Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘Mage’

Update on Settling Into A New Role

I’ve been raiding as a paladin now for just over a month or a little bit longer. It’s been an interesting transition, further complicated by the fact that I feel obligated to re-do many achievements with Vid. I thought it’d be fun to provide a kind of update with how things have been going.

DPS: Now With 100% Rear Boss View

For the occasions when we’ve needed a healer to DPS, I’ve been gearing and working on my retribution spec. Thanks to some help from Antigen and our guild’s protection paladin, I even know what to do (more or less). The only thing I can say is that melee DPS is weird, yet oddly calming. I feel as if I have to frantically spam buttons quite a bit less than as a mage. Oh, I’d definitely be failing if I were just auto-attacking, and that’s not what I’m doing, but it is reassuring to know that my character is always hitting if I’m in range. (Thank you, startattack macros). I’m by no means the world’s greatest retribution paladin, but we still managed to kill bosses with me as a ret (I am the ret). It’s been awhile since I’ve had to go ret for a raid and my gear has improved so I imagine if I were to do it again I would be even better.

I got to hit Rhyolith’s feet and run around frantically! I also went up to attack Beth’tilac, which proved to be convenient because I later went up to heal the tank on Beth’tilac. I got to stand there and DPS Shannox, which kind of feels like cheating to me. Even Staghelm from a ret perspective was almost peaceful, but he was still progression then and so I have only healed for our subsequent kills. I think it’s safe to say that I never imagined I’d be melee DPSing in a raid, but it’s fine. 95% of the time I will be a healer; for that other five percent I’m happy to do whatever is necessary.

"What is this I don't even..."

Achievements

Continuing to work on Vid’s achievements has helped me to feel engaged with her, even when I’m not raiding. To me, Vid (as a character) has been something of a sleeper hit. I made her in 2009 for a lark, did the whole dungeon-leveling thing, wrote a blog about it, etc. I never imagined she’d shoulder her way to the front and wind up a main. I always assumed that if I healed full-time it would be as a druid. I was clearly wrong.

As far as achievements go, her pet collection is up over a hundred now, her mount collection is somewhere around fifty. There are a few pets she won’t be able to get for awhile (Midsummer, Love Is In The Air, etc.) but such is life! I finished the Higher Learning achievement with her as I was writing this post. Up next: continuing to kill poor TB foxes and camping the spawn point for Jadefang.

The biggest trouble I have is trying to catch up with achievements as if I’m on a time limit. I want to catch up yesterday and so sometimes my focus wanders as I try to do everything all at once. I finally, finally finished the last Molten Front “unlocking” and so now will do those dailies until Zen’Vorka’s cache sees fit to give up a pet. Meantime, I have to remember that nobody cares about my achievements except me, nobody cares except me (it’s my new mantra).

Blogging

I’ll admit, I did worry a bit that I might lose readers when I switched from raiding as a mage – and perhaps I did. The funny thing is, though, that very little of my content was mage-specific. I wrote the five-man guides (but never updated them for the Zul instances) and a gear guide, but other than that the things I write about are seldom class-specific. Now I’m in this odd limbo where I don’t feel I have anything to teach or say to paladins, nor do I have mage experience in Firelands. It’s tricky how your personal identity can get tied up into your class identity, so I’m trying not to worry about it overly. I’m just going to write about things that interest me, be they mage, paladin, or guild-related, and hope that they’ll be of interest to someone, somewhere.

Raiding

Make no mistake, switching from being a DPS (especially a pure) to a healer is a big adjustment. I heal five-person content a ton but hadn’t healed a raid in about a year. It says something about my guild’s trust in me that they were willing to let me dive in. Especially being somewhat undergeared for Firelands (I did the best I could, but was definitely behind the curve), healing FL was kind of like performing without a net. It’s been a rush, it’s been exhilarating, frustrating, and triumphant. It’s been humbling. I’m still constantly learning how to be a better paladin, but I’m happy with how it’s gone so far. With my usual zeal for gearing, I’ve managed to squeeze every last upgrade out of non-raid content and I can definitely feel the difference. Especially getting a new weapon and the two-piece T12 bonus have made me feel pretty unstoppable in heroics.

The biggest shift is a mental one, and it’s taken some time. I’ve had to teach my brain to recognize mild stress as ‘the norm’ and not freak out and just do its thing. It was funny when we went back one night to eight-man BoT for valor points. Remember, I didn’t do BoT as a healer, only as a DPS. So we’re on Ascendant Council and I lost range on my tank and my brain just kind of zoned out a bit. There was a part of it that thought, “Gosh, tank’s health sure is getting low.” A few seconds later, the other part of my brain screams, “YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HEALING THAT TANK.” Ohhh right, that’s my thing!

I haven’t done this in current content, it’s just interesting to me how the encounters themselves (and the way I have learned them) are so intertwined with the role I was playing at the time. When it comes to Firelands, I’ve only healed (or melee DPSed them) and so I don’t suddenly forget that I’m healing; all of my knowledge is centered around healing patterns, incoming damage, and needed cooldowns.

Recruiting

It’s been a long time since we’ve had three trial members at once. It’s not something I like doing, really, because each new person takes awhile to integrate into a group. Because of our relatively small number, an influx is especially unsettling and runs the risk of unbalancing the group paradigm. Also, they may not get the kind of one-on-one attention and feedback that we like to give, but I think we’ve managed well enough in this regard. I still reflexively catch myself going to check out recruitment ads until I remember – oh right, I don’t have to do that right this instant! It’s nice. They have been doing well, and of course time is the most important factor here. Everyone will naturally ease up as they get to know each other, given some time.

How Playing My Alt Was Hurting My Raiding

I once wrote about how I think that playing alts can actually make you a better player. I still believe that to be true. If you’ve played a class, you’ll often better understand the cooldowns and abilities available. This helps with leading raids and organizing rosters. In PvP, it helps you understand how to counter another class because you know what to expect. I am a staunch advocate of alts! I love getting inside another class and seeing what makes it tick – or in the case of my paladin, making a list of spells with various iterations of Hand, Blessing, and Divine to try to keep any of them straight.

There’s just one possible pitfall, and I’m afraid it blindsided me. I think it’s a fairly common scenario. If you’re a raider, your raiding main is decked out in great gear. You take your main to raids, but other than raids, they don’t “need” anything. So… If you’re like me, you play an alt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and of course, it all depends. There’s no right or wrong way to play a game, there’s only deciding what’s right for you. But if you are a progression raider looking to maximize your play, I’m going to suggest something radical: playing too many alts might be hurting you, as it was me.

On the surface, there wasn’t a problem. I mean, I wasn’t routinely at the bottom of the meters in raids. I think my performance was solid. I continued to enjoy raiding as a mage. I was just playing Vidyala, my paladin, constantly outside of raids. She was the one who needed Valor Points to upgrade her gear! She was the one who needed gear. I get a bit obsessed with upgrading gear, because it’s such a tangible improvement. I’ve geared alts to the teeth only to completely abandon them once they no longer “needed” anything, having hardly used the gear at all. I just like the completeness of it. It also happens that I enjoy healing, and I enjoy five-mans, and so I didn’t see any detriment to this alting – except when I started to take a hard look at my own performance. With the kind of gear I have, I felt I should be performing better. I’d grown complacent. I wasn’t pushing myself to excel and find ways to maximize my damage output, due in large part to the fact that I wasn’t playing Millya as much as I could be.

I decided that I wasn’t satisfied with the state of my DPS or my play. I wrote a whiny blog post (and deleted it, unpublished). I asked myself, “Do you want to put energy into complaining that your numbers aren’t where you’d like them to be, or do you want to put that energy into figuring out how to improve your numbers?” I checked up on mage resources to make sure that my theorycraft was current. I asked our guild’s other mage, Fsob, to look at my World of Logs. He is both my respected colleague and a wizard (har) when it comes to reading WoL. He gave me some valuable feedback that I used to plan my improvement, but the grunt work would have to come from me. I needed to play Millya as much as possible. One of my problems was not casting enough. Especially when a fight is new, it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics and movement and not nuke as often as you should. To improve this, I was going to have to really focus on it.

