Thursday, November 1, 2007

World of Magecraft, Volume I

Welcome, to the World of Magecraft.

With these posts, I shall endeavor to provide as much information as is humanly possible about the mage class, in any possible situation.


Talent Specs.




All will be covered, and more!

This being the beginning of the first volume, it only makes sense to start at the beginning.


- A mages role

- Racial abilities

So here you are. At the character creation screen for World of Warcraft. Look at all them choices! You can be a dwarf, a human, an orc, even two kinds of elves! How awesome is that? Le gasp! You can even choose which side of the “War” you want to play on!

Maybe you’ll say “OMGMINOTAUR” and that’s that. You’re a Tauren Warrior for the rest of your days.

Maybe you’ll create a night elf rogue that looks exactly like Wolverine (it’s been done) and name him “Xstealthier”.

This is the glorious beginning of World of Warcraft, and the decisions are yours.

But… what if you want to do something particular? What if you already have in mind what you want to do?

Well, let Ol’ Euri tell you some things about the mage class.

You can’t spell “Damage” without “Mage”

Mages are a ranged, damage dealing class. We don’t have a whole lot of survivability, but we can unleash a lot of hurt on our target(s). You’ll see many referring to the mage as a “glass cannon”, and that assessment is bang on.

Take an elite naga from Steamvaults. That mob can 4-5 shot a mage. On the same token, a lousy frostbolt knocks off nearly 10% of that same mob’s life. As a mage, that is how you will play this game. Anything you target has the potential to kill you in seconds, and you have the potential to kill it in seconds.

So we do lots of damage. But where, you may ask, does it come from?

Essentially, mages have two general forms of damage-dealing spells. Ones that have a cast time and those that don’t. There are only two exceptions, Arcane Missiles and Blizzard. For the sake of keeping things simple, these will be considered ones with a cast time. Within these two categories, mage spells can affect one target, or many targets. Fireblast affects your current target, whereas Blastwave affects everything that stands ten yards or closer to where you are.

But there is a tradeoff here. In general, spells with a cast time do more damage than instant cast spells, and cost less mana. Single target spells cost less mana than AoE (Area of Effect) spells. Spells such as Blastwave, which are instant and an AoE, cost far more mana than Frostbolt, which is neither Instant or an AoE.

What spells you use, be they instants, AoEs, whatever, depend completely upon the situation you’re in.

So how do mages stack up against the other primary damage-dealing classes here? Mages are a “purist” class. In the trinity of Tank/Heal/DPS we fulfill only one role, that of DPS. No matter how you spec, you will only ever fill DPS. Some classes are able to fulfill multiple roles, but mages are not one of them. So what other classes share the DPS niche, and how do mages compare?

Of the nine classes in World of Warcraft, only four stand apart from the others as the kings of DPS: Mages, Rogues, Hunters, and Warlocks.

(Yes, other classes can certainly compete/beat these four, but those are the exception, not the rule, and as such will be ignored here. Please note that, at this time, crowd control abilities will also be ignored.)

So what do these four classes DO, DPS wise?

Rogues are melee damage-dealers, excelling at taking down a single target rapidly. They are somewhat lacking in the sustained damage department, but this can be remedied by spec.

Hunters are ranged/melee damage-dealers, doing high amounts of damage at range (the hunter itself) and at melee (the pet). Hunters, too, excel at taking down a single target rapidly, although they do have some limited capability to take down multiple targets at the same time. This can be achieved through multi-shot (affects three targets and has a CD (cooldown)) and by sending the pet after a second mob. The latter option, however, splits the Hunter’s damage, thus resulting in two mobs dropping at a slower rate.

