A Solo Heart

A death knight stands over rocky precipice in Stonecore.

You’d never be able to tell now but in high school I was a cross-country runner and skier. Most of the long-distance game was actually mental, not physical. Training gave me the endurance and muscles, speed but nothing ever prepared me for spending long chunks of time inside of  my head keeping myself motivated. I had to do whatever it took mentally to keep one foot in front of the other, especially when all my body was doing was telling me, “Stop. Just rest a second. Just slow down.”

When the rain was running into my eyes or when my lungs were burning, the little voice got louder and I had to focus on some meaningless phrase on repeat or the rhythm of my footsteps. There were no shortcuts here, just myself and the road and I wasn’t going to let the road beat me.

While I don’t think that playing World of Warcraft is even in the realm of marathons, I’ve always thought of myself as a decent solo player. I do things alone a lot as a way of focusing on a task or giving myself space and time to clear my head out. I’ve always had the tether of a guild or other people if I wanted to go do something else, so it’s been really interesting to have very little of either. For the past week or so I’ve been soloing dungeons on a death knight, on a server I have no guildmates on, just to see if I could.

The project started out very pragmatically last Christmas, where I rolled up a death knight one night because my friend told me that a guild had just transferred to Mal’ganis and were letting anyone in for free to get to exalted with the guild and buy the guild raid meta achievement mount. I created a death knight, not because I knew how to play one but because the mount required being level 85 and I figured that the shorter distance for leveling would be fine. I got exalted pretty quickly with the guild and bailed, and the death knight got left to rot with a nice mount sitting in her bags.

It’s hard to force myself to play something I don’t innately understand and I had better things to do, especially when most of early Outlands consisted of level 90s from Kel’thuzad smearing my already twice-dead corpse from the Dark Portal and back.

Now that we are a whole year later and I’ve run out of stuff to do with this expansion, my vigor for leveling alts has returned once again, especially with the recent change to Bind on Account items. The mount sitting in my death knight’s bags started calling to me, as leveling to 85 would be superbly easy now that I could load that toon up with awesome gear.

I started looking up leveling guides, clearing off my bars (a must-do whenever I come back to a particularly old set of action bars) and started asking questions. The goal was to get from Point A and Point B (level 62 to level 85) in the shortest, easy way possible – a spec built for murder (Blood), the best gear available (heirlooms) and all the content I knew like the back of my hand.

After spending two levels getting the gist of the spec from quests, I found myself getting bored. Remembering how blood death knights are the reigning queens of solo content, I wondered aloud if perhaps I could solo a dungeon. I was slightly above level but I picked something easy like Hellfire Ramparts.

Huh, that was easy.

It really surprised me that I managed to clear an entire dungeon, solo, at level 64 with no deaths. It was just Hellfire Ramparts, surely this would fall apart once I did a real dungeon.

So I did Blood Furnace.

Then Slave Pens.

Then Underbog.

Here, someone who was still relatively new to a class was not only soloing at-level dungeons but not even dying that much. I got some tweaks from my friends to my rotation and cooldowns and I was streaming all of my progress. I tackled all of Auchindoun, and even dying a bit, it still felt like I had accomplished something.

Here’s the funny thing about success, especially when you find yourself having an audience – the voices that were only you wrestling with yourself suddenly become you wrestling with how you feel everyone else thinks about you. The time I started hitting Wrath dungeons, more or less roughly at level as well, a new ticker-tape of self-criticism came in. I was only soloing because I had heirlooms. It isn’t because I was good, or capable. I had help. I had the best gear I could get my hands on. Every mistake I made, like when I wiped on trash or didn’t use my cooldowns properly, I felt like I was proving everyone along the way that had made some shitty comment about how women were terrible at video games.

The onslaught of internalized feelings that I was somehow letting ALL WOMEN GAMERS down because I failed on a trash pack in Ankahet was somewhat surprising. I’ve been pretty good at un-training my brain to stop with that kind of garbage, but the addition of an audience with Twitch streaming brought up some of those old, painful feelings. I don’t think anyone really chastises people who do solo content for their inability to get past one boss a couple times, but the idea that they could if that person was a woman seems plausible. It also doesn’t help that I keep undercutting my own ambition by how much help I have from things that are pretty good tools: guides, heirloom gear, advice from other people. Using these things versus not seems like common sense and I wonder if other solo-er type people have this internal debate with themselves. Using every trick and advantage seems like something we see players at the top of the game utilizing, why not me?

One of the things I’ve been trying to work hard on in general is the idea that making mistakes is valuable and I don’t think WoW is immune from that. I think myself, or even other women gamers, constantly pressure ourselves to come out of the gate perfect lest we invite the criticism of our skill reflect badly versus letting ourselves making necessary mistakes. When it comes to soloing, I feel like the idea that you have to constantly be able to perform flawlessly with no learning or training prior to feels antithetical to what soloing actually is. Soloing feels like an incredibly small portion of the player base, only really known for one or two faces and is comprised on the surface of highlight reels and gossip about “so-and-so totally did this” versus the countless hours, wipes, and trial and error it really requires. It’s an activity that is purely it’s own reward, to some degree. There’s no achievements for it. It also requires an entirely different set of skills, talents and utility that I think things like Brawler’s Guild and Proving Grounds have only begun to scratch at. Those things are suited for and designed entirely for one person to “win”. That’s what they are scaled for. The prescribed course of action is both a pure test of skill but I feel has a lower barrier to problem-solving than soloing content that was not made for one person. I say this, not as someone who has beaten Proving Grounds or Brawler’s Guild (though I’ve done both) but just coming from the perspective that there’s definitely places where you can tell that one was designed for a group and one wasn’t. There’s outright bosses I’ve encountered so far that are fairly impossible to solo due to mechanics (Svala in Utgarde Pinnacle) or that are fairly hard  just due to not having another person to kite (Obsidius in Blackrock Depths).

All of this stuff is what I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of days in my attempts to quell the little voice in my head that tells me to stop, to slow down. I think past the unique community that soloing represents (which feels very absent of other women), the need to overcome my desire to be perfect and my own fears as a woman gamer, soloing presents less the pragmatic goal that it once was and more of a way of proving so many things to myself. It is also really fun. Soloing, in my mind, feels like trying to answer a question that no one really asked of me.

As I creep closer to level 85, and consider about going straight 90 with only soloing dungeons, I realize that this yet another long distance to travel with its own mental game. And I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no going from Point A to Point B without doing so.

 

 

Leveling as a Mage — Levels 31-40

Leichi floats in Maraudon.

 

Spells

Welcome to the 30-40 bracket, where all the mage spells you start to get tend to be less about your primary use nukes and cooldowns, but rather what I like to call “quality of life” spells. Things that make your time spent as a mage relaxing, enjoyable and frankly, kick ass over other classes. You got a taste of this when you got your Teleport spells last bracket, but now that you’ve come this far, prepare for the magical equivalent of riding around in a Bentley, waving over your shoulder at the warlocks and rogues crying on the side of the road. (Okay, maybe not like that, but come on, we’re pretty awesome.)

At 32 you get Slow Fall, which may seem like an unusual and frankly unnecessary spell, but as any veteran mage can tell you, will literally save your life. If you are a mage that spends any amount of time exploring the world or going into battlegrounds, the ability to descend gracefully and not hit the ground with a caster-shaped crater (preferably while popping off several instant cast spells) is beyond useful. Slow Fall does just that – it slows your falling speed. You float off at a diagonal towards the ground until you land on something solid. This spell can be cast on other party members or yourself, as well as used while mounted. Just make sure you are targeting the right person.

Molten Armor (level 34)  is the first time in leveling that you get one of your class-specific armors.  Much like a warlock’s armor or a paladin’s aura, an armor defines certain benefits and defenses. Molten Armor grants you extra critical strike chance and reduces your chance to be hit. Fire mages will value this more than arcane mages later on in the game, but for right now it is your only armor and you should wear it!

