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Arcane Brilliance: Mists of Pandaria talent spec guide for mages

Arcane Brilliance Mists of Pandaria talent spec guide for mages
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're looking at the overhauled talent system in Mists of Pandaria and figuring out which talent is best for killing warlocks. My initial impression is all of them. All of the talents are good for killing warlocks.

So with the expansion less than two months away and patch 5.0 looming on the "any week now" precipice, it's time we stopped messing around. I promise to stop skipping weeks of this column for trivial things like "family," or "crippling work schedule," or "violent and possibly terminal illnesses," because, damn. The time is short. The end of the end of the world is nigh, and the coming panda apocalypse is nearly upon us. We need to get down to the nitty-gritty here, guys.

Look forward to some extra mage content in between Arcane Brilliances as we ramp up in the coming weeks, in the form of basic class 101 guides for all the stuff you need to know before the expansion hits. I'll save the Saturday columns for more detailed analysis.

This week, we're wading neck deep into the new talent system, since it's probably the single biggest change our class is undergoing in Mists. It's a bona fide shock to the system and a radical departure from the status quo, and believe me when I say that it will take all of us some getting used to before it begins to feel even remotely normal.

The whole basis behind this talent system revamp is to eliminate cookie-cutter specs and provide us with six distinct choices between talents that serve roughly the same function as each other with slightly different mechanics. The idea is to provide freedom of choice by removing the need to pick the best talent at each tier. Each of the three choices at each tier is designed to be a good choice depending on playstyle, and no specific talent is supposed to provide measurably better DPS than another, so we can all hold hands, smoke the peace pipe, and pick whatever we like.

And now's the part where we all decide which of these equal talents are more equal than the others.

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

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.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Weighing the level 90 mage talents

Rune of Power
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're looking once again at the mage of the future. And just like the mage of the right now, the mage of the future needs two things in abundance: mana and spellpower. Fortunately, the mage of soon™ only has to get to level 90 to get a new way to gain both.

You've traversed the wilds of Pandaria. Your mage has decked himself out in shiny new quest reward greens that are better than the purples he farmed Deathwing for months to collect. You've killed X number of mobs, collected X number of inexplicably difficult-to-locate vital organs from those mobs and returned them to people with increasingly tough-to-reconcile reasons to want said organs, killing a potentially genocidal percentage of the warlock population along the way. Now, you're level 90.

Your reward is two new abilities. One is Alter Time, which we've already discussed at length. The other is entirely up to you. There are three new choices in your talent ladder to select from. They range from a fresh and infinitely more useful version of Mana Shield to a crazily improved buff for Evocation to a rune of wizardly sparklesauce that you place on the ground and then set up shop there, serving up magical deathfire to all customers forevermore, amen.

They sound quite different, but have one thing in common: You press a button, and you get mana and spellpower. I think we can all agree this is a button we want. The question is, which of those three buttons do we want the most? And the next question is, do we want any of them as our capstone talent?

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

Arcane Brilliance: Which spec will be best in Mists of Pandaria?

Undead fire mage
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we endeavor to answer that age old question: Which spec will other people insist my mage needs to be? We will try not to resort to that age old response to that question, which tended to involve punching those other people in the mouth.

One constant, no matter how hard I've tried to ignore it, that has always existed in WoW is that one spec is always "best." The class designers are constantly tweaking the numbers and trying to keep things balanced, but once we all sit down with our collective calculator and spreadsheet, one spec always emerges to rule them all.

It has been a sad reality that while we have always had freedom to choose a spec and personalize it to fit our preferences, when it comes time to raid at high levels or take part in PvP at high levels, that freedom essentially vanishes. You can make arguments for utility over damage or for certain specs in certain fights, but in most cases, under most circumstances, you're going with whatever cookie-cutter spec the internet has agreed upon that week, or you're not getting an invite.

Well, now we have a fresh expansion to leverage our calculators and spreadsheets upon. It's still early in the beta process, and hard numbers are in short supply. Still, the overall design of the specs seems to be fairly well-defined, even if the actual percentage points are still in flux. What conclusions can we draw at this stage? Which spec looks to put out the best damage? And most importantly, which spec will let us kill warlocks most efficiently?

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

Arcane Brilliance: 4 things I'm going to miss the most in Mists of Pandaria

Flame Orb
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're discussing a sad topic: loss. Not that this is a new feeling for mages. We've loved and lost before; everyone pour one out for Wand Specialization. You were too beautiful to die.

Every time there's a new expansion, we get some new toys to play with. We tend to focus on these shiny new abilities or revamped mechanic -- and rightly so, as they are often pretty spiffy. But I fear we sometimes forget the casualties. For when Blizzard giveth, it also tends to taketh away. Spells are replaced, redundant talents vanish, and mechanics change, and as a mage, I always feel somehow diminished when I see a blank page in my spellbook -- even if it's a page that used to be occupied by something as useless as Arcane Fortitude or Amplify Magic, those ancient relics of fail.