Warlocks are ranged damage dealers, using spells. Warlocks also have a pet, like the hunter, but warlock pets are very… different. Suffice to say, while the hunters have a steady and loyal friend, warlocks have a minion that exists solely to fulfill a very specific function. If that function isn’t required, the minion is discarded in favor of something else. In terms of pure DPS, warlocks are incredible for this. By using their various DoT spells, warlocks have the highest sustained damage in the game. The longer a target can stay alive, the better the warlock becomes. In fact, to achieve maximum efficiency, a warlocks target actually needs to stay alive for lengthy periods of time.

Take corruption, for example. It lasts for 12 seconds, and deals XXX amount of damage. If the target is killed before 12 seconds is up, that hurts the warlocks efficiency and DPS.

This is both a blessing and a curse (SEE WUT I DID THAR?!) for the warlock as a class. On the one hand, random trash mobs in a Dungeon will hurt the warlock’s mana efficiency, and give it relatively poor DPS in comparison to the other classes. On the other hand, boss mobs in a Dungeon are the best thins to happen to a warlock. This mob will stay alive a long time, allowing the warlock to keep multiple DoTs going for a long period of time. This results in fantastic mana efficiency, and an impossibly high DPS value. Warlocks also have moderate AoE capabilities, through spells such as Hellfire and Seed of Corruption. Some say these are fantastic AoEs, and they certainly are. For the warlock class.

We mages exist on a whole new level AoE-wise. But we’ll get to that.

As a recap:

Rogues have very high burst damage, and low sustained DPS. Speccing can make up for this.

Hunters have high sustained damage, and high burst damage, depending on spec and play style.

Warlocks lack burst damage, and have incredible sustained damage. They can spec to gain burst damage, and spec to get even more sustained damage.

Mages have very high burst damage, and relatively medium sustained DPS.

As a class, mages do not have the staying power that hunters and warlocks have. In a long boss fights, it is entirely possible for a mage to burn through most, if not all, of their mana before the boss even drops. By comparison, warlocks and hunters actually have to try to use up the some amount of mana in the same amount of time, and both the hunter and the warlock would have ended up doing more damage than the mage.

However, mages can dish out more damage in a shorter period of time than either hunters or warlocks. A mage can burn down a “trash” mob (an elite mob that is not the boss) much faster than either a hunter or warlock can do.

And there’s one other element of damage we need to take into account.

Mages have more and better AoEs than any class in the game. A mage can burn down 5 or 6 mobs without effort. Heck, there’s a youtube video going around of a mage downing every single add in Black Morass at the same time. That little gnome bugger broke the twenty thousand DPS mark.

“But Euri!”, you say, “Warlocks have the best AoE! Haven’t you heard of Seed of Corruption?!”

Ahh, Seed of Corruption. I lovingly call it SoC.

Allow me to compare it to a standard mage AoE spell, Cone of Cold.

SoC has a cast time. Right up front, this tells you its not that great of an AoE. Second problem, it has travel time. This means that when you need an AoE, a warlock can provide it… 3 seconds later. Cone of Cold is instant. SoC has an interesting effect, in that the AoE part doesn’t even go off until 1044 damage (this damage can come from any source) has been dealt to the effected target, THEN it goes off, dealing 1110-1290 shadow damage to everything within 15 yards. The problem here is simple. SoC has to be aimed at a specific mob, and then that mob has to still be where the AoE is needed 1044 damage later. PLUS, if, somehow, the mob doesn’t take enough damage, no AoE even happens. That won't happen often, but here's an example: A warlock hit me with SoC in PvP. I hit Ice Barrier, and broke LoS. Decursed Agony and kept LoS broken... SoC never went off. Realistically, in raids, it can be a very nice spell to use. Toss on lots of mobs that are going to be controlled anyway by the raid, and you can get some very nice damage from this.

I give it a standing “meh” as an AoE. It's a good AoE, dont get me wrong, but its not the best.

Now lets look at CoC. It’s instant. It’s cheaper. It can be manually aimed to exactly where it needs to go. It adds a slow to all affected targets, thus adding a level of control to the spell. And, if you’re frost spec, it can crit upwards of 1500 damage on every single target. If you hit frost nova then CoC, you can easily dish out 1500+ damage on every target there is.

