remember that. This kid was the absolute best, and everybody knew it.

I don't know how to tell you this, but we are all wrong.

All of us.

Oh, we mages are right about some things: Most everything can be improved by turning it into a sheep, If you're going marshal arcane energy and bend the fabric of space time to conjure food from thin air, you might as well be conjuring cake and strudel, and yes, it is still and always will be true that the only good warlock is the one that has been reduced to unrecognizable chunks of scorched viscera. But about a few very important details, we are most definitely all mistaken. Here are a few things we all seem to accept as true:
  1. Arcane is the undisputed top mage raiding spec.
  2. If you are a mage, and you are raiding as anything other than arcane, you are hurting your raid and limiting your own effectiveness.
  3. Frost is a PVP spec, and hasn't been a viable raid spec since the days when Ragnaros lived in Molten Core and didn't have legs.
All of those statements contain elements of truth, but I am here to tell you -- as emphatically as I can -- that they are lies. They are gross generalities that rise from popular perception, and I firmly believe that our almost universal acceptance of them as fact hurts the game as a whole.

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

Arcane Brilliance: News and notes from the patch 4.3 PTR

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we come bearing information from the patch 4.3 PTR. Many warlocks died to bring you this information. Well, many warlocks died; bringing you this information had very little to do with that.

Coming soon.

Those words have mocked me for what feels like forever but in reality was only a couple weeks. When the initial patch notes were released for the patch 4.3 PTR, other classes got changes. Other classes had new things to discuss, new topics to broach on the official forums and then engage in rational, polite discourse about. But not mages. Under our section of the patch notes, we got those two hateful words, Blizzard's dubious trademark phrase.

Coming soon.

But no more! We can cease our waiting, our trembling, anxious vigil. For the latest build of the PTR has delivered to us a handful of discussion-worthy changes. Let's all release our collective bated breath and move forward as a class. Because, my fellow mages: Soon, apparently, is now.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Optimizing your mage's gear through Rawr

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're talking about what is arguably the game's most trusted gear optimization program: Rawr. Also, we're planning to see how many times I need to type the word "rawr" before my spellchecker snaps and murders me through my computer screen.

Close your eyes.

Imagine, if you will, that you have a mage. Ha ha, of course you have a mage. Sometimes I crack myself up. Now imagine that your mage has gear, but that gear is not optimal. Now open your eyes.

Hello, every mage ever.

Yeah, chances are pretty close to 100% that no matter who you are and how religiously you play the game, your mage, beloved though he may be, does not have every slot filled with best-in-slot gear and does not have every item perfectly gemmed, enchanted and reforged so that your DPS is up to its fullest possible potential. WoW is a computer game -- an old one, sure, but still home to millions of algorithms and formulas and computations and other math terms that I don't fully understand. It would take, I firmly believe, a robot from the future to calculate all of those numbers and variables and turn them into something a human brain can parse accurately enough to actually benefit from.

Well, mages and magesses, I have recently contacted Kavan, one of the main authors of the ubiquitous gear optimization program Rawr, and I can tell you that he is that robot from the future. I only pray he can protect us from whatever other, more evil and technologically advanced robot from the future that might at some point follow him through the wormhole with a directive to kill our unborn children or something, because you know that's what's happening.

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

Arcane Brilliance: On mage healing and other miscellany

final fanatsy III white mages
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we talk about the concept of mage healing, which in my opinion is like the concept of warlock winning. It simply isn't a phenomena that occurs in nature.

Since those heady, halcyon days of 2004, when mages began to walk to wilds of Azeroth and players were introduced to their glass cannon awesomeness, the topic of mage healing has from time to time emerged, poking its strange and intriguing head up into the mage conversation and usually disappearing just as quickly. The idea has precedence. Healers in Final Fantasy lore are called White Mages. More recently, Dragon Age has its Spirit Mages. Archetypal wizards have had access to magical healing in one form or another throughout fantasy gaming and literature, though rarely is it their strongest focus.

And just lately, the idea has been gaining some unprecedented traction among the WoW mage community. Recently, I've seen the concept presented with consideration and clarity on the official forums, among my own contemporaries in-game, and even right here in the comments section of this very column. It bears thinking about. Though the idea is extremely unlikely to ever be implemented, its increasing popularity and the improving practicality with which its proponents conceptualize it warrant attention. Mage healing, whenever it is brought up, is immediately interesting and always at least a little bit tantalizing, even for its most vehement opponents.