At level 36 you get your third installment of spec-specific spells. Arcane gets Slow. This is one of the spec’s few CC-like abilities. It slows one target’s movement by 50% (25% if it is against another player) and their casting speed by 25%. Now, if you use Glyph of Slow, all of your Arcane Blasts apply the Slow effect and you don’t need to cast it separately. But it might still be useful for having on your bars if you do any soloing or PVP.

Fire gets Critical Mass, which is a passive effect that multiplies the critical strike chance of your main Fire-specific spells. It’s one of the indications that Fire prefers crit overall as a stat. Your fire spells will start to rely pretty heavily on crit at the endgame to do respectable damage.

Icy Veins is what Frost gets, which is one of your major cooldowns. It is a 20% increase in spell haste and reduces pushback to your spells by 100%. This is like a little Time Warp all for yourself and should be used often, particularly during big fights.

Now for the moment I’m sure you’ve been waiting for – the ability to conjure food. That’s right, at level 38, you gain Conjure Refreshment. This is your ticket to reducing incoming costs for your budget and never needing to grocery shop ever again. Granted, conjured food is slightly behind the best available food for your level but if you forget to buy things like I do, it will work in a pinch. As well as being good for returning mana and health, this food turns into a new kind of sweet treat as you level up. (Right now, your conjured food is cookies! Yum!) Other players will love your food too – so much in fact that they will ask you for it four pulls into a dungeon. *facepalm*

 

Leichi picks out some new gear.

I want this one!

Gear

Matching colors and items! How novel! That is what you can expect during this portion of leveling – many quests in zones help itemize you sensibly as well and look snappy.  You’ll starting seeing more choices in head-gear as well as all your slots. Darkcleric’s Veil/Veil of Aerie Peak is a great blue quest reward from a quest in the Hinterlands (and it looks like a face mask, so cool.) Whitemane’s Embroidered Chapeau is also a classy choice for a head slot!

The only problems I really ran into with gear in this bracket was between some overlapping quest items or slots covered by dungeon drops having wildly different stat allocations. One example of this was two questions offering me two belt choices – one had +11 INT, one had +8 STA, +4 INT, and gave me a bunch of hit. Which seems like the better choice? Lots of intellect is great, but so is hit? This sort of stuff can get really confusing. Typically, even though HIT is my best stat for not missing on mobs, more INT should win out. It just is a flat DPS boost no matter how you slice it. A good way of determining which piece of gear is better when it has identical kinds of stats on it is which has more if you added all the “numbers” up. Hit is better than crit, haste is better than crit in a lot of ways.

Still, always prioritize for intellect if you can. If you get some gear that has spirit on it, don’t fret. While spirit does zippo for mages, if it also has intellect on it, it is an upgrade. As more gear becomes diversified for healers versus casters, it’ll be considered better if you let healers in your group roll over you on spirit items, but for now, anything that has more intellect should be something you pick. Intellect/stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste are starting to become more plentiful, especially if you do dungeons. Now that you might be seeing this, let’s explain what haste actually does.

Haste is what speeds up your casting. It sounds simple but it can mean a few things – casting faster means technically more DPS. It also means you run out of mana faster, as you have less time to regen while casting. It also can speed up ticks of some DoTs and reduce your global cooldown by a small margin. Haste also only goes so far, especially when you get to the level where Heroism/Time Warp/Bloodlust is concerned. You can only speed up your casts down to 1 second. Under one second and you will be effectively locked out by the global cooldown between all your spells. That is what most casters that are working around a lot of the time when they talk about racials, cooldowns in regards to a “haste cap.” Early haste gains in leveling tend to be talented or profession cooldowns like Lifeblood.

Helpful Tips:

  1. Making food for healers in low-level dungeons or in battlegrounds now is considered polite and generous
  2. Slow Fall, Blinking as well as Ice Block can save your butt if you jump or fall off something high.
  3. At level 40, you can buy your 100% speed ground mount training.

How to (Role)Play With Others

My blood elf looks out in Booty Bay.

I’ve found that the best way to spruce up my World of Warcraft experience sometimes is to do something radically different, just as an experiment. Lately, I’ve been feeling the itch to roleplay again, despite the fact that I ran screaming from that particular community some years ago. Things Alliance-side on my RP server tend to be extremely insular and filled with the same people that I didn’t want to deal with. On the recommendation of my friend Mainfloortank, I decided to roll a fresh new toon on Wyrmrest Accord. Not only that, but Horde! There’s nothing like rolling on a faction you’re largely still new to and as a role you’re fairly unfamiliar with (tank) to get the old creative juices pumping. It’s been a pretty weird experience so far – Wyrmrest Accord is stuffed to the gills with roleplayers. I’m serious, they are everywhere. I’ve been so used to the RP only happening in a major city and only holding specific events, but you can go most places in the world on Wyrmrest Accord and find people tucked away chatting with eachother.

This has been mostly daunting to me, as one can expect. It’s one thing to wander around Silvermoon City with an RP flag, it’s another thing to actually roleplay. Coming new to a server, new to a faction, new to this race’s lore means you have to hit the ground running when it comes to developing a story for yourself. I made sure to note that I was returning to RP so people might go easy on me. I picked a fairly open character concept that allowed for some confusion regarding lore or world events. My warrior is a discharged Shattered Sun Offensive soldier that’s been wiling away the years in Quel’danas and only recently got shuffled back to the mainland. She’s missed a lot about what happened to the Horde, or even her fellow blood elves. She’s got a military lean to her sensibilities and her language, but for the most part, I’m still working out how she moves and acts. The weirdest part of it is just getting used to other people again.

Before our guild went completely social, we actually used to RP a lot. But a lot of us got out of it due to burn out with our particular server’s community of godmodding, creepy or just straight up annoying individuals. RP flags become less and less about finding good hooks and more just to lampoon people with bad writing or erroneous synonyms for eyes. (Because forbid you describe your eyeballs with the proper term. It’s not orbs, they are not hues!) So trying to completely get out of the Stadtler and Waldorf mindset when it comes to roleplayers and actually doing some roleplaying has been a bit of a challenge for me. Do I still screenshot really bad flags for my own private collection? Absolutely. Do I tell people who try to ERP with me or are otherwise gross in /say to tone it down? You betcha. (Because that shit is creepy, okay) Getting into character and not breaking constantly just because someone has bad punctuation or wants to tell me their life story immediately at the bar is tricky, but I’m really trying hard. Meeting a group of friends who absolutely take this a lot more seriously than I do has helped some with rolling with the punches and sticking to my blood elf’s story. It’s fairly essential to the experience that you at least take it a bit seriously, which in turn is why I think some role-players get so defensive of their craft, even when it’s not fair to other people. They spent a ton of time writing that terrible profile that makes them the children of Arthas and Illidan and by golly, they still walk around Silvermoon City with a smile on their face.

So you could say that playing a fictional character in a video game has given me some insights into how to properly interact with other real people better. Sometimes you’re not going to be surrounded by people who agree with you and you have to roll with it.

That being said, the particular intricacies of social interaction in WoW outside of my guild is still daunting to me. Being outside my little safe space of a guild has been a bit more of a shock than I was expecting. I met a pretty nice RP guild the first night I RPed and ICly/OOCly joined the guild immediately. Despite making some fast friends, I still had to contend with was, for all intents and purposes, a guild full of people who are not really as invested in minding what they say. Several casual misogynist jokes about hookers, prom queens floated by. I joined voice chat and had to contend with homophobic/ableist slurs. This is how the other half lives. It made me uncomfortable to the point where I talked to one of the officers and while they did enact a more stringent language policy at their latest guild meeting, I still had to leave. It felt so weird – are my values such a sticking point that I have to walk away from an RP guild that my vacation RP alt is sitting in? And with a lot of debate with myself, that answer is yes. It sucks but despite meeting people I genuinely liked and wanted to create stories with, I had to not be in a guild with the rest of the people there. But overall, it was more fair for me to leave than expect an entire guild to bend to my standards. I bucked up, talked with the officer who had recruited me and went looking for another guild. I’m in a new guild now and while they are not RP per se, they have language policies that a lot more in line with mine. It means that I can relax and not feel weird or awkward. It just makes me a tiny bit chagrined that I carry a concern so large like this that it informs all of my choices no matter where I go – it seems despite rolling an alt to “escape” and do something different means that I still miss how things are back “home” a lot.