Your tank has aggro on 12 mobs? No problem. Frost Nova, Cone of Cold. Guess how much damage that is? Roughly 18000 damage. With one spell.

But, our AoEs get even better! We have an instant crowd control AoE, rooting all targets to the ground. It’s a squishy that can save the other squishies! Arcane Explosion, which does ~500 damage per mob when you don’t have a single point in the arcane tree, and under 400 spell damage. (NOTE: If you ARE arcane spec and have ~900 spell damage, this little puppy hits for 700-800 damage and crits higher than 1200). Oh, and Arcane Explosion doesn’t have a cool down. Toss in Blastwave and Dragon’s Breath if you’re specced fire, and we have a class that can unleash an unreally high amount of damage against multiple targets.

When AoE’s are called for, we’re the class who gets called on. Similar to how the priest, as a class has the largest variety of healing spells; mages have the largest variety of AoE spells. Going with the healer allegory/simile thing, picture a mage's AoE damage compared to a warlock's AoE damage like comparing a priest's healing with a paladin's healing. Both are good, both get the job done, but the former has far more flexibility, and a far greater variety.

The sheep says “Bah Ram Ewe”

The second aspect of the mage is that of crowd control. I don’t think I need to go into much detail here, it’s simple. Polymorph, at max rank, turns a harmful humanoid/beast/critter mob into a harmless sheep/pig/turtle, for 50 seconds. To put it quite bluntly, this is the best PvE crowd control in the game. Let's compare it, shall we? We will compare it only to other in-combat crowd control abilities.

The most obvious counter is a hunters freezing trap. Unlike polymorph, it can effect any mob in the game, and it doesn't heal the mob. So, then, why is Polymorph better?

Its simple really. Freezing Trap does not last nearly as long as Polymorph, and has a long-ish cooldown. This forces the hunter doing CC to be really, really good at his job, and be good at chain-trapping to get the same effect. As well, Freezing Trap requires the mob to come to the CC, rather than the CC going to the mob. And here's a bitch: if Freezing Trap is resisted, the hunter cannot do anything about it for over twenty seconds. No CC for you.

Compare that to polymorph. Polymorph does not have a cooldown, and so if a resist happens, it can be reapplied with ease. Polymorph has a range of 30 yards, Freezing trap... doesn't? Polymorph is ridiculously easy to use, it lasts a long time and can be reapplied effortlessly. Freezing trap is very hard to use, and requires a great deal of skill on the hunters part to be used properly. And we all know how often you come across a skilled hunter.

Both druids and priests have some very handy CC abilities, with the added bonus that the mob doesn't heal themself. Sadly, these spells are even more situational than polymorph, affecting Dragonkin and Undead (respectively). Personally, I think these abilities were put into the game just so mages weren't the end-all crowd controller, in a similar fashion to how shamans can de-poison, but cannot de-curse. Just spreading around the utility. Poly is situational, just not as situational is the druid/priest CC spells.

As flirt pointed out in the comments, it is possible for druids/priests, and warlocks (with succubus, and hence Seduction) to crowd control/nuke/repeat a mob to death. This is an entirely viable strategy, but we aren't really talking about taking down a mob here (Which we've already established mages are already really good at).

Polymorph efficiently, easily, and permanently removes a mob from combat. Its cheap, fast, has no cooldowns. No, we can't seduce/nuke until the cows come home, but we can keep a cow a sheep for a very long time. Crowd control exists to make everyone's life far, far easier. And polymorph does it better than the rest.

Now, for PvP, its a completely different story. But we're not going to cover that here. Maybe later.

All you need to know is this: You can do lots of damage, and you have the best CC in the game.

So you’ve decided to join us…

If a glass cannon sounds like your style of gameplay, its time to choose a race.