Mists of Pandaria will be no exception. We're gaining some awesomeness but losing a few things too. And some of those things, I'm really, truly going to miss.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Bombs and tempests on the Mists beta

Frost Bomb
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're discussing my favorite kinds of mage spells: the ones that blow things up real good. Namely, warlocks. I like the spells that blow up warlocks. This should not come as any sort of surprise to anyone, ever.

I don't know about you, but I didn't roll a mage for the free strudel. I'm not going to lie; the prospect of magical baked goods didn't hurt. Unlimited pie is something of a draw for me. But when I chose mage for my first character lo those many dead warlocks ago, I did so because I wanted to make pixels explode in spectacular fashion.

And my mage certainly didn't disappoint. Over the years, I've thrown my share of Pyroblasts, Frostfire Bolts, and Arcane Explosions, and the resulting pixel explosions have been quite satisfactory. Still, I'm nothing if not greedy. In my opinion, when it comes to exploding pixels, more is always better.

And so, when I learned of the new talents, the ones I was secretly most excited by were the three bomb talents we were choosing between at level 75. The worst part? I had to choose just one.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Familiars, porcupines and Frostbolt healing, oh my!

Fiery Familiar
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we'll be discussing a few of the more recent additions and tweaks to our class on the Mists of Pandaria beta. Some of them are awesome. Some of them are silly. And some of them are porcupines.

You see that thing up there in the picture? That tiny little legless flaming elemental from vanilla WoW? That's one of our three new familiars. That's right: familiars.

I've actively campaigned for mage familiars in the past, even as far back as this crusty old post from 2008, in which I also wished for more portals, a Blink spell that actually worked, and a rumored new ability called Mirror Image, which I believed would prove to be a combination of a bacon double cheeseburger, the second coming of Christ, and a double rainbow out of a leprechaun's butt. So young! So naive.

I always imagined my mage running around with a tiny furry minion, maybe mouse with glowing eyes, or an ominous crow, possibly animated by Don Bluth, that would do my bidding and tell me which cottage in the forest Princess Aurora was hiding in. I imagined a wizardly pet that would be always by my mage's side, part of the persona, perhaps conferring a passive buff or something.

Well that isn't quite what we're getting here.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Going back to the future with Alter Time

Image
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're going to jump into the not-so-distant future -- specifically, the day we hit level 87 in Mists of Pandaria. We're going to need 1% of our base mana, some plutonium, and 1.21 gigawatts, and we're going to need to be moving at 88 miles per hour.

Mages are getting a fair number of new or reworked spells and talents in Mists of Pandaria, but arguably the most intriguing of the bunch is Alter Time. Continuing along with the time -manipulation theme already established by spells like Time Warp, upcoming talents like Temporal Shield, and the time chicken tier 13 armor set, Alter Time allows us to transport our mages back in time to the ancient era of six seconds ago.

It's an incredibly interesting mechanic that works in practice about how I expected it to in theory, which is both good and bad.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Archmage Pants expounds on Mists of Pandaria magery and magic

Pandaren Female Mage
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. Even when the guy who usually writes it is trapped by the ancient warlockian curse known as Long-work-hours-and-three-kids-and-no-free-time-makes-it-hard-to-write-about-Warcraft ... Bolt. A deeply sincere thank you goes out to the incredible Josh Myers, who stepped in and handled my business for me with uncommon style and undeniable skill for the past month and a half. Josh, the next warlock I kill, I will kill for you.

Holy crap, it's good to be back.

I'd toyed with the idea of quitting entirely, seeing no practical way to consistently scrape together enough time each week with the current demands on my time to provide you guys with quality mage columns. But as the weeks went by, I found I simply couldn't abide not writing about turning warlocks into sheep and then hurling volleys of Arcane Missiles at those sheep until they explode. There was a gaping hole in my life that could only be filled with a massive Pyroblast.

So this past week, after squeezing in some quality time with the Mists beta, I sat down at my keyboard and began typing. At first, I wasn't even writing with a clear goal in mind. I had no intention of posting any of my thoughts. But as I played, and wrote, and played, and wrote, I found I was becoming more and more stupidly excited about the prospect of talking to you guys about new stuff. So I had to come back, you see. And it's all your fault. I hope you're happy with yourselves.

Josh has already done a marvelous job of sharing his beta analysis with you over the course of several columns. If you haven't already, check them out here, here, and also here. Though some of the ground we cover today may overlap, what follows isn't anything resembling analysis. As I get myself back up to speed, I'll go more in-depth -- but this week, we're going the full stream of consciousness, random observational impression route. Strap in, and for God's sake, keep your arms, legs, and wands inside the vehicle.

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

Arcane Brilliance: MoP talent calculator changes for mages, part 2

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we finish what we started in our last cloumn, which will involve wild speculation, irresponsible levels of optimism, and a giddy and in all likelihood unwarranted sense of unchecked excitement about tooltips.

If you missed part one, what were you thinking? We talked about the updated Mists of Pandaria talents and even made some disparaging comments about warlocks. It was super fun -- you should go check it out. But hurry up about it.

Because we have new spells to discuss.

Like that one up there in the picture. It's rad.

Arcane spells

Arcane Charge An Arcane Charge, generated by Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles, and consumed by Arcane Barrage. Stacks up to 4 times (Passive).