I resolved that when I wanted to run a pug, I’d do it as a mage (thirty minute wait be damned). When I ran a BG, I’d do it as a mage. I ran dailies constantly. Tol Barad fears my name. The Argent Tournament is tired of seeing me. I was all mage, all the time – and I got results. Really and truly. Partly through a combination of research and practice, I improved my damage on heroic Valiona and Theralion by 1000 in just one week. I nearly doubled my number of “main nuke” casts, while keeping Scorch casts at the same amount. If you’d asked me before, I would have answered that I was “always casting” on the first V&T fight I looked at. But to see such a marked improvement in such a short time the following week floored me. I hadn’t received any significant gear upgrades in that time. I was just playing better.

"Thanks for killing my worthless minions!"

What Alts Can Do For You

(Doesn’t) Stand In Bad
If your goal is to maximize your raiding performance, in some ways alts can help you with that. Some things are completely universal – situational awareness, for example. High survivability is something I’ve always prided myself on, and that tends to be true no matter what I’m playing. As a healer, I can usually dance out of something oozey and painful very quickly. As a tank, I can neatly sidestep something coming my way. I believe situational awareness is a skill that can be learned, or at least honed – and you can practice that no matter what you’re playing.

You know the big spider forest in Tol Barad, and how those spiders will spit a big puddle of green goo at you? Did you know that you can usually start to move before the goo hits the ground so that it never hurts you? Half of situational awareness is anticipation. The same thing is true of the dark oozes that play a huge part in the heroic version of Maloriak (and it used to be the case for Trial of the Crusader and countless other raids). You can see the ooze flying at you and actually move before it hits the ground. Forget about getting out of bad – how about never getting in it? Of course, this isn’t possible for everything. There are some things that will hit you no matter what you do, and you really do have to move out of them. That’s something you can practice no matter what you’re playing!

At What Level Did I Get That Ability Again?
Another thing that you can do if you love alts and don’t always want to be playing at end-game is to level an alt of the same class as your main. I know tons of people who have done this! Vosskah has something like four warriors. I have two level 85 mages, as does Fsob. I know that Kurn just finished leveling another paladin. Leveling your “own” class can give you insights into it. The game has probably changed since you leveled up for the first time. Even if you don’t level as the same spec, it can be a valuable experience (and still scratch that alt itch).

I’ve had folks laugh at me for having two mages at maximum level. It’s kind of a running gag for people who wonder why you’d ever want more than one character of the same class, but it’s actually more common than you might think. If you’re playing a class at 85, it’s probably because you enjoy it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the best players I know have “multiples.” They are so passionate about their class that it’s no chore to make a second one. I sometimes wish I could “unlevel” Millya just to do some quests again and revisit zones that I liked. That’s not possible, but leveling another mage alt might be the next best thing.

Playing alts (especially in pugs) definitely accustoms you to the controlled chaos of a raid. Or at least, it accustoms you to chaos!

What Alts Can’t Do For You

I’m Sure Iceblock Is Around Here Somewhere
My pugging has honed my emergency button reflexes. My instincts have me reaching for Hand of Sacrifice so quickly; it’s like lightning! Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me whatsoever when I’m in a raid, because I don’t raid as a paladin. You might have lightning reflexes that are completely useless if your muscle memory isn’t remembering the right thing. (I also happen to have a lightning-fast Iceblock reflex, but that’s neither here nor there). Experienced alters often mimic a “basic” keybind set-up between all of their characters. So if you’re playing a druid tank or a warrior tank, your taunt is the same button (no matter what it’s called). This can help ease the transition between different characters when you do play them. I think there’s no substitute for playing your own character, though.

In a raiding situation, you can’t look down at your buttons and try to remember where you keybound your emergency heal or health potion. Well, you can – but you might be dead first. The faster you can instinctively reach for your key abilities and cooldowns without even thinking about it, the better you’ll do. You also learn a rhythm for when things are available. It’s weird for me to play my second-string mage, Tazya, because she has less haste than Millya and she feels sluggish. I think the effective difference is only a fraction of a second, but it makes a big difference when I’m playing her.

Being attuned to the nuances of your own class takes time, and here’s the thing… the time we all have to spend on WoW is finite. We all have other obligations, families, lives outside of WoW (hopefully!) It can be a fun diversion to level an alt for awhile, but if you aren’t 100% satisfied with your performance and your main, that’s time that you don’t spend improving and learning it.

Practice Makes…Probably Not Perfect, But Closer

I feel that I need to add a huge, honking caveat here. I’m not saying that “You shouldn’t play alts,” or “Playing alts makes you a bad player.” No. All that I am saying, from my own, highly subjective and biased personal experience is that I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to, and I think part of the reason was because I was playing too many alts. That’s a decision that only you can make for yourself. If I was in a guild where I could casually top the DPS meters in a raid, I’d probably never have worried about it. It’s only when I thought, “I could be doing better,” and started to seek out reasons why that I hit upon this conclusion.

I’m a big proponent of doing what makes you happy; in life, in WoW, wherever. If hitting the fifty character limit is something that’s fun for you, why not do it? Cynwise wrote a great post about making a low-level PvP character just for kicks. If you get tired of them and want to delete them, no harm, no foul! (I’ve been thinking of doing this…with a mage, naturally). For me, what’s fun is progression hardmode raiding. That is my passion, and it’s one that is shared by the people in my guild. If I’m not doing the best I can, then I’m not just hurting myself, I’m letting them down too.

So lately, if you’re looking for me, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m flinging fireballs at trolls, or freezing Horde to the ground in a BG, or running around a grim island off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms stealing fish from villagers. I’ve been digging through WoL to figure out ways to increase my DPS, and usually when I’m in-game I’m practicing. Diversions like learning PvE Frost as my raid off-spec have kept me occupied. Far from being bored, I keep finding out things I hadn’t thought of before. Besides, playing a mage is never a chore! It’s my favourite WoW thing to do. It’s been nice to see tangible results, too. I’m sure I will always have plenty of room for improvement.

What do you think? Are you a one-character sort of person, or do you wish Blizzard would increase the ten-character per server limit? Has playing an alt helped you improve your main character’s play in an unexpected way? Zinn over at Jinxed Thoughts wrote some great tips for dedicated alters while I was still working on this draft, and the irony wasn’t lost on me! I’ll admit, I still have and love playing a bunch of different alts, I just intend to temper my playtime with equal dedication to my main!

Further Adventures in Troll Land

For reasons that will be the subject of another post at some point in time, lately when I pug I’ve been pugging as a mage. It increases the wait times significantly and it’s often the result of insomnia. Last night I was fishing and when my LFD window appeared I was surprised. I had completely forgotten I was even in the queue! The pug started off poorly, which I actually prefer. If a pug is going to fall apart within the first few bosses, it’s nice to know.

This pug had a tank with other important things to do. So he stood there, and stood there for about five minutes before he finally started moving or responding to greetings. “Sec,” he said, and continued to stand there. Finally, mercifully, we killed the first troll and he began to run through the hornets and then promptly died. The hornets killed everyone, and the tank made some sound of confusion in party chat.

“You fell off the bridge,” the hunter told him. We all run back in, this time killing the hornets. I figure, hey, everyone makes a clumsy move sometime. Except then the tank stops moving again. “One sec,” he says. The healer drops group. We get another healer immediately and we’re moving onto the next actual troll in the instance. Somehow a hornet joins this fight and eats the healer while the tank blithely keeps “tanking.” The shaman healer uses his ankh and the tank pulls the next trash before he’s even moved off the bridge. We all die horribly. I don’t do this often, but I initiate a vote-kick on Mr. “Defender of A Shattered World.” The reason? “Self-explanatory.” A tank that can’t even make it through the initial Zul’Gurub trash without falling off bridges, AFKing and pulling without his healer is not going to do well.