This experience so far has been fun but seemingly like anything else I do and relate to this blog, it always seem to come with a lesson attached. I still have a long ways to go with learning how to be a bit more understanding of other’s time spent in-game, but definitely see why I don’t always mesh well with other WoW players. However, it is good to always take them as well as myself seriously. Both are worthy of respect, after all.

Leveling as a Mage – Levels 21-30

Leichi casts Arcane Blast in Stranglethorn Vale.

This part of the leveling experience starts to dissolve into a series of choices. Do you want to level via quests? What zone? Do you want to do dungeons straight to 60? The same goes for what kinds of things you are doing as a mage. You are learning about not just the basics, but filling out what will be the heart of your rotation at this point.

Spells

You get five spells from levels 21-30 and a lot of their usefulness to you depends on what spec you decide on playing. This is also the point where you gain enough spells to start the basics of a rotation for every spec. At level 22, you gain Ice Lance. This is a low-mana instant cast frost spell, so you can cast it on the move. This spell becomes a lot more powerful/useful for frost mages at level 24, when all mages gain another set of speciality-based spells or effects.

This is what the Fingers of Frost proc looks like. Its second charge appears on the right.

This is what the Fingers of Frost proc looks like. Its second charge appears on the right.

Frost mages get Fingers of Frost, which is a proc off some of your spells (Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt, Frost Orb, Blizzard or Scorch) that lets you use Deep Freeze (which you will get later) or Ice Lance as if it were frozen. Ice Lance does extra damage because of this. Fingers of Frost can also go up to 2 charges.

This is what two charges of Arcane Missiles looks like.

This is what two charges of Arcane Missiles looks like.

 Arcane mages get Arcane Missiles. Arcane Missiles have a chance to proc off any damaging spell you cast and can go up to 2 charges. It costs no mana and does more damage depending on how many Arcane Charges you currently have. They are a channeled spell, as well.

Heating Up and then Pyroblast! proc on right.

Heating Up and then Pyroblast! proc on right.

Finally, fire mages get a spell called Inferno Blast. This spell replaces Fire Blast for mages and does a couple of different things:

  • It has a 100% to crit.
  • Because of this, you should be using it to force your Heating Up proc (one crit) to become “Pyroblast!” (two consecutive crits also known as an instant no-mana Pyroblast)
  • It spreads all your DoTs to two other targets in 10 yards of the one you are currently targeting – Combustion, Living Bomb, Pyroblast, and Ignite.
  • It explodes all other “bomb” effects – Nether Tempest and Frost Bomb (which are talents you can choose later.)

 

Level 26 is Ice Block. This is a very important defensive ability – Ice Block is classed as an immunity, which is why it is so powerful. It doesn’t absorb damage, but it keeps you from being harmed by it. This means that you can use it for things like saving yourself from falling damage ([Going Down] is a breeze!) and keeping yourself alive during a high damage fight in case a healer dies or you are somewhere you shouldn’t be. It can also be used in a pinch to keep an aggroed mob off of you (if Invisibility is on cooldown) or even to break a fear. However, if you want to do fancy things like that, you have to be able to pop it on and off quickly. Make sure to have this keybound somewhere easy to reach. What this is does is a) allow you to break your cast to pop your Ice Block,  meaning you can have a nice hair-trigger cooldown at use  and b) tapping your Ice Block macro button a second time cancels the spells so you can use it for part of its duration instead of full. It gives you a lot more control over your block and the situation at hand.

Wrapping up spells at level 28 and 29 are Cone of Cold and Remove Curse. Remove Curse is still an important cleanse spell that mages should learn how to use to save healer’s mana as well as yourself. If you do not use an add-on to handle it (like Decursive) here is a quick mouseover macro that allows you to simply mouse-over and hit your hotkey:

/use [@mouseover,help][@target,help][@player]Remove Curse

What this does is: cleanse your mouseover, and if you aren’t moused over anyone, will cleanse a target if you have one, and failing either of those, cleanse yourself of a curse. Getting good at this will make you indispensable in raids and PVP. At this point, most specs now have a skeleton of a rotation, as well as utility. You have your primary nuke (Arcane Blast, Fireball, Frostbolt), secondary spells (Arcane Missiles, Frostfire Bolt, Pyroblast), and instant-cast fillers (Arcane Barrage, Inferno Blast, Ice Lance). You also have a couple AOE spells (Arcane Explosion, Blizzard) and a couple of utility spells and defensive cooldowns. This is the beginning of your actual life as a DPSer. Your basic rotations should look like:

  • Arcane – Arcane Blast, use Arcane Missile procs for mana regen and to complete your stack of Arcane Charges, clear your charges with Arcane Barrage when full (or to AOE). Arcane Explosion if you have lots of low health mobs. Use tier 1 movement talents or Fire Blast when on the move.
  • Fire – Fireball is your main spell, if you get a Heating Up proc, use Inferno Blast to force a Pyroblast proc. Use Pyroblast with procs. Use movement talent (preferred is Scorch) when on the go.
  • Frost – Use Frostbolt as your nuke, and cast Ice Lance on Fingers of Frost procs. Use your movement talent and Ice Lance when moving.

Talents

Tier 2 talents: Temporal Shield, Blazing Speed, and Ice Barrier

Level 30 gives us another talent choice and this tier is the “Survival Tier.”

  • Temporal Shield – This is a shield that you can cast at any time (even while stunned, etc) and lasts for 4 seconds. Anything damage gets healed back over 6 seconds after the shield effect fades. This is a good talent for when you know you will be taking a large amount of damage at a particular time.
  • Blazing Speed – After taking a melee or spell hit, you can use this spell and give yourself a huge speed boost (preferably away from your attacker) and negate any slowing effects on you as well.
  • Ice Barrier – I took this because at low-levels, this is a very beefy damage reduction shield. It’s not very complex but I don’t need complexity. It lasts for a 1 minute if damage does not break it. Very simple and effective.

Glyphs (New!)

At level 25, you gain your first of three major and minor glyph slots. The idea between each kind of glyph slot is that they focus on giving certain kinds of spells a little extra usefulness or flavor.  Major Glyphs tend to play around with a lot of secondary spells or cooldowns, giving you a little more width of choice here depending on what kind of play you want to do. Lastly, Minor Glyphs are strictly for fun/flavor or adding bonuses to quality of life spells. There’s not many of them, so it makes choosing them a lot more for “fun.”

What should you be picking for your first glyphs? It is difficult at level 25 since many of the abilities you would be augmenting with a glyph aren’t available to you yet. For sheer usefulness, I picked Glyph of Evocation as my first glyph, so that when I got Evocation, I could use it as a healing cooldown. It is also part of Arcane’s rotation later on. As a fun minor glyph, I picked Glyph of Illusion. To use a glyph, click on the item in your bags. Then press “N” to open up your talents and glyphs panel (if you have not re-bound it, otherwise use the panel on your UI), and apply the glyph from your list to the circle slots.

Note: I am aware that glyphs, even ones for basic abilities, can be very expensive on some servers. As you are leveling, it is not as big of deal as it might seem if you don’t have glyphs right away. If you are short on cash, perhaps buy or gather some herbs and parchment and find a helpful guildie or person on your server to make it for you. Otherwise, you can wait until later to try and buy the glyphs you need. Don’t fret if you don’t have the big money in-game just quite yet. Save it for things like a mount!

Leichi picks out some new gear.

I want this one!

