Spoiler Alert: In-depth description of changes to the Mage class, levelling experience and spell ranks and usage. I’ll also be touching on the Cataclysm talent trees. Note that as I’m not in beta the content here is largely based on recounts and information gathered from elsewhere.
The floodgates have opened and the Beta has begun. But while there’s a general level of information about the upcoming expansion, it seems as if detailed looks at the individual classes are rare. There are a couple of notable exceptions – Restokin has a large amount of Druid information, while Gravity has Death Knights pretty much covered. Generally though, it feels as if there are some notable gaps in class coverage.
The experience that players will have in Cataclysm can largely be separated into three camps: those who roll a new mage after the expansion, those who are levelling up an existing mage from 80 to 85, and those who will be playing at endgame. At the moment the endgame experience seems to be largely capped and it doesn’t look like the new spells are fully implemented.
That said, the new levelling experience is largely there and is worth discussing in detail. If you’re thinking of rolling a new mage in the expansion or have a lowbie mage that you’re thinking of dusting off and getting back in with, this may give you a few ideas.
If you’re not sure about trying out either a Worgen or Goblin, you might want to go for a Troll or Gnome mage instead. The starting experience for levels 1 through to 5 is completely new for these races, so if you’re bored of killing the same old boars or wolves this might be an option for you.
The immediate difference when levelling is the lack of spell ranks. Not only does this mean fewer trips to the class trainer, but it also means that every time you visit them it’s to get something new and cool. When you level you get an alert to tell you which new spells and abilities are available, just to nudge you in the right direction. The spellbook has also been enhanced to show you which spells you’ve learned, which are available to learn at your current level and which aren’t available to you just yet.
A small factoid – the complete Mage spell list has dropped from nearly 300 to roughly 70.
The second thing you’re likely to notice is the change to conjure food/water, especially if you’ve played a mage before. The spell mechanics have been tweaked at lower levels, resulting in far less downtime for your average mage. The movement from fight-drink-fight-drink to something more fluid is welcome, but has some knock-on effects. Instead of getting Conjure Water at level 4 we’ll be picking up Conjure Refreshment at 38, with Mana Pies and Strudel replacing the single food/water we currently create at lower levels.
Defensive spells have also had a slight change. Frost Ward and Fire Ward are both gone, replaced by Mage Ward which drops in at around the same kind of level. Mana Shield has been pushed back from level 20 to 56, but the new version only requires 1 mana per point of damage absorbed (down from 1.5).
For a mage getting about should be that little bit easier. Basic teleports still come in at level 20, with Darnassus/ Thunder Bluff and Stonard/Theramore arriving at 22. Portals are a similar story at present, becoming available at levels 40 and 42. Information is still a little hazy on this, with some reports suggesting that all old-world teleports are now at 22 and portals at 42. I’ve also heard that both portals and teleports are going to be trainable by mage trainers, so you won’t need to visit a capital city in order to learn it’s teleport/portal spell.
Other than these changes, your basic Mage arsenal is fairly unchanged. There’s still talk of Arcane Missiles becoming a random proc from all spells, but I haven’t seen anything to see this change in affect.
Talent trees for mages are still in a state of flux. While the Arcane tree has had a slight makeover, the Frost and Fire ones seem largely untouched. I’m expecting to see further iterations on the trees as time goes on, mainly to reduce clutter and redundant talents. That said, talents like Arcane Tactics and Improved Polymorph could make Arcane once again the tree of choice for endgame, particularly if crowd control becomes more relevant in the expansion.
Overall, mages seem to be benefiting from the streamlined levelling experience that all classes will go through. It’s still unknown how a mage will stack up at endgame, but this is likely to be the case until raiding guilds are trying out the new raids for the first time. This might not happen until the end of beta or possibly a few months after launch.