We get another tank – a paladin – and things go pretty smoothly for awhile. Amazingly we kill the first boss with no deaths, which is fairly unheard of in the ZG pugs I’ve seen. So many things that need avoiding usually kill at least a few people! The raptor boss dies as easily, and we kill the Archaeology boss without occasion for remark. Nobody even dies to the fire gauntlet! It’s all going swimmingly, up until we reach Bethekk (aka the Panther boss). This trash is pretty intense anyway, but some of it is also bugged and will pull through the wall if you use AoE. In a guild group we’ve managed to survive the combination of extra trolls along with existing trolls, but not tonight. We wipe to this trash at least twice, it might have even been three times. Patience seems to be wearing thin quickly judging from the tone in party chat. We apply crowd control liberally to the group at the bottom of the stairs and manage to make it to Bethekk. The actual boss fight is easier than all of this wiping on trash. But the best is yet to come – as we make our way to Zanzil’s area, the tank confesses that he is new to the fight.

Something about saying he hasn’t done it seems to send both the shaman healer and the hunter into a rage spiral. “Oh great,” the hunter says. They give very cursory directions to the tank, amounting to “don’t stand in the fire” and then pull. Somehow, they’re surprised when we wipe.

I can't remember why I took this screenshot, but somehow Millya's making a great "pug expression" for me. She even looks like an insomniac, but that could be my imagination!

The shaman berates the tank for not getting out of fire as quickly as he should, and the tank admits that he was looking down at his ability buttons. Mr. Shamtastic is so busy berating the tank for being terrible, that he stands there typing insults while the tank pulls again – so he’s locked outside of the encounter area, and we all die quickly. Of course, this only makes matters worse as party chat is degenerating into an epic round of the “blame game.” It’s just this shaman’s luck, being stuck with such a fail tank, etc. etc. I interject at this point, “It’s no crime to be new to a fight.” (Thinking of Shintar, I add a smiley at the end.)

“It’s a crime to pull without the healer,” the shaman retorts. I don’t bother to reply. Each mechanic is re-explained for the benefit of the tank, and after approximately four tries (total) we kill him. “The next boss is going to be a bitch,” the hunter grouses. We proceed to the next boss while the shaman and hunter alternate scolding the tank about how he has to do THIS for the last boss and THAT for the last boss or we’ll fail. They seem to be hitting all the relevant explanations so I just let them go on.

The tank assures us that he’s seen the fight, just not tanked it. I add some paladin specific stuff (yes, I tanked it for a pug just the other week! It’s a sickness) mostly related to using Righteous Defense on CD to help keep things from killing the healer. Unfortunately, the tank doesn’t manage to get into the safety bubble quickly enough to avoid the Shadows spell. So we try again. And he fails to do it, again. At this point I can imagine the hunter on the other side of the screen frothing and throwing a fit with his keyboard. But I figure the tank deserves at least a few tries to get this fight right.

“45 mins for these last three bosses!” the hunter rants. The atmosphere in the pug is getting worse, if that’s even possible. Completely contrary to how I would have reacted in his shoes, the tank says, “Let me give it one last try and then I’ll drop group since I’m holding you up, np.” This attempt doesn’t go any better than the previous ones, and we wipe again before even finishing the first phase. The tank drops group wordlessly, and his corpse lies there like a silent testament to the punishing nature of pugs (and perhaps hunters in particular). It doesn’t take long for us to get a replacement tank; this one is a DK that knows the fight and it goes off mostly without a hitch. Every Body Slam hits a chain, which is probably for the best, as I’m sure the hunter would’ve popped a vein in his forehead otherwise.

I guess I am different from many people pugging. I would’ve preferred if the first tank had stayed, figured out the fight and really aced it. But the impatience of the other DPS (and the healer, who was at least as rude) didn’t allow him to do that. The hunter shouted his (expletive) relief when the tank dropped group. In terms of time and money invested, maybe I was a bit relieved too. I’d rather complete a fight than spend a half hour wiping to it. That said, I join pugs fully expecting to wipe and to take much longer than I would if I went with guildies. The next time I look at my thirty minute queue time, I know I have people like that hunter to thank. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that kind of abuse? Why put yourself in a position where your mistakes will be judged so unforgivably? The answer sure isn’t because of the potential for a mount in a fancy satchel of big fat nothing. (I’ve claimed a few satchels myself, but apparently the loot force is not with me).

Granted, the tank wasn’t entirely without fault here. Before queuing for these instances, he could have prepared himself by reading the fights over quickly. When you put yourself at the mercy of a pug, you want to have all the defense you possibly can – which to me, means not having to rely on them for probably inadequate boss explanations. When the hunter’s explanation of a boss fight amounts to “Stay out of fire and get the red cauldron,” you have to be sure you’re missing something. Even so, there’s no call for treating other people like this. If your time is so valuable, then don’t pug, it’s that simple. Spare the rest of us who are actually willing to patiently work through difficult content with a group of strangers. We recognize that coordinating such a group isn’t always easy, but we’re willing to allow for that. Sometimes you have to wonder if folks like this hunter even remember that it’s a game they are playing – that they’re supposed to be having fun.

Character Hierarchy: Who’s the boss?

I’m always interested in discussions about which character people consider their ‘main.’ I know people who have two mains, one they raid with and one that is their achievement/collector. Is your main your oldest character? The one you love the most? If you’re an RPer, perhaps it’s the character whose story you are most invested in. Changing mains can lead to mixed feelings and even a confusion of identity. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true! My friend Rades has been playing his death knight character primarily since he was unhappy with the hunter changes, but his identity in the WoW community is still pretty strongly a burly green hunter. After all, his blog is called Orcish Army Knife.

Millya's (and my!) first raid ever. I love this screenshot; I can feel the tension I felt at the time being told "Go stand here," while we waited to pull - and to me Millya looks as if she feels the same way. (p.s. Spellfire set and PvP staff, so retro).

I remembered being flat-out shocked when Wrath came out that people would change “mains” at this time. This was naivete on my part, to the tune of, “But you are a priest, how could you level your druid first?” Plenty of people I know switched characters at the beginning of Wrath (from a bear to a paladin! from a priest to a druid! from a hunter to a death knight!) I had to reconcile myself to the fact that people won’t stay the characters you expect them to stay. The death knight was especially rough because we had to wait for him to catch up to us at max level. The new expansion was a valuable experience, though, because when Cataclysm was coming out I knew to expect it and I started the conversation in-guild really early: Who are you going to want to be playing in Cataclysm? Several people seized on that opportunity, and of course now I understand at least partly why. If you are dissatisfied with your class or just want something new, nothing levels the playing field like the gear reset at a new expansion.

I’m continually surprised by how even when you think your main is clearly defined, other characters can sneak up in the rankings and even dethrone the long-time king or queen. Unexpectedly during Wrath, I dropped all of my max-level characters to play Shaedra – a character who was level forty when I was raiding Naxxramas turned out to be the healer I brought into Ulduar. I really fell in love with being a druid, and the character herself (as I was still on an RP server at the time) was a ridiculous amount of fun to play. Her personality was outrageous and she made people laugh, and I think that was a large part of why she became my “main.”

I took many screenshots of Shae because she was fun to photograph. She's posing here with what was actually a feral staff from Ulduar but it looked so neat I used it for screenshots.

As a confirmed altoholic, I have to admit that there’s always a certain shuffle going on with my characters. I had to play a healer because of raid group requirements, and I found that at the time I preferred to be a druid. I’ve since done this several more times. I remember one of my RLs famously remarking, “You can bring anything you want! But, can you bring a healer?” (Sorry, Saif!) It’s not that I didn’t enjoy healing, but at the time I had an awesome partner. It was fun to rock through Naxx with my druid buddy, two-healing everything. We were a great team.

My later experiences with Shae in Ulduar didn’t really match up with that. No one else in our group wanted to/was in a position to heal, so every week we’d be pugging again. There was the priest who asked whether I was a guy or a girl on Vent (okay, I know I don’t have a high-pitched voice, but I think I still SOUND like a woman), there were healers who would DC, there were healers who clearly had no idea what the heck they were doing. In one week’s run, I did sixty percent of the healing, the other healer did twenty (twenty!) and the rest of it came from other sources. On the one hand, it’s kind of fun to feel superhuman. On the other, I’d finish each raid with a crazy tension headache and started bursting into tears for no reason. This is when we realized that we were not succeeding at running a raid group, and I was burned out on being a healer.

