Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
State of my WoW mage

I currently have 4 characters in World of Warcraft which I play, that is do quests and dungeons with as opposed to using them as crafting or bank alts. There are my two level 80 characters, priest and warrior on the Horde side, there is my Alliance paladin level 63 on a different server, and there is another Horde character, a blood elf mage, currently level 78. This post is just a personal journal entry with a bunch of random thoughts regarding that mage. [This means you have been officially warned about the content of this post. I know some people don't like it when I write about my characters. If that is the case for you, I recommend skipping this post. Don't count on your QQ comment of "you shouldn't write about yourself" making it through comment moderation. The idea that I shouldn't be allowed to write about myself on my blog is absurd anyway.]

The initial idea of playing that mage when I created him during the Burning Crusade was to complete the holy trinity of pure classes, adding a pure dps to the holy priest and protection warrior I had. But as I mentioned previously, the priest and warrior are now dual spec. While the warrior never really got into dps, due to not having serious dps gear, the healing gear of the priest is good enough to deal 3k dps when I switch him to shadow. Nevertheless I decided to level the mage to 80 anyway, just to increase my options.

The mage has, and has always been, a deep frost spec. I did buy the dual spec capability for him, and tried a frostfire build once I got the frostfire spell. But that wasn't a huge success, as the frostfire build appears to be very much a raiding build, working well against a single large target. For soloing quests it is far inferior to deep frost, and for running 5-man dungeons the frost build is also often better, due to better AoE. I will have to look into an arcane build as second spec, I hear arcane mages aren't as bad as they used to be in the past.

My previous two level 80 characters covered all of Northrend, one doing all the "do all quests in this zone" achievements of the right half of the map, the other doing them on the left half. Thus the mage flitted all over the map, doing a "best of Northrend" quest selection. I leveled him extremely slowly previously, but the pace picked up with patch 3.3 and the Dungeon Finder. While as dps I do have to wait considerably longer to get into a random Dungeon Finder group than my tank or healer, it is still very much worth it. I just log on, join the queue, quest and play solo as if I were alone, and then interrupt soloing for half an hour or so whenever the Dungeon Finder gets me into a group. After the dungeon I'm right back where I was in the middle of the quest. That usually works very well, with two exceptions: I got a Dungeon Finder invite in the middle of the Veteran of the Wrath Gate cutscene, which was completely distorted and didn't work at all. And getting a dungeon invite while doing a vehicle quest also isn't perfect, usually forcing you to redo the quest from the start.

In the level 70's the first random dungeon of the day gives you 2 Emblems of Triumph, of which I already have over 20. It is quite possible that by the time I ding 80, I'll already have 30 Emblems of Triumph, and thus could directly buy a piece of T9 gear. I don't consider that to be optimal design. I would have preferred during my level 70's to receive level-appropriate rewards instead of an advance payment on level 80 gear. Thus my main motivation of using the dungeon finder is not the emblems, but the loot that drops from the bosses, and the xp. I find that during the time I am in a dungeon, I make considerably more xp per hour than during the time I solo quests, due to there being no more waiting and traveling involved in running dungeons.

My mage also has two professions, tailoring and inscription. I don't craft many glyphs any more, the market being too crowded on my server nowadays, but I'm proud that I have every single glyph recipe there is in the game. In tailoring I'm far from having all recipes, due to the fact that many tailoring recipes are drops from dungeons and raids I never went with my mage. I do however already have some recipes for epic cloth gear, even one for a iLevel 245 epic cloth robe. So again the moment I hit level 80 I will be able to "skip" some of the classic "gear up in heroics" phase.

But then of course the question is "gear up for what?". Patch 3.3 sneakily introduced an official gear level, that is if you are level 80 and open the Dungeon Finder on the "specific WotLK heroics" page, you will find that depending on your gear you are locked out of some heroics. If you are wearing not good enough gear, neither the specific nor the random function will allow you to join a group for lets say the Forge of Souls. But as I have around 60k gold on that server, a mix of gear from already earned emblems, crafted epics, and boe epics from the AH should quickly get me beyond that hurdle, allowing me to access any heroic.