Gear

Gear, especially from dungeons and their requisite quests are plentiful now. Slots you won’t really see gear for  yet is most head pieces or trinkets. If you are an alt with heirlooms, this is largely meaningless to you! Snagging a cheap Mage deck off the auction house will net you Darkmoon Necklace from the quest. Amulet of the Moon isn’t amazing but it is cheap to make if you are a Jewelcrafter or have a JCer friend and it has INT on it.  Reinforced Woolen Shoulders are good for low-level tailors, but if you are doing dungeons, decent shoulders don’t really show up until 30 or so outside of drops. Also absent are hats, rings and definitely trinkets.

Always prioritize for intellect if you can. If you get some gear that has spirit on it, don’t fret. While spirit does zippo for mages, if it also has intellect on it, it is an upgrade. As more gear becomes diversified for healers versus casters, it’ll be considered better if you let healers in your group roll over you on spirit items, but for now, anything that has more intellect should be something you pick. Intellect/stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste are rarer at this level, even if you do dungeons. However, due to Blizzard re-itemizing a lot of  lower-level gear you should be seeing more gear with hit and crit. Now that you are actually receiving gear that may have those stats on it, why don’t we talk about why they are good for you.

Character sheet, looking at hit percentages.

Hit is easily the second stat behind Intellect, especially at later levels when you will be constantly fighting mobs that are higher level than you in dungeons. What hit does is determine how much you will miss hitting a mob with spells. The way this stat works, is that it scales down depending on the difference between  you and the mobs level. If you look at your character sheet, you will notice things like this: A baddie that is 3 levels higher than you or is “boss level” will require a lot more hit on your gear to cast spells at them reliably. I’m sure you’ve seen a spell miss before – if you run a combat text add-on or use the in-game scrolling combat text, you’ll sometimes see “MISS!” next to the spell icon. That means that math that goes on behind the scenes determined that your spell didn’t actually hit the mob in that encounter. Hit is not as crucial now if you’re questing or doing level-appropriate dungeons/PVP, as most of those mobs will be within 3 levels of you. But any little bit of hit you get on your gear is good and will continue to become more important as you get higher in levels. Crit (rating) is a little more important or less important depending on what spec you choose but for right now, all specs consider it a good thing to have.

Crit increases your chance that you will have a critical strike with your spells. If your spell hits for 300 damage baseline, a crit is that same spell hitting for some portion of its damage over what it already hits for. So you might crit for 700 on an enemy. Intellect already provides a boost to your crit, but straight critical rating on your gear also does as well. Remember that all these things are explained if you mouseover a stat on  your character sheet, take a look there sometime. Just remember to look under “General” “Attributes” or “Spell” like in the graphic, Ranged/Melee is for other classes that do Ranged attacks (with their weapons) or melee attacks. “Resistances” isn’t really important right now.

Helpful Tips:

  1. At level 30, you can pay for the ability to get a second specialization. This allows you to flip between two different specializations on your talents page. Doing this cannot be done in combat! Each spec gets its own set of talents, glyphs and spells.
  2. Glyphs only need to be learned once. You can swap talents as many times as needed. You do need Vanishing Powder to swap them, however.

Leichi hits level 30.

Leveling as a Mage – Levels 11-20

Leichi and her monk friend run across the Barrens.

It’s really unusual that, even without heirlooms, I can break 100 DPS no sweat. Back in my day, 300 DPS at level 60 was “doing really well.” Now that we’re actually starting to get into the meat of leveling, I figured that I ought to break up the guides into sections for ease-of-use. Hopefully you’ll find this a bit more useful if you just need help with one specific part of leveling in each block.

Spells

11 through 20 gives you another block of very important utility and resource skills that as a mage; spells you should become accustomed to using. At level 12, you get your second specialization-only spell (Arcane Barrage/Fireball/Frostbolt). Fireball and Frostbolt are your main “nuke” spells in that they are what you will be casting a good majority of the time. They are a decent chunk of your damage.

Arcane Barrage however is slightly different. Arcane Blast is the main nuke for Arcane spec, and Barrage is our secondary – how it works is that it clears all your current Arcane Charges, but each charge you have when you cast it increases the damage it does, as well as hit the same number of mobs in a small radius. So, for example, if you use Barrage when you have 4 charges, it will hit 4 targets around whatever you are casting at currently (if there are that many mobs) for 50 percent of the damage your Barrage hit for. It’s a very nice brainless way to do AOE damage at early levels.

Polymorph is level 14 and is your first real crowd control. While Polymorph does tend to vanish at the drop of a hat if someone even so much as LOOKS at your sheep, it is considered one of the more prized crowd control abilities in that is it easily renewable and has no cooldown. A good mage will master the art of keeping a focus target sheeped and being able to polymorph on the fly and I will give you a great macro for how to do that:

#showtooltip 
/stopcasting
/clearfocus [mod:shift]
/focus [@focus,noexists]
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Polymorph

This macro does a couple of things right off the bat – first, it stops your cast (meaning you can sheep on the fly if need be), secondly, it sets a focus if one does not exist already, and it casts Polymorph. It is going to set whatever you’re targeting and sheeping as your focus, so keep in mind that if you need to swap your focus/sheep target, you press the macro while holding down your modifier key (in this case is SHIFT). If you want to change your modifier key (to say, ALT or CTRL), you merely change the [mod:shift] part.  I also like to use my macro as a nice “set a focus” button as if you are out of range or a mob cannot be sheeped, it will just simply focus the mob you are targeting, provided it is a harmful entity. If you want to eventually use other spells besides just the flat Polymorph spell (like Polymorph: Black Cat, Polymorph: Pig), you can simply change the last line to something like this:

/castrandom [@focus,exists,harm] Polymorph, Polymorph(Rabbit), Polymorph(Black Cat)

The only problem you might run into is if you have other spells that work on a focus – such as Counterspell (like in our last guide). What I’ve done is used modifers in all my macros for those spells so in the fairly rare case I need to counterspell a non-focused target, while having a focus target polymorphed, I can shift-Counterspell the non-focus target and still keep my focus target sheeped. Glyphing Polymorph lets you turn your boring old sheep into a penguin or monkey as well, or allows polymorph to remove damage-over-time spells on a mob (a must for dungeons.)

Level 16 isn’t a spell but rather a passive effect called Shatter. Shatter used to be a talent as part of the Frost talent tree but instead is now something all mages get by default. What it does is double the critical strike chance of all your spells against frozen targets. Now, what freezes targets? Frost Nova, Deep Freeze (basically any spells that root with an icy graphic) do this. This means even if you aren’t specifically a Frost Mage, Frost Nova is a useful utility for the root as well as the damage, especially if you are out questing by yourself. However, rooting mobs while doing a dungeon might not endear you well to tanks.

One of the key perks of being a mage comes at level 17: Teleport. This is a slide-out panel spell icon (see screenshot) that you can stick on your bars and clicking on it allows you to access every teleport spell you have learned. All mages get one “free” teleport to their home city (my pandaren mage got Orgrimmar) and to learn the rest of the cities for your faction, you will need to visit a Portal Trainer in any of the capital cities. You will learn at least one teleport spell per expansion, so keep visiting periodically to get new ones.

Finally at level 18, you learn Arcane Explosion. This is one of the only AOE spells you have this early. For Arcane mages, it has the additional benefit of generating Arcane Charges, meaning AOEing doesn’t damage your DPS as much. However, much like Frost Nova, this spell requires you to be in melee range of mobs to use it effectively. This can be particularly dangerous, so use with caution. Also, jumping while using this spell increases its damage.**

Talents

Blizzard revamped their talent system heavily – instead of there being clear “talent builds” that required many talent points and had a lot of bloat, there is now a very elegant 6 talent system. You are given 3 talents per “tier” and can only choose one of them. However, using reagents, you can swap them on the fly if you want. This means that as you change activities, say like dungeons or battlegrounds, you can swap talents around that fit your playstyle best. Your first talent choice comes at level 15, so let’s look at the “Casting while Moving” tier:

tier-1-talents

  • Presence of Mind - I chose this because I used to use it as a cooldown when I played Arcane in Firelands. I use it for my second-to-last Arcane Blast stack to build up my charges, or to cast Arcane Blast on the run.
  • Scorch - This is a short cast-time fire spell that can be used while moving. It is really good for activity that requires a lot of movement since you can keep Scorching as long as you want.
  • Ice Floes - This has similar feel to the other two talents. It allows you to cast it and then cast any two spells that have less than 4 second cast-time be cast on the move. You can use it even when you’re already casting something so this means you can use it whenever you want, especially if you weren’t expecting to have to move.