My poor Holy priest, she is the epitome of "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." I have since race-changed her to be a draenei and she really doesn't have a story of her own.

So, I was happy to begin raiding as a mage again when I server transferred and moved to Business Time! They needed a mage. I had kept Millya’s gear at around T9 level because I can’t bear to let my beloved characters languish. BT didn’t really need a warrior but they accepted Voss grudgingly on my good merit (and conjured cakes). The truth is, I played a healer because a healer was needed, but I’m not sure any character was ever my true “main.” They are powerful second-string characters and sometimes I play them, but for me, there’s only really one true main.

Millya's triumphant return to Ulduar hard-modes - i was absolutely floored by some of the scenery in later Ulduar. Please ignore the fact that she is wearing pants, something that would never, ever happen if she had a say in it.

My screenshots folder tells the tale. As I rummaged through looking for good shots of all my characters, I saw the amount of documenting I had done for my behooved spellslinger. There are shots of her in every raid instance, dinging level 70, level 80 – learning how to polymorph people into pigs and wearing the worst Burning Crusade fashion choices. In a way, she’s my least exciting roleplay character because she is me. My other characters are often fun because I deliberately try to make them different – an outspoken booze hound/hedonist, a determined inventor, etc. She’s a bookish intellectual with a temper – not really my most creative decision given my personality. This doesn’t mean I never get confused about the main/alt issue. As recently as this week I’ve thought about playing one of my healing characters because it’s what the raid group needs. This time, fortunately, I faced up to the reality that even if I did it “for the good of the group” I would always miss her. If mages had a healing spec (a la Rift) I would not hesitate! I would chloromance the heck out of my raid group. But that’s not an option.

My feelings towards individual characters is a shifting thing. I haven’t been as excited about Shae since she is no longer a happy tree healer. It’s sad, but true. She’s languishing at level 83. Vidyala became such a favourite that I seriously considered playing her in Cataclysm, but she never quite made it. She is the queen of pugs and possibly an eventual alt run, but she isn’t my main.

Vid-on-ice. Or is that in ice? Anyway, you all know the fight. I guess my pathetic magic had betrayed me.

She is my top pick for when we’re branching out into alt-territory, though! This tier of raiding doesn’t seem very pug-friendly so I’m not sure how much raiding she’ll do, and I’m okay with that. I don’t have time to maintain two “complete” characters. Besides, if I weren’t running LFD pugs, how would I get crazy pug stories to write blog posts about?

Fireballing M.A.G.E.

I knew that when I felt a rush of relief at not having to switch characters to fill a healing slot that it was the RIGHT decision. I don’t want to not be a mage! I don’t know if it’s the class so much as Millya herself. If I could change her class and keep my mounts, titles, and achievements, I might consider changing her to a priest. Barring that, I don’t see it happening. Incidentally, I’ve heard that they are introducing the option to rearrange your characters on the character screen and I am so happy about this. It’s actually okay because Millya is at the top – I deleted my 58 Death Knight just so that she would be at the top. I don’t know why, I am OCD about some things. Now I will be able to put seldom-played alts at the bottom and arrange my other characters in the true pecking order.

How about you? Do you have one main forever? Did you find yourself switching when you least expected it? And why does your main hold the title?

Fire Mage Gemming: A Quick Overview

I’ve been seeing a disturbing mage trend lately. Sometimes folks send me armory links (their own, a friend’s, a guildmates’, whatever). Sometimes these armories reveal things. Horrible things, people. Mages with strength shoulder enchants. Mages with all blue gems. Although I’m primarily concerned with Fire these days, Intellect is the strongest stat for all mage builds. But it’s not aimed at them and so statements about secondary stats (crit, haste) may not hold true. Use at your own risk, your mileage may vary, etc.

Seeing Red

Gemming a fire mage is simple!

You want Brilliant Inferno Rubies.

Lots and lots of Brilliant Inferno Rubies. Intellect is far and away our most powerful stat. A red socket? Put a red gem in it.

So many beautiful red gems.

Now this next part is, I think, where many mages get tripped up. It’s extremely tempting when you see a socket of a particular colour to want to put a gem that will match that colour. We’re taught this as kids, right? Sorting games, matching games, all your crayons colour-sorted (okay, maybe that was just me).

You must let this go.

Whenever you’re gemming any piece of gear, take a critical look at what you stand to gain and lose. For example, take these Firelord’s Gloves. They have a yellow socket. The socket bonus is +10 Mastery, which you could achieve if you used an orange Reckless Ember Topaz. In that case you’d have +20 Int, +20 Haste, and +10 Mastery. But it’s not worth it. You’re losing 20 Int by not gemming an Inferno Ruby, and Int should be your priority.

Now let’s look at another piece of tier gear, something a bit trickier, the Firelord’s Leggings. Now these have a red socket (no brainer) and a yellow socket. But look at the socket bonus – it’s +20 Int. You could put an Inferno Ruby in each socket and you’d have +80 int gain from gems. Or, if you put a red (+40) and an orange (+20 Int/+20 Haste) you’d also meet the socket requirements so you’d have a total of +80 Int and +20 Haste. In this case you stand to gain by using an orange gem, but unless the socket bonus on a piece is 20 Intellect or greater, it will almost always be a DPS loss to gem other than red.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

I’m anticipating you here. But what about hit gems, you say. I’m so far below the hit cap, I can’t possibly hit the cap without using gems. I still stand by no blue gems, period. At the beginning of the expansion when our meta gems were loopy you could argue a case for blue gems. The hit cap can seem a distant goal. First, you have to be familiar with other ways to reach the hit cap. Investigate hit trinkets (like the one from Tol Barad) and reforge your weakest stats to hit on all your gear wherever possible. For fire mages, this means mastery. Reforge mastery because it’s really not great. Seek gear with hit on it, and see how close you are at that point. If you’re close, consider that you may be hit-capped and you will do less DPS than a mage who is not hit-capped but has more Int.

I know, it’s radical. We’re bludgeoned with hit cap this and hit cap that. And don’t get me wrong, it’s important to reach the hit cap. But hit is only important up until the point where it isn’t – and perhaps even close to that point. Over the past month my hit has varied from between about 16.5% and 17%. Having all of my spells hitting harder (with more spellpower, more int!) is, I believe, better for me than killing myself to reach the hit cap. Look at everywhere you can obtain hit (enchants, reforging, gear) and seek it through those avenues first before devoting your gemming to it. In any slot where you are sacrificing potential Intellect, realize that you will be hurting your DPS.

Much like the Firelord’s Leggings above, there will sometimes be pieces of gear where having a purple hybrid gem to gain a socket bonus IS worthwhile. In these cases, by all means, use an Intellect/Hit gem. That extra twenty hit will be invaluable and it’s just icing on the delicious intellect cake we so love to conjure.

If you want to read about this in more depth, the Fire Mage Compendium at EJ is excellent and should cover all of your needs. I can’t recommend it enough. I know not everybody wants to read EJ though, you may just have a mage alt you like to play from time to time, or whatever. So, the TL;DR version:

Gem red, unless the socket bonus is equal to what you’d stand to gain from gemming red anyway. Grab as much Int as you can. Reforge your gear to gain the hit you need and seek gear with hit already on it. Remember the in-game tooltip shows you how much hit you have versus various level creatures, and you only need 17% hit if you’re going to be raiding. Your DPS might be higher if you aren’t quite at the hit cap even for raiding, but use this advice with caution. It’s one of those ‘you have to know the rules before you can break the rules’ things. If you just want to run 5-person content, load up on Int and never look back!

Kill It With Fire: A Pyromaniacal Mage Flowchart

I have to thank Runzwithfire for the idea of making a flowchart – although I hear he’s more Runzwithfrost these days. I didn’t want to make a frost chart, so I made a fire one instead.