At that point there is currently a gap for me, and I assume for many other players of alts as well. The Dungeon Finder still doesn't work cross-server for raid dungeons, Blizzard says that this is due to raid lockouts and such. My guild, and presumably many other guilds, are doing the harder raid dungeons like ToC and ICC with mains, and joining a different guild with your alt is frowned upon. Runs to places like Naxxramas are mostly limited to "kill the first boss of one wing for the weekly raid quest" runs. And the raid pickup groups forming via the chat channel still suffer from all the organizational problems of the pre-Dungeon Finder era: Manual travel, manual selection, with the organizers often requiring you to have the achievement of having killed Kel'Thuzad before allowing you in the raid, plus all the problems of finding replacements for the people who left after the first wipe. In any case, due to a somewhat perverse reward structure, there isn't much interest in going to Naxxramas any more, as "farming" heroics for emblems will result in better gear.

Thus it looks like it will be heroics or game over for my mage at level 80, until the next expansion comes out. I will try the hidden "/lfr" looking-for-raid functionality, but I don't have high hopes at the moment. We'll probably have to wait for some patch after Cataclysm, if ever, before we get a system that makes pickup raids as easy to organize as pickup heroics.
Hey man, I've been blogging about my characters and mishaps since 1999. Don't be bothered by the critics, it is after all, your blog.

A little humor thrown in there about something you did that you shouldn't have might be exciting too. ;)

Keep up the good work!
On the contrary T, I really enjoy your posts about your WoW characters. Being a WoW player myself and with a toon at the level cap I can relate to most of what you talk about (I don't have 60k gold but I do have an 80 tank with one piece of T9!) and its good to see someone talk about the game in length from a different perspective, and much more objectively than most
I wouldn't give up hope on your mage, Tobold. Mine was also late to L80, but by running the heroics assiduously, I've managed to collect a perfectly raid-worty set of gear (indeed one that is arguably better than that of my healing main, who was mostly geared up via raid drops, which took far longer to collect).

So raiding is still an option, provided that your guild has a slot for DPS!
While you asked the "why to gear for" question, your answer to it (to get to HoR) is not an answer, unless you say "HoR is so beautiful that I want to go there for itself".

Wait, you can already go there as priest or warrior.

So beauty aside, "going HoR" is just another step towards ... what?
I'd just run the heroics one time each. Should give you some nice gear and there's not much point in continuing if you don't raid.

In TBC I leveled two characters at the same time. One character would go to zangramash, the other to the hellfire peninsula. From there on they each took on different zones. Both characters had full rest and didn't do any of the same content. A fun way to see most of the content which I might try again in Northrend. Similar to doing "half of the map" I assume?
A couple of weeks of Heroics will get you geared up enough to raid TotC10 at least, if you want to do that.
I just leveled my ex-main mage from 60-80 (mainly for 2 more professions). Did 60-75 or so as frost (as everyone suggests). Bought dual spec, tried arcane. It's not even comparable how much better arcane is for EVERYTHING between 75-80. I dropped frost like a bad habit. I HIGHLY suggest you try it. Less downtime (weird, I know) with 2 min innervate and free AM, and TONS more DPS. I was pulling well over 3k dps single-target on heroic bosses with a mix of quest greens and non-heroic blues. You just don't have tons of AOE. But that's what dual spec on a pure dps is for, I guess. Plus instant invisibility is a GODSEND for leveling on a pvp server.

I'm not sure why everyone thinks frost is more efficient. It's not. Plus, how fun is frostbolt spam anyway?

I also tried frostfire and came to the same conclusion.
With crusader orbs, frozen orbs and basically all enchating mats at a all time low you should be easily able to craft(and enchant) both ilvl 245 epics (bracers, chest), and the ilvl 200 boots. You can spend one or two days running random heroics to collect ilvl 245 sholders, helm, etc...while also cashing in triumphs for crusaders to buy ilvl 226 pants, etc...

While doing this you should be able to collect ilvl 232 weapons, trinkets, other items from H FOS, H POS, and probably even H HOR. The blizzard gear check is VERY lenient. Also H HOR has recently been nerfed.

This can be completed with in days if you hussle. And afterwards you should easily be able to get into an ICC 10 raid.

I'm highly considering getting my druid up to lvl 80 and documenting how quickly I can get ICC ready. I'm sure it can be done with in days.