The following races can be mages:

Alliance: Humans, Gnomes, Dranei

Horde: Undead, Trolls, Blood Elves

Obviously, if you want, pick the race that looks the most awesome to you. Aesthetics are greater than any racial. If you can’t stand the look of your character, you won’t have fun.

But hey, if you’re one of those elitist folk who need everything broken down, this is for you. The racials, and how they apply to mages.

Humans, the uncreative approach

Stealth detection increased – you’ll spot that rogue from 6 yards rather than 5 assuming it’s in front of you? Kinda lame for a racial, won’t even matter as a mage. Good for PvP only and you will never find a rogue walking straight at you.

Increased Spirit – by 5%. Just blah. Not even applicable for PvP. Kinda nice for PvE, if you stack up on the spirit… and are arcane spec. Still barely “meh”, even then.

Bonus to reputation gains – 10% increase. Finally, something cool. You will barely notice it early on, but with the amount of rep grinding in TBC, you will really notice this in the end game. If it takes a gnome 10 weeks to hit Exalted, you’ll get there in 9.

Skill with swords and maces increased – not applicable. Skip.

Gnomes, the psychotic approach

May escape from speed altering effects – “Escape Artist” 1.5 minute CD (right?), has a cast time. This is actually useful, especially for a PvP mage. Think of it like a wanna-be blink with a longer CD. It’s nice to have, but not necessary. The cast time (1.5 seconds, I think) kinda lessens the impact of awesome. Far, far better for classes like rogues and warriors.

Increased Intelligence – 5% increase. This is an excellent racial for mages. Two thumbs up, it rocks our socks. This gets even better if you’re arcane spec, this will ramp up your mana pool, crit rate, and spell damage. What’s not to like? Oh, right. The whole “gnome” thing.

Resistant to Arcane damage – So what? Pointless.

Engineering skill increased – By 15. If you take engineering, revel in your glory. If you don’t, its pointless.

Dranei, the “I rerolled a mage” approach

Jewelcrafting skill increased – Again, only useful if you have that profession.

May heal self or others over time – 3 minute CD. Scales with level and hp. An incredible racial, especially for a class that cannot heal itself. Do not underestimate it. Used properly, this can almost be a make-or-break racial ability. It rocks our socks OFF.

Party member’s chance to hit with spells increased – Free +1% to spell hit. Awesome. A nice racial, to be sure. Other mages will wub joo.

Resistant to shadow damage – Boooooring.

Undead, the “My racials are the best” approach

May become immune to sleep, fear, and charm – “Will of the Forsaken”. The best racial in the game. Period. Anyone arguing against this racial is a moron. If you ever PvP, at all, this racial will piss of your foes to no end.

May consume corpses to regain health – Useable in combat, restores 60% of your total health. Or is it 40%? Bah. Either way, another fantastic racial that is often underestimated. Definitely a sock rocker.

Underwater breathing increased – You can breathe underwater for 3 minutes instead of 1. Very cool idea, practically, very situational. But when you are using it, like grinding primal waters or something, its handy.

Resistant to shadow damage – Bah, humbug.

Trolls, the “I didn’t have the balls to roll undead” approach

Berserk, increasing attack/casting speed – Used to be a lot better. 3 minute cooldown, lasts 8 seconds. Reduces cast time by 10%, ramping to 30% when you’re badly hurting. It was nerfed in 2.2, it was “glitched” and would give a base cast time reduction of 20% no matter what your hp was, ramping to 30%. In the far-flung old days, it would flat out reduce cast time by 30% for 20 seconds. Thus making the trolls the only race to have a racial heavily nerfed.

Regeneration increased – Also allows in-combat health regeneration. Sounds good, don’t it? Well… it’s not. At 150 spirit, it equates to 10hp5 out of combat, and 1hp5 in combat. Pretty much worthless.

Damage increased versus Beasts – A 5% increase. On the surface, it looks worthless. Actually, it’s a really good racial, just situational. Most people spend 3-5 talent points for this kind of damage boost. We get it for free… sorta… Well, rest assured Nagrand is your bitch.