Read this with a few caveats.

  1. This is primarily for single target fights. The chart does mention adds in a roundabout way, but they are not prioritized. This changes for special cases, e.g. Halfus Wyrmbreaker’s heroic mode. Because of the debuff on Halfus and the nature of Impact procs as well as the need to DPS the whelps, Impact becomes much more important in this fight. But for the majority of boss fights, this is what you’ll do.
  2. I’ve never made a flowchart before so it may not work in a perfect loop. When in doubt, cast Fireball, and never stop casting something.
  3. The initial “rotation” works because it’s stuff you can do as you are moving into position. Scorch on the move, put up LB, summon your orb and your mirrors and then go to town. Always keep as many dots as possible. Never cast Combustion without Ignite. If you’ve been very unlucky with hot streak you may cast it without Pyroblast, but never without all your other buffs!
  4. I assume any on-use trinkets will be used along with your main nuke. It’s beneficial to refresh DoTs when a trinket procs to give you more Int/Spellpower but that’s beyond the scope of a flow chart.
  5. Combustion Helper is an excellent addon for fire specs to easily manage all those DoTs, I highly recommend it.

It burrrrns us.

So there you have it, my first flow chart! Thanks to Voss for help with Visio thing (ridiculously easy to use). They’re fun! It got a little bit silly at the end there.

Patch 4.0.6 for Mages

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Tuesday Art Day for more pressing matters. First, here’s a video from the genius of Greyfoo to make you laugh while you’re waiting for the servers to come back up. What do mages have to look forward to? I’ve cut the relevant part of the patch notes out here. A few of them are mostly relevant to me (unless you’re also a draenei mage, in which case, draenei solidarity!) I’ve put commentary underneath most of the things. (TL;DR – most mages are going to be pretty happy today, and we’re going to hope things work out well for Frost). Gazimoff wrote an analysis of 4.0.6 worth checking out a little while back, with more explanation. If you’d like to read the full list of patch notes, they’re available here.

Mages

  • Arcane Barrage mana cost has been reduced by 8%.
  • Arcane Blast mana cost has been reduced by 12%.
  • The mana costs of Arcane Brilliance and Dalaran Brilliance have been reduced by approximately 16%, making them roughly equal to the cost of Mark of the Wild.
  • Counterspell lockout duration reduced to 7 seconds, down from 8.
  • Fireball mana cost has been reduced to 9% of base mana.
  • Flame Orb now ignores critters.
  • Frostfire Bolt mana cost has been reduced to 9% of base mana.
  • Mage Armor now reduces the duration of magic effects by 35%, down from 50%.
  • Molten Armor, Frost Armor, and Mage Armor no longer cost mana.
  • Polymorph now has a PvP duration of 8 seconds.
  • Ring of Frost: Radius shrunk to 8 yards, and inner “safe” radius is now 4.7 yards (exactly matching graphic). Dispelling the effect of Ring of Frost will now make the target immune to being refrozen for 3 seconds. If a second Ring of Frost is cast by the same mage while the first is still active (via Cold Snap), the first will now disappear and cease functioning. In addition, Ring of Frost now has a PvP duration of 8 seconds.
  • When a mage uses the Invisibility spell, it will now also cause their pet Water Elemental to become invisible.

Most of this stuff is great news – mana reduction, mana reduction – Flame Orb gets marginally smarter, and Ring of Frost gets a predicted nerf. Also, when I’m questing in Frost I won’t have to abandon poor Speak to certain death because he’ll go invisible when I do. Good stuff overall! There’s a nerf in here for Mage Armor too, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not too terrible.

Talent Specializations
Arcane

  • Slow now has a PvP duration of 8 seconds.

Fire

  • Firestarter now allows the mage to cast Scorch while moving (regardless of which armor spell is used), and no longer eliminates Molten Armor’s critical strike chance reduction.
  • Flashburn (Mastery) benefit per mastery has been increased by 12%.
  • Living Bomb mana cost has been reduced by 22%.

Frost

  • Deep Freeze damage done has been reduced by 20%.
  • Fingers of Frost can no longer be dispelled and now also increases Ice Lance damage by 15%.
  • Frost Specialization now only grants 2 base points of mastery (instead of 8), reducing all Frost damage to frozen targets by 15% from previous values. However, Frost Specialization now increases base Frostbolt damage by 15%.

More PvP adjustments for Arcane. Firestarter is greatly improved and now we can cast scorch while moving regardless of armor (“I’m casting scorch while mooooving guys!”, my guild hears this pretty often) AND Molten Armor will now grant crit. So that’s a straight-up buff, enjoy your new crit! Flashburn also gets a 12% increase which is pretty substantial. This along with the mana cost improvements to Fireball and Frostfire Bolt means Fire mages should be  pretty happy with these changes.

As for Frost, I had read that they claimed what looks like nerfs is actually a normalization and that Frost and Fire mages have been performing similarly on the PTR. We’ll have to see how this plays out – if anything it should save our frost mage from a heart attack when he uses Deep Freeze a few seconds into a boss fight.

Mage bug fixes

  • Arcane Power now has its tooltip updated when Glyph of Arcane Power is active.
  • The attachment point of Cone of Cold was too far left and has been adjusted on male troll models.
  • Evocation was returning less mana than the tooltip stated it should. This has been corrected.
  • Flame Orb’s tooltip should now state how much damage it will explode for after the Fire Power talent is chosen.
  • Rank 1 Frostfire Orb is no longer applying a debuff that incorrectly states that it snares its target.
  • The Hurricane weapon enchant should no longer proc when Polymorph is cast.
  • Molten Armor tooltips now display the correct information.
  • Nether Vortex was causing Arcane Blast to yield a string error when Arcane Blast was reflected. It shouldn’t do that.
  • When Presence of Mind was active, Conjure Mana Gem was not becoming an instant cast spell if used to refresh a stack of 2 or less Mana Gems. This has been fixed.
  • Presence of Mind is no longer consumed when Flame Orb is cast.
  • Ring of Frost can now be cast and works properly on transports (this includes elevators, trapdoors, etc.).

I’m not sure how great the discrepancy was between actual mana and the tooltip, but evocation will give a bit more mana. Now, I don’t see it mentioned here but I’m sure I read it elsewhere. There was a bug where putting only one point into Pyromaniac was granting a flat 5% haste all the time. This is being remedied and will no longer be the case.

Glyph fixes

  • Glyph of Arcane Power should correctly reduce the global cooldown of Blink, Mana Shield, and Mirror Image to 0.
  • Ice Barrier’s tooltip is now correctly updated by Glyph of Ice Barrier.

Items

  • Bell of Enraging Resonance can now trigger from any damage spell instead of only critical strikes.

Worth noting if you have this trinket from Atramedes – it seems it just got better!

Alchemy

  • Alchemist’s Stones for Agility, Strength, and Intellect have been added.

If you’re an alchemist, in which case you already get twice as long for your flasks and rub my face in it during raids and…why in my day we used our normal flasks and we liked them, too! Grumble, etc. No really, enjoy your fancy new trinket, alchemists.

Enchanting

  • Three new bracer enchants are available. They increase Agility by 50, Strength by 50, or Intellect by 50 respectively. Item level 300 or higher required. These new recipes are rare world drops.
  • Enchant Off-Handed – Superior Intellect now increases Intellect by 40, down from 100.

If you’ve been using Crit or Hit to your bracers, you’ll be wanting to find this new enchant when you can! Meantime, good-bye 60 intellect. I loved you.
Engineering

  • Synapse Springs now increase Agility, Strength, or Intellect (whichever is highest for the character). In addition, the effect now lasts 10 seconds, down from 12.

I’m not an engineer, but this sounds good if you are a one.