This is a brand new spell, and it's by far the single biggest game-changer for arcane mages in the new calculator. You pick it up if you spec arcane at level 10, alongside good old Arcane Blast, and it changes how that spell works, along with every other major arcane nuke.

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

Arcane Brilliance: Top 5 things my mage is looking forward to in Mists of Pandaria

Kung Fu Panda Cannonball Scene
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we look forward to our bright post-Cataclysm future. May it be warlock-free and panda-filled.

That Super Bowl commercial that inexplicably featured the guy from The Darkness singing that song that I loved back in 2003 reminded me of one thing: The end of the world is coming. We all know it. I mean, come on. When have the Mayans ever been wrong about anything? These are the people who invented basketball! Only instead of baggy shorts, tattoos, and millionaires who can't hit free throws, Mayan basketball features decapitations. I'm fully prepared to declare the Mayans right about everything ever.

So with the world coming to an end, what else do we have to look forward to other than a new World of Warcraft expansion? Well, Diablo III, I guess, but we all know that's not going to release before Armageddon (Blizzard's claiming Q2, which we all know is Blizzard-speak for "after the zombies rise up and civilization descends into chaos"). So let's just assume Blizzard's release schedule will somehow outpace the coming apocalypse, and set our sights on what may very well be the last game we'll ever buy: Mists of Pandaria.

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

Do mages really need 3 competitive PvE specs?

female mage
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we're talking about specs, and DPS, and possibly smurfs, though I shouldn't get ahead of myself.

Patch 4.3.2 has dropped, and for mages, the only item in the patch notes is a 6% damage nerf to Fireball and Pyroblast, ostensibly to bring fire mages back in line with arcane mages for top prize in the What Spec Will My Raid Leader Expect Me to be Raiding With This Week Sweepstakes. For good or ill, every patch brings changes like this, as the spec balance carousel continues its eternal round.

That's been mage history, in a nutshell -- fire and arcane take turns pushing each other from the top of the PvE heap, and frost just shakes its head and queues for an Arena match. It's like a giant teeter-totter, with fire damage stacked on one end and arcane damage stacked on another. Blizzard goes back and forth between the ends, adding just a bit more of each type of damage or taking some away in an attempt to get the thing perfectly balanced, but try as it may, one end or the other is always sticking up in the air.

The number crunchers crunch the numbers after every damage pass and crown one spec king ... until the next pass, when the cycle repeats. And frost mages just watch and wonder when it will be their turn to go raiding.

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

Arcane Brilliance: The best trinkets for mages, patch 4.3 edition

carrot on a stick keychain
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we focus on those two most vital gear slots for making your keychain look cool: trinkets. You put them right next to your tiny NES controller and that little rubber pig that poops when you squeeze him, and so what if the trinkets on your key ring outnumber the actual keys on your key ring? Now if only we still had key rings in WoW ...

Trinkets do three things:
  1. They keep your keys from being lonely.
  2. They hurt like hell when you forget to take them out of your pocket before playing pick-up basketball.
  3. They have the potential to increase your DPS more drastically than any other single gear slot in the game.
No other gear choice we make in this game will either positively or negatively impact our raw output than the two trinkets we select, and no other loot drop can be more infuriating to wait for. With trinkets, it's imperative that you identify what you want, know where to go to get it, and then focus your efforts until you reach your goal.

With that in mind, let's go over the best trinkets available for mages in the game right now and where to go get them.

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

Arcane Brilliance: 5 ways to increase your mage's DPS right now

Undead Mage
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we try to help you accomplish the most important thing any mage can ever do: kill something just a little bit faster.

You're a mage, so right away we know two things about you:
  1. You're awesome.
  2. You're in the business of damaging things.
We hear jokes about mages being portal-merchants/sheep-bots/cake-vendors, but our real purpose -- the only role we play that really matters -- is that of DPS. We destroy things, and we do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. And if we can't provide that service, our raid will replace us with someone who can.

So if damaging things is our business, it follows that we should always be striving to make sure business is good. We're in competition for DPS slots with literally every single other class in this game. It's in the interests of all mages that we work to improve ourselves at every opportunity. If we don't, it's entirely possible that our raid might take a warlock along instead.

And with God as my witness, I will not allow that to happen.

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Filed under: Mage, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance

Arcane Brilliance: Gearing your mage up for the Raid Finder in patch 4.3

Raid Finder
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we discuss some ways to make sure your mage's wardrobe is filled with only the prettiest dresses, most mysterious cowls, sparkliest wands, and ... er, staffiest staves.

Patch 4.3 has been with us for a good solid month now, and I sincerely hope that by now we've all escorted our mages through a good portion of the new content it offers. As all the best patches do, 4.3 has ushered in a fresh tier of gear and a new progression hierarchy to follow in getting said gear. Best of all, we have a whole new gearing tool to play with in the Raid Finder.

If you happen to be one of those mages who looks at his item level and finds it still languishing somewhere below the minimum requirements to join the battle to vanquish Deathwing, I believe a gearing guide is in order. Without further preamble, I present Arcane Brilliance's Handy Guide to Shiny Things, patch 4.3 edition.

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

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