None of these are “tied” to a spec, like any of the other talents, and should be chosen for what works best. Experiment!

Leichi picks out some new gear.

I want this one!

Gear

Obviously this early on, gear will basically be whatever you pick up questing, in dungeons or off mobs. Always prioritize for intellect if you can. If you get some gear that has spirit on it, don’t fret. While spirit does nothing for mages, if it also has intellect on it, it is an upgrade. As more gear becomes diversified for healers versus casters, it’ll be considered better if you let healers in your group roll over you on spirit items, but for now, anything that has more intellect should be something you pick. Intellect and stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste, crit or hit is very rare at this level, even if you do dungeons. Slots you won’t really see gear for  yet is shoulders (besides some white or grey ones), necklaces, head pieces, or trinkets. If you are an alt with heirlooms, this is largely meaningless to you!

At level 20, you get a class quest (Horde/Alliance) that takes you to Shadowfang Keep and gets you an awesome staff. Do this if you can!

Helpful Tips:

  1. If you want to swap any of your talents, make sure you have Vanishing Powder (this will change at later levels.) You can buy Vanishing Powder from most reagent vendors!
  2. At level 15, you can now use the Looking for Group tool to queue up for a specific or random dungeon that is appropriate for your level.
  3. Past level 15, your accelerated mana and health regeneration is turned off, so you will have to start paying attention to your HP and mana pool!

Leichi drives through Orgrimmar on her goblin trike.

**Arcane explosion used to do damage to any mobs in the radius of the spell but would “drift” if the mage moved locations rapidly, hence jumping would increase the range your Arcane Explosion would hit in. They fixed this a long time ago, but it is still fun to jump.

Some Improvements for Playing with Portals

Apple Cider asks a portal trainer about portals.

Come on, how the heck do I get to Shrine of Seven Stars?

When I was writing another installment of my mage leveling guide today, I noticed something I had come across the night prior on my new level 20 mage – mages now get all their relevant city teleports at level 17. At the time, I didn’t realize this though. The system for mages of all levels to learn relevant teleport and portal spells is still very unintuitive. I believe that there is a reason why it happened and I hope to suggest some things to fix this, however.

With Patch 5.0, Blizzard significantly revamped the leveling and talent system so that when anyone is leveling up, they no longer have to visit a trainer to acquire new spells. This is great; it means you’re not constantly running back to a city and tracking down a trainer for your next spell. You can just pull it out of your spellbook and stick it on your bars. Mages had it slightly easier as we could, after a while, just teleport to our trainers. Everyone else was fucked though.

At level 17, all mages learn the base Teleport spell as well as the Portal spell at level 42. These two spells were designed recently to be icons that are a fly-out menu of every Teleport/Portal spell you have learned, making it easier for mages to pick an appropriate spell and keep your UI uncluttered. When you gain Teleport/Portal, you are given one free “out in the wild” teleport or portal spell to your “home” city (based on race). While leveling my Pandaren, I noticed she was given Orgrimmar. I figured I’d get other teleport spells at a later time. When checking the spells list on Wowhead, I noticed that every single city is listed as being learned at level 17. In order to learn all the cities available to you prior to level 60, you have to visit a Portal trainer.

This becomes somewhat of a problem to newer players (or even veteran players like myself) because it is not indicated anywhere that you can learn all the appropriate cities at level 17, or that to do so, you have to visit a Portal trainer.  Also, what city you learn for free is based on your race, so if you’re a Draenei, for instance, your free teleport is Exodar. This is great if you are still questing in that area, but most players I know skedaddle to Eastern Kingdoms by that point. Most cities are slightly more well-connected now but giving a mage a teleport spell to a city that isn’t central to their activities with no indication of where to get the other cities from isn’t very helpful. Sure, I eventually figured it out with the help of Wowhead, but what about someone who is new? Portal trainers aren’t listed on a guard’s gossip option, nor are they even standardized in terms of location when a mage teleports in.

This isn’t even limited to low-level mages either – it’s not immediately evident where to get new portals as you change expansions. I hit level 90 on my mage and it took me a while to find Larimaine here in Stormwind to learn my portal to Shrine of the Seven Stars. There’s no portal trainer in the faction capitals in Pandaria (despite having a portal room), unlike in Shattrath or Dalaran.

I believe that several things that could be changed if we want make this system better for everyone involved:

  1. Indicate in both the level ding pop-up and a mage’s spell book (similar to Riding skills) that there are additional teleport/portal spells available from a Portal Trainer.
  2. Standardize portal trainers in ALL cities, in similar locations. Some are near the Blasted Lands portal, some aren’t. Some are near portals to Stormwind/Orgrimmar in later content, some aren’t.
  3. Standardize a faction teleport – this directs all players to the faction capital. Make that portal trainer prominently standing when a mage teleports there to learn the other spells.
  4. Use a pop-up quest or tip to “teach” players where to go or who to talk to. Similar to the Dalaran quest about how to use the teleport stone at level 72, this might be an alternative method to teach newbies as to where to go.
  5. Give guards a gossip option for where a portal trainer in cities is located.

Hopefully if Blizzard makes some of these changes, it could lead to some nice quality of life changes for my fellow mages who are learning the teleportation arts. For any other issues with portals, please consult our handbook.

Edit: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/1012760/

I posted a version of this up in the Mage forums (for lack of a better place) so if you want to go discuss there or gives a thumbs up!

 

 

Leveling as a Mage – Levels 1-10

A pandaren lady mage stands under a canopy of leaves.

Meet my mage, Leichi!

You created a mage! Congratulations! What do you do now?

Starting a mage from scratch, especially when you may have not played a caster before, can be a little confusing. Hopefully this series of guides will help you understand mages a little better as you are leveling them. It is pretty fast work these days to get a character to 90, so I don’t need to tell you necessarily where to go, but giving you some pointers on talents and spell choices, plus some mage tips might turn you into better “career” mages and make the leveling experience more fun.

When I roll a new character, what I like to do before literally anything else is make sure my bars are set up. Put any guild perks (if you are in a guild) or racial skills (like Will of the Forsaken or Every Man for Himself) on your bars. I’ll talk about keybinding a little later but for right now, put these out on your bars or hidden somewhere if you use them regularly.

Blizzard’s done a really good job of trying to prepare mages early on with learning the sights and sounds of their class – this includes giving you a mixture of spells to use early on.  Your very first spell at level 1 is Frostfire Bolt. This is a really interesting choice as that spell is only used by frost mages later on in the leveling. But is nice for practicing using a primary “nuke” (longer cast filler spell that will be your bread and butter) and it comes with a slow built in, which is nice.

Having the choice of keeping a mob crawling along after me makes it easier to keep them away. I can also pull more than one mob at a time if I don’t feel I’m going to get overrun. A really good set of skills to start practicing now, little mages, is how to cast while just barely facing a mob. It is an essential ingredient of kiting later on. You turn yourself sideways, just enough that you still have facing on whatever you are targeting and can shoot a spell. Then continue running, using instant cast spells (like Fire Blast at level 5) and Frostbolt again when you’re a safe distance. Immediately after getting starting, you get Frost Nova (level 3).  Your first snare! Huzzah. This makes kiting easier and will also help with AOE-mob-grinding at higher levels if you choose to go frost.