Jewelcrafting

  • Meta gems with the Chaotic and Relentless prefixes now have a requirement of 3 red gems.
  • New meta gems have been added: Agile Shadowspirit Diamond (Agility/3% critical damage), Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond (Strength/3% critical damage), and Burning Shadowspirit Diamond (Intellect/3% critical damage). These new recipes are unbound and can drop from any Cataclysm creature. The new meta gems have a requirement of 3 red gems equipped.
  • Vivid Dream Emerald (new gem) provides resilience/spell penetration and can be purchased for 3 Illustrious Tokens.
  • Wrath of the Lich King purple, green, and orange gems have been increased in cost to match red, blue, and yellow epic gems (220 Justice Points). Burning Crusade epic gems have been increased in cost to match the most expensive Wrath of the Lich King gems.

What we have all been waiting for! Take note, if you’ve been using a meta other than Chaotic (and it wasn’t worth using Chaotic) you will now want to switch to Chaotic immediately until you can get your hands on the Burning Shadowspirit Diamond. Unfortunately the recipe is a world drop. When you’re able to obtain it, it will be the meta of choice and I am very excited.

As for the other changes, no more swapping Justice Points for cheap and resell able Burning Crusade gems, and a new spell penetration/resilience gem available for PvPers. But did I mention the new meta gems? Because there are these new meta gems…!

Races

  • The draenei racial trait Gift of the Naaru now heals 20% of the target’s health over 15 seconds, rather than a scaling value.

For me this translates to approximately a 21K heal. It used to scale with my spellpower, and I think it heals for less this way, but I’m still going to be using it pretty much on cooldown.

Character info window

  • The Haste display on the Character Info window (C) now shows the total haste percentage, rather than only haste from haste rating.

A minor quality of life improvement so you can see your total haste. Not a big thing, but worth noting.

Have fun burning, freezing, and… er…blasting some things, fellow mages! Do you have a better idea for the arcane verb: to kill things with targeted magic? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Pre-Raid Mage Gear List

A few weeks back (because he’s on top of things like that), a guildie of mine compiled a list of mage gear, following in the footsteps of other folks on the Mana Obscura mage forums who were getting ready for Cataclysm. I read it, said “Hey, that’s great!” and filed it away for future reference. I didn’t think I’d be needing it immediately. I was wrong.

I’ve found myself referring to his list often over the past few days, but I’ve also started squirreling away information of my own, and so this edited list was born. My favourite style of pre-raid gear list was defined by the excellent Gearing Your Feral Druid at 80 guides by Allison Robert. I am following in her footsteps by categorizing the drops because sometimes you can’t depend on drops, and it’s nice to see at a glance what you can use in a pinch. I’m not really doing the level of analysis that Allison did with those guides, though, because what’s BiS for one spec may not be quite so for another. Naturally, you’re going to want to prioritize hit until you’re capped or near it, and then chase specific stats as your spec and playstyle demand.

A huge thanks to Fsob for his original work and permission to use his list as a starting point. If you just want to know about all the very best gear, here’s where you can find that list.

Please note that this list covers Reputation items, BoE profession items, items that can be bought with Justice Points, and 5 man heroic drops. It does not cover BoE raid drops, PvP items of any kind, holiday items, items bought with Valor Points, Archaeology items, or profession specific items, enchants, or gems.

All Reputation items are from Alliance reputations. Horde have the exact same items, just with different names/reps.

I changed the formatting a little; assume that all instances refer to heroic drops UNLESS otherwise noted. For all of the items, you can assume that the normal drop of the same item is a solid choice while leveling, or will at least stand you in good stead until you can replace it.

Do you have your head in the sand about your gear? Refuse to admit it's time for a wardrobe update? We can help!

I intend to use this list to focus my efforts and identify weak spots in my gear that can be improved. I’ve tried to make it as relevant and thorough as possible, adding parts in where I thought they were missing, but I make no claim of 100% accuracy. Feel free to mention any additions you feel I’ve overlooked, I don’t want to have misinformation! Each slot is divided into four categories: Purchased/crafted items (including Justice Points), drops, quests, and faction rewards. What is best for you will depend on your spec.

Please note that all instances referenced below refer to heroic versions.

Head

Purchased/Crafted
Cowl of Pleasant Gloom – 2,200 Justice Points

Drop
Crown of Enfeebled Bodies – Grim Batol (Erudax)
Blinders of the Follower – Shadowfang Keep (Lord Walden)
Helm of the Typhonic Beast – Halls of Origination (Setesh)

Quest
Kata-Mary Crown is a decent option as a quest reward from the quest Gnomebliteration in Uldum. Plus, you can hum the Katamari song when you wear it…

Faction
This helm is available at Honored with the Earthen Ring. Save yourself some justice points and pick up Helm of Temperance as a good starter helm. It’s almost identical to the normal version of Crown of Enfeebled Bodies, and it has a meta and one socket as well.

Enchant with Arcanum of Hyjal (Guardians of Hyjal, Revered).

Neck

Purchased/Crafted
Eye of Many Deaths – BoE, crafted by Jewelcrafters with a skill of 525
String of Beaded Bubbles – 1,250 Justice Points
Charm of the Muse – BoE zone drop in Heroic Halls of Origination

Drop
Pendant of the Keep – Shadowfang Keep (Baron Silverlaine)
Pipefish Cord – Throne of the Tides (Neptulon’s Cache)
Tauntka’s Necklace – Lost City of the Tol’vir (High Prophet Barim)

Quest
Eye of Despair – Reward from the quest Eye Spy in Twilight Highlands

Faction
Lightning Flash Pendant – Requires Wildhammer Clan – Exalted

Shoulder

Meadow Mantle – 1,650 Justice Points

Drop
Mantle of Master Cho – Lost City of Tol’vir (Siamat)
Mantle of the Eastern Lords – Shadowfang Keep (Lord Godfrey)

Quest
Clan Heart Shoulders
- Reward from quest The Loyalty of Clan Mullan in Twilight Highlands.
Blight-Lifter’s Mantle
– Reward from The Source of Their Power (dungeon quest) in Lost City of Tol’Vir (normal).

Faction
There is no good reputation option, unfortunately.

Enchant with Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone. (Therazane, Exalted).

Back

Purchased/Crafted
There are not any viable options that don’t require Valor Points.

Drop
Periwinkle Cloak –  Throne of the Tides (Lady Naz’jar)
Shadow of Perfect Bliss – The Vortex Pinnacle (Asaad)

Quest
Stone-Binder’s Cloak – quest reward from The World Pillar Fragment in Deepholm.

Faction
Cloak of Ancient Wisdom – Requires The Earthen Ring, Revered
Cloak of the Dryads – You can also pick up this cloak from the Guardians of Hyjal at Honored. It’s not the greatest (spirit, ick) but you can reforge a bit of that until you’re able to replace it with something better.

Enchant with Greater Critical Strike or Greater Intellect.

Chest

Purchased/Crafted
Robes of Embalmed Darkness – 2,200 Justice Points

Drop
Corsair’s Overshirt – The Deadmines (“Captain” Cookie)
Inquisition Robes – Blackrock Caverns (Rom’ogg Bonecrusher)
Robes of Arugal – Shadowfang Keep (Baron Ashbury)
Robes of Rampant Growth – Halls of Origination (Ammunae)

Quest
Overly Intelligent Robes – Reward from the quest Skullcrusher the Mountain in Twilight Highlands.

Faction
Robes of Orsis – Requires Ramkahen – Revered

Enchant with Peerless Stats.

Wrist

Purchased/Crafted
There seems to always be a dearth of available bracers. If you can’t snag any of the other options, these two tailored resilience pieces are almost identical except for one stat: Emberfire Bracers has haste while Fireweave Bracers have mastery.

Drop
Armbands of Exiled Architects – The Deadmines (Vanessa VanCleef)
Sand Silk Wristband – Lost City of the Tol’vir (Augh)

Quest
True Archaeologist’s Bracers – Reward from quest Doing It The Hard Way (dungeon quest), Halls of Origination

Faction
No options.

Enchant with Precision, Greater Critical Strike, or Greater Speed.

Hands

Purchased/Crafted
Gloves of the Painless Midnight – 1,650 Justice Points

Drop
Mnemiopsis Gloves – Throne of the Tides (Neptulon’s Cache)

Quest
Corruption Resistant Gloves – Reward from quest Magmalord Falthazar, Twilight Highlands.