Like me.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Mage wishlist, late 2011 edition

mage tier 13 set
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. And by "every week," I of course mean "every week when I'm home, have access to the internet, and do not find my time entirely monopolized by my day job." Which, as you may or may not have noticed, did not include last week.

We have some things to discuss today, most notably the recently posted mage class feedback thread on the official forums. It's always interesting to see how mages respond when given an actual, legitimate forum to air their grievances with the promise of actually being heard by the developers in charge of designing our class. I have some thoughts, and if you'll indulge me, I'd like to share them with you.

But let me get this out of the way first and foremost: I love the tier 13 mage set. That's it up there in the picture. So steampunk, but in a good way. I love the goggles, the quilted armor, the gnomishness of it. I can tell you right now that I'll be transmogrifying back to this set for many tiers to come.

If you haven't checked it out yet, I suggest you visit the official site and take a look at that mage tier 13 preview and visual retrospective. It's really kind of cool to see all of our past tier sets in one place, though I have to feel bad for the poor lone Undead mage in his tier 9 gear, surrounded by all of those Humans. I can feel the racial tension from here.

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

Arcane Brilliance: The threat hotfix and you

Jim from Threat Level Midnight
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're applying a hotfix to Arcane Brilliance. Beginning now, any warlock who reads Arcane Brilliance will be overcome by intense feelings of self-loathing and an irresistible urge to reroll a mage. The column's actually been functioning this way for some time now, and we thought we ought to just make it official.

I figure it's about time we discussed the threat hotfix, mages. And before we go any further, I should point out that from now on, the threat level is always midnight. The hotfix has been in the game for a few weeks now, and I would have brought it up long before now but I got kinda sidetracked daydreaming about the whole transmogrification thing. Now that I've spent a few weeks going through all of the pretty dresses in my wardrobe and deciding which one I want to wear on my next date with Ragnaros (he's a passable conversationalist, a snappy dresser, and the dates are so much more fun now that he's bipedal ... but he tends to shout a lot, and he's a lousy tipper), I'm ready to talk about what amounts to the complete removal of one of the most basic MMO battle mechanics from the game.

Now, removal isn't the right word, I know. Threat is still technically in the game, but it no longer really matters much.

It's been sort of difficult to wrap my mind around, to be honest. It's as if I woke up one morning and discovered that I no longer needed to wear pants. For so long, pants (or a reasonable pants equivalent) were pretty much a requirement when leaving the house, but now, pantslessness is considered the style. Do I still have pants in my closet? Sure, but I only keep them in there to hide my porn beneath.

So how does this new status quo impact us as a class? And is the change good, bad, or does it lie somewhere along the spectrum between those two extremes?

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

Arcane Brilliance: Old mage armor sets and how to get them, part 2

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we talk more about transmogrification, that oh-so-exciting upcoming feature in patch 4.3 that allows us to make our sweet tier 17 sets look like greens we got while questing in 2004. The aught-fours are so in right now!

Last week, we started our epic journey into old content to find some sweet retro threads for our totally trendy mages to wear at all the hottest mage events of the season, be they spellstealing soirées, Polymorph parties or warlock-wienie-roasts. This week, we delve into slightly more recent content.

Before we begin, we should point out a few important transmogrification details we've learned since we convened last week.
  • Apparently only items with stats are candidates for transmogrification -- and by stats, I mean "other than armor." That rules out most cosmetic items. So no running around wielding a fish in each hand while raiding, I guess. Unless you can find a pair of fishes with stats on them, I guess.
  • Weapons and off-hand items can only be transmogrified into similarly slotted items. That means no running around with two staves or dual-wielding daggers or perhaps a lantern in each hand. I don't know what you people are into ...
  • Heirlooms are eligible, so good news for you speed levelers. Now you're not stuck for 80 levels with a single armor model.
  • The gold cost isn't set but will probably be similar to reforging, meaning it will scale, being more expensive the higher the level of your equipped item happens to be -- so maybe not as much of a massive gold sink as I originally feared.
  • No legendary items, which I sincerely hope changes at some point. I feel like if you earned a freaking legendary item, you should be able to keep that model on your upgraded gear if you want. Forever.
  • All of this is still entirely subject to change.
And with that out of the way, on to some more of the armor sets you and I should both be hunting down and squirreling away right this very second.

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

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