At very low levels, you are just a glorified bag of meat that shoots magic out of your hands occasionally. I didn’t die too many times while starting out, but the possibility of being overwhelmed by more than one mob when you’re questing will ultimately kill you. This is why having a snare and a slow right away is useful. But it all changes at level 7 when you get your first utility spell:  Blink. This is easily your best way to escape a bad situation. Pull too many mobs? Frost Nova them and Blink away to safety!  It can also be used to save you from an accidental fall if you choose to use it right before you make a mage-shaped crater into the ground.

The first ten levels gets rounded off by Counterspell at 8. This interrupts spellcasts from monsters or other players. This is such a marked difference over leveling back in vanilla. You had no way to interrupt caster mobs (which there were many) early on in the game.  You just had to hope you could survive. Giving casters tools like snares and interrupts this early makes the game a lot more fun.

Learning how to interrupt on a dime is crucial! Sometimes you will have to stop DPS immediately and interrupt something in dungeons and raids. It does lower your DPS if you have a tendency to “hammer” an interrupt like I do, but hopefully you’ll get used to it and have it as a reflex. Mages who can successfully interrupt make more money, lead better lives and have more friends (maybe.)

This macro allows you to Counterspell a mob even if you have something focused, or only Counterspell your focus target. This is handy when you can Polymorph:

#showtooltip
/stopcasting
/cast [@target,mod:alt] Counterspell
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Counterspell; Counterspell

When you hit level 10, you gain the ability to pick a “specialization.” This is basically what kind of mage you will be – you have access now to spells only your kind of mage can use. I picked Arcane Specialization. You can go to the specialization page (default to access this is “N”) and see what spells you will be learning or what will be changing:

Specialization panel in game.

I immediately learned Arcane Blast; fire mages will be learning Pyroblast, and frost mages can summon their Water Elemental pet.  For fire mages specifically, your Fire Blast is now a spell called Inferno Blast and you learn it at level 24.

Helpful Tips:

  1. If you are unsure about what your spells are used for, check your “Core Abilities” tab in your spellbook, they give advice on when to use a spell.
  2. Spells are now instantly learned, so when you hit a new level, just open up your spellbook and drag it onto your bars.
  3. If you don’t like your Specialization, you can change it at any time with a mage trainer.
  4. Mages have changed a little bit since Mists of Pandaria – we can now use wands as main-hands, some talents have become specialization spells, and Arcane specialization uses “charges” now as a resource.
  5. Don’t get frustrated if you die a lot in the beginning, trying new things is what makes you better!
  6. At level 10, you can now queue for battlegrounds.

Leichi cheers at dinging level 10.

A Home Away From Home Of My Own

Saci rides her felsteed across the moors of Gilneas

I think one of the driving forces behind my out-of-control alt “issue” (I can quit any time I want, okay?) is that I use alts as solutions to problems I have. (“Problems” is kind of a mis-label, I think of them more as “ideas.” However, it is still true.) If there’s something I am thinking of doing or working on, it usually comes down to “roll another alt.” Do I have an obsession with a race/class combo? Roll an alt. Did I forget how to play a spec on an 85? Roll an alt. This little habit of mine probably started around the time I wanted to do Insane; needing alts for very specific tasks like being a scribe or being able to pick lockboxes was pretty crucial. However, all of these things are intensely practical as far as playing World of Warcraft goes.

What if the need for a new alt (in the face of a looming expansion a month away, no less) is less of a  functional one and more personal?

It is no secret that I feel very strongly about my guild. It has become, over the course of this expansion, not just a resting place for me post-progression raiding but a safe haven for folk of all stripes. We have come very close together and we’re getting new people every day. I’m a proud guild leader who sees the number of people online every night going up. I have guildmates pulling me aside to tell me how for the first time they feel “accepted” and “comfortable.” This is really important to me. I like being at the helm. However, sometimes, even a guild leader wants to slip off and be a peon for a while. There’s more friends out there than just within the borders of my guild. Having a place I can jet off to during the day when barely anyone is on to fill up guild chat, or when I’m feeling stressed out is pretty important. Plus, it is a way to extend my time to others without them needing to join my guild. Because mine isn’t the only one that is valuable or important.

That being said, it’s been hard. I’ve rolled alts on other servers before but they’ve never really “stuck.” I even have level 85s in other places now but I don’t play them that often. It’s hard to tear myself away from my “kids” enough to enjoy myself somewhere else. There’s also the larger concern: will other guilds uphold the same values I do? I’ve spoken about this before, that the driving force behind my guild is to treat people with respect. This means in word and deed. Treat people for the equals they are. Do right by them. A lot of guilds don’t quite live up to this in my eyes, in either large or subtle ways. So how am I supposed to pal around and hang out in some other person’s house that doesn’t treat me the way I wish to be treated? It’s harder when you’re not the one running things to speak up, to effect change. It’s someone else’s living room, don’t shit on the rug.

It had been something that had been percolating away in the back of my brain for a while when I asked Snack from <Waypoint> if I could join his guild on an alt to “hang out and talk.” Him and I share a lot of similar interests and opinions on things and I consider him a mentor when it comes to running a guild. He’s been wildly supportive of my efforts to be a good GM so far and always lets me bend his ear with whatever concerns I have. You might say we’re friends. I also have quite a few Twitter buddies that hang out in Waypoint that I enjoy being around, so it naturally seemed like a good place to stick yet another alt. I’d have my little place to noodle around when my own guild was dead or when I felt like getting away. I definitely was not expecting to find a guild that reminded me so much of my own, so full of warmth and laughter and respect.

I wasn’t also not expecting to roll a warlock.

Let me tell you, it feels like I’m in some sort of bizarre universe skin. I’m tall and gorgeous and I love spending money on outfits and and and and…

I’m a warlock.

Let those words sink in for a minute. I have a level 75 warlock but she’s never really been mine. She’s been rerolled 3 times and is a glorified scribe machine. This time around? I’m only 48 and I’ve sunk money into beautiful transmog outfits, made mage jokes and thrown myself off high places to resurrect myself from a soul stone. In short, I’m actually enjoying myself. The irony of this is that the class is going to change wildly in a few short weeks, but I don’t care. I’m around a fairly expansive “coven” of warlocks in Waypoint and feel pretty good about myself. Sure, most of this involves picking on Cynwise mercilessly when he’s playing his mage, but I ain’t complaining. It is fun learning another caster and despite the intrinsic loathing I feel for being all “YAY GREEN FIRE,” warlocks are actually quite cool.

The point of all this is that sometimes change can be good, even if just to inject a slightly different perspective of fun to the fun you were already having.

It’s so unbelievable to me to not only find another guild that could be a “sister” to the guild I belong to in both personality and spirit, but that I’m getting to know the warlock class intimately and not feeling bored. Stuff like this is not only valuable in and of itself but it makes me value what I have on my home server so much more. I feel like this is merely a new extension of myself in which to express not only my story vampires but my personality to a whole other group of people I care about. And it is really easy to care about people in Waypoint much like Northrend Commonwealth. They are a laid-back but friendly group of players that like to make terrible puns, have fun while raiding and while maybe slightly less enthusiastic about poop or radical feminism, they share the same core of love and respect I’m used to. I like staying up late sometimes and hashing out more serious feelings about leadership, celebrity or pride with some of my Waypoint friends (like Dee, Zable or Lizzy), or pootling around in the afternoon with Catulla and talking about lady business. All of these things adds to the already pleasurable social experience I have with my guild. I want to say things like RealID and Twitter made this happen but the undercurrent of that is that social media has to be populated with people you want to socialize with in order to be productive. So finding more of my “own kind” to talk to, raid with and generally explore Azeroth with has opened my eyes to the real possibilities.