Faction
Flamebloom Gloves – Requires The Earthen Ring, Exalted
Gloves of Atherial Rumours – Wildhammer Clan, Honored

Enchant with Haste or Greater Mastery.

Waist

Purchased/Crafted
Dreamless Belt – BoE Crafted by Tailors with a skill of 525 (but these are going to be pretty dear until enough time has passed for people to level tailoring and acquire cloth).
Incense Infused Cumberbund – 1,650 Justice Points
Triple-Loop Belt – BoE zone drop, Halls of Origination

Drop
Beauty’s Silken Ribbon – Blackrock Caverns (Beauty)
Stratosphere Belt – The Vortex Pinnacle (Grand Vizier Ertan)
Girdle of Nobility – BoE zone drop in Dead Mines (Heroic)

Quest
Pillarbind Waistguard from quest in Deepholm The Middle Fragment.

Faction
Cord of Raven Queen – Again, another spirit option that isn’t ideal but if you happen to have a ton of Guardians of Hyjal rep, it’s better than nothing (Exalted, Guardians of Hyjal).

Add an extra socket with an Ebonsteel Belt Buckle.

Legs

Purchased/Crafted
Breeches of Mended Nightmares – BoE Crafted by Tailors with a skill of 525
Flame-Ascended Pantaloons – BoE Crafted by Tailors with a skill of 525
Pensive Legwraps – 2,200 Justice Points.

Drop
Legwraps of Astral Rain – Isiset in Heroic Halls of Origination.

Quest
Narkall’s Leggings from quest reward Narkall, The Drake-Tamer in Twilight Highlands

Faction
No viable option unfortunately.

Enchant with Powerful Enchanted Spellthread or Enchanted Spellthread.

Feet

Purchased/Crafted
The crafted options here are not as good as quested, and the BoE drops will be very rare initially.

Drop
Slippers of the Twilight Prophet – The Stonecore (High Priestess Azil)
Corpse Rompers – BoE zone drop in The Deadmines (heroic)

Quest
Magma-Proof Sandals – quest reward from A Fiery Reunion, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Desert Walker Sandals – Requires Ramkahen – Exalted

Enchant with Lavawalker, Mastery, Haste, or Precision.

Fingers

Purchased/Crafted
Abandoned Dark Iron Ring – BoE zone drop from Grim Batol
Ring of Warring Elements – BoE crafted by Jewelcrafters with a skill of 525.

Drop
Anthia’s Ring – Throne of the Tides (Mindbender Ghur’sha)
Band of Rays – Halls of Origination (Rajh)
Lavishly Jeweled Ring – The Deadmines (Admiral Ripsnarl)
Rose Quartz Band – The Stonecore (Slabhide)
Spirit Creeper Ring – Lost City of Tol’vir (General Husam)

Quest
Red Dragonheart Ring – Quest reward from Battle of Life and Death, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Band of Singing Grass – Requires Wildhammer Clan – Revered
Diamant’s Ring of Temperance – Requires Therazane – Revered

Trinkets

I was fortunate enough to have a jewelcrafting trinket for this slot. Trinkets are notoriously difficult to obtain but look to the quested options if you are unlucky with drops. The three listed here are all fairly decent.

Purchased/Crafted
Darkmoon Card: Volcano – BoE, obtained by turning in a Volcanic Deck or by purchasing from someone else who did.

Drop
Anhuur’s Hymnal – Halls of Origination (Temple Guardian Anhuur)
Gale of Shadows – Grim Batol (Erudax)
Sorrowsong – Lost City of Tol’vir (Siamat)
Tendrils of Burrowing Dark – The Stonecore (Ozruk)
Witching Hourglass – Blackrock Caverns (Ascendant Lord Obsidius)

Quest
World-Queller Focus – Quest reward from Once More Into The Fire, Twilight Highlands
Talisman of Sinister Order – Quest reward from Firing Squad, Uldum
Stonemother’s Kiss – Quest reward from Audience with the Stonemother, Deepholm

Faction
Stump of Time – Requires Baradin’s Wardens – Exalted

Wand

Purchased/Crafted
Wand of Dark Worship – BoE zone drop from The Stonecore
Cyu’s Ornate Wand – BoE world drop

Drop
Cookie’s Stirring Rod – The Deadmines (“Captain” Cookie)
Corla’s Baton – Blackrock Caverns (Corla, Herald of Twilight)

Quest
Beach-Sweeper Wand from quest Landgrab in Twilight Highlands

Faction
Nothing. Squat (diddly).

Two-Hand Weapon

Purchased/Crafted
Staff of Solemn Secrecy – BoE world drop

Drop
Cerith Spire Staff – Throne of the Tides (Commander Ulthok)
Emberstone Staff –  The Deadmines (Foe Reaper 5000)
Staff of Siphoned Essences – Grim Batol (Erudax)

Quest
Very Manly Staff - Quest reward from the Crucible of Carnage quest chains, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Insidious Staff – Requires Baradin’s Wardens – Revered

Enchant with Power Torrent or Hurricane.

One-Hand Weapon

Purchased/Crafted
Beak of Julak-Doom – BoE drop from a world boss Julak-Doom
Elementium Spellblade – BoE crafted by Blacksmiths with a skill of 520
Fire-Etched Dagger – the lesser BoE crafted option from Blacksmiths with a skill of 425

Drop
Biting Wind – The Vortex Pinnacle (Grand Vizier Ertan)
Blade of the Burning Sun – Halls of Origination (Rajh)
Modgud’s Blade – Grim Batol (General Umbriss)

Quest
Salhet’s Ornate Dagger, quest reward from Salhet the Tactician in Uldum

Faction
They’ve got nothing.

Enchant with Power Torrent or Hurricane.

Off-Hand

Purchased/Crafted
Dungeoneering Guide – BoE crafted by Scribes with a skill level of 510
Hermit’s Lamp – a steal at 950 Justice Points, if you have a decent main-hand

Drop
Beauty’s Favorite Bone – Blackrock Caverns (Beauty)

Quest
Skyflight Beacon – Quest reward from Doing It Like A Dunwald, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Sadly nothing.

Enchant with Superior Intellect.

Conclusion

Quest through Twilight Highlands if at all possible, because some of the best quested gear is from there. Then you can isolate your weakest points and upgrade those, or see what drops. If you’ve already acquired a normal dungeon drop in one slot, maybe you’ll spend Justice Points or count on crafted gear to fill another.

Again, huge thanks to Fsob for putting in much of the grunt work to compile this list, and for generously allowing me to add to and edit what was already done. It would’ve taken three times as long otherwise. As it is, I’m going to use it to help me with my own gear, and I hope my contribution is some small help to any other mages (or cloth DPS folks).

There are some other great guides out there; Poneria at Fel Concentration has done one for warlocks. Let me know if there are others I’ve missed and I’ll be happy to add them!

Blinking For Fun and Profit

 

But wait...

Ah, Blink. You are the ability that mages and their fans and detractors both love, and love to hate. You were the topic of a question at Blizzcon, even. A slightly whiny mage asked the devs when they would be able to stop the dreaded Blinking Backward – because it was killing him in arenas.

Fairly predictably, their answer was: “Blink in the right direction.” More seriously, they added that the “backwards” blink happens in reaction to (as mages know) slightly uneven ground, an obstacle, or some other landscape abberation. It’s an unavoidable reality of blinking. They encourage people who find these landscape issues (read: almost all of the landscape) to send in the specific location so that they can pay attention and fix it!

Partly, I think they’re actually serious, and partly I think we just learn to live with it. But despite some of its flaws, I am here to tell you non-believers or those who just don’t know… Blinking is awesome. You learn how to do it at level 16, and you shouldn’t stop once you do. Here are some things you should know about blink.

Here, There, Everywhere

Blink isn’t static. That’s a mage joke, there. (Because it moves, get… nevermind. OR even better it’s like anti-static cling, because we wear robes, right…?! Nevermind). My point is, you can alter the way Blink behaves through the use of talents and glyphs.