A few weeks of heroics will put you in 232 and 245 gear, equivalent to drops in ToC10 and 25. Which means a few weeks of heroics will put you into ICC10, and undoubtedly if you're a skilled player, you're good enough for 25 at that point, too.

At this point I think Gevlon must be right. Gear up for what? If gear is your reward, then heroics+icc is the way to go to get the 'best'. If gear is the tool and you don't want to raid with your mage, you have to set a goal, then work towards it. Often, that means less gearing up and more research and practice.

You just have to figure out which it is for you, tool or reward.
I definitely recommend Arcane spec for PvE DPS, it really is very good at the moment. Frost if you want to PvP.

Since you don't want to join a guild on your alt, your progress will be limited to what is pugable. That is quite a lot of content to be honest, I have seen pugs going into ICC groups at times, and TotC should be really easy. Naxx and Ulduar will be hard simply because nobody is running those instances any more, not as a real raid.

If you have the patience to gear up via badges + onyxia/voa runs you should be able to (relatively) quickly get up to par and put up 4-5k unbuffed dps on a single target. Use the heroic training dummies to evaluate yourself. Once you have that you should be able to pug a lot of high end content.

I find myself agreeing with Gevlon, what is your goal with the mage? Do you want to experience the same content on a different class? Or is it just an alt to pass away the time? Depending on that and on how much time you're willing to invest there are different options open.

I would honestly recommend you try the PvP part of WoW. I know you are not a fan of PvP but Arenas and BGs are consensual and the only thing you'd lose is time. And you get the chance to progress a character in a different way altogether. And when you have enough high lvl PvP gear a mage (frost) is a very very competitive class in Arena.
@Gevlon, that line of questions usually ends up with: why play the game at all?
When I moved to my current active realm, I created a Mage. Leveling him was fun, Frost was fun, I stunk at PvP with him, but that also made it that much more satisfying when I saw "HK: Private" roll across my screen.

Then I hit 80, and was introduced to the Frostfire build. Just ... WOW ... the amount of DPS rolling out was astounding to me, considering what I was used to in Frost. Of course, most of my leveling was behind me, and Frostfire was at the time the de facto build for raiding. Then they added multi-target LB, which made the inner-pyro in me giggle with glee every time I got multiple mobs nuked simultaneously. (Of course, that was often followed up with a scramble for my Ice Block key, as it also tended to ... attract unwanted attention from those mobs I /hadn't/ finished off!)

Arcane changes came out in 3.2, I believe, which suddenly meant everyone was respeccing to Arcane. I stayed Frostfire for a while, anyhow, but I simply couldn't match the DPS that was coming from the other mages in our guild.

After a couple weeks, I finally respecced Arcane. It took me another week or so to get familiar with the rotation. Two or three weeks later, I'm finally starting to hit the 2nd or 3rd spots on the DPS meters. I've seen some gear upgrades which have certainly helped (including a T9 set that I finally broke from 5/5 to 4/5 with a lucky drop of a head piece from ICC10).

I have to say, I don't really miss Frost all that much. I'll go into Frost once in awhile to try my hand at PvP (I still stink at it), but eventually, I may just respec my Frost to Frostfire again, as I really miss Living Bomb (that was a lot of fun to startle unsuspecting Alliance with). The fact of the matter is, however, that through the token system you can get a Mage raid-ready in a lot less time than you can just about any other class I have observed so far. (My friend got a Warlock geared up in just over a week's time, but as it's not his main, is confined to Heroics at the moment, as well, but he's already doing raid-worthy DPS).

The only drawback of Arcane is that at times it /can/ be really really simple, to the point of being close to dull. My biggest fears are 1) the Faction fight in TOC10/25, 2) not paying attention to where I'm standing, 3) running low on mana toward the end of a prolonged fight.

Either way, I do enjoy hearing how others level/optimize/enjoy/rant about their various characters, and enjoy your writing overall anyhow, so please keep up the good work!
First, I personally enjoy hearing about people's characters and what they're doing with them so this post was right up my alley.

Second, I too have been steadily gearing my alts doing Heroics whenever I have a spare 30-45 mins. Recently I asked myself the same question you did: "What am I gearing up for?". The raiding guild I was in completely died a month or two after Ulduar dropped and I haven't found another fit since.