My only concern (if you could even call it that) is that people might read this and feel that I’m handing out an advertisement for particular people or guilds. I’m not pulling back the curtain, so to speak, to shine a spotlight on Waypoint in particular. I think that while the folk in-guild are wonderful and amazing people, I think the real “magic” of this experience comes from this intrinsic and valuable idea that guilds, and by that point, social interactions in this game, should function based on treating people right. I’ve always believed this and this is why when I find another guild that believes in it as strongly as I do, it feels like “coming home again.” There’s no formula or steps you can follow to really replicate caring, concern and valuing people inside your guild other than believing it and acting on it. If you do this, the people that value this as well will find you. I know this is definitely how I found Waypoint as a space to stick a vacation alt.

All in all, there is yet another place that I feel comfortable being myself in (even if that “self” is a warlock right now) and that is a good feeling indeed.

 

 

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 70 to 80

Misandry frostbolts a vengeful spirit in Howling Fjord. Levels 1-10
Levels 11-20
Levels 20-30
Levels 30-40
Levels 40-50
Levels 50-60
Levels 60-70

Northrend, land of eternal aurora borealis, long quest chains and brown quest gear. You’re getting really close to the finish line, you have just this last chunk togo before you hit Cataclysm content. Too bad this will feel like the longest 10 levels of your entire mage career. Maybe it is because Misandry will be my 6th 85.

Spells

Like I said in the 60-70 most of your spells have been learned by this point and between now and 85, you will be getting a couple additional high-level spells. Any other spells you get will be for travel only. At level 71 you can pick up the quest Attunement to Dalaran (Alliance/Horde) and complete it for Teleport: Dalaran. In this vein, you learn Portal: Dalaran at level 74. Mages being the superior class was a lot more evident in Wrath, when we were the only ones with access to our class trainer (as well as portal trainer) in Dalaran as well as access to the city before anyone else could get there.

Ritual of Refreshment comes in at level 76, which means you are now the party caterer. This spell takes Arcane Powder, so make sure to pick some up at the reagent vendor, along with your portal and teleport runes. You kids don’t know how easy you have it – back in my day we had to conjure all our edibles by hand for raids and parties. And they didn’t even conjure at stacks of 20! They only stacked to 5! Imagine emptying out your bags before a raid making a stacks upon stacks of cinnamon buns.

Finally rounding out the level block is Invisibility and Mastery. Invisibility is a 3 second “wind-down” spell that reduces your aggro and then finally drops you out of combat when you pop out of this phase of reality. You remain invisible for 20 seconds to enemy mobs and players, giving you the ability to move around (while still seeing them). This spell has several uses: you can use it as a temporary aggro drop, even if you don’t go invisible, you can go invisible to get around extra mobs or stealth past players, and you can use it to get out of a dangerous combat situation if you feel overwhelmed or there is an impending wipe. Damage doesn’t break the aggro reduction or the backwards cooldown (it used to) but certain boss debuffs and AOE damage can still “pop” you out of being invisible. Also any mobs that can see through Stealth will also be able to see you while Invisible. Use this spell often around tanks that aren’t holding aggro off you well or if you want to solo dungeons. I feel like mages get this spell way too late in the game, but given how powerful it is with regards to aggro and stealth, I can see why. Mastery is a spell you get, but it is a passive – it grants you the Mastery stat as well as benefit from Mastery on gear. Mastery is the stat that is talent spec-specific and grants you additional benefits to the spells you cast. However, whether or not mastery is useful for your spec varies. For a longer discussion, see the “Gear” portion of this guide.

Talents

The end is almost in sight, especially for your talent points. All specs at this point will be concluding most of their major point spends in their main talent tree and can begin branching off into the talent points in the other two specs.  Keep in mind that your specs will change slightly when you hit 85.

For frost, you are going to skip putting points in Frostfire Orb for now (as you do not get Flame Orb until level 81) and put your requisite 5 points for this level bracket into Master of Elements and Burning Soul in the fire tree. Master of Elements is a secondary source of mana regen for frost mages (primary being Replenishment from Enduring Winter); it synergizes very well with Frost’s natural crit. Burning Soul gives additional pushback resistance, meaning your casts aren’t slowed as much when taking any damage.  (0/5/31)

Fire is going to go back and pick up some needed talents for the end-game with four of the points you have: Pyromaniac and Cauterize. I didn’t suggest Cauterize earlier because it is a tricky talent for newer mages to get around. What Cauterize does is that if something would have outright killed you (a boss mechanic or just an accident), it saves you, but at the expense of burning you with fire damage. The fire damage can be mitigated with Mage Ward or Ice Block-ed off completely, but if you do not do either of these things, you will watch your small amount of health tick right away and you’ll die again. Pyromaniac is a straight forward talent that gives you a haste boost if your DoTs are ticking on more than 3 targets. This indicates DoTs spread to mobs via Impact rather than hard-casting Living Bomb on 3 targets. Last talent point will go into Piercing Ice in the frost tree, a flat crit boost for your spells. (0/35/1)

Arcane (33/3/0) will be filling out Torment the Weak and then picking up the beginning of some talents in the Fire tree, much like Frost: 2 points into Master of Elements and 1 point into Burning Soul.

Glyphs

If you were paying attention to the links I posted for talents, you’d notice that I included what glyph choices you should be making now that you unlocked an extra set of glyphs at level 75. As always, my patterns for picking out glyphs for your Prime, Major and Minor slots tend to work thusly – Prime glyph should now boost your third-most powerful spell, Major should enhance your third-most useful utility or damage spell, and Minor should be for fun or extra usefulness.

Prime

  • Glyph of Deep Freeze (Frost) – Additional damage for your Deep Freeze spell. A must.
  • Glyph of Living Bomb (Fire) – Additional damage for your Living Bomb spell, now that you have it. Very crucial.
  • Glyph of Mage Armor (Arcane) – This causes your mage armor to regen more mana. This is a large part of your DPS as Arcane.

Major

  • Glyph of Polymorph or Blink (Frost) – Good glyphs for dungeons. Polymorph is a lot more useful if you are not going to raid.
  • Glyph of Blink (Fire) – Good for dungeons or raiding.
  • Glyph of Arcane Power – Reducing the GCD on Mirror Image will factor into your ability to blow through cooldowns as arcane.

Minor

  • Glyph of Conjuring (All) – This benefits every spec but mostly Arcane because you’ll be conjuring mana gems on a more frequent basis, sometimes mid-fight. If you don’t have Presence of Mind up to make one instant, that is.
  • You can also glyph for either of the vanity polymorphs or armors if you do a lot of soloing.

Gear

Northrend content isn’t as bad as Burning Crusade when it comes to gear. Long quest chains award you nice blues, and there’s also the chance at rares scattered around the world that drop nice randomized gear as well. Haste and crit come back into the fold, even if a lot of your cloth gear is STILL going to include spirit. Don’t feel ashamed if most of your major upgrades out of BC gear has spirit on it still.

However, when you hit 80, as I mentioned before, you’ll be getting a stat called mastery. This stat is only present on Cataclysm gear. What mastery does is it enhances the passive stat that gives you bonuses specific to your talent tree – hence why you have to “lock” into a talent tree from level 1. Let’s look at what these specific bonuses are:

All of them seem pretty good right and benefit the spec the way it is played. However, Arcane is the only spec that really benefits from mastery to a degree that you should gear for it. Frost benefits largely from crit after you cap your hit, and Fire it is haste. I wonder why this is, to be honest. I suspect at one point, the intent for mastery was that it was a stat you wanted in half-measures on all your gear, but with the predominance of reforging, gemming and min-maxing, there just came the acknowledgement that mastery is going to fall far behind in terms of pure DPS for every spec BUT Arcane. It’s not terrible to have on your gear as Fire or Frost, but gemming or reforging for it is not suggested.

Misandry cheers at hitting level 80.

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 60 to 70

Misandry stands in Zangarmarsh in her clown outfit. Levels 1-10
Levels 11-20
Levels 20-30
Levels 30-40
Levels 40-50
Levels 50-60

I admit that I don’t have a ton of really groovy screenshots from Outlands because, as far as I am concerned, most of the really cool stuff to do in Burning Crusade was the end-game content. I’m impetuous and wanted to hit 70 as fast as possible so I could do the worst bout of leveling content directly after that. I’m a sucker for pain and torture, mea culpa. Look at that clown suit. Look at that. That is quintessential clown suit. Illidan was right, I was not prepared.