Glyph of Blink will increase the distance of your blink by 5 yards. I actually used this glyph for a brief time for a specific PvE encounter. It can be situationally useful! The only risk with it is that if you are used to blinking and have played your mage for quite awhile, it can completely throw off your rhythym. Additional distance might have some PvP application as well, this one’s up to you.

Improved Blink (in the Arcane talent tree) is now actually a very interesting talent. Previously, this talent reduced your chance to be hit by spells/attacks by a percentage after you blinked. It might have been useful for PvP but was largely passed over by any viable PvE build. Improved Blink nowadays is quite a different matter. It increases your movement speed by a whopping 70% for three seconds, every single time you blink. Anyone who has had to run out of fire or move during a fight knows how invaluable this can be.

A word of caution to all you enthusiastic blinkers: Practice blinking around after talenting into Improved Blink. You can and will drop yourself off the edge of the Lich King’s platform like a complete doofus. I’M JUST SAYING. Not that I know anyone who would have done something like that.

Where did that mage...

Oh, The Places You’ll Blink

Firstly, I am far from the first mage to write about Blink. In fact, Euripedes wrote a great guide to using Blink and Slow Fall - over a year ago. I read it at the time and remembered it now – he covers raid content from Naxxramas through Trial of the Crusader, but of course ICC wasn’t yet out when his post was written. Here’s where I like to blink. (Please note: all of my remarks refer to the heroic versions of these fights, but in most cases apply equally to their normal counterparts).

Trash
When you are the unhappy target of the spidery creatures that like to web wrap people – if you pay close attention you can blink out of their trap. You have to blink before you’re actually “wrapped” otherwise you are stunned, but if you blink soon enough you’ll never be trapped at all.

Lord Marrowgar
The implications here are pretty far-reaching and obvious. Blink will move you away from Marrow’s bonestorm, fast. It will also bring you back to huddling up behind him quickly so you can get back to DPSing, as well as allow you to move over an inconvenient patch of coldflame. Blink is invaluable for this fight.

Lady Deathwhisper
Useful for moving around, you can blink to the opposite side of the room from a vengeful ghost – or quickly out of a Death and Decay. Use blink to keep up with the tanks as they drag LDW towards the stairs for the last phase.

Gunship Battle
Use blink to not be in anybody’s whirlwind. Actually blink has limited applications here. I tend to be so busy nuking things I don’t have to move very much.

Deathbringer Saurfang
Blink is excellent for making sure you don’t get your face eaten by a blood beast you’re trying to burn down. When in doubt, use blink to buy yourself a few precious seconds.

Festergut
If your team collapses in the centre as ours does, you can use blink to easily group up for spores (or save it and use it to quickly blink out again once you have the buff). It’s perfect for an emergency drop-off of a spore in melee range, should both spores happen to affect ranged DPS or healers. There’s no one better for this than a mage!

Rotface
Previously very useful for ooze delivery and general movement – blink has been completely broken in this room since 4.0 (at least that’s the earliest we noticed it). Blinking anywhere here will cause you to move precisely nowhere. Is this one of those specific locations Blizz was asking about?

Professor Putricide
There couldn’t be an encounter more suited to rapid movement! Use blink to close distance when you have to swap diseases with someone. A mage affected by the green ooze’s targeting snare can also pivot and blink AWAY from it to buy the raid group precious time to DPS it down. Please note: exercise caution when using blink this way. Since damage caused by the ooze’s explosion is shared via proximity – if you blink away and your group is caught off-guard, you may end up dying alone rather than buying precious time. Blink is an obvious solution when you’re running from an orange ooze (and recent changes to fire have made it so that you can really DPS the thing even as you run!) Throughout phase 2 and 3, use blink to avoid Malleable Goo, ooze puddles on the ground, and to remain within range to DPS Putricide at every opportunity.

Blood Prince Council
I think blink’s uses here should be pretty self-evident – if you are a mage, you’re probably helping to keep orbs up in the air. Especially in the heroic version of this fight, where regular movement stacks a painful shadow debuff – blink really shines. I was once able to blink over and just barely catch an orb about to hit the ground. It was fabulous!

Blood Queen Lana’Thel
Blink has limited application here because much of the fight is spent reasonably stationary. When you’re linked with someone else, you CAN blink towards them but I find that for reasons of lag it’s often better to just run instead. (Blinking completely past someone and extending the length of time you both have the debuff can put you and your team mate at risk). Do feel free to make use of Ice Block to thwart Swarming Shadows, though – and a desperate blink can save you if someone is a bit too close to you when Lana’thel is up in the air throwing blood bolts! p.s. – It’s not blink, but Slowfall is a nice gesture to drop down the hole after the fight. The courteous mage considers their friends!

Valithria Dreamwalker
Let’s face it, this fight is just about adds for us. Blink can be a great way to close distance between you and some Suppressors, though. Back when I wasn’t playing a mage, my mage buddy would blink towards them, frost nova them to the ground – and we’d both quickly AoE them down. A mage with any form of slow (arcane and frost and even fire’s blast wave) can also kite one of the exploding guys. I can’t remember their name’s right now.

Sindragosa
Everyone’s favourite hoarse-voiced dragon, the ability to blink laughs in the face of Sin’s Blistering Cold. Let her pull you in and then happily blink away. In the heroic version, if you’re affected by Unchained Magic, you can blink away from your team to your assigned spot, but keep in mind it’s adding to the damage you will take. Watch that timer carefully – just because you can blink out of danger doesn’t mean an untimely explosion from UM can’t hurt the people around you. Blink responsibly!

The Lich King
Blink can be used in the first phase, but again with potential for risk – if you’re dropping off Necrotic Plague, you risk overshooting and being crushed by the frontal abilities of the Shambling Horrors. You can use blink to get to the outside edge with potentially disastrous results (see earlier) or more reliably, as a safe way back to the center, and an easy way to spread out for or avoid stepping in Defile. In phase three, use blink to help avoid damage from exploding Vile Spirits.

More Than Just Movement

Those were specific blink usages all throughout Icecrown. I’m not going to detail every place in a heroic where blink comes in handy, or in PvP – I think these are fairly self evident. Rather, I’ll just mention a few specific things Blink is useful for in general terms.

Kiting

Every frost mage’s best friend, blink is a simple way to put some distance between you and any enemy (or group of enemies). When used in combination with a frost nova you can immediately have the range you need to burn unsuspecting creatures down.

Surprise

I’ve actually found in PvP that blinking towards someone can completely disconcert them (especially with use of Dragon’s Breath or any other kind of frontal cone ability). Keep in mind, I don’t do arenas, so I have no idea there. But in a battle ground, surprise is an advantage however you get it. I’ve managed to burn some unsuspecting people who never thought the mage would blink…towards them. Obviously a judgment call, it’s not going to do you much good if you blink to your inevitable demise, but it has its uses.

Quick Landing

A somewhat lesser known use of Blink – if used while in the air, it will “transport” you to the ground. This can be used in conjunction with slow fall, although sometimes you just end up blinking forward and floating weirdly. It works more often than not, in my experience!

Break Free

Blink will break you out of many slows and snares, and stuns. Not all of them, unfortunately – but there’s no harm in trying, and usually harm in not trying! Mage pro tip: The last fight in Utgarde Pinnacle is a joke for us. Each time you are stunned, you can ice block (once) and then blink each subsequent time. You should have approximately enough time for blink to be off cool-down again by the time you need it. If you’re a human mage you’re laughing all the way – you can use Every Man for another of the stuns and definitely escape them all. Enjoy DPSing while your group hangs around and you do the dirty work.

Eat, Blink, And Be Merry

Love it, hate it, or use it on the edge of the Lich King’s platform and plummet to your inevitable death – blink is one of the spells that is most unique to mages! It gives us our incredible mobility and is useful in so many situations. I’m sure there’s some I haven’t thought of or mentioned (mages are so ingenuous). What are your favourite uses for blink, or your best blink stories? I look forward to hearing any I’ve missed, otherwise – happy blinking!

 

...Go?!

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