14 Dec 2010

The Veteran Mage Toolbox

Cataclysm has been a wake up call for many of us. After enjoying the new quests and zones and chomping through five more levels, several of us have thrown ourselves into the new dungeons. While completing these new instances on normal mode is straightforward, heroics can be a brick wall.

The trouble is that Wrath has made us lazy. The tricks and techniques we kept up our sleeves were crucial back in the days of Vanilla, and remained so for the early days of Burning Crusade. Unfortunately that all went out of the window with instances that could be zerged and almost limitless healing available. With the arrival of the new expansion, those days are gone.

The biggest obstacle to completing heroics is survivability. This means either avoiding or preventing the causes of damage, or being able to withstand damage when it occurs. Crowd Control is a large chunk of this – being able to polymorph a mob so that it doesn’t engage in combat. That’s only part of the picture though – Mages have a ton of other tricks and abilities that can help to keep a mob busy or help you take less damage.

Kiting mobs used to be reserved for Hunters and Frost Mages, but now everyone can get in on the action. Arcane Mages now slow mobs by default with Nether Vortex, while Fire Mages can use Blast Wave to keep mobs slowed and Improved Scorch to maintain threat easily while moving. If you’ve got a mob that only does melee damage, look at polymorphing one mob and kiting the other to give the group options. It’s also great if you’re dealing with bossfights that have melee damage based adds.

Helping with the pull can stop those incidents where the healer gets nuked by an untanked spellcaster. Having a good castbar addon like Quartz can help to identify when mobs are casting and what can be interrupted. A well-timed interrupt can help to pull a mob into melee, making it easier for the tank to tag it with AoE abilities that don’t break crowd control.

Snaring is a trick that Mages have had for years but has recently become even better. Frost Nova is great for briefly holding mobs in place, particularly for those moments when the tank needs to establish threat and uncontrolled creatures are running towards the party. There’s also Ring of Frost to iceblock mobs that are kited through the ring, helping you burn down one mob before moving on to the next. Minor versions of this are frozen mobs, stunned mobs from Impact and dazed ones from Dragon’s Breath.

Shielding yourself is crucial for a mage. There is a ton of damage flying around and both Mana Shield and Mage Ward can take the edge off that. Incanter’s Absorption can even provide a benefit from absorbing this damage with a handy DPS boost.

Moving quickly is pretty important for any cloth caster – there’s virtually no damage mitigation from our armour, so when the bad stuff happens we need to be out of it quickly. Don’t rely on the priest to use Leap of Faith, but instead use blink to get away from stuff quickly. If you’re being pursued by a mob you can’t handle then use frostnova to drop it next to the tank and let them grab aggro from it. You also need to be situationally aware of the encounter – if you’re fighting a dragon that breathes fire and does a tailswipe then don’t go hugging the bad parts.

Spellstealing was something we all looked forward to as Mages in Burning Crusade, but completely forgot about in Wrath. There are a handful of buffs that can be found on mobs in heroic dungeons, from damage reduction through to haste buffs. Keep a look out for these buffs before you pull and experiment with what you can grab. After all, better you have these buffs than they do.

There’s also some great further reading that I’d suggest you look at before stepping foot in heroics:

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