31 Mar 2010

Finding Our Place

As we drift towards the end of Wrath and eagerly await the launch of Cataclysm, I’ve been taking the opportunity to reflect on how magecraft has fared. From the new spells the expansion brought through to the talent changes each patch, we’ve been through considerable change. And yet I can’t help but think that we’re not as special as we once were.

What started this all off was the movie Yesterday’s News. It’s about how the Meeting Stone crafter copes with a changing world where the LFD tool makes meeting stones redundant. It struck a chord with me – I’ve been seeing increasing numbers of mages struggling to get groups with both PuGs and their own raidgroups. Even my own raidgroup only tend to miss a mage when they don’t have any free strudel – other than that, there’s not really an issue.

The current state of mages was really brought home for me by Larisa’s great analysis of Paragon’s world first kill of Arthas in 25-man heroic mode. If you look at their raid setup you’ll notice that they decided not to bring any mages. There’s a thread explaining the choice on Paragon’s forum, where they pinpoint the slightly lower DPS output as the reason. A pure DPS class would get benched, with other DPS classes and hybrid classes specced as DPS being used instead.

What about the other tricks that mages have? With the homogenisation that’s taken place during Wrath, mages have only two unique tricks left up their sleeve – polymorph and strudels. Arcane Intellect can be swapped for Fel Intelligence, while even the recent Arcane Empowerment buff can be matched by Retribution paladins and Beastmaster hunters. Crowd Control has been sidelined for much of Wrath, with AoE tanking being the preferred method for the majority of trash pulls and offtanks used for adds during bossfights.

Larisa is right to be concerned – even though the difference is slight, she’s worried that raid groups will look to Paragon’s results as a reason why their own groups are underperforming, and may choose to run without mages as a result. This argument only stacks up when each player is equally skilful at their class and you’re purely relying on statistics to minmax, but that point may be missed on those looking to form groups, raids and so on. They’ll point to the Paragon forums and say that it’s official: mages don’t cut it any more.

The whole situation is compounded further when you have scenarios like the one described by Krizzlybear on their blog. Considering that with a mage’s three talent trees that you have one that still doesn’t compete against other classes and another that’s laughed at completely, you begin to wonder what the point of playing a mage is. Even the skill of the player is discarded entirely, despite when they demonstrate that they’re just as capable of keeping up.

I’m not trying to encourage anyone to change their spec; I had to go through Molten Core as a Frost mage even though I much prefer Fire. Rather, I’d prefer to see the three specs brought in line with each other so that they all bring solid DPS but also provide additional benefits depending on the chosen tree. I’m hoping that this will arrive with the complete talent revamp for Cataclysm, so that the differences between each tree aren’t in terms of damage output but in terms of playstyle and what else the mage can do besides damage.

These things are cyclical – I remember when Warlocks, Paladins and Warriors were all in the same position that mages find themselves in now. I’ve also got faith that thes problems will be resolved and that once again all three specs will be matched on a spreadsheet (even if the skill of the players can vary wildly). It’s an agonising wait though, considering that we’re currently at the end of March and Cataclysm is predicted to land in October. We might be looking at six to eight months before the pre-expansion patch is released and all the talent trees get revamped.

Till then, mages have a job to do. It’s up to us to show the rest of the Warcraft-playing public that in the 99.99% of cases that aren’t a Lich King heroic world first kill that we still have something worthwhile to contribute.

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4 Responses to Finding Our Place

  1. krizzlybear says:

    It’s an interesting position that mages are in, isn’t it? I don’t see it as doom and gloom, because Xaar insists that mages are fine as they are, holistically speaking. World first kills require the absolute absolute absolute best, and their comp showed that mages just BARELY made the cut. There is only ONE world-first kill, and because they used no mages doesn’t mean it’s the ideal strategy for other guilds to use in a ‘trailing from behind’ situation. As Xaar put it, “mages are fine.” And I’ll agree with him.

  2. Angelya says:

    I remember back in TBC heroics where a mage was pretty much a must-have in any group for crowd-control. Nowadays groups just don’t need that kind of utility, but there’s nothing stopping mages being awesome just because they’re not asked to sheep stuff anymore.

  3. Vidyala says:

    I hadn’t realized they didn’t bring any mages. That’s…well, that sucks.

    Although I don’t know if I can talk – I switched from my mage to a boomkin, but my primary motivation was to have an off-spec healing capability. We also had a most excellent mage joining our guild at that time and balance druids bring buffs to benefit him. I do miss being a mage sometimes. I hope that this gets resolved in a good way. I already felt like a beverage cart at the beginning of Wrath, I don’t want my mage friends to feel that way now!

    Although maybe this is something that really comes into play at these extreme upper ranges of play. Our mage is routinely topping the DPS meters. Most days is a toss-up between him, our ret pally, and occasionally I can sneak into second place. He’s really good. Mages are great, end of story. 😀

    • Gazimoff says:

      @Vidyala

      Mages are great, and on their own they stack up really well. I think that the trouble is with min-maxing 25-man raid environments. I don’t know if it’s a fact, but it looks like mages benefit less from the raidwide buffs and boss debuffs than other classes. I’m not 100% certain on this though, and I’d need to run the numbers to verify it. I do know though that my DPS in 10-mans can vary wildly depending on the composition of the group.

      I’m not about to abandon my mage though. Even though I have a warlock and priest, he’s still my main!