With raiding not likely in the near future, I've figured out that I'm gearing up... just to gear up. If one day I find myself with a chance to raid again my toons will be ready. In the meantime I'll just have to be satisfied that they look bada$$ wherever they go =).
I think I have been misunderstood on why I think my mage won't be raiding Icecrown: The problem is not that I couldn't get the gear together, but that I would have to go to my guild and explain them that a) I want to start raiding again after having abandoned raiding some time ago, and b) that I want to raid with a dps alt instead of my healing main. There are good reasons why guilds prefer that you stick to raiding with one main character, instead of with several alts, and why they prefer you to heal instead of dps. It is a social problem, not a gear problem. And I'm not even sure I *want* to hardcore raiding again, because I don't like the speed raiding is currently at.

On arcane vs. frostfire vs. frost spec, I always hear people saying that this or that spec gives the best dps, without saying in what situation. A mage in heroics nowadays does the best dps if he is doing AoE damage, because there is little reason not to AoE. I know frostfire isn't good at AoE, but how is arcane? My frost spec might not be optimal against single targets, but for rushing through a heroic in 15 minutes with blizzards AoE it is quite useful.
Frost has always been my favorite tree, but unfortunately in Raids and Groups, it's far inferior in most situations.

Arcane is a great spec for damage and the rotation is horribly simple. It uses incredible amounts of mana, so the strategy in this spec is all about how to get mana back quickly.

I found that dual-spec w/ Frost and Arcane worked great. If I needed a lot of AoE or was soloing, then I used Frost. Otherwise, I just used Arcane and blew through all my mana.

Ultimately, that's what Arcane is all about-- using a bunch of mana quickly in an absurd amount of damage and then reloading.

All that said, Mages can be terribly boring to play at times. To put it in perspective, I finished two and a half wings in Naxx 25 with ONE HAND. Compared to melee DPS, which is what I usually play, raiding as a mage was insanely easy.
On arcane vs. frostfire vs. frost spec, I always hear people saying that this or that spec gives the best dps, without saying in what situation.

Arcane is the best single-target DPS build for short to medium length fights. This is because Arcane does a lot of damage quickly, but then you are out of mana. It is therefore dependent on you managing Evocation (which, with talents, has a reduced cooldown) and your Gem to keep you in the fight. The shorter the fight, the better you'll do -- so this is actually very good for Dungeon Bosses. This is NOT the best spec for AoE.

For AoE, Frost is a great spec and in my opinion better than a Frostfire (FFB) spec. The downside is that single target DPS is much worse than FFB or Arcane. The upside is replenishment and Winter's chill. This is also the most mana efficient spec, so combined with replenishment, it can be very useful in really long fights.

For that reason, a dual-spec with Arcane and Frost covers a lot of ground.
I find it key when playing a character to discover why exactly I want to play it. If I am doing it for the wrong reasons, I will step back and try to focus on something that makes more sense to me.

I am currently playing multiple characters beacuse I am interested in seeing how they function in different situations both solo and group. So my mage plays different than my warrior who is different than my shamman. I am currently runnign heroics on my warrior rather than my mage because I am trying to get better at tanking and there is not much that I can still learn there with my mage.I run regular instnaces on my 73 shaman because that plays much different than playing on a geared 80.

As far as the difference in specs, I used to use arcane for raiding and frost for heroics. I like raiding because I just prefered not to rely on crits. As my gear improved I found out that I no longer needed to switch to frost fro heroics since I overgeared them enough to not need the extra boost to AoE and survivability frost gave me.
Seeing people talk about Arcane Mage *DPS* amuses me. Because in my 5-man experience, Arcane DOES put out lots of *DPS*, but usually my overall damage (as a Destruction Warlock, single target) is higher.

Of course, that's just my experience.

On topic, though, I'm in a similar place with my Warlock. He's gone from "barely good enough for Naxx" to "Arthas here I come" in the last 3 weeks. I continue to queue for random dungeons, but I no longer need any drops and my emblems are just racking up (what do I need ilvl 245 gear for? I don't raid on this guy).

So when I won the Battered Hilt yesterday I found myself floundering about what to do with it. :)
Arcane was a lot of fun for me. I'm not sure what state it is in now, but when I was playing, I really enjoyed being able to control my dps without actually stopping for a few seconds here and there. Frost might still be better for soloing, but arcane barrage made that decent at least.
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