Spells

The last bracket of leveling was easily the last time you will get a boatload spells across ten levels. Between 60-85, updates to your spellbook will be a little more sparse. It might be good on your wallet as well as your brain. This means that most of your “core” abilities are locked in place with additional end-game functionality and quality of life spells coming down the pipe. That being said, you get Teleport: Shattrath and Portal: Shattrath at 62 and 66 respectively. Six levels and you get transportation options! Are you quivering with excitement yet? I bet you are. Mage Armor shows up at level 68; this is actually rather crucial for arcane mages. Mage Armor is your armor, for the rest of us it is something we throw on occasionally during downtime for the mana regen or resistances, but arcane mages must use this all the time. Consider it the combustion engine of your DPS bus. Why Blizzard is giving arcane mages this so late is beyond me as I noticed some mana challenges earlier in the game playing as arcane, but I digress. At level 70, you get your last spell for the bracket: Spellsteal. This is an intensely powerful offensive dispel. Blizzard’s knocked the mana costs up over time to keep us from spamming it in PVP, but that’s not stopped any mage who wants to try and put pressure on a resto druid or shaman. Besides PVP, spellsteal comes in handy in PVE as well. Many mobs in dungeons and across the land often cast powerful buffs on themselves that stealing will not only be useful to you, but also help smooth the fight along. You can also just get silly with what can be spellstolen – Shadow Labyrinth anyone? As for macros, here is what I use personally to get the best bang for your buck on Spellsteal:

#showtooltip Spellsteal
/stopcasting
/cast [@target,mod:alt] Spellsteal
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Spellsteal; Spellsteal

What this does is that it allows you to stop your cast to Spellsteal something on the fly (crucial on raid boss fights, see Maloriak) and then cast Spellsteal at either your mouse-over target or your actual target. Having a mouseover function allows people to Spellsteal off of arena frames, raid frames or boss frames available via some user interfaces.

Talents

I blame my newness to the frost spec as the reason why I didn’t tell you guys to take Piercing Chill sooner. At the advice of faithful reader Dave Signal, I recommend this for your spec after you fill in 2 points into Improved Freeze. Piercing Chill is what Frost Mages essentially do to “cleave” – like fire mages and Living Bomb splash/Impact, Piercing Chill applies a chill effect to other targets and gives you more Brain Freeze and Fingers of Frost procs in the process. Last point, after spending the four between Improved Freeze and Piercing Chill, goes into Deep Freeze. This is a very strong part of your DPS as well as overall control. Deep Freeze can only be cast on frozen targets (such as things rooted with Frost Nova) – however, you do remember that Fingers of Frost is your proc that pretends that the target is frozen, yes? This means that you can cast Deep Freeze while FoF is up. It behooves you to cast Deep Freeze on cooldown and having continuous FoF procs helps with this. On targets that can be frozen, it will actually stun them inside of a giant block of ice. On things like bosses, Deep Freeze loses the stun portion and just does extra damage. (0/0/31)

Fire goes in a similar fashion (0/31/0) of filling out talents to get to your 31 point ability – drop your points into Molten Fury and Critical Mass until you get Living Bomb at 69. Now, Living Bomb is one of those iconic spells of the tree, in my opinion. Living Bomb is your only hard-cast DoT as fire, unlike those applied by spells or crits like Pyroblast or Ignite. It caps at 3 targets (unlike the days of LB spam in Icecrown Citadel) but can be nearly infinitely spread outwards if via Impact. Living Bomb ticks do not trigger Hot Streak because it is periodic damage but it is very important to have Living Bomb going on any target that you wish to use Combustion on. In addition to the damage that Living Bomb does on a target when it is ticking, it will also splash fire damage outwards on any targets in range if it reaches the end of its duration and isn’t refreshed. This can be very nice on a boss with adds. If the boss does not have other mobs around it, it is sometimes better DPS to “clip” Living Bomb to keep it rolling with a new application. A very nice Living Bomb macro that can be used in PVP or raiding with arena/boss frames is:

#showtooltip Living Bomb
/cast [@mouseover,harm] Living Bomb;
/cast [@target,harm] Living Bomb;

This means that Living Bomb will cast on whatever harmful target you have your mouse hovering over (say another boss frame) unless you just have something targeted; it will apply there instead.

Arcane has two directions you can go and I tended towards the one that would give you the most bang for your talent point bucks. Since you filled out Nether Vortex last time, you could spend 3 points into Torment the Weak. I went towards dropping one point in TtW, then used the remaining 4 points for Improved Mana Gem (which turns your mana gem as a DPS cooldown), Focus Magic, and then finally your 31-point talent Arcane Power. (31/0/0)

Does this group of talent acquisitions seem a little too much all at once? Here’s a brief explanation about how they all work together:

Arcane Power

The upshot of AP is that it increases your damage by 20 percent, but it comes with a price. It also makes your spells cost a lot more mana, meaning it is a cooldown with a slight penalty and as an arcane mage, this factors into the length of your burn phase. You don’t have to worry about this as much as a level 60 or 70 mage since you have much shorter fights. Just use it like other DPS cooldowns for now.

Focus Magic

Focus Magic is a unique reciprocative mage buff that only Arcane mages get and it definitely pairs nicely with Arcane Tactics in terms of overall buffs you give groups. There’s a lot of math that’s been tossed around about priorities for who you should give FM to (because it will also buff your own DPS), but outside of a raid situation it is sometimes rare that you will even be paired with another caster. I usually stick Focus Magic on a healer in a 5-man dungeon group. If you are in a 10-man setting, Focus Magic typically goes on Fire Mages (need to help our fiery friends out), then boomkins or elemental shaman. Certain warlock specs and shadow priests are also nice too, but not as fundamentally good. The key is to give it to someone who would a) benefit from the crit and in turn b) make sure the crit buff stays up on you most of the fight duration.

Improved Mana Gem

Just imagine this is giving you an extra motivation to use your mana gem! Arcane Mages use theirs all the time, but using one strategically to give you mana as well as a nice little DPS boost is awesome. Treat it like a trinket and drag your mana gem (the item itself, not the conjure spell) onto your action bars for easy use! Getting into good habits this early in your mage career will make you better when you hit 85.

The way you use your cooldowns at 85 is pretty straightforward as well but features heavily into something called a burn/conserve rotation. For now, popping Arcane Power, your mana gem, Mirror Images and any trinkets you have should suffice at the beginning of a fight. Presence of Mind can be used to cast an Arcane Blast on the go or getting 4 stacks of Arcane Blast up in a hurry. Beware though, it does share a cooldown with Arcane Power!

Gear

Outlands sets most of the progress we’ve been making with gear back by a ways. This is for several reasons; most of it has to do with the fact that Burning Crusade was the second expansion in WoW’s development cycle but has largely been un-updated since then. When it was relevant, a lot of players first ran into something called “gear inflation” – greens that they were getting from their first few quests and drops outstripped the amount of basic stats like intellect and stamina that they had on even high-level raiding epics.  You will run into this. However the secondary problem is that this gear also suffered through the initial +healing/+spellpower merge (which made +healing to just flat +spellpower) then later the +spellpower —> +intellect conversion. A lot of an item’s stat weight that had just spellpower as its “green stat” got turned into spirit to compensate.

This means that in order to survive the beating you will take wearing good level 40s/50s blues, picking up STA-heavy, SPI-laden gear isn’t such a bad idea. There’s some greens and blues you get early on in Hellfire Peninsula questing and dungeoning that will be a boon to you all the way to 70s, especially if you do not use heirlooms.

Mantle of Magical Might
Mindfire Waistband
Shadowcast Tunic
Mirren’s Drinking Hat

PS: Sorry no ding shot here, I missed it while leveling.

>> Levels 70 to 80