Throwing and bow skill increased – Sad, really.

Blood Elf, the “I can’t find real porn” approach

Enchanting skill increased – Nice if you have the profession. Worthless otherwise.

May drain mana from opponents – Arcane tap… or whatever its called. Goes with the “Torrent” racial. Basically, this racial drains a bit of mana from the target, putting a “charge” on you (stacking to three). When you use the “Torrent” ability, it restores your mana bar a little bit.

May silence nearby opponents – This is the “Torrent” I was talking about. These two racials used in conjuction are an incredibly potent weapon against enemy spellcasters, provided you get into melee range to use it. It’s not somewhere you want to be often, but shutting down a healer or something with this is just cruel. Arguably the best racials in the game for a Paladin, they’re potent nonetheless for a mage.

So now you’ve created your character. Congratulations, and enjoy the World of Warcraft!

Next up, what you need to know about professions and talents!


Voxmortis said...

Cannibalize is 35% health at 7% every two seconds for 10 seconds. Canceled upon any damage taken.

Either way, nothing to be sneezed at

Flirt said...

Allright, not to be be picky, but many of your technical aspects of other races/classes/etc seem to be a Thus I get to fix 'em.

Most egregiously, SoC is an amazing spell. It does detonate if the target dies before the DoT finishes running, and in fact, detonates when the mob suffers X damage FROM ANY SOURCE. Thus, you can plop seed on 3-4 mobs swarming a tank, when the DoT runs long enough on the first one, or the DPS hits one which has been seeded, it goes poof, and blows up all of the seeds at once. End result: 10,000 damage AoE to a pile of mobs instantly.

If the mobs have more HP than that, you also have a very dead warlock. But that's not the spell's fault.

Concerning poly as the best CC in the game, I'd again have to disagree. Hunter traps can CC any mob in the game, and a decent hunter with a marginal degree of kiting skill can chain-trap with little fear of stray-mob syndrome.

The health-regen aspect of poly is also disappointing. With a druid, priest, or lock (using seduce), you can abuse the non-diminishing returns of PvE to nuke, CC, nuke, CC, much as you feel you can get away with. On my priest, I'd abuse this strategy and draw out fights long enough to get a second potion cooldown in. Not an everyday situation, but certainly one which shows a huge weakness of polymorph.

Plus healing enemies in PvP really sucks.

Third, stealth detection on humans is an active, and not passive skill, and it (for me) has allowed me to spot rogues of my level up to 20 yards away. Sadly, the skill is still rather useless since mages have so many good options to unstealth pesky sneakers.

Finally, after level 20 or so, the mana a blood elf drains/gains from mana tap is too marginal to count, and really only exists to do ranged pulls. Again, useless to mages.

This is a guide that every aspiring mage should be forced to read. Glass cannon syndrome, DPS specific-role, and party dynamics are things which most mages I see trekking out of the Valley of Trials simply don't grasp. Kudos to you, bringer of sacred wisdom--the internet got a little smarter today.

Euripedes said...

Thanks for the input here. I'm tryin to avoid my opinions a little here, as much factual stuff as I can put in here the better.

I know how SoC works... editing the text for clarification.

Also editing Polymorph text here, adding in the PvP element and comparisons with other CC.

Anonymous said...

I have never played anything but a hunter; and can chain trap quite well, thank you very much.

I felt it necessary to comment that this was a great read, and I'm looking forward to volume 2. The litererary skills of my fellow guildie are second to none.


Euripedes said...

That makes you an exception to the rule, Ghostkid :D

When you meet a hunter, there are only two possible outcomes:
1) The hunter is absolutely terrible.
2) The hunter is very skilled at his class, and a huge boon to all those around them.

Sadly, most fall under category 1)

Sellia said...

Nice guide ... :)

I'll be reading the rest of your blog soon.

Lynna said...